Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Real Pluto Files

Recently I finished reading the book The Pluto Files by the American Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is the Fredrick Rose Director of Hayden Planetarium. This Planetarium may be considered ground zero for the assault that led to the eventual removal of the Planet Pluto from the list of Planets in our Solar System. Thanks to individuals such as Dr. Tyson we now have 8 planets instead of nine. When the Planetarium opened up a new exhibit on the Solar System, Pluto was not included. While at first it was amusing and brought interest, the debate launched a discuss which led to the eventual re-interpretation of the definition of Planet and in 2006, Pluto was demoted from Planet to Kuiper Belt Object. The International Astronomical Union, (IAU) decided that the Definition of a Planet include the foloowing:
he definition of "planet" set in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) states that in the Solar System a planet is a celestial body that:

1. is in orbit around the Sun,
2. has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape), and
3. has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit.

That is what we are led to believe. The book gives us the background and discussion that led to this result. Dr. Tyson also admits he received a number of letters from Grade Three students, criticizing his decision. It is an enjoyable book. He also includes the lyrics to a number of pro-Pluto songs and two State Resolutions; one from California and the other from New Mexico. These resolutions declared that in those states, Pluto was still a planet.

Now that is his "Files".

However there are some other information that he seems reticient to point out. These facts will reveal that the plan to demote Pluto comes from deep within the bowels of the Bush-Cheney White House.

Fact #1- Eight months after a New York Times expose on the Hayden Planetarium, 9-11 happens. Just after the story is broken by the Times and interest and controversy grows, the September attack occurs.

Fact #2 Dr. Tyson believed John McCain would win the 2008 Presidential Election. He is a closet Republican

Fact #3 Following 9-11 there was a calculated attempt by the Bush White House to tie Pluto to both Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussain.

Fact #4 Harry Whittington, the lawyer 'accidently' shot in the face by Dick Cheney, liked to look at the night sky. He also did an assignment in school which showed 9 Planets. Dick Cheney once did the same assignment but showed 8 planets, he failed. It is believed this moment led Cheney to hate Pluto and vow "to remove that planet from the Solar System". The message to all who looked at the night sky, such as members of the IAU, to believe in Pluto could get a person hurt. This message obviously was heard by the members of the IAU.

Fact #5 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. Of this 90 had to do with gaining information about Al-Qaida, the other 93 times was to make him change his mind about the nature and status of Pluto.

Fact #6- President Bush's comment You are either with us or with the Terrorists was a message for Pluto, it was being painted as be with the terrorists. Later on, Dr. James Dobson of "Focus on the Family" sent a letter to his supporters declaring "Pluto supports abortion, same-sex marriage and the removal of prayers from school". He further pointed out that Pluto was named for the god of the Underworld and so was actually the devil planet.

Fact #7 The vote by the IAU on August 16, 2006 has been soundly criticized by astronomers who could not make the meeting. It is interesting to note that many of the pro-Pluto astronomers suddenly lost their flight tickets and hotel reservations.

Just from these facts alone you can understand there was a conspiracy and there is now a cover up that is the size of the Solar System. Only the Bush-Cheney White House could mount such a project of absolute evil that commenced from a personal vendetta due to a bad science mark.

I close with this song:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Digital Piracy: Menace or Marketing Tool

While reading today's Toronto Star, I came across this article:"Could piracy really kill the thrill of the movie theatre?". The article examined the fall out over the recent 'leak' of the movie X-Men Origin: Wolverine. Apparently a copy found its way onto the Internet and onto various Bit Torrents, and now it's available to everybody. Hollywood is shaken by such a "security breach". The movie, it should be pointed out, is not the finished product, the article points out:
Superhero Wolverine gives a ferocious howl as he is pushed to the edge of a precipice by an arch villain's powerful optical blasters. Luckily, he has wires holding him up.

That's the first clue that the full-length copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked on the Internet and available in Toronto-area malls isn't the final version. But apart from a few unfinished computer generated renderings, it is pretty much the complete product.

So you can see the wires and obviously a few other CGI aren't in this product. Somebody in some lab or some studio obviously left with a copy of it on his or her flash drive and immediately uploaded it to the Internet. Now Hollywood is all upset because they fear with the release of this major blockbuster onto the Internet and hundreds of thousands of people having a copy of it on their computers or burned to a DVD won't be interested in watching it on the big screen. I suppose there is some justification; with large Hi-Def televisions and Home Entertainment units with Dolby Noise Reduction and Surround Sound, plus all the comforts of home, why go to a theatre? Save yourself the forty dollars it would cost you and another person to go to the cinema.

Obviously Hollywood is upset wants to crack down upon this sort of thing, even the Canadian equivalent of the MPAA, the Canadian Motion Picture Distribution Association says piracy in Canada is costing the industry millions of dollars and costing jobs. Plus they all point out that camcorders is the greatest threat facing the industry. Okay, let's take a time-out to laugh. Yes you will pay good money, up to at least $3.00 to watch some blurry, shaking copy of a movie, where you can hear people talking louder then the dialogue on the screen. Oh yes that's exactly what you would do. You could do that, or buy or better still download a crystal clean copy that has come direct from the motion picture studio.

Now as you know from reading some of my blogs I am a copyleftist, however that does not make me a pirate (arrrg). A copyleftist believes the creators and holders of copyright should make money off their creation, it's just we believe there should be limits on copyright, the original was 7 years, now its 50 years after the death of the creator. Consider most of the return on the investment will occur immediately; I just purchased a book from Amazon for $0.01. Yes for a penny. How much will the copyright owner get on that? Nothing.

Let's be honest, the genie is out of the bottle; BitTorrent is the new method of distribution. You can download any number of clients that can be used to find media. A search of the Internet will reveal a large number of them such as Frostwire (I've ordered the stickers!). From there you can search and download all sorts of media, some of it legal, some of it not so legal. You can download programs, music, videos, television programs, movies and the lot, or so I've been told. On top of it, you can download web browsers which allow you to search for torrents. One in particular is wyzo, which is based upon the Firefox Browser. With this browser you can download all sorts of content, some legal, some illegal; or so I've been told.

Much as been made and written about the recent Pirates Bay Trial. The result was that the creators were found guilty of copyright infringement and have been sentenced to prison terms and fines. Of course this is something that will not go away, now it has been revealed the Judge in the case had a conflict of interest. He is a member of a number of pro-copyright groups and organizations. So much for impartiality. There are strong calls for a retrial. So this is not over yet.

So piracy; the question that should be asked is 'who leaked the Wolverine print'. While some will say that 'organized crime' is behind it, and I wonder why would Organized Crime be involved in something like digital piracy, this is unlikely. Was is a disgruntled employee? Perhaps someone accepted a bribe and handed it to somebody.


Is this a new way to generate buzz for the movie. Think about it, you have just spent $130,000,000 to make a movie, you are desperate for it to be a blockbuster right out of the gates. You try the usual methods of blanketing all media with the trailers and posters but nowadays we are so inundated with advertisement we turn it all off. How about this; release something like the final print onto the Internet and turn people who download it into your buzz producers. They've seen it and if it is good, have told all their friends how cool it is and how much cooler it will be when it's finalized. "Dude, we got to see it when it comes out!!" will be their comment. For almost nothing, you have hundreds of thousands of people cranked into going to the theatre to watch it with their pals.

Of course the critics will say, why go and pay all that money when you can watch it for free. A recent article in The Guardian reports that a study found out that people who download music buy music. In fact they buy music ten times as much as people who don't pirate. They are the music industry's best customers. I suspect the same holds true for people who download movies. So it's may sound like a paradox, but it is the reality.

With this reality, it makes one wonder if the Movie Industry may have learned something from the debacle of the music industry, use the medium. But why not, some may think, do that and tell everybody you're doing that. Ahh, simple grasshopper, throw a bit of illegality into the equation and everybody is searching for it. Thus the buzz continues.

As I conclude, I want to give a link to the article: Is Google the New Pirate Bay?

I'm going to read up on this one.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Water- the new Blue Gold

As part of my Earth Week celebration I decided to get the book Blue Gold:The Battle against Corporate Theft of the World's Water. The book is written by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. Ms. Barlow is founder and Chair of The Council of Canadians. She is also co-founder of the Blue Planet Project. As well she is also the Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the President of the General Assembly of The United Nations. From that brief CV you can believe she has the knowledge to write a book about water, water conservation and how the multi-national corporations are seeing water as the New Oil.

Indeed that is what is happening right now, many corporations are attempting to buy up water rights and are attempting to force and that is the right word 'force' national governments privatize municipal water services. As is the case of any book dealing with multi-nationals, there is the usual suspects such as the World Bank World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Of the two, the former, the World Bank is the most noxious. It led the march to privatize social services such as water, sewer, schools and things like that. Often it orders governments to privatize services and then demands that the loans given are not to be use to subsidize the costs for the poorest. Then the World Bank ensures the multi-nationals have the funds to buy up the services. So its involved in boths of the theft.

The water market is growing; as pressure is put on governments, either through the World Bank or the reality that municipal government cannot keep up with the demands of servicing or repairing the infrastructure; it may be the easiest thing to do, sell the services to some huge company who will promise wonderful services, or at the very least, grafts, payola and bribes to the officials.

One of the problems faced, as stated in the book, there was pressure to declare water a 'need' rather then a 'right'. While this may sound like a bit of semantics, Ms Barlow states the problem is this; if it is a need, then water becomes a commodity to be bought and sold to those who have the resources. As a need control then passes to whoever can buy it. If it is a right, then it belongs to all people and people are the ones who can and will control it.

What is the problem with water? Ms Barlow states that water is finite, there is a limited supply of it. While this finite supply is very large there is the problem that the distribution is usually not very good. A great deal of water is unsuitable for human consumption, such as the oceans or is located frozen in water. She gives the statistics, but I'm not going to bore you with them all. It is a fascinating read. Of the water that is available, it's in a few places and not necessary where the greatest demand is. On top of it, industrialization in all forms is polluting fresh water and this is making it less available. Couple with with the growth of the bottled water industry, greater demand is being put on water. Add to this the damming of rivers, global warming and population demands has made the finite truly finite.

There is a call to have water declared a Human Right and make it available to all and not simply to the richest multi-nationals. Water is the right of all who inhabit the planet. Maude Barlow has also been on of the creators of the TREATY INITIATIVE TO SHARE AND PROTECT THE GLOBAL WATER COMMONS. This document declares:
That the intrinsic value of the Earth’s fresh water precedes its utility and commercial value, and therefore must be respected and safeguarded by all political, commercial and social institutions, That the Earth’s fresh water belongs to the earth and all species and therefore, must not be treated as a private commodity to be bought, sold and traded for profit, That the global fresh water supply is a shared legacy, a public trust and a fundamental human right and, therefore, a collective responsibility

In another document, it is declared:
No one has the right to appropriate water for personal profit while others arebeing denied access because of an inability to pay for it. Water should not be privatized, traded for profit, stored for future sale, or exported for commercial purposes. Governments must declare their domestic water Commons a public
good and take responsibility for delivering clean, safe water as a public service
to all their citizens. All decisions regarding the water Commons must be made
transparently and with democratic oversight. This is not to say there is no place
for the private sector in alleviating the global water crisis, as long as corporations are not running the water services directly.

While some may think of this as the typical anti-corporate slant and screed from Maude Barlow, she makes a great deal of sense. We need water. Right now water is being mis-used to the advantage of a minority of people, the owners and shareholders of major corporations. Part of this mis-use is the over-use of water in the petro-chemical industry and industry as a whole. Control of water by multi-nationals has not led to cleaner water or even conservation of water; this is especially true as water is used in the manufacturing process.

But there is change beginning to happen; governments are beginning to decommission dams, and allowing rivers to be restored. In other cases, municipalities are standing up against the privatization of water and sewer services and are taking them back. People are standing up and demanding their goverments be accountable to them and not multi-nationals. Where bribery has been the engine of change, arrests and imprisonment has happened.

People are standing up and demanding water be a human right. In other places people are destroying water metres and re-connecting homes to the water main, when they are cut off because they couldn't afford the bills.

Locally we can sign the Endorsement Statement to make Water a Human Right. Write to our governments and reminding them water is a public not private service.

She mentions the Indigenous Declaration of Water, how the Indigenous People are demanding they play a part in securing fresh water. It's worth reading:
We, the Indigenous Peoples from all parts of the world assembled here, reaffirm our relationship to Mother Earth and responsibility to future generations to raise our voices in solidarity to speak for the protection of water. We were placed in a sacred manner on this earth, each in our own sacred and traditional lands and territories to care for all of creation and to care for water. 1

2. We recognize, honor and respect water as sacred and sustains all life. Our traditional knowledge, laws and ways of life teach us to be responsible in caring for this sacred gift that connects all life.

3. Our relationship with our lands, territories and water is the fundamental physical cultural and spiritual basis for our existence. This relationship to our Mother Earth requires us to conserve our freshwaters and oceans for the survival of present and future generations. We assert our role as caretakers with rights and responsibilities to defend and ensure the protection, availability and purity of water. We stand united to follow and implement our knowledge and traditional laws and exercise our right of self-determination to preserve water, and to preserve life.

A book worth reading. A cause worth defending.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jaunty Jackalope

As you may know, or perhaps you don't,the 23rd is the release of Ubuntu 9.04 or "Jaunty Jackalope". I know there are two questions, the first is: "what is Ubuntu?" and the second; "What is a Jackalope?". To answer the latter question, a Jackalope is a large bunny with antlers. They are purported to exist in the wild and basically unvisited parts of the American Southwest. In other words, it is a mythical animal. I suppose they are jaunty on top of it all.

That's the first question, to answer the second, the immediate answer is to go through a few of my blogs, I am a fan of Ubuntu. If you are a new reader to my blog, I suggest you follow the link. To give the quick answer, Ubuntu is a distro of Linux which is a UNIX based Operating System devised by Linus Torvalds. I'd say more but I can sense the eyes beginning to glaze. That seems to happen a lot to me when I get geeky. Especially when I start to discuss things such as Dr. Who. Ubuntu is one of the more popular types of Linux and has been making some impact into the mainstream computer community. It has become the second choice for people who buy certain brands of Dell Computers, such as the netbooks; the Mini 9 and 12 to give a couple of examples.

If you follow the link to DistroWatch, a site which offers links to the various Linux flavours, you will notice Ubuntu is listed as the #1 Linux distro in the world. A recent New York Times article states there are something in the order of ten million Ubuntu users. In a world that supposed to be divided between Windows and Mac OS there is the third way and that is Linux. Of all the Linux distros, Ubuntu is becoming the face for this third way.

What I like about Ubuntu is the fact that it has the look and feel that is familiar when it comes to operating systems, that and the fact it is loaded with all sorts of neat and cool programs. Yes it has Productivity software such as Open Office it also has games and a whole lot of multimedia programs. It is all based upon the concept of free and open software, nothing proprietary in this system, although you can install such things to ensure that your graphic card works fine. It also has special effects, things that only Vista is thought to be able to do. Once you see compiz in action you will be hooked.

I've had Ubuntu installed on the desktop and I'm waiting for the day to download the new installation. As you can see by the countdown at top, it's coming soon. I probably will do it this weekend, since with 10 million people downloading the same software, it tends to slow the servers down a bit, even if there are a lot of them.

Ubuntu gives us all the opportunity to be free.

Isn't that all we want.

I did mention a few posts that I was due for an ubuntu blog, plus I can place the countdown widget in the blog at the same time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 22nd- Earth Day

It's been thirty-nine years since the first Earth Day. I suppose it could be asked is this still relevent? After all we are supposed to be aware of the environmental dangers facing our planet and ourselves. Besides everybody and everything is now thinking Green. We have political parties that are Greens. Practically all companies and manufacturers are into producing green products. We all want to lower our carbon footprint and evryone seems to be with that view. Even those who don't necessarily accept the theory of Global Warming seem to accept the fact we need to change our lifestyle and lower the amount of carbons and greenhouse gases currently being produced.

There are those who are critical of Earth Day:
Some environmentalists have become critical of Earth Day, particularly those in the bright green environmentalism camp. They charge that Earth Day has come to symbolize the marginalization of environmental sustainability, and that the celebration itself has outlived its usefulness

Those who call themselves Bright Greens. They see the day as a marginal attempt to evoke the protest nature that was the late 60's and early 70's. They believe:
B]right green environmentalism is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the “tools, models, and ideas” that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions.

They tend to view all problems have a technological solution. It could be true, but this does not say we need to forgo an Earth Day or an Earth Hour. They remind us to consider and care for our planet.

I was walking through a neighbourhood in West Brant and took some photographs:

I realize this is a construction zone and it's not finished yet. No doubt there will be some improvements. Still, it's good to have a record of what they are not doing. We are quick to dig up, throw away and general treat with a level of disregard.

The sad reality is, this is why the tree canopy is only 15% in Brantford- a cavalier attitude to the environment. We need to remember we are part of the Planet and we need to show respect.

Not all is ugly:

Do we need Earth Day? Do we need the Earth? When we answer the latter in the negative, then I suppose we can answer the former in the same way.

Respect the Earth

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Week Starts

This past Friday I had opportunity to be one of a number of Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Brantford to plant some trees in West Brant. For this Earth Week, the City of Brantford is pushing to increase the tree canopy of the city. In an article from the Brantford Expositor, the city "Dreams of More Trees". At present, the canopy in the city is at 15-23%, which isn't much and certainly a drive through the new subdivisions over in West Brant will reveal hectares and hectares of subdivisions with nary a tree to be found, or you might find one per property. In other words, it's not looking very good for trees in Brantford. However there is now a desire to change all of that and the city has aimed for a target of 40% canopy in the city.

A number of plantings are taking place over the week.

This led to my involvement in the event, besides being a good Rotarian. After our weekly meeting a number of us assembled in a park off Colbourne Street West and began to plant:

The club planted a number of shrubs and Sugar Maples. After planting them, and you will notice the trees were planted along a culvert which ran into a creek, mulch was added to stablize and keep the weeds down.

This maple is a fairly fast growing maple, so hopefully in a few years, probably about 5-10 it will be a good size, providing shade, soil and water retention as well as cover for local animals and birds.

I should point out, the Chair of the Environment and Ecology Committee, Teresa Winn, was able to gather some more donations and so the Club donated the excess to assist with the greening of a school in the area. This is another important aspect of the greening of Brantford, turning the school yards into something that is liveable rather then more concrete. This is also the goal of a group called Evergreen.

It's all part of the work we need to do to lower our carbon footprint on the planet. If we can just plant more trees and keep them growing we can do something to cool down our climate.

I suppose the quesion can be asked "Can planting a few trees really make a difference"? Well, the answer is, yes, perhaps individually it is small, but if a lot of people plant a couple of trees each, it will make a great difference. Never underestimate the power of a sapling and a shovel.

Go plant a tree.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baseball, Tigers and XM Radio

One of the advantages of having satellite radio is, besides the great selection of music that is available, sports. After a winter of listening to various hockey teams including both the Canucks and the Lightning. It is great not to be tied down to the local team, which just happens to be the Maple Leafs, but to enjoy other teams.

But now, let's forget about hockey, eventually I'll get interested in the play-offs but for now I want to listen to baseball. Here is the great part of XM Radio, it is the official radio of Major League Baseball. I can listen to every team and every game. It is great. This past week, I've been listening to the Detroit Tigers.

What will make it worthwhile is by listening I'll catch up with the team. There are the regular players and there are the new players. For example, Armando Galarraga, what a pitcher! He's pitched two gems to start the season and now has an ERA of 0.68. This is the stuff I will be able to keep up with and all because of satellite radio.

I know the radio is having some problems but you know what, I would rather have satellite then terrestrial.

Go Tigers!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Culture, Music and what Really Matters

Unaccustomed as I am to stirring up or getting involved in controversy, I must admit when I followed the link to this blog, I felt I had to make a few points.

An overview of the article from my reading is this, Captain Grant Sandercock-Brown wants to point out that some of the culture that makes up The Salvation Army may be an impediment to it being a relevent part of today's society. he comments that:
Since that time, our attendances have nose-dived from 25,000 to 10,500. It’s to a large degree the baby boomers who have voted with their feet, and rather than argue about music styles and old fashioned uniforms, they have moved in droves to churches whose culture speaks their language in terms of what they wear, what they say and what they sing.

That may be true, the only issue is that we are living in the twilight of the Baby Boomer Generation- yes it has been the stick that has stirred the culture and society. It was the elephant going through the python, but now it's time of ascension is now passed. The torch has been picked up by the next Generation, Generation "O". A recent article in the New York Times said this:
Many baby boomers are unlikely to be comfortable with this generation’s technological boosterism and ease with blurred identities and mixed ethnicities. Peter Wolson, a psychoanalyst and former dean of the Los Angeles of Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies, said the crucible of the 1960s helped give baby boomers a deep suspicion of “the other.” Their world was bifurcated: pro-war versus antiwar; communist versus capitalist.

I think the issue is not what appeals to the boomers but what does the church do to be truly relevant.

One of the commentators to the blog, Phil Wall made this comment:
Your questions are uncomfortable for us aging ‘Eupho’ players who have relished playing ‘On Parade’ & ‘Romans 8′- but asked they must be. In a world where thousands die daily for lack of clean water, where young women and children are trafficked to satisfy the sick sexual habits of middle class whites, whilst a billion people live on less than a dollar a day and millions live without the light of Christ - if we do not ask questions about our capacity to connect with this world in meaningful ways at the expence of our own cultural tastes and norms, we have no right to call ourselves Salvo’s. Brass banding has nothing to do with our mission and mandate, it is purely a sub-cultural phenomena and an issue of musical taste. To pretend it is anything else is at best to descend into irrelevance and at worst and act of idolatry.

Here is the relevance to the church, this is what will make us speak to every generation. First of all, music has finally transcended generations. Thanks to this thing called "Internet", people are being exposed and growing to appreciate a great deal of different styles and genres of music. At one time, the time of the Boomers, there was a strong demarcation of music. If you were of a certain age and generation you listened to only one style. You had your groups, your albums your radio stations- now, it's all over the place. People want to enjoy all the types of music and they are finding a lot to like.

Second as for the unimportance of brass bands- okay I play a double B Bass. I am not a generational type, so I can speak how much I enjoy the brass band style of music, even though at first I was a strings type of person. Also, has anyone visited a high school, listen to the music program it is often brass. Kids are learning to appreciate the style of the brass band.

Is this to say we stick in only one style, no, worship invites all styles of music.

What does this new generation want? Do they want a church that plays church or do they want a mission that is vitally involved and connected with the needs of the planet? Do they care if there is lattes available in the front lobby after the service, or a church that is involved in meetings the needs of the world?

Perhaps Jesus gave us the master plan for the church in the parable of the sheep and the goat:
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This new generation, at least here in North American was galvinized to action by a man called Barak Obama. They heard his message and it reasonated in their minds and spirits. He challenged them and gave them the phrase "Yes We Can".

The church that is genuine, that sees the world as its parish, that is involved in social justice, that is the one that will be a beacon, that city on a hill.

Let me finish with President Barak Obama

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Partners in Missions

I was reading some magazines today regarding third world missions and supporting ventures to improve the lives of others. In particular it was The Salvationist. The reason for reading was the announcement that the ingathering was going to be the end of the month. So this got me reading and thinking about third world needs. As we all know, because we can't get away from it, is that there is a global financial problem. We are inundated with the statistics and they show things are still not going well with the developed world. In some cities the unemployment rate is pushing double digits or has now entered that area. There seems to be a major de-industrialization of communities that were once heavy into manufacturing. It is said we are living in the post-industrial world, well, that's hard to believe since we will always need some sort of industry. We still need things that are to be manufactured. A better description is that the centres of manufacturing are now moving from the west to the second and third world.

Still that is not the subject, although it could be said it is, my point is support for missions. The developing world is being affected by the recent meltdown as much if not more then the first world. This fact was recognized during the recent G20 Summit. In the communique which followed this point was made:
25. We are determined not only to restore growth but to lay the foundation for a fair and sustainable world economy. We recognise that the current crisis has a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable in the poorest countries and recognise our collective responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis to minimise long-lasting damage to global potential. To this end:

we reaffirm our historic commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals and to achieving our respective ODA pledges, including commitments on Aid for Trade, debt relief, and the Gleneagles commitments, especially to sub-Saharan Africa;

the actions and decisions we have taken today will provide $50 billion to support social protection, boost trade and safeguard development in low income countries, as part of the significant increase in crisis support for these and other developing countries and emerging markets; we are making available resources for social protection for the poorest countries, including through investing in long-term food security and through voluntary bilateral contributions to the World Bank’s Vulnerability Framework, including the Infrastructure Crisis Facility, and the Rapid Social Response Fund; we have committed, consistent with the new income model, that additional resources from agreed sales of IMF gold will be used, together with surplus income, to provide $6 billion additional concessional and flexible finance for the poorest countries over the next 2 to 3 years. We call on the IMF to come forward with concrete proposals at the Spring Meetings; we have agreed to review the flexibility of the Debt Sustainability Framework and call on the IMF and World Bank to report to the IMFC and Development Committee at the Annual Meetings; and we call on the UN, working with other global institutions, to establish an effective mechanism to monitor the impact of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Yet for the words,there is concern that for all the words, it is nothing more then empty rhetoric. The promises to the World Bank is for more funds, nothing is said about ending the crippling debt and the demands the World Bank puts on debtor nations as part of the promises of loans for development. Will these nations still be expect to privatize everything and open all markets to investors? These are good points which the Jamaica Observer makes is something we all need to think.

What about Partners in Missions? If anything there is a greater demand for this; if the third world is in a bad way, then we of the west, even if we are in a financial crisis, and trust in comparison to the third and fourth world, we're sailing along, we can afford to support missions. Tanzania is a country that has been made a partner for this year. This nation faces many needs, such as the need for clean water, to give one example.

The challenge is also dealing with a nation where the average income is less then a dollar a day. To bring about change, some of the strategies are the use of microcredit and goat banking. The latter is described in this manner:
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many of its people live on less than $1 USD per day, so there are few options available for those living in rural communities to escape poverty. Goat banks provide a unique opportunity for families to become self-supporting. A pair of young goats is provided for a family to raise and breed. Training is provided on how to care for them and once kids are born, they are passed on to another family. The original family continues to breed their goats. Goats breed easily, are easy to care for and can provide milk and meat for families.

The need is there, our challenge is to help the third world, not with a hand out but the means to lift themselves up. Through the provision of microcredit, goats and education, we can help them lift themselves up. Other needs are the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic:
HIV/AIDS has reached pandemic levels in Africa. A 2005 survey showed there are 1.1 million orphans in Tanzania alone. Older siblings are often left with the responsibility of raising their brothers and sisters. The Salvation Army is actively involved in caring for orphans by providing kids’ clubs to meet the psychosocial and emotional needs of children who have suffered loss. Salvation Army support teams visit those living with HIV/AIDS, providing counsel and practical help and working to ensure that no one is facing life alone. The support teams also link those living with HIV/AIDS with medical clinics so people in rural communities can receive necessary medication. They also provide opportunities for those in rural villages to become aware of the issues concerning HIV/AIDS.

The goal in Canada is 2.2 Million dollars. Contact your local Salvation Army and ask how to make a donation to help. Here in Brantford, call the office at 519-752-7813

You'll do your part to make the world a better place.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday at Wyndwood Community Church

With this being Good Friday, Jo-Anne and I went to church for the service. It was a good service as well, Garry and Dora did a good job reminding us of the solemnity of the day. The music was well chosen, which is going to be the theme of my blog.

As you may know, I play the Double B Bass or Tuba. It's the big thing that is in the back of the band. I think they put us there for a couple of reasons, the first being so we don't drown out any other band member and the second being so that we don't maim and injure when we carry the instrument to our seat.

This morning, the band was on duty to play a Song Arrangement by Sir Dean Goffin. The arrangement was "Redeeming Love", which was based upon the tune Horsley. The tune is named for the composer William Horsley.

The tune can be used for two hymns, the first is "There is a fountain filled with Blood":
1. There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

2. The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

3. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

4. E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

5. When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing Thy power to save.

The other is "There is a Greeh Hill". This may be the most popular hymn for the tune. The site Hymns without Words feature this as the hymn for the melody. In fact you can hear the tune by going to the site. You can find the place to listen. I tried to discover if the Song Arrangement is available on the Net, but so far no such luck.
There is a green hill far away,
Outwith a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiv’n,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to Heav’n,
Saved by His precious blood.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has He loved,
And we must love Him, too,
And trust in His redeeming blood,
And try His works to do.

The Double B part follows, for most part, the melody and brings a depth to the song that is so important. For the ending, there is a three bar rest,a count of two and then a B flat concluding with a G that is held. It is a sublime ending bringing to all the immense importance of the words of either hymn.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stupid to the Last Drop:
A Review

When you think of the corrupting influence of oil and natural gas, you might think of countries such as Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps other nations such as Kazakstan or Turkenistan, although to be fair, Kazakstan seems to be turning a corner in this regard and the natural resources are now being used to help the nation as a whole, rather then a select few.

When we think corruption, the signs are usually, huge influence of the oil and gas industry over governments, suppression of all who oppose the expansion of the Petroleum industry, corruption of all aspects of government and the pocketing of huge sums of money into the numbered Swiss Bank Accounts of the leader of the government.

Perhaps I was naive to think that Canada doesn't have the same corruption, because we are a democracy, where the rules of Law apply. That is until I read the book
Stupid to the Last Drop. The book is subtitled: "How Alberta is bringing Environmental Armaggedon to Canada ( and doesn't seem to care)". The author, William Marsden investigates the Petroleum Industry in Alberta and reveals that it runs the Province. While most of the book is an examination of the Athabasca Oil Sands projects and the impact that is having on the environment, first nations and the general well-being of the Province, he looks at the way the Oil Industry has basically had its way in the Province and how successive governments have cow-towed to them. This has been true durin the regime, or reign of Ralph Klein, perhaps those who are Albertans who read my blog can give me the correct analysis of Mr. Klein's years in office.

The book opens with the story of Manley Natland who worked for Richfield Oil, in Saudi Arabia. He came up with a very clever method of extracting oil from the Oil Sands, he wanted to plant a large number of atomic bombs throughout the province of Alberta. He believed that the subsequent detonation of all those devises would through heat and vibration, free the oil from the sands and allow them to collect into the huge underground caverns that would have been created by the explosion. A brilliant idea with only one slight flaw, besides radiating everything, there would always be the risk of turning Alberta into the world's largest sinkhole, should the caverns begin to collapse.

While we would say the plan is the result of madness, the only difference between what is happening today and what Manley devised is simply the use of atomic weapons. Alberta is on a mission to destroy itself, it seems. The countryside is pockmarked with holes that are the results of drilling for gas and oil, and in many cases, the groundwater has been poisoned for the same reason.

The most fascinating chapter has to be, and they are all fascinating, Marsden's visit to Fort McMurray, ground zero of the Oil Sands project. The oil sands, may be one of the largest reserves of oil on the planet, it alone makes Canada the nation with the second largest reserve of oil, and because of our proximity and our stability makes it of great interest to the Americans. In fact according to NAFTA, Canada is compelled to send as much oil and gas as the States need.

What can be said about Ft. McMurray. The one thing that comes to mind is big. Everything about Ft. McMurray is massive. It is the commercial centre of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, a massive 'community' that is larger then Ireland. The equipment used to extract the Oil Sands is massive, the cost of living is massive and the environmental degradation taking place is massive. It is a place where a person can make a lot of money and quickly, it's also a place where you need a lot of money to live; the poverty line for a family up there is $93,000. Yes you read that right, if your income is less then $93,000 a year, you are poor. What is driving the economy of this community, and Alberta when you think about it is the Oil Sands. They are massive and growing in size. They also have a missive effect on the environment, huge tracts of land is being carved up to get to the Oil and whatever is above the Oil Sands doesn't stay there long- boreal forests are being cut down, not for the wood, but to get to the Oil. Peatmoss is being dug up for the same reason, even the rivers and lakes are being emptied to provide water which is needed for the extraction process. The end result of which is contaminated water. The water is dumped into taling ponds. These ponds are surrounded by noisemakers to keep birds from landing. In a famous incident, a flocks of ducks landed on one of the taling ponds and almost instantly died. The leeching of the sludge into the Athabasca River is having a grave effect on the First Nations north of the Ft. McMurray, for example. One doctor reported that very rare cancers were showing up in the communities.

If all this wasn't enough, the author examines the Natural Gas industry, with people turning away from coal burning electrical generators to Natural Gas ones, the demand is greater then what is now being extracted. From the conventional forms, the new form is gas extracted from coal, of which Alberta has a lot- I think those dinosaurs were all Conservatives, they all decided to die in Alberta. The gas from coal is methane and often the result of extraction is contamination. This is due to the fact that coal is relatively close to the surface in Alberta and therefore close to the water table.

But I talked about corruption and while not mentioned it is obvious to any one reading this book that Alberta is corrupt. Consider, there are a number of sweet heart deals with the Petroleum Industry which means they pay almost no tax and even less in royalties. By the way, while Alberta may brag about its' Heritage fund it is puny, Norway, to give an example as reserves of $500 Billion Dollars- that's because the government has its own oil company which owns half of the oil production. Even Kazakstan's reserve is at $24 Billion and growing. In some instances Oil companies pay 1% royalty, and please remember the Oil fields of Alberta are 'owned' by the people of Alberta. It seems to me they should get a few more dollars for their troubles. OilSands companies pay no royalties until they have 'paid off' their initial investments. Which if I'm a clever company ain't never happening. So the people of Alberta are getting ripped off by their own government.

It continues, under the rule of Ralph Klein, the Ministries of Health and the Environment were gutted. They now are officially the arms of Oil Industry, often siding with and defending the Industry. Another governing body, the Energy Utilities Board, which is supposed to oversee the industry is stacked with people connected to and very friendly with Big Oil. If you have a complaint, it is this body you appeal to and guess what happens. With this body and a well gutted Ministry of the Environment, any and all plans to expand the Oil Sands projects are approved with almost no environmental impact study. Oh and it gets worse. Complain and you are pressured, demand studies and they are so skewed as to be useless.

People are being suppressed. I mentioned a doctor working in the First Nations, his name is Dr. John O'Connors. He noticed some very sudden rises in cancer rates in the communities he worked in, and they were all on the Athabasca River. He gave warning after warning of these rates and suggested they might be caused to the chemicals in the river. The Alberta government is now working on having his licence to practice medicine revoked. It seems he is guilty of getting a little too vocal. There are many who will agree that the govenment wants to shut him down and shut him up. The various ministries have become even more political and by that, I mean defenders not of the rights of the people of the Province of Alberta, but of the Petroleum industry.

This is truly an amazing book. Some have accused Marsden of writing a polemic, but then again, when you consider all that is happening, and trust me this review only touches on a few of the points raised in the book, you can understand.

I should point out one more thing, the oil when it is finally extracted from the Oil Sands is shipped to refineries in Texas and Louisiana, where it is refined and then shipped back to Canada. We don't even use our own refineries to get some added value from the sale of gasoline. It's almost the typical Canadian way.

If this book doesn't get you even a little mad at how things are run and gets you figuring out how to join the Green Party of Canada, then you must be President of Syncrude.

I should say, after reading the book I wondered if the Government of Alberta website shouldn't contain the words "A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of SunCor.

Available, hopefully at your local library.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Clubbing Seals

While checking out things at Facebook, I noticed one of the people I friended had joined a group called: I Support the Seal Hunt. Now far from it for me to engage in any controversy, or express an opinion about anything that will make people angry or divide people with their opinions. That is simply not my way.

So there is a group that supports the idea of grown men with baseball bats going out onto the ice and busting in the skulls of little seals. Please I'm not one of those PETA. I think most members of that group are probably a bit crazy. I'm not going to go on about those cute little white furred seals, which by the way, can't be hunted. So if you see a anti-sealing website featuring pictures of them, ignore them, they are bogus. See, I am level minded and express no controversy.

What my problem with such a group even attempting to defend the indefensible is that while they complain about the propaganda of the anti-sealing crowd, they are engaged in it as much. After all some will say, they have to kill, or cull, sorry- the seals because the seals are responsible for the destruction of the cod fish. They will also go on and say there are millions of seals out there and the population is either stable or are growing. With all these seals, the cod stocks will never recover. There you go, it's all the fault of those darn seals, it has nothing to do with the over 500 year tradition of overfishing or the total mismanagement of this resource. No, none of those had any effect on the cod. The cod was doing well even though many fishery fleets were using the equivalent of a sea going vacuum cleaner. Then the proponent will say, the seals are multiplying, which is almost against their argument. You see, a little lesson on biology- nature tends to keep things equal. By that, it endeavours to keep things on an even keel; when there is sufficient food available, populations increase,, when food gets scarce, populations go down. An animal that ate codfish, would be equally in trouble, or would stop growing, simply matching the amount of food that is available- there certainly would not be any growth.

What I want to suggest to facebook is that they set up other groups, now a quick search they have groups such as Clubbing Sandwiches rather then seals. I agree with that sentiment. Personally I would rather have a Club Sandwich rather then club seal.

But, I am not sure I disagree with clubbing seals. I think seals should go to clubs and dance hall. I support the right of seals to attend Raves. I also think seals should club humans. Let us see how brave those sealers are if they saw a bunch of seals stand up on their back flippers, holding some aluminum baseball bats.

Club Seals, I would rather trance Seals:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

An Afternoon of Music

As they say it's always good to state ones prejudice and opinions up front. So here is mine, I'm not a big opera fan. I know I could listen to the Metropolitan Opera through XM Radio, but I don't.

So this afternoon I went to the Wyndfield Community Church for a vocal recital. The two singers were Lindsay Mew and Catherine Bakker. Perhaps its unfair of me to say anyting about opera since the afternoon featured a variety of musical styles, from modern (Candide by Leonard Bernstein) to works featuring the words of William Shakespeare and more traditional opera pieces. Included was some popular vocal pieces, such as To all of us pop culture mavens, it was song that was featured in the British Airways advertisement:

Lindsay and Catherine singing Lakme

They closed with Duetto buffo di due gatti, or Humourous duet of two cats. It featured both singers 'meowing' at each other and some hissing, much as you would expect the encounter of two cats. It brought the crowd to laugh and to their feet in an ovation, which was well deserved.

The concert lasted 90 minutes and it was a delightful way to spend this time on a Sunday afternoon.