Archive for November 2007

IS SCHREIBER CALLING THE SHOTS?

November 30, 2007

Yesterday Karlheinz Schreiber appeared on Parliament Hill in handcuffs and flanked by police. His hearing before a parliamentary committee was well orchestrated. What was unusual was that it was orchestrated by Karlheinz Schreiber himself.

Months ago Schreiber signalled he wanted to talk about the Mulroney affair. Then he said if he were deported to Germany he wouldn’t say a word. At the beginning of yesterday’s hearing he said he would remain silent. Half way through the procedure he was singing like a jail bird.

Throughout all this the politicians and the media jumped through hoops waiting for Schreiber’s next move. Say what you like this talkative German is a master chess player.

Nevertheless throughout the two hour hearing Schreiber revealed only two pieces of evidence not previously known. The first was that the original payment to Mulroney was to have been a half a million dollars, not $300,000. Second that a letter Schreiber wrote to Mulroney exonerating the former prime minister of all wrong doing was in fact written by one of Mulroney’s cronies, Elmer MacKay.

In this dance of the seven veils, Schreiber has so far only lifted the first one, and that just a peep. And he issued the committe a veiled warning. Before he will give more testimony he must consult his papers which comprise about 25,000 pages.

Whatever the committees’ agenda is, Karl Schreiber’s is clear. He wants to delay his extradition to Germany as long as possible, preferably forever. So far he’s doing a good job.

Do you agree we are all dancing to Karlheinz Schreiber’s tune?

Advertisements

IS CLONING OK?

November 29, 2007

A technical breakthrough has enabled scientists in Britain to create for the first time dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys, raising the prospect of the same procedure being used to make cloned human embryos. This new technique promises to revolutionize the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos.

The procedure for cloning is as follows: the nucleus of a healthy, unfertilized egg is removed and another nucleus from the mature skin cell of an adult animal is placed inside the egg. With careful timing and the use of electrical impulses, an embryo can be created which is a genetic clone of the skin tissue donor. It is possible to implant embryos created in this way into the womb to produce cloned animals – much like the procedure with Dolly.

This new technique will not be welcomed in all quarters. Opponents of cloning will argue that the new technique of manipulating primate eggs to improve cloning efficiency will lead to increased attempts at creating — and destroying — cloned human embryos for research purposes.

Although it is illegal in Britain (and in Canada I believe) to place any such cloned embryos into the womb of a woman, many people also fear the relative ease of being able to perform cloning using the skin cells of an adult will increase the chances of its being applied to produce a cloned baby.

Isn’t it an accepted dictum that what scientists can do, they in fact do sooner or later.

Do you support animal cloning?

Do you support cloning for therapeutic purposes?

Would you ever support human cloning?

If not, how can it be stopped?

DO THE PALESTINIANS DESERVE A FAIR DEAL?

November 28, 2007

At the eleventh hour of his presidency, George Bush convened the Annapolis Conference to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Up to now Bush has been part of the problem, not the solution. Most observers agree he has tilted heavily in favour of Israel. With Bush Israel’s security has trumped Palestinian grievances almost every time.

It was not always so. In the late fifties, President Eisenhower demanded that Israel withdraw from all the territories that had been seized during the Suez campaign in 1956. Israeli prime minister Ben-Gurion, bowing to American pressure, reluctantly agreed.

Many of the problems of 50 years ago still remain. For years Resolution 242 requiring that Israel withdraw from all the occupied territories, has been on the U.N. books. Israel has effectively ignored it.

Dr. Neve Gordon, a Jew, teaches  government and politics at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He comments on the current situation:

{The United States] “must force Israel to abide by U.N. Resolution 242. Mr. Bush must insist that Israel dismantle all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and fully withdraw to the 1967 borders.  The Palestinians should be able to establish  a state with their capital in East Jerusalem, and a creative solution to the refugee problem must be found and agreed on.”

Professor Gordon says a settlement along these lines will enhance Israel’s security:

“Due to the rapid advancement of modern warfare, Israel’s military and technological edge will not be enough to secure its borders.  Only peace can do that.  Therefore, as an Israeli Jew who wants his children and future grand-children to live in the region in peace, I can assert safely that Mr. Bush would be doing Israel’s citizenry a great service by pressuring the government for a full withdrawal from the occupied territories.”

Do you agree?

MAY A CATHOLIC VOTE FOR A PRO-CHOICE CANDIDATE?

November 27, 2007

Suppose there is a national election and two candidates are running in your district, candidate A and candidate B. The issues they are discussing include national security, health care, immigration, education and the environment.

Candidate A advocates surgical bombing strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites, a larger role for private health care, the return of all illegal immigrants to their own countries and aspirational targets to control gas emissions.

Candidate B advocates the return of all troops from Iraq,, hard targets on gas emissions, a way for illegal immigrants to gain their citizenship and universal health care.

The two candidates also differ on the difficult subject of abortion. Candidate A is pro-life, believes every abortion is murder and would only support anti-abortion nominees for the bench.

Candidate B does not personally believe in abortion. He would support every social measure such as raising the minimum wage and low cost housing to reduce abortions, he never speaks of abortion unless asked but in the last analysis, he supports a woman’s right to choose.

What should a Catholic do who disagrees with candidate A on every major issue and agrees with candidate B on most issues? Where does a Catholic obtain guidance in this dilemma?

I would suggest a conscientious Catholic should read a document put out by the American Catholic bishops at their meeting this month in Baltimore. The document is meant as a guide for American Catholics in the up-coming presidential elections. But it is equally helpful for Canadian Catholics. In the section on abortion there is the following sentence:

“In some cases, if a Catholic who fully accepts fundamental principles such as the right to life were to vote for a candidate despite the candidate’s opposing position but because of other proportionate reasons, their vote would be considered ‘remote material cooperation’ and can be permitted only if there are indeed proportionate reasons.”

In the situation I outlined above, I consider their are indeed proportionate reasons to vote for candidate B.

Therefore I would do so with a clear conscience.

Would you?

IS HARPER SOFT ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

November 26, 2007

Early next month the Environmental Minister, John Baird, will travel to Bali in Indonesia to present the Harper government’s policy on climate change.

But does the Harper government have a policy? At the recent Commonwealth climate conference in Uganda involving 50 countries two countries, Canada and Australia (whose government was defeated on Friday) scuttled the Commonwealth’s attempt to impose binding gas emission targets on developed countries.

Stephen Harper himself opposed binding targets and insisted that the policy also be applied in developing countries, such as India. My understanding is that the other 48 countries in the Commonwealth wanted to give developing countries a temporary pass to give them a chance to develop their industrial capacity.

The upshot was that the Commonwealth reluctantly watered down its climate change commitment because it couldn’t get Harper on board. Come to thin k of it, maybe in Uganda Harper was playing to his base in oil-rich Alberta.

Clearly Harper’s views are far closer to George Bush’s than to Gordon Brown’s.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion charges that Harper has “embarrassed Canada on the world stage.”

What do you think?

ARE ANGLICANS FALLING APART?

November 25, 2007

The schism in Canadian Anglicanism turned ugly last week with threatened fights over ownership of church buildings, hints of swift punishment for rebellious priests and the uncrating of an alternative church structure for some rebellious clergy and laity.

At the heart of the dispute are divergent attitudes toward homosexuals. The liberal wing of the church wants to embrace homosexuals as children of God. The conservative wing of the church say that homosexuality has been condemned in Scripture and practising homosexuals should be shunned.

So deep is the split that conservative Canadian Anglicans want the orthodox Anglican Church in South America to establish a parallel jurisdiction in Canada with the right to ordain priests etc. Two Canadian Anglican bishops are on the record as favouring this move.

Earlier the executive body of the Canadian Anglican church asked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, head of the 77 million-member world Anglican Communion, to tell the South Americans to cease and desist. So far Archbishop Williams has remained silent.

A senior Anglican cleric said that if, as reported in one British newspaper, Archbishop Williams was exploring the idea of recognizing parallel jurisdictions, the world church would likely be irrevocably fractured.

Do you believe the Anglican church is on the verge of collapse?

Do you see any way the church’s divergent views on homosexuality could be reconciled?

Would the Anglican church be better off with a Pope?

SHOULD OLYMPIANS BE PAID?

November 24, 2007

Henceforth in a money-for-medals program Canada’s Olympic athletes will receive $20,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze  starting in Bejing next summer. There will also be $5,000 payouts for the top-five and top-four finishers at world championships in the three-year buildup to each Olympics.

Athletes in training say they will view this money as a reward, not an incentive. I wonder?

It’s true, however, that most other countries reward their athletes this way and certainly athletes have to get by on a shoe string.

On the other hand, does this mean there will be less money in the training pot? Some critics have argued that it should be enough of a privilege to wear the Maple Leaf. And how will this work in team sports?  Would it be the best use of the money to pay every millionaire on the 2010 men’s hockey team $20,000 should they win a gold medal in Vancouver.

Do you favour paying money bonuses to Canada’s Olympic medal winners?

ARE STEM-CELLS NOW OK?

November 23, 2007

Two teams of scientists, in Japan and the United States, report that they have turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic cells without having to make or destroy an embryo – a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All the scientists had to do was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such universal human cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

Researchers and ethicists claim that now the debate over whether it is morally acceptable to create and destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells should be moot.

The director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Washington , Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk , says, “Everyone was waiting for this day to come. You should have a solution here that will address the moral objections that have been percolating for years.”

Most everyone agrees this has been a scientific breakthrough. Is it also a moral breakthrough?

In your opinion, is stem-cell research now morally acceptable?

SHOULD CARDINAL OUELLET HAVE AP0LOGIZED?

November 22, 2007

Just before he left for Rome to ask Pope Benedict 16 to come to Quebec for the Eucharistic Congress next summer, Quebec’s Cardinal Ouellet publicly issued a sweeping apology.

His Eminence apologized for the Church’s attitude toward women, Jews, homosexuals and for the widespread sexual abuse of young people in Catholic Church institutions.

But how serious is this public apology? When he sees the Pope this week will the Cardinal bring up the shortage of Canadian priests and ask him to rescind the church-made law of celibacy? Will he ask the Pope to revise Church teaching that gay people are “intrinsically disordered”? Will he point out to the Pope that the theological reasons for not ordaining Catholic women are flimsy?

Unless he does, how much weight should Catholics give to Cardinal Ouellet’s apology?

As The Globe and Mail said in an editorial this morning: “The implicit message is that the church still wants pride of place in Quebec, while refusing to budge on contraception, women’s rights and gay marriage.”

CAN’T THE COPS INVESTIGATE MULRONEY?

November 21, 2007

The more I think about it, the more concerned I am that in opting for a full-blown judicial inquiry into the Schreiber-Mulroney affair, Prime Minister Harper has made a monumental error.

Just consider. Such an inquiry will last at least a year, it will cost upwards of $50 million dollars, it will make a lot of lawyers rich, it will unjustly tarnish a lot of reputations and there is no guarantee that it will unearth the real culprits, let alone put them behind bars.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says he wants a big inquiry to clear his name. Fair enough. But does the Canadian taxpayer have a paramount interest in helping him do so?

And now it looks as though one of the key witnesses in the inquiry is ready to clam up. Karlheinz Schreiber says if he is shipped back to Germany on December first he won’t testify at all. Just visualize the scene: squads of lawyers sitting at long tables, their money meters running, and the chief witness takes the fifth.

Earlier this week in Montreal former Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Harper should turn the whole mess over to the cops. Is it too late for that? It’s very hard to shove the toothpaste back into the tube. Harper would find it very hard to back down.

However, there is still a ray of hope. Dr. Johnson, the special consultant on this matter, could still recommend something less than a public inquiry – like calling in the cops. They can concentrate on the one central question: why did Schreiber pay his friend Mulroney $300,000, why did Mulroney delay paying taxes on this money and what did he do for this sum? (In fact Mulroney now says he committed “a colossal mistake” in accepting the money from Schreiber for vague consulting fees).

Do you think the Schreiber-Mulroney matter should be turned over to the police?

Or do you favour a full public inquiry?

In any event, shouldn’t the Harper government keep Schreiber in Canada until any investigation or inquiry is complete?