A Skeptic Reads the News: Quebec, Ukraine, Voynich and Mozilla

The rocky marriage between Canada’s two great solitudes seems set for a period of relative tranquility now that the Liberals have their majority in Quebec  and all this talk of referendums is suddenly beside the point. This also means, presumably, that Quebec will have to bump along without a Charter of Values for the moment. However, the tensions around religious accommodation that made the proposed Charter popular are real enough, and the Liberals would be unwise to ignore them. Meanwhile, it might be a good time for the two solitudes to embark on a quiet walk along the Ottawa River, find a secluded spot in the bushes, and take a little while to remind each other why they remain together after more than two centuries of sometimes fraught cohabitation.

Ukraine’s threats to provide a “forceful answer” to the latest Russian (or at least pro-Russian) provocations in the east ring slightly hollow considering the balance of military and economic power between the two countries. There is also a distinct lack of clear signals, at least in the public domain, that the North American and European governments that have been shaking their fingers at Moscow’s shocking “19th century” behaviour are prepared to take serious countermeasures. The assumption that the 21st century will necessarily be more geopolitically placid than the 19th, and for that matter the early 20th, has a whiff of magical thinking about it. We Canadians might take events in eastern Europe as a hint that working out how much of the arctic we can reasonably hope to defend if push comes to shove would be prudent.

I knew the Voynich Manuscript was an awfully strange book, but I didn’t know it owed its moniker to a refugee book dealer. Apparently one Wilfrid Voynich, who fled to London from the Russian Empire, “claimed to have discovered it in Italy, in 1912″. Circumstantial evidence may suggest that Voynich forged the thing, but I rather hope it turns out to be authentic. It won’t contain the Secret of Eternal Life, or even the Secret of Lifelong Happiness, but its contents might still be a window into an interesting strain of early modern thought. A window into what Wilfrid Voynich thought might fool the rubes just wouldn’t have the same appeal.

A certain browser ought to be renamed FireYouForNoGoodReasonAtAllFox, or perhaps FireYouFox for short (and yes, I know Eich technically “stepped down”, but one assumes there was significant pressure from within the organization to do so). That would make a good meme: a bespectacled, sour-looking fox would sit behind a desk and ask employees highly invasive questions about their political activities. It would be a sublime fusion of the Pointy-Haired Boss and Joe McCarthy, in vulpine form.

“Defunding Catholic Schools Should Flow from Religion Exemption Decision”

The Canadian Secular Alliance released the following media advisory today: April 09, 2014 14:12 ET Defunding Catholic Schools Should Flow from Religion Exemption Decision TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 9, 2014) – The Canadian Secular Alliance (CSA) applauds the Ontario Superior Court decision which confirms Jonathan Erazo and other students are … Continue reading

Why the Erazo decision is not really a meaningful step forward

You may have already heard that Brampton father Oliver Erazo won an Ontario Superior Court case against the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. What a victory for secularism, right? Well, no, not really.

PBS to Air Your Inner Fish, Wednesday April 9

This Wednesday, April 9, PBS will air Your Inner Fish, a three part television series based on Neil Shubin’s book of the same title. The book traces the evolution of the human body back millions of years to early fish and includes the famous Tiktaalik, the late Devonian fish Shubin and his team discovered in the Canadian … Continue reading

Charter Or No Charter, Quebec Will Be Just Fine

Even as the upcoming provincial election in Quebec appears to be slipping away from the Parti Québécois, the PQ’s Quebec Charter of Values continues to fan the flames of controversy within and beyond the borders of la belle province. Most of the discussion that I’ve seen, at least, has focussed … Continue reading

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