DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big in the North

I read this morning about Ethan Lavallee,  a 12 year old pee wee hockey player in Nickel Center just west of here in Sudbury.  He is 6' 5  1/2", 192 pounds, tall  towering above all other players his age.  I got real folksy alone here and exclaimed out loud to myself,  "We grows them big here in God's Rugged Country."  You can read a about young Ethan and his ambition to be an professional hockey player like his idol Eric Lindros.  He well  on his way with such wonderful physical assets.  If he was an American he would more likely be playing basketball.

There was a time, a a couple of generations back, when playing hockey was the best way for a northern kid to escape the fate of following his father into the bush or down in the mines for a hard life of backbreaking work.  For this reason, and the fact we have winter cold enough to maintain a long season of outdoor skating, many professional players came from rural northern Quebec and Ontario.  These days it takes dedicated parents and money to develop players in the North as well as the South.  

Ethan Lavallee  playing against another boy his age.

I got to think about Paul Bunyan as a metaphor but I realized the Americans has taken him as their own in spite of him being modeled on a French Canadian..  How about a real French Canadian giant, lesser known, lumberjack from around these parts . Below is a carving Big Joe Mufferaw over at Mattawa on the Ottawa River.

Ottawa, Mattawa, Mufferaw.  .Why one could write a song using  those words!!  And someone did. Stompin' Tom Conners, himself a folk hero, who is a unique country singer who refused to go south to the US to make his fortune. Instead he write and sings about Canada and  in doing so has shaped Canada's image of itself.. He got his professional star in the gold mining town of Timmins, north of here. Timmins years later also spawned Shania Twain, a country singer of a different strip.

Note:  I had hoped to meet Stompin' Tom. I thought he might visit here when Dave LaChapelle  lived with me. Dave was his former father in law.  Sadly, Dave died before that might have happened.although Stompin' Tom's son came back occasionally.

I invite you to listen to Stompin' Tom sing of Big Joe Mufferaw

It is great stuff, authentic all Canadian country singing..  He has written about Canada and Canadians from coast to coast. I invite you to go and You Tube and enjoy all his tunes.

Here is another song for the road for about the the Mining City of Sudbury, Ontario just west of  here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 1962

On this day, 50 years ago, President Kennedy, went on the air to inform the American people and the World that there was a crisis brewing in Cuban.  The Americans had learned that the Russians were installing missiles in Cuban with nuclear warheads.  This was unacceptable to the United States.  The country was on the highest alert ever in peacetime..  The Russians must remove the missiles or the United States would respond militarily.  The Doomsday Clock had just moved forward to one minute to Midnight.  This was to be to closest the World has ever come to WWIII  and a nuclear holocaust of unthinkable proportion.  The World held it breath as the three men that held the future of humanity in their hands struggled as leaders of their countries and as intelligent human beings who had to bring their personal and political judgement to bear to resolve the conflict.

President John F. Kennedy  as we remember that day.

The American people knew what the stakes were  and protested and prayed for peace.

Here is a brief summary of the events, Thirteen Days that Shook the World, -- and Nearly Ended It

With Fidel Castro as a loose cannon willing to see his country and people destroyed if necessary to launch a nuclear attack on the United States, the two men, Khrushchev and Kennedy, with cooler heads and the responsibility to resolve the crisis, exchanged correspondences setting forth their demands.  As it turned out they were rational men whose life experiences let them know what the real stakes were. The quickly came to recognize the humanity in each other and their shared fear.  Kennedy has served in WWII and saw that overwhelming military force did not cause the Japanese to give up and Khrushchev has fought in the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union and saw the human cost of war up close. His country had lost 20 million citizens in WWII. A nuclear war with the US would cost so many more, perhaps, 100 million on each side.  They found a solution..  In the mean time so many uncontrolled  incidents could have started the war: the US military was pushing for  a military solution, the shooting down of a U2 Spy plane and the lose of its pilot, the defiance of the Russian ship, Bucharest, crossing the blockade line,  a Russian submarine commander not firing a nuclear tipped torpedo.  Anyone of these could have started the war.  Cooler head prevailed. There was also the possibility that the exchanges of letters and threats and demands would be misunderstood and cause one side or the other to make a preemptive strike. 
 In the end, everyone got something:: the Americans got to see the Russians back down and withdraw their missiles. The Russians got a commitment from the United States that they would not attack Cuba, (every administration since has honoured this) and secretly the Americans agreed to remove missiles from Turkey (on Russia border). Cuba got to survive. Fidel Castro is still with us and has had a chance for redemption, understand his willingness to use the missiles was wrong.

For a very interesting presentation and understanding of the Crisis and the three men involved I highly suggest we all read  The Armageddon Letters imaginatively presented on this website. Watch each of the videos and see how an understanding of the minds of the men involved managed to deal with the crisis and resolve it.

We should have learned many things from this crisis. First, we must rid the World of Nuclear Weapons. They are not a choice. Also, Military superiority has limited utility in resolving conflicts that are political. Small wars and threats of wars can get out of control.  Leaders of countries must come to know each other and understand the human as well as the political motivations.
Only now after many years have passed and the cold war has faded into history can we laugh at some black humour that makes us shutter when we fully reflect on how close we came to realizing our greatest fear.

Knowing what we know now, this would  have been a good year to award posthumously the Nobel Peace Prize to John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev , after all their humanity saved Humanity.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crossing the Border

I have crossed the Canada/US border many times both ways.  I have always felt nervous crossing into the United States and always relief when I finally come back into  Canada.  I have no personal experience to make me particularly nervous about the experience of going into the US although my impression of the US Border agents was that they were humourless and  officious: now one to joke with or even pass the time of day. I followed the rule of answering the question directly and as briefly as possible. . Offer no additional information and appear humble. Most of the time this worked as  a Canadian (a white Canadian with an identifiable Canadian accent) I gave no reason for anyone to be suspicious of me.

I have had situations at the border that have been interesting. Once when crossing from Windsor to Detroit on my way to Minnesota I discovered I have forgotten my birth certificate. I had crossed before without even being asked for it so I expected they would still let me pass.  I was refused and  when the agent said "How to I know you are from Toronto? I pointed out the same way I know how he was from Detroit, The way we each pronounced the name of our cities.  I was still refused. I certainly did not want to drive back four hours to get my birth certificate so I decided to try the tunnel a few miles upstream. At this crossing I was waved through without having to show my birth certificate.

Once crossing back into the United States at a quiet rural crossing between Quebec and Vermont I was given  a long hard look because I was driving a pick up truck and had a tool box in the back.  They suspected I was trying to get into the US to work. I got annoyed when the agent did not know the difference between  the Unitarian Church and the Unification Church. I kept my cool. I was eventually allowed in. the US.

Another time returning into the US at Calais, Me. ( I had a green card my now)  for the first time I saw a border agent come out with a side arm strapped on..  That made me nervous right away. We were quizzed and them made to dismantle a lot of our camping gear including opening up our tent. All the time, my American friend was saying, "I am an American, I am the Associate Minister of the First Church in Boston. That didn't make any impression although I wanted to laugh my head off at his approach with this northern Mainiac who probably had never been to Boston.  I felt pretty safe when he opened the glove compartment and did not recognize the marijuana pipe in full view. We were soon on our way. My friend was embarrassed at his lack of influence and relieved he had buried his dope in a Mason jar on the Canadian side to be picked up on the next trip to Prince Edward Island, where he is now retired.

In those days, our only concern was that we had no citrus fruit with us as one cannot bring it into the US. It seems times have changed.

I have never had any trouble coming back into Canada.  Canadian Border agents always began with a cheery." Welcome to Canada"  followed by "Where are you going" How long are going to stay?" It was all very civil. And we were waved on our way..

Once I was full of dread when I returned to Canada with all my worldly goods in a 27 foot U haul.It was April Fools Day at midnight in 1975.  After a brief conversation with the agent. He had me open the back of the truck.It was filled to the doors with my canoe just fitting in on a diagonal angle on top.  I was aware he could ask me to unload it. I had gone to great effort to make a detailed list of the contents of all the boxes, which I had given him.  He took one look at the load and said shut it down and I was on my way.

Even when I returned with a friend from Florida  over a decade ago, with a trailer full of her stuff as she was coming to stay for an indefinite period of time.  We were crossing at the Akwesasne First Nation's Reserve that straddle the border between Ontario and New York.  The border agents were very relaxed. Even after they saw through the story we had made up to make it easier to get into Canada, they smiled and sent us on our way without having us unpack the trailer of household goods..

It interests me that this Mohawk First Nation has had the border crossing station removed from their reserve recently because the Canadian government decided to arm border agents.. I believe the Canadian inspection station is now on the US side.  Good for our Red brothers.  The arming of Canadian border agents is our Conservative government which always seeks to please the Americans, trying to appear tougher at the border.

It seems times have changed.  Listen to the frightening video below of a couple of Canadians who decided they would cross into the US to spend some money.  I doubt if they will ever go back.  They are from my home town and I imagine they had crossed before. with less exciting results.

Like so many Canadians they think they are above suspicion.  They also think civil servants should act civil and that we have a right to question what bureaucrats are doing.  WRONG. American border agents are a law unto themselves.  Like so many law enforcement agencies their job appeals to people who are bullies and enjoy having authority over others.  What strikes me about this audio recording as the total lack of people skills on the US agents part. Even the supervisor.  At one point, when the clearly annoyed and bewildered Canadians tried to ask more questions the whole situation could have been defused with a statement like "I understand that you are finding this all annoying so please take a seat and I will try to get you quickly on your way again.  Now that you have been sent in here by the agent outside I am required to ask you some further questions."   Sadly, that was not the way it played out. It ends with an arrest it seems.  I only wish we had video with this. I assume they were a couple of born Canadians and white.  It makes me wonder what trouble an immigrant Canadian would have particularly if he was from the middle east or Asia.

Welcome to the United States!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

 Another Contempt of Parliament.

Sometimes government not only disappoints me but disgust me.  Yesterday it happened again.
The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, announced he will resign as Premier after 14 years as head of the Liberal Party (7 as Premier) and he  prorogued  Parliament.  His resignation is not a great disappointment for me as I do not support his party although he chose a bad time to resign with the Province in bad economic shape and a legislative agenda to complete. This part is disappointing as  the work to get done will not get done any time soon..  He does not own all of us an explanation but it seems he owes his party one and possibly an apology for leaving them in the lurch.

The really disgusting thing is that he decided to take a leaf out of the book of contempt of parliament of Stephen Harper, Prime Minister and leader of the federal Conservative Party by proroguing the provincial parliament. until the Liberal Party selects a new leader, even though he will remain Premier until a new leader is selected.  

When a parliament is prorogued it shuts down all legislative activity: the sitting and functioning of the legislature and the function of all committees of the the legislature.  Legislation in progress and being considered is stopped and will have to be redone when parliament resumes.

Prorogation is a governmental procedure meant to be used after a government and implemented it program of legislation and needs time to put together another program to present to parliament. This does not require a government to call an election and seek a mandate from the people.  It is rarely used.

In recent years it has been used for reasons other than for what it was intended to be used .  It has been used twice by the Harper Government to avoid the embarrassing debate over the treatment of Afghan prisoners who were the responsibility of the Canadian military. and when the two opposition parties threatened to form a coalition, defeat his minority party and take over the government. In other words, prorogation was used to avoid a situation that threatened the government.  This is not how prorogation was supposed to be used. When Canadians elect a minority government they expect the members of parliament  to make it work) Harper and McGuinty don't get this. I am sorry Government General Michaelle Jean agreed to prorogue parliament on the advice of Harper.  This was an act of contempt of Parliament,  used twice to frustrate the role of parliament in our democratic system.

Premier McGuinty has now imitated Stephen Harper's less than honourable maneuver.  His reason was stated to allow the Liberals to go about the business of getting a new leader and to allow the government the opportunity to negotiate a wage freeze with the public service to help lower the Provincial debt. He feels this can best be done without the annoyance of having to a questioned by the Opposition in Parliament. It certainly could be accomplished with the parliament functioning.

The real reason my be to avoid the fallout of scandals that are threatening the government, particularly the shutting down  the building of two gas fired electrical generating plants and relocating them elsewhere  in order to help will about six riding for the Liberals where were being impacted by these plants. This has cost the taxpayers of Ontario hundreds of million of dollars ( possibly as much as one billion) in penalties for cancelling contracts. At least one cabinet minister may be found in contempt of Parliament for not releasing all the documentation on these projects, claiming there were no more.  The Premier and possibly another cabinet minister might also be charged with misleading parliament.  

Also it appeared that the minority government could fall with neither the Conservative of New Democrat willing to support the new budget.  To avoid defeat and having to call an election the Parliament was prorogued well before the governments legislative program had been completed.
This maneuver kept the Liberal Party in power until a new leader is found. 

Prorogation has once again been used   for the advantage of the party in power and not in a way to serve parliament. At the same time it costs the taxpayer a lot of money of wasted time and effort working on legislation in the past year and in the next six months it will take for the Liberals for elect a new leader and the government to have a new Premier.  

I believe the Lieutenant Governor (the Honourable David C. Onley) could recall parliament at any time. Usually, this is done on the advice of the Premier. In this extraordinary instance, so contemptuous of parliament, he could use his prerogative and recall parliament.  If the Liberals do not want to be the government they should step aside and let one of the other parties form the government, or call an election.  We need a functioning Provincial government.