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SANDY HOOK

No, I haven’t become beautiful all of a sudden. We have a guest blog from a mom, and a teacher, and a very good writer. It’s longer than our blogs usually are; but it is well worth sitting down with a cuppa something, and reading through, at least once. You will probably read it often.

Heather raises the important questions; and I know that some of you probably won’t agree with everything she says. So we are looking for YOUR thoughts. Post them on the blog and we’ll get a conversation started. Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris, Canberra, and the rest, do not have the answers.

Dave

heather

Sandy Hook

By Heather Conn Byrd

Maybe, just maybe, if I write about my feelings about the Sandy Hook tragedy, I’ll be able to find ways to focus on something else.  Maybe I will be able to drag myself away from my computer, to tame my need to obsessively read every new article and absorb every new piece of information, to read every word describing the victims and what kind of people they were . . . to look at photos of those sweet, smiling faces.  Maybe I’ll be able to “move on.”

But there’s this big part of me that doesn’t want to.  I don’t want to just “move on” from this.  I want to hang in there with this grieving community, even though they’re hundreds of miles away and will never even know who I am.  I want to support them by honoring those they’ve lost, by studying those faces, by praying for the families of the victims and for the survivors.  It somehow feels like I’m coming alongside them, holding their hands from afar, by allowing myself to feel the anguish and cry the tears; by fully recognizing what has been lost here.

As a parent, I’ve had to ruthlessly guard my mind from thoughts of “what if that were my child in the photos?  My child’s little body, broken and lifeless?  My future without my son or daughter?”  I know I can’t allow my thoughts to spiral in that direction, opening the door of my heart to fears that will paralyze me.  So that’s the end of this paragraph.

As a teacher, I can’t help but think about the what-ifs and imagine a similar scenario playing itself out in my school.  Since I’m on a leave of absence this year, I felt somehow displaced on Monday morning, knowing my friends were going back to their classrooms and their students, undoubtedly playing the whole scene out in their minds, substituting their classrooms and closets and hallways (and students and colleagues) for those at Sandy Hook.  I wanted to be there with them, locking arms emotionally and helping each other through the day.  In the aftermath of Friday’s tragedy, I flashed back to every lockdown drill I’ve ever done, analyzing the procedures, wondering what would have been the best action to take had this evil come to our school instead of theirs.

And as I read of the heroics of the teachers at Sandy Hook, those who didn’t survive and those who did, I could completely relate.  Not because I or anyone I know has ever lived through something like this, but because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every teacher I know would have taken the same measures to protect their kids (a.k.a. students), despite the risk to their own lives.

I don’t say that to somehow minimize the heroism of the Sandy Hook educators.

Educators like Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, who lost their lives trying to lunge at the gunman.

Or Anne Marie Murphy, the teacher’s aide who tried to cradle and comfort sweet Dylan Hockley, who was wrapped in her arms when they were both found dead.

Or sweet, young Victoria Soto, who saved some of her students by hiding them away in a closet and trying to divert the gunman before he took her life.

Or the countless teachers and staff who huddled with children in closets and bathrooms and classrooms, comforting them, pushing their own terror down deep so they could remain steady and calm for their students . . . knowing they might die that day.

I’m just saying that while we teachers don’t always have all the answers to unlock a student’s academic difficulties, and although every once in a while we might not email back as quickly as a parent would like, and despite the fact that we just don’t always get stuff right . . . we would not hesitate to risk our lives for the sake of our students.

Last night I went to my daughter’s chorus concert, and the first group to sing was the third grade chorus.  As I listened to their tiny voices, I scanned their faces and spotted several who were in my second grade class last year.  I suddenly had to catch myself, arrest my own emotions, and force myself not to burst into tears as the “what-if” thoughts tried to push their way to the surface of my mind.  I love those kids, and they are not unlike those twenty beautiful children who lost their lives on Friday.  I wanted to rush up to the stage and hold their little cheeks in my hands and kiss the tops of their heads and just feel that they are safe.

Sidebar:  I surely hope it doesn’t seem like I’m responding to this tragedy as a teacher more than I am as a PARENT, for goodness sake.  Like I said before, I can’t allow myself to go there, because of past experiences with irrational, paralyzing fear and the dark place where it takes my mind and spirit.

Of course, as a result of this awful, terrible event, many discussions going on around our country and in the media have to do with three big questions:  What about mental illness?  What about gun control?  Where was God?  I have a few thoughts about those questions.

What about mental illness?  If we haven’t figured out by now that mental illness is REAL and that it causes people to do completely irrational things, then we’re just plain stupid.  And I’m not talking about Asperger’s, which has seemingly come to the forefront of the discussion, even though it is not a mental illness.  It would take a whole heck of a lot more than Asperger’s to cause someone to do something so heinous.  There’s a whole range of things that ARE mental illnesses, but many are very difficult to identify and diagnose, and even harder to treat.  Or so I’ve read.   Lord knows I’m no expert, but I don’t think you have to have a degree in psychiatry to understand the basic fact that it’s all very complicated.

Surely we can do more to reach and extend love to those who suffer from these illnesses, more to educate the public, more to understand the so-called “signs” of mental illness, and find ways to address them as early as possible.  More to support their families, for whom my heart breaks.  Truly.  My heart breaks for the families of those who are seen by most to be weird or anti-social, those who are marginalized.  Even those who aren’t any of those things but who suffer from such severe clinical depression that they take their own lives.  I’ve known these people, and I know their surviving families, and I have fiercely grappled with these situations.

Just like my heart breaks for them, my heart breaks for the mother of the shooter.   This poor woman was the person who loved him the most, more than anyone in the whole world, and who no doubt agonized over how to meet his needs, wondering if he would ever be able to function somewhat normally within a society that would largely never understand him or even try to do so.

This young man who committed such a reason-defying act of murder was once a sweet, innocent toddler.  He was once a tender first-grader, just like the children he slaughtered.  His mother was perhaps the only one who could have loved him enough to have hope for a future for him, and even she must have felt hopeless at times.  Please don’t take this the wrong way . . . but I wonder if her death was the one merciful thing about this whole ordeal, even though it surely wasn’t intended to be.  I cannot begin to fathom what her existence would be like today if she were alive.  Can I say that, even as a Christ-follower who believes in the power of God to heal every broken heart and bring us through even the most horrifying reality?  Am I allowed to think that the best place for her to be today is in the arms of our Heavenly Father and hope like crazy that she’s there?  Dear God, let it be so.

What about gun control?  I don’t like guns.  I’m a little afraid of them, I don’t want them in my house, and I personally know of the tragedy that can occur in a split second that would otherwise be impossible were it not for the presence of a legally-purchased gun.  Still, I’m generally not in favor of a sweeping motion that would prohibit those who feel differently than I do from having the right to have a gun.  But at this moment, this issue is unavoidable, and it would be pointless to be even remotely bothered by the idea that many people want to seriously engage the discussion and call for some changes.

We can’t deny the fact that private gun ownership played a role in this tragedy.  The shooter’s access to the kind of weapon he used in his rampage really can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.  I don’t think it’s unfair to ask why someone would or should have an assault-style weapon in his or her home.  I’m not saying I know what to do about it, but I don’t think we’re in a position to just sweep that detail under the rug and roll our eyes when well-meaning people want to significantly explore the issue.  We’re not the first country to have an event like this one bring the debate over gun control to a head and lead to a definitive and drastic measure.

Personal gun ownership has been outlawed across the UK for years, resulting from a similar tragedy that occurred when a lone gunman entered a school in Dunblane, Scotland, seventeen years ago and killed sixteen five- and six-year-olds and their teacher.  This is such a volatile issue, and we have passionate commentary on both sides to look forward to over the next I-don’t-know-how-long.  I tend to agree with the rhetoric that says that if we disarm all the law-abiding citizens, only the criminals will have access to firearms, and the good guys will have no way of defending themselves.

Perhaps just tighter restrictions should be put in place.  If it’s harder for regular citizens to buy guns in the first place, surely there will be fewer guns available for criminals to buy illegally (like the killers in the Columbine massacre did).  If only certain types of weapons are legal to own (like basic handguns), the more potentially destructive ones won’t be accessible to people like the Sandy Hook shooter.  But I have to admit that the idea of taking away a basic right and freedom, even for good reasons and with the greatest of intentions, makes me more than a little nervous.

Where was God?  I know, in my heart, that God was there.  Somehow.  I don’t believe He had willfully removed Himself from that place, nor do I believe for one second that just because of some silly little idea like “no prayer in schools” that we have removed him.  Do we really think so highly of ourselves that we could implement some puny piece of legislation that is able to keep the Almighty God out of anywhere?  Oh, the arrogance of that notion.  I know for a fact that he has been at my school every single day I was there, because his Spirit lives in me; and no flimsy rule prohibiting prayer or Bible reading in public school can keep Him out.  That’s one of the reasons I teach at a public school.  Just by being there, the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit flow right out of me and every other Christian teacher and directly into the lives of students, parents, and co-workers through silent prayers, words of encouragement, hugs and pats on the head, high-fives, attaboys and attagirls . . . and LOVE.  God is love, and if you’ve read or watched anything about Sandy Hook, you know there was plenty of that going around on that terrible day and in the days since.

Still, I have to wonder how it could have happened in the first place, how God could have “allowed” such a terrible thing, why He Himself didn’t shield those precious, innocent children from the bullets of a madman.  But I will never, ever know the answers to those questions.  None of us will.  I have long since had to come to grips, as so many of us have, with the fact that sometimes unthinkable and atrocious things happen in this world.  I don’t know why.  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.

I’ve heard it suggested by the truly insane that God sent that gunman.  I am personally offended by that thought, and may God have mercy on those who so grossly misrepresent Him.  I have heard some connect this tragedy to a frightening condition of moral decay in our society, and I do believe there is merit to that argument.  I don’t believe events like this are God’s “punishment” for the fact that we’ve murdered millions of unborn children and have arrogantly redefined His standard of marriage (which we have), as some have been accused of implying.

I also don’t believe that the gunman was some kind of unwitting product of an amoral culture, himself a victim of societal decay, unable to be blamed for his actions.  On the contrary, and although I won’t even pretend to know how his mental illness factors into all this, he was responsible for this terrible thing, and by all accounts it was, without a doubt, premeditated.   But perhaps the very possibility of violent tragedies like this one, along with countless other horrible things, is another symptom of our Godlessness.

Sidebar:  Case in point:  Do you know what the other “recommended” stories on MSNBC’s main page were, alongside news of the funeral for Victoria Soto?  I’ll tell you.  They included news of a $23million decision against a teacher who repeatedly sexually abused a fifth grade student in his classroom, an after-school basketball coach who was busted for trying to get a teenage boy to perform in same-sex porn videos for money, and a California couple who were shot when they met with someone who answered the Craigslist ad for an iPhone they were selling.  If these aren’t evidence of moral decay, I don’t know what is.

The one Truth I know, above all else, is that God is.  He IS.  We can’t know everything that means, because His ways are higher than (i.e. beyond our capability to perceive, understand, or otherwise know) ours ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  The good news is that His love is also higher than ours, which means He loves us all in ways we don’t have the capacity to understand, and His love is able to permeate even the darkest of circumstances and provide healing light and life.  He wants us to respond to that love by allowing Him into our lives, to transform us, and to comfort us in tragic times, to give us beauty in exchange for our ashes.  He wants to redeem the ugliness in our lives, our broken hearts, and anything else that needs fixing in us.

He welcomed those little souls into an eternity with him on Friday, and He is there in Newtown with those who have lost so much, comforting them, holding them, ready to bring peace in the absence of any human comprehension, which will never come.  He is poised to take their ashes and give them beauty in exchange, somehow, miraculously, in ways we can never fathom.  We’re never going to figure it out, folks.  But we can accept it.  And then we can rest in it, and leave the heavy lifting to Him.

Here are links to some of the very thought-provoking articles I’ve read over the last few days:

A letter from a teacher to the teachers at Sandy Hook.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/12/19/teacher-letter-to-fallen-teachers-sandy-hook-elementary-school/

An article written by the mother of a son with serious mental illness.

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Mom-of-mentally-ill-son-I-am-Adam-Lanza-s-4122492.php

Profiles of the Victims.  Read what their families want the world to know about them.  Look at their pictures.  Say their names out loud.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/17/officials-release-names-victims-in-connecticut-elementary-school-shooting/

Acts of Kindness Campaign.  It started with 26, but surely it should include 27.  Maybe even 28 . . . the world lost Adam Laska a long time ago, and that loss is tragic, too.

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/17/15972814-inspired-to-act-26acts-of-kindness-to-honor-those-lost-in-newtown-conn?lite

If you’ve read this far, thank you.  I think I have needed to articulate all this. It barely scratches the surface of what’s in my heart, actually, but it’s something. If even one person responds and says something to the effect of, “I feel ya, Heather,” it will mean something to me.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my thoughts, but I know we all agree that this is a terrible, terrible thing, and that we are all broken just a little because of it. And we can agree on LOVE. It is the very nature of God, and it’s available to and through all of us. Let’s find more and more ways, and people to love, my friends.

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IT DOESN’T TAKE A PRESIDENT

IWUZ mottoIWUZ driving to the store to buy a video camera when I flipped on the radio andDave 07 heard;  ——“gunman is dead”. I hoped it was an update on an old case; but it wasn’t.

I have eight grandchildren, and although they are all older than the children at Sandy Hook school; some are the same age as the victims of Columbine. Hug your family.

As I listened to the unfolding horror; 27 dead; 18 of them elementary school children; it occurred to me; “They can’t protect us. They never could”.

Who do I mean by “they”? I mean our government; our bureaucrats; our police; our teachers. None of them ever could really protect us, but for some reason we have turned more and more of our lives, freedoms, and responsibilities over to them.

The result is that we no longer feel the same sense of involvement with with our neighbors that we once did. Nor with their kids. Our kids.

In a famous speech, Hillary Clinton once quoted the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.

She said: “Right now there are parents questioning a popular culture that glamorizes sex and violence, smoking and drinking, and teaches children that the logos on their clothes are more valued than the generosity in their hearts.

She went on to say: ”And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us. “Yes, it takes a village”.

So far, so good.

But then, speaking about her husband Bill, she said: “It also takes a President”.

No, actually, it doesn’t. If only she had stopped with the village. If only our previous governments had stopped with the village; maybe even helped the village, and let the village help the people.

But for the last 70 years, Presidents, and Prime Ministers, and Premiers, and Governors, have “helped” everyone where there might be a possibility to gain votes; and they brought with them an army of bureaucrats, lobbyists; lawyers, and experts in everything to run our lives.

So now, the people of the village hardly know each other because the government is looking after us, all the time, and everywhere; so we don’t really need each other as much as we used to.

Except that they can’t look after us cradle to grave; and we do still need each other. More than ever.

Look at the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island. The Federal Emergency management Agency, (FEMA), was there almost immediately; for photo-ops. Neighbors – from as far away as Oklahoma, were there to help.

And it won’t be governments; but family, friends, and neighbors that will really help grieving families go through this one.

In the end, we can’t always prevent tragedy, but by being involved we can reduce the risk; and we can deal more effectively with the aftermath of tragedy when it does strike.

It doesn’t take a President.

It does take the village.

Let’s go back, for our children’s future.

Dave

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Alberta Politics Canadian Politics Politics

Lawyers + politicians + bureaucrats = CONFUSION

IWUZ mottoDave 07Well, it’s all over. Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford has been cleared of any conflict of interest; and of misleading the legislative assembly regarding her role in awarding the lawyering contract for a ten billion dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

Gene Zwozdesky, her party colleague and House Speaker, has ruled that her declaration that she did not make the decision to award the contract to her ex-husband; still close friend; political mentor; and campaign contributor’s law firm, is perfectly reasonable, because; her mid December 2010, written declaration, that her ex-husbands firm “will be the best firm to represent Albertans”, didn’t necessarily, actually, or positively mean, “will be”; but may have meant “could someday be”, or possibly someday “would be”.

But, even if you drink that pipeline full of Fool-Aid, a problem remains. Until mid February 2011, Alison Redford was Alberta’s Justice Minister; and, between December 22, 2012 and until her resignation; several of her Justice department officials – inexplicably interpreting “will be” to mean, “will be” – enthusiastically sent out several memos indicating that a decision had definitely been made.

One memo from December 22, 2010 between senior justice department officials says: “Call made to Karsten at the successful consortium”. (Carsten Jensen is a partner in the law firm with Redford’s ex-husband.)

Looking back, a January 13, 2011 Justice Department briefing document stated that; “Shortly before Christmas, Minister Redford selected the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers.” (her ex-husband’s firm) (underlines are mine).

What exactly does successful mean? What does selected mean? Does December 22nd qualify as “shortly before Christmas”? (How unequivocal do you have to be to be, um, unequivocal?)

Other inter-office memos discussing the “selection” were circulated; and at least one memo confirming the “selection” was sent to the “successful” consortium; and at least one each to the losers. And a lawyer from the “successful” consortium memo-ed the Justice Department saying that he was looking forward to working with them.

Anyway, Ms. Redford’s official’s puzzling inability to correctly parse, “will be”, could have put the government in jeopardy of a lawsuit by the unsuccessful bidding law firms. After all, prematurely telling them that they had lost the bid might have lead them to prematurely take their foot off the accelerator; or to have ceased – as I once heard it phrased in East Africa –  “plowing the ground”; not that the political ground has ever been plowed in Progressive Conservative Alberta.

So there are questions to be asked.

In the two months between her mid December, 2010 memo, and her mid-February 2011 resignation to clear the way for a run at the leadership of the PC Party; did Justice Minister Redford ever inform her officials that a decision had not been made on the tobacco lawsuit contract; and to stop telling all and sundry that it had?

Were any of these officials that exhibited such flawed judgement in assuming that, “will be” probably means, “will be”, ever reprimanded?

If the lawsuit goes ahead, and the Alberta government wins; can those suffering from smoking related diseases, and the families of those who have died from such diseases, sue the government for profiteering from the sale of a product that they have just proven is a known killer?

IWUZ just wondering.

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Bureaucracy Politics US Politics

WANT CHANGE? LET’S DO IT OURSELVES!

IWUZ reading my last blog which I suppose is quite narcissistic. It’s just that I’m going to be 70 next birthday, and I don’t want to start repeating myself. But, (to repeat myself), here’s what I said at the end of my last blog.

“So, if in fact what America does need, is someone who understands that a change in direction is critical; and someone who might actually have the know-how to accomplish it; then, on November 6 American voters could not have a clearer choice.”

Now, in spite of an outcome promising more of the change that 48% of Americans don’t believe in, (nor do I); I’m thinking that maybe it’s for the best.

Simply changing the occupant of the White House is a bit like installing new tires on a badly damaged car. Unless you intend to rebuild the whole thing it’s a pointless expense. That’s the message of the “six billion dollar blizzard of BS” election campaign; “No significant change from Washington.”

I think it’s pretty clear that forcing a movement towards smaller government must come directly from individuals and families; communities and businesses; who can say to all politicians, with one voice; “Stop! We will not mortgage our children’s and grandchildren’s futures any further”. But how do you get the voices together?

For the past year I have been working on a project called “The Let’s Do It Ourselves Movement”; (LDIO™.org). LDIO™ will be dedicated to encouraging and celebrating stories of self-reliance as practiced by individuals, families, and communities.

LDIO™ will also spotlight, and call to account; politicians who create laws and bureaucracies that run roughshod over the rights, aspirations, and bank accounts of ordinary citizens. Our objective is to provide a platform from which the encroachment of the nanny-state can be halted, and reversed.

With the vast array of communication tools now available; we can educate, encourage, and empower those who already believe that a rollback in the size of government is overdue. We can also inspire others to join us who may be apathetic, or just discouraged.

We used to just assume individual and community self-reliance; our ancestors certainly did. They accomplished important tasks by working together – with no government advice or financial assistance required! Millions still aspire to do the same; and we want to nurture and assist them, and celebrate their accomplishments.  

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Our definition of insanity is: Complain- but do nothing, and hope for change.

We have our web designers working on Phase 1 of the website, www.ldio.org and we are currently aiming for a January roll-out  More details coming in the next blogs.

Let’s go back for our future!

Dave   

There is some interesting post-election analysis in this New York Times piece by Ross Douthat. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/opinion/sunday/douthat-The-Liberal-Gloat.html?_r=0

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Politics US Politics

WHAT AMERICA NEEDS IS JUST SOME COMMON SENSE

IWUZ (last blog – LATE SHOW WAKEUP), talking about the mess we Canadians got ourselves into 40 years ago when we elected a leader who wanted to build a “Just Society” by redistributing wealth. By the early 1990s what we actually had was a “Just about broke” country. We also had a; “What is the government going to do for me today?” society. Our situation looked very much like the Greece of 2012.

At the last hour, a couple of very pointed wake-up calls finally convinced Canadians to stop digging themselves into that hole. The Prime Minister of the day appointed a businessman as Finance Minister, and we went under the knife. The cuts were sudden; deep; vigorously protested; but ultimately effective.

The cure isn’t complete, but Canada is past the crisis and in the best shape of any western, developed country. This year, our annual deficit will be between $20 and $30 billion; and our national debt (accumulated deficits), stands at around $600 billion. With ten times the population and economy, a comparable US federal deficit would be $200 to $300 billion, and the debt would be $6 trillion. Alarmingly, the US deficit will actually be over $1 trillion; and the accumulated debt has reached $16 trillion, and is still growing. In fact, the US added $6 trillion of debt in just the last four years.

Canada’s deficit and debt should be lower than it is; but, like most politicians – even those with a purportedly conservative perspective, ours can’t resist scattering money around to various interest groups; from multibillion dollar international corporations, to societies for the preservation of macramé.

The Canadian government recently spent nearly $300 million to pay tobacco farmers to get out of the tobacco business. Farmers took the money, and then sold or rented the machinery to relatives who kept on growing tobacco. Somehow, I don’t feel healthier, or even more righteous. Just ripped off, poorer, and disgusted.

Our feds also gave $12 million to a multibillion dollar German company to help it build a frozen pizza factory in Ontario in order to create jobs. Well of course; isn’t it always for a great cause? But what it also created was subsidized competition for Mom and Pop Canuck, and their little family owned pizza business. Collateral damage I suppose.

The point is that politicians in every country do this constantly; it cumulatively costs billions, or trillions; and often results in a net loss to the economy, and the social fabric. And it contributes to those huge debts.

About 40 years ago one of our socialist politicians referred to “Corporate welfare bums”. I agreed with his point then, and I do now. I find corporate welfare bums even more odious than individual welfare bums, although I have little time for either. (That being said, I believe we should, personally, and through our churches, and service clubs, contribute the time, and the finances, to assist all those who have genuine needs.)

Now to the issue. It seems to me that the current occupant of the White House has no concept of smaller government. He appears to be a classic statist, in that he genuinely believes, at a gut level, that government somehow holds the solution to most problems faced by individuals, corporations, and society at large. He’s had almost no exposure to business, has never borrowed against his home to start or expand a business, cut his own salary in order to make payroll, or laid anyone off in order for the remaining jobs to survive. The one time that we know of that he worked in a private business, he said he felt like “A spy behind enemy lines”.

And yet private businesses are the legal structure within which entrepreneurs and investors create jobs, products and services, and therefore, wealth. And yes, taxes to spend on defense, highways, and Medicare. It seems to me that what America urgently needs is a businessman – or woman; having had hands on experience running businesses. A major bonus would be that some of those businesses badly needed a turnaround specialist, and that this person was successful in doing exactly that. 

So, if in fact what America needs is someone who comprehends the fact that a change in direction is critical, and who also might actually have an idea how to accomplish it; then I’d say that on November 6th, American voters could not have a clearer choice.

As a Canadian, and a friend, I can only hope and pray that they make the right one. 

“A nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket, trying to lift himself up by the handle.” — Winston Churchill

Categories
Alberta Politics Politics US Politics

Late Show Wakeup

IWUZ watching a recent clip from Dave Letterman’s, Late Show. You know; the talk show that the President of the United States considers more important than the death of an ambassador, and embassies on fire. On the show, Letterman asked the President how big the US national debt was; and seeing it wasn’t on Dave’s teleprompter, and he didn’t have his along; the Telepromtee in Chief allowed that he couldn’t remember. To be fair, “We are sixteen trillion dollars in debt”; is hard to say – even for a President whose verbal skills rival those of Slick Willie.

But then, the President reassuringly opined that, however big the debt is, it’s not concerning, because; “We owe it to ourselves”. For me it was, as Yogi Berra put it; “déjà vu all over again”.

A couple of generations ago, during the late 60s to mid 80s, we Canadians had an unfortunate experience with a Prime Minister named Pierre Trudeau. He was the leader of the moderately socialist Liberal Party; an academic; an intellectual; a great orator; had never had to make payroll; and wanted to build a “Just Society”- as he called it; by redistributing wealth.

Redistributing wealth?! Now it’s déjà vu for you too, eh? (you too huh?- if you don’t speak Canadian).

Canadians bought this “Just Society” idea, hook, line, and sinker; and, just like with LBJ’s Great Society; entitlements proliferated, and costs soared. By the late 1980s Canada was deep in debt; but we were reassured by another high profile politician, the leader of the “socialism is the future party”, that; “The debt isn’t a problem because we owe it to ourselves”. And that’s why the Late Show tête à tête stopped me cold. I’d heard that line before, and it nearly destroyed us.

By 1994, Canada received a warning from the World Bank that we were in deep trouble. Then, the Wall Street Journal referred to Canada as; “An honorary member of the Third World”; and Canadians finally clued in to what Preston Manning had been preaching about. Remember him from the, “ARE WE THERE YET” blog? He’s the guy who said, over and over; “We’re digging ourselves into a debt hole. We gotta stop digging!”

When Canada finally woke up and changed its direction, its Deficit to Gross Domestic Product level was 6%. The US Deficit to Gross Domestic Product level is now around 10%. And, unlike sea levels which I’m sure have been going down for the last four years; the US federal debt inevitably keeps rising. If the interest rate on the debt doubles or triples, which is also almost inevitable —-  Prefer not to think about it. But the uncomfortable truth is that the US federal debt has been climbing for over ten years. Hello there Republicans, and George W. Bush?

Currently, every American child has an inheritance of minus $50,000; starting the day they are born.   Sixteen trillion dollars in debt and no end in sight. It is awfully hard to say.

So can the hole digging be stopped? Not easily, but Canada did it; so yes it can.

Categories
Alberta Politics Politics US Politics

THE BATTLE FOR LAST PLACE

IWUZ talking to a friend of mine the other day. His wife has a bone chip in her knee; she needs an operation to have it removed, but, before she can have surgery, she needs an MRI. Waiting time for an MRI? Who knows?

Under Canada’s “best in the world, (according to the left- wingers), free, government paid for, well actually taxpayer paid for, system It could be two weeks or six months. So she’s bought a cane so she can get around and function while she waits. (You can pay $700 and have it done privately. That drives the left-wingers nutser.)

Will this waiting cost the system less? Not unless she dies, and that’s not likely from a gimpy knee. It will in fact cost the system a lot more; her lost productivity, doctor’s visits, and complications. But she bears the pain. She got screwed by one of the two worst health care systems in the developed world.

So, what about the best in the world, (according to the right-wingers), American system? Well, if you have lots of money, or an employer who provides a good insurance plan, you’re home free.

But if you are uninsured, or you are working for a business that goes broke, or you are laid off, (millions were in the last downturn); and a week after you lose insurance coverage you have a heart attack; it might cost you $150,000 just to stay alive.

You’re in your mid 50s, 10 years from Social security; your net worth has been reduced from $500,000 to $350,000, (tough to retire on); you’re unable to return to work, so you have no way to bring it back up. In fact you have to draw on the $350,000 for the next ten years until Social Security kicks in. You have been a tax paying, hard working, patriotic American, but you just got screwed by one of the worst health care systems in the developed world.

Whose systems are the best? Well, first let’s clear away some mythology. Canada does not have a purely public system. It is in fact about 40% privately funded and delivered. And the American, Mom and apple pie, private, free enterprise system? It’s actually about 40% public, and if you’re on welfare, or over 65, lucky you!

In Australia and New Zealand and many European countries; (I know, it’s hard to contemplate Europeans getting anything right); both sides have stopped posturing long enough to ensure that the taxpayers, through their government, collectively insure that no one is ruined by catastrophic health care costs. But anyone can buy additional, private insurance if they wish, or simply pay out of their pocket.

For any government, shouldn’t the point of health care be only about what is best for all its citizens? Canada and the US are both long overdue for an adult conversation on health care.

Going back for our future

Dave

Categories
Bureaucracy Politics US Politics

STATISTICS ARE USELESS WITHOUT COMMON SENSE

Statistics are pretty meaningless, or misleading – unless you apply common sense. In Canada they have a federal program called Equalization. The federal government collects taxes, and then redistributes the money to top up the budgets of the poorer provinces, purportedly so all Canadians can have access to a roughly equal lifestyle. What in fact happens is that receiving provinces often use the money to provide better services than the contributing provinces.

In Quebec you can take your kids to daycare for $7. Not per hour; per day. Quebec gets the largest share of Equalization,  and is over $200 billion in debt. Alberta contributes the most, and has no debt. For American readers, soon to go to the polls; that that is how it works when politicians and bureaucrats get into the redistribution business. Caveat emptor!

What these hare brained equalization /  redistribution schemes fail to consider is that the average cost of living in a poorer province or state is usually less than that in a wealthier province or state. (I misspoke. It’s not the schemes that are hare brained, its the people who throw them together to buy our votes. And if it works, it’s us.)

For example:  in the United States in 2008 – 2009,  Mississippi had the lowest median household income – $35,693. The Northeast had 4 of the wealthiest states and the South had 9 of the poorest ones. However, when differences in local cost of living were factored in, a Mississippian earning $38,000 could live as well as a New Yorker in Manhattan earning $93,000.

Common sense would suggest that unless all the costs of living can be accurately and fairly factored in, and all the advantages and disadvantages – very subjective here – of living in one place over another, (hard to go fishing on Manhattan; limited live theater in Mississippi, can’t climb mountains in Saskatchewan), that governments would be well advised to keep their noses out of income redistribution, and let people choose to move to where the jobs they are suited for are; and to where they want to live.

Going back for our future

Dave

Categories
Alberta Politics Politics US Politics

THAT’S TERRIFYING!

Plastics have been demonized for decades, but a British study shows that they are well down the pollution list. Here’s an interesting factoid from a recent article in The Economist.

“A cotton tote bag must be used 131 times before greenhouse gas emissions from making and transporting it improve on disposable plastic bags. The figure rises to 173 times if the plastic bags are reused as garbage bin liners. (We do that)

The carbon, (they surely mean CO2) footprint of a paper bag that is not recycled is four times that of a plastic bag.”

Here’s a blog I wrote six years ago.

2012  IWUZ at my local, Natural – and greener than thou – Foods store the other day to pick up some Chia seeds and high potency fish oil. I walked up to the check out, and the twenty-something young cashier chirped out: “Would you like a paper bag for 25 cents or a reusable bag for two dollars?”

I couldn’t resist. “Do you know they have to kill trees to make paper bags? No plastic bags?”

Twenty-Something: “Paper bags biodegrade. Plastic bags don’t.”

Me: “So what? It goes to a landfill.”

TS: Plastic bags could last for ten thousand years! That’s terrifying!

Me: “So what? It’s a landfill.”

TS: “That’s terrifying!”

Me: Why?”

TS: “That they would sit there for ten thousand years without biodegrading. That’s terrifying!”

Me: “It’s a land fill. Twenty five years ago I read an article in a science magazine about the Fresh Kills landfill in New York City. They dug down 30 feet and one of the things they found was a 15 year old ham sandwich, perfectly preserved. It hadn’t biodegraded at all.”

TS: “It must have been full of chemicals or something! That’s terrifying.”

Although the girl looked Caucasian, by this time I had the uneasy feeling I was dealing with a greenie who had been trained in North Korea.

Me: “No, it’s lack of oxygen. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

TS: “That’s terrifying!”

I gave up. I suppose I might have marginally raised my status in TS’s eyes had I told her that we re-use plastic grocery bags to line the garbage and trash containers; rather than buy them separately at the store. And we have four rain barrels. But I didn’t. I paid my 25 cents, and walked out with TS looking at my back and thinking; “That’s terrifying.”

I walked to my car, reflecting on brainwashed twenty-somethings who somehow are taught not to think, and thought: “That’s terrifying!”

Teach your children well!

Dave Reesor

Categories
Uncategorized

The Sad Life of Outliers

IWUZ considering the lonely existence of “Outliers”. (This is not about belly buttons so read on). Outliers are outsiders – with somber overtones of actually being an outcast. What got me thinking about this was a column by Jeffrey Simpson; a prominent, left leaning columnist here in the Great White North. He was bemoaning the fact that, under a Conservative government Canada has – along with the US and a few others, become an outlier. How did we get to this sad state?

First of all, Canada, (and the US), have refused to borrow money to lend to the Europeans. By increasing our debt so the Europeans could increase their debt, we would help them solve their debt crisis. Got it? So by giving the appearance of exercising common sense, (and the Canadian PM suggesting that the Europeans look for some, which Simpson called “hectoring”), Canada has become an outlier.

Mr Simpson is also upset by the fact that Canada was not given a seat on the UN Security Council. In this case, Canada is an outlier because it supports Israel. Since Israel is a democracy, and the Security Council has, over the years, steered the world towards peace with the guidance of thugocracies and kleptocracies such as Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Iraq; actual democracies are all pretty much outliers at the United Nations. They are really good only for their money.

I suppose, to regain some prestige, Canada could have sought an ambassadorship with the UN’s World Tourism Office. After all, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was given an appointment as a World Ambassador for Tourism. Instead, on principle, Canada withdrew entirely. No wonder it is an outlier. Common sense and principles are so passé at the UN.

Back on planet Earth, the Republicans of Indiana rejected long time Republican Senator Richard Lugar as their candidate for the November elections, and installed a Tea Party Republican in his place. Senator Lugar was an “Inlier”. (Don’t look it up because I just made it up). Mr Lugar was famous for being able to work together with his opponents and get things done. Even President Obama said he could work with Senator Lugar. The Senator and his comrades worked together so well over his 30 year career that the United States is now $16,000,000,000,000 – that’s trillions, in debt; and is adding nearly 4 billion per day, or 120 billion per month. Isn’t compromise grand!! Each US citizen, including children and grandchildren, now owes about $50,000 as their share of the debt. Teenagers have a reason to be rebellious. Newborns have a reason to cry.

You might remember I mentioned Preston Manning a few blogs ago. He was the ultimate outlier politician who preached “We’ve gotta stop borrowing; gotta stop borrowing, gotta stop borrowing”; to the derision and disdain of the left and the mainstream media. But then one day the World Bank warned Canada that its position was precarious, and The Wall Street Journal named Canada an honorary member of the Third World, and Canada finally noticed the cliff. Fifteen years later Canada is in relatively good shape.

So what’s my point? Well, when you’re trying to avoid going over a cliff, compromise is a dirty word. When you know you are right, keep talking. The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. And never give up.

Let’s go back for our future

Dave