Snowless in Vancouver

Posted January 28, 2010 on 10:09 pm | In the category Canada, Sports | by Jeff

As the world’s winter sport athletes begin to sharpen their skates and wax their snowboards it seems that there is a minor glitch. God forgot to deliver the snow that Canadian Prime Minister Harper ordered for Cypress Mountain, site of the snowboarding, and three of the less prestigious skiing events. God’s lapse was perhaps due to Harper’s over indulgence in proroguing. Or perhaps as punishment for Canada’s acceptance of socialized medicine and same-sex marriage. As any American can tell you, those are serious sins and Pat Robertson, the eminent American theologian, warns of God delivered earthquakes for national sin of that order of magnitude.

The International Olympic Committee  chose Vancouver for its fine restaurants, coffee shops and views without adequately considering the implications of awarding the games to a godless society of beer swilling, oil sand drilling, gay supporting, socialist louts. Punishment is likely to be severe with the Russians taking the men’s hockey gold and the U.S., the women’s hockey gold.  Bob and Doug will be devastated.

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Massachusetts: The Victory of Anger Over Intelligence

Posted January 20, 2010 on 10:03 pm | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“The Mass. election was a bummer …The greatest concern I have is for the economy and social stability. Deep down my attitude          towards health reform, the environment, energy is ‘not my problem’.  I have health insurance, live in the country and won’t live long enough to run out of home heating oil or gasoline. I support those issues more out of social responsibility; if society doesn’t care, why should I? “– Anonymous

In the wake of Scott Brown’s Senate win n Massachusetts, there are many scapegoats: the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, was a weak campaigner who thought it was a lock and behaved accordingly; the national Democratic party which totally missed the influx of outside money from insurance companies and Dick Armey’s tea party idiots; and the press that rarely looked at the substance of the issues, choosing instead to focus on the process of the campaign. But in many ways President Obama has the largest responsibility for the loss and the most to learn from it.

It begins with recognition that the people are pissed off – and with reason. That they are apparently incapable of or too lazy to truly understand the issues and to recognize what the Republicans have done to destroy America’s future in order to destroy Obama is irrelevant.  Obama is the President and he can choose to fight it out or to continue to pretend that bipartisanship is desirable and possible.

Obama’s cool, rational, smart approach is ill suited for the times – his idealistic search for bipartisanship looks in hindsight like innocence – even naiveté. There is substantial evidence that people do not think, do not read, do not discuss. They listen to Rush Limbaugh, watch Glenn Beck, take orders from their preachers or priests, and refuse to take responsibility for the nature of their lives. Scott Brown won because he is a handsome hunk who drives a truck and throws raw meat off the back end at all the poor souls looking for success in all the wrong places.

The low level of discourse in this country on issues like healthcare reform is appalling; always discussed without the long view. Between 17 and 22% of all healthcare expenses go to insurance companies who provide no healthcare –  they only serve as gatekeepers to deny insurance to those who most need it. The U.S. pays double for prescription drugs what other countries pay for the same drugs. The per capita cost for healthcare in the U.S. is double that of every other Western democracy. While one might believe that therefore we have the best medical care in the world, virtually all measures indicate that is simply not so. There is a reason the stocks of health insurance companies went up substantially yesterday; their investment in the Brown campaign was paying off and investors knew it. There is a huge reckoning coming on healthcare and the American people are in for bad surprises unless costs are contained and there is no evidence that the issue will be addressed in my lifetime. As for the current bill – Obama tried too hard and too long to get Republican support for a plan and gave up too much to get a semblance of bipartisanship.

There is a strange sense among Americans that if the people vote for something or someone they must be right. This has been wrong as often as right – people sometimes make good judgments and sometimes bad. Since we are all grownups and different people we are allowed to disagree. What is neither useful nor smart is the kind of grandstanding done by people celebrating the victory of an empty suit by dumping on those who disagree with them. Tea Party mythology has it that liberals are smug elitists; they are proving that smugness is a more common  ailment.

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Eulogy for Kate McGarrigle

Posted January 20, 2010 on 2:52 am | In the category Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

It may not mean so much for the international readers, but Canadians of interest will know that one of their family died today, and the country will a bit more artificial without her. Kate McGarrigle and her sister Anne had the right stuff for Canuckdom. Born in Montreal in 1946 with mixed French and English heritage, Kate also died there at her home, which was no surprise to her legions of fans who could hardly imagine her being at home anywhere else. In her spare time, though, she wrote songs like Talk to me of Mendocino which must to be the national anthem of the beautiful coast of northern California.

She belongs in the company of those dominating Canadian ex-pat musicians Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, yes, and also her son Rufus Wainwright, whose cancellation of a scheduled tour of New Zealand tipped the country off that Kate was not doing well in her bout with cancer. But she never left the special world of Montréal in her secret heart – maybe that’s true of Leonard as well – and the McGarrigle sisters’ 10 albums in French and English immediately conjure up a world that the rest of us Canucks can only hope is not dying with the artists who captured it.

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Is Massachusetts Turning Red?

Posted January 13, 2010 on 11:58 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat has apparently become surprisingly close. At least that is what the pundits are saying. Massachusetts has a health care program similar to the national program being hammered out in the Congress, allows same-sex marriage, voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and has not sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Ed Brooke was defeated for re-election in 1979.

Scott Brown, the Republican candidate is a state senator with a not especially compelling record but has run an aggressive campaign with considerable outside support from conservatives. He has vowed to be the 41st vote against national healthcare reform, does not support abortion rights, runs Cheney-style terrorist threat ads in his National Guard uniform, opposes same sex marriage, and once sponsored an amendment in the state senate to allow hospital staff to refuse contraception to rape victims.

Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, has run a bland campaign until recently and has belatedly stepped up her rhetoric. If Massachusetts goes against its historic liberal roots, it will be a nasty wake-up call to Democrats nationwide and could signal the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency. While this seems unlikely it is now a possibility.  No one would have predicted this scenario when Senator Kennedy died.

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Proroguing – a new Canadian tradition

Posted January 11, 2010 on 1:30 am | In the category Canada, Sports, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

International reader may have some trouble making sense of the the title of this essay, since prorogue is not a commonly-understood word in normally-functioning democracies. But Steven Harper, the current Prime Minister of Canada, described this week in The Economist as a competent bureaucrat with a vicious streak (faint praise indeed) is doing his best to make it the word of the decade on his own turf. It is a British term which means to tell members of parliament their services are no longer needed until he feels it is safe for him to come out of hiding. It is a procedure not often seen in democracies that actually function with parliaments that actually do something. In a clever response the opposition liberals under Michael Ignatieff announced they would sit in the Parliamentary buildings and work for their money, and a substantial ground-root movement seems to underway to make the government pay for their disdain of Parliament at the polls.

Last year Harper prorogued parliament so that he wouldn’t have to face a vote of no-confidence that might have brought down his government. On New Year’s Eve he did it again, assuming no one would notice, since he was sitting on an increasingly hot seat as parliamentary committees tried to come to the bottom of a macabre cover-up of what Canada allowed to be done to their prisoners in Afghanistan. Journalists speculate he wanted very much to have his picture taken many times at the Olympic Games across the continent in sunny and warm Vancouver rather than sitting on the hot seat in frigid Ottawa. it also seems plausible that he felt Canadians would be in a much better mood after the hockey team wins the Gold Medal in Vancouver. God help him if Sweden – or gasp! – the USA beat the lads in their own rink, as the US Juniors did in overtime on New Year’s Day – in a spectacularly exciting game – in the world championship match in Saskatoon at minus 40 degrees.

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