Wednesday 26 December 2007

Merry Christmas from Victoria

On December 16th, 2007, when most of northern North America was being inundated by huge amounts of snow, this is what it was like here in Victoria. Every year I take a photo as close to Christmas as I can and use it as my e-mail Christmas card to show family and friends in the East and in Europe and South Africa why I now live here. This photo of downtown Victoria was taken from Mt. Tolmie, one of two in-town "mountains".

Don't be fooled by my use of "Christmas". It's just a more common way of saying Winter Solstice. And it's true, we've turned the corner - the days are getting longer (but weather-wise, who knows what still awaits us during the next 10 weeks or so).

Tuesday 4 December 2007

If you say ...

If you say St├ęphane Dion would not be a good Canadian prime minister, you don't know anything about him, and you haven't made an effort to learn anything about him.

Should you be allowed to vote?

If you say Stephen Harper will some day be a respected Canadian prime minister, you don't know anything about him, and you haven't made an effort to learn anything about him.

Should you be allowed to vote?

If you say the NDP's policy on Afghanistan is realistic and should be adopted by Canada, you don't know how the world works or how international diplomacy works, and you haven't made an effort to learn anything these things.

Should you be allowed to vote?

People who don't take the time to study what the issues really are and accept political spin at face value should not be allowed to vote, they demean democracy! Perhaps it's time to restrict the vote to knowledgeable people and introduce a political maturity test prior to allowing people into the voting booth.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Do we really want this man to be our leader?

So, which one is the real Stephen Harper? I mean, OK, we all know he's a humourless control freak with all the charisma of an over-cooked, cold plate of spaghetti, but there must be more to him than that!

Heil Myself?

King Kong?

There are many things I could write about here, but after Harper's disgraceful conduct at the recent Commonwealth conference, where he worked so hard to torpedo a meaningful declaration concerning climate change, I'll confine myself to the environment for today.

Every Canadian knows, or should know, where Harper stands on climate change: he rejects the scientific evidence because, well I don't really know why - could it be because he's from Alberta? And we all know what that means. He and his Ontario mouth piece, John Baird (late of the Mike Harris neo-cons), are making pro-climate change noises right now because they know it's the only way to win votes in the more sophisticated provinces.

But this is where Harper really stands (and as you read this, remember, he hasn't changed his mind on anything since he left Ottawa in a huff during his Reform Party days when he couldn't get his way):

The following are excerpts from a letter Stephen Harper wrote in 2002 to members of his Canadian Alliance party about the Kyoto accord:
"We’re gearing up for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership. I’m talking about the “battle of Kyoto” — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto Accord.
"It would take more than one letter to explain what’s wrong with Kyoto, but here are a few facts about this so-called “Accord”:
  • It’s based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends.
  • It focuses on carbon dioxide, which is essential to life, rather than upon pollutants.
  • Canada is the only country in the world required to make significant cuts in emissions. Third World countries are exempt, the Europeans get credit for shutting down inefficient Soviet-era industries, and no country in the Western hemisphere except Canada is signing.
  • Implementing Kyoto will cripple the oil and gas industry, which is essential to the economies of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • As the effects trickle through other industries, workers and consumers everywhere in Canada will lose. THERE ARE NO CANADIAN WINNERS UNDER THE KYOTO ACCORD.
  • The only winners will be countries such as Russia, India, and China, from which Canada will have to buy “emissions credits.” Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.
  • On top of all this, Kyoto will not even reduce greenhouse gases. By encouraging transfer of industrial production to Third World countries where emissions standards are more relaxed, it will almost certainly increase emissions on a global scale."

And this is a brief analysis of what Harper wrote:
  • Carbon dioxide is NOT essential to life - oxygen is. Plants "use" carbon dioxide of which there is too much and which causes climate change.
  • Pollutants pollute the environment, they DO NOT contribute to global warming and climate change. Harper is confusing pollutants with green house gases.
  • Canada is NOT the only country in the world required to make significant cuts in emissions. China, Japan, the United States and the European Union also need to cut emissions, because they cause most of them. Third World countries are exempt because they don't produce huge sums of carbon dioxide/green house gases.
  • Implementing Kyoto will NOT cripple the oil industry. We will still need oil and gas to operate our factories and to run our cars. We just need to make them more efficient by using the modern technologies already in use overseas.
  • Canada does not have to buy "emissions credits". We can simply not meet the targets if we don't have the political will to do so.
So, it's obvious that Harper's reasons for opposing the Kyoto Accord are based on the usual discredited neo-conservative cant which doesn't make any real scientific, or other, sense.


Between Rants

I'm adding a few of my photos between rants to add a little lightness between anything too serious. These photos are from the summer of 2006. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

View from the Malahat Inn, north of Victoria.

Looking south over Howe Sound from the Sea-to-Sky Highway, north of Vancouver.

Saturday 17 November 2007

Thoughts about Vancouver's "Murderous Mounties"

I had something else in mind to continue the blog, but I'm going to write down some thoughts about the killing of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport four weeks ago.

We're now witnessing the attempts, already becoming apparent, to whitewash the behaviour of the airport staff who couldn't be bothered to help a mother locate her arriving son (was that because she has an accent and is obviously not Anglo-Saxon?). Then there's the refusal of Stockwell ("Doris") Day's Border Security Services Agency to explain why their employees didn't notice Robert Dziekanski wandering about the secure arrivals area for ten hours (what were they doing during all that time - sleeping, playing cards, drinking, watching TV, or what?). And, worst of all, we're now being subjected to ongoing attempts by all levels of the RCMP to explain away what happened as an "unfortunate incident".

Most people would believe the RCMP's version of events if it weren't for the video that shows clearly what the four Mounties did and didn't do, as well as several eye witness accounts that corroborate what is apparent in the video.

I know many people, even within my immediate surroundings, who think that "the police" are our friends. It's an ignorant and naive assumption. Many policemen/women are friendly and helpful, of course, but that's not their function. Police forces exist to exercise the state's control over its citizens, in other words, to exercise power. Unfortunately, the chance to exercise power attracts a certain type of personality to join the police force. I know that from many of the military policemen I knew during my time in the Canadian Army (and many ex-military policemen find a home in the civilian police after they leave the military).

So, are the four Mounties who are responsible for Mr. Dziekanski's death irresponsible cowboys? Hopefully, we'll soon find out, but I'm not holding my breath. Canadian authorities have a long history of evading responsibility for their misdeeds that goes back to before Confederation.

Why are the four Mounties still on the job (though apparently re-assigned as though they'd bungled a traffic accident investigation)? I suppose we should be grateful that they haven't been promoted, as has happened to a number of misbehaving Mounties during the past few years.

Police forces claim tasers are safe and are a weapon of last resort. In the present case, the last resort took all of 25 seconds to occur! If tasers are so safe, why have the police who use them in this country killed 18 people with them in the four years they've been in service here? It would be interesting to know how many people have been killed by guns by the police during the same time period.

In fact, if they're so safe, why not taser each of the four Mounties the same number of times they tasered Robert Dziekanski?

This incident proves once again that police forces (or any other state agency) must never be allowed to investigate their own actions. And, of course, any "independent" investigative agency should not be composed of ex-police.

Now, I suppose you think this is an anti-police rant. You couldn't be more wrong! A densely populated modern society needs to be regulated, and for that, police forces are a required element. But, to be protectors of the state and of its citizens, the police (like other government agencies) must be respected by society. The police cannot be above the law; rather, they must be held to a much higher standard of behaviour to retain the respect they need, in order to be effective.

If tasers are not inherently dangerous, then all too often they're obviously being improperly used - either because individual police personnel aren't sufficiently trained, or they're not following their own force's rules of engagement (in other words, they're acting like cowboys). And that behaviour must be stopped!

The Monument at Vimy Ridge

Nothing can be more appropriate to add here than the magnificent monument to the achievement of Canada's volunteer soldiers of World War I. Dedicated in 1936, it's a symbol of bravery and of that rare thing, advanced military thinking outside the box, which led to a decisive victory. Afterwards, it is said, German soldiers were afraid of no one but Canadians.

Saturday 10 November 2007

Thoughts on Remembrance Day

Today, on the day before November 11th, it seems appropriate to start my Rantings & Ravings in earnest with something I wrote right after witnessing the Remembrance Day ceremonies from the Cenotaph in Ottawa in 1998.

Some people will disagree with what I wrote instinctively then, and that I know to be the truth (after some more extensive reading since) today. If you want to know more about what went on then, all you need do is to read Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 published by Random House in 2003. This highly-rated book describes in detail just how the leaders of the U.K. and France, who had learned absolutely nothing between 1914 and 1918, (and to a lesser extent President Wilson of the U.S.) laid the ground work that is responsible for everything that followed.

November 11, 1998

It's Wednesday after-noon, gray, windy, cold. The CBC broadcast of the ceremonies commemorating the 80th anniversay of World War I, reminding us of the millions of men, women, and children killed by war in this century, is just over.

There were thoughtful words to remember the sacrifices made - for many "the ultimate sacrifice", that stirring euphemism for life ended prematurely, violently. Thoughtful words from chaplains, veterans, and broadcast commentators about the need to defend freedom and democracy even unto death.

Unspoken - someone else's death. Not the speaker's, not that of those watching the ceremony, including me.

Thoughts pass through my mind. What or who caused those deaths, who is responsible? Surely not that all-powerful, all-good god of the christian believers who sits above it all watching silently, doing nothing! No, who on earth is responsible?

No, it's not the soldiers. They're just the instrument - they kill, they die!

But who is responsible for starting the killings that we have to remember every year, at least on this day?

Politicians give the orders to go to war, only politicians - never soldiers. Politicians make wars - through acts of omission as much as through acts of commission.

We wouldn't have to remember the millions (100 million innocent civilians and soldiers) who were killed during this century, if the politicians who elected themselves and who let themselves be elected to lead the many countries involved in the various conflicts had done their jobs conscientiously.

On this day we remember first of all World War I. But, if there had been no World War I, there would have been no Russian Revolution, no Stalin, no Hitler, no World War II, no Korean War, nor many of the other conflicts since then.

And what was World War I about? Saving democracy? Ridding the world of a mad dog of a dictator? No, none of those admirable and necessary things we talk about on Remembrance Day have anything to do with World War I!

World War I was a mistake made by foolish politicians in Austria, Russia, and Germany in response to an act of Serbian terrorism. And it was an act of omission by the vainglorious leaders of Britain and France who refused to do what was necessary to defuse the situation because they thought they had the right to control the world.

So, today we have to remember that millions of human beings died miserable deaths because of a few stupid old men in 1914. And death is never glorious, no matter how beautiful the poetry or the monuments! Only life can be glorious! That's what we must always remember!

And, we must, at all cost, remember to keep our politicians in check!

The Premise underlying most of my Future Postings

Canada hasn't had any prime ministers in the last 50 years with any level of vision or sophistication other than Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Here's a Trudeau quote that's worth keeping in mind and that'll explain the basis for much of what I'm going to be saying in future postings -

"We are going to be governed whether we like it or not: it is up to us to see to it that we are governed no worse than is absolutely necessary. We must therefore concern ourselves with politics, as Pascal said, to mitigate as far as possible the damage done by the madness of our rulers."

Friday 19 October 2007

Norfolk Island

This is just a test post to see how videos work on a Blogger blog. This video is a direct link to a "wmv" file hosted on my web server. I prefer this to having videos in FLASH format with advertising.

This is a 15 minute video about Norfolk Island, a South Pacific paradise, half-way between Australia and New Zealand, that I visited in 2000. Here is where most of the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty live. Yes, the mutiny on HMV Bounty was a real event and took place in 1791. Enjoy... :)

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Voices from the past...

Here's an introduction to how my mind works:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.
- William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice
Question: Was Shakespeare writing about all politicians, just about neo-conservatives, or about Stephen Harper in particular?
Note: The emphasis in the last line of the quotation is mine, not the author's.

And these:

"I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance."
- Christopher Marlowe, 1564-93
The Jew of Malta, 1588

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
as when they do it from religious conviction."
- Blaise Pascal, 1623-62

"Man is a religious animal.
He is the only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them.
He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself
and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight."
"O Lord our Father
... help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;
... help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;
... help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
... We ask it in the spirit of love, ... Amen."
- Mark Twain, 1835-1910

Who am I?

Born in Germany, I grew up in Montreal, and, after graduating from McGill University with an honours degree in political science and economics, spent seventeen years in the Canadian Army, leaving for civilian life in 1978 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Between 1988 and 1998, I was Managing Director of Dancemakers, Toronto's second oldest contemporary dance company. It was during the financially lean and often stressful times there (particularly during the post-1995 neo-conservative period which for a time threatened to destabilize Ontario's society), that I began my "pre-occupation" with computers, web design among other things. My latest enthusiasm is for computer-based video-editing.

What else ... oh yes, I like classical music, jazz, literature, the visual arts, film, computers, web design & video-editing! And I'm a proud and nationalistic Canadian, who abhors the modern day curse of neo-conservatism, a failed political ideology that, so far, refuses to die!

Upon retirement from the daily rat-race, I listened to the siren song of close friends on the West Coast and, in 2005,
abandoned the permanently polluted air of Toronto for the anticipation of the occasional earthquake on Vancouver Island and moved my many books, recordings and DVDs, and some furniture, to beautiful Victoria, BC, the most perfect little city in the world.

(I know one other paradise-like location on earth, and that's Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. I'll get around to telling you about that at another time.)

Here are a few pictures of me through the ages... :)

Victoria, May 2003

Anticoli Corrado, Italy, 1978

Quebec City, 1976

Bayreuth, Germany, 1972

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, 1962

Montreal, 1954

Essen, Germany, 1941
(Even at this early age I knew how I'd feel about Steven Harper much later!)

Why this Blog?

If you have to live on this planet, then there's only one place to be ... Canada.

This blog will be my way of keeping in touch with family and friends who are scattered all over the globe. It's also for anyone else who comes across it while wandering through the 'net. There will be lots of opinion on a number of mostly unrelated things that are probably of interest only to me. Among other things, I'll be using it to get some things off my chest about what's being done to our planet and to our country. So, please read this as a sort of cautionary statement.

If you're a neo-conservative and/or a fundamentalist of some sort, this is not the blog for you. I have nothing but contempt for you and what you're trying to do to the world. Nor am I going to be necessarily politically correct. So, for the overly sensitive of you, you can't say I didn't warn you!

Monday 16 April 2007

I set up my Blog

This is the first post to George's Ranting & Ravings. It has no meaning except that there has to be a first post in order to be able to preview the blog and to tweak the blog template.

Besides, I like the picture... :)