Tag Archives: politics

Hats off (or on) to the past few days!

Princess Beatrice and her hatIt’s been quite a four days – perhaps best summarized with The Hat.  Everybody’s had a go at this new game.  Friday was the birth of The Hat.

Friday was a bank holiday in the UK so that everyone could watch The Royal Wedding.   Millions of us elsewhere also watched.  The Hat made its first appearance.

White House, with hats, from FacebookBut while we were watching the fairy tale wedding, in the White House other events were being watched.  Friday, so we learned, was also the culmination of 10 years of The Hunt for Osama bin Laden.  The Hat was there, helping.

Patrick Chan, doing victory lap at WorldsAlso on Friday, Patrick Chan won gold at the World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow – hurray Patrick, hurray Canada.  (no hat)

Sunday, Celebrity Apprentice was pre-empted in the last few critical moments (would Nene pleasepleaseplease be fired?  No – she Star, Hope and Nene in the boardroomwasn’t, ohno!)  The Hat should have been there – this is its natural habitat.  Some of the outfits worn by these “celebrity” women would fit right in those worn by the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.

Donald Trump, with The Hat, from FacebookWhy did President Obama interrupt The Donald?  Osama bin Laden had Osama bin Laden, in The Hat, from Facebookbeen killed by US troops.  Before this news was made public, The Hat had already found its way to bin Laden’s head.

Monday, Canada’s election produced an odd result.  A Conservative majority with (for the first time ever) the NDP as official Opposition.  The Liberals and Michael Ignatieff, with The Hatthe Bloc were pretty much wiped off the political map.  Gilles Duceppe said his goodbyes to his party Monday evening, Michael Ignatieff waited until Tuesday morning.  The Hat talked him into it.

Brilliant Speed, with The HatAnd coming up on Saturday, hats will be big in Louisville.  It’s the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby.  Having done my bit at photoshopping The Hat, I’m definitely rooting for Brilliant Speed who kindly loaned me his head.

The Hat on Princess Beatrice is an AP photo from Friday’s wedding.  The Hat on Michael Ignatieff was done by Jim Stewart.  The others of The Hat are from Facebook.  The photo of Patrick Chan is by AP and the boardroom photo of Team ASAP is from buddytv.

Tilting at Windmills

My mother had trash compacting and recycling down to a science before the words were part of our lexicon.  cans of food in cupboardAfter she opened a can, she removed the label, rinsed it, then removed the other end of it.  Then she put it on the floor and stomped it flat before putting it in the garbage.  The label was kept with other scrap paper and used as tinder for campfires.  No bottle or jar was put in the garbage unrinsed.  Few were put in the garbage at all.  They were used for storing things or kept in the back shed for future use as storage containers.  I don’t know what she did with food scraps.  She didn’t grow a garden so wouldn’t have composted them.  But she hated smelly garbage so I can’t imagine she put them directly in the bin.  Years later, I’ve seen her back stiffen when she’s seen someone scraping leftovers into the garbage container.  Our output for the garbage man would be one partial can or a small bag.  She looked with horror at the huge bags and bins full outside other houses.

full recycling binThis is to explain why I was amazed at her reaction when recycling blue boxes came to her town.  I thought she’d be all over that programme since she’d been doing it her whole life.  But, no.  She was furious.  “I’ll throw out anything I want, any way I want.  Who are they to tell me I have to take a label off?”  She got irate when I laughed at her.  I said “Mom, you’ve taken labels off as long as I’ve known you.”  “Well, what I do with my garbage is my own business.”  Eventually, she and my dad got to enjoy the recycling routine of sorting and bagging every week.  But she still said no town council had any business telling her what she could and couldn’t do with her garbage.

Windmills in AmsterdamI thought of this when I read a recent column by Sun Media’s Christina Blizzard on the hazards of wind turbines.  What is the big deal about windmills?  It’s not like it’s a brand new, untested idea.  The premise of harnessing wind to make power has been around a very long time.  It’s not like nuclear power generation, for instance – something that is comparatively new with unknown risks.

There are risks to windmills – to birds certainly, to human psychic rhythms perhaps.  Some find a sea of offshore windmills aesthetically unpleasing. Perhaps, but I can’t imagine a sea of offshore drilling rigs would be a whole lot prettier.  We know for sure they’re not safe for birds either.

So why the big furor over windmills? Also from QMI, in our paper on modern wind turbinesthe same day, was an article from the solar power people asking farmers with solar grids not make their complaints public.  The spokeswoman basically said the industry has enough problems with government (especially the Conservative members) and the public, and they don’t need the farmers fueling those fears.

Is it because these forms of energy production are tagged with the environmentalist label?  Although both sun and wind are perhaps the oldest forms of energy known to humanity, somehow they’re seen as “new” and “lefty” and part of some conspiracy to “tell us what to do.”  It seems to me similar to the American fears about government provision of health care; some weird attitude of “I’d rather pay huge premiums or go without health insurance because then I’m free!”

Christina Blizzard talks about the people of China who must live near the tailing lakes of the mining of the rare earth minerals used in the computers for windmills.  They can’t eat food from the nearby contaminated land or rivers.  Adults and children have developed strange illnesses and cancers.  Yes, this is a real and tragic problem that needs addressing.

However, she lost me at; “Every time I see a new turbine I’ll think of those children dying horrific deaths.  And I’ll hang my head in shame at the environmental disaster we’ve created.”   And so should we all.  However, I Man with electronic waste at recycling depot in Chinahope she isn’t so busy tweeting and emailing that message that she wears her smart phone out.  The market for rare earths is in all computer production, not just wind turbines.  And rare earths are an important component in cell phones.  So every time she uses her Blackberry, iPad, laptop or desk top, I hope she’s also thinking of those children in China.  I also hopes she thinks about the ones in China, Ghana and elsewhere in the Third World where our cell phones and computers Kids recycling electronics in Ghana dump, from PBSare dumped when we want to upgrade to the new version.  People there are getting sick and dying from recycling our electronic garbage.  That’s also a really big problem, and one that just has to do with us wanting the newest bestest toys.  Work is needed to improve safety for the environment and people affected by wind turbines, but at least they are meant to lessen reliance on non-renewable and ozone-layer depleting fuel sources.

The King and Us

George VI portraitColin First as George VI, in The King's SpeechWallis Simpson makes me think that there may well be a God, and that He is on “our” side.  I cannot imagine what the world would look like had Edward VIII remained on the throne.  And it’s thanks to Wallis Simpson that he didn’t.

He came to the throne in 1936 when the build up to WWII was already taking place.  Hitler had firm control of Germany and was looking to expand that control further in Europe.  Neville Chamberlain, British PM at the time, believed the best way to handle Hitler’s Germany was through “appeasement” – let him have what he wants and he’ll leave us alone.  Edward VIII, it seems, went even further than appeasement.  He and Wallis were pretty close to Nazi-sympathizers.  They enjoyed socializing with high-ranking Nazi officials.

Edward VIII, Duke & Duchess of Windsor, at home with pugsNow, maybe that was Wallis’ choice more than his.  It seems that she did the thinking in that family.  But I believe that if it hadn’t been her, it would have been someone else leading him around by the nose.  The one thing that seems very clear from reading history from that time is that Edward was a fun-loving man who really didn’t want to be bothered with heavy matters of state.  So he may have fallen in love with another woman who was marriage material, but based on assessments of his personality she probably wouldn’t have been any more competent as a war-time Queen than he would be a war-time King.

"We Four" at home, with dogsAs unsuitable as Edward was to inherit his father’s crown, so too seemed Albert, his younger brother the Duke of York.  As second in line, he’d never really had to worry about wearing the crown.  An introspective man, he wanted to pursue his own interests.  As Duke of York, that was just fine.  He married a strong woman, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.  She, a perfect home-grown match for a royal marriage, had been long courted by him and had refused his proposals.  She didn’t want a life anywhere in the Royal Family.  At that time, life as the central Royal didn’t seem a likelihood!

Edward VIII to Duke of Windsor

Poor Bertie stuttered badly, but it didn’t really matter – he wasn’t going to be in a position where public speaking was a major part of the job.  Then the unthinkable happened.  After George V’s death, David became Edward VIII and he refused to give up the American twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.  Parliament refused to waive the rules about divorced persons joining the Royal Family and there was the abdication crisis.  That was a crisis for the country.  Succession to the Throne had to be a familial crisis for Bertie and Elizabeth and the two Princesses.  “We Four”, as the Duke of York called his family, had a good and comfortable life mapped out near the limelight and with benefits, but not in the limelight.

Coronation photo of George VI and familyBut step up he did, and became George VI.  Elizabeth became a stalwart Queen consort.  Britain, still under Chamberlain as PM, engaged in war with Germany and won.  George VI truly lived up to the oath that England’s monarchs take in that being King probably cost him his life.  His daughter Elizabeth has gone on to be one of the two longest-reigning British monarchs ever.  And she has seen the Royal Family through some spectacularly rocky times during those decades.  She’s done it with grace and wisdom, just like her father and mother.

I haven’t yet seen the movie The King’s Speech, but I hope Colin Firth wins the Oscar for Best Actor – for his sake and Queen Elizabeth’s.


Sarah Palin and Targets

The first time I saw Sarah Palin on television, I was impressed.  It was soon after she was announced as John McCain’s running mate for the 2008 US presidential election.   She was forthright with her opinions and seemed level-headed.  I liked how she talked about being a woman – and wife and mother – with a political career.   I might not agree with her political beliefs but I could respect her as a politician.  That’s what I thought.

SarahPac's Take back the 20 map of US and TargetsIt went downhill from there, pretty rapidly.  But never, even in my most extreme thoughts of “what stupidity is this woman going to do next” did I imagine she would post a list of “targeted” politicians online, and show their geographical location on a map of the USA with marks that are very similar to gunsight cross hairs!

I had heard on tv about her statement that it was time to “reload”.  Her choice of that word seemed incendiary and irresponsible to me, and I was sure it was deliberate on her part.  Still, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I thought maybe she was just playing up her self- or media-created image as a rifle-toting, sharp-shooting “momma Grizzly”.  Had I known about the list and map!!  I only found out about that on CNN today, the day a US congresswoman was shot in the head, 6 people were killed and many more wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson Arizona. The Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford, was on Sarah Palin’s “target” list.

Maybe there is no connection between these killings and Sarah Palin’s postings and tweets.  But if there isn’t in fact, there is in spirit.  An Arizona sheriff, shortly after the shootings, spoke of the spirit of “vitriol” in Arizona.  That, CNN commentators agreed, could be extended to the whole of political discourse in the US at this moment.  I don’t know what gets more vitriolic than marking a map with something very much like cross-hairs, even if it’s not meant to be taken literally.  It is exactly that image of Palin – the gun-totin’ momma – that she has created for herself that makes her use of such language more problematic than with other people’s use of it.  With her, it’s hard to hear the words ‘target’ and ‘aim’ without thinking of firearms.

I watched a couple episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska recently.  The one I watched had her and her daughter working on a fishing boat.  They were processing halibut before putting them in the boat’s hold.  Bristol, then Sarah held the still-beating heart of a halibut, both were looking at it, the camera zoomed in for a close-up.  I thought probably they were marveling at this little organ, strong, still beating, still alive even after it was detached from the halibut’s body.  That’s what I was doing.  But nope.  Bristol said something like “eew, gross”.  Sarah looked at it solemnly for a minute and, just when I thought she was going to talk about the miracle of life, she shrugged, said “weird” and flicked the still-beating heart over the side of the boat into the sea.  So much for the sanctity of life, I thought.