Contrarian's friend and neighbour Valerie Patterson was in the North Sydney liquor commission Wednesday, picking up supplies for Darts Night at the Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Department. She was surprised to find our recently defeated MLA, Keith Bain, a member of the United Church, staffing the Salvation Army kettle. Why? He had heard the Sally Ann was having trouble finding members to staff the kettles. So he volunteered. Perhaps in "retirement," Keith will do for MLAs what Jimmy Carter has done for former U.S. Presidents: find ever more imaginative outlets for his leadership and compassion.  ...

The phone on Eugenio Scalfari's desk rang. Hello? Hello, this is Pope Francis. Hello Your Holiness.  I am shocked. I did not expect you to call me. The atheist editor of the Italian daily La Republica had recently written the Holy See, asking for a meeting with the pope. Why so surprised? You wrote me a letter asking to meet me in person. I had the same wish, so I’m calling to fix an appointment. Let me look at my diary: I can’t do Wednesday, nor Monday, would Tuesday suit you? Read Scalfari's refreshing account of the rest of the conversation here....

In case you missed it, CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer's attempt to enforce the journalistic requirement that survivors of natural disasters must thank God for the miracle of their escape (while avoiding mention of God's responsibility for the deaths and injuries of those who did not) backfired in Moore, Oklahoma, today yesterday, when survivor Rebecca Vitsmun politely declined to follow the script. [video link] Vitsmun had planned to ride out the tornado with her 19-month-old son Anders by huddling in the bathtub of their home, but 10 minutes before the storm hit, she panicked and fled with with the boy in the family...

A Contrarian reader recently added Pope Benedict XVI's new Twitter account to his Twitter feed. Whenever a user follows someone new, Twitter responds by suggesting a similar person they might also like to follow. Who is similar to His Holiness? Why Charlie Sheen, of course.   Ah the wonders of social technology. Twitter doesn't say exactly which qualities the pontiff and the thespian share. Surely not substance abuse or cohabitation with porn stars. Problems with anger management could be a possibility, but our money is on having children removed from your care for their own protection. H/T: SBD...

Two reader responses to the angry rant from a utility customer who objected to receiving generic holiday greetings at Christmastime. Jeffrey Shallit writes: This guy represents everything that is bad about Christian North America. He doesn't understand freedom of religion; he feels so threatened by non-Christians he wants to resort to violence; and he assumes everyone who is Canadian is necessarily Christian (forget about all those damned, Jews, I suppose, not to mention native Canadians who might follow traditional native religions). Although not Jewish myself, I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia that was predominantly Jewish. Many lost members of their family...

Shortly before Christmas, a company I work with sent out a message to its customers advising them of shorter holiday hours for telephone customer service and technical support. Imbued with the spirit of Jesus, a customer in Cumberland County saw fit to reply: I am sure that your boss has ordered compliance with the goddam politically correct and inoffensive crowd that is prevalent these days, but it is Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas in your correspondence with me, otherwise don’t bother. I once threatened that the next person that bowed and cowered to the middle East and Asian immigrants’ demands, and wished...

Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse will finally sit down with the Talbot House board of directors Tuesday, but only after her department's shrewd mandarins have pre-empted any actual purpose the meeting might serve. The Talbot board asked for the session months ago, seeking a peaceful resolution to her department's reckless assaults on the half-century-old, community-built addiction recovery center. Peterson-Rafuse readily agreed to the meeting in principle, then bobbed, weaved, and stalled until her officials rendered it meaningless. First she couldn't meet because the legislature was sitting. Then she postponed again, just long enough for the department to announce the RFP* it hopes...

On Tuesday, members of the Nova Scotia Legislature's Community Services Committee will get a chance to question the bureaucrat who promoted what turned out to be false allegations of sexual misconduct against an innocent priest, and to ask her superiors why they still haven't withdrawn a report containing slanderous innuendo against him. The department's actions led to the closure of Talbot House, which had for 53 years provided safe lodging, meaningful work, and successful treatment for some of Nova Scotia's most troubled citizens. Marika Lathem, Director of Family and Youth Services and the principal author of the error-filled report, will testify. The Talbot...