Monday, February 12, 2018

Gerald Stanley verdict

Some interesting themes emerging from the recent Gerald Stanley verdict. I'll say this about the Stanley case. The shooting took place on Stanley's farm. What were they doing on his farm? A gang shows up drunk and uninvited on your land themselves armed ... The evidence is that the adult individuals were illegally on his farm and themselves armed with a shotgun. Anyway there was a public trial, Stanley exercised his right to both a defense and a lawyer, and the jury found Stanley not guilty. So that's that.

Anyway in this link as just one example we have a member of the Senate of Canada demanding "concrete changes to the criminal code." That and an inflammatory tweet from the Prime Minister of Canada, disrespecting the fair trial and the jury verdict.

So what of these "concrete changes" we are hearing of that the activists demand? The end of jury trials? Perhaps doing away with trials entirely? Who knows. It would make sense to demand the end of jury trials, it is consistent with recent developments in criminal justice in Canada. After all juries are more truly independent and fair. They are harder to pressure from outside forces than in trial by judge alone.

Juries, unlike judges, aren't influenced by having to receive their paycheques and future pension from the same employer that provides the Crown prosecutors paycheques and pensions. Jury duty is also temporary, they aren't long term entrenched members of the system like judges are.

Oh but what about judicial independence? Well perhaps that's part of the agenda of these "changes" to the justice system. As I've written before, in the Judge Camp case and Judge Lenehan case, a precedent has been established where a judge can now be subject to "Judicial council review" for delivering the wrong verdict - i.e. the not guilty verdict. Juries (for now at least), unlike judges, are not subject to this post-trial "review" and are possibly better able to deliver an unbiased verdict based strictly upon facts and evidence proven at trial.

We really need more data from this senator, the activists, the Prime Minister, and the federal minister of justice. What exactly is on the table here for these concrete changes

  • the right to a jury trial
  • the right to a trial
  • the right to face your accuser in court
  • the right to an attorney
  • attorney-client privilege
  • the right to cross examine prosecution witnesses and evidence
  • the right to testify in your own defense
  • the right to not testify at your trial

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Old Testament

I recently finished re-reading the Old Testament. It was a long project. I'd try to read about 1 page a day on the days I did read. I started this project around 2015. I'd bought a NIV Bible for my mother as a planned Christmas gift for 2014. Alas she was ill and died in December that year before Christmas. So I was left with the Bible.

I took it as inspiration to read the good book again. I'd read it cover to cover over several months around a generation ago, back about 1994. It was King James Version in those days. I'd forgotten a lot of it over the years. The NIV is more accessible. Plus with the knowledge and experience of today, I got new and different things out of the reading. Well I'm not quite done yet. I've started the New Testament, perhaps there will be a post about that at some future point.

My reading of the Old Testament was basically the story of Israel and the Jews. The origins with Abraham/Isaac/Jacob, deliverance out of Egypt, years in the wilderness, the establishment of the kingdom of ancient Israel, the fall of Israel and Jerusalem. It was sad in II Kings when Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem all fell.

I got thinking how did that happen? From the success and splendor of the early kings Saul, David, and Solomon; to later division into Israel/Judah, military defeat by Babylon, and exile. It was quite a fall from the heights of the empire of ancient Israel.

I've assigned the failure of the kingdom of Israel to these three major factors.

From the original 12 sons of Jacob, of course they would have had to marry wives outside their family to establish the original tribes. And with selective outmarriage such as Ruth it could be a benefit to Israel. But by the time of Saul it was not necessary to marry a wife who was not a Jew. King Solomon had in the area of 700 wives. It would not be possible to keep track of them all. Solomon accepted wives from other nations who had their own gods and were not of the Lord of Israel.

With scant attention or oversight from their husband (as there were 700 of them), and the authority of a king's wife, the wives of Solomon were allowed to bring Baal and Asherah into Israel. Solomon did not consistently require his foreign wives to take his religion and become Jewish. They were allowed to keep their own gods and bring in their own priests from their country into Israel's territory.

These foreign gods in time distracted and corrupted the people of Israel away from the Lord. The Lord certainly noticed, was displeased, and took action, to Israel's detriment. Once these foreign gods were allowed to come in and become established in Israel, they were never successfully completely removed.

Division and Infighting
The separation and creation of the separate kingdom of Judah from Israel was not for the best. A tremendous amount of time and energy and lives were lost between fellow Jews in Israel and Judah scheming and fighting each other. They were surrounded by enemies, and they weakened themselves by splitting into two hostile kingdoms. Divided you fall.

Regression to the Mean
The kingdom of Israel was founded by exceptionals. Consider the original line Saul-David-Solomon. Saul was a head taller than anyone. Strong and attractive. Saul killed thousands of Israel's enemies. David was a great musician and poet. Also a great warrior, David killed tens of thousands. Solomon was wise. A great statesman. Builder of the great temple. Solomon presided over an era of splendor, peace and prosperity.

And then after Solomon ... well there were a number whose name began with J. they all seem pretty unremarkable. So while it was exceptionals at the start, mediocrity followed. Regression to the mean link is a fact of mathematics. There are ways to counter it such as non-hereditary succession, choosing the "best" son as the new king instead of necessarily the "first" son, possibly some others. But after the greatness of the early kings the leadership of Israel fell off and Israel was worse off for it.

Together, over the years and decades and not that many generations, it was all too much. Judah was not too big to fail. Eventually Israel was defeated by enemies and the kingdom fell and the Jewish people were scattered.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Delilah Saunders liver transplant case

The story of Delilah Saunders has been in the news lately. Ms. Saunders is seeking a liver transplant, but cannot get on the waiting list due to a "six-month clean" policy which Ms. Saunders is apparently not compliant with from the news reports.

Saunders supporters are expressing frustration with the policy. Some might think the six-month clean policy is unfair. The liver transplant policy is based on objective criteria, and it applies equally to all. Thus the policy is certainly fair.

Some supporters believe that the six-month clean rule is wrong. Well health care is the provinces responsibility under the constitution. It's for the Minister of Health to establish a liver transplant waiting list policy, and review or revise the policy as he sees fit. Thus the policy as it exists is right per the authority of the Minister of Health.

It would be unethical for the policy to be changed at this point in order to favour one individual, Ms. Saunders, and necessarily bump someone else further down, or effectively off the list (if they die before getting a live transplant). The thing is, erasing the six-month clean rule wouldn't particularly help Saunders. After all everyone else currently shut out of the liver transplant program under six-month clean, however many dozens or hundreds or whatever, would then immediately have precedence over Saunders. These other excludeds have been "waiting" outside the program earlier, perhaps attempting to comply with six-months clean, to become eligible to be on the transplant list.

So the only way waiving six-month clean would help Saunders would be if it was waived for Saunders only, telling the others currently on the outside to go home and get sober for six months while Saunders gets on the list now without having to meet the sobriety requirement. Is that fair or ethical?

One point made in the media by Saunders supporters is the "multiple traumas she has suffered in her life". So yes Saunders has a sympathetic hard-luck story. I will confidently believe that everyone on the liver transplant list, or around the list in six-months clean limbo, can tell a hard-luck story in addition to facing liver failure. So we don't know who, like Saunders, has the most hard-luck story to tell. There seems no obvious way to objectively measure it or use it to prioritize the waiting list.

Basically what Saunders supporters are seeking is for the policy to be set aside in this one case in order to favour a specific individual. Let's follow that through to its logical conclusion. Suppose the policy as it exists is struck entirely and there is no specific policy to get on the liver transplant list, or to move up or down in priority once on the list. What would happen is the list would become based on

  • political connections
  • money
  • bribes and corruption
  • access to mass media (Delilah Saunders)
  • ability to present a hard-luck story in the press, while ignoring other hard-luck stories (Saunders)
  • supporters being able to mobilize campaigns in social media, and public demonstrations (Saunders)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Burma and Serbia

The situation with the Rohingya in Burma has been in the news lately. I haven't studied all of the details and backstory, but for the Buddhist in Myanmar to take this action is pretty unexpected. I mean from what I've always heard Buddhism is all about peace and love. So for the Buddhist who I'm told are so peaceful, to be pushed to taking this drastic action, it makes me wonder what must have happened.

So the Muslim Rohingya are being forcibly ejected from Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh. Now Bangladesh is an Islamic nation, an exporter of terrorism as we saw in New York just this week. So it was this accident of geography that gave Burma this option in dealing with the Rohingya issue, that is the option to force them out of their country into an adjacent Muslim zone.

Which brings to the parallels with Serbia. Also recently the old Balkan wars of a generation ago have been in the news. Serb and Croat leaders from back then still going through trials and sentencing. So back in those days Serbia also had Muslim problems in their nation. And Serbia in a way set the example by forcibly removing Bosnian Muslims out of Serbia and into Bosnia and Muslim dominated areas. Serbia, like Burma today, had the option with geography to push Muslim trouble off their land and onto an adjacent Muslim country.

It's interesting the changes in world opinion from a generation ago in the Yugoslav wars to today. Back then it was Serbia is bad, bomb Serbia, stop Serbia. There was no discussion at all about Serbia being Christian, or the threats Serbia was facing that led them to do what they did. Ah simpler times.

Now today with Burma and the Rohingya the outrage is more muted. World opinion is more nuanced. The situation with the Rohingya and Muslim violence is seen as difficult and complex. The actions taken by Burma are certainly harsh with a real human toll, and individual-level injustice. Yet its recognized that Islamic strife is a problem worldwide (Genesis 16:12). Also the world recognizes that it isn't sufficient to tell Burma that mass deporting the Rohingya is not an option, while offering no other solutions.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Books Everyone Read

I recently read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was a good book. It held my attention through the 800 pages. It makes you think. Set in the 19th century Imperial Russia, many of the themes are still relevant today.

I'd always meant to read that book. It was one of those books I grew up thinking everyone read. Well I thought everyone read them. So with Anna along with these other titles I've completed in recent years I have finally completed the task to read these books that everyone read.

Atlas Shrugged
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Anna Karenina

There are still some classic books that I've been meaning to read for a long time and perhaps I will get to them. So the reading and learning journey continues.

I have some ideas but I'm not entirely certain what to make of Anna. I'd be interested to hear the views of others who have read it and what they think it is about.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Comment on The Church Virtuous Circle

In my previous post on virtuous circle life in the church, it was some things I'd been thinking about for some time. Writing it in a diagram helped me to visualize stuff I'd always known about and grew up with but never really thought about in that way.

I think the chain style is important, as it helps visualize where breaks in the chain can occur and how people can come be non-churchgoers.

It's well known that church attendance is in decline in Canada. Also at the church I grew up in, and still attend sometimes. Recently there was a fellow from Michigan speaking, a good speaker. He said at his home church they had 23 kids in their program for ages 3-7. It just struck me how healthy his home church was. I'm confident they will still be around a generation from now.

It was a bit painful too, the diagram made me examine my own life, choices I made along the way, and my kids relationship to church and religion such as it is.

From the bottom left I got though the first two links. I was born protestant and grew up going to church every week. However within a year of finishing high school I was basically done with church and effectively stopped going for many years. Now in modern times I've come back somewhat to around 1-2 a month on average for the last couple years or so. The same church I grew up in.

Also in the later links, I married outside my church. Nominally a catholic, like me very seldom actually attended church. In the years I was dating then married we never once got up on a regular Sunday morning that wasn't Christmas, Easter or some occasion and voluntarily went to church, any church.

If you read the Old Testament outmarriage was the downfall of Israel and Judah starting with King Solomon. We were warned in the church as kids that outmarriage was the major cause of people leaving the church, and they were right.

For my kids, well I did not do a good job with religion. They were baptized catholic but basically never went to church as children. So it wasn't a natural part of their routine growing up. Plus the failed marriage of their parents is hardly going to steer them to be churchgoers now or into independent adulthood. So more breaks in the chain from my own experiences and choices in life.