Archive for October 2013

The Red SoX, Bill Lynch and Me

October 31, 2013


I am 11 and it is yesterday, 63 years ago,

St.Peter’s are holding try outs for the pee wee team. A World War ll vet who now reads water meters for the city, Bill Lynch is running the practice  on the far west field of Christie Pits.

I am a skinny kid weighing about 65 pounds and  I am taking batting practice.

I hit a line drive over shortstop and  the tall thin man Lynch yells,”What did you say your name is, Ted Williams?”


I immediately put on 10 pounds and grow a foot.

Ted Williams was now my man and The Red Sox were my team.

And i never forgot the power of words and affirmation of Bill Lynch.

Years later I thanked him for this.

The Red sox won the Wold Series but I remember Ted Williams and Bill Lynch.

And I still  11.


Cancer and Dr.Epstein

October 29, 2013


My neighbour Diane was canvassing for the Cancer society over 30 years ago.

I admired her public service and commitment and I gave her a donation and then I told her why I do not support the Cancer society’s Terry Fox run though I admire all who take the time to run. They wish to do something. Their motivation is beyond criticism.  I told Diane we should be rather running to Parliament to shut down companies engaged in cancer production.


I had read Samuel  Epstein’s 1979 book The Politics of Cancer. The verdict was in: cancer is an industrial disease, the product largely of rushing carcinogenic materiel into the atmosphere without due diligence. The plastics industry, the oil companies etc. were producing massive  carcinogens. Cancer does not magically appear.i t is produced. Epstein’s warnings went unheeded.

“The American public are still eating and drinking ultra dangerous products in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence, and in spite of the warnings they have received from the rest of the world that “we will not buy your products.”

… It’s almost like an Alice in Wonderland situation. We like to think we’re the greatest democracy in the world and yet we tolerate white collar crime, industry white collar crime, and the white collar crimes for profit.

Epstein now emeritus prof of Environmental Occupational  health medicine at the U of Illinois  at Chicago is a world renowned  cancer expert and he  has never stopped his criticism of national cancer bodies which say little about  prevention. Their  focus is exclusively focused on diagnosed treatment and oncology research.

Says Epstein

“The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has failed to develop or publicize any listing or registry to avoid all exposures to carcinogens, and these include some drugs, some pharmaceuticals, diagnostic radiation, occupational, environmental exposures to carcinogens, ingredients and consumer products, carcinogenic ingredients and consumer products, food, natural products, cosmetics and personal care products.

CBC newsperson Wendy Mesley then wrote a book a bout her cancer. She did all the right things—ate well,exercise—still got cancer. Somebody was not telling her the truth about cancer.

Pink ribbons,Terry Fox runs, positive thinking,donating money to the Cancer  Society is not enough.

Political action is needed. This is a long and arduous journey and the corporations with deep pockets will fight for the right to continue their pollution

The Luxury Bishop

October 24, 2013


Pope Francis finally tied the can to the “Luxury Bishop”, 53 year old Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst. His $43 million palace was too simply too much for both Limburg (Germany)  Catholics and the new pope. The high living prelate was a deep embarrassment to the church and the gospel. One churchgoer said,”I am praying for our bishop to be healed of his egomania.”

Others are praying for servile bishops to start hearing the cries of the baptized.

Forget his outrageous spending habits, the deeper question is how did this man ever get to be a bishop. You can bet he was an ultra conservative Benedict  XVl imposition on the people of Limburg. They had no say in this choice of a man guaranteed to be a loyal acolyte of Rome . He was typical of the John Paull/Benedict XVl bishops, all chosen for their predictable servility,answering as Richard McBrien said,”to a constituency of one—Rome.”

The last two pontificates, in reaction to the democratizing trends of Vatican ll and the ignoring the prime metaphor of that Council, the people of God, attempted to reverse Vatican ll. As Pope Francis has stated, “It is irreversible”. We are in a new moment where the people of God, the best educated Catholics in history must be consulted.

The Pope seems in synch with his brother Jesuit Karl Rahner who in 1971  railed against the attempt to turn the Church into “the little flock”, a favourite metaphor of Pope Benedict. Amazing how prescient Rahner was in 1971, virtually predicting the reaction to Vatican ll:

If we talk of the ‘little flock’ in order to defend our cosy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern society; if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the church so that we can return to our repose and orderly life, and everything becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality. This is dangerous because it shows up, not under its true name but in an appeal to orthodoxy, church-loyalty and strict, Rome-dictated morality.

Pope Francis (taking his cue from Rahner?) rejects “the little flock” and “petty sectarian” mentality.

“This church is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

The Luxury Bishop you can bet was Mr. Orthodoxy to the letter. His poor appointment was  guaranteed to drive even more   “restless, questioning people” from the church.

Maybe  Pope Francis can stem the exodus by appointing more pastoral bishops—chosen by the faithful.

The Harper worldview

October 23, 2013



Believing man is political man. Our politics begin and end with the politics of the Kingdom.

We read budgets with a serious look at priorities—how they affect the poor, the earth etc..

Stephen Harper’s policies are largely-anti-kingdom.

Money squandered on war preparation, an inexcusable ecological footprint on the body of God, the earth, horrible on the Middle East, tax breaks for the rich etc

And now the Tory budget  focuses on giving us choices.

Why not? He sees us as consumers, not as citizens of a country which should be honouring the common good.

No national poverty scheme, no national housing plan, no national day care plan—but a break on cable TV and  roaming charges on cell phones.

What a grand vision for this country.

it is to weep.

Spinoza and Spong

October 15, 2013



Baruch Spinoza, the scion of Portuguese Jews expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, was raised in that most progressive country of the 17th century Holland. A brilliant thinker  born in 1632, he outgrew the strictures of his Orthodox Jewish community and inspired by the atmosphere of freedom in Holland began to write about the Bible. Like John Spong he was way ahead of his contemporaries and paid the price for his brilliance. By the time was 23  a cherem (a writ of excommunication) was presented to him by synagogue leaders.

What Spinoza wrote of course is common coin today and accepted by all exegetes. in his Tractatus Theoloigico-Politicus (or simply the Tractatus 1670) he pointed out that the Bible is full of contradictions, that the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) did not come from the pen of God, Moses or any single author. These  books were  written over a period of time by several authors, that the Jews were not God’s chosen people, the miracles were suspect, the prophets had no ability to see into the future.

An early  child of the Enlightenment threw a powerful challenge to the established churches which he maintained kept people in darkness and intellectual bondage. He went after all concepts of theocracy. The  state was not the  representative of a divine order. he insisted on the freedom of conscience and was naive enough, even in the relatively enlightened Holland that this would protect him from the ferocious attacks which quickly came. His biblical criticism of course veered into political theory. Citizens not theocrats must own the political authority.

The firestorm which erupted was unprecedented. It can only be compared to the reaction to Darwin’s Origin of species,(1859) which still enrages fundamentalists..

Spinoza published his work anonymously and  placed its release in a foreign city Hamburg.

Dutch theologians were first off the mark with outrage—.In July 1670 one synod described the Tractatus as “a most vile and  sacrilegious book the world has ever seen”. Others  wanted “to extirpate this corrosive gangrene.” Word leaked out that Spinoza indeed was the author. all over Europe  critics vaulted over each other condemning the book. The book went through several printings and was widely distributed albeit under the counter.

It is important to note that Spinoza was no atheist. ”There is a Supreme Being who loves justice and charity and whom all must obey in order to be saved.” Sounds pretty traditional.

He barely escaped with his life. Baruch Spinoza died at age 44 probably from silicosis, the result of small glass  particles lodging in his lungs. You see Spinoza to earn his living was a master lenscrafter.

Compared to John Spong ,Spinoza was a revolutionary, an innocent who believed that truth would triumph. In biblical studies it ultimately did, yet Bishop Spong must travel with a bodyguard.


John Spong

October 12, 2013


David Gibson in the National Catholic Reporter wrote a nice tribute to 82 year old Anglican bishop and writer John Spong.

The latter  is indeed a lightning rod for traditionalists who have little understanding of scripture and how it was written.

One respondent to Gibson’s article was so full of bile blaming Spong and others for the decline in church attendance all over the western world. By this criteria  prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen are wildly popular and worthy of credence.

Spong’s books, 24 of them are indeed assaults on fundamentalism and traditionalism  but never tradition which is always evolving.

When I interviewed him a decade ago i told him that to me his stuff was not new but the necessary popularization of the assured results of biblical scholarship. He was doing exactly what John Robisnon was doing in the early 60s. He laughed heartily and totally agreed with me.

Spong besides his biblical work championed female priests and the rights of homosexuals both as clergy and as oppresed citizens..

Gibson wrote of Spong,”  he questioned long-held doctrines and literal interpretations of the Bible, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus” . Spong was simply saying in easily understandable language what bible scholars have confirmed. The Virgin Birth is not about Mary or her hymen. It is about the uniqueness of Jesus. The resurrection is not about a reconstituted body.All common coin today.

Spong is like many progressives, often too far ahead of his troops. As a result he gets shot as the enemy!

His latest book is on John’s gospel,The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic  the least historical and most poetic of the gospels.

Spong , Gibson writes, “doesn’t think any of the Gospels are literal retellings of the life of Christ. All of them were written 40 to 70 years after the crucifixion, in a language that Jesus did not speak, and not by eyewitnesses,” he said. “I see them more as Jewish interpretive portraits painted by Jewish artists try to capture the essence of this man’s life.”

Those are, of course, the kinds of statements that set many Christians — even many fellow Episcopalians — on edge, to say the least. “A lot of people hear me attacking their certainty. I don’t have any interest in doing that. I’m interested in penetrating the meaning of certainty. We have to get beyond the symbols. And John’s Gospel does that for me.”

Finland, all the way

October 9, 2013



Diane Ravitch writes:

Two nations were influenced by our thinkers and example:
Finland and Chile. Finland learned its lessons from John Dewey. Its schools are child-centered. It prizes the arts and physical education. It has no standardized testing. Its schools are noted for both excellence and equity. It is a top performer on international tests.

Chile learned its lessons from Milton Friedman. It has vouchers and testing. Its schools are highly segregated by social class. The quality of education is highly dependent on family income. Students in Chile are rioting to demand
free public education. No one considers Chile a model. Which direction are we going? Why? Whose ideas are dominant today?

Ravitch asks the right questions.

Canada traditionally opted for Dewey, that is equality, common good, solidarity and invisible bonds which held us together.

The present Harper Tory government out of synch with Canadian social democratic values would love to pry open the education field to the highest bidder. It is a market government which is frustrated by our love for publicly funded health care which it is continually nibbling at on the fringes. It knows it will be electoral  suicide if it goes after our one payer system.

It however  has legitimate children in the provincial sphere. We look at the ugly Harris government which included  Flaherty,  Baird and Clement, demolition experts of the common good.  It  now has  Tim Hudak attempting to make market inroads in Ontario,

Caveat emptor!

Harper’s inactivity

October 5, 2013


Two Canadian citizens — acclaimed Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and medical doctor Tarek Loubani — have been jailed for more than a month and a half in Egypt without charge after witnessing a massacre by state forces on August 16 in Cairo. The two were traveling through Egypt en route to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors.

In a communiqué smuggled out of a Cairo jail the pair said,  “We were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.”

Loubani ,a prof at Western,  a member of the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. was on his way  to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where he trains doctors and nurses in emergency critical care procedures.

Wow, going to Gaza, not a real Canadian to the Harperites, the hopelessly pro-Israel government.

Note “en route to visit Gaza”. This may be the key to understand the pathetically tepid response of the Harper government to vigorously defend these brave innocent Canadians, held on trumped up charges.

Greyson  is a wonderfully engaged teacher-filmmaker. He is also active in Queers Against Israeli  Apartheid, the gay group which dares speak out against Israeli apartheid.

Canadians well know the embarrassing and blinkered approach of the Harper government o Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land.

Naomi Klein phrased this well, both praising Canadian embassy officials who always are professional  with the Controller in Chief Stephen Harper.

But there has been concern, and it’s expressed very openly in the Canadian press and online, that at the highest levels, certainly at the level of the prime minister, there has not been enough pressure. As far as we know, our prime minister has yet to call his Egyptian counterpart personally and demand the men’s release. He waited until last Sunday to issue a statement calling for their release publicly, but that was, you know, a statement made to the Canadian media. Whether he has relayed that directly and explained that there are consequences, real consequences, to the Egyptian government, is another matter entirely.

October 4 and another Francis

October 4, 2013



Pope Francis venerates the tomb of St.Francis today. October 4 is his feast day.

One would have to look hard to find another member of the communion of saints who has had such a dramatic impact on his time.

Born in the period of the arrogant papacy young Frankie Bernadone was a  kid of his time–at 21, a  warrior and a wastrel, a dandy and a teenage alcoholic, tossed into prison, a place which often shakes one’s worldview. (Read Malcolm X’s biography—Tampa Red  a street punk who came to himself in prison. So did young Frankie). Bernadone’s life was broken open. He began to think deeply of his growing belief that the Church had lost its way. It needed a new direction away from the empire church it had become, a powerful, arrogant facsimile of the Roman empire whose architecture it had replaced. The papacy had utterly forgotten the evangelical counsels of another poor man, the stable Christ.

Soon, he had a mystical experience wherein he felt he was called by Christ to “repair my church.” And boy did it need a lot of repairing at that time! He tosses off his  designer clothes  on the main street of Assisi. His father thinks he’s nuts—like  Jesus was considered in his time (Mk.3:21).He wants to turn the church back into a servant church, He becomes “il poverello”—the little poor man and begins a whole movement, back to poverty,

At age 27, Francis finds himself in front of Il Papa, the megalomaniac Innocent lll, the most powerful man in the world. The year was 1209. The pope ,”the ruler of the World” as he was  named at his investiture  was decked out in purple, Francis in rags. He wants approval for his new movement. The pope  is non-committal. He has other things on his mind. Pope since 1198, Innocent   had to deal with the catastrophe of the Fourth Crusade (1203) and the sacking of Constantinople.

What a contrast the imperious Innocent who now crowed that he was no longer  Vicar of St.Peter but the vicar of Christ and the man in rags.

This was the world of Francis—an imperial papacy, a massive shedder of blood, a corrupter of the Holy Office. Few remember Innocent lll but all know the peaceful prophet who began a serious renovation movement of the Roman Church. Dante said of him in his Paradiso, “Nacque al mondo un sole”—To the world was born a sun.”

Francis died at 44 but his movement to Christ-like poverty changed Catholicism.

It appears the present pope is attempting the same

Nazi persecution of gays

October 3, 2013


2450304-700x335Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (ECHRT) EGALE ( is Canada’s  national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education and justice.

It is sponsoring a dynamite display on the horrendous harassment of gays in the Nazi years at the Miles Nadal centre or “the Jewish Y’ at Spadina  and Bloor. The  display runs from October 2-8.

It is obviously beamed at educators. On loan from the Holocaust museum in Washington, it is a marvelously documented history of this shameful attack on homosexual people.

Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945 examines the Nazi regime’s attempt to eradicate homosexuality, which left thousands dead and shattered the lives of many more.

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi German regime promoted racial health policies that sought to eliminate all sources of biological corruption to its dominant “Aryan” race. Among the groups persecuted as threats to the national health were Germany’s homosexual men. Believing them to be carriers of a “degeneracy” that weakened society and hindered population growth, the Nazi state arrested and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps tens of thousands of German men as a means of terrorizing them into social conformity.

October 2 – 8, 2013

9:00am – 4:00 pm (Monday – Saturday)

7:00pm – 10:00 pm (Thursday and Friday only)

9:00am – 12:00 pm (Sunday only)