Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christianity Replaced Paganism

Letter to the Toronto Star published December 31, 2011

In her letter, Religions evolve over centuries (Dec 28), Anita Dermer writes that Christianity adopted various mythologies of other cultures. However, Christianity didn't adopt pagan mythologies, it replaced them.

In the absence of examples, I presume she is referring to Christmas. The common error in this regard is with the timing of Christmas festivities.

During the persecutions in Rome, Christians celebrated their feast days at the same time as the pagans simply to avoid detection. Thus Christmas coincided with the Roman Saturnalia. Christians were hiding in full view. The persecutions stopped, the timing stayed,

The pagan god Woden was replaced by Father Christmas. These are not doctrinal but cultural changes, based on the fact that, if you end a pagan tradition, replace with something of greater value. That's what happened.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tricks of Shopping Malls

Notice the absence of clocks in your favourite shopping mall. Shoppers who do not know the time linger longer, and spend more.

What little seating there is, is designedly  uncomfortable. That's because seated customers are not spending customers.

Exit signs are the minimum required by fire regulations. Customers headed for the exit are not spending customers.

Santa Claus has been exiled from Toronto's Eaton Centre. Formerly, the lines of parents and children weaved up and down the length of the mall. And we know that parents in line are not buying customers. Since his presence hindered money making, exit Santa, enter an illuminated reindeer.

Also at the Eaton Centre, half of the information posts face the wrong direction, and give misleading information. This, I believe, was accidental. Nevertheless, a misdirected customer passes more retail outlets, and likely to spend more.

Research has shown that uncomfortable customers buy more impulsively. That's why many malls are over-heated and endlessly play the same caroly music.

A U.S. Shoot 'em Up

It usually takes three of a kind to establish a pattern. Here are two of a kind from the United States, apparently on the same day. Yet they establish a pattern.

A U.S. soldier was shot at his homecoming party in San Bernardino, California. He had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan where he survived a suicide bombing. Police said that the victim's brother and a partygoer got into an argument over football teams. When the soldier intervened, the partygoer pulled a gun and opened fire. The veteran is permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

Another report tells of seven people all of the same family found shot to death in a Dallas apartment. Six of the dead were opening Christmas presents when the shooting began. Police believe the shooter to be among the dead. They also found two handguns. Police said, "We think he was just inside there celebrating Christmas with the rest of them and decided for whatever reason that's how he's going to end things."

The pattern is the total absence in such reports of the need for gun control. Such is the hold of the National Rifle Association -- the lobbying arm of gun and munitions manufacturers. Such is the mind-boggling interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


To be sung to the tune, more or less, of Maria from The West Side Story

The most beautiful sound I ever heard,
All the beautiful sounds of the world
in a single word, IKEA.

I just found a store named IKEA
And suddenly my world
Will never be the same to me, IKEA

I just found a store named IKEA
And suddenly I found
How wonderful shopping can be, IKEA.

Go down aisle twelve, there's music playing;
Check out Bin Four, you’ll be saving. IKEA
I'll never stop saying IKEA

Sing it loud and there's elevator music playing.
Sing it soft and it's almost like praying.

I'll never stop singing IKEA
The most beautiful sound I ever heard.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Crash Course in Class-Action Nonsense

A class-action lawsuit has been authorized by a Quebec court against Air Canada, a company in business transporting people and goods. The airline charges for each seat passengers occupy.

In this action, obese people claim it discriminatory to be charged for the two seats one of them needs to occupy. About 15 people have already joined the suit that seeks $1,000 for pain, suffering or inconvenience, plus an additional $500 for punitive and exemplary damages. The instigating lawyer invites people with a medical condition to join the suit which also claimed as discriminatory the airline charging for two seats when the ill person requires a companion on the trip.

Back in 1957,  Midgets of America demanded: half fare, two in a seat for half-fare, free rides in "big people's" laps if they are willing, or free rides in over-head racks in exchange for entertaining other passengers. It is not reported how this issue was resolved.

Air Canada, like any other carrier, offers the public aircraft with seats of fixed dimensions to anyone who can fit into them. The company may lose money on give-away seats. Samoa Air has a part-solution. The fare is determined by the combined weight of passenger and baggage. The missing part is the need for two seats for one passenger.

May an obese person sue a taxi company because he cannot fit through the car door? May someone with a medical condition sue a rail or coach line because they cannot accommodate necessary medical devices? In Michigan, a blind Muslim woman uses a seeing-eye pony, because some Muslims believe that dogs "violate ritual purity." May this person sue local bus operators if her animal cannot fit on their vehicle?

"It's a violation of fundamental rights to discriminate against people with [medical] deficiencies," the lawyers state. The question remains: When did it become a fundamental right to fly Air Canada or any other airline, railroad, bus, limousine or rickshaw?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Human Rights Decisions and Other Mischief

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered Coffee Time owner, Sien Yian Tay, to pay Zuper Direk $15,000. The crime? The operator called Direk a "gypsy" as the latter badmouthed the coffee to other customers. The Commission decision itself smacks of racial discrimination. How would a member of Roma, i.e.Gypsy, regard the calling another person a member of his race an insult?

Other recent decision of equal wrongheadedness.

A Federal Court judge, Madame Justice Marie-Josée Bédard, ordered Air Canada to pay Michel and Lynda Thibodeau $12,000. Air Canada failed to provide the aggrieved couple with services in French. The learned judge decided that the violation of the plaintiffs' rights "caused them a moral prejudice, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of the vacation".

A New Brunswick appellate court dismissed two drunk driving charges against an Acadian francophone. The arresting officer spoke to the accused in English, despite hearing his strong French accent, and later gave him a roadside breathalyzer test which he failed. Thirty minutes later the accused was asked his preferred language. The appellate court ruled that the thirty-minute delay constituted a violation of the drunk driver's rights. Even courts can make strange judgements.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Brampton Youth Hockey Association to pay sisters Robyn and Shaunna Demars $18,000. Tribunalist Judith Hinchman found that the association prevented the girls from using the boys' dressing room, and failed to find a suitable room elsewhere.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission ordered a condominium board to pay Marise Myrand $10,000. The board discriminated against Myrand in not taking the parking spot of a woman in her 60s who suffers from a dislocated shoulder, and give it to her. Commission lawyer Pierre-Yves Bourdeau said, "It's reasonable accommodation" to displace an elderly handicapped woman for an obese one. The condo lawyer observed that the Commission has established a hierarchy of handicaps.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered Mississauga businesswoman Maxcine Telfer to pay $36,000 to Seema Saadi, an employee of six weeks. Saadi said she felt pressured to wear skirts rather than her hijab, and Telfer complained about the smell of food she warmed in the microwave. Saadi was fired. Her complaint was discrimination "on grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, disability and sex". Her lawyers. operating at tax-payer expense, obtained a writ of seizure of Telfer's home to collect the money.

The Ontario Superior Court quashed the conviction and ordered a new hearing before a different tribunal officer. The Court said, it was "simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator." It found nine points in which the adjudicator failed to provide a fair hearing, or made legal errors. For example, the adjudicator did not give Telfer the opportunity to call a key witness who would have testified about Saadi's choice of clothing, and her "unauthorized intrusions into other people's desks, and missing files." (The silencing of material witnesses is a technique borrowed from the courts in Burma.)

It's depressing to thank of the result had the businesswoman not the resources this appeal this wrong-headed decision.

And this, according to Barbara Hall, in her fading time as Ontario Chief Human Rights Commissioner, is only "the tip of the iceberg". The good ship Common Sense has already struck the Barbara Hall iceberg.

How much injustice remains uncorrected when the accused cannot afford to appeal the adjudicator's judgement? On the other hand, the complainant's legal fees, even on appeal, are paid by the taxpayer.

Fines levied should go into general revenue, not to the "aggrieved". This would result in a much lower number of complaints. The net result would be that these commissions would no longer be viewed by the public as an easy source of tax-free money.

Conrad Black has observed, "I doubt if the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] accomplished much substantially beyond unleashing Canada's under-qualified judges to meddle open-endedly in social animation."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christianity and Diversity

Letter published in the National Post, December 3, 2011

As usual, Rex Murphy presents readers with insightful comment (What the tolerant must tolerate, Nov. 26). Murphy points out that "there is a radical inconsistency to the treatment afforded to Christian believers and that of most other religious groups."

We constantly hear appeals for tolerance. The question remains -- Why does it not apply to Christians? Why does diversity not include Christianity? Too much contemporary behaviour seeks to obliterate our Christian heritage.

In Canadian media, the National Post stands out as a giant among pygmies in its coverage of religious, particularly Christian, matters.

Church and State

Unpublished email to the National Post, Dec 5, 2011

Gagan Rehill (Letter, Dec.5) writes that the U.S. Constitution "clearly stated the separation of church and state". Not even remotely so. Nowhere in the Constitution does that expression appear. The First Amendment speaks to the protect churches against governmental interference, that is, against the establishment of a church.

Later judicial distortions of this obvious meaning gave rise to the American concept of separation of church and state. Fortunately, it is irrelevant in Canada where we do not get into the nitpicking about such matters.

Mr. Rehill should know that the first to advocate recognition of the duality of church and state was Jesus when he said, "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and to God what belongs to God." Is it because they do not believe in God that atheists are unable to acknowledge this distinction?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bombs From an Earlier Generation

An unexploded bomb dropped by the Allied air force during World War Two has this week been defused in the German city of Koblenz. In 1997, the President of Germany was forced out of his residence due to the discovery of unexploded ordinance under the presidential palace. Soon after that, thousands of residents of Hanover were evacuated while another bomb was defused.

Given that 2,000 tonnes of bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, there is nothing unusual in this. Some of these air raids consisted of up to 3,000 bombers -- American by day, British and Canadian by night.

Sixty-five years after the last bomb was dropped during the Second World War, danger still lurks. There are areas of France which have yet to be cleared of First World War ordinance.

It's poignant to reflect that some of those bombs were manufactured in Toronto, dropped from aircraft made in Toronto, and flown by young men from Toronto.

Unexploded German bombs continue to be uncovered in England. The Imperial War Museum estimates that of the 19,000 tonnes of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz of 1940-41, 10 per cent did not explode, much of it remains buried somewhere in the city.

People, not then born, live today with a legacy of possible sudden death bequeathed to them by people likely no longer alive.

A legacy of the First World War continues to take lives one century later. During one of the epic battles at Ypres in Belgium, the British alone fired more than four million shells into the German lines. An estimated 30 per cent of those shells were duds or slipped deep into the ground unexploded, causing two or three deaths of local villagers a year. Farmers refuse to plough their fields, for fear a blade must strike a shell. Curiously, this ordinance rises ever so slightly as time goes by..

We have cause to worry at home as well. In April 2014, a 105-millimetre live shell was found on the land of the Enoch Cree First Nation west of Edmonton, Alberta. From 1942 to 1944, part of this land was used by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to teach Allied crews navigation and bombing techniques.