General discussion

"There's no place like home. I didn't say there was no place

better, I just said there's no place like it." Lois McMaster Bujold

I love the United States despite a desire to whack it upside the head with a 2 by 4. But I can't escape memories of the old Camden Yards, and Brooksie, and watching the Colts on TV, and our house just outside Baltimore where we moved about 1951 to a town that had about 3000 people in it, and is now virtually part of Baltimore. Nor can I forget our farm bordering a park where I learned to shoot and hunt and fish, and explore the wilds, and hear birds that you never heard in the more populated areas and look for animals, and follow tracks in the snow, and swim and be a kid.

But then I read James' post about the financial situation in the US, and while not a reliable or unbiased source, he does communicate the anguish and the fear that stalk retirees and those over 50 in the US, and I've looked at the crime statistics for Baltimore which are horrendous now, and I can't help thanking my lucky stars for moving me up here despite the sometimes nasty winters.

Even though my wife ate up all my money and my son's college fund, I can still just manage on the pension I have here from two levels of government, and my Social Security cheque (sic). And there's no threat of cut off, or reducing the pension mostly because Canada's economy, thanks to regulation, hardly suffered a blip from the Wall Street Crash. Various banks were hard hit, but not beyond reason, and with no necessity of Government intervention.

Should Social Security cut my payments, the Province will make up the difference, because Canada believes its seniors shouldn't eat dog-food and live in hovels. Should anything drop me below $1340 a month, the Province will step in and guarantee me $1564 a month. Unfortunately, I currently fall between those numbers, and have to make do on about $1430. I'd love the extra $135 a month, but such is life.

I deeply empathize with what my countrymen are going through. I think the situation is dreadful, but that's what you get for electing Republicans to run the country. Are you better off than you were under Jimmy Carter? Not a chance! All the income charts show that income has been declining for the bottom 90%, has stayed flat for the next 9% and has soared for the 1%. You've been robbed by your own countrymen, who have purchased an entire political party, and a good chunk of the other one just to hedge their bets.

And about everybody's favourite whipping boy, Jimmy Carter. That man has more integrity, and more courage in his left foot than almost all the Republicans who have served since him, in Congress, in the Senate, or as President.

How you could believe Ronald Reagan was Presidential material, or George W. Bush is beyond me, and is beyond the comprehension of anyone not inside the US. The cause is low voter turnout, and the cause of that is the perception that the game is rigged.

The rich vote their interests, the True Believers vote their perception of their interests of becoming one of the rich, but a good half of the middle class and the poor tend to be so depressed by their situation that they don't vote. What was the voter turnout for Obama in 2008? 56.3%, the highest turnout since 1968 when it was 60%.

The sooner money is removed from politics, the sooner the election process is reduced to what it is in most democratic countries, 6 weeks, maybe 8 instead of being a permanent situation of campaigning and raising money for elections every two years for Congress, pawning their souls to the devil in order to eke out one more term, instead of turning their attention to governing responsibly.

The Founding Fathers thought they were creating a system which would keep Congressmen accountable to their constituents. Instead it's devolved into the Congressman being accountable to his contributors and divorced from his constituents. That's what Inside the Beltway has come to mean.

My heart really does break when I read the news from my home. How so many ideals could be brought so low by such a tiny selfish minority is a travesty of the democratic process.

And there's no new FDR in the offing. Someone who cares about people not of his class, but of all classes. Who believes that rights are unalienable for everyone, and not just the richest 1% or even 10%. Let's turn this around before America begins to consume itself.

Like the epidemic of Obesity which leads to Type 2 diabetes, America is a sick nation which needs radical surgery to change it. If there was an honest Republican, I'd vote for him in a second, but in lieu of that, I'll be voting Democratic again this year, because I have been more impressed by Obama than disappointed by him. And utterly alienated by the Republican Noise Machine which is so obviously in the pocket of the special interests.

Special interests was a very clever bit of projection on the part of Republicans starting with Nixon. The Republican Party has been a party of Special interests since the 1870's. The party of Wealth, and Business. Only under Teddy Roosevelt did it shake that for 8 years. The Democratic Party has always been the party for everyman, and everywoman. It's policies have been geared to the universal interest of the betterment of everyone, the raising of the floor, the provision of a safety net, because the better the bottom 50% does, the better the next 49% does, and I've never heard of a situation where the 1% suffered, except through their own actions, viz 1929, and 2007-9, though they seem to have siphoned off enough of the Bailout to keep themselves in Champagne and yachts and multi-million dollar homes.

About projection, that is where a patient projects his conflict issues onto a therapist. It's a very helpful situation in psycho-therapy. In Politics it is the projection of the dirty little secret of one party onto the other through clever wording. The Republicans have almost always been the party of Wealth and Business, so they accuse the Democratic Party of being the party of a collection of minority interests, severing those minorities from the body politic of the United States as if they weren't equal citizens, and their interests weren't helpful to the majority of Americans. As I said before, whatever elevates the least of these my brothers enhances me, and everybody else in the country.

The Wealthy and Corporations have made it clear by their banking habits and their outsourcing of production and their fictional Head Offices in the Caymans and elsewhere, and their political choices that the the American public, the body politic of the nation, is just another Third World country to be exploited. There is no Patriotism there, there is just Selfishness and Greed and nearly Psychopathic self aggrandizement. It is an American Tragedy.

Mitt Romney, is Sarah Palin with a little education and a Preppie wardrobe.

But I still hope and pray that someone, some Republican with ethics and a conscience and courage will arise and cast out the Money Lenders from the steps of Congress and the Senate and the White House, and will work out a way to structure American Democracy in a new way which is more true to the Founders intentions than is currently the case.



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Anybody remember tarred roads? The street we lived on

outside Baltimore was a gravel road, and over time the gravel got driven into the soil and the sand used for the road bed, and the sand used to blow everywhere. I can remember Town trucks spraying oil on the roads to keep the dust down, and then a couple of years later fresh gravel followed by a layer of tar. As kids of 7 and 8 we used to chew lumps of it like chewing gum. I have no idea what possessed us to do that, and I shrink to think what carcinogens we may have been ingesting. The trick was to find a lump when the summer had softened the tar, not long after it was laid, and wash any sand off. Kids. Who can fathom why they do what they do.

Then again, we were so free compared to kids now. We walked or rode our bikes everywhere. We'd go out after breakfast, and come home when we got hungry, and then go out again until supper time. Parents didn't hover, they just let you go. My poor son was burdened by my presence 5 days a week all day during vacations, except when I walked him over to his friends house, and sat upstairs in the kitchen talking to their Mom (or Mum, I was born to an English Mum) while they played downstairs. Usually the Mum, Dagmar (born in post war Germany, came here as a child) drove Robbie home, or I'd call and I'd drive or walk over and pick him up. He never walked to school, which I always did. Dagmar did the morning run, and I did the Afternoon run. I used to joke that she was my co-parent. My wife, a physician, worked hard and long, and I was particularly good with Robbie from birth to 10 at which point my strengths didn't work as well, and hers came to the fore. That was the same time we moved to England, actually Robbie did walk to school in Britain, though usually in my company, but even there there was "The School Run", and scores of Mums and one Dad waiting for the kids to come out.

And Road graders, remember Road Graders. The road got graded maybe once a year, maybe once every two years, but the road graders were these huge ungainly looking machines reminiscent in some peculiar way of dinosaurs, with the blade in the middle just about where the drivers cab was. When they turned the front wheels leaned over into the turn, and as kids we were always expecting to hear a loud snap followed by the grader tilting onto the road needing rescue.

At one end of the road there were two families who lived in one room Insulbrick covered shacks (but with peaked roofs. shack always suggests a flat tilted roof to me). Both families were in pretty nice houses in less than 5 years. Anybody remember Insulbrick? It was roofing made to look like brick and nailed to the outside of frame houses to weatherproof them. There are still a few houses here in Toronto with brick fronts, but insulbrick sides and backs. They'll be gone in about 5 years at a guess given the way the housing market is here. They're only in the most rundown neigbourhoods, but run down in Toronto is so different from run down in the US.

I see film footage of places like Flint, Michigan and I want to weep: I'm sure I would weep if I went back to Baltimore. You can see that some of the houses in Flint were once pretty nice, but they've deteriorated, and are now boarded up. I've never seen a boarded up building here in Canada, but then I've never been to any non-prosperous areas like the Maritimes or the extreme North. Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Canmore, Winnipeg, Regina, Sudbury, Collingwood, Minden, Port Carling, Niagara Falls, Brampton, Port Credit, Mississauga, Toronto and the communities north of Toronto, I've only driven through Oshawa on the 401, Trenton Belleville Kingston, Picton, Brockville, Cornwall, Montreal, Quebec City. Of all of those, perhaps Cornwall was the most run down, and even it was pretty good.


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Never chewed on the tar...

other kids in the neighbourhood did. I seem to recall it was supposedly good for cleaning/whitening your teeth?

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That kind of makes sense, it could stick to gunk, plaque

better than enamel, and thus be a tooth cleaner of sorts. I remember that when they salted the roads we'd collect the salt crystals, looking for the biggest ones. It tasted not particularly pleasant, but again, kids do weird things. Virtually all the boys in my school would do this when they salted the paved area of the playground. Calcium chloride. I barfed big-time from doing that on my way home from school, and never did it again. Again, I was age 8, and they'd just built a new school for all the babyboomers who were coming along.


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Following the horse draw ice wagon....

and getting chips of ice....

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