Meandering through my memories

I’ll be 76 this year and while I’m still fascinated by what the future may hold in store for me, every so often, I reflect on some of the things I’ve seen over the span of my life.

When I was born, Canada consisted of nine provinces and two territories. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador ceased being a British territory and joined Confederation as Canada’s tenth province. So that means the last Father of Confederation, Joey Smallwood, was alive during my lifetime. Fun fact: The call letters of every radio and television station in Canada start with the letter “C” except one. St. John’s Newfoundland station VOCM was in existence before Confederation and they kept their call letters. Today, Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories, the Northwest Territories having been split and the eastern portion is now called Nunavut. I remember the great debate over choosing Canada’s now familiar maple leaf flag. I also remember I was opposed to it at first for I had served in the military under the red ensign, but I now embrace it fully. I remember Expo ‘67, the world’s fair held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year and the excitement throughout the country at the time. I remember the dark days of the October Crisis, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) invoked the War Measures Act to put an end to the bombings and kidnappings. British diplomat James Cross and Quebec’s Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte were kidnapped. Mr Cross was later released, but M Laporte was murdered. Eventually most of the FLQ members involved were arrested and served time. I remember when Canada had a female Prime Minister – Kim Campbell. Her government didn’t last long, being brought down on a non-confidence motion.

Internationally, I remember hearing and watching much from news reports. The conquest of Everest (I’ve always had one question about that: if Hillary and Tensing were the first people to climb to the summit, how did the Sherpa guides know the safest path up unless they’d done it before?; the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second. One memory I have of that is the nuns telling us we couldn’t sing “God Save the King” any longer and spending a good hour getting us to properly sing “God Save the Queen”. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on leave from the army when that got serious and expected to be recalled every time the telephone rang. I remember the Kennedy Assassination and where I was (sitting at my desk at work in Toronto). The rise and later fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet-style Communism. Man landing on the moon. I remember that when Armstrong took that small step for man, I was sitting in my car in an A&W in Scarborough Ontario.

This is but a small glimpse into my memories. I have more obviously, but won’t go into them. And, as I said back at the beginning, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We do live in interesting times.

Cat.

Horrors! A spelling cop!

I received the following as a comment intended for my post “Bring him to justice – progress report”:

Pigment Red 122
obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

First, this person has apparently never heard of spellcheck. Second, I suspect that his/her main quarrel is that I use English, not American spellings, so the addition of the “u” in words such as “colour” are upsetting him. Too bad. I was educated in Canada so find it natural to use English spellings. (As a matter of trivia, one of the first things our first Prime Minister passed was a law requiring the “u” in words such as “neighbour” and “colour” and I don’t think that’s been repealed.) I will admit that it is well worded, which I’ve found is quite rare in comments of this type.  Finally, does the writer think I don’t know how to proofread?

I will definitely come back again. Please don’t. If your only comments are going to be criticisms of my spelling, which apparently doesn’t mesh with your view of the way things “should” be, go elsewhere.

Since it’s January 1, I wish all my followers and readers a safe and happy 2020. Remember to hug an artist, we need love (and spellcheck) too.

Cat.

Inform me, don’t threaten me

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Canada is preparing for a federal election this October. While the official campaign hasn’t begun, I’ve seen some third-party ads claiming one leader or the other – Scheer or Trudeau – is unfit to govern.

In advance of the start of campaigning, I issue the following plea to the leaders of the four main parties, Ms Elizabeth May and Messrs Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau: I don’t want to hear your opinion on how bad the other party will be for Canada, I want to know how you plan to improve our lot.

For the most part in the last election the Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties took the high road. The Conservatives, then under Stephen Harper, tended toward scare tactics, smear campaigns and dirty tricks. Remember the “Robocall Scandal”?

The current leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer has, from comments made since assuming leadership, apparently modelled himself after Donald Trump. Andy, you don’t mind if I call you “Andy”, such an election campaign is guaranteed to lose my vote. Also Andy, extravagant claims and promises like we heard from south of the border in 2016 and 2017 won’t help either.

I address to the all parties and candidates: Don’t threaten me with doom if the other guy wins. Present me with reasonable, attainable options. I’m sure I speak for others when I say this.

It has been my observation that Canadian voters don’t vote a certain way because their parents did or they have in the past. They consider the issues and options before casting their ballots.

Just remember dear followers and readers, when October comes, vote for who you consider the best candidate.

Cat.

Echoes from the past

I just watched a documentary on PBS called “The Lavender Scare” which began during the Eisenhower era. Much like the House Un-American Committee led by Joseph McCarthy, which rooted out Communists in government (the “Red Scare”), this group was devoted to uncovering homosexuals in government positions. Thousands lost their jobs over perceived “deviant” (their word) behaviour. It wasn’t until 1995 that President Clinton signed an order banning the practice.

Based on current events I see echoes of this, beginning with the banning of trans people from the military. I don’t think it will end there, at lease not with the current administration. This is a pessimistic view I know, but has been shown in the past couple of years, there doesn’t appear to be any depth to which they will not sink.

While not on a governmental level, such discrimination does occur in Canada. In the sixties and seventies, I worked with two people at different times who were fired for being gay. In the late ‘90s, I lost a job for being trans. I wasn’t fired outright, the company just made it impossible for me to do the job. At the time, I worked in a position that required a government licence. After I came out to my employer, when the licence was due to be renewed, they declined to give me a new application and when I insisted, they did, but then refused to submit it to the appropriate government body. The Human Rights Tribunal had fun with that one.

So even though the “Lavender Scare” is officially over, it continues in a lighter shade.

Cat.

As usual you have no idea

I don’t usually comment on American politics, but every so often the apprentice president says something that cries out for comment from outside your borders. Someone please tell me I didn’t see this. Last night I caught a news item that showed the a p apparently making the claim the Mueller investigation was really a thinly disguised attempted coup aimed at deposing him.

Donny, I know you claim to be a stable genius and have a big brain, but do you know the definition of “coup”? Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary defines the word: a sudden, violent and illegal seizure of power from a government.” “Sudden, violent and illegal”. Given the length of time the Mueller probe took, I think we can discount “sudden”. “Violent”? Well, I suppose if you count paper cuts you could call it violent and as for “illegal”, Donny, Mueller was appointed by your Attorney General – you know, the top attorney in the country – so how, other than in your mind, could his investigation be considered anything but legal. And I recall reading that most of the people Mueller used were Republicans, just as you claim to be. So rather than a coup, if you’re correct in the intentions, the correct word would be “mutiny”. For your benefit, in case your big brain can’t understand, the Oxford University Dictionary defines a mutiny as a rebellion against authority, especially by soldiers or sailors against their officers.

Information had been received to the effect there was possible interference by a foreign power in the voting for the 2016 election. This information also showed there may have been contact or co-operation (“collusion”) between this power and people working with either your election campaign or other Trump corporate entities. These claims had to be investigated, not just to prove or disprove their veracity, but to preserve the integrity of the American electoral system. You do understand this, don’t you? It wasn’t, as you constantly decry, a witch hunt.

Let’s for a moment give credence to your claim. First, from what I’ve seen in other countries, a coup usually involves the military. I haven’t noticed any armed troops patrolling the streets of Washington or other major cities, or laying siege to the White House or Mar a Lago. Have you? And who exactly is staging this coup? Is it some nefarious “deep state” controlled by your favourite bete noir, Barack Obama? Or is perhaps being orchestrated by your other whipping boy, the “fake news”?

Okay, this used up my daily quota of sarcasm. Time to get serious. I’ve long maintained there will not be federal elections in 2020 because Trump will find something to use as his “Reichstag fire”. A brief history lesson: in 1933, a fire was set at the Reichstag, the seat of the German government. While a Dutch Communist was charged and convicted of the fire, there have been rumours the fire was actually set by a member of Hitler’s own staff. But the fire gave Hitler the excuse to suspend elections for 14 years and as there was no opposition, nobody could stop him. My view is that once the Democrats choose a presidential candidate to oppose Donny he will find a reason to cancel the elections, suspend the Constitution and impose martial law, especially if the Democratic candidate appears to have a chance of winning. And if the word “coup” begins appearing is his Twitter rants and campaign rallies, he may be preparing the way for such actions as mentioned in the previous sentence to be acceptable to his followers.

I really hope I’m wrong in this, but as has been noted elsewhere, Trump seems to admire the way Hitler ran Germany and those actions I outlined are similar to Hitler’s actions in 1933. I’ve been studying Germany between the wars because the effects of the rampant inflation interested me (a wheelbarrow filled with money to buy a loaf of bread for example) and obviously the rise of Hitler took place during that period. I’m appalled to note that many of Hitler’s actions I see reflected now, some eight decades later.

America, your young men and women, as well as those from many other nations, died to stop Hitler. Don’t let any more die to protect this dictator.

Cat.

Dear America

I must admit you both mystify me and frighten me. The current administration is especially worrisome. Before I go any further, I must state I am writing the from outside your borders, so I have not extensively studied your history.

As I understand it, the United States was settled by immigrants fleeing tyranny and religious persecution in various parts of Europe. If this is as accurate as I’ve been led to believe, can you explain something please? Why is it you, in the form of your government are trying to prevent people fleeing a similar situation from entering your country? What ever happened to “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”? Or does that not have an asterisk after it? Something like *”Provided those masses are white Christians”?

Since January 2017 I’ve noticed something of a paradox in your country. There appears to have been an increase in xenophobia, which is commonly defined as “a fear of foreigners”. This of course could lead to the situation described in the previous paragraph. Yet at the same time your leader seems to have no problem interfering or attempting to interfere in the affairs of other nations through threats of tariffs or other means. America has long considered itself a shining beacon in the world, worthy of being emulated. Unfortunately, in the past almost two years, the current administration has dimmed that beacon and turned that perception into one of bully and laughingstock.

On the level of the individual, I admit I am completely baffled by the way you approach politics. From what I’ve seen, both online and through personal contact, if your parents vote for one particular party, that’s the way you vote. Is this because “what’s good enough for m parents is good enough for me” or did you examine the parties and candidates and make your own decision? My sons were raised to think for themselves and to question things. One result of that is that the politics of my oldest son are nothing like mine. But he’s taken the time to look at candidates and issues and reached his own conclusions. I also cannot fathom the way many of you register as supporters of a particular party.

Another thing I and many of my friends fail to grasp is the chauvinism displayed by many Americans. Yes, we too are proud patriots, but we don’t feel the need to proclaim that by flying our national flag from our homes. National pride is a good thing, but by constantly telling everyone what a great country your have, you actually come across as insecure about that greatness.

Finally, I’ll just come out and admit it: Your President scares the crap out of me. How many times since he was sworn in on that day in January 2017 has ne pushed the world to the brink of war? People, a war with another nuclear nation won’t just affect the two warring parties. Radiation won’t magically stop at he borders of the nations involved. It will affect all of us. An analogy might be the Icelandic volcano that erupted. The cloud from that grounded all air traffic in Europe for weeks stranding thousands. Radiation from a war would spread over a much wider area. I can only hope that last night’s election results can put a leash on some of his more outlandish pronouncements and actions.

I am also deeply disturbed by presidential actions and directives aimed at the LGBT communities. Whether he wants to admit it or not, many people who stand under this umbrella are making valuable contributions to American society, such as serving in the military. Yet he wants to legislate them out of existence,

I haven’t studied political science or international relations. I’m just someone who observes then thinks about what I’ve seen. What I’ve written here is based upon that, one more observation before I close: it will take the United States of America at least a decade after the current administration leaves office to recover from and repair the internal and international damage.

Cat,

History in our hands

Recently I set up my computer so that rather than a static desktop background, it shuffles through the photos in my scenery album. I should mention that I’ve got photos going back to 2007 on my hard drive – and yes, I’ve got them backed up – when I got my first digital camera, which was a Polaroid PDC 2030. I’ve upgraded since then and now use a Canon DSLR, or my phone if I don’t have the Canon.

Earlier tonight, I was staring at the screen while the microwave warmed my coffee and I realized something I hadn’t thought of before. As I said, I’ve got it set on shuffle so the photos are in random order, or as random as a computer can make them, and some images came up and I said to my cat (who wasn’t listening as usual) “Well, I’ll never be able to take that shot again because that location doesn’t exist.”

If, like me, you enjoy taking photos of scenery, either in your own area or on trips, you too may have images of sites that are no longer there in the same condition they were when you captured their likeness. The current header photo is a good example of that. Two months after I took this shot, a pedestrian bridge was erected across the creek and effectively cut the photo in two, destroying the peaceful scene. And I have other examples as well of places that have been significantly altered by “progress” since I took my shot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious photographer or just a casual shutterbug, you could have photos of historic significance on your hard drive, or in a box somewhere.

A few years ago, I had a showing at the local library. This show, titled “Listen to the Preacher Man”, consisted of photographs of various churches in southern Durham Region. At the end of the week long show, I asked the head of the historical department of the library if she wanted any of those photos for her files. Of the twelve I’d had on display, she took nine that showed places of worship in Pickering and a part of Ajax called Pickering Village (the original “Pickering”). Suggestion: if you have photos of buildings or areas in the municipality in which you live that no longer exist or have been altered, consider asking the historical department of your local library if they’d like copies. If they accept, while you might not get paid for them, you may be able to negotiate a price for a tax receipt. And, it also means you won’t have to store them any longer.

In the meantime, keep taking those photos and remember to hug an artist, no matter what medium they choose for they need love too. And also – smile for the camera.

Cat.

America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.

What will he try next?

Ever since he won the Republican nomination people have been comparing Donald Trump’s various pronouncements to those of Adolph Hitler during the 1930’s. This past weekend the apprentice president (my term for him) made comment on the fact the government of the People’s Republic of China is debating a motion to allow President Xi Jinping to remain president for life. The apprentice president’s comment was to the effect maybe the US should try that someday.

That set off alarms in my mind for last year I mentioned to a friend that we’d seen the last free election in the States. In my gloomy mind, I could see a crisis manufactured that would require the 2020 elections to be suspended “in the interests of national security” for the foreseeable future, which would leave the apprentice president in charge. Think it couldn’t happen?

Don’t forget the apprentice president seems to admire Hitler’s methods and some of his ideas and don’t forget Hitler used the Reichstag fire to postpone free elections in Germany until 1946. What will be the donald’s version of the Reichstag fire?

For those unsure of the reference to the Reichstag fire, a brief primer. One night, there was a fire at the Riechstag (think “Congress”). A Dutch immigrant, who was a Communist sympathizer, was arrested, tried and found guilty of the crime. Many people now believe he was framed and it was actually an inside job, the purpose of which was to bring in further restrictions on the populace and give an excuse to suspend elections

Some historians have pointed out the donald has already followed some of the things Hitler did, such as demonizing the press (“fake news”); done his best to incite animosity toward immigrants; incite mistrust in the courts and law enforcement and marginalise certain religions. I might add, that even if he himself isn’t capable of engineering such an outcome himself, there are others inside and outside his administration who would gladly take such steps for him.

I really hope I’m wrong in my assessment, but I have a nagging feeling I’m right.

Cat.

Are they at it again?

Some of you may remember the films produced during WWII and how they all seemed to portray the Americans (often led by John Wayne) taking on and defeating the evil Axis powers. They were meant to instill a sense of patriotism in the viewers.

Again, you may remember the (usually not very good) invaders from space movies that were popular during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. In these the aliens were meant to be seen as analogous to the “Red menace” and, as with the movies of the ‘40’s, once again the Americans were always victorious.

These movies, in addition to entertainment, were intended to instill a sense of patriotism and a belief in the invincibility of the American armed forces. Hollywood has often been used as a propaganda tool, as it was during the Second World War and the cold war.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the studios and other independent producers of television programming are at it again. By “it” I mean pumping up the patriotism and faith in the invincibility of American forces,. Times have changed greatly and too much has happened for people to believe in the infallibility of US forces but they are still a formidable opponent. Three new shows this year, “Seal Team”’ “The Brave” and “Valor”, appear to be designed to put a positive face on the military. I find it more than coincidental that we have three new shows glorifying the armed forces.

Given the Apprentice President’s words and actions, especially regarding North Korea and Kim Jong Un, and Kim’s responses, it appears war grows closer every day ( or hour – I have seen any new tweets today.) Shows such as these could have the effect of, as I said, increasing feelings of patriotism in viewers as well as prepare them mentally for the possibility of war. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and it really is just coincidental these shows all appeared in the same season, for I know that living north of the US/Canada border won’t protect me if everything does fall apart.

All we can do in the meantime is let ourselves be entertained and pray that calmer heads in both Pyongyang and Washington prevail.

Cat.