The Elephant’s Visa

Pierre Trudeau once said, in reference to our American neighbours, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Certainly, along with many other things, we share a financial bed. When the elephant rolls in a wakeful night, we will feel it.

The US heads toward an election this November, and the number one concern in the Obama-Romney choice for president is which man can solve their economic woes. Neither candidate seems to possess magical answers. There’s a reason for this: there are no magical answers. The US is in the most difficult financial situation in its history, one not likely to be repaired by just tweaking and tinkering. While Canada holds an enviable position in a shaky economic world, we are certainly not immune to the US plight, and we will feel the effects of their struggle more than we will feel that of the European community.

It’s hard for us to appreciate the US debt situation. No doubt the man on the street identifies economic trouble mainly by the loss of his job or that of his neighbour, or by the escalating cost of buying gas or groceries. Curiously, fingers point at Europe and its debt crises, and attention seems to be diverted from the US mess. Perhaps the world has developed such a belief in America as a “superpower” that they scrounge up faith that somehow, miraculously, Americans will easily find their way out of this jam. Continue reading

Walking the Wires

Nik and Delilah Wallenda

Like most people in at least Canada and the US, I watched with interest the lead-up to Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls. Since the actual walk was scheduled for 11:00 pm, and I figured there would be a lot of preamble, I opted for bed and checking in the morning.

I don’t know if I would have been more enticed to watch had he not been dragging a rolling box connecting him securely to the almost two inch steel cable. His worst-case scenario was that he would fall off the wire and end up dangling about five feet below it until they managed to pull him off, perhaps with the aid of a helicopter. That would have been embarrassing, but not fatal to more than his pride.

The tether was apparently mandated by his main sponsor, the ABC Network. They indicated they didn’t want responsibility for any mishap.

I’ve been told that Wallenda kneeled once along the way, but other than that performed no unusual acts on the wire, and finished the walk in about half the expected time. Looking at the news reports the next morning, I had to feel it was a bit of a non-event. Skill was certainly there, but for a Wallenda a bit of routine work. Though I would doubt I could make more than ten feet down the wire, I might have been willing to give it a try myself (for significant compensation), knowing that at the worst I would fall off a few feet and dangle until rescue.
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A Changin’?

Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan wrote The Times They Are a’Changin’ in 1963, and it became the archetypical protest song and a rallying call for a generation. It drew on some older Irish and Scottish songs, and even got inspiration from Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Mark (“the first shall be last”). Dylan wasn’t sure himself if it was the right song for the time. (It’s comforting to find that sometimes even he didn’t understand his songs.) For the youth of the time, however, it spoke to their feelings about Big Government, Big Business, and Big Control by parents. This would all change. The world was going to be different. They would see to it.

A month later, JFK was assassinated, and in the next few years, the US got more firmly involved in the Vietnam War. They couldn’t count on government. Things were ripe for change. Things needed to change. Students started protests. Marches were held, thousands strong. The Civil Rights Movement was underway. We Shall Overcome.

So what happened? Continue reading

No Respect

Like most Canadians, I reacted in shock on July 25 when Jack Layton held the news conference where he announced, “I have a new cancer…” His appearance, compared to the Jack Layton we had seen in the spring election only weeks earlier, looked like twenty years down the road: eyes sunken, cheeks hollow, obvious significant weight loss—we all could see the signs and we knew he was in very big trouble.

The raspy voice spoke of fight, of optimism, but few of us felt it. I gave him until October. It was a second shock last Monday when the news came that he had died. Fast. It scares us all. Continue reading

Unnatural

I have always been opposed to abortion, an issue that has now been put on the Canadian back-burner—we have no laws governing the practice since the Morgentaler decision in 1988, one of only a few countries in the world in that situation. There are no laws even governing when in the pregnancy an abortion can take place.

I could cite my influences as being things like our beautiful daughter, born to a young single mother who was quite likely advised by some to seek an abortion, or things like hearing of the lady in our community who aborted a child because she had to stand at a wedding in October and wanted to look good, but even long before that I was influenced by enough knowledge of biology to know that (reinforced now with our tremendous knowledge of DNA and genetic coding) that a fetus is a human being, unique in itself, from the very beginning. If you can only grasp potential, it has all the potential in the world, including the often stated possibility of being the first person to find a cure for cancer, had we not placed them in the garbage instead.

I know the world is over-populated, I know we don’t seem to take care of the people we have (though we could), but I don’t think the answer there lies in getting rid of some of us as we are just developing. Continue reading

Ok, I will predict …

Though I don’t mind giving out my opinion on elections while sitting at Tim’s, I’ve always tried not to put thoughts into print—the danger there is that event- ually people vote, unfortunately too soon for people to forget what I forecast, and in the morning after I can be proven definitely wrong.

So I’ll make some comments, probably enough for you to get an idea of my leanings—I was about to add, “but I won’t make any prediction”, but as you probably know by now, I don’t have that kind of control.

It’s an interesting election, ignoring the issues of the tremendous cost and whether we really needed one or not. There are some interesting personalities in the mix. I think more than many elections, the focus is on the national leaders, and a lot of local ridings will tilt from the desire to have one leader over another.

I have to say that I don’t like Stephen Harper, and my voting might end up as more of an “anything but Harper” than the real supporting of another party. I think that if he gets the majority that he desperately wants, it will only happen the once. Harper, under minority conditions, only lets us see glimpses of his true personality and true agenda. Under majority conditions, he can basically push through almost any piece of legislation he wants (particularly with a senate stuffed with his choices, all of who have realized by now which side of the bread has a lot of butter). I think we will see a lot of movement to the political right, a huge amount of control, and very little input from parliament other than as a clearing house formality. Members of other parties will be the nuisances he has to put up with, and members of his own party will toe the line or find themselves dispatched to a political Siberia.
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