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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.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Politics and Protest

Note:  I don't often write about Canadian politics. I am more inclined to comment on American politics. It is not because the later is more interesting but the fact the Americans who read my blog know little about Canadian politics requiring me to write a lot of background information.  On the other hand, I can  easily assume most Canadians know a lot about American politics. I have tried in this blog entry to give enough background information  to make it understandable to Americans.  This is understandable when you realize that Canada is a mouse sleeping next to an elephant. . (Trudeau) the mouse has to listen carefully for what the elephant is doing while the elephant may not even know the mouse is there.

This past weekend my son, Parker, has traveled  to Toronto to participate in a demonstration with  his union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF).  They are trying to keep up pressure on the Liberal Party, which is the governing party in the Ontario legislature.  The teacher's unions have traditionally been supporters of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party, and particularly it's leader, the Premier, Dalton McGuinty,  has like to think itself as a pro education party.  Recently, the government has turned on the teachers. 
Last Fall, with a provincial  budget to balance the government demanded concessions from the teachers along with other public sector workers.  Rather than following the process of negotiating with the teachers, a right long established in Ontario, the government passed a law, Bill 115, that forced a contract on the teachers which not only forced wage and benefit concessions on the teachers but also it denied them the right to strike. The teachers have been demonstration against this ever since with whatever actions are still legally available to them. They have been working to rule and are not volunteering to supervise student's after school programs and demonstrations after school hours.  They would like the government to reconsider this legislation and return to having the teacher negotiate a contract. The issue has moved beyond the money to fundamental labour rights.

They are in Toronto this weekend because the Liberal Party is having a convention to elect a new leader of the Party, which means that  Ontario will have a new Premier to lead the government.  

The Liberal Party, which has formed the government in Ontario for many years has found itself in a lot of trouble with several scandals, unhappiness over some programs, and an increasing deficit, in part due to the tough economic times as well as some mismanagement by the government.  Dalton McGuinty , the Premier for the last 9 years, suddenly decided to run rather than work through the governments problems and the dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party.  He announced his intent to resign, prorogued the parliament, which effectively  suspended parliamentary criticism of the problems  of his government,  and set the wheels in motions to find a new leaders.

The teachers and other labour groups are demonstrating outside the convention to let  the future Premier know that they expect some real change if the Liberal Party ever want to have the support of them in the future.

The Liberal Party now has a new leader, Kathleen Wynne, who will shortly be sworn in as Premier Ontario. She will be forming a new Cabinet and reconvening the legislature to begin to govern with a minority government and to restore faith in the Liberal Party.  The teachers expect to negotiate some changes with her although she has indicated she is not going to revisit Bill 115's results. (In fact the bill was withdrawn after the government got what they wanted out of the teachers.)  She will have to do something for the teachers are a large powerful union with lots of money which used to help fund the Liberal Party.  I personally hope the teachers' union decides to support the New Democratic Party in the next election to help if form the government.

Part of the protesting crowd outside the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It is largely a teacher's union protest with support from public service workers, auto workers and Canadian Labour Congress.

My son Parker and grandson Travis at the teacher's demonstration in Toronto.  Parker is his school union representative.  They seem to be having too much fun for a serious  protest.!

One of the interesting side issues in the selection of a new head of the Liberal Party is that the two strongest candidates were women.  Kathleen Wynne, by a close margin, came out the winner.  She will be the first female Premier of Ontario.  She is also the first lesbian to be the head of any government across Canada. Her sexual orientation was never an issue in this election.  She is an interesting person with a strong background in politics and education. She is from the left wing of the Liberal Party,

Canada now has half of it's 10 provinces with Premiers who are women: British Columbia, (Christy Clarke), Alberta (Alison Redford), Ontario (Kathleen Wynne), Quebec (Pauline Marois) and Newfoundland and Labrador (Kathy Dunderdale) .  As well the territory on Nunavut has a woman Premier (Eva Aariak).

{ Nunavut does not  have a parliamentary government,  It does not have political parties. It operated on consensus (in 5 official languages). The elected members nominates one of their own and he/she is appointed by the Commissioner of Nunavut.}

Is seem women are coming into their own in politics. These women Premiers are an interesting competent lot from different background and parties.  I am sure the dynamics of the annual Premiers's meeting must be changing.

Today there are protest across Canada by the Idol No More movement by First Nations people who have been inspired by some federal legislation that infringes on their treaty rights exploiting resources and weakening environmental protection. For far too long demands and needs of First Nations communities have been ignored by the federal government. Joining them is a coalition of "Common Cause"  aroused progressives to have come to understand the Conservative Harper government is taking our country down a road  the majority of Canadian don't want to go toward a future which will find our country much diminished in many ways.
These days Canadian politics are alive and vital with people participation.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

I have long been a great admirer of Dr. King. I lived in the United States and participated in some of the civil rights activities during the end of his life. I always found what he had to say inspirational..

I am not one to have a lot of iconography in my house but I have had this well worn poster of Dr. King for may years. It is presently on the wall of my computer room.

(click on photo to enlarge)

I was first interested in Dr. King's thoughts about pacifism. It turned out  that their is a direct intellectual path of influence on him from a 19th century minister, Adin Ballou, in my denominational history. . This is a little unusual  for , while there are pacifist within my denomination, we are not one of the peace church. I was interested to find any and all roots in my church for my conviction in this area..

 Dr King's intellectual source of his views were most influence by Gandhi. After studying in Boston he went and spent some time in India to learn more about Gandhi's ideas.  Gandhi was in part inspired in his pacifism by the writing of Tolstoy. Tolstoy was influenced by Adin Ballou, a 19th Century Universalist Unitarian.  Ballou and Tolstoy carried on a correspondence.  Adin Ballou was an activist pacifist in the way that Ghandi and King were.  No doubt Dr. King has also heard of  Adin Ballou, who had been quite influential in his day, particularly among social progressives and abolitionists.  Ballou  founded a perfectionist community in Massachusetts, the Hopedale Community.. The present town at that site is still called Hopedale., with a Unitarian Church in  which I have had the pleasure of preaching..

 ( I would be interested to know if, while in India if Dr. King had learned of the great Muslim pacifist Pastun leader, Badshah Khan who was a contemporary of Gandhi  doing much as he did among the Muslims of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.)

Adin Ballou was a contemporary with Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Unitarian minister and lecturer and   Henry Thoreau., the eccentric  romantic writer about Nature  who mooched off his friend Emerson who lived not far away in Concord. while "roughing in a couple of miles out of town on Walden Pond.  Emerson had what every contemplative man needs, a wealthy wife., who could support both men.  Thoreau as you may know is quite famous as the author of the essay On Civil Disobedience.. This was my second intellectual interest in Dr. King.   I am sure Dr. King was aware of important piece of American literature, as his method of bringing about social change was civil disobedience when necessary. All a pacifist can count on to be a social force is civil disobedience and the rule of law. When the latter is not effective the former become a moral imperative.

Dr. King got his doctorate from Boston University. I became interested in it when I was registered at the  Boston University School of Theology for one year while I finished my peripatetic studies at several theological school in the Boston area. His dissertation  was based on a comparison of the views of God by Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Weiman, two theologians I have read extensively.  This gave me another window of interest in Dr. King.  It always surprised me that he had an academic liberal theological education and managed to get out of Boston still being able to preach in the emotional  interactive black southern style, sometimes ending dramatically with whooping, rather than the dry bones  preaching more common around Boston.  Sadly, I never could master that southern preaching style that could elicit spontaneous emotional responses from a congregation. I am doomed to cool rationality.(My emotional range is from mellow to depressed. When I get excited I may smile rather than jump up and down) I am sure Dr. King absorbed some of the rational preaching style but basically he remained a southern black preacher.

Dr. King was a far more radical thinker that society  today cares to remember.The very fact that the day of the year when we celebrate his life we are asked to volunteer a little,  demonstrates how limited an understanding we have of his thought. He grew well beyond the civil rights movement, for which he is revered. He came to understand that civil rights are limited if there is no economic development among the poor. He came to believe that social democracy rather than capitalism should be the  way society should be organized..  He was also against militarism and came out strongly against the Vietnam War. He not only believed the poor should organize to get what they needed but that labour should also, He supported Labour Unions. When he died he was in Memphis to help the sanitation workers who were on strike.

It makes me uncomfortable when Dr. King's legacy is sanitized  as just his contribution to civil rights. I hope President Obama does not try to identify too much with Dr. King. for his civil rights efforts.  President Obama for all his admirable qualities is no Dr. King who deserves to be remember for the truly radical nature of his message, for he wanted to transform American society, while President Obama only wants to tinker around the edges.  He is a right of center politician while Dr. King developed into a left wing progressive.. It is interesting how we pick and choose the  ideas of great men and women while often missing the major power of their ideas.  Even if President was a "follower" of Dr. King the reality of politics in America today would limit what he could accomplish to fulfill Dr. Kings dreams.

The next four years in American politics are going to be interesting. I hope President Obama  achieve much of what he wants..his address was a good start. I was most pleased to hear him speak of climate change and the need to tackle this problem. For me it is the only problem we really have and until science shows we have made real progress is needs to take all our efforts and resources. The United States and Canada are lagging behind while being dreadful polluters. If the US makes an effort Canada might be forced to follow.


1. The announcers only every referred  President Obama as  Barack H Obama instead of Barack Hussein Obama. I would not have thought to much of this except Bill Clinton was called William Jefferson  Clinton.Is there something political going on here.  I did see that Judge Roberts used the President's full name. I guess he felt it was more legal.
2. I noticed the poet, Richard Blanco, used some foreign language phrases particularly his mother's tongue, Spanish, in his poem ,  "One Today" and the minister, The Reverend  Luis Leon , who gave the benediction, spoke a couple of sentences at the end in Spanish.. Are these an acknowledgement of the Hispanic population of the United States and its increasingly unique influence even to the de facto bilingual nature of many parts of the country.  Is bilingualism in America's future?.

3. I thought it was significant the in his address President Obama deliberately mentioned the gay community.  This must be the first time the sexual minority community has been so recognized. It seems it's acceptance is the new normal. How times are changing.

4. I found the poem very interesting.,  One Today. I was an epic free form poem in the style of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and  Alan Ginsberg's poems Howl. and America.  The themes seem  similar.: Nature, industry,  migration, common folk, personal experience in the American experience.. All four poems are a deeply personal expression.  Each represent a view of the country at a  different point it its history.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

USA Gun Control

Sometime today President Obama is announcing what he would like the government to do in terms of legislation for gun control.  I have my doubt he will achieve all that he would like in spite of the fact that he will be asking for very limited sensible legislation.  At most it seems he will be looking for a ban on the sale of assault rifles, a ban of large multi round ammunition clips, proper records of gun sales and transfers and to soften the focus some measures to improve mental health legislation which hopefully will limit the access to guns by the mentally ill.

None of what the President will ask for will reduce the number of guns in the society. He will not be asking  a ban of the ownership of assault rifles so those that currently have them can keep them.  The assault rifles are not the biggest gun problem in the US, although when they are used it is very dramatic. The biggest gun problem in the US is hand guns, which are used in most shootings. There is no suggestion they be banned. There will be no reduction in the number and availability in weapon in the US. The United States as the most weapon in private hands of any country in the World. at 88 per hundred residents, outpacing it closest rivals Serbia at 58.2 and Yemen 54.8.  A sensible thing would be to reduce the shear number of guns available which is what Australia did after their dreadful assault weapon violence experience, at Port Arthur in 1996, after which they have never had a recurrence of a mass killing. Australia now have 15 guns per 100 residence.

One thing I would agree with the gun lobby is that gun control in itself, particularly as proposed by the Obama administration will have little or no affect on gun deaths in the country.  There are several other countries including Canada which have a lot of guns in private hands around 30 per 100 residence. Some of these countries have very low rates of gun crimes. Shear numbers is not is not the critical cause of gun violence.  In Canada we have more deaths from stabbings than from shootings, in spite of the relatively high number of guns. Likewise in Norway that hand that dreadful mass killing  by  Anders Breveik..

In fact, the United States record on gun killings is not that bad given the shear number of guns available. It is 10 gun related deaths per 100,000 persons. In Canada is 2.13 with a lot fewer guns,  Mexico, which has somewhat more deaths than the US at 11.14 per 100,000. even though from the news you would think it was much higher/  To put this in perspective there are other countries with fewer guns but much higher death by guns. such as El Salvador and Jamaica, 50.36 and 44.44 respectively.   If you only look at the intentional deaths by firearms the US rate drops to 4.8 per 100,000 and 1.6 for Canada.  But Jamaica remains very high at 52.2 per 100,000. and a country that interests me, Venezuela, has an intentional gun killing rate of 45.1 per 100.000. Compared to these two countries the US is doing very well.  Remember Yemen had the third highest number of guns at 54.8 per 100. Well their intentional gun death rate is only 4.2 comparable to theUS, even though that country has considerable social  upheaval currently.

Well what do all these statistics mean, with regard to the US.  Considering the number of guns available the US death rate by gun is not too bad. Even more interesting is that when only the intentional deaths are considers it is less that half of that. at 4.8 per 100.000.  There are many more violent countries with fewer guns and much higher gun deaths, both in total and intentional. I suspect this reflects other factors than gun ownership such as the quality of the judicial system and policing.  I think it also suggests that Americans generally take gun ownership and use seriously and are not very likely to kill someone intentionally.  It seems that Unites States could lower it gun deaths by preventing accidental killings. Perhaps, besides reducing the availability of guns efforts should go into educations on gun use, regular requalifing to use a gun (testing) and improving the safe storage and handling of guns such as never leaving a gun loaded when it is not in use. locking guns up and transporting them with gun lock on the trigger and storing ammunition separately from the guns.  These kinds of safety measures might prevent the number of accidental gun deaths and make it harder of the wrong people to access the guns and ammunition.  None of this threatens the Second Amendment right to bear arms and could put everyone might at ease of their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It certainly is what an organization like the National Rifle Association should be involved in supporting legal responsible gun ownership.  Here they could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Many of their extreme views border of threats of terrorism against the government. I think one could accuse them of being a terrorist organization. If the government did this the consequence for the NRA and anyone who materially supported them would be fatal.

I began writing this blog posting with the ideal of exploring the cultural differences between the US and Canada to explain the different attitudes concerning guns.   To understand the views of the US on guns requires and understanding of the culture and history of the country.  I have lots of ideas on this which I may save for another time.  To dramatically change the number of gun deaths in the US would ultimately need a cultural change which is a lot harder than passing legislation.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Don't you just  love Arabic Calligraphy as an art form

Once again, I have tried to get TV access to the Aljazeera (English) broadcasts. Again I have been frustrated.  I recently signed up for satellite TV connection with Shaw Communication. I phoned them and said I would be interested in getting Aljazzera and I would be willing to pay extra if it could not just be added to my package.  I was informed they did not offer Aljazeera.. I mentioned I had just  looked at the Aljazeera website where they listed where is was available. It indicated it was available on Shaw and Rogers in Canada.  This is true but only on cable. Well cable is not available for me.

Over the past few years, I have spoken to several TV providers to see if I could get Aljazeera in one of their  packages. I even suggested they might get rid of one of the American cable news providers, say Fox News, and replace it with Aljazeera.  They would not even discuss this. They just rhymed off what was included in each package. Aljazeera was only available for an extra charge.  I resisted paying an extra charge when I think this first class, award winning, news channel should be as available on the same bases as the BBC, CBC, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and others.  It has been a lonely battle for me. I have not even been able to get Lynne to see if she could get it included in her  extensive package with Rogers. Now, when I finally decided I would pay extra for it, I find out it is not available on satellite  with Shaw.

Why do I want Aljazeera?  I am a news junkie.  I like to read and listen to many news sources to better understand what is going on in the World.  I have read the Aljazeera website and even listened to Aljazeera broadcasts through the site.  I find it full of wonder programming, accurate, fair extensive,  in depth.  I think it is an equal with the BBC.  Aljazzera English is recognized by those in the know as being a first rate source of news. They have a widely diverse reporting staff  included many Canadian journalists who are on the ground in many countries that few if any Western news organizations have foreign correspondence . This has been an area that news organizations have been cutting back on, relying instead on a few new sources, like Reuters, to supply news content.

Tony Burman an outstanding and widely experienced news person was a key person with Aljazeera for several years and even now, while he is teaching journalism. he has a role with the news network.
He recently wrote about Aljazeera's effort to get well established in the American market. CBC  Washington Correspondent, Neil MacDonald also wrote well on Aljazeera wider entry into the US market

During the Arab Spring I understand the Obama administration watched  Aljazeera for the news.  Hilary Clinton even went to Qatar to assure Aljazeera that the US saw it as part of the solution in the middle east.. The state of American news programming is dismal  with too much fluff news and "headline news" with little in depth analysis. And there their is Fox News which should not be taken seriously. It is best viewed as faux news. 

Recently, Aljazeera has purchased Al Gore's Current News network in order to gain access to more of the American market, by establishing Aljazeera America.  Right away it is being attacked my cable news organizations with whom it would compete.  On late night TV talk shows a lot of cheap humour is used to belittle it or even frighten people.  I enjoy these jokes but I know how ridiculous these jokes are,. which is what makes them funny, but a lot of people I think they take a lot of the comments as true. Such that Aljazzera is anti-American, pro Arab  or even pro terrorist or that the broadcast will be in Arabic. Aljazeera has a public relations problem in the US and the US has an information deficit concerning the nature of Aljazeera as a respectable and credible news source. Both Canada and the United States would be well served to have easy and widespread access to this news channel.  Let hope we do in the near future.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Belated Gift

I finally located my sister's Christmas gift for me.  Because it did not come on time, ahead of Christmas, I  was alerted to the fact that I was not getting my regular mail.  Recent changes in our mail delivery left our small hamlet getting it's mail out of roadside boxes.  There was a long row of them on the edge of the church parking lot in front of the school.. I had signed for one and I got some junk mail but when my sister's present did not show up on time, as it always did, I contacted  Canada Post to have them look into it.  To make a long story short (which seems to be a problem for me these days) the mail was there all along in a post box assigned to me. Unfortunately, they gave me a key and a box number which was not mine. It seems there was some confusion over the 911 number for my property, which the post office has come to use as an address. It  is 247 but they had a box for me at 274, which is a property that does not exist.  Well! I finally got the mail and all seems right with the postal deliveries once again.

The novel below is my sister's Christmas gift for me. It came with another book, which I already have. (I will be holding on to it so I might pass it forward as a gift for someone who would really appreciate it.)

"The Purchase" by Linda Spalding

"In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, a young Quaker father and widower, leaves his home in Pennsylvania to establish a new life. He sets out with two horses, a wagonful of belongings, his five children, a 15-year-old orphan wife, and a few land warrants for his future homestead. When Daniel suddenly trades a horse for a young slave, Onesimus, it sets in motion a struggle in his conscience that will taint his life forever, and sets in motion a chain of events that lead to two murders and the family's strange relationship with a runaway slave named Bett.

Stripped down and as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life, Spalding's writing is nothing short of stunning, as it instantly envelops the reader in the world and time of the novel, and follows the lives of unforgettable characters. Inspired by stories of the author's own ancestors, The Purchase is a resonant, powerful and timeless novel"

It is an interesting aspect to Canadian literature that an American can move to Canada and write a novel loosely based on her family heritage at the end of the 18th Century in the mountains of Pennsylvania and Virginia, that we honour it as Canadian literature.  We are a nation of immigrants and all our stories go into the mix.  Linda Spalding is as well respected author living in Toronto.  She most recently won the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her "contribution to the Canadian literary community"

I look forward to reading this novel, although I am not generally a big reader of novels.  A few years ago, a fellow blogger got me interested in Appalachian literature (novels)  My years in the US made be well aware of the literary tradition of New England but I was unaware of Appalachian literature as a genre. If I thought about it at all I would have wondered if those mountain people could even read , let alone write wonderful literature. :) I have since broadened my horizons and read several piece of Appalachian literature by difference authors.  It is great.  I mention this because my brief  look at this novel my sister has sent made me think it might be classified as Appalachian literature.  There seems to be parallels in setting and themes. I look forward to reading it with an eye to this.

Also, I am interested in that fact that this is a Quaker story. I have long been interested in the Quakers and  Anabaptist groups of the Left Wing of the Reformation and their contribution to American history and culture. If I had not been drawn to the uniquely American religion, Unitarianism, (with some roots in the Radical Reformation) I might well have joined the Quakers.

This novel will be a lighter and more pleasurable read than  Bloodlands, which I previously mentioned I was reading.  I shall be reading both of them intermittently as my mood dictates.

Here is Heidi napping, of which she does a lot. I find it amusing that she love to have a pillow to rest her head on.

A close up view of Heidi wonderful head.  Oh! that life should be so peaceful.

Here are my other companions. In my home cats get no name. They may be called Mother Cat, if they fulfilled that role ever, or just kitty.  Each relates to me differently as a result of their history. Two are very affectionate and like to be in contact with me. One is a little shy and the Mother Cat tolerates me but is not shy..

Life is quiet around here these days Reading and enjoy other's company interspersed with trips to the basement for wood to feed the stove, in consort with the Weather (It is mild today, hence less wood)..

Monday, January 07, 2013

Travis, Kiva, Libraries, Mom

 A couple of Christmases past I gave each of my grandchildren a sum of money on the stipulation they "invest  it with the charitable micro finance program, Kiva. I am not sure this was warmly accepted as a valid Christmas gift but the kids were gracious about it and followed through.

I had been talking about this for a couple of years and I now spoke directly to them and what this organization was doing. I explain it was worthwhile and a different sort of charity. It was a way of directly helping someone (s)  by directing your investment in their project and when they pay it back finding other projects to direct your funds toward.  The cliche might be "to offer and hand up and not a hand out."  I pointed out that this program was an opportunity for them to get something out of it. They could learn a little about other countries and people and the way they live.  They could see how for some a small loan of money could make a substantial improvement in their lives. Directly, my grandchildren could see that many, no most, people in the World do not live with the material abundance of privilege they enjoy..  In fact, many people are worse off than even some of the poorest among us.

The three of them did invest in a project and then I heard little more about it. Recently, I asked my son how they did. Where they still doing it. It turned out that the youngest Travis was the most enthusiastic of the the three.

Travis Robinson

Travis not only invested the funds I gave him he added some of his own funds to the project. Even more significantly he got his class at his school, √ącole publique Jeunesse-Active, involved..  They too invested with Kiva. I was impressed and told his father so. "You have one that has a social conscience!".  How great is that.  As a result, this year,  I gave Travis an additional sum of money beyond his Christmas gift to add to his investment in Kiva.. I have since learned that his father gave each of the children a sum of money to add to their Kiva investment.  When I told this story to Lynne, she was duly impressed and said she would consider sending Travis some more funds to invest. Have we created a "snowball" effect here!

Travis is the big reader and amateur magician in the family.  I am impressed with his interest in reading. He mostly reads in English although he is quite capable of reading in French as well..  He has a Kobo eReader .On day he explained to me  how he can upload onto his reader books on loan from the local library. They stay on his reader for a couple of weeks, giving him time to read them, and then they disappear (returned to the library,. .  sort of in cyber space). Who would have thought this was possible. I hadn't. 

 How great a Kobo eReader would have been for my mother long ago. She was a big reader and always had several substantial books on the go. When we were little she walked the three of us to the small Port Credit Library to get her arm load of books. Until they were read she did minimal housework. Then with a flurry she got her housework caught up and off again to the Library.. When she exhausted the local library,  she took us to the New Toronto Library. This involved a mile walk to the bus stop with the three of us, a bus ride to Long Branch and then a streetcar ride to New Toronto. I still remember that lovely large classic library, so much bigger than the small Port Credit Library. If she had had a Kobo eReader in those days accessing the library would have been so easy and wonderful for her, while living in the country without a car.  Then again, I wouldn't have the wonderful memories of going to the library with my mother and learning, by example, that books are important and enriching in one's life.  Travis has discover this largely on his own, although he may not have the appreciation I have for the physical book and the delight it brings one beyond the words.

I would encourage others to become an investor in Kiva.  There is a rich range of projects to support with small or large sums of money..

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Christmas 2012

I got a unexpected invitation to spend Christmas with my friend Lynne.  What a lovely occasion after I had already adjusted my expectation to be home alone with Heidi and the four cats for the holiday. I was able to get a ride with a neighbour who was going south to spend Christmas with is family.  I all worked out well.

We had a white Christmas at my place with a foot of snow falling just before Christmas. In Mississauga they had no snow. Usually, there was a little snow for Christmas. I remember as a youth being able to go out Christmas morning with our new sleighs, toboggans, skates, skis, tuques, scarves and mitts to play in the snow  after breakfast and while my mother and father were getting the turkey stuffed and into the oven for he afternoon meal.  It seems climate change is seeing more brown Christmas Days in Southern Ontario than I remember.

I enjoyed  tagging along with Lynne to her eldest son's home for Christmas Eve. all the immediate family were there along with a couple of older relatives of Lynne's husband's side of the family and me. the tag along guy.

The next morning Christmas Day, Lynne and I got away early to go to her daughter's place for Christmas morning. so we could seen her granddaughter open presents.  It seem to be that now these days Christmas is a group of adults watching one representative child at Christmas. I find this a little sad.  At a previous generations Christmas were there were to adults there might have been 10 or 20 young children at a Christmas gathering.. 

This is  4 year old Leigha, Lynne's granddaughter.  She is a bright delightful child. This past year she has successfully fought off a childhood form of Cancer involving her kidneys.  

I managed to get a picture of camera shy Lynne playing with Leigha.  The house was full of toys, a real embarrassment of riches. for one child, so thinks this old simple Puritan.

I had to cut my holiday with Lynne short when I learned that my dog sitter, Jenny had to have an emergency appendectomy.  Also, she had called the vet on an emergency basis due to Heidi having ear infections. She has a couple of other concerns over Heidi that I needed to take care of. I managed to locate my son who was in Toronto so I was able to get a ride home with him.

 It all worked out well except I had hoped to spend a little more time with Lynne.  As it turned out the night after I got home the temperature dropped to -20C, a temperature that concerns me with limited heat on in the house. It is best that I am home to feed the wood stoves when it is this cold or colder..

This book is Lynne's gift to me.  To-day I am enjoying it. This is perhaps the wrong way to thing of it. It is the historical account of Hitler and Stalin's struggles over the domination of Eastern Europe.  I am learning a lot. which I enjoy but the details of this history are grim.
I know a lot about the Nazi horrors of the Second World War but I am less familiar with Stalin's legacy of horror.  While the United States was worrying about the Depression and Britain was anxiously watching Hitlers rise to power, Stalin was  murdering millions of  his people. It has come to be known as the Great Terror. 
In 1933-34  collectivization of the farms contributed to a poor harvest but it was the Soviet policy to set high quotas of productions that had to be met. As a result, in the Ukraine there was a man made famine that was genocide by starvation. All the harvest was taken for export to Europe. When the peasants could not meet there quotas  in grain their cattle were taken, their seed grain for the next year was taken, their personal property was taken. Many were murdered or sent to the Gulag. It is hard to comprehend how bad it became. Many resorted to cannibalism. Some families even killed and eat the weakest among them. Gravediggers, paid the bury the dead on a piece work basis sometimes took the near dead and buried them alive alongside the corpses.. All the while the Soviet government denied their was starvation. One of the few Western eye witnesses to this was the journalist Gareth Jones, who tried to inform the West of the genocide in the Ukraine.
Stalin's crimes against  the peasants began as an attack against prosperous peasants, the Kulak, that he saw as a special and dangerous class. It spread to include anyone the secret police wanted to capture to meet their quotas  to round up, kill or deport to the Gulag,  these dangerous "enemies of the State" and "criminals"
By 1936 Stalin was targeting ethnic groups within the Soviet Union who he saw as enemies in his paranoia:. Poles, Germans, Jews., Lithuanians and others were murdered in the hundreds of thousands, at the same time that the Soviet Union portrayed itself to the West as being a peaceful multi-ethnic socialist society.

Then there were the purges, The Great Terror, of the leadership of the military just before the outbreak of the  Second World War.  There was also purges of the old communist guard where lead the revolution of 1917.  There was even purges of doctors and intellectuals and writers.  In the end, Stalin murdered 10 million of his people even before the Second World War began.  His crimes made Hitler look like an amateur.  Before 1039, the Nazis had killed only a few hundred people. It is a chilling tale that was for a long time kept from public knowledge outside the Soviet Union which was isolated from the West during this period and later during  the Cold War.  It is a story that needs to be known better so that not only the names of Hitler and his war criminal associates are known and shamed in our understanding of history but also Stalin and his "war criminals" (never brought to justice) need to be exposed and named and shamed in our historical record

.  The 20th Century, our century, has a shameful record of genocides and wars which we need to know about and learn from, particularly their relationship to the creation of the Nation state,colonization, industrialization and the quest for raw materials to feed our industrial society.  Perhaps, we can begin to stop the continuation of the crimes of the 20th Century into the 21st Century.

I am awaiting for a couple of books from my sister for Christmas which seem to have gotten lost in the mail. Hopefully, they are not  as  heavy a read as "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" by Timothy Snyder.