Same as it ever was

Goodness how time flies! Remember my post about the Harper Government’s creation of the ridiculous Office of Religious Freedom? That was three and a half years ago!

Since that time, I haven’t heard a peep about the Office on the news. Not one word. Granted I could have missed it, but if there were some really significant news, I strongly suspect I would have heard something. But it’s been only crickets.

So what is the Office of Religious Freedom up to today? As a separate department, nothing at all. The latest post on their Facebook page is from January. The reason for this is the Liberal Government closed the department in March1. I was thrilled with this news, but my joy is somewhat tempered. The newly created Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion is absorbing the role of the now defunct office.

There are two things I really don’t like about this new department.

The most obvious is that one of its major roles it to champion the rights of indigenous peoples, worldwide. My thinking is that Canada has far from a sparkling record of dealing with its own First Nations people, and perhaps that could be a focus before mucking about in other country’s business. Maybe, just maybe, once we have half a clue about how to deal with our own indigenous people with respect and equality, we could export that knowledge. Right now we’re hardly the people to tell others what to do.

The second is they’ve tripled the annual budget to $15 million.

I’d really like to know what these departments do. I’m sure there’s no end of talk about ‘important work’ and ‘building relationships’ but it all boils down to press releases posted at irregular intervals on a web page that no one can find. Surely they could help us understand where all that money is going if it really is important.


  1. Lee Berthiaume, “Liberals’ replacement for Office of Religious Freedom will promote broader range of rights,” National Post, 2016-05-17
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Memetic disappointment

I saw this fantastic meme on Facebook:

I love it because what he says is brilliant and because he said it some 1900 years ago. But as with many of these graphics, there are a few problems.

The guy in the image is not Aurelius. It’s Caracalla. Wrong emperor.

Even worse is that the quote doesn’t belong to Aurelius at all. According to Wikiquote,

No printed sources exist for this prior to 2009, and this seems to have been an attribution which arose on the internet, as indicated by web searches and rationales provided at “Marcus Aurelius and source checking” at Three Shouts on a Hilltop (14 June 2011)

It’s so disappointing, but I’d rather know than spread incorrect information.

Posted in history, quotes, religion, words | Leave a comment

Badass diplomacy

I’m reading a terrific book about ancient Rome. I hope to discuss it more in the future, once I’m finished reading it. In the meantime, this nicely self-contained passage astonished me.

The style of this imperium is vividly summed up in the story of the last encounter between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Romans. The king was invading Egypt for the second time, and the Egyptians had asked the Romans for help. A Roman envoy, Gaius Popilius Laenas, was dispatched and met Antiochus outside Alexandria. After his long familiarity with the Romans, the king no doubt expected a rather civil meeting. Instead, Laenas handed him a decree of the senate instructing him to withdraw from Egypt immediately. When Antiochus asked for time to consult his advisors, Laenas picked up a stick and drew a circle in the dust around him. There was to be no stepping out of that circle before he had given his answer. Stunned, Antiochus meekly agreed to the senate’s demands. This was an empire of obedience.

Mary Beard
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015

Rome had an empire and an army of such size and efficiency that the mere written demand, delivered by a no-nonsense envoy, that this Greek king and his army go home succeeded with no fuss. And having occurred in 168 BCE, Rome was still a republic. There was not yet a single leader with a Caesar-sized personality and reputation to cow Epiphanes.

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Iceland’s got it going on!

A tourist still in Iceland wanted to mail a letter, but he didn’t know the address. You’d think that would nix the concept of mailing the letter, but no!

The sender wrote the Country, the name of the village, added “A horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep,”1 and then drew a map on the front of the envelope. The letter was delivered to the intended recipient.

I especially like the note explaining that the wife works in a supermarket.


  1. Xeni Jardin, “Letter sent to Iceland farm with hand-drawn map instead of address gets there anyway,” Boing Boing, 2016-08-30
  • Photo by Skessuhornið/Steina Matt
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Mom and the scammers

You’ll recall that earlier this year, I had the misfortune of receiving a call from people impersonating Canada Revenue.

Since that time, I’ve seen a number of news stories about this scam. One even detailed the case of a woman who they tricked into buying $12 000 worth of iTunes gift cards! They had her read the numbers on the cards to them over the phone. By the time she realized that she’d been had, the cards were redeemed.

The other day my mother received a call from these jokers. I was downstairs but I heard her side of it. She later filled me in on the other half of the conversation. The call went like this:

Mom: Hello?
Guy: This is Canada Revenue and you are under surveillance.
Mom: You’re bullshit.
Guy: Excuse me?
Mom: You’re a big bullshit, go away!

And then she hung up.

Mom makes me proud!

Posted in consumer life, crime | 1 Response