DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 .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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the Wrong Side of History

Today, there is some hope for the Palestinians who have struggled to achieve statehood, since they were first promised it in 1948, when the State of Israel, was forced upon their territory,  which at the time was a British mandated territory,  After years of trying to negotiate Statehood under a peaceful resolutions with the Israel, it looks like it may be accomplished with a form of recognition of Statehood by a vote in the United Nations.

It appears that Israel, the United States, Britain and Canada, among other less important States cannot prevent this vote. Israel under the Likud government has lost support of many countries due its criminal behaviour toward the Palestinians. It has become increasingly clear that the Israeli government has no intentions of making a peace agreement with the Palestinians  to support them in forming a State of their own. The reality is that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian territory such that there are now 600,000 Israeli settlers illegally located on Palestinians lands. They along with the infrastructure  to connect the settlements have cut up the Palestinian Territory such that it no longer has an geographical integrity. The promise of negotiating a "two State solution" has been made impossible. It is now a lie. In reality the Israelis want to keep the Palestinians stateless why they increasingly occupy their land.

For an essay on the historical background and issues at stake on this issue read what Dr. Cole wrote. 

Israel's has been losing the support of many countries, particularly European ons.. For decades, Israel, was widely supported while the Palestinians were demonized.  Israel began as a noble socialist experiment at nation building, "making the desert bloom".  Along the way, this Israel disappeared and Israel has become a rogue state criminally treating the Palestinians.  The threat of being called anti-Semitic build of our guilt over the Holocaust, no longer has the controlling power over Nations it once had.

To our shame, Canada finds itself on the wrong side history, supporting the Israeli government unconditionally.  This is the policy of  the Stephen Harper Conservative government . It is not the historic view of Canada which always tried to be even handed in the treatment of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.  The Canadian government is a more rabid supporter of Israel than the Israeli government.  While the Israel government seems to recognize that they will lose on this UN vote and are soft peddling its significance as not changing  the situations on the ground, the Canadian Conservative government is threatening the Palestinians with shutting down of their "embassy" in Canada, cutting off of diplomatic connection and the withholding  economic support if they win this vote. It seems Canada want to do to Palestine what it did to Iran, this taking itself out of the opportunity to have any influence.  Canada's amateurish efforts at international relations leave it irrelevant.. The US I am sure will be realistic in their response, so they can remain a player.  The British have even signaled that they would support the Palestinians if they promised not to support the International Criminal Court, and not take Israel before it. This what is really at stake. Palestine as a State could take Israel to the ICC  for it's criminal behavior:i.e.  allowing settlements on Palestinian Territory, seizing of large parts of East Jerusalem, carrying out  policies of assassination of Palestinian leaders, .collective punishment of Gazans, failure to allow adequate food and materials for the people of Gaza, in particular. As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for these violations of International Law.  These are crimes against humanity.

How sad and ironic it is the Israel of all states has come to  behave criminally toward the Palestinians.  They, who once were the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity are behaving in this manner toward others.  We have a right to expect more morally  from Israel. We certainly no longer owe their government unconditional support. (which no government should have, not even our own)

History is moving on, I hope Canada will not be left behind and irrelevant on the wrong side of history.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grey Cup Weekend

This weekend is the Annual  National Canadian Weekend for football and partying.  Friday there will be the Vanier Cup the Canadian University Football Championship and Sunday is the Grey Cup game, the Canadian Professional Football Championship.. Both of these contests will be held in Toronto this year.  The partying actually begins up to a week before the  games.

This year is a special year for the Canadian Football League as it is the 100th awarding of the Grey Cup. This began is 1909. The math does not add up because for three years the cup was not awarded due to WWI.

Canadian Football is unique to Canada..  For my American friends it is different than American Football. The biggest difference is that it is Canada's game, all the teams that play it are located in Canada. Of all the professional sports, this is truly out OUR game. While hockey is the most popular  sport in Canada it is largely controlled by American teams, while Canada supplies the majority of the players.  Baseball and Basketball each have a token franchises in Canada., located in Toronto. Soccer is played on both sides of the border as is Lacrosse.

Canadian Football has real differences from American Football .Some of the most noticeable difference are the size of the field ( 10 feet longer and 12 feet wider that in the US) three downs rather than four, twelve players on the field rather than eleven and the single point . the rouge. Superficially it appears different and requires the fundamental skill sets such that American football players can adapt to the game. but it is a very different game. It is a freer game.  While American football  can be a grinding out ground game with the players gaining two to five yard a carry over  four downs the Canadian player must accomplish the task in three downs. The forward pass becomes so much more important to maintain possession of the ball.
I could go on but let me just say I think it is a more exciting and unpredictable game than the American Football game.

Canadian Football has a long history of exciting games and memorable players.  In the history of the Annual game for the Grey Cup  there have been well remembered games, largely due to the weather in Canada at this time of years. There was the Mud Bowl, when the field was so muddy a player almost drowned when he fell face down on the field. There was the  Fog Bowl when the fog rolled in off Lake Ontario such that the game was suspended and the final 11 minutes were played the next day.  There there are games played on snow, such as in Hamilton one years., and in the cold, when played in a western city where the temperature can be sub zero Fahrenheit.  You have to be tough to play this game. Even more so, you have to be tough to be a fan as the games were played in open stadiums, before the occasional covered facility such as the Rogers center (Skydome)

What is quite different about Canadian Football is the the Grey Cup is a national celebration. People from across Canada attend whether or not their city or provincial team is playing..Some come year after year.  During the years when Canadian Football was in decline and threatened to dissolve the Grey Cup Festival remained popular. The weekend is a celebration of the game and the fans that support is as much as a victory in winning the cup.
In desperation, a few years ago,  the Canadian Football League tried to expand into the US. I think there were those who thought it could compete with the National Football League.  The only city that embraced Canadian Football was Baltimore. There NFL team,  Baltimore Colts, had slipped away in the night like thieves in the night. They were hungry for football and supported the new Canadian  Football team in their city and even won the Grey Cup on year, the only foreign team to do so.  I am sure their enthusiasum help them get another NFL team.  This American expansion experiment was a harsh reality check for Canadian Football. It would never be able to compete with the NFL in the United States.  It was Canada's game and if it was going to succeed it would be in Canada.  With a multi-million dollar loan from the NFL and the love of the annual Grey Cup game the league slowly rebuilt its Canadian fan base to the relative high point it has reach today. where Ottawa will once again field a team and their is talk of expanding eastward to Quebec city or the Maritmes, Moncton or Halifax..  The future looks promising.

La Coupe Grey Cup

There was a time when Canadian Football could and did compete with American Football teams for players. In order to  not  be overrun with American players the league limited the number of players from south of the border than Canadian teams could import.   The salaries are no longer comparable.  Canadian players get salaries similar to skilled tradesmen or teachers, American rookie players get paid ten times or more than a Canadian player.  Star players make an even proportionally higher salary.  You have to love the game to play professional football in Canada.  To be realistic, you cannot make it the focus of your personal career.Many players work at other jobs during the off season.

In spite of this, Canada continues to attract exciting players from the United States, each of reason of their own other than money.  There was a time when black players were not welcome in the NFL, then when they were,certain positions were not open for black players. They were welcome in Canada. Some came to avoid  the racist atmosphere in parts of the United States.  Other come as a backdoor way into the NFL, a second chance to show off their talents.

There have been wonderful great black players who have come to Canada. I like the ones that came and stayed to make a life in Canada.  Years ago, a star player in the US, who may have been the best player of his era came to Canada after an ugly incident in a college game where  he as the star of his team was centered out and attacked and had his jaw broken., because he was black. This was Johnny Bright. He came to Canada and was a star player for many years, mostly in Edmonton where he played alongside Norman Kwong and Jackie Parker.  He stayed and raised his family and had a career in that city.even after he had chances to play in the US. He is remembered these days as much for his career as a teacher and principal as he is for playing football..  In more recent years,  Pinball Clemons came to Toronto to play for the Argonauts.  One of the reasons he came was that he would have been considered too small to play NFL football. In Canada, you could play it's style of game if you were relatively small. Even for Canada Clemons was small, He was only about 5' 6".tall. . He was an exciting running back and starred with the Toronto team. He also has a large personality.  When he finished his playing career  they asked him to be the coach. He continues to be prominent in the Toronto area as an inspirational speaker, and supporter of charities particularly with work for young people.  This is rooted in his evangelical Christianity and his memory of growing up poor.
There were many other black player who played in Canada with distinction. Some returned to the US to star in the NFL, best known would be Warren Moon.  There were many white players that starred in both leagues. There was Joe Theismann and  Doug Flutie.  Flutie was considered too small for the NFL and after a couple of disappointing years in that league came to Canada and had a long career to star in our league, perhaps one of the best  American players to master the Canadian style game.  He went on to return to the US and finally play as a star in that league.  I could go. This history of Canadian football is a wonderful story Full of characters, accomplishment, fan support and celebrations.

I had a high school teacher and football coach who had played for the Toronto Argonaut Football team,
Nick Volpe.  He at 86 still has some association with that team . He was the outstanding player in the famous Mud Bowl game. Nick Volpe was a link for us with the Toronto team and helped my generations be enthusiastic about Canadian football.  I remember my sister having Grey Cup Parties to watch the game on TV with her friends. in the early years after high school.

I hope that in the future the Canadian Football League remains strong, expands, and continues to be a unifying force within Canada.  There are those who would like to see the NFL come to Canada. They focus their eyes on the Toronto Market.  For a number of years the Buffalo Bills have played the occasional game in Toronto. I must say, during these days of the Grey Cup in Toronto I am offended with the ads for the annual Buffalo Bills game in Toronto,   "Your Toronto team, The Buffalo Bills."  We could live without the NFL in Canada.

The Statue "Touchdown" outside The Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario

The Grey Cup Train crossed Canada with an exhibit about the Canadian Football game.  It stopped as many towns and cities  to have people go through the exhibit and  celebrate the game and the year of the 100th awarding of the Grey  Cup.  Here is a map of the route of the train.  I have not found out why it did not stop anywhere in Northern Ontario.  I know a lot of Canadians think no one lives here but they are wrong.. There are even some lovely cities: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury,  (River Valley), North Bay, Timmins, or even Parry Sound, or Huntsville..  Someone owes us an apology.

Below is a typical stop at Moose Jaw

Oh Yes! It was an exciting weekend in Toronto. They even played some football.  The Vanier Cup was won by Laval University 37 to 14 over McMaster University  and the Grey Cup was won by Toronto  35 to 22 over Calgary.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

To my American family and friends,  may this Thanksgiving be filled with your celebrations of being with each other, a shared traditional meal and other family traditions you have established over the years,

I shall be reading the passages  about the first couple of Thanksgivings from Bradford's Journal as is my tradition  for remembering the American Thanksgiving. I will be reliving my seasonal experiences in New England .  Once again, I  will  remember the kindness, joy and good cheer I shared with friends in those years as they included me and my family so often in their festivities.

We Thank Thee

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender gra
ss, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

For blue of stream and blue of sky;
For pleasant shade of branches high;
For fragrant air and cooling breeze;
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

For each new morning with its light
For rest and shelter of the night
For health and food for love and friends
For everything Thy goodness sends
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!

~~Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Santa Claus Parade

This is the weekend of the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto.  It is a unifying  social event which celebrated across Canada. The Toronto Parade is the oldest children's parade in the World.  It was started by the T. Eaton Company as a marketing ploy to get people to his stores.  It has become much more than that for the millions of Canadians who as children enjoyed the parade as a clear indicator the Christmas was coming and Santa Claus is a joyful reality for us all. 

 It has always been a secular event. Christian churches and organizations have never been a part of it.  This means that all people of a broad range of religious traditions can enjoy this yuletide side of Christmas.  This is more important now than in the days when this parade first began, or in the days of my youth, because we are now a multicultural society, particularly in our large urban centers.

Sadly the iconic economic retail empire of Eaton of Canada did not last as long as the parade. Eatons failed as a great retailer. I assume it did because it failed to adapt with the changes in retailing yet in it's history it pioneered many forms of retailing that are common today: widely distributed catalogues,  nation wide mail order business and local delivery. It even became the anchor store in many malls. In the end, if failed, leaving us the Santa Claus parade and the Eaton Center, (ironically the anchor retail store site in downtown Toronto but without an Eaton's store.  I find this sad to this day to see such a Canadian retailing institution disappear only to have American retailers flood into Canada to take advantage of the market here. Such is history but every year with the Santa Claus Parade we have a moment we can remember Eaton's of Canada and the great store that it was .

Santa on his float last  year

       The historic plaque that acknowledges the significant to the culture of Toronto

Below is a two part video of the history of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  It is an interesting look at the history of the city over the 100 plus years of the parade. My parents enjoyed it as children, my siblings and I were often there to see it and my son had a couple of years when we lived close enough to be there on the street.  We all have been able to view it on TV since the 50's. It is widely anticipated..

 I could not resist posting this video below.  It is one made by Eaton and distributed to school and organizations that wanted to show it.  It reflect the values of me youth..  The family depicted is worthy of the family of the sitcom "Leave it to Beaver".   Corny for sure but many of the ways of talking where the things said to me and my siblings at that time of 1953.   I am a little surprised there is only one child depicting a time when three or four was the norm.  I hope it brings a smile to your lips as you recognized a time past. You can find the second video of this two part story on youtube if you just have to see it all.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day

I always prefer this day being called Armistice Day for its origins was the day they signed the Armistice of the  First World War, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, (such irony) at the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918.

Wiser men than I have decided to rename it, while retaining the association to the  moment of the Armistice.

This Day also has very strong ties to Canada, where the association of the symbol of the poppy was first established and made permanent  with the iconic poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian, John McCrae., which every school child learned to recite,  (I am not sure that is still the case, it seems schools these day do not want to embarrass students by having the read or recite aloud in front of their peers).

As a pacifist I think often of war and the futility of war.  It seems we never learn.

I always think of the Uncle Ross Reid of this day.  He was a pilot in the Second World War served in Western Canada and Alaska,  Britain  and Holland. He was involved in the D-Day invasion to begin the liberation of Europe.  He  married my aunt Billie just days before he left for war, not knowing if he would live or die.  He survived and remained in the military for a number of years after the war.  He and my aunt had three children and adopted two others.  The Reid clan now counts among them  geat-grandchildren.

My Uncle Ross is the second from the left.  Shortly, after this picture was taken the  flyers on the wing and the one on his far  right were killed in the war.

Two years ago, Lynne and I visited The Flanders part of Belgium.and Northern France. Here stands the Vimy Ridge Memorial,  near Ypres, France. which hold great significance for Canadians,  where the Canadian Corp distinquished itself , dislodging the Germans from this piece of land, where other had failed.  It is a very emotional experience to be here and read the names on the monument of the names of those who died.

This is a small corner of the monumental Menin Gate  at Yypes, France.  Here were these wreaths left by Canadians, many of them students. Here there are 55 thousand names of Commonwealth Soldiers who died in the First World War and whose remains were never identified.. (If you need any reminder how dreadful WWI was, this fact should do it) I actually found this memorial the most emotional.

It would be instructive for every Canadian to visit Flanders and  Northern France to experience the many sites where Canadians fought and died in both the First and Second World Wars.

Any day is a good day to listen to the songs of Vera Lynn.  Remembrance Day is the perfect day to listen. I love her songs and get very emotional when I hear many of them,  with their associations with the Second World War. Here is just one.  Dame Vera Lynn is still with us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day, USA

Good luck!  May your faith in the  collective wisdom of the common man serve your Nation well.

(click once to open, a second click to enlarge.) 

Front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Limits of Charity

When  I  first saw a picture of Mitt Romney in front of a crowd of a couple of hundred supporters in Kettering, Ohio, which he had tried to transform from a political rally to a disaster relief benefit, my immediate reaction was "Oh, my God,  is he really doing this?"  I was embarrassed for him. I felt sorry for him.

This was a pitiful attempt to rise to the occasion in the face of a national tragedy.  If I could see the bad optics of it, I do not understand why his political operatives did not. In fact, they did suspect something. What if people did not bring a lot of things to donate?   To avoid this they went out in the previous evening to Walmart and purchased items to salt the gift giving in order  to guarantee that Mitt would not be standing next to an empty meager table of items.  When I learned this it all appeared even worse.  He was trying to gain  some political point with a cheap trick, a faux act of charity.  It is like dropping a few cents into the cup of a  beggar, when it is within you powers to give much more and even offer him a hand up and take him to lunch as an opportunity to find out if you can do any thing further to help.

What could Mitt Romney have done that would have impressed me?  He could have done what was well within his power to do (he actually hinted at this in his speech) as an example of the best of volunteerism and charity.  He could have "given according to his means" as we were encouraged to do in every Sunday collections of my youth.

He should have announce that he was suspending his political campaigning. He then should have made it clear that as a citizen he supported the President and the national effort.  He should have avoided any a priori criticism of President  Obama.

Romney could have then announced that he made a substantial donation from his own pocket to the efforts of the Red Cross relief.  Say, $500,000 as a down .payment.  Long ago, I learned in church fund raising you begin by finding the wealthiest  member and ask them to give an exemplary  gift or pledge to lead the way. so other might know where they are in the pyramid of givers with the church. With great wealth comes great responsibility.  He could have gone on to say he had instructed several of his staff to help him contact his wealthy friends, who also believe in the American way of  voluntary charity, to give funds at a level where it will hurt at this time of national tragedy.  Perhaps, he could say he would like to see some of the millions being raised in his name be diverted to the relief effort, if legally possible. We certainly could do without a few of the negative ads filled with lies. If Romney has done all or some of this, I would be impressed that he actually believed  that the private sector, (better than government). through acts of charity could respond to national tragedies. It is the "American Way"   that those can afford to give will give selflessly at the level they are able when they see the need..

I, of course, disagree with volunteer charity as being the way to solve social and tragic events.  The days of churches or private charities leading the way are gone. Now we pay taxes and expect our governments to serve the public by taking the lead in time of need.

There is a role for private good will as we so often see in times of National and International tragedy. but not to the level that government can respond.. Often though, it does more for the giver that it does for the receiver.The giver feels good and is relieved of the guilt feeling that they are so privileged while others are struggling, even to the point of death from lack of assistance.

At a time when it would have been nice to see, from the many personas of Mitt Romney, the one where he step up and saved the Salt Lake Olympics, we sadly got the hapless Romney making a meager effort at charity which was in fact a cheap political stunt. . "W have a few people hurting" is his assessment. What about the millions of people whose lives have been forever altered and the 300,000 properties destroyed or in need of repair, And, a shoreline disappeared and infrastructure severely damaged?.  His effort seems insincere like a man remote from the struggle of so many people.The image of the man who would be President was much tarnished by this half baked effort at meaningful charity..