Monday, 29 August 2011


A beautiful Memorial Service for Jack Layton was held on Saturday in Toronto. I saw most of it on television. (It was broadcast live, then re-broadcast later in the day.)

Family and friends were on hand, as were political rivals like Prime Minister Stephen Harper. So were thousands of ordinary people — people like you and me.

I've included some of the details of the service so you can get a sense of what happened. There are also some video and still pictures.

Though I never had the privilege of meeting him, I followed along with his life and work. He truly was a prince of a man, so dedicated was he to others.

I'll conclude with the final paragraph of his last letter, written to Canadians while on his death bed.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


This past Monday, we learned of the death of Jack Layton. Mr. Layton was the head of Canada's New Democratic Party. He was also the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Comons.

I intuitively posted about Mr. Layton's death on my Chrome on the Range blog. But I thought I should add a note here as well.

A state funeral is planned for Saturday afternoon in Toronto, beginning at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern time).

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I don't know if I'm getting sillier as I age, but I've really come to almost to loathe television.

We get it here, I think, mainly because of programs which would be of interest to our grandchildren. Or so we tell ourselves. They don't have television at home. It does teach them, and us, some new things.

But really.

Back in January, Maria (at cats, crafts and penguins) turned a delightful phrase, describing television as "endless commercials interrupted by bad shows." My heart instinctively said, "Yes!"

The thing about television is that it's a one way communication. Unless you yell at it when someone says something stupid. Which means Bear is yelling at the television quite frequently, when he watches it. I don't consider that to be a useful form of communication. Yelling at the tv makes as much impact on the whole television businesses as ants make on dry concrete. And writing to broadcasters only invokes a stale, tired, meaningless "thank you for your comments" letter. To which one is inclined to say, "Bah! Humbug!"

Aside from a few cooking shows which my beloved J sometimes watches, sometimes the weather channel, and occasionally the news, we hardly watch the tv. I mean, what is worth watching? Except when one is too tired to read, but not quite ready for bed. (In which case, almost anything is watchable, unless it produces nightmares after the fact.)

I'm a firm believer in the potential of the medium. Particularly to educate us, to bring us things that challenge our thinking or encourage our values. It brings one "up close and personal" when there is some breaking news. Or a Royal Wedding. Or a state funeral. But even those things tend to be overdone, sometimes. Though they are about the only true "reality tv," more or less

So, some questions.
• How much do you watch tv?
• What kinds of things do you watch?
• Are you satisfied with the quality of the programming you receive?

Friday, 19 August 2011


"First, we traded wisdom for knowledge, then we traded knowledge for information." ~ Anon.

That's how we got to the "information age."

And now, as Da Blog Fodder has pointed out, we've exchanged information for data.

Sigh! When will this ever end?

Monday, 15 August 2011


Yup. Bear's blog is going in for a re-make, re-do re- um, well, whatever. (Actually, I've already started; not sure what things are gonna look like when I get finished.)

Thoughts would be appreciated.

Bear is not a Boar (or is it bore?); freshness can be exhilarating. Emphasis on "can be."

End of message.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


While American stock markets are down, they are not alone. Canadian markets are down, too, following the American lead. To put it simply, I'm losing my retirement savings, along with a lot of Americans.

The current American difficulties are certainly not President Obama's fault. He inherited a huge mess from the Republicans, particularly Bush the Younger (meaning Dick Cheeney). The Republicans were committed to increasing spending while not increasing taxes; they still hold that kind of approach. That is simply living in a fool's paradise. If a government doesn't have the tax money, it can never repay its debts, and the nation is eventually strangled, economically, and then socially.

People are getting edgy, not just about the debt problem in America, but the debt problem in Europe as well.

Within the European Union, five countries on the edge of default: Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. It is noteworthy that Greece, even with it's austerity measures passed, is still a concern. Many key leaders now fear that Greece may not have done enough. Iceland is still in trouble. Even Britain is having difficulties; continuing difficulties.

Nobody in Europe seems to have a handle on just how bad things could be over there, or if the current "fixes" will really fix anything.

So this isn't just an American problem. It's a problem of lavish spending through programs which were not set up in a sustainable manner, in many countries.

And with the loss of jobs in America, largely due to outsourcing, the world continuing to see the emergence of a new phenomenon. Incomes in other countries, such as India and China, are starting to rise, particularly in urban setting. The emerging nations of Asia are well along the path towards having economies as strong as the United States.' Some of the emerging nations in Africa are moving up as well, but they're still well behind the Asian nations.

What will happen depends on the speculators and traders, who effectively control the stock markets. I believe we are going to see a second dip of recession, or, at the very least, a very long-term recovery. Canada, while burdened in the 2008 recession, has strong banking regulations, which helped blunt the blow. Yet our unemployment rate is just over seven per cent, down from almost nine per cent in 2010. America's unemployment rate is just over nine per cent. It was above ten per cent a while ago, nearly double the post-World-War-Two average of 5.7 per cent.

I don't know where this is going to end. But we "ordinary people" in North America are going to see a lot more problems before real stability returns.

So, for the foreseeable future, I expect most of us will continue to be lumped in the group of "not amused."

Friday, 5 August 2011


The US Congress seems to have settled its debt ceiling problem. For now. But this is just the beginning of bigger problems.

The Representatives and Senators may feel they've done their bit for their friends (oops; I mean for their country). But how do the people of the country feel about the government of the people, by the rich, for the rich, and other political nonsense?

As the title says, not thrilled. Not by a long shot.

"How bad was the response?" you ask.

In a survey of Americans after the political brouhaha in the Capital, the people of the country have given Congress an 18 per cent approval rating. Only 18 percent. Meaning that 82 per cent were somewhere between "very displeased" and "as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!"

All this in the New York Times of August 4th.

So, the yaddering about the national debt level, which almost tipped the country into fiscal default, has given Congress the lowest approval rating on record. In light of the continuing recession, a lot of people are saying that job creation should be the priority. But that would have increased the debt, not reduced it.

And if the polling done for the Times is right, more than four people out of five who were surveyed thought that "debate" (a polite term for the "unfriendly verbal engagement") was more about trying to develop some kind of political advantage than about doing what the country really needed. And about three-quarters of those interviewed felt the "debate" had hurt the image of America around the world.

That, I guess, is the expense of "politicking." Of making sure your party "wins," whatever the outcome. Though I can hardly see how anyone could win anything meaningful in this situation.

And it showed how much trouble the Republican party will have with it's Tea Party set. Same for the Congress, overall.

There have been two major financial responses.

First, the Dow Jones has reported a sharp decline — basically meaning that many companies are worth a lot less. As are many people's stock portfolios. It's a Bear market. Over which this Bear has no control.

Second, Standard & Poor’s (the credit-rating agency) removed the US federal government from its list of risk-free borrowers. To put it in other terms, American bonds are a long way from being junk, but they are heading in that direction. S&P made the move because of its worry about the size of the government's long-term debt. Congress cut that debt by about $2.1 trillion; S&P would have preferred a decrease of about $4 trillion.

So, can you say "double-dip recession"? Sure you can.

And, while America has focused on its debt reduction debate, other factors have made the world economy even worse. I'll deal with those tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION (More news than fits the print)

Well, the United States government managed to get the federal debt ceiling raised. But, I'm still wondering about it.
1. How is the government going to get enough money to pay its bills in the long term?
2. How will this development effect someone with little money? (I ask that because a person living in Georgia, and making minimum wage at a full-time job, earns about $11,000 a year. I'm sure some people make that in a week, or less.)
Interesting: I saw President Obama on television, talking about this "manufactured crisis." This almost-disaster, that didn't need to happen, and sets a difficult tone for future days. Sadly.

In the midst of the fray, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) returned to the House for the first time in many months, and cast her vote on the budget plan. This, after being shot in the head last year. She gave no advanced notice of her return. But she was greeted warmly by other members of the House, from "both sides of the aisle."
An amazing recovery she has made! With help from a lot of wonderful and talented doctors, and nurses, and technicians, and, . . .
I wonder if that person in Georgia, earning $11,000 a year, would get the same treatment for a gun shot in the head.

The weather today started out sunny and fair. Not a cloud in the sky. Then, at supper time, dark clouds rolled in. We were promised thunder showers all night, and more rain tomorrow.
About an hour after that, the sky was bright, with only a few fluffy clouds.
Which proves that, each day, all we get is a 100 per cent chance of weather.
Better than previous, though. On this day in 2002, the high temperature was zero. Or 32°F, if that' how you measure things. We Canadians can be cool customers, even in the midst of summer.

Ann Marie (as in The Rev. Ann Marie) is the priest at an Anglican (Episcopal) congregation which I attend from time to time. (It's not really where I belong, so to speak; it is a good place to be.)  The gospel text for last Sunday came from Matthew's gospel, where the writer shared the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men, plus women and kids. Ann Marie spoke of abundance that we have, and our need to share that, in simple but significant ways. This, in a very working-class neighbourhood on the traditionally poorer side of River City.
Earlier in the week, I had been thinking about abundance, too. In relation to a book on Celtic Christianity by J. Philip Newell, where he was touching on "the fecundity of God."
I haven't got my head wrapped around those two elements, yet. But I understand, intuitively, they are inter-related, in a very important way. 
So my "Woke up Sunday Morning. . . ." post is going to have to wait a while.

And, that's the news.

OH, WAIT — this is the wrong day at this blog. You see what happens when they throw a holiday into the week, just to confuse Bear? Bear gets confused. Very, confused.