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Today In History
On July 8, 1905
Part of Angel Island allocated for Immigration Detention Center

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IF YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY ... Not all that long ago now President Barack Obama "announced that ... grants will be available for those wishing to do research in renewable energy ... such as wind [and] solar." The next day "German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG said ... it will acquire a 28 per cent stake in Archimede Solar Energy S.p.A. to expand its expertise in solar thermal power plants." Meanwhile, for mere mortals who just want to know more the OpenSolar blog in the San Francisco Bay Area has been expanding its resources for letting you "ask questions about solar technology and get personal answers from experienced solar professionals and installation owners." All this remains one big piece in the big new clean-energy future that lies ahead. You can check it out in depth at ABOUT OPEN SOLAR!

GREAT COUNTERWEIGHTS MIGRATION SOON .. meanwhile: Calgary election stampede, monarchy busted, etc ..  
Written by the counterweights editors  
Monday, 06 July 2009  

The big Canadian national event July 3–12, 2009 is the Calgary Stampede. This year’s marshal for the July 3 Stampede parade was Canada’s most painstaking (and expensive?) TV handyman, Mike Holmes. He at least "lives outside of Toronto, ON." And so a further blow of sorts was struck for national unity. East is east and west is west, but it is still all the same country.

It nonetheless may or may not be a sign of what lies ahead back east in Ottawa this fall that both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff — in between flipping pancakes and wearing cowboy hats (in which neither of them looks good, unlike, e.g., Laureen Ann Teskey Harper) — are using the 2009 stampede as a platform for what may or may not be the start of yet another Canadian federal election campaign. Whatever happens, one thing that is still not likely to be an election issue this coming time around, whenever it exactly proves to be, is the future of the British monarchy in Canada. Even so, according to a new Strategic Counsel opinion poll: "The monarchy is a bust with today's Canadians ...65 per cent ... thought the ties to the Crown should be severed once [Queen Elizabeth II] passes." Our own breathtaking news is that the counterweights site will be undergoing some renovations very soon. In the process it will be unavailable for a few days. But then it will be back in a brand new suit — bigger and better than ever (well better at least)!

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 July 2009 )

CANADA DAY IN TORONTO 2009 .. Percy Robinson and the reluctant Canadian republic  
Written by the counterweights editors  
Sunday, 28 June 2009  

TORONTO. SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009. The Canada Day that looms ahead this year is looking a bit gloomy in this changing metropolis. As just one of many cases in point, an Ontario cabinet minister from faraway Windsor has called Torontonians "babies" for complaining about a garbage strike right when the weather gets hot. Premier McGuinty himself (from Ottawa) has obtusely counseled patience. An aging local newspaper columnist more sensitively reports a "rising concern that public sector workers ... can take advantage of their monopoly position to blackmail ordinary citizens ... It's hard not to feel — angrily — that something is wrong." The deepest background is of course the economy, stupid. Toronto today is not the economic powerhouse it used to think it was. But fresh intimations of the local past and future offer fresh glimmers of hope. It is high time that someone started celebrating the remarkable local historian Percy Robinson, author of the minor classic of 1933, Toronto during the French Regime. And then there are the growing republican urges of this once very Tory monarchist town. (As in Frederick Vaughan’s book of 2003, The Canadian Federalist Experiment: From Defiant Monarchy to Reluctant Republic.) In any case, Happy Canada Day Canada — from the big city region you love to hate. The times are changing. Many new answers are blowing in the wind.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 July 2009 )

WHAT DO DEXTER AND MOUSAVI HAVE IN COMMON .. and/or what does change in Nova Scotia mean?  
Written by Citizen X  
Saturday, 20 June 2009  

SATURDAY, JUNE 20, 2009. On a day when politically obsessed people around the world are haunted by the latest tense reports about “Fierce clashes on streets of Tehran,” it may seem a bit quaint to pay brief homage to yesterday’s installation of Darrell Dexter’s first New Democratic government in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. But then again why not? From one not entirely hyperbolic view, the people of Nova Scotia have just decided to turn a corner not altogether unlike the corner trying to be navigated by the people of Iran (or at least some of them — and not every Nova Scotian voted NDP either). Premier Dexter symbolizes the intriguing new political fact that one of the most traditional provinces of the present Canadian confederation is about to move in new directions. In some respects these directions are obvious enough, and have grander analogues in neighbouring places. (Note the first “African-Nova Scotian” Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis, who administered Premier Dexter’s oath of office on June 19, and his African-Nova Scotian cabinet minister, Percy Paris too.)  In other ways just what the new “conservative progressivism” of the Nova Scotia New Democrats really means — for Nova Scotia, Canada, and the NDP at large — remains quite obscure. And its future is almost fascinating (especially if you drink a lot of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale).

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 July 2009 )

FALL ELECTION .. or first steps towards a new minority-government political culture in Canada?  
Written by the counterweights editors  
Wednesday, 17 June 2009  

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 2009. “No summer election as Harper, Ignatieff reach deal” is the headline for a Canadian Press story run in the Halifax Chronicle Herald today. Yahoo Canada is carrying a later revised version, re-titled “MPs brace for fall election as summer vote averted.” Other variations include “Harper and Ignatieff reach deal” (Globe and Mail), “Harper, Ignatieff agree to study EI reform” (Vancouver Sun), “Election talk put off till fall” (Toronto Star), “Le huis clos s'étire à Ottawa” (Le Devoir in Montreal), and “Canada avoids summer election” (Associated Press, in both the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle). However you write the headline, probably the best spin for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff  is that the election-saving deal just may mark the beginning of some constructive fresh evolution of Canadian federal political culture, to fit a new age of minority government that is arguably not going away any time soon. This is not the way many in Ottawa want to tell the story right now. But history could show that Ignatieff had the last laugh when he said: “We have found a way ... to make this government accountable and I feel that this is a good day for our country ...  more importantly, it's a good day also for this system of Parliament.” (Well ... “this system of Parliament” is not elegant language, in the style-is-the-man of Pierre Trudeau: but it does nonetheless make a potentially crucial point!)

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 )

THERE’S PONTIAC .. AND THEN THERE’S PONTIAC .. and both are worth a few historical tears ..  
Written by L. Frank Bunting  
Friday, 05 June 2009  

“Mostly,” the historian Jill Lepore wrote in a New Yorker article a few months ago, “we’re bankrupt of history.” And in the wake of General Motors’ decision of April 27, 2009 to discontinue the manufacture of Pontiac brand automobiles (and the still more recent GM filing for US bankruptcy protection on June 1), the historian Gordon Mitchell Sayre seems vaguely prophetic: “I would guess that fewer than one in ten of those who drive the automobiles that bear his name could identify the historical Pontiac” — the War Chief of the Ottawas who may or may not have engineered the formidable North American Indian uprising of 1763, sometimes still known as The Conspiracy of Pontiac. Sayre’s remarks hold for Canadian as well as US drivers of Pontiac automobiles. And yet Canada survives today partly because of what Pontiac did in the Great Lakes wilderness of the 1760s. In the early 21st century a properly decolonized country that was not quite so bankrupt of its own history might cast the Ottawa war chief in almost as prominent a role as the first prime minister of the Canadian confederation of 1867, John A. Macdonald! (Or as the still compelling fur-trade historian Harold Innis declared back in 1930: “We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions.”)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 July 2009 )

MURDER ON THE BRUCE PENINSULA REVISITED .. at last a preliminary hearing begins  
Written by the counterweights editors  
Thursday, 04 June 2009  

In Ontario today, as in so many other places no doubt, the rule of law often seems to move at what can only strike we ordinary citizens and taxpayers as an astoundingly glacial pace. It was more than 16 months ago now that  the 57-year-old Dr. Henry Janssen was found shot to death in his “red Chevy pickup truck ... on Scenic Caves Road,” in the idyllic Bruce Peninsula community of Jackson’s Cove. And Dr. Janssen’s friend and neighbour, retired corporate executive Allan Wayne Powney, was charged with his murder only two days later — on January 24, 2008. Mr. Powney subsequently spent more than three months in jail “before being granted bail in May last year.” (More exactly: “Murder suspect Allan Wayne Powney literally sprinted to freedom Monday [May 5, 2008] —  to a waiting car from a side door at the courthouse — after a Superior Court justice released him on strict terms into the care of six family members who posted $300,000 bail.”) Then a  “hearing into the fate of Dr. Janssen’s alleged murderer, Wayne Powney, was held on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound.”  At that point there was talk of setting a date for a preliminary hearing, “to determine if enough evidence exists to go to trial.” Now, at last, we know that this inquiry will start on Monday, June 8, 2009. And it “is scheduled for 14 days, concluding July 9.”

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 )

PASSPORT PLEASE .. does it matter that ex US presidents don`t know new border drill for June 1?  
Written by Dominic Berry  
Saturday, 30 May 2009  

TORONTO. SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009. [UPDATED MONDAY, JUNE 1]. According to Time magazine, there was “a crowd of 5,000” inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre yesterday, listening to former US presidents George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton “share their experiences ... as commander-in-chief.” Meanwhile, only a “few hundred protesters gathered outside .... Most of the anger was reserved for Bush, but the largest banner treated them equally: ‘Bush & Clinton: War Criminals Not Welcome in Toronto.’” (We do believe in equality in Canada.) Time did not report on the part of the event that has most fascinated the Canadian Press: “Bill Clinton and George W. Bush admitted ... they had no idea the US was implementing a new rule Monday that would require Canadians and Americans to have passports to cross the border.”, however, did tell us that: “Both former presidents pleaded ignorance about the June 1 implementation of a passport requirement at the US-Canada border.” And the deadline has certainly caught my attention. This coming Monday, June 1 I’m going to the Passport Canada office downtown, to plug into the “Simplified Passport Renewal Process.” My trip back to the auld sod in Tuscany was cancelled for this summer. But you never know when you might want to pop across the line to the USA, for any of many good and bad reasons.

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 )

SOME OBSTACLES TO DEMOCRACY IN CANADA, PART DEUX .. the long wave goodbye to the British monarchy
SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR MANMOHAN SINGH .. democracy in India surprises almost everyone
MOVIE ON HEMINGWAY’S LIFE COMING .. but it’s not his life that counts?
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