Coyne: F-35 debacle demonstrates a system of government in collapse
April 4, 2012
By Andrew Coyne, Postmedia News
Two Freemasons: Chief of Defense Staff Bro. Walter Natynzyk and Defense Minister Bro. Peter Mackay
There are so many layers of misconduct in the F-35 affair that it is difficult to know where to start. Do we especially deplore the rigging of operational requirements by defence officials to justify a decision that had already been made? Or should we focus on the government’s decision to buy the planes without even seeing the department’s handiwork? Is the scandal that the department deliberatedly understated the cost of the jets, in presentations to Parliament and the public? Or is it that its own internal figures, though they exceeded the published amounts by some $10-billon, were themselves, according to the Auditor General, gross underestimates?
It’s all of those things, of course, and more: a fiasco from top to bottom, combining lapses of professional ethics, ministerial responsibility and democratic accountability into one spectacular illustration of how completely our system of government has gone to hell.
This was, until last year’s shipbuilding contract, the largest single purchase in the country’s history. And yet it was carried out, as we now learn, without proper documentation, without accurate data, and without any of the normal procurement rules being followed. Defence officials simply decided in advance which aircraft they wanted, and that was that. Guidelines were evaded, Parliament was lied to, and in the end the people of Canada were set to purchase planes that may or may not be able to do the job set out for them, years after they were supposed to be delivered, at twice the promised cost.
But of course it’s much worse than that. If department officials played two successive ministers of defence, Gordon O’Connor and Peter MacKay, for fools, the evidence shows they did not have to exert themselves much; if they did not offer evidence to back their claims, whether on performance, costs, or risks, it is because ministers did not think to ask for any. Nor was this negligence confined to the Department of National Defence.
The passage explaining how Public Works was persuaded to sign off on the deal is perhaps the most damning in the Auditor General’s report. Anxious to avoid having to put the purchase out to competitive bids, as is usually the practice, defence officials hit upon the scheme of drafting the requirements in such a way that only the F-35 could meet them — needlessly, as I mentioned, as the government agreed to go ahead with the purchase a month before the requirements were delivered; that is, before they even knew what the planes were supposed to do, let alone whether they could do them.
Nevertheless, at some point in the process somebody at the department of Public Works and Government Services became suspicious of defence’s claims, and alerted their superiors. What kind of documentation did the “senior decision makers” (who they?) at Public Works demand from their defence counterparts? Take it away, Auditor General! “In lieu of a formalized statement of operational requirement or a complete options analysis,” Public Works informed Defence it would go along with the sole-source dodge if it were provided a letter, “confirming National Defence’s requirement for a fifth generation fighter and confirming that the F-35 is the only such aircraft available.” Wait, it gets better: The letter was produced “the same day.” Still better: “There were no other supporting documents.” Still better: “It is important to note that the term ‘fifth generation’ is not a description of an operational requirement.” Stop! You’re killing me!
Whether ministers knew they were peddling the same falsehoods is to some extent beside the point. If they did not know, as the saying goes, they should have. It is plausible that a kind of willful blindness might have set in. If ministers were too willing to believe their officials, it might have been because they liked what they were being told. The Auditor General’s report leaves little doubt why: because of the wealth of “industrial benefits” they were promised (“a driving motivation for participation . . . used extensively as a basis for key decisions . . . briefing materials (placed) particular emphasis on industrial benefits . . . ). This is what comes of allowing pork-barrel politics into decisions that should be guided by only one consideration: getting value for the taxpayers’ money.
But what’s really at issue here is neither duplicitous bureaucrats nor credulous ministers. It is the lack of transparency throughout. If officials kept their ministers in the dark, it is also true that ministers kept Parliament in the dark. Had anyone outside government been allowed to see the requirements, we might have been able to judge whether these were as essential to the defence of the nation as claimed; whether the F-35 was indeed the only plane that could fulfill them, and so on. Had Parliament been given the costing information it demanded, we might have been in a better position to judge who was right, the government or its critics — before the last election, not after. Remember, it was the government’s refusal to provide just this information that was, in part, the reason for the motion of no-confidence that precipitated the election.
So this is also what comes of Parliament’s prerogatives, its powers to hold ministers to account, being ignored or overridden. These aren’t procedural niceties, of concern only to constitutional law professors — “process issues,” as more than one member of the press gallery sneered at the time. They’re the vital bulwarks of self-government, the only means we have of ensuring our wishes are obeyed and our money isn’t wasted. Parliament having long ago lost control of the public purse, it was only a matter of time before the government did as well.
Jesse Kline on current threats to Internet freedom: The statists strike back
Mar 6, 2012
Two Freemasons: Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, right, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduce bill C-30 in Ottawa Feb. 14.
The modern Internet is a product of the Cold War: Following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. military built a decentralized computer network that could continue to operate in the event of a nuclear attack. Where previous networks relied on a central server to facilitate the transfer of information, what came to be known as the Internet was decentralized, so that communication could continue even if a large part of the network was destroyed. The result was a communications medium that, to this day, is largely free from government censorship.
But that may change — unless those of us who treasure our online freedoms stand up to government efforts to monitor and even control our key strokes and page views.
The first major attempt by the U.S. government to enforce state control over the Internet came in the form of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Part of the Act, which was later struck down on First Amendment grounds, contained decency and obscenity standards, similar to those imposed on broadcast television stations — essentially making it a crime to swear online.
In 1998, the United States enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The idea was to attack online piracy by updating copyright law for the digital age. While good in theory, it has ended up imposing harsh restrictions on Internet users and service providers. Two of the major problems with the bill include the notice-and-takedown system, and the legal prohibition on circumventing digital locks. Here in Canada, similar provisions have been incorporated into Stephen Harper copyright reform bill (C-11), which is currently being studied by Parliament.
Under the notice-and-takedown system, website operators are compelled to take material offline if a rights holder claims ownership over the work. The problem is that this has become an easy way to censor online content, as the burden is placed on the original poster to prove it is not copyrighted material, or that it is covered under a legal exemption.
In one U.S. case, National Public Radio forced YouTube to take down an anti-gay-marriage advertisement that contained NPR content. In this way, the network had (according to critics) achieved its goal of censoring political speech — even though the NPR content was covered under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. In another instance, a woman’s home video of her toddler dancing in the kitchen was taken offline because of a Prince song playing in the background. She had to go to court in order to get it back online. The Canadian bill does not include the same system (it uses a notice-and-notice system), but Canadians who use American websites are already subjected to the DMCA’s draconian provisions.
A bigger issue for Canadians is C-11’s ban on breaking digital locks, which are pieces of software that prevent someone from using digital content or a digital device in a certain way. DVD and Blu-ray discs, for example, are protected by digital locks to prevent piracy, but those locks also serve to prevent people who purchase them from making backups, or viewing the content on other devices, such as tablets. Cell phones also contain digital locks, and although the Conservatives’ copyright bill has an exemption for unlocking a phone to switch providers, it makes unlocking a phone to install your own software illegal.
Such actions obviously have nothing to do with copyright infringement, but will be covered under C-11 nonetheless. The virtually all-encompassing ban on circumventing digital locks will penalize people who are not engaging in copyright-infringing activities, and stifle creativity and free expression in the process.
Another piece of Canadian legislation, C-30, is an even greater threat to online privacy and free expression. In its current form, Bill C-30 would co-opt Internet service providers into being a party to the state’s surveillance apparatus, by forcing them to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks, which would log the Internet activity of all Canadians. It would then allow police and law enforcement agencies to get detailed information on the company’s subscribers — on demand and without a warrant. There is also a provision in the bill allowing the minister to appoint an “inspector” who would have the authority to go into an Internet service provider’s offices and take any information Ottawa wants. In an age when people use the Internet to do just about everything — from banking to telephone calls, dating, shopping and staying informed — we might as well just put a webcam in our homes and give the minister a link to the live feed.
This is a part of an international trend. The U.K. plans to introduce regulations that would allow the government to track all phone calls, text and e-mail messages, as well as the websites people visit online. This is on top of a system that already directs all Internet traffic through a central filter. The British “Cleanfeed” system was initially setup to censor child pornography, but it is capable of censoring anything and, a couple years ago, the government tried to get Internet service providers to start censoring legal porn sites as well.
Other countries, including China and Russia, are trying to make a play for increased regulation of the Internet through the United Nations — the same dysfunctional and overly bureaucratic body that continually fails to stop the same authoritarian regimes from brutalizing their own people. If these countries are able to get their way, the current privately operated, deregulated environment that has allowed the Internet to flourish for decades will be gone, making way for “international control over the Internet,” as Vladimir Putin put it.
It should be remembered that the real danger comes from the physical world. Terrorists do harm when they blow people up; child pornographers do harm to the kids who are tortured in the production of such material. Government resources are better spent tracking down the people who are actually harming others, rather than creating large-scale informational dragnets to monitor law-abiding citizens.
It’s become clear that regulating the Internet is less about protecting the populace and more about establishing control over cyberspace. Anyone who uses the internet — and that’s pretty much all of us — should raise their voice against this trend. It’s all well and good to mock Vic Toews for comparing critics of C-30 to child pornographers. But he’s just the tip of the iceberg: There are many more Vic Toews types out there, who want to know what you type and where you click. We shouldn’t let them.
Former U.S. vp Dick Cheney deems Canada too dangerous for speaking visit
Mon, 12 Mar, 2012
By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Former Vice President Dick Cheney addresses the third annual Washington Ideas Forum
TORONTO – Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled a Canadian speaking appearance due to security concerns sparked by demonstrations during a visit he made to Vancouver last fall, the event promoter said Monday.
Cheney, whom the protesters denounced as a war criminal, was slated to talk about his experiences in office and the current American political situation at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 24.
However, Ryan Ruppert, of Spectre Live Corp., said Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth had begged off via their agent.
“After speaking with their security advisers, they changed their mind on coming to the event,” Ruppert said.
“(They) decided it was better for their personal safety they stay out of Canada.”
Last Sept. 26, Cheney’s appearance in Vancouver was marred by demonstrators who blocked the entrances to the exclusive Vancouver Club.
The activists, who at one point scuffled with police, called for Cheney’s arrest for war crimes and booed guests as they arrived at the $500-a-ticket dinner.
One man was arrested for choking a club staff member.
Ruppert said the “thugs” put everyone at risk and forced Cheney to remain inside the club for seven hours until police were able to disperse the protesters and deem it safe for him to leave.
“It was a complete disaster for them because it’s a major security issue,” he said.
The upshot, he said, is that discussion over American policy on such issues as Guantanamo Bay or the Iraq war is being silenced.
“You lost that conversation because you’re talking about a group of thugs,” Ruppert said.
“It’s a real sad story because it really overshadows what the peaceful protesters, who often have very legitimate points, would be doing and saying.”
Those who bought tickets to the Cheney event can either get a full refund or exchange them for an appearance by free-speech activist, Mark Steyn.
“It’s incredibly disappointing for us,” said Ruppert, who was planning for as many as 5,000 people to attend the Cheneys’ talk.
“We were very excited about this event.”
Rupert did not say how many tickets had already been sold at prices ranging from $79 to $595.
Cheney critics accuse him of endorsing the use of water boarding and sleep deprivation against detainees while serving in former president George W. Bush’s administration.
Before the Vancouver event, Human Rights Watch urged the federal government to bring criminal charges against Cheney, accusing him of playing a role in the torture of detainees.
Don Davies, the NDP immigration critic, also argued that Cheney should not have been allowed into Canada.
Cheney has vigorously defended interrogation techniques on the grounds they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Steve Wozniak Considers Return to Apple
By Kendra Srivastava | Tue Apr 12, 2011
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reportedly said he might return to the company if asked, giving shareholders plenty to ponder regarding the uncertain future of its leadership.
Wozniak, or “Woz,” still holds Apple stock and even remains a paid, if nominal, employee; he also maintains relations with Apple president Steve Jobs. But Woz differs significantly from Jobs in that he favors more customizable computers than Apple currently offers.
“My thinking is that Apple could be more open and not lose sales,” he said to Reuters. Given Apple’s current circumstances, Woz’s opinion isn’t just academic.
Steve Jobs is now in his third leave of absence, having suffered through pancreatic cancer, a liver transplant, and recently an undisclosed medical condition.
Jobs’ potentially indefinite recuperation recently prompted nervous shareholders to outline a CEO succession plan. But it was shot down in a February 23 vote, leaving people to wonder what will happen should Jobs be unable to return.
Enter “The Woz,” an enigmatic genius who partnered with Jobs and others to create Apple in 1976. Woz assembled the prototype for the Apple 1 and wrote his own version of BASIC for it. A supporter of self-service machines and open-source code, Woz also distributed the first Apple’s design so other engineers could build such computers too.
Apple products today are the antithesis of that tinkering, hands-on ethos. Devices are designed to “just work,” and privilege simplicity in user interfaces. Apple discourages its users from unlocking iPhones and tweaking their MacBooks, instead ushering them to company stores for repairs and upgrades.
With his history of championing openness, Woz might challenge this facet of Apple should he find himself playing a more central role at the company.
But whether or not he returns to Apple, one thing is certain: “The Wonderful Wizard of Woz” will continue to lead a colorful life. Since leaving the company in 1987, Woz has founded several start-ups, been married four times, appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Big Bang,” written an autobiography, joined the Freemasons, and currently plays Segway polo.
Indeed, his whirlwind life might caution shareholders to take his recent, as yet noncommittal statements with a grain of salt.
Posted In: Apple (1073) | Steve Jobs (106) | Steve Wozniak (6)
‘On a personal level, Woz says he’s been an atheist all his life’
Freemasonry and Atheism
‘For Nothing Freemasonry Tells Non-Freemasons About Freemasonry Can Be Believed ~or~ It All Masonic Depends What Your Definition of Is Is’
This documentary shows how the glories of war become enshrined in history. How failures are quickly forgotten and how inconvenient truths are ignored forever. With stunning reenactments, evocative animation and the incisive commentary of key experts, The War of 1812 presents the strange and awkward conflict that shaped the destiny of a continent.
On the same day that the Second Continental Congress convened, Ethan Allen, along with Arnold, who was then his lieutenant, launched a surprise attack on Ticonderoga, the fort so bitterly contested a generation before. Stores of weapons and munitions
were captured, including artillery. Five weeks later, the colonists, working secretly during the night, pre-empted British plans
to fortify Boston by erecting their own emplacements on two ridges overlooking the city, Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill. Their
nominal commander was Brigadier Artemus Ward, another veteran of the French-Indian War, but their guiding spirit was
Joseph Warren of St. Andrew’s Lodge.
General Thomas Gage was subsequently to be blamed for what happened next, but the real responsibility lay with Sir William
Howe who had the authority, once the true nature of the situation became clear, to revoke the plan of battle or adhere to it
and suffer the inevitable cost. For a veteran subordinate of Amherst and Wolfe, Howe behaved strangely indeed.
Chapter 18 – The War for Independence
The Temple and the Lodge – Baigent & Leigh
Phone-hacking scandal likely marks end of media baron’s control of British politics
Doug Saunders – London
For decades, the tabloid newspapers of Britain have determined the political fates of governments left and right and held politicians hostage by threatening to expose their personal lives. It is an awkward and needy relationship, probably the last of its kind in the Western world, that seemed to come crashing to a halt as the House of Commons turned for the first time against the country’s most powerful media mogul.
It was as if a generation of political shame and anxiety exploded in a great catharsis of outrage and vengeance, with MP after MP rising on Wednesday to denounce magnate Rupert Murdoch and his control over their destinies. Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said that the Australian media baron “has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame.”
It began as an emergency debate, called by the opposition Labour Party after it was revealed this week that the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid, had repeatedly broken into the mobile phone voicemail accounts of a teenage murder victim to glean material for front-page headlines about her private life, in the process destroying evidence.
The paper’s voicemail eavesdropping on the private messages of hundreds of actors, athletes, politicians, members of the Royal Family and crime victims had been the subject of numerous parliamentary probes since 2006. It resulted in the imprisonment of two journalists, but police and editors had repeatedly said that the scope was limited and the practice had ended.
This time it was different. Perhaps because a dead teen was involved. Perhaps because even grislier claims were made, that News of the World had stolen the final voicemail messages of numerous terror-attack victims and dead soldiers, and had paid huge sums to police for their silence, giving some officers jobs on the paper. Or because Prime Minister David Cameron’s ties to the paper’s executives had become an embarrassment that threatened to tie his government directly to the actions of the tabloids, this turned into a far larger denunciation of the political power of the press. It ended with Mr. Cameron agreeing to hold an official inquiry (but only after a police inquiry has run its course).
It seemed to expose a raw nerve of political dependency. Mr. Cameron’s first spokesman, Andy Coulson, had been the paper’s editor through much of the phone-hacking period, and he resigned in January as the revelations mounted (it was revealed this week that he had overseen payments to police officers, which are illegal). The head of Mr. Murdoch’s British operation, Rebekah Brooks, is a friend of Mr. Cameron’s; she was the paper’s editor-in-chief when it tapped the voicemail of teen murder victim Milly Dowler.
And Mr. Cameron owed a good part of his political victory last year to his successful courting of Mr. Murdoch, whose right-wing newspapers the Sun, the News of the World and the Times – with a combined circulation of almost 7 million – had used their front pages for the previous 15 years to support the leaders and policies of the centre-left Labour Party. Many analysts believe the Tories gained their electoral edge when Labour prime minister Gordon Brown lost the backing of the “red top” tabloids in 2009.
That was the culmination of a long tradition. After Mr. Murdoch bought the News of the World in 1969, British elections increasingly became races to court his support – usually in exchange for political favours. Margaret Thatcher’s staff credited much of her victory to her winning the Australian’s support – in exchange for which he was allowed to buy the Times of London and establish a satellite-TV empire.
The tables turned in 1995, when upstart opposition leader Tony Blair flew to Australia to court Mr. Murdoch, successfully winning the permanent support of the Sun and the Times, in exchange for more favours. Insiders felt, by this point, that politics had become a full-time matter of avoiding the wrath of the Murdoch press.
“No big decision could ever be made inside Number 10 [Downing St.] without taking account of the likely reaction of three men – Gordon Brown, [deputy PM] John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch,” Lance Price, who was Tony Blair’s media guru in those years, recently wrote. “On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored”
Mr. Prescott conceded on Wednesday night that the media baron had become a bigger figure than many cabinet ministers. “I think there’s been a lot of cozying up by all the political parties to Murdoch,” he told BBC’s Newsnight. “I used to complain about it all the time.”
The News of the World’s excesses – which seemingly included listening to the private mobile phone messages of the police officers responsible for investigating the paper, and paying very large cash sums to other police in exchange for access to phones of the famous – are largely non-political, although they did involve phone-hacking acts that exposed the fine details of the sex lives of a dozen cabinet ministers, including Mr. Prescott.
And the effect will surely be political. In the past, the party in power always took great care to avoid angering the Murdoch papers, and the opposition tended to walk gently, too. Now Labour is outraged, and many Tories – including, reluctantly, Mr. Cameron himself – have joined the chorus. Mr. Murdoch’s ongoing application to buy up the remaining 60-per-cent share of his SkyTV empire could be jeopardized. His newspapers are likely to face far tighter monitoring and possibly regulation, and the ties between parties and the tabloids cannot but weaken.
Guardian parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart wrote that Mr. Murdoch “has crossed a line and MPs feel, like political prisoners after a tyrant has been condemned to death by a people’s tribunal, that they are at last free.” That tribunal hasn’t happened yet, and nobody knows how many more victims will be found. But there is a real sense that the era of printing-press politics is rolling to an end.
Phone-hacking scandal: Jonathan Rees obtained information using dark arts
Freemason set up network of corrupt police, customs officials, taxmen and bank staff to gain valuable information
8 June 2011
Years ago, Jonathan Rees became a freemason. According to journalists and investigators who worked with him, he then exploited his link with the lodges to meet masonic police officers who illegally sold him information which he peddled to Fleet Street.
As one of Britain’s most prolific merchants of secrets, Rees expanded his network of sources by recruiting as his business partner Sid Fillery, a detective sergeant from the Metropolitan Police. Fillery added more officers to their network. Rees also boasted of recruiting corrupt Customs officers, a corrupt VAT inspector and two corrupt bank employees.
Other police contacts are said to have been blackmailed into providing confidential information. One of Rees’s former associates claims that Rees had compromising photographs of serving officers, including one who was caught in a drunken state with a couple of prostitutes and with a toilet seat around his neck.
It is this network of corruption which lies at the heart of yesterday’s claim in the House of Commons by Labour MP Tom Watson that Rees was targeting politicians, members of the royal family and even terrorist informers on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The Guardian’s own inquiries suggest that Watson knows what he is talking about.
Much of what the police sources were able to sell to Rees was directly related to crime. But Rees also bought and sold confidential data on anybody who was of interest to his Fleet Street clients, to which the police often had special access. The Guardian has confirmed that Rees reinforced his official contacts with two specialist ‘blaggers’ who would telephone the Inland Revenue, the DVLA, banks and phone companies and trick them into handing over private data.
One of the blaggers who regularly worked for him, John Gunning, was responsible for obtaining details of bank accounts belonging to Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, which were then sold to the Sunday Mirror. Gunning was later convicted of illegally obtaining confidential data from British Telecom. Rees also obtained details of accounts at Coutts Bank belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Kent. The bank accounts of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, are also thought to have been compromised.
The Guardian has been told that Rees spoke openly about obtaining confidential data belonging to senior politicians and recorded their names in his paperwork. One source close to Rees claims that apart from Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, he also targeted Gaynor Regan, who became the second wife of the former foreign secretary Robin Cook; the former shadow home secretary Sir Gerald Kaufman; and the former Tory cabinet minister David Mellor.
It is not yet known precisely what Rees was doing to obtain information on these political targets, although in the case of Mandelson it appears that Rees acquired confidential details of two bank accounts he held at Coutts, and his building society account at Britannia. Rees is also said to have targeted the bank accounts of members of Mandelson’s family.
An investigator who worked for Rees claims he was also occasionally commissioning burglaries of public figures to steal material for newspapers. Southern Investigations has previously been implicated in handling paperwork that was stolen by a professional burglar from the safe of Paddy Ashdown’s lawyer, when Ashdown was leader of the Liberal Democrats. The paperwork, which was eventually obtained by the News of the World, recorded Ashdown discussing his fears that newspapers might expose an affair with his secretary.
Archbishop allows freemason to be bishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury is at the centre of a row after it emerged he had appointed a Freemason to be a bishop.
14 May 2011
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Dr Rowan Williams named the Rev Jonathan Baker as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet despite knowing he was an active and senior mason.
The appointment, announced earlier this month, marked a significant U-turn by Dr Williams who had previously said that Freemasonry was “incompatible” with Christianity and had refused to promote Masons to senior posts.
Last week, as news of Fr Baker’s membership of the Masons began to circulate through the Church, it provoked growing concern and criticism from clergy and members of the General Synod.
When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph on Friday, Fr Baker defended his continued membership of the Masons and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop.
Yet yesterday he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop, adding: “I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.”
Freemasonry, a secretive male-only organisation dating back 300 years, requires its members to declare a belief in a “supreme being” and to undergo elaborate rituals.
Fr Baker joined the Apollo University masonic lodge in Oxford while he was a student, in an initiation ceremony that involves promising to keep the “secrets of Freemasonry”.
This ritual is said to involve members being blindfolded, wearing a hangman’s noose, and being warned that those who break the oaths of allegiance will have their throat slit and their tongue torn out before being buried in the sand.
He remained a member of the lodge for more than 20 years until his resignation yesterday, rising in the organisation to serve a term as an assistant Grand Chaplain.
Fr Baker, who is currently principal at Pusey House in Oxford, said he had told Archbishop Williams he was a mason when they discussed his appointment to be the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet – one of the “flying bishops” who oversee clergy opposed to women priests. The post had fallen vacant when its previous holder quit to join the Roman Catholic Church.
He said on Friday: “For many years I have been an active member and I continue to be a member. This came up in discussion with Rowan, but it has not caused a problem for me at any stage of my ministry and it won’t cause a problem now.”
He argued that it would not interfere with his role of overseeing traditionalist parishes and said he saw no conflict in being a bishop and a Freemason.
“I’ve never found it to be anything other than an organisation that is wholly supportive of the Church.”
However, yesterday he said: “I have concluded that, because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden that ministry bears, I am resigning my membership of Freemasonry.”
He said that in his conversation with Dr Williams about taking up the Ebbsfleet post, the Archbishop had asked him to reconsider his membership of Freemasonry, but was happy for the appointment to go forward while he was still a Mason.
Yet Dr Williams has previously expressed serious concerns about clergy being involved with the organisation.
In 2002, shortly before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams wrote in a letter to Hugh Sinclair, of the Movement for the Register of Freemasons: “I have real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian profession … I have resisted the appointment of known Masons to certain senior posts.”
A year later he repeated this unease when he tried to apologise for upsetting Freemasons with his comments, saying: “Where anxieties exist they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty.”
His senior advisers went even further at the time. “He questions whether it’s appropriate for Christian ministers to belong to secret organisations,” said The Rev Gregory Cameron, a close friend and former chaplain to Dr Williams. “He also has some anxiety about the spiritual content of Masonry.”
A spokesman for Dr Williams said at the time that he was “worried about the ritual elements in Freemasonry, which some have seen as possibly Satanically inspired and how that sits uneasily with Christian belief”.
He continued: “The other idea is that because they are a society, there could be a network that involves mutual back-scratching, which is something he would be greatly opposed to.”
Anti-abortion protesters hope Harper will re-open debate
Thursday, May 12, 2011
By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau
Freemason PM Stephen Harper Making Masonic Recognition Signal in House of Commons, Ottawa
OTTAWA – Thousands of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill Thursday and marched through Ottawa streets to demand the federal government outlaw abortion.
“We won’t rest until, once again, a culture of life has been restored to Canada,” said Jim Hughes, the National President of the Campaign Life Coalition.
The anti-abortion organization has held an annual rally in Ottawa for 14 years. Church and school groups are among those who attend every year.
During the election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would not support opening up the abortion issue.
“The government will not bring forward any such legislation and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister,” Harper said.
Anti-abortion activists are not holding their breath for Harper to change the law. Instead, they are hoping newly elected MPs will lead the charge.
“Harper has never been pro-life and so we don’t expect much from him,” said Hughes. “We expect a lot from the backbench MPs though. We think the numbers have grown as a result of this election and we’re hoping they will bring private member’s bills that will begin limiting abortion and, eventually, if Mr. Harper is there as prime minister or not, the law will change.”
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