Stolen Quote: Tyranny

No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets. ~ Edward Abbey, Author


Yes, including neighborhood code enforcers, government forms that defy understanding, and toll roads that only accept transponder payment.

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Thanks, Canada

Recently the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, stated that Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada were “kind of insulting” and that Canada would not be pushed around.

Trump responded with vituperant vilipending, and has called Trudeau all kinds of names, and has said Trudeau’s statement will cost him a lot of money.

Wow, what a war of words we have brewing here.

Now social media has jumped into this imbroglio with Americans launching a #ThankCanada and #ThanksCanada Twitter campaign.

Americans love Canada, and we don’t want anyone messing with our favorite country to the north. Not even our own president. Hands off, Trump!

But I have some words of caution for PM Trudeau. I believe he’s on a losing path. From my observation no politician, domestic or foreign, has ever bested Trump in a war of words. He could very well be the worst president we’ve ever had, but he’s absolutely the best at one thing. He’s a master of the ad hominem attack.

Any trade deficit we have with Canada will be quickly overcome with a surplus of well-crafted insults from our Commander-in-Chief. You can’t beat him this way, Justin. Sadly, you just can’t.

But there is one way to beat him. You have to go after Trump’s big weakness. His kryptonite. It stops this guy in his tracks every time. It’s called “facts”. Nothing is more cryptic to Trump than facts.

Trump simply cannot handle facts. Justin, don’t go about saying vague things like Canada will not be pushed around and blah, blah, blah. Trump will blow you out of the water with his ripostes. No, just stick to the facts, and this bully in our White House will run for cover.

For instance, Justin, you could point out that while the U.S. has indeed had a trade deficit with Canada of about $15 billion per year since 2015, that’s about a fifth what the deficit was in 2008. You could also point out that our deficit with China has been running about $350 billion per year since 2015, which is nearly $100 billion more than 2008.

If you would just say something like that, Trump would squawk and yelp and shout “Fake news! Fake news!” (unaware of the fact that these figures come from our own Census Bureau) and then quickly try to change the subject.

Just the facts, Justin, just the facts. Stick with the facts, while avoiding vague language, and you will win every time.

I don’t have a Twitter account, so I can’t participate in Twitter’s #ThankCanada campaign. So instead I’d like to finish this blog by saying my thank you’s here:

First, a big thank you to my Canadian blogging buddies. For example, Gibber Jabberin’ always comes through with hilarious comments to spice up my posts. And Joanne Sisco, I love your photography and fun little write-ups about Toronto.

Thank you Canada for offering us Americans a place of refuge from time to time. For instance in the 1960s and 1970s, when you welcomed young American men who opposed fighting in the Vietnam War, to escape to your country. And also thank you for the affordable prescription drugs ailing Americans have been able to obtain across your borders. You have saved many American lives.

Thanks Canada for Dr. James Naismith, who created the game of basketball.

Thanks Canada for your beautiful scenery that we Americans drink in by the millions when we vacation in your lands. I’ll never forget the time my wife and I got off a cruise ship in Skagway, Alaska. We rented a car and drove through the northwest corner of British Columbia, and into the Yukon. We had to stop at a border checkpoint along the way, but the Canadian officers were very polite and even gave us helpful advice. We always felt safe on this motor trip, and were treated decently by every Canadian we met.

Bennett Lake at Carcross, Yukon. Thanks Canada, for amazing scenery like this!

Thanks Canada for cars, oil, food, computers, gold, diamonds, and so much more. And thank you for helping us with our conscience. When we buy Canadian we can always rest assured that nobody was enslaved or horribly exploited in the making of the product.

Thanks Canada for setting a good example with your healthcare system. If only we had the guts to follow it.

Thanks for Horseshoe Falls. I’ve never been there, but I’ve always heard it’s the best part of Niagara Falls.

Thanks for these things, and so much more.

Thank you, Canada.

Swallowing Capistrano

Votive offerings before the goddess Mary, at Serra’s Chapel, Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? President Ulysses S. Grant, of course. Where is Mission San Juan Capistrano located? Why, in San Juan Capistrano, California, of course.

Which is where my wife and I headed a few months ago, on our mission to visit all of California’s historic Catholic missions. This was our eighth, of 21 missions visited. We began this quest back in the 1990’s, so please be patient with our progress.

The gilded altar of Serra’s Chapel.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was established in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. That year he built Serra’s Chapel, a small church that is still in use today, and is the oldest church in California.

Ahem, let me correct that factoid. Father Serra did not build the chapel. The Native Americans he enslaved did the actual labor. He just supervised and made sure they did a good job, while edifying themselves with good old fashioned godly hard work.

Serra’s Chapel is very long and narrow. That’s my wife standing near the back. Ain’t she purty?

And they did do a good job. So good that this autochthonous tribe was conscripted into the construction of a far larger, Great Stone Church. Their backbreaking, salvation-earning moil and toil began in 1797. Nine long years of sweat, struggle, and hernias later, the magnificent cathedral was completed.

A wall of the Great Stone Church.

Finally the exhausted slaves christians could rest. No more hoicking heavy stones. No more long, agonizing hours beneath the burning sun. And no more beatings and whippings for the slow slackers.

This mighty monument to the mercy of the Lord stood 180 feet long and 40 feet wide, and came equipped with a 120 foot bell tower that could be seen for many miles. It was something to be proud of for the Spanish, and even for the natives who built it.

Worship within the walls of this wonder began in 1806. But just six years later, on December 8th, 1812, the San Andreas fault erupted with 7.2 magnitudes of jolting, destructive power. The cathedral’s stone arch roof had been constructed poorly and could not withstand the shaking of a major earthquake. This grand structure that took nine hard years to build, was wiped out in a matter of seconds.

Ruins of the Great Stone Church. The altar seems to have been the only safe spot during the shaking.

If the purpose of this cathedral was to bring Native Americans close to God, it succeeded wildly. When the earth began to move, Mass was being held. Forty native worshipers perished beneath the falling stones of the collapsing roof. And two boys in the toppled bell tower were also killed. I suppose they got as close to God as anyone can possibly get.

Ancient mission bells, with ruins of the Great Stone Church in the background.

The Great Stone Church was never rebuilt, but worship continued in Serra’s Chapel, eventually converting more than 4,000 native souls to christianity.

A campanario (bell wall) was built a year after the 1812 earthquake, that connected the ruins of the Great Stone Church to Serra’s Chapel.

After Mexico’s independence, and the United States’ thievery of California from Mexico, Mission San Juan Capistrano fell into labefaction. Then, in 1910, Father John O’Sullivan took over the mission and began its restoration.

These brick ovens were employed for feeding the multitude of christian slaves immured at the mission.

Father O’Sullivan is credited (or rather, he credits himself) for a singular miracle that has made this site world famous. He claims to have brought the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano.

During his tutelage of this mission, people began to notice that thousands of swallows were building their nests on the mission walls. Every Spring, these birds would migrate 6,000 miles, from Goya, Argentina, just to make the mission their home.

And then in 1940, the Ink Spots put San Juan Capistrano on the map with their hit recording of the song, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.

Why did the swallows start coming to Mission San Juan Capistrano? According to Father O’Sullivan, it all began one day when he was walking about the town outside the mission.

He noticed a shopkeeper flailing about with a broomstick, knocking down mud nests from under the eaves of his shop, while panicked birds zoomed all around him, shrieking madly.

“What in the hell is going on?!” shouted Father O’Sullivan. Well maybe he didn’t quite use those particular words. Here’s the actual dialogue, according to the good Father, from his book Capistrano Nights:

“What in the world are you doing?” O’Sullivan asked.

“Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded.

“But where can they go?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”

O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.”

The very next morning, Father O’Sullivan discovered the swallows busy building their nests outside Father Junipero Serra’s Church.

In the early 1920s Father O’Sullivan began a tradition of celebrating the return of the swallows to the mission every March 19th (Saint Joseph’s Day). This tradition now draws thousands of tourists every year to join the celebration.

However in the 1990s the mission underwent remodeling. The nests of these dirty birds got in the way and were a nuisance. So the construction workers knocked them down. And after that the swallows stopped returning to Capistrano.

Many attempts have been made to lure the swallows back, but to little avail.

It seems that even for birds, hypocrisy is a hard thing to swallow.

These artificial nests were placed in this archway to entice the swallows to return. They’ve only been modestly effective. Very few birds have swallowed the bait.