Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Green Alternative for Ontario?

When I think of the Green Party, the first image that comes to mind is:
A long haired, rosy cheeked, skinny, hard-body guy named Sven, with a knapsack. He's a vegetarian and rides his bicycle 25 kilometers to work and back.

This is an image, a chubby, relatively lazy, smoking, socially drinking, car driving female like me has trouble relating to. I don't actually recall the last time I rode a bicycle, but I think I was 12? I know I should quit smoking and probably will someday. Do without my meat? Not bloody likely. However, I do concede to eating organic food, including meat. I also agree with the concept of preventive medicine. And, if for some reason, I was put into a position where I had to kill my own dinner, I'd probably be vegetarian, because while I like eating meat, I would find it impossible to kill a living creature. One look into those big brown eyes and that would be it. I can't even kill a bug. The crunching sound sends shivers up and down my spine, so I leave that little job to the cat.

When I think of the Green Party, the first thought that comes to mind is that they are concerned about the Environment, that they are a single issue party.

Do I want a single issue party to run the government? I think a single issue party has a place in government and a role to play in bringing environmental concerns to the fore, but running the government is a different issue.

That's not to say they don't have proposals on other issues. They do, but I'm not sure their solutions are realistic and workable. They are, however, putting some very interesting concepts on the table which definitely provide one with food for thought.

Perhaps they're ahead of their time? Possibly.

All I know is I don't think I'm ready for them ... yet :) but I am giving them some serious consideration, along with the Conservatives.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Election Debate - Ontario - Who Won?

IMHO John Tory for the Conservatives!

Go Tory! An impressive exposure of the Liberals poor record over the last four years.

To my great regret, I voted Liberal in the last election, and am considering voting Conservative this time around.

Maybe we can get a Health Minister who is less obsessed about eliminating smoking from the face of the earth, and more obsessed with actually solving the major and very serious Health Care issues faced by the Province of Ontario, an Attorney General who actually cares about eliminating crime and corruption, some honest, serious leadership to solve the major issues affecting transit in the GTA and surrounding areas, and some honest, serious leadership to solve the border security issues.

The Liberals have been too busy handing out favors, positions, and money, like candy to their friends to actually provide any leadership on, or actually resolve any of these problems.

While I agree with a lot of the points Mr. Tory made, and he impresses me as a strong, well-spoken, intelligent and thoughtful leader, I have one concern.

The Conservative Party position on funding Faith-based private schools. Is this a sign that Mr. Tory is bending to the will of Special Interest Groups?

Hopefully not. I think a lot of us have had enough of that kind of crap from the Liberals both at the Federal and Provincial levels, and it's time someone took a stand against it.

The role of the Premier and each and every MLA is to represent the best interests of all of the people of Ontario.

It is not their job to represent Special Interest Groups.

Mr. Tory's explanation for his position on faith-based schools is that he would like to bring them into and under the requirements of the Public Education system.

That makes sense and I can understand his reasoning.

My problem is that our Public Education system is already stretched to the limit financially. I don't believe we have the money to support these special schools without seriously damaging the Public School system further.

As far as I'm concerned, people who choose to take their children out of the public education system, and into special schools of any kind, faith based or not, should do so at their own expense. All schools, private and public, should be required to follow the official Ontario School Curriculum, funded or not. So Mr. Tory should be able to accomplish the task of bringing these schools into the system without funding them with taxpayers dollars.

As a taxpayer, I can think of many, more important areas which require funding and which would benefit everyone, not just a select few.

I also think the Conservatives should rethink their position on the proposed Recall legislation, if for no other reason than to support their position that they plan to keep their promises to the electorate if they win the upcoming October election.

It would be nice if they just dropped the idea of funding faith based schools. It's a bad one.

If it wasn't for these two issues I'd go to the polls and vote Conservative with confidence.

As it stands, all I know for sure right now is that I don't want to vote Liberal or NDP!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Injecting Reason Into Hate

Can it be done?

Maybe, but I haven't seen it succeed yet.

We, middle of the road types, bop along in our naive little worlds, thinking that good and reason will always prevail.

We think that way because in our naive little worlds, it does. Essentially because we tend to be good people who are reasonable, willing to negotiate and compromise.

We've learned to resolve issues through communication and compromise, acknowledging along the way that we're not always going to get exactly what we want and that what we want might not always be the best thing for everybody. We also make an effort to be fair, and to understand others needs. We know how to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, and to understand where others are coming from. This is the source of our ability to negotiate and compromise.

Our biggest failing is that we think everyone else is like us. After all, we're the silent majority.

We have differences of opinion, different viewpoints, beliefs and value systems.

We get ticked off, frustrated, angry, file law suits, defend ourselves against our opposition, etc.

In the end, however, our anger doesn't lead to hate.

We just deal with our issues, or not, get over them, and move on.

Why? Because ultimately we are part of this world, we want to be happy, to share in it's pleasures and joys.

We want to see the positive, do good, make a contribution.

So, when we look into the face of Hate, we don't recognize it, don't understand it, try to work with it like we work with everything and everyone else, and are geniunely surprised when we don't succeed.

Christiane Amanpour commented in her documentary, God's Warriors, that you can't convince an extremist they're wrong!

Why not?

Because Hate is blind and it's based on fear, mistrust, obfuscation, and lies.

Hate is humanity's emotional Psychopath.

Hate believes that the ends justify the means.

Hate believes that which it hates is inhuman and therefore not worthy of trust, honesty or respect.

This is the foundation of the Irrationality and Unreasonableness of Hate.

This is the root of Extremism and Terrorism.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

9/11: A Horror Revisited

When are we going to get over 9/11?

I don't know.

My memories of that day are as fresh today as they were 6 years ago.

My drive to work was the usual insane Toronto Rush Hour drive, down the 410 and along the 401, past the Airport. Then down the 427 and across the Gardiner Expressway. It was a normal occurrence to see the Planes flying low over the Highway to land at the Airport. My thoughts when observing those planes went to the lucky people coming back from or going to exotic holiday destinations. Every morning was same minus or plus accidents that frustrated the nerves and slowed down or stopped the traffic.

I left my home in Brampton at 7:15 AM, arrived at my parking lot at 8:45 AM and walked to work arriving just before 9:00 AM.

The receptionist, greeted me as I walked in, with the comment that a plane just hit the World Trade Center in New York. She looked terrified. I assumed it was just a tragic accident and responded accordingly. "No." she said, "They're saying it was a terrorist attack!".

I continued to my office which I shared with my Boss, and repeated what the receptionist had said.

A minute later, she rushed into our office, saying that a second plane had hit the WTC. My Boss and I looked at each other, got up immediately and all of us went to the coffee room where the company had a TV. Slowly other company staff joined us until the room was full.

Someone switched channels so that we could listen to the various news stories, and finally settled on CNN.

A skeleton staff was left to answer the phones and people came and went as their various jobs required.

We were all in shock.

I hadn't really kept up with world politics, didn't know the current issues on the international stage, and so, asked rhetorically, not really expecting an answer, "Who would do such a thing, and Why?" Someone commented from behind me that it had to be Bin Ladin. I asked who Bin Ladin was and was told he was an Islamic extremist. I asked why the WTC? and was told because it was the heart of American Capitalism. I wondered why the Islamic extremists would care about hurting American Capitalism.

Someone else commented that the Americans had brought this on themselves.

I responded that no matter what the Americans have done, nothing justified this.

And then we saw the WTC towers come crashing down, live, through the eye of CNN's camera lens.

My immediate reactions were, "Oh My God, there are thousands of people in those buildings!" and "My son is on his way to work and has to go right past those buildings to get to MidTown Manhattan from Jersey City!"

In a panic I ran from the coffee room and tried to contact my son by phone to assure myself that he was okay.

The lines were tied up and I couldn't get through on my cell phone. My boss suggested I use the land line. I couldn't get through on the land line.

The rest of the morning was spent running back and forth from the coffee room to watch the events unfold, and to the phone to try to reach my son.

I finally got through at around 11:00 AM to the answering machine at his work place and left a message asking him to call me back right away so that I knew he was alright.

I then heard that a subway train had been buried under the rubble of the WTC and rescue workers were trying to get to it.

My stomach ached from the knots created by the worry and fear.

I went to the bathroom repeatedly because I didn't want anyone to see me cry.

To my great relief, he responded at around 12:00 PM.

He told me he took the bus, not the subway to get to work, that the bus went past the WTC.

He saw the second plane hit the WTC when he left his home in Jersey City which is right across the river from the WTC.

When the bus drove past the WTC he could see people jumping from 100 stories up and could hear their bodies landing.

He saw the Towers come down. The bus had stopped, and everyone was watching the events unfold in shock and fear.

He and his girlfriend, a Nanny in UpTown, spent the night at his workplace because no-one was allowed to leave the city, so they couldn't return to their apartment in Jersey City.

My boss told me that I could go home if I wanted to.

I thanked him, told him I would stay and settled down to trying to get some work done.

Driving home, the skies were empty near the airport.

From that point on, I saw the low flying planes over the highway in a completely new light.

It wasn't about vacationers and exotic holiday locations anymore.

It was about fear.

All flights to American locations had been redirected to Canadian airports, particularly the one next to the 401. Pearson International.

When I got home I called my Mother.

She had been planning to come to Toronto at the end of the week, and my vacation was to start September 15th.

We had planned to drive to New York together to visit my son and his girlfriend on September 15th.

His girlfriends parents were visiting that week and were scheduled to return to Germany on September 11th.

They left at the end of the week.

The line ups at the border were hours long and flying was not an option.

My son and his girlfriend asked us not to come.

We didn't go.

I cried for the people who died and for the people who lived.

My son's breathing troubles started two months later. He was initially diagnosed as having Panic Attacks.

Two years ago, he developed serious lesions on his skin all over his body, infected with Streptococcus bacteria. Neither he nor the Doctors could explain it.

He breathed in the dust on that day and the fumes for months as the fires burned and the toxic fumes drifted across the river to Jersey City where he lived.

He still has trouble breathing.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Middle East, Biblical Prophecy, and My Humble Solution

After making the statement in my previous blog that the Biblical Prophecy relating to Israel was questionable, I thought I should at least find out exactly what it was.

Not that it makes any difference to me, since all Biblical prophecy (and other prophecy) is questionable in my mind.

I'm not religious, and happy that way. If, because of that, I'm tossed into the fires of hell during the End Times, so be it.

I identify myself as an Agnostic. I believe in secular government and society not a religious one.

I believe that everyone has a right to believe in their own religion and a responsibility to respect the rights of others to believe in their chosen religion, creed, value system or whatever.

So, that said, I went on a little exploration mission to find out what the thinking was in terms of the Middle East situation and the religious groups involved. I wanted moderate, not extremist views and got those in abundance.

The following quotes pretty much sums up the Biblical Prophecy surrounding Israel:

1. Genesis. The Beginning.The stage was set nearly 4000 years ago by God. A war that will destroy one-fourth of the world's population is about to take place. This war is outlined in Ezekiel 38 and other parts of the Bible. Russia, along with other allies, including some of the Arab nations, will soon invade Israel. The stage for what will happen soon was set long ago with Ishmael and Isaac. The descendants of Abram and Ishmael (which include some of the Arabs) and the descendants of Abraham and Isaac (the Jews) will soon clash one last time. Bad feelings have always existed between the two, for nearly 4000 years. It may be said that this is the longest running feud in the history of the world. It appears that this seemingly everlasting struggle between the seed of Ishmael and the seed of Isaac cannot cease, until one or the other is destroyed. No amount of diplomacy can change the conflict that God has set up. This coming war will take place during the Tribulation.

2. The Christian Part. Revelations. The End Times. RAPTURE is a term used to describe the removal from the earth of all living people that have been born-again as evidenced by their fruits. Just prior to the Tribulation coming about, the Rapture will take place. The number that will be raptured will be far fewer than most people might think. The Bible unmistakably portrays the raptured saints in heaven before the throne of God, prior to the Antichrist coming forth and the Tribulation beginning. The Scripture tells us, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed and be with Jesus in the air. 1 Cor 15:51,52-WE SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP, BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED, IN A MOMENT IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE, AT THE LAST TRUMP: FOR THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND; 1 Thes 4:16,17-AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST, THEN WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN SHALL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS. We may be asleep, immediately we will be with Jesus. All the unbelievers, the lukewarm Christians, and those that did not obey the Gospel will be left to face the Tribulation.

Now, while it sums it up it doesn't really explain it.

In my explanation, I'm skipping the inflammatory parts that get people worked up and sticking to what might be referred to as the basic facts if one were to believe the Bible was a historical document which is debatable, but possible.

Essentially, Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in the Old Testament which indicates the following:

Abraham had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael. The sons had different mothers and so were half brothers.

Isaac, whose mother was Jewish, was the progenitor of the Jews and Ishmael, whose mother was Egyptian, was the progenitor of the Muslims.

God, it seems, offered a Covenant to Abraham, Isaac and their "seed" the Land of Canaan in exchange for their worship and obedience.

He offered a Great Nation to the "seed" of Ishmael but doesn't specify land, although the term Great Nation could make the issue of land debatable.

This comes from Genesis 16 and 17.

The Christians, according to the Bible, were Jews who believed that Jesus was the Son Of God, and that he will return as per Revelations.

The Muslims, aside from being the "seed" of Ishmael, believe that Jesus was a Messenger from God, as was Muhammed, and that there will be more Messengers Of God to come.

Muslims End Time beliefs appear to be similar to the Christian belief except that everyone will be converted to Islam during the Tribulation by Jesus.

Now let's assume that we believe all of this and let's assume that we believe in the concept of Prophecy.

If we believe in the concept of Prophecy then we also have to accept that once a Prophecy is known, that future defined by that Prophecy can be changed. After all, isn't that the purpose of Prophecy, to act as a warning, an alert, so that people can change their behavior and avoid the terrible consequences predicted.

This possibility to change outcomes predicted by Prophecy is supported by the biblical fact that God gave humanity free will.

Since humanity has free will, and therefore the ability to change prophetic outcomes, the only wild card becomes God and his plan, part of which is to send Messengers, Prophets, Messiahs to state his will, depending on which religious option you've selected.

The war part, the killing and fighting, etc. doesn't have to happen because the religious leaders could choose to exercise this free will and simply work out solutions which would accommodate all of the religious factions and then everyone can just happily sit and wait for God to do his part and send his Messengers, Prophets, Messiahs.

The stories that I took the time to read, all provided options, choices to the person. The stories I read also repeatedly blessed both Isaac and his "seed" as well as Ishmael and his "seed". So, in fact, God has blessed both the Jews and the Muslims.

Presumably, the End Times scenarios are warnings that if humanity doesn't do A then C will happen, but they have the option.

Since Revelations essentially says that the Messiah, Prophet, Son Of God, will take charge and handle the conversion process, it's not really up to believers to do anything except "be righteous and believe passionately", so that you can go with Jesus, or suffer and possibly die during the Tribulations. However, even here, if you are strong and "overcome" you can survive the Tribulations. It's all about choices.

There is also another option to consider, the one accepted by many moderate Christians, that in fact, all of the prophecies in the Old Testament were satisfied in the New Testament and are not in fact occurring today. Just thought I toss this option out there :).

Anyway, assuming that you believe in the above, I've tried to come up with a solution that accounts for those religious beliefs, and to my knowledge would satisfy those concerns. It's also a solution, that I, as an Agnostic and Secularist could accept.

So, here's my solution for the Middle East:
  • Take the land that was originally Palestine after WWII.
  • Call it "The Holy Land".
  • Establish a fully Secular Democratic Government in which everyone, Muslim, Jews, Christians, Secularists, etc. participate equally and democratically.
  • Establish a Religious Authority over Sacred Institutions like the Temple Mount which would be under the direction of a Committee consisting of internationally recognized religious authorities from each of the concerned religions. The Pope, an internationally recognized Imam, an internationally recognized Rabbi. Or, alternatively several recognized representatives from each religion to satisfy the different flavors each.

Would this be so difficult? The Jews are restored to their homeland, and the Muslims are restored to their homeland. The Christians have a religious say in what's going on? Everyone should be happy.

The Muslims and Jews are brothers, according to the Bible.

And, if one believes the Bible, the Middle East situation smacks of sibling rivalry.

As a Mom, the only thing I have left to say is:
Children, Stop Fighting, and Learn To Get Along ... For All Our Sakes.