Christmas is Creeping Closer

It still really is too cold. Parking lots are full of diesel pickups left running so their Christmas shopper owners don't have to get into cold trucks when they are through picking up those last minute gifts. No one ever suggested that it would be a green Christmas.

Cold or not, I like this time of year. I do confess that I am not fond of store crowds, those inflatable front yard decorations or the 10,000 kilowatt light displays but who can complain about walking in the snow past twinkling lights, Christmas trees, the smell of fireplace wood smoke or getting together with friends.

I was brought up in small town Quebec and I remember with fondness the idea of tramping through the bush to cut your own tree, friends getting together to go caroling through the neighbourhood, going tobogganing or skating in the evening. Everyone boisterous and cold turning up at someone's house for hot chocolate before heading home for the night. I miss lots and lots of snow and candle lit midnight carol services.

The idea of heading somewhere warm for the holiday never held much allure for me. Christmas on the beach just wouldn't fit the bill.

Give me snow, a nice tree, Christmas morning waffles with whipped cream, an afternoon nap, roast turkey, good wine, candles, cookies, time at home with family and friends and a game or two of Trivial Persuit.

That is what I call Christmas.


Cluster Bomb Treaty

I am reminded by The Economist that a significant treaty banning cluster bombs was signed this month in Oslo, Norway. I am pleased to hear that Canada has signed on along with 108 or so other countries. It is refreshing to see our government out of step with the Bush administration. It so rarely happens these days.

The USA did not sign, nor did China, India, Russia, Israel and Pakistan. They are all countries that produce and stockpile the weapons. Washington has said that an all-out ban on the weapons would hurt world security and could endanger U.S. military co-operation on humanitarian projects in countries that do sign onto the convention. I wonder what humanitarian projects they had in mind and how signing the treaty could affect those initiatives. Oh well.

Under the treaty signatories have eight years to destroy their stockpiles. France, Germany and Norway have already begun destroying their cluster munitions stocks. I am unclear if Canada actually has any stockpiles of this type of munitions.

Cluster munitions typically contain dozens to hundreds of small, explosive sub-munitions. They have been used in more than 30 countries and territories, and have a devastating impact. Cluster bombs leave large areas littered with unexploded bomblets that go on killing civilians for years after they were dropped. Civilians account for 98 per cent of all recorded casualties and children are particularly vulnerable, and many are killed or injured as they pick up the bomblets out of curiosity.

These bombs are still widely used by some countries. For example, Israel dropped some four million bomblets on Lebanon during the last three days of the 2006 war and more than 30 people have been killed by them since the war ended.


Should we let Ford, GM and Chrysler go down?

To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about the big three bail out. Canada seems determined to follow the American lead, come hell or high water.

Basically we North Americans have had these gas guzzling beasts thrust into the market despite all the warnings about oil dependence. I find it annoying to share the road with Hummers and pickup trucks just slightly smaller than a Leopard tank.

But should we allow these guys to go under. Probably not is my guess. Not because they don’t deserve to but because of the people who lose their jobs if they do. We are kind of over a barrel. I do find it some comfort that the auto industry collapse has made the Government take another look at helping out forestry and manufacturing industries which have been in trouble for some time now.

I do think however that government must impose strict rules in regard to what sort of cars are made in and imported into Canada. If Big Three management don’t see fit to change the way they do business they should be wrestled into submission by regulation. Harper should take a look at Danny Williams’ play book for a start.

Before moving on though I thought I should share this tongue in cheek advertisement I found earlier today. You can find it here.


RCMP Wasn't to Blame in Dziekanski Death?

In Vancouver after several months of investigation the B.C. Attorney General’s office has issues its report into the taser death of Robert Dziekanski.

Not very many people are surprised that the report suggests that the four RCMP officers who, it seemed to most reasonable people, were responsible for Mr. Dziekanski’s death, were not much more than a contributing factor. The real culprit it seems was Dziekanski himself. They claim he was a chronic alcoholic which contributed to his stress, which put him in a heightened state, although toxicology reports show no traces of alcohol or drugs in his body.

They say that when approached by four young, burly cops in uniform, Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish visitor, got agitated and picked up a stapler. Now what is more threatening than a stapler? Who could blame these young cops.

Although the RCMP originally tried to suppress a video shot by a bystander, most of us saw it. These four big young guys, Canada’s finest, swagger up. Their body language is shouting out, confrontation, and then within 30 seconds they tasered him, what was it, four times?

Whatever happened to “Hey bud, what’s up?” What happened to “Ok, let’s sit down for a few minutes and talk about this. “ Considering that he was in a secure area it meant there was very little likelihood that he had a weapon much more lethal that that stapler. Perhaps they just didn’t want to crease their new uniforms.

What ever the reason, Dziekanski is dead and the cops walk away unscathed. Canadians should be outraged. What if that was your son?

The RCMP has some very major problems, too much testosterone, not enough empathy. too much swagger, not enough training.,

As long as Attorneys General keep covering for the force, things won’t get better. We should be concerned, if not for the force, for ourselves.


The Big Chill Saskatchewan Style

It really is too cold.

I know we get lots of very cold temperatures here on the prairie but minus 45 with the wind chill is a bit much before Christmas. No wonder so many of those old farmers head for places like Palm Springs.

I can see them now, sitting around the picnic table, eating barbecue, talking about the Wheat Board election and wondering if their 20 something grandson has wrecked the Skidoo yet.

Meanwhile, the rest of us, people like me are sitting here wondering if we really have enough food in the house to cook supper or, if we really need to go out to the store and if we do, will the car actually start.

Only last week there were still geese around, thinking about winging their way south.

Ah, Saskatchewan winters.