Why Europe doesn’t work

Posted September 27, 2009 on 1:22 pm | In the category Canada, Europe | by Mackenzie Brothers

At the very moment while most of the world leaders were in New York to spout wisdom – are some of them for real or was this an audition for a B horror film? – and wax on about climate change,etc – only the Prime Minister of the Maldive Islands was convincing – over in Europe the lackeys of three of the supposed major enlightened states plus a few minnows were busy casting a vote that showed what farcical members of the so-called united nations they are. It was a rather small matter unless you take saving the ecology of the world to be something other than some sort of hippy conspiracy, but it underlined how hopelessly anti-social and greedy some extremely prosperous European powers are.

It only had to do with one of those fish species that are going to disappear in European waters if maritime nations continue to allow their fisherfolk to wipe out every living thing they can get their nets around. But it is a big fish – the bluefin tuna – that is noticeable by its presence as well as its absence. And the bluefins are returning in numbers to the waters of the Canadian maritime provinces where last year only one-fifth of the catch was allowed compared to that taken in European waters. Fish biologists all agree – if the Europeans continue to savage their bluefin population, it will be gone within a decade at the latest, so the European Union had an easy choice in its recent vote on the matter – stop all bluefin tuna fishing immediately. And so the vote went for the great majority of the EU members. But not for all, and the EU constitution demands unanimity.

One could perhaps understand why Cyprus and Malta voted to put the immediate livelihood of their fishermen over that of their future, though their vetoes certainly underline the absurdity of the EU constitution. But the small island nations didn’t have to worry about the reaction of that part of the world that is actually worried about the environment to their nihilistic votes. For in New York, the governments of super-prosperous France, Spain and Italy no doubt spouted on about their dedication to saving the world, but in Brussels they also vetoed the bluefin resolution, thus condemning one of the premier fish just hanging on in European waters. Shameful isn’t the word we’re looking for, but what is?

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Tales of the Real Wild West

Posted September 18, 2009 on 12:40 am | In the category Canada | by Mackenzie Brothers

Remember the old Monty Python skit where Michael Palin and the boys dressed up in checkered shirts and Mounty uniforms and sang about their desire to be tough British Columbians until Michael began waxing on about his desire to dress up as a girlie while at it. Those were the good old days of satire before Mike started rambling around the world in his career as a travel raconteur. That skit gave British Columbia a kind of pseudo-tough comic veneer where tough guys in a harsh environment turned out to be anything but that.

But there were a series of adventures of young lads and lassies this summer which brought home just how tough this magnificent place can really be. Take the 3-year old kid who was camping with his parents in June near the banks of the mighty Peace River way up in the north and decided to drive his toy truck into the river. His panicked parents had no idea what happened to him but three hours later and 20 kilometers downstream a fisherman saw what he thought was a bald-headed eagle (the kid was a towhead) floating down the river on a log. It turned out to be our lad sitting on his overturned truck, and in good shape, other than a mild case of hypothermia, after the fisherman swam out and got him, .

Next came the 2-year old lad camping with his parents on the Yukon border who wandered away into the bush, causing an all-out search and rescue mission which found nothing for 3 days. On the fourth day a heat-seeking helicopter located him, and searchers found him asleep under a bush, encircled by what turned out to be a stray dog who had found him before the helicopter. He too had only mild hypothermia. The parents adopted the dog.

Then there was the 6-year old girl who was sitting near her fisherman father on a dock in Vancouver when a seal leaped up, grabbed her arm and dragged her under the water. The father managed to beat the seal off in an underwater struggle and the daughter emerged with some bites, scratches and mild hypothermia. Finally there was the 10-year old girl hiking with her mother a couple of hundred meters behind the men in the family when a cougar jumped on her and dragged her off the trail, only to be driven off by an irate Mom. Scratches, puncture wounds, no hypothermia.

It can still be mighty tough out there as today’s papers confirmed with their report of the bow hunter up north who was hoping to bag a black bear with his bow and arrow and instead got jumped from behind by a silently attacking grizzly with three cubs in tow. Pinned under the great beast he did the only thing he could imagine doing. He pulled out an arrow from his quiver, and stabbed the grizzly, who then retreated, in the throat. No word on the state of the bear; the archer suffered puncture wounds, cuts and extreme nervousness, but is back on the trail today.

So take that Michael Palin.

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2009: The Summer of Hate

Posted September 13, 2009 on 2:14 pm | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Autumn has not come soon enough. The summer of 2009 was characterized by some of the ugliest and most stupid political nonsense that the country has ever had to put up with. Birthers question Obama’s citizenship and search for evidence of his secret African, Muslim birth certificate; Obama’s efforts to reshape a disastrously expensive and inadequate healthcare program has turned into accusations that he wishes to organize death panels to move the country toward forced government-run euthanasia; dumbbell radio has initiated rumors that Obama is plotting to put conservative, white voters in prisons, etc. ad nauseum.  Republican senators and congressmen are making careers out of outright lies and there are enough people looking for reasons to hate Obama that those lies find fertile ground. Former Governor Palin continues to shock us with her vapid stupidity and ugly posturing, Senator Grassley suggests that death panels might actually be in the wind, South Carolina gives us a Congressional mediocrity who shouts “you lie” at Obama and thousands of less than ordinary people march in Washington shouting stupidities and lies into the TV microphones. “Town Hall” meetings to discuss healthcare reform frequently included the sideshow of idiots with guns, roaring their disapproval of healthcare reform while screaming their rights to carry assault rifles to political rallies. What do we do with people who rant they want no government role in healthcare and in the next breath rave about keeping government’s hands off their Medicare? What can be said to people who in one breath call Obama  “Hitler” and in the next, “Stalin”? What can we make of Fox cable commentators that promote the lie that Obama  wants America to be a “socialist” country – or even a communist country? Or that Obama “hates white people”?

American politics has always had its nutcases but mostly they have been on the fringe and political parties have tolerated them while trying to maintain at least a moderately high road of discussion and dissent. This is no longer the case with Republican politicians milking the cow of hatred and fear to further their meager agendas and much of the press reporting their lies and fabrications as if they deserve equal time. The current healthcare debate is the focus of much of the ugliness and it seems increasingly likely that we will get a watered down mess of a bill that will fail to reduce costs and improve quality largely because of the stupidity of a small portion of the country, the cowardice and venality of politicians on both sides of the aisle, and the pathetic performance of a mainstream press that focused on process issues and largely avoided calling out the liars.

A more general question is why such ugliness? Has any president in memory been insulted, lied about, and threatened the way Obama has? There has always been a robust political discourse in America but the current atmosphere is different – and I join Maureen Dowd who in today’s NY Times calls it by its hidden name: racism.

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A Tale of Two Immigrants

Posted September 13, 2009 on 2:01 pm | In the category Canada, Economy, Germany, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

As Canada becomes more and more the place where immigrants can make their way financially with little interest paid to their backgrounds, a German and an Austrian have hogged the headlines of late, and for diametrically opposed reasons. It used to be that “the American dream” was an understood concept that suggested that anyone entering US society had the chance to reach any goal, even to become president, and the election of Barack Obama suggested that that dream is still alive. However the way he is being treated by what seems to be a significant (majority?) part of the population as he attempts to make his dreams a reality, suggest that this assumption might be seriously misplaced.
Meanwhile, north of the border, where a health care system is in place that is being attacked in the US parliament in extraordinarily ignorant ways, an Austrian immigrant, who arrived in Canada with $200 in his pocket, has just bought a well-known car brand , Opel, the European version of GM cars, as he tries to fulfill his long dream of manufacturing his own cars in Canada. Frank Stronach, who transformed his tiny savings into a multi-billion dollar car-parts business and whose daughter came close to becoming Prime Minister, is given a good chance of actually doing this by economists, thugh he has been hamstrung by having sales to the US and China blocked. By and large, Canadians wish him well.
The deportation two weeks ago of Karl-Heinz Schreiber, on the other hand, an immigrant from Germany, was met with a collective sigh of relief. He managed to lead Canadian legal experts, law enforcement folks and immigration officials on a decade-long merry chase through the sleaze left by carefully-leaked documents that left a former prime minister as well as an apparently grotesquely incompetent legal system flailing in hopeless panic. He apparently was having a good time for a whole decade as the country squirmed uncomfortably and could not figure out how to get rid of him. His absence is as welcome as is the presence of Frank Stronach.

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