Friday, March 20, 2009

Bear-ing the true nature ...

Another element of the discussion on polar bears in the Arctic, which I mentioned in a previous post, is that the Inuit will not be taking part in the conference on whether to declare polar bears an endangered species. I suppose the idea is that their interests will be represented by their respective governments, but it also spares the World Wildlife Fund and other environmentalists the potential embarrassment of a showdown between their propaganda and the Inuit's "on the ground" reality check.

After all, the WWF says the polar bears are dying off. The Inuit says the population has doubled. Somebody doesn't have the true picture here, and the WWF would lose a lot of prestige, credibility and donations if they were found to be wrong about the situation -- or even (Heaven help us) to have made it up.

Which speaks volumes about the fragility of the argument about human-induced global warming (man-made climate change). Why do we hear so often that contrary positions get frozen out of discussion? If "the science is settled", as Al Gore says, why do scientists get so unsettled when something comes along to challenge them?

My book, A Very Convenient Truth -- real hope in the face of environmental fears, was, interestingly enough, written when I still bought into the idea of man-made climate change. By the time I appeared on Thor Tolo's radio show in Seattle, just over a year ago, I was not so sure. Now, in my presentations, I look at the bitterness and contention surrounding the debate itself as another indication that Satan is busily stirring the pot. With so many real environmental issues to be concerned with -- air quality, water quality, land use, food production, etc. etc -- why is the one that is the most contentious -- human induced global warming -- the one that gets so much media attention?

Simple answer: because Satan is driving this discussion, and his objective is not to protect God's creation. His objective is to keep humans at one another's throats, so that we turn our attention away from God and behave in un-Godley ways.

2 Chr. 7:13-14 applies.

Tolerance - or love?

CBC Vancouver's morning host, Rick Cluff, launched this rhetorical question into the airwaves yesterday: "are we kidding ourselves that Vancouver is a 'tolerant city'?"

The question arose from an alleged gay bashing incident in a Davie Street bar a few days ago. Rick was interviewing a witness -- a friend of the victim -- who told the whole sordid story and went to great pains to describe that the assailant kept calling the victim a "fag".

Vancouver Police are investigating to see whether this should be investigated as a "hate crime".

The notion that Vancouver is a "tolerant" city is based on such things as Gay Pride Week and the fact that there is "hate crime" legislation, which mandates a minimum sentence if a crime is motivated out of hatred for a person's race, religion or sexual orientation.

If we're a "tolerant" city, why do we need hate crime legislation? If we're any more "tolerant" than, say, Surrey or Prince George or Nanaimo, wouldn't it be self-evident in the deeds and thoughts of the people? I'd say those who think that legislating tolerance will make people more tolerant are seriously deluded.

But here's the rub -- and it relates back to my previous posting on how God has been officially barred from Canada: Jesus Christ calls on us to love our neighbours as ourselves. It follows, then, that whacking someone upside the head for ANY reason is an act of hate. Indeed, Jesus tells us that if we even call someone a fool, we've as good as murdered that person (because we're saying that to someone made in the image of God).

But -- oh, look! -- we don't talk about Jesus in public forums as if His Word were anything more than The 10 Neat Little Suggestions because some people might have to change their preferred lifestyles. So we treat Him as Just Another Great Teacher, make His teachings optional, and then try to bring in legislation to accomplish what we think is the same end result.

Then, with events spinning out of control like a border collie on a triple espresso, we wonder why people still hate one another and why they seem so "intolerant".

"Tolerance" is predicated on one person doing whatever they want and another person being forced, through legislation, guilt or the fear of being called a nasty name, to not be offended.

"Love" is predicated on each of us loving God and remembering that if we love Him, we keep His commandments. This means not just that people cannot whack someone upside the head if they behave in a way that offends them ... and that people committing such behaviour are responsible for -- if it violates God's commandments -- renouncing that behaviour and getting their own walk right with God.

It may sound complicated, but ultimately, it's a lot more peaceful than what we've got now. And ... it comes with God's blessing.

What then? Pass more legislation? Increase minimum sentences? Introduce a "social justice" course for 12th graders?

Whither the CBC?

Let me begin by saying that I was a CBC brat. My dad worked at the MotherCorp from 1954 through 1984 -- he has his tenure there worked out to the minute, in fact -- and for most of that time, he was a public affairs producer. (His magnum opus was Klahanie: The Great Outdoors, which was a hit with everyone except the network executives. It ran for 13 years.) My mother acted in CBC radio and TV dramas for over 30 years, beginning in 1948, when she took over the lead role in the serial, "The Carson Family" on the old Farms Broadcast.

I, too, acted in CBC radio dramas when I was a kid, along with a couple of episodes of The Beachcombers and a real stinker of a sit-com pilot that would have shortened a lot of careers if it had ever been picked up. My first professional writing job was on the Rene Simard Show, and I also coached Le SuperKid on his English dialogue. When I desperately needed a job, CBC Victoria was there.

CBC, in other words, has put a lot of meat on my family's tables over the past 53 years.

So why do I have this total lack of sympathy when I hear doomspeak about cuts in federal government subsidies to the CBC? Because the more I look at and listen to that network, the more I think there has to be a complete makeover of its mandate, its direction and how it's achieving its goals.

"Whither the CBC?" is discussed by Will and Ian Ferguson in their book, How To Be A Canadian (Even If You Already Are One). They don't actually discuss the issue, but they point out that it's one of those questions that comes up, like a recurring nightmare, every few years. It leads to endless national navel-gazing (at least by those who give a flying fish about it) about the role of the publicly-funded broadcaster, and often comes at a time when some people question why it's receiving public funding at all.

The CBC handed Heritage Minister James Moore a loaded gun last fall, when it picked up "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune". Earlier this week, Moore used that shrewd programming move to illustrate the need for such a makeover -- saying the MotherCorp should be developing Canadian programs, rather than spending money on US shows. (Wisely, Moore didn't refer to "Coronation Street", which would have really sparked a firestorm!)

Now, you could argue that the purchase of those shows would actually turn a profit, since they'd be proven ad-revenue generators, but Moore's overall point demands some discussion. If the CBC is getting huge taxpayer subsidies already, what's it doing with the money it's getting now? Can it be spent better? Does it have a viewership base comparable to CTV and Global? And if not, why?

(All this discussion must be bitterly amusing to the people losing their jobs at those two networks.)

For Christians with a small-c conservative bent like yours truly, the distinct bias over the past 20 years against Christian influence -- embracing everything "progressive" (aka contrary to the Word of God) and leaning heavily on political correctness and "inclusiveness" -- is particularly worrisome. One friend of mine, a pastor in Duncan, recently referred to the "anti-Christian CBC", and I daresay he's right. Our tax money goes to the CBC, too, and it's hard to countenance that when it's impossible to listen to or watch a network that grieves the spirit.

It was the CBC that really gave the infamous "atheist bus ads" story traction in Metro Vancouver by running an unverified story that the posters had appeared at a SeaBus terminal and that the atheist organization in question actually had an advertising contract. When this piece of information came to TransLink's attention and it was confirmed that there were no posters and no contract, the CBC radio editor at the time was "furious", but the genie was already out of the bottle.

The episode reminded me of one of the radio dramas I did as a child: an Easter offering on the CBC Schools Broadcast. The Schools Broadcasts aired weekly in the mid-morning, and were heard in class around the province. There used to be Schools Broadcasts on TV, as well, covering subjects like the voyage of Simon Fraser.

Anyway, this Easter play was called "Childe Lacke-Love", and it was about a boy who learns that the route to happiness is to commit to loving other people. At one point, the town crier -- played by Robert Clothier (later Relic in The Beachcombers) -- declaimed, "Think of our Lord upon the Cross / Think of the Blood He shed for us!" Can you imagine anything like that getting into a CBC program today -- especially something going to young tender ears in the classroom?

As for CBC News, the days of Knowlton Nash, Stanley Burke and Norman DePoe are long gone. In my dealings with CBC reporters, they seem more inclined to "gotcha!" journalism than to actually ascertaining the facts and constantly looking for the negative or fear-based story than anything edifying or uplifting. Alas, like those in the newspaper industry, the reporters seem to have this lofty notion that they are not only mandated to uncover the truth, but because they report it, it ipso facto is the truth. Yet in my personal experience, I've seen countless times where a reporter will leave out a salient fact that doesn't fit with his or her preconceived thesis, or report it in such a way as to cast doubt on it.

James Moore would like to see more regional programming, more locally-produced dramas and other entertainment shows. I'll go along with that. Big question: can the CBC do it on the funding it currently gets? What can they do without? Do we really need Newsworld? Do we really need Hockey Night In Canada doubleheaders, followed by HNIC "After Hours" (sportscasters drinking each other's bathwater) and then a "replay" of the game people had already seen? If NBC can have perennial success with Saturday Night Live, then maybe Saturday night is not such a broadcasting wasteland.

Some random ideas:
  • Run one hockey game on Saturday night, and turn the rest of the evening over to "try-out" programs of different sorts. The time slot after HNIC used to be a space where a panoply of programs were used as fillers. There could be different games region by region, and if there's a "need" for a replay, run one of the other regional games -- perhaps give the fans the chance to vote by text message which game they want to see. (I would actually have a personal preference for Radio-Canada to take back the Montreal Canadiens' games, so that those of us in the rest of the country to still bleed bleu-blanc-et-rouge can stay in touch with Les Glorieux.)
  • Increase regional drama and entertainment production, and bring back the "regional exchange", where different regions would swap shows. It was a great way to bring the life and culture of one part of Canada into the living rooms of other parts of Canada. With production facilities in the Far North, it would be a great way to expose those of us living below the 55th parallel to what goes on above it.
  • bring back the CBC Orchestras and give them TV time
  • increase local and regional news, and hire news directors with a mandate to make journalism live up to its lofty ideals: truth over sensationalism, positive over negative, public interest over the station's self-interest
  • hire reporters with actual life experience -- not those who have spent their lives in the ivory tower of the professional journalist (where one looks at the world through morose-coloured glasses)
  • does CBC need a piped-in music satellite channel?
  • does CBC need so many radio channels, or should it be looking at restructuring that, as well?

Back in 2004, I wrote a series of features on the origins of TV in British Columbia for the Victoria Times Colonist. In one of those articles, the late Daryl Duke talked about how television showed British Columbians "themselves" for the first time. The TC article edited Daryl's comments considerably, but he pointed out how early TV in Vancouver gave people a chance to see how they themselves lived, and shows like Cariboo Country exposed people in Vancouver to the way people lived in the Chilcotin. Like the story line of "Window at Namko", it provided a huge picture window. It filled a need that was real then, and is real today.

That's a lot of what the CBC should be about, in my opinion, and I believe that makes it worth saving. "Bringing Canadians Together" was the MotherCorp's positioning statement back in the 1970s, and maybe it's time to take that seriously. Once we have this discussion and re-configure the Corporation's purpose, we'll have a better idea of how much tax money should be spent on it.

Bear facts ... and barefaced fiction

The latest exercise in climate change dogma versus The Real World is currently unfolding in the debate over labelling polar bears as an endangered species. Despite the Inuit maintaining that the population has actually doubled over the past few decades, environmental organizations continue to demand a ban -- or severe restrictions -- on hunting the bears and governments of Arctic countries (including Canada) are actually giving it serious consideration.

The "vanishing polar bear" has been used by groups like the World Wildlife Fund as a "hook" for its advocacy in the name of combating climate change. It's the warm-fuzzy tug at the heartstrings of every grade school child south of the 60th parallel to make them persuade mommy and daddy to persuade their MPs or Congressmen to do something about climate change and -- in so doing -- protect the polar bears.

But the Inuit say their conservation efforts are helping preserve and expand the polar bear population, the species is not endangered, and the bears have become a nuisance in some of their villages. Sticking by their ages-old practices of hunting what they have to and letting the rest live, they say, will not drive the species to extinction.

Nevertheless, Whitey knows what's best, apparently, as it appears the environmentalists will get their way and the politicians will once again be able to Show They've Done Something.

Sad. For a Christian, looking at how God has intended us to have dominion over every creature on the earth, it appears the Inuit have this one down pat. "Dominion" comes from the Latin dominus, which means "Lord". We are supposed to be "lord" to Creation, the way God is Lord to us -- protecting, providing for and managing Creation. Proper managers -- like a proper gardener -- know that you don't let a garden run wild, or the weeds will choke off the good growth. Some things have to be culled, sometimes for the sake of the species as a whole. "Replenish the earth and subdue it," was God's Commandment to us, and the Inuit have this one all worked out.

It reminds me a little of the Clayoquot Sound controversy on Vancouver Island in the mid-90s. Environmentalists were demanding protection of the old-growth rainforest north of Tofino, which was in the cross-hairs for a clearcutting spree by logging companies. The environmentalists appealed to the local native nation to support them -- maybe exert some kind of land claim on the area or something. After lengthy discussion, the natives decided to hold a conference at Ahousaht with as many experts as possible to come in and share some ideas on how to use the forest commercially without necessarily logging it to shreds.

There were some interesting ideas -- from eco-tourism to Merv Wilkinson-style sustainable logging to economic opportunities other than conventional forestry. To make a long story short, the natives formed their own logging company and went to work. I believe the overall result has been considerably better than simply letting Macmillan Bloedel or Weyerhaeuser storm in their and start sawing away, but I also got the distinct impression that (a) the natives felt, at the end of the day, that none of the great ideas that came up really benefited them, and (b) the greens were caught in their own delusion that the Noble Savage was simply going to roll over and preserve the trees the greens wanted to worship.

As an aside, CBC's treatment of the story this morning ended with a rather bizarre assertion, which betrayed the bias of both the reporter -- for making the statement -- and the editors and producers -- for not saying "what in blazes are you saying?" In closing her story about the debate between the WWF and the Inuit, the reporter said, "this has become another battle between science and tradition". How about, "between propaganda and reality"?

Can you say, "whitey patronizes natives again," boys and girls?

I knew that you could.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More musings about news-cruisings

The previous post made reference to the role newspapers had in starting the Spanish American War. (There's also a description in The People's Almanac 2 of a war that was almost touched off by some utterly bored reporters in a bar in Denver, I think it was, back in the late 1800s, but I'm danged if I can find the reference now.)

There was also a reference to a stunt (the best word for it) pulled by Hymie Koshevoy of the Vancouver Sun back in 1952, running the same story from the Korean War three days running -- illustrating how bored people were with the war. Hymie and his boss were annoyed that war news was pushing local content off the front pages. No one from the general public complained about the "repeat performances", and only one of the Sun's staff caught it.

But the award for best stunt of all goes to Hughie Watson, for the Howe Sound Basketball League. The story has been confirmed by Annis Stukus, Jim Kearney and Mike Vaux, among others, and they can be trusted, because they are all professional newspapermen.

In 1951, Hughie was night editor for The Province. Erwin Swangard was the sports editor of The Sun. Hughie hated Erwin, which didn't exactly put him in a class by himself. (I never knew Erwin Swangard, myself, but while he was respected in his profession, people who actually worked for him had rather strong views about his personality.)

So Hughie set out on an elaborate plan. In the fall of 1951, he started telephoning in scores and statistics to the Sun from the Howe Sound Basketball League. Teams from Deep Cove to Squamish would do battle on a regular basis, and Hughie made sure the Sun got the scores and stats in time for the afternoon papers.

Gradually, a scoring hero began to emerge from this. I know he had a name, but I'm danged if I can remember it. His exploits were legendary, and by season's end, he was a "lock" for the MVP honours.

So now, Hugh went for the coup de grace. He sent an elaborate invitation to Erwin Swangard, to be the guest speaker at the annual awards banquet for the HSBL, to be held at a hall in Deep Cove. He was also to present the MVP award. On the appointed evening, Erwin got dressed up and set out for this hall in Deep Cove.

Remember that at the time, the route from Vancouver to Deep Cove involved crossing the original Second Narrows bridge, with the two lanes, railway track and lift span, then following the euphemistically named Dollarton Highway into the foothills of Mount Seymour. There was a large Indian reserve (presided over by a chief named Dan George), few homes aside from that, and even fewer street lights. So Erwin spent a lovely evening driving around this area trying in vain to find this hall and the banquet.

As I understand it, there was no such hall. That didn't really matter, because there was no HSBL, either.

I don't know if Hughie ever owned up to the hoax, but it was fairly widely accepted that he was responsible. In fact, Canada Day Sports Trivia credits Hughie, but says the prank was exposed when the Canadian Amateur Basketball Association tried to check out the legendary scoring superstar; there's no mention about Hughie's motivation.

According to Mike Vaux -- an old newspaperman (well, not that old, I suppose) I knew in Victoria -- Hughie Watson was also noted for a number of other pranks, including his sprints to the dock for the Bowen Island ferry, leaping aboard as it was pulling out. One day, he allegedly waited until the boat had already left the dock before starting his run ... dressed as a woman. He leapt, splashed down behind the boat, then swam underwater to the other side, pulling himself aboard (this was only a low-deck car-and-passenger ferry, y'understand) as everyone was searching for the woman off the other side of the boat. Good times!

Maybe 'twas ever thus

In my previous post, I mentioned the late Hymie Koshevoy, so in a sudden desire to find out more, I Googled him and found an intriguing anecdote online.

Fifty years earlier, one should note, newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer allegedly stirred up the Spanish-American War -- including the famous (possibly apocryphal) order from Hearst to the painter Frederick Remington, after Remington had told him he couldn't send him pictures of any war in Cuba because there was no war in Cuba: "you furnish the pictures - I'll furnish the war".

That Wikipedia article, by the way, gives credit to Pulitzer's New York Journal for exposing the horrors of the tenements in the late 19th Century and spurring the reforms. But it was actually a beat reporter, Jacob Riis, using the newly invented flash camera, publishing his own book, How The Other Half Lives, that really ignited public outrage among "the other half".

You can read that book, by the way, and imagine Vancouver, instead of New York, and "Downtown East Side" instead of "Five Points" or "The Bowery" in practically every sentence and description.

The P-I, the funnies, and another warning ...

The demise of the print version of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is bringing a new round of nervousness about the future of newspapers. It's almost like the Tom Lehrer song, "Who's Next?" -- although that was about the nuclear bomb and which countries were on the verge of getting one. (Egypt's gonna get one too/Just to use on you-know-who, SO .../Israel's getting tense/Wants one in self-defence/The Lord's our shepherd, says the Psalm/But just in case ... we're gonna get a bomb.)

Mind you, that's rather fitting: which newspaper is going to be next to get nuked?

With that, CBC Radio Vancouver did a "streeter" to find out what people would miss most if newspapers around here went under. The answer heard most was that people would miss the funny papers and the crosswords.

Not "incisive editorials". Not "hard-hitting, probing journalism". Not "the fact that someone is holding those responsible accountable". Not even "witty humourists who brighten my day".

Funnies and crosswords.

And that's the answer I would have given, too.

In another time -- another generation, come to think of it -- I would have had a passel of reasons for missing my newspaper, almost all of them locally produced writers:
Jim Taylor
Jim Kearney
Clancy Loranger
Allen Garr
Allan Fotheringham
Eric Nicol
Hymie Koshevoy
Len Norris
Same-day coverage of world events: the Vancouver Sun carried full coverage of the JFK assassination on the day it happened (remember that the Sun was an afternoon paper at the time), complete with a bio on Lyndon Johnson. The Province the next morning included information on Lee Harvey Oswald. To compare that with more recent newspaper procedures, by the early 90s, the Victoria Times Colonist "went to bed" so early that a Vancouver Canucks home game was treated as a "late start on the West Coast" and a score from the night before would often be reported as "game still in progress at press time".

Now, it's funnies and crosswords.

Once again, it's an indication that newspapers really have to take a hard look at themselves to see why "funnies and crosswords" might be the most-missed element. Re-thermed reports of the previous day's events, smarmy columnists and editorials that don't put difficult issues into context as much as they parrot prevailing public opinion, all couched in the cant of Journalism As The Guardians Of Democracy, don't cut it anymore.

Now, it's entirely possible that the reporter had actually edited out any answer that wasn't "the funnies and the crosswords". That's a journalistic trick to make sure that popular opinion is seen to fit the thesis of the story. Maybe there were 65 responses, 10 said "the funnies and the crosswords", and the other 55 said something about the reporting, the columnists and the value of journalism to democracy. But "the funnies and the crosswords" made for the better story. We have no way of knowing.

There's a certain poetic justice to that, don't you think?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Healing - and limiting God

This current bout with the gall bladder has brought on a series of ruminations (a word I love to use now, since Jon Boyd at Westpointe talked about ruminating on Scripture and went into great detail in describing what "ruminating" meant) about healing.

Rumination 1: when I learned I had gallstones, I wanted to pray them out of existence -- turn the whole thing over to God and call on Him to heal me without surgical intervention. After all, there was an experience a couple of years ago, when a friend of mine had kidney stones and there was talk of surgery: I laid hands on him and he reported a few days later that the tests showed there were no kidney stones and that surgery would not be required. There was also the time when my first mother-in-law had been praying that her brother in Idaho would qualify for Medicare to pay for a pacemaker; she then realized she had been limiting God with her prayer and prayed that He would create a new heart in her brother. Two days later, she found out that (a) her brother's income was too high for him to qualify for Medicare, but (b) his doctor had re-examined him and found that he didn't need the pacemaker because it looked like he had a new heart.

But the painful episode which led to the ERCP -- the procedure where they thread a little video camera and bucket down my throat and hoist the gallstones and other offending matter out of my bile duct -- made me re-think my position. Alright, already, I said: let's go with the surgery and remove the bladder.

Rumination 2: the gall bladder is regarded as an "optional" part of our body. It stores additional bile produced by the liver, and squirts it into our digestive system if needed. Apparently, in the days when mankind's diet had more raw fruits and vegetables and less processed stuff, we needed that extra bile. Now, it's not so necessary. This seems to me to be a pretty big kick in the teeth to evolutionists: why wouldn't the gall bladder have evolved out of our anatomies over the centuries?

Rumination 3: why didn't God respond immediately to the prayers of others and me, for the gallstones to be blasted out of there, the way the kidney stones were removed? Jesus says, "whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have". How does that fit in?

Ruminations 1 & 3 can be dealt with together. If we remember that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, then we start to look for God's Will over our will. Does "ask in My Name" mean we declare our own desires and attach "in Jesus' Name" to it, as though those were the magic words that will make something happen? Or does "in My Name" mean "in accordance with God's Will"? Would Jesus sign His Name to something that was not in accordance with the Will of God? Of course not.

But wouldn't God love to have some kind of spectacular, attention-getting miracle to bring a fresh revelation of Himself to the doctors and nurses involved? Wouldn't the total destruction, by faith, of a whole whack of gallstones be just such a miracle?

A couple of answers here. First, St Paul's Hospital and Mount St Joseph Hospital are part of the Providence Health Care organization -- a Catholic organization "dedicated to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ". There are framed prints on the waiting room walls at MSJ, showing Jesus healing people -- including a particularly poignant one of Him standing in the operating room with His hands on the surgeon's shoulders. I'll take a wild guess the PHC gang don't need to know about healing miracles!

Second, we need to remember here that removing the gallstones is the cure for the situation, while God is about healing. Sometimes, healing appears to be disconnected from the situation at hand -- witness Jesus' healing of the paralytic who was lowered into His house through the roof. Jesus didn't go on and on about "every bone, every muscle, every nerve shall come into alignment": instead, He said, "thy sins be forgiven thee".

So if we step back from the situation with the gall bladder, we see a bigger picture. The gall bladder may be "useless", but the fact that it had built up a whole whack of gallstones, which had begun slipping into the bile duct, was a warning sign, because gallstones are created by fat and salt. Evidently, I was consuming too much of both. A canary in a coal mine may not have a direct operational function for the mining of coal, but when it croaks instead of tweets, you can avert a problem before it becomes a problem.

(That deals with Rumination 2, by the way.)

So we sacrifice the "useless" gall bladder before issues with fat and salt start hitting the really important parts, like the heart and liver. I've already dropped more than 20 pounds in the past two months, am feeling great and already enjoying a leaner diet. Prior to the wedding, I was weighed at Black and Lee, where I rented my tuxedo, and thought the scales were going to run away and hide. I came in at 225 lb -- which is great if you're 6'4", but not 5'10". Looking at the wedding pictures kept reminding me of David Letterman's famous twit at former Atlanta Braves pitcher Terry Forster -- "OMG, what a fat tub of goo!" When I went for surgery on Friday, I weighed 206. Still nowhere near my best weight (175, when I was 22), but a whole lot better.

So what was God's Will? For my gallstones to disappear? No. For me to be healed. My sins of overindulgence and the spirit of poverty that led to my overconsuming are forgiven and bound and under the Blood. Now I can get on with life as He wants it.

(Why were those kidney stones in my friend blasted out of there? Because that's a different case -- can't compare it with the gallstones.)

Our problem with healing -- as with so many of our prayers -- is that we try to ask God for what we want, thereby limiting Him. Isaiah 45:11 tells us, "concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me". That's in KJV, the Hebrew, the Vulgate and pretty much every English version up till the middle of the 20th Century. It's a particularly super-charged "faith verse", and I often wonder why it would be suppressed or altered in more recent versions, just when we really need that faith charge. Truly, God is not telling us we can order Him around, but He's calling on us to make our case boldly in prayer for Him to provide us with the things we need. It's good to go before Him and seek His Will specifically -- as Geri did, praying that God would create a new heart in her brother, thereby averting the invasive surgery to implant a pacemaker -- but knowing that His promise is ours for the claiming and thanking Him for that is usually all we need to do.

Now, if you want to talk about God intervening in the "cure" process in this gall bladder episode, consider this. On Saturday, the day after the surgery, we went back to hospital because I started running a fever, which spiked at 103 (38.7 C). We had been told to go to Emergency if my temperature hit 38.5. It had dropped to about 37.9 -- .4 higher than normal -- by the time they took my temperature at St Paul's, and as I sat in the waiting room, I started thanking Jesus for my healing. A battery of blood tests and a consultation with the surgical resident (who's becoming an all-too-familiar face to Amelia and me now) later, I was told everything was fine and I could go home. By the time I got home, I was in considerably less pain, a much better frame of mind, and wondering what all the fuss had been about. I believe that, quietly, God stepped in and eased that whole situation.

This whole episode has also given me a first-hand look at health care, and I keep coming back to the conclusion that we are truly blessed in this province. I can't think of anyone who was not kind and compassionate, upbeat and professional in their approach. At St Paul's Emergency, I did see some toughness in dealing with some of the "street people" who came in after falling while drunk or stoned (compassion does not equate to sympathy), and yet one man who was evidently going through a nasty spell of alcohol poisoning -- retching and throwing up in the emergency stretcher next to me on the day when I went through several hours of testing -- received precisely the care he needed, even though some would describe him as a "frequent flyer". I've had a chance to talk with and meet all sorts of people, praying with some or just chatting with others. As in everything, if you keep looking for God in everything, He'll show Himself.

Because God handed over dominion of the earth to mankind, we are required to call Him into a situation to help us. For God to step in and fix things without our asking Him to would be to renege on His Word and make Him a liar. That's why Jesus tells us, in the Lord's Prayer, to declare "Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven". In His way, God does that to require us to stay close to Him, know His Will, know what to expect of Him and what He expects of us.

Journaltopia - if only ...

Stephen Hume has another column in today's Vancouver Sun, decrying the "semi-literate bloggers" and rhapsodizing about the crucial role editors play in keeping a reporter honest. The idea is that the "new media" don't have editors, and so practically anyone with a computer and an internet connection can write practically whatever they want to, promulgating untruth and potentially dangerous points of view. Editors, Stephen writes, help a reporter from correcting spelling and grammar to challenging factual assertions to make sure the truth gets out.

Now, Stephen's right about some of the bloggers out there. I've stumbled upon Aryan Nations poison and ignorant diatribes from all kinds of fringe elements. But that's not the case 100% of the time, and for Stephen to write about bloggers without acknowledging that some of us actually have a measurable IQ is actually suppressing a key fact in his story. I would hardly call Prof. John Stackhouse "semi-literate", and while I may not agree with everything written by Stephen Rees or Paul Hillsdon or other bloggers, their comments are usually well thought out and well expressed. And if I think they're full of navel lint, I can send them comments of my own and offer perspective. As I've written before, if one tries to "straighten out" a "professional" journalist, one is often treated with disdain as if we were presumptuous beyond all measure by suggesting they weren't doing their job right.

But to Stephen's point today about editors and their value in producing stories, that's definitely the ideal, but it's not the reality. When editors allow their own bias or "newsroom philosophy" to factor into the equation, they're just as impossible to deal with as the reporters. I noted in a previous entry, I've experienced editors with a blatant bias, or who have failed to call a reporter to account when we've complained that key facts were left out of stories. With so many newsrooms espousing the philosophy that "good news is no news", a positive story that might actually be in the public interest is often ignored, in favor of some juicy "ordinary citizen" one-off complaint.

So while the function of the editor, in theory, is to ensure reporters are on the right track, the practice is far removed from that. The whole system of "professional journalism" needs a makeover, starting perhaps with a good, hard look at the lofty notion of the profession itself, followed by some discussion of the question of why the "new media" have become such a threat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When God is shown the door ...

I love it when Canadians take it upon themselves to lecture the US about public policy issues. There's something so self-righteous and smug about Canadians -- like we're SO superior in our thinking and progressive in our attitudes ... ach ... don't get me started.

The latest on this is Leonard Stern's column in today's Vancouver Sun, which suggests (and the sub-headline tells it all) that "the sky has not fallen" four years after the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Is that a fact?

Let's see what's happened in Canada in the past four years:
  • increase in gang violence
  • increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS
  • increase in homelessness
  • increase in drug use
  • worldwide economic downturn, affecting Canada
  • increase in environmental degradation

Wait a sec', you say: what has this to do with same-sex marriage? Plenty, because the passage of that Civil Marriage Act in 2005 was yet another instance of Canada officially barring God from the country. Our parliament rejected the Word of God as its guide, just as it has done with abortion, drugs, prayer in schools, a judicial system that has lost its sense of purpose and the misguided policy of "tolerance", which is a twisted form of chesed -- unconditional -- love.

(Politicians have tended to claim that we have to separate church from state, but that leaves them with no impartial moral guide to follow. It also leaves them open to any attack from the enemy. The Lord showed me back in 2005, in the waning days of Paul Martin's brief tenure as prime minister, that Martin left himself unprotected from the effects of Liberal sponsorship scandal by his open defiance of his own parish priest, who had pleaded with him to vote against the Civil Marriage bill. Had he done so, the Lord said, Martin could have escaped being tarnished by the misdeeds of the others in his party and could have plausibly stated (as he did) that he was "out of the loop" on such things. But that plea was greeted not with understanding and credence, but with hoots of derision, that the minister of finance was unaware of what was happening in financial matters.)

When God is barred from the land, He stays out. He only comes in when invited, anyway (which is why Jesus tells us to include "Thy Kingdome come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven": God gave us dominion over the earth, and that means He can't get involved until we call Him in), so when our governments pass laws that directly contravene His Word, He takes the hint and stays away.

And when He does that, He takes His blessing and protection with Him. So while one may not see it, there is a connection between the larger problems and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Others are suffering in different ways, too. CTVGlobemedia is on serious financial hard times. I remember the cheer that went around the CTV Vancouver newsroom when the Civil Marriage Act was passed, and I remember that same summer, the Globe and Mail offered a $10,000 gay wedding package as a prize in one of its contests. Canwest Global is on the verge of bankruptcy: has God withheld blessing and/or protection because of the Sun's and the Province's "progressive" editorial stances?

In a way, many Christians are responsible for this "barring" of God. We are called not to judge one another but to love one another and to reach out to those who have lost their way -- those who have caved in to their fleshly desires. If we spend our time and energy railing against sin rather than walking as lights that overpower darkness, we, too, are caving in to our own visceral responses. We are, indeed, rejecting the Word of God just as decisively as those we judge. In fact, such rejection is even worse, because it gets dressed up in Religious trappings, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (II Tim. 3:5).

So in the face of fatuous "the sky hasn't fallen" assertions from the "progressive" elements in our society, we need to ask ourselves why our country has rejected God, and what we can do to reverse that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

How free is the press?

Spare me, someone, from the sanctimonious drivel from newspaper people, over the growing fiscal troubles in their industry and the threat that poses to democracy.

Recently, one long-running newspaper -- the Rocky Mountain News in Denver -- closed shop after 150 years; at least one "giveaway" paper has laid off staff in Vancouver, other papers are in trouble and two Canadian media giants -- Canwest Global, which owns both Vancouver dailies, and ctvglobemedia, which owns CTV and the Globe and Mail, among others -- are currently flirting with bankruptcy.

Two columnists in the Sun in the past week have written impassioned pleas, affirming that newspapers are the key to democracy, the alternative -- blogging and citizen journalism on the internet -- is woefully inadequate because these people are not "professionals" at digging out the facts, and that newspapers are required to "hold the feet (of governments and other officials) to the fire".

That's the theory, certainly. But the reality is that journalists have a far loftier view of their job and their ability to do it than is actually the case. My experience, both watching the profession from the inside for 25 years and now the past 3-and-a-bit years dealing with reporters as a public information officer, has been that reporting true facts takes a back seat to the egomaniacal thrill a reporter or news organization gets from making a monkey out of someone in an official position. Being seen as the champion crusader for the little guy is far more important than getting the story right.

Consider these points:
  • reporters have shown a disturbing tendency to assume that Ordinary Joe Citizen is telling the truth, and that even hard data refuting it must have been doctored. Case in point: an incident where a fellow claimed he'd been assaulted on a SkyTrain and it took 40 minutes for police to arrive. Even though we called the reporter within 20 minutes of getting the call, with information showing that the situation was in hand within 5 minutes and the man was in custody 11 minutes after that, the man's claim was the basis for both the "anchor lead" and the body of the story; the data refuting it was added as an afterthought, with that little "TransLink says that ..." nuance that suggested we had cooked up the data. Later, at a meeting with the assignment editors, we were told that it was assumed the data we provided had been fudged.
  • reporters prefer creating controversy to actually presenting information. In November, SkyTrain, TransLink and Transit Police announced results of a crime analysis study on safety and security on the system and around its stations. They also announced measures being taken to improve the public's comfort level. Reporters focused on the idea that police dogs may be tested out. One TV reporter went to the length of cutting in a visual of a snarling German shepherd lunging at the camera while asking "ordinary people" what they thought of the idea; this, even though it was made clear that these would be black Labradors, trained to sniff out contraband. A couple of weeks ago, Maclean's online made mention of SkyTrain security, so I sent in a comment, listing the measures we were taking to address the issue. Another commenter actually asked me why he had to read about it in a national publication and wasn't TransLink's PR department doing its job?
  • a "professional freelance reporter" used Freedom of Information to get records of the number of times Transit Police had used their Tasers in the previous 12 months. There were 10 incidents. The media leapt all over it and reported that people were being Tasered for fare evasion (because the incidents began with a fare check). The explanation that the Tasers were only used because an ID check had found the subjects were wanted on outstanding warrants and were resisting arrest was ignored, as was the fact that these were 10 incidents out of over 43,000 "contacts" between police and citizens during that same time frame.
  • the general bias among the media in Canada against war comes through clearly in the reporting on the Afghanistan situation. It seems like the only time we hear about our soldiers is when someone gets killed. The successes -- and any assessment of whether the troops are "doing the job" -- generally go unreported. It makes one wonder what the reporting on D-Day would have looked like if today's generation of journalists had been covering the Normandy invasion.
  • On the other hand, consider that the biggest media frenzy in Canada in the past year and a half has been the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport. That story came out because a "citizen journalist" with a cell phone camera took video of the incident and posted it on the Internet.
  • Similarly, how much "journalistic digging" did it take to discover Premier Gordon Campbell had been arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii, or that certain offices in the BC legislature were being raided by the RCMP?
  • When a Global TV reporter broke details about a federal budget prior to its being released, was that solid journalism or a fortuitously placed camera? (Hint: it was the latter.) How big a scandal was the building of Glen Clark's sundeck, really? Was the public interest served in either case? In the former, a dollar figure was revealed in the budget document, and the then finance minister declared it was only a "draft" and that the real figure was considerably higher. In the latter, the business of the province -- with all its problems with health care, education and the economy -- was hijacked while the world dissected the meaning of a gift hunting knife.
  • Watergate was definitely a high point for journalism in all its ideals, but since then, reporters have tried to emulate Woodward and Bernstein, looking for their own Deep Throat or smoking gun, with that very fleshly desire to be seen to be The One That Brought Down A Government. But in satisfying that desire, what have they really accomplished?
  • One of the columnists I referred to above noted that he'd been a journalist for 43 years -- and he doesn't look that old. This means he's been writing since he was a teenager. A lot of reporters come straight out of school into the news media, which leads one to wonder what kind of experience they have in decision-making, taking action that actually affects people and/or producing or running something.

Indeed, look at some of the stories out there and ask yourself whether they were really "broken" by a reporter working their contacts or observing an event first-hand, or whether they came from covering a meeting, attending a news conference, re-writing a news release (I love it when I see news releases I've written, printed verbatim in a newspaper with a reporter's by-line attached to it), or because they got a tip from a private citizen. Ask yourself, also, if the tone of the story assumes one side is "good" and another side is "bad", or whether you're left to draw your own conclusions.

There's something to be said for "citizen journalism", and that's that, while they may not be able to dig out all the facts, the CJ medium allows for "the other side" or "perspective" to get a fair hearing. Often, such explanations are considered "the official line" by professional journalists and therefore not to be given credence. We can send comments to blogs or set up our own blog and present our side of things that way. If you try to tell a reporter or his/her editor that they missed the mark in a story, or that the tone of the article is not in the public interest, one can expect a rather huffy lecture in Journalism 101.

I was blessed, early in my career, to work with some news directors who knew how to dig out a story and get facts from officials that went beyond the news release. One of them, the legendary JJ Richards (CHUM, C-FUN, etc.), told me that he wanted a legislature reporter that would make a politician say, "oh, s**t!" whenever he or she heard that reporter's voice on the phone. There are two kinds of reporters that make me say, "oh, s**t" when I get a call from them. One is the kind who legitimately has some really good questions and I need to find some really good answers -- even though we might not look good in the process. The other is the kind who already has his or her mind made up about the story and nothing I say to them is going to alter that.

Barbara Yaffe in the Sun is one of the columnists pleading for the preservation of the free world as we know it by keeping newspapers alive. One of her statements is spot-on: we do need a dialogue about the future of journalism in this country. But a lot of that has to focus on whether newspapers are really doing the job. Why are people turning to the Internet and citizen journalism? Why has the public respect for journalism as a profession plummeted from 73% in 1994 to 49% in 2008 (according to a survey by Angus Reid Strategies)?

And who holds the journalists' feet to the fire? (Quis custodes custodiet? Who guards the guardians?) In 2007, TransLink and SkyTrain took a Vancouver radio station (CKWX) to task for its reporting on (here's a surprise) SkyTrain safety and security issues. It took a year, but the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found the station in violation not just of the Code of Ethics articles we had cited, but of many more.

But that's just one example, and it's worth asking if the remedy the CBSC imposed, along with the reputational damage of having been "caught out", is enough to get a media outlet to re-think its approach or even really admit it had done anything wrong? So long as journalists maintain the lofty notion that, by virtue of their profession, they are the truth and the champions of the public trust, they will lose ground as people seek out and make use of other means of finding out "what's going on".

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And now, a word about health care in BC ...

Just spent a weekend in St Paul's Hospital, where, aside from pastoral visits, I had not spent any significant time since May 3, 1956, when I was born. It was my third trip there in two weeks, after the "back strain" we were rather hoping I had suffered turned into the gall bladder attack the doctor "kinda suspected".

Lots of excitement around the household at 5 Saturday morning, with firefighters trooping in, followed by paramedics. We're right bang between two firehalls in the West End, and the fact that Amelia said the magic words "he has pain in his chest" (which I did, although not "chest pains") pushed the incident several notches up on the priority list.

So off I was whisked to ER, jabbed with needles (why on EARTH would someone do that to themselves ON PURPOSE?), poked and prodded ... the usual stuff, I suppose ... the next day, I was whisked into a radiology room where a surgical team sedated me, slid a TV camera with a tiny bucket attached down my throat, removed the offending stones and assorted nastiness, and whisked me out again before (thanks to the miracle of sedation) I knew what was happening.

The next day, after the best sleep I'd had in weeks, they showed me the door.

I left with a number of distinct impressions about our health care system, all of them good. Over-arching it all: anyone who complains about BC's health care system has their head stuck someplace generally inaccessible. They're probably the same people who gripe about TransLink: they've taken some personal quibble and morphed it into an indictment of the entire system, usually leading to the conclusion that the system is "bad", "broken" or -- in extreme cases -- "the worst in the world".

Along with repeatedly thanking Jesus Christ for my healing and God for compassionate doctors, nurses and other medical staff (not to mention a wife who rarely left my side), I kept thinking about what would have happened if this attack had happened in another country, or in another era, when we didn't have the kind of medical technology and know-how we have today.

The answer to the first question would depend on the kind of health insurance I had. The answer to the second is probably moot, because in another era, we didn't have a lot of the risk factors for such ailments that we do today: fatty, salt-laden foods, more sedentary lifestyle, less incentive to get up and get out of the house (like blogging, a-hem). In my book, A Very Convenient Truth, I note that pollution is what we get when we become too sophisticated for our own good; when the level of development depletes the land at a rate greater than our ability to replenish it. It's the same way with our bodies.

But I digress: the overarching response to both questions was that we are truly blessed to have the kind of system we have here in our own land.

I was reminded, too, of Tommy Douglas, the so-called "father of public health care" in Canada. He once wrote that the seeds of his medicare ideas and ideals were sown when he injured his leg when he was 12 and was laid-up in hospital. He couldn't help thinking, he said, of the other children whose parents weren't as well off as his were: would they have to lose that leg, or hobble for the rest of their lives?

There will always be criticism of our health care system, I suppose: some of it well-meaning, some of it with more than a tinge of self-servingness. But I say we are truly blessed to have the system that we have, with the people that we have working in it.