Category Archives: Travel

Steep Rock Quarry 2022


After photographing the ice of the lake and then the crocuses o the cliffs, we moved to the quarry nearby from which limestone was mined from 1913 to 1992. I had not stopped to look at it last time I was here about 15 years ago, but it was well worth a visit. The quarry is now filled with sensational turquoise water. At least the water appear

What makes Steep Rock special is limestone. Limestone is a sedimentary rock made up of different shaped crystals of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) called aragonite and calcite. The limestone was formed by the accumulation over millions of years of small pieces of exoskeleton left behind by marine  invertebrates  including corals, gastropods (snails) and clam-like brachiopods. These pieces were compressed by the weight of the ocean above them and by their own weight. Eventually these pieces were solidified into rock that was exposed when the sea retreated. After the sea dried up and the last glacier scraped off the top layer sediment that had accumulated the limestone was what was left. Over thousands of years the cliff has suffered erosion. The caves add to the intrigue of the place.

This area was a sea for about 350 million years. Each layer of rock was separated by other rocks such as shale and dolomite. Each layer represents a different period in the history of the area. Limestone is a soft rock that often breaks up into small pieces of rock that can be excellent for gravel. In water it often makes the water look turquoise.

We also noticed a large number of Red-side garter snakes. There were not as many as the last time I visited the area when we actually heard the snakes rustling in the grass before we saw them. That was a bit disconcerting, even though the snakes are not dangerous.

Background to the film “Belfast” : The Troubles


Even though I have been to Belfast, I think it was very helpful for me to hear Kenneth Branagh who wrote, directed and produced the film Belfast explain the background to the film when interviewed on the Bill Maher show. Instead of shot from the film I include some of my own photos of Belfast taken in 2009 when Christiane and I made a wonderful trip to the wonder country of Ireland.


This photo is one of many I took of murals in Belfast that celebrate heroes of the Troubles.  This one felt threatening. The rile held by  masked man “followed” us by a the trick of an optical illusion.


The film Belfast has been nominated for Best Picture and it  is a sad love story about the love of a  Kenneth Branagh for his hometown which he had to leave a  9 year old boy. That was the same age as  Buddy in the film. Just like the family in the film, his family lived on a street in Belfast. His family was Protestant but there were many Catholics as well on the street.

In southern Ireland the Catholics are in a majority, but in Northern Ireland which was part of the United Kingdom the Catholics were in the minority at about 40% of the population. Yet they got along well, at least until they didn’t.

This writing on the wall expresses the spirit of Branagh’s family.


Maher asked Branagh to explain the history of what happened in Belfast during the troubles. The troubles began in 1968 because the Catholics were dissatisfied that they were not getting the same economic and social  benefits as the Protestants in Northern Ireland. It was not really a religious dispute, but religion helped to fan the flames of hate as so often happens. The Protestants were dominant in the north, and the Catholics there thought they were not getting a fair shake. From the mid-1960s there was a civil rights movement in Ireland as there was in the United States and Canada. People started to speak up for their rights and that can lead to trouble, or in this case, to the Troubles.


The film opens up on August 15, 1969 when the grievances suddenly spilled out into street violence. Until then the Protestant majority in the north got along well with the Catholic minority. They had the same kinds of jobs and the same kinds of homes. But in one fell swoop a Protestant mob came down the street where Buddy, the 9-year old protagonist in the film was playing with his friends, both Catholics and Protestants.  This is exactly what Branagh experienced as a young boy in Belfast at that time. The story is also the story of his life in fictional form. The Protestants marked the houses of the Catholics with stones, and broke the windows on their houses. The message was clear, “We know where you live. It’s time for you to get out.” As Billy Clanton one of the leaders of the Protestant gang I the film said, “We want to cleanse the city.” Ominious words in the 20th century.


1969 in the US was the summer of love, but in Belfast it was the summer of hate. There was the greatest displacement of people in Europe since the second World War, up to that time. Thousands of Catholics were forced to leave and a dark period in Ireland began. It lasted for 30 years.


Branagh’s family was Protestant but they did not join in the violence against the Catholics. They were opposed to violence against their friends with whom they got along. Some of the Protestants did not like that. The Protestant leaders came to visit Branagh’s father and told him, “You’re either with us or against us. There is no middle ground.”  Again these are ominous words, later adopted by George W. Bush after 9/11. Branagh’s father tried to stand up against the mob, but that was hard. As Branagh said,

“It was a really difficult thing to do to disagree fundamentally with someone, but not to translate that into hating them. Or rejecting them.  But the even more difficult thing of actually trying to understand them. That was the example he set.”


That is difficult everywhere. It is difficult in the United States and it is difficult in the bible belt of southern Manitoba. Bill Maher claimed that this is what he tries to show on his television show. He always wants to show that he thinks for himself, not a tribe. “Im not with either tribe,” Maher said. His father said, “I’m not going to join you to hate the Catholics for reasons I don’t share. A 9-year old must be taught that.”

The walls, still standing in 2009, had to be built very high to stop people from throwing rocks and more dangerous things over it.


As Branagh said, a 9-year old can be simple and open in the stand off, but people forget that the effects may last for decades when violence rears its ugly head. The situation can be quickly polarized with ordinary people caught in the maw. Branagh said, when he grew up it was a beautiful day in the neighbourhood everyday. He did not understand why one day a man came and told him that he and his friend Paddy, who was a Catholic, could no longer play together. Why? He said it was buried in his mind for 50 years. That is why he wrote the story of the  film.


3,700 people died in Ireland during the Troubles. Yet the world over people have showed that tribal pressure can be overcome by talking to each other no matter how hard it is. The same things happens everywhere. It happens in Iran, Palestine, Ukraine, Congo, and southern Manitoba. Every where there is a trouble spot. The good stuff of family, laughter, music, dancing, and partying can help. Insisting that we are always right and they are always wrong does not help. Religions though encourage such attitudes, at least when they are least religious.

This is the way the house still looked in 2009. First a barrier on top of the wall, and then supplemented by screen over the porch. Belfast was a hard place to live.


Belfast really is a lot like so many places around the world. From Ireland to Winkler, from Croatia to Rwanda. From Iran to the Middle East. Neighbours fighting neighbours. Neighbours hating neighbours. For no good reason. It just happens when we gather in tribes and it becomes us against them. It can be in the name of religion, or politics or creed whenever we try hard not to understand each other. And troubles can arise as quickly as prairie fire.


All of this is background for the film Belfast I want to talk about next.

Freedom: Where is it?


In the community we lived in this winter, Johnson Ranch, Arizona, they have a lot of rules about what you can and cannot do. Fro example, we learned that there were a lot of picky community rules about the color of buildings—all tan. No other colors allowed except slightly different shades. So it seemed to me. At the community swimming pool we were asked to vote on which color of wall we liked best. And they were all basically the same.

They have rules about what kind of plants you can grow on your yard. You have to choose from an approved list.

They make available a book of such rules. Its pretty big. Apparently local Nazis enforce those rules. Sort of like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. I wondered, where is the freedom America loves so much? Doesn’t anyone care about freedom any more.Has it been sold  for sake of conformity. Everyone should be the same.

This reminds me of a song by Pete Seeger:

Little Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes
Little boxes
Little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same
And they all play on the golf course and drink their martini dry
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
And they all get put in boxes, and they all come out the same
And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same

There’s a green one, and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

This is not just an American problem. Canadians are just Americans on Prozak. Canadian are just not as loud about freedom.

Where has all the freedom gone? Long time passing.

One crazy last day


It was bound to happen—one last crazy day in a crazy holiday. We had been fleeing Arizona because our Canadian government urged all Canadians to come home, “while we can.” That sounded ominous. Our last week in Arizona was spent mainly talking about the pandemic and what to do about it.

From Sioux Falls South Dakota, the land of the free in the west we headed for home. Much to our surprise after travelling all the way from Arizona and finding it very difficult to find a restaurant other than take-out restaurants or drive-through restaurants, both of which are a bit inconvenient for travellers, we found out that anything goes in South Dakota. Last night we ate in a restaurant where there were no rules. No social distancing and the attitude was do what you want. After all we were in the land of the free? But were we in the land of the dumb? Were we dumb? We were dying (I hope not literally) to eat in a restaurant so we did it.

We cleaned our table, menu, and did not touch anyone or anything we did not know was “clean.” We had been told no standard items would be brought to the table that had not been cleaned specifically for us at our table. That sounded good. Was it? We ate a great meal.

In the morning we paid particular attention to the weather forecast as we had heard about a storm coming in from the west. We had just come from Colorado where they were expecting a blizzard. Don’t they always travel west? Like to where we were and where we were headed? Friends phoned us while we were traveling and they were in Colorado caught in that blizzard and it did not seem like fun.

Well we soldiered on. First I-29, normally a busy highway was eerily empty. Only a few lonely (crazy?) souls were on the road. Were we stupid? That made driving easier. But we had a variety of weird driving conditions on this last day. We drove through fog, snow, rain, freezing rain, blowing snow, and snow packed roads. It changed between those conditions about every mile or so. Fro about 6 hours we drove with constant stress. It never stopped being tricky, but never got dangerous so we thought. There were a few vehicles that had slid into the ditch or meridian. We drove carefully but steadily.

We also kept worrying about what would happen at the border. Canada just announced today that the border was closed to all except Canadian and American citizens and only for essential travel. We considered ourselves “essential” of course. Would the border authorities agree? We had also been advised that if we showed signs of the coronavirus we would not be admitted to Canada. On the entire trip from Arizona we worried that we might develop symptoms. Of course we did not want to get sick. After all we were in the high-risk category of old people with underlying conditions. What would they do if they detected symptoms? We would actually already be in Canada when we reported to the customs authorities at the border. If Canada turned us back would we be able to drive back into the United States?  Likely they would not be keen to have us back. Would we have to camp at the border? Thankfully none of that happened. The Customs official hardly looked at us and believed us when we said we had no symptoms.

We were instructed at the border we would have to “self-isolate” for 14 days. When we got home we were lucky to have some angels of mercy. My wonderful sister Barb and brother-in-law Harv had purchased some essential supplies for us and delivered delicious home made soup. She even added Street Smart candies because she knows how much I like them. Wow! Good friend Garry Giesbrecht delivered tasty stew and offered to pick up essentials. And not just liquor either. Another good friend Cyndi Friesen also offered to get stuff. We were very lucky.

There was one inconvenience. Our television service could not be reconnected for some bizarre reason, even though we had phoned ahead a couple of days and been told it would be all ready when we arrived. Now we found out they could not send a techie guy to fix it either. Technical people were not allowed in our home. This was a serious annoyance as we began a 14-day quarantine. And there was nothing we could do about it. But we soon realized it was not elegant to schlem about it. After all we were safe and sound and at home. Around the world people have been suffering seriously from the coronavirus and its consequences. We just had to buck up and stop complaining.

Friends and relatives phoned or emailed or texted us to see how we were doing. Life was good. Very good. Yet we think about those who don’t have it so good and wish them all the best in these difficult circumstances.

To panic or not to panic

A couple of days ago I suggested to our photo club that we cancel our monthly meeting in the home of one of our members. We usually meet in a small living room and look at slides and discuss them and photography in general.

One of our members suggested we were all overreacting and panicking. My fellow photographer said we should look at both sides.  He suggested we watch a video with Judge Jeanine.  So I watched it and listened to her rant in her typical fashion about those stupid liberals criticizing President Trump and panicking over a flu! It’s just a flu she said.

I agree that most questions have two sides.He said he intended to carry on his life as usual. We need to look at both sides carefully. Important public questions should be based on the best available evidence. Not comments by pundits. And there are many of them on both sides of many questions like this one.

I would suggest that for complex public health questions we consult with experts in the health field, instead of retired judges (or lawyers for that matter.) Trump has some good ones in his camp and we should respect what they say.

And the experts suggest we should be very careful because coronavirus is a very serious health concern. They do not urge panic and they are not overreacting. They have warned that the rate of infection will likely jump sharply in the very near future and they have said “all Americans” (and we should include Canadian in that) should take serious measures to contain the spread and if we do that we have a chance of minimizing the harm. Doing nothing and carrying on as we have always done is not the right approach. If we do that we run a serious risk of making things worse. Much worse.

Trump’s experts have recommend that we keep safe social distances from each other.  Our groups should be small. I think if our entire photo club came to our leader’s home that would not qualify as a safe social distance. It would be dangerous–for someone. If the virus was passed on to someone young and healthy, like our youngest member, for example, he might be safe, but he could pass it on to someone who is not. Like his grandparents or even a stranger he encounters.

Some points made by Judge Jeanine are correct. Most importantly panic is not helpful. I did not advocate panicking. I do advocate that all of us take reasonable steps to protect vulnerable people, including old people with underlying health conditions. I know a  few people like that. The coronavirus can be very serious for them. Young healthy have much less chance of getting seriously sick from it, but they should not take unnecessary chances that risk harm to others. If they just harm themselves I wouldn’t care what they do.

Another expert is Dr. Theresa Tam who has been strongly recommended to me. She is Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and is a pediatrics specialist in infectious diseases. This is what the World Health organization says about her:

“Dr. Theresa Tam was named Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer on June 26, 2017. She is a physician with expertise in immunization, infectious disease, emergency preparedness and global health security. Dr. Tam obtained her medical degree from the University of Nottingham in the U.K. She completed her paediatric residency at the University of Alberta and her fellowship in paediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and has over 55 peer-reviewed journal publications in public health. She is also a graduate of the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program.

Dr. Tam has held several senior leadership positions at the Public Health Agency of Canada, including as the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer and the Assistant Deputy Minister for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. During her 20 years in public health, she provided technical expertise and leadership on new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance, enhance immunization programs, strengthen health emergency management and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. She has played a leadership role in Canada’s response to public health emergencies including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1 and Ebola.

Dr. Tam has served as an international expert on a number of World Health Organization committees and has participated in multiple international missions related to SARS, pandemic influenza and polio eradication.”

This sounds like the sort of person we should listen to on such important health issues. Not television commentators.

This is what Dr. Tam said 3 days ago: “Let me be very clear. Today I am asking everyone to take strong action to help us delay the spread of COVID-19 and protect as many people as possible.” She also said the following: “With cases rapidly increasing in Canada … our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow.”

Those measures include cancelling non-essential travel outside the country; avoiding large public gatherings, increasing your public space and talking with your employer about working from home, she said. She also said, “This is our chance, right here, right now. We need to act now and we need to act together… You do not want this disease transmitted rapidly. Whatever you can do to decelerate that transmissions and break those chains of transmission is really important. We can do something about this now.”

We don’t want to panic or over react but we should all take the problem seriously not just for own sake, but for the sake of others around us.

While Trudeau said that Ottawa had not ruled out making self-isolation mandatory, Tam said that such a move would be difficult to police. “This is a voluntary self-isolation. It is impossible to be essentially keeping tabs on every single traveller that comes in,” she said.

“This is a social phenomenon, this is a societal response and everyone must take that responsibility,” she said.

I think this is what each of us should do to the best of our ability. For the sake of us all.

The end of civilization as we know it?


Is this the end of civilization, as we know it? Today after a few days of wringing our hands and contemplating what to, we made the big decision. We decided to pack up our kit bag and head out to Tiperarry.  Home in other words. Today we heard the Canadian government say that Canadians who were out of the country should return home “while we could do that.”  What did that mean? Was it possible they would not allow us back into the country? Impossible. Right?

Yesterday, my neighbour Gary, told us that a local Ammo store here in San Tan Valley had a 2 hour waiting line to get in. Why were people stocking up on ammunition? Here in Arizona, everyone has a gun or rifle. Why were these people worried about running out? Were they worried that the revolution was about to begin?

I also thought about the fact that grocery stores were out of food. As of yesterday, the Fry’s store nearby  had many empty shelves. We had tried for about 5 days in a row to get toilet paper. Why were people hoarding toilet paper. Food that I could understand. But I was mystified that toilet paper was sold out for 5 days in a row. I heard it was just as bad in Canada. This is not an America phenomenon.

I also know that when people are out of food things start getting serious. If your family was out of food what would you do? There is no telling what we would do. I suspect societal norms would be insignificant in such circumstances.

I had earlier gone to buy paper napkins when we could not get toilet paper. Chris called this hoarding. But we were just buying enough to cover our journey home if we could not find any. Is that hoarding?

This made me think. Are we approaching the end of civilization as we know it? Surely not. But who ever thought that grocery stores in the U.S. or Canada  would be empty of most supplies. This was inconceivable. But, inconceivable or not, the grocery shelves were empty.

That was why Chris emailed some friends that  were going home because I was worried that people with guns would invade our home to get our paper napkins Crazy. Right? But aren’t empty shelves in grocery stores crazy too? What would you do if your family was hungry and you desperately needed food? Or toilet paper?  Invade my house?

Is it time to panic?

WalMart with empty shelves

This country is on full-fledged panic mode. Stores have run out of toilet paper! None of the shelves. Now this is getting serious. A financial crisis and a health crisis. What does this mean?

I have no idea what this means. The stock market is plunging (or is it recovering?)  Either way, there is very little less rational than the stock market. Reason has nothing to do with it. I don’t know how serious either crisis is. The financial crisis seems to have been brought on by the coronavirus crisis. I don’t know how serious it is.

But there is one reason I think that panic is a serious option.  Now I know some of my faithful readers will criticize me for bringing Trump into the discussion. Some people seem to think I blame him for everything. I don’t think that is true, but I acknowledge their concern. That won’t stop me from commenting on him. And I know he may not be to blame, but I doubt that he has helped either.

The real problem is two-fold.  Like it or not, Donald Trump is the leader of the free world (though I don’t acknowledge him as my leader and I think I am part of the free world.) The real problem is that he is a person who does not think evidence and data are relevant to his job as President. I started to worry when I heard Trump say, “I have a hunch the problem is not as serious as the Disease Control Center says it is.”  Earlier he said, echoing the right wing pundits from whom he does take advice, I think it is a hoax.”

I am not really concerned about Trump. His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said “he’s a fucking moron.”  Sorry for my bad language, but the quote is not real without the bad word. I think Tillerson was right. I know some friends of mine think he is smart. After all he got elected as President of the United States. I think Trump is cunning. He knows what is good for Donald Trump. He has a keen sense of that.  He is able to disregard the interests of everyone else other than himself. This allows him to avoid distractions and concentrate on his goal–i.e. what is good for himself.

But ultimately I think Tillerson is absolutely right. What really scares me is that about 55 million voted for him and most of them still like what they see. They like him. Now, from my perspective, the United States is led by a man who is obviously unfit for the job.

Even more important however is that Trump is uninterested in data or facts. And he won’t listen to experts. This is what Trump said on CBS 60 minutes the week the latest IPCC report was issued, when asked if he still thinks that climate change is a hoax? “Look I think something is happening, something is changing and it will change back again. I am not denying climate change but it could very well go back.” He added that his uncle  was a professor of science. Trump never talked about climate change with his uncle, but Trump assured us, “I have an instinct for science.” Trump wants us to base vitally important decisions not on science but an instinct for science. It doesn’t matter that Trump knows nothing about science he expects us to trust him. And guess what? Millions of Americans do exactly that. They are not accustomed to basing important decisions on facts and reasoning on those facts. They base decisions on things like hunches, faith, trust, and instinct instead. And they vote for leaders who do exactly the same thing. Would you want a cancer surgeon who based his decisions on science, data, evidence, and careful reasoning on that data or a surgeon who based his decisions on instinct or faith? During a serious health or financial crisis would you want the country to be led by a President who respects science or one who has a instinct for science? Take your pick. But his scares me.

I am about ready to panic.


Is Donald Trump a King?

Recently, I learned some astonishing things about the United States. One of my legal heroes, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, made astounding statements in the U.S. Senate in defence of President Donald J. Trump from impeachment charges launched in the House of Representatives.

Susan Glasser a reporter with the New Yorker interpreted what he said as follows:

Donald Trump’s lawyer said that the President can do just about anything he wants.” This is an astonishing claim. It amounts to saying the United States is not a democracy. Dershowitz was asked by Senator Ted Cruz, during the question and answer phase of the Senate Impeachment Trial of Trump whether or not the President’s motivations mattered when he imposed a condition on the release of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid for the Ukraine’s defence against Russian aggression. If the President insisted on a quid pro quo that Ukraine investigate Trump’s leading Democratic Party rival before getting the military aid was that permitted?

Dershowitz, one of Trump’s lawyers, went beyond saying what he needed to say to answer that question. Dershowitz said, Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it. There are no limits on what the President can do. Dershowitz in effect suggested.

 I was stunned to hear this. Democracy is more than counting ballots. Counting ballots is important. It is a vital part of democracy, but it is not all of democracy. A democracy must be a country that permits all citizens to vote and for all their votes to count equally. But there are many forms of democracy. Democracy is more than that.

The majority must be constrained by civil liberties or human rights. In other words, we must have a liberal or constitutional democracy. Even majorities in a genuine democracy cannot impose their will on the minorities in all cases. There must be reasonable limits on what the majority can do. For example, the majority cannot be allowed to ban freedom of religion or freedom of speech.  Another example: the majority cannot be permitted to ban free speech, or the free press, or the freedom to assemble.

In Canada such limitations on democracy are contained in the Charter of Rights and Liberties. Added to that, to have a democracy we must have a society in which the rule of law is respected. We do not elect dictators or kings. Our elected representatives, even our top leaders, must govern by law. Political leaders must be governed by law like everyone else. They cannot do anything they want. This is the flaw in Dershowitz’s argument. Saying the President can do “anything he wants,” amounts to saying the President can be an absolute dictator. That is contrary to democracy.

I am no expert on the American constitution so don’t want to comment on it. But a democratic society cannot be led by a dictator or king, even if the term of the leader is limited for specific years, such as 4 years in the case of the United States.

Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

Dershowitz argued,

“If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.”


Of course, earlier Trump himself made it clear that this was his position. No surprise there. He said “I can do whatever I want.” Trump’s actions and statements, ever since he got elected, make it clear that is precisely what Trump believed. If Trump is right, America is not a democracy! If Trump is right the US has elected a King!

In the impeachment trial in the Senate the House managers who acted as prosecutors, played the video of Trump making this statement over and over again. It was no surprise that Trump believed this. All of his actions and statements since being elected in 2016 made it clear that this was his belief.  Few others have expressed similar views. Therefore is it was shocking to see this position supported by Alan Dershowitz a respected Harvard Law Professor emeritus.

As shocking as all of this is, and it is shocking, what is even more shocking is that millions of Americans agree with this!  Millions don’t challenge his statement. Whatever Trump says or does, he must be right. We will soon see how many Republican Senators agree with this. I suspect almost all of them agree. In my view this means all of these people do not think it is important that the country is democratic! That is shocking!

I wonder how many Americans think Trump is a king?

Impeachment is not important; Democracy is important

I don’t know know what happened today at the impeachment hearing in the U.S. Senate as to the conduct of President Donald J. Trump, but I suspect it was not good. I suspect the Republicans who control the Senate decided it was not necessary to have witnesses for a fair trial.  That is because their minds are made up. They won’t convict not matter what, so why have a trial?

If I am wrong, and there will be witnesses, I suspect that won’t matter for the same reason. They have already decided to acquit no matter what evidence is produced against Trump.

I don’t really care about Donald Trump. Americans elected him. Americans can live with him. What I do care about is that it seems millions of Americans no longer believe in democracy. To think that in the self-proclaimed leader of the free world millions of people no longer care about whether they live in a democracy or not is deeply disturbing to me.

I never thought impeachment was a good idea, at least until Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of impeachment. I know lots of people despise her, particularly on the right. I don’t despise her; I respect her. She is a wily politician. She was largely responsible for getting Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) approved by Congress. She did that, if you recall, when many in the house of Representatives and Senate were violently opposed to it, but she promised Obama she would deliver the votes and she did. It was masterly. If now she thinks impeachment is necessary, I find it hard to disagree with her.

What we all have to remember is that democracy is more than giving people the right to vote and then saying the will of the majority as evidenced by votes, must prevail. This is part of democracy, but more is needed to have a genuine democracy. For example, the country must respect the rule of law. Moreover there must be reasonable limits on what the majority can do. Human rights must be respected even if the majority wants to get around them. This is important.

We need rights and freedoms that are entrenched in a constitution to be a democracy. That means these rights and freedoms are constitutionally protected. There are different kinds of constitutions and different kinds of human rights. So some democracies are more democratic than others.

As well, those rights and freedoms need not be absolute. In Canada the way our Charter puts it is that limits on the basic rights and freedoms must be such as can be justified in a free and democratic society.

This ensures that the leaders who are elected must obey the law and must honour and respect the fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. In a democracy we don’t elect absolute rulers. We don’t elect kings who are entitled to do as they please. Our leaders must be subject to the rule of law and basic rights and freedoms. This is sometimes called a Liberal democracy.

Even though I am not per se concerned about whether Donald Trump is found guilty of what the American Constitution calls “high crimes and misdemeanors.” If he is found guilty of that by the Senate he will be removed from office. I believe Trump richly deserves this, but that is not for me to decide. I am concerned however that more and more Americans don’t seem to care any more if they have a democracy or not. I am concerned that many Americans seem content to have an absolute ruler. It does seem to me that millions of Americans don’t care. That I think is very important.


The Rio Grande is not Grand


On our trip to Arizona we saw that the Rio Grande River was dry again. This magnificent historic river has been reduced to a few puddles here. Nothing that would warrant the name “grand” or even “river.”  This is a shame. After we passed it I realized I should have stopped to photograph its demise. Next year I should photograph that as well.

Will Rogers once described the Rio Grande as “the only river I know of that is in need of irrigating.”  This was funny, but also a wise observation because thanks to dams and withdrawals for agriculture this famous river has become fragmented.  It is nearly 1,900 miles longs second in the US to only the Missouri-Mississippi network. At least at one time the Rio Grande was that long. It really isn’t anymore as we could see. Water no longer flows through its entire channel.

The Rio Grande’s headwaters are found in the San Juan Range in Colorado. From there it empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville Texas. Water flows into the Rio Grande from 11% of the continental United States. Much of that land is drought prone, but it is also vulnerable to many dams and irrigation projects that divert much of it historic flow. In recent years significant portions of it have run dry. In 2001 for the first time the river failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico. It happened again the next year.

Diversions for municipal and agricultural use claim 95% of its average annual flow. That is the problem. Recent droughts have exacerbated the problem. Climate change may mean there are more droughts. So the future of the river is grim. Growing populations around Albuquerque and El Paso sharpen the problems.

Yet parts of it are still spectacular. But we did not see any of them. We just saw puddles. No river at all.