US grabs for Canadian water

Posted October 31, 2007 on 12:24 am | In the category Canada, Economy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

As November ends, the Canadian dollar (the loony) is worth $1.05 US, the highest value it has reached since Canadian troops overwhelmed Washington in 1812. And there is no end in sight as oil prices continue to rise – Canada’s economic trump card as its immense oil reserves become more and more desirable and profitable – and the US economy continues to fall. Impossible super-low mortgage rates in the US, unknown in Canada, have now sent the housing market down south crashing as rates suddenly doubled, and the war in iraq keeps growing as an economic disaster, as well as a moral and military one. The MacKenzie clan had been expecting the US to counter-attack in an attempt to regain some of the prestige that has been lost to a neighbouring economy that had a currency worth $.62 US cents a couple of years ago that has since risen by more than 40%.
But when the attack came it had an unexpected goal, not a grab for oil, but for water. That in itself is unsurprising as Canada’s massive reserves of fresh water must look extraordinarily tempting to the residents of places like southern California, doomed to be threatened by drought and fire. But it was not the fire departments of Orange County that acted but the Disney corporation, attempting to buck up the spirits of the reeling superpower. In its just released video about the wonders of America – which means the United states in Disneytalk – it included that great US icon, Niagara Falls, but avoided the drab US side and showed Horseshoe Falls, or Canadian Falls as it is also known, in all its thunderous glory. Unfortunately this wonder is entirely on Canadian territory, and the Disneyfolk had to apologize, saying it had used mislabeled archival footage, which the MacKenzie clan took with a large gulp of maple syrup. In any case, the Disney Empire promised to correct this misinformation as soon as it had finished having its desired effect

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The Greatest (Show) Place on Earth

Posted October 19, 2007 on 2:06 pm | In the category Canada, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

British Columbia has recently begun replacing its old licence plates that modestly proclaimed to be “Beautiful British Columbia” with the not so modest claim that it is “The Greatest Place on Earth”. While it may be true that there are few places on earth that could get away with such a motto on its cars without becoming global laughing stocks, these licence plates, and the ads that go with them preceding the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler, do not exactly indicate the kind of modesty citizens would have expected not so long ago from a rather conservative ruling class.

The British Columbia Ferry System does indeed traverse one of the most spectacular series of waterways in existence, rivaled only be the Hurtig ferries along the Norwegian coast and perhaps the Alaska State Ferry lines, though they both have much fewer routes. But now British Columbians are beginning to wonder whether the official self-satisfaction might not benefit from a bit of a modest rest period. About a year ago, one of these beautiful northern ships failed to make a required turn in the middle of the night on the run from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy and plowed straight into an inland passage island, sinking within an hour. Two passengers were never found as the rescued passengers and crew found hospitality in the nearby native village of Hartley Bay. My brother and I know some old navy men who immediately told us that there was no way that could have happened if the bridge had been properly manned (personned?), and ongoing investigations have shown that to be the case. While rumours have been rampant about everything from sex trysts to alcohol consumption among the responsible bridge personnel, as the ship failed to turn, one thing became clear this week when B.C. Ferries announced mandatory drug testing of its personnel, just as the Olympics demands of its athletes. Interviews with ship personnel convinced investigators that pot spoking was common place among the crew and that there was good reason to think that not everyone was as alert as one might have expected as the ship ran aground. Since marijuana growing is one of BC.s largest money makers (if not the government’s, as no taxes are collected on this), and pot smoking is pretty much tolerated, it is perhaps no surprise that this is practiced by a cross-section of the population that works on a ship. However BC Ferries would like to think that the Queen of the North was the last ship of its fleet that will sink because somebody wasn’t paying attention on the bridge.


Immigration and the U.S. Political Scene

Posted October 9, 2007 on 5:51 pm | In the category Election 2008, Immigration, Politics | by Jeff

Bob and Doug MacKenzie have posted below on the recent anti-immigrant riots in Switzerland and while they cover Europe very well indeed, they do not address the situation in their Friendly Neighbor to the South.

The endless U.S. presidential campaign has been mostly charted as a horse race with the touts focusing largely on trivialities – Hillary’s cleavage, Hillary’s cackle, Edwards’ haircut, Romney’s ” my gosh and golly” vernacular, Hucklebee’s folk songs, Giuliani’s family problems, how much money each has raised, etc. But while the Democrats focus largely on Iraq and healthcare the Republican candidates are beginning to sound a bit like the American equivalent of the European far-right. There is something about scaring the bejesus out of everybody that appeals to them and with 9/11 apparently losing some of its scare appeal they have discovered the undocumented workers who pick grapes, mow lawns, wash dishes, drive taxis, etc. as this year’s group to fear.

The United States flirted with a solution when a bipartisan immigration bill, supported by President Bush, almost passed the Congress but the bill became a target for most of the Republican candidates and they continue to suck on that teat as they drum up not-so-new passions against their latest scapegoat – the illegal immigrant. But none of them seem to have a reasonable solution – although some are better than others. The basic message is that these people are breaking our laws and we need to throw all 11 million of them out of the country and never mind whatever contribution individuals might have made – in some cases for many years – paying taxes, doing hard work for low wages, etc.

As the campaign heats up there is considerable potential for campaigns to flirt with a subtle form of racism which may very well make the U.S. a soulmate of Switzerland and Austria. And as with almost every issue of any significance in the U.S. it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a serious discussion about the real problems and practicalities involved in immigration policy with discussion moving to mindless shouting matches with bogus statistics and rants of “no amnesty”, “ they are taking our jobs”, “they want their children to go to our schools”, ad nauseum.


trouble in paradise(s)

Posted October 9, 2007 on 2:05 am | In the category Europe, Immigration, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

The ever more violent clashes between far right and far left political groups in Europe erupted in a most unexpected place on the weekend, Bern, the capital of Switzerland, which would probably win a popularity poll searching out the most peaceful place in Europe. But for anyone paying attention to the growing animosity between those in favour of a multicultural/multiethnic Europe reflecting the concept of free movement and settlement of people across borders, and those defending the idea that a piece of land occupied for millennia by a specific linguistic (and often ethnic) group should remain the domain of that group, this should not have been such a surprise. Switzerland has always had a strong nationalistic wing determined to keep Switzerland as Swiss as Wilhelm Tell would have liked it, and it is not only in recent years that there has been a strong far right party, which now however forms the largest party in the Swiss parliament.
The latest clashes took place when masked far left left wing demonstrators stopped a political march by 10,000 members of the arch-conservative Swiss Peoples Party under its leader, Switzerland’s finance minister Christoph Blocher. In the ensuing riots, 17 policeman were injured, some of them seriously, store windows were smashed, cars set on fire and dozens of protesters arrested. My brother and I have come up with a theory about the rise of big right wing parties in western Europe that are opposed to much immigration, namely that they are growing by leaps and bounds in small countries, where many citizens are afraid that their old national qualities will be threatened by immigrant groups preaching new religions, speaking exotic languages and demanding different social codes. Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria are all western European societies with long histories and short borders and they have all spawned far right parties with broad popular support drawing on the fears of large-scale immigration. It’s true that some larger countries, France comes quickly to mind, have had serious flirtations with such groups as well, but they seem to be able to swallow them up much more easily into moderately conservative parties than can those small nations who consider themselves under immediate threat.


A few facts from the Oktoberfest

Posted October 3, 2007 on 2:18 am | In the category Germany, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

It rained a bit during the week in Munich so when the sun came out on Saturday morning, the crowds were chomping at their bit to get to the action of the Oktoberfest. There are no records kept for such feats but long-term observers think that the mass spurt to the beer tents reached Olympian heights on this glorious Bavarian morning. At 9:00 the gates were opened and the assembled crowds poured into the Bavarian heaven. At 9:04 the police declared that the Löwenbräu tent, a gigantic piece of canvas occupied by a brass band and thousands of customers, was full and the doors were closed. Police could not explain how so many people could sprint across the open space and pour into the tent in only 4 minutes, aber so war es!.
Otherwise it has been a relatively normal Fest. On Saturday 600,000 people showed up, during the week 200,000 Italian tourist made the journey north, dramatically reversing the usual trend, 3,4 million liters of beer were drunk, 200,000 more than last year, you don’t want to know how many oxen ended up on the barbecue, 3921 patients had to be treated by the Red Cross, and 14 pickpockets were arrested. Mensch, was willst du noch mehr?


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