Me and My Senate

(An old fogey's critique of things)

November 11, 2017

I am an old fogey.

And I ramble a lot.

That's what old fogeys do. They ramble a lot.

I ramble a lot about our Senate. People don't like that. That's why I keep my rambling to myself, quietly. While doing a jigsaw puzzle or whatever.

I also ramble about the past. About things I should have done, but I didn't. Things I should have said, but I didn't. Words I should have chosen, but I didn't. But mostly about things I did that I shouldn't have done. Things I cannot undo. Regrets.

Old fogeys have regrets. Lots of regrets.

And I ramble about the future, about any good I might do, still might do, because I have a family. Wife and children, grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

I try to think positive. That's hard; often that's very hard. Thinking about our Senate, I try to focus on what senators could do to make it a better Senate. And make suggestions—that's not hard at all. Aren't the best helmsmen found ashore?

Canadians have fine senators. Talented senators. Well-mannered senators. Honourable senators.

We also have not-so-fine senators. People are people are people.

I used to talk about our Senate, too much. Now nobody wants me to talk about it. And so, I keep my thoughts to myself. While doing a jigsaw puzzle or whatever. They get all mashed up, my thoughts get all mashed up; past, future, family, senate, eating, having to pee, regrets; hither and dither. And so, I ramble a lot—inside mostly, outside sometimes.

I've had this website for many years. It is about the Merckelbachs. My wife is a Märckelbach. Or a Märchelbach, with 'ch' instead of 'ck'. Some bureaucrat made a mistake. Bureaucrats make mistakes. That's what bureaucrats often do—people often do.

This story is about me and my Senate. Not our Senate, not the Senate Canadians share, but my Senate, the one that could be. One I like it to be. In the words of Excalibur's King Arthur. "I must ride with my knights to defend what was, and the dream of what could be." No comparison, of course not, but I like tradition. Many senators like tradition, some to the point of only defending what was and forgetting to dream of what could be. But some good things must come to an end. Some traditions should be shed—for the greater good, as they say. That's what my Senate essay* is about. As for this story, it is about me and my Senate.

Morgan said, "It's the doom of man that they seem to forget." Remember Morgan? Born in the future, lived a life in reverse, knowing what layed ahead. Like old fogeys do when at grave's end.

The Merckelbach's go back to 1374. They're named after a property, Merkelbeek. By patrilinear tradition they were named after other properties. My website,, traces the Merckelbach cluster of families to way back, to way before they were known as Merckelbach, named after other real estate.

'Merkel' is an old word for 'jay'. 'Bach' for 'beak'. Angela Merkel—you know Angela Merkel? Everybody knows about her. Angela Merkel thinks positive, keeping an upbeat tone during perilous times. Like a jay in the woods, preyed on by falcons or eagles, or pestered by other jays, one might say. Yet, ever so melangolic.

I'm rambling. Sorry about that. Old fogeys ramble a lot.

My Senate essay became the first story in my site's rubric My-2-cents, next-door to Merckelbach history. It began a month or so before with a letter to my Member of Parliament, which I gave her on Remembrance Day of 2013. That letter, followed by two others, morphed into an essay, an ongoing essay, an ever-changing essay; changing as I learned because I knew next to nothing about our Senate at first. Only what the media told us about scandals, and some stuff picked up from the internet. That's what made me write my first letter. And put it into the wrong hands, the hands of a rookie MP; an MP, moreover, of a party that wants to get rid of our Senate. Ignorant me.  2

I also learned that people don't give a tinker's damn about our Senate other than getting hot and bothered when learning about those scandals. It seems that many folks just enjoy getting hot and bothered. That's why scandals make news that sells; like sex. Look at the magazine racks near grocery-store check-outs.

'Tinker's damn'? Or 'dam'. What does it mean? I checked the internet. Wiktionary says that it is a worthless amount of something. The Phrase Finder does better, "... there's some debate over whether this phrase should be 'tinker's dam' – a small dam to hold solder when mending pans, or 'tinker's damn' – a tinker's curse, considered of little significance because tinkers were reputed to swear habitually."

Always good to know what we are talking about; and the words we choose.

It's also good to begin stories where they ought to begin: at the beginning.

I wrote a little ditty about stories. Hardly original, but anyway, here goes, copied from my Merckelbach story

A story has
   a beginning,
   a muddle,
   and an end.
and the aim
   of the muddle is
   to reach beyond
   the enD

I am an old fogey and I am near the enD. This story is about my muddle; well, just one of the muddles I got myelf ino. Many fogeys like to ramble about their muddles. And would that people only listen.

For me, I feel the time has come to put an end to my ongoing Senate essay. To end the 'ongoing' before I do.

Back to the beginning. As I said; on Novemer 11, 2013, I handed an envelope to my Member of Parliament, with a letter in it. Not a good start—I'll take another step back.

I had been hearing and reading a lot about the Senate scandals and began to wonder what that Senate is and does. Mind, only then it was that this fogey began thinking about how our country is governed.

Am I repeating myself? Get used to it; fogeys repeat themselves all the time.

What to think of someone who begins thinking about his family only when life is coming to an end? "Apples and oranges?" you say. Well. Yes. Maybe.

I learned a few things just a week or so before I saw my then MP, at the cenotaph where the Legion has its annual Remembrance Day ceremoney. Where mothers lay wreaths, and grandchildren lay wreaths, and dignitaries lay wreaths. And make speeches that edit events long past.

Many fogeys have children and grandchildren; great-grandchildren even. They care about them. And very old fogeys care about their great-grandchildren; even if they haven't been born yet. That is what old fogeys do. Besides rambling about the past, they care about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and fathom their future. Morganlike.

That's why old fogeys care about the future. Believe me, they do. Well, mostly they do, I believe.

I had looked over the Senate's website and learned that our Senate gives sober, second thought to government bills that have come up from the Commons—'the other side' senators call it.  3

Those elected to represent us mostly sit in the Commons, with the cabinet at the top. Once elected, they begin worrying about getting re-elected next time around.

Besides representing, they debate, may serve as parliamentary secretaries, sit on committees to work on bills they want to become laws, then send them up to the Senate.

Members of Parliament 'send up'. The Senate is the Upper Chamber; MPs' make the Lower House. The Lower House sends up. MPs may be the boss, but they rank lower. Strange? It's like that in many households—or used to be.

Senators will say "Not too fast!", then nitpick at each bill and likely make changes for making a better law. Then they send the bill back to the Commons.

Our Members of Parliament who know what's good for them accept the changes made. Senators who know what's good for them don't make too many changes. This can go on a few times; for the good of all. It's for the good of all that senators know what they are talking about; about the words they choose; to remember the past and look into the future. That is why we need a Senate comprising the widest possible range of insights, of expertise, and connectios with even finer-grained expertise, like a family doctor well connected with medical specialists.

Simple as all that—were it not for a fly in the ointment.

Senators belong to political parties. Well, most senators used to do. Parties want their senators to see things their way. Which puts senators in a bind. They are tugged and tussled between two loyalties. One to our country, the other to their party. Canadians first, of course; no matter whence they come or what they believe—truly, honestly—while feeling bad when feeling like party-poopers.

Fortunately, things are changing in the Senate with political independence on the rise with only a Conservatives trying to keep their members in line through a party leader, a whip, and their caucus. Whips crack whatever whip they have—incentives, promises, shaming—and caucuses are meetings where members try to agree on what they are going to agree on during debates. Even if they don't agree.

And if a senator does not toe the party line? Conservative Senator Stephan Greene didn't: he accepted a dinner invitation from our Prime Minister, a Liberal Prime Minister. For this outrageous betrayal, he was expelled from his caucus. No fooling around with them old stalwart Conservatives! Modernization be damned! No dreaming of what could be!

The Senate recently published a colourful booklet that explains to children what senators do. It depicts senators as wise owls who resolve conflicts among lesser creatures such as beavers, squirrels, raccoons .... Click on the caption below this image to find it on the internet:

That's the short of it. And now I have to pee. Old fogeys pee a lot. That's what old fogeys do.

I feel lost. Old fogeys often feel lost; comes with the territory. Is there anything wrong about my way of thinking about our government? Or my writing about it? About a government studded with Honourables and Excellencies, reigned by Majesty.  4

I like tradition—tradition, vibrant with stirring pomp and circumstance.

Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th'ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!

Edgar; Shakespeare; Othello. It's all in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a low form of digital intelligence. It fits somewhere between books and brain implants. Even if there are some mistakes, it's to me the best part of cyberspace. It, to me, even beats Netflix and that's saying something! If you can spare a dime ... they can put it to good purpose. Those wonderful Wikipedia people, I mean.

Senators are appointed by His or Her Excellency, the Governor General upon recommendation by The Right-Honourable Prime Minister. Our current Prime Minister recommends people recommended to him by an Independent Advisory Board on Senate Appointments, whose members pick from people recommended to them. One day, perhaps, those might include people recommended by the Senate. Who knows. "We shall see what we shall see" as John Wayne was wont to say.

A commercial enterprise that wants to find someone to fill a position places an advertisement or employs headhunters to locate just the right talent it needs. Not so with our Senate. The prominent folk that make up the so-called "independent" advisory board do not seek out how best to complement the range of skills and experiences currently within the Senate; they do not strive to make for a more well-rounded think tank. In fact, they are barred from doing so by instructions from the Prime Minister's Office. But that's another story, a sad story.

Not all senators are honourable, some are merely 'The Honourable'. Some slipped through the net. Others likely will. "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made," a wise man said.

I like and admire talent—always have—talent and achievement; people who can do things I can't; people better than I. We can't and shan't be all equal; not even under the Law. Tradition.

Writing my Senate essay has mostly been a stringing together of notions put out in the world by talented people, and people with experience, and people who have achieved. Then I come to conclusions; logical conclusions, I believe. Whence some recommendations. Even recommendations that seem unpalatable.

The elected members of our government form the Lower House, or Commons, on top of which there is an Executive made up of Ministers ruled over by our Prime Minister. They come up with most of the bills.

Senators sit in the Upper House, or the Red Chamber. They are supposedly responsible only to the Queen, or the Crown, through a middle-person, our Governor General. All under some legal hocus-pocus called Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada.

Great Seal
The Great Seal of Canada symbolizes the power and authority of the Crown.
It is made of steel, weighs 3.75 kg and is 12.7 cm in diameter.

Summing up, senators are appointed by the Governor General in the name of our Sovereign and upon recommendation by the Prime Minister. Those recommended are summoned by the Governor General. Officially it goes like so, as laid out in our Constitution Act, 1867, "The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summons qualified Persons to the Senate; and subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and Senator." There it is; the whole Rube Goldberg contraption made of words. "Regina regnat, sed non gubernat," Polish statesman Jan Zamoyski would've said. And it works. Has been working for a long time. While the meaning of many words shift over time and with those who read them. That's why we need professors; of Law; of political science.

We're lucky to still have with us Senator Cools for she can quote chapter and verse on these matters. And she does, whether asked or not. That can cause a bit of friction, and some merriment.

One day, during a committee meeting, Senator Cools held forth on some issue of rules and tradition when suddenly she interrupted herself: "I have to go; some people from Treasury Board are waiting for me. In any event, what I'm trying to say ..." Then came a voice, "Saved by the Treasury Board. How many people can say that?" The senator continued her lecturing unperturbed.

"The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate," said Doug Engelbart. You don't know Doug? You should. You probably work with him every day.

I have begun to like Senator Cools. She looks back a lot. Too bad that she will be retiring in another year or so. Makes one wonder, why not have senators emeritus, senators who may go on contributing from their knowledge and wisdom? For the benefit of the country. I've begun to like some other senators too, but most others still are unknowns to me.

Oh, I forgot.

Old fogeys forget a lot. Senator Cools may not, but I do. There is that writ of summons.

"Senators," as stated in their writ of summons, are appointed "for the purpose of obtaining your advice and assistance in all weighty and arduous affairs which may be the State and Defence of Canada concern".

With that also out of the way, an appointee becomes 'The Honourable' Senator and shall no longer be lorded over by any Prime Minister. Nor might he or she worry much about that writ of summons. Which gives birth to Senate scandals. And myrth about those who remind them of that writ, or so I surmise. But that's a small matter, hidden somewhere in a transcript of some Senate committee meeting.

And one more thing.

Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy, governed by two Houses whose members are representatives of, or mostly of, various political parties. Only two paries, as it happens, in the Senate. You might say that senators' minds are drawn and quartered. That's hard. Especially so with all that legislation and other roles senators play. Much too hard for old fogeys.

That's why senators are put out to pasture at age 75. Unless they become senators emeritus, which is not in the cards. Not yet.

While learning all this, it soon struck me that two things are badly wrong. That's why I handed that letter to my MP, on November 11, 2013. Remembrance Day.

But first a pee. I wouldn't write that word if this story were only about our Senate. But it is about an old fogey and the Senate. And old fogeys pee a lot.

About that Jan Zamoyski, a Polish statesman who lived three centuries ago? He is an ancestor of my former neighbour Zam, a retired Captain in he Canadian forces; artillery, nuclear munitions. Great storyteller, Zam, about history mostly. Fought in the Polish underground; from behind barriers in Warsaw and all that. Zam's more formal monicker is Count Adam Zamoyski. He was the sole inheritor of rich Polish real estate, in 1945 confiscated by a Communist regime. His lawyers vs government, etc. but, anyway, he couldn't possibly maintain it on a captain's pension. Zam took it all in his stride; the vagaries of war and peace. Among his former tutors, Stefan Wyszy´nski, a Polish prelate who strongly urged Cardinal Wojtyla to accept his final post, as Pope John-Paul II.

Am I rambling? Sure, I'm rambling. But, why about all this in a story about me and my Senate? Just to show that everything, however 'irrelevant', is connected, even by the thinniest of threads; which is my very point. Here by a seemingly insignificant shortcut through a subconscious—that just happens to be mine—from a quotation in a correspondence course to a Pope. A manifestation of the Butterfly Effect working, working.

Our minds, yours and mine, are stronly connected, through human DNA, language, experiences—not fully, not by a long shot, but still .... I believe it important that the Senate would be well enhanced by having expertise of widely diverse minds built right in. To just get a small step closer to what it claims to be: a think tank composed of people from all walks of life. "All walks of life," they claim? Come off it.

I have a great-granddaughter, 13 months old now. When she was six months old, it was already wonderful to see how she was learning. She was learning without understanding a word she hears. Not the way we understand words. Her understanding is of a different kind, her understanding is surmising. Like I surmise, rightly or wrongly, that some senators made some scathing comment about me. My great-granddaughter surmised that when she rapidly moves her little legs in a tub with water, they cause a splashing. And when there is no water, there is no splash. No kicky, no washy. She tests. She is a scientist.  5

Scientists surmise and test. That's what scientists do; what real scientists do. They put a hypothesis to a test and, voilá, they either have or have not a theory. Not to be declared a fact yet, but not to be ignored either; certainly not when the evidence is building. Take climate change ....

My great-granddaughter has a theory: When you rapidly move your legs while sitting in water, you make a splash. Babies surmise a lot. And test a lot. These are things babies do.

As for myself, I ramble a lot. That's what old fogeys do.

For many years I made my living teaching at Montreal's Dawson College. There we had a variety of science courses: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, secretarial science. Never quite figured out how that last one got in the line-up. But why not? Universities spawn political scientists. Economics is widely perceived as a science. And secretaries do surmise—how to best please the boss—coffee, tea, or me? Oops! Wrong timeframe. That was when girls became secretaries or stewardesses to improve their economo-marital prospects. Times are are achanging; fast.

Was I a good teacher? I have my doubts. Maybe just mediocre. But then, for some I was. Water under the bridge now.

Back to my story.

Things are changing fast all around us. Hard to keep up. They have been changing fast for a long time. Faster and faster. Accelerating change. And so it should be clear as a bell: Sober, second thought may come too late. Classic common sense holds that forethought is better than afterthought. One does not take out insurance after the house has burned down.

We need forethought. Good, clean, objective forethought. Which brings me to my second point: There should be no politics muddling the waters in our Senate.

Two simple thoughts. The older the fogey, the simpler the thoughts.

Old fogeys can also be terribly naive. Well, this one can. Just to show how naieve, I put those two simple thoughts down in a letter that I handed to my Member of Parliament—who happened to be an NDP-er. All I was looking for was some advice that she might offer from her experience in the corridors of power. She opened the letter, read the first few lines and promised a response. I was still waiting for that when I got that NDP flyer, six months later.

Let's be reasonable. Politicians make many promises. Far too many to keep. So, one's got to be reasonable.

My present MP made me promises ....

My then-MP sent out many flyers. The NDP had some way to finaggle funds for mailing out lots of flyers. Flyers with simple thoughts, mostly like: NDP good, Conservative very bad. They also put a simple question, Agree? plus a tiny box for tiny comment. Postage prepaid.

Some flyers invite people to call a riding office. I did so once or twice, but no response. Even visited it, was promised a call back by some volunteer and you may guess the rest.

Then came that different flyer.

My MP was looking for volunteers. This time I filled out the box, writing something like "Why would I volunteer for someone who doesn't keep her promise to me?" And, by golly-wolly, that drew a response: "Dear Henry" followed by some porridge of party boilerplate, nonsense, and a bedbug letter. You never heard of the bedbug letter? I'll tell you.

After my pee.

Quickly, before I go. I don't want to pick on MPs. They're busy; they have staffers. All in their own cubicles—you understand; let's be reasonable.

OK, yes, the bedbug letter. I'll tell you. Once upon a time—  6

But before I forget—old fogeys forget a lot. They ramble, and pee a lot, and also forget a lot.

(I am told there is too much peeing in my story. I wonder about that too and so, I will send it off to my G.P. to see what should be examined. My bladder or my head.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. I had another simple idea that I wrote my MP about, a few days later. That idea was that senators should get to know Canadians. There is an odd one. Of course, they do know Canadians, but what I mean is Canadians outside their everyday social circles. The men in the street. The women in the kitchen. They should talk with them, not only to them. They should put themselves in their place and take that place into the Senate, unfiltered by politicians and staffers.

I followed through by sketching a proposal. About one-third of our senators should be out among folk a lot, leaving other senators to look after Bills and tackle complex problems waiting to be tackled.

That I wrote to an MP who wants to get rid of the Senate. How dumb. Old fogeys do dumb things a lot.

Here I was writing a letter to an NDP-er that our senators should become more sensitive to the plight of plain folk. How ridiculous. Don't you think that's ridiculous? That's one reason why people don't like listening to old fogeys; they can be so ridiculous. Anyway ...

Three simple ideas I had written to my MP well before that "Dear Henry" letter; signed by her but probably strung together by some staffer. Come to think of it, here is another simple idea.

When someone working for a politician writes a letter, that someone should have his or her initials on the letter. Something like AB:cd, the politician's initials plus the writer's initials. That way they share responsibility for whatever bedbug letter leaves the office. That's a very old idea in business correspondence; not my idea.

Back to the bedbug letter.

Once upon a time, the story goes, when people travelled in Pullman railway sleeping cars, a passenger found a bedbug in his berth. He wrote a letter to George M. Pullman, president of Pullman's Palace Car Company, informing him of this unhappy fact. By return, he received the following:

"The company has never heard of such a thing and as a result of your experience, all the sleeping cars are pulled off the line and fumigated.

"The Pullman's Palace Car Company is committed to providing its customers with the highest service, and it will spare no expense in meeting that goals.

"Thank you for writing and if you ever have a similar problem, or any problem, do not hesitate to write to me again."

Then came a little mishap. Enclosed with the letter was the passenger's original one to Pullman, across the bottom of which the president had scrawled a note to his secretary: "Send this S.O.B. the standard bedbug letter."

Bedbug letters. Apologies. Dime a dozen. I received answers from two different Minsters of Democratic Institutions to letters I wrote. Long letters that didn't respond to my concern at all. I assume they had been scraped together from other letters they had sent. Bedbug letters of sorts. And as for promises by MPs ... better forget about those.

Except for one: Pierre Lemieux.

But let me tell you first about a plan I, with the patient help of some others, had worked on.

I had learned that while individuals in the electorate complain about politicians, some through 'letters-to-the-editor', a number of politicians feel that the electorate is not only either poorly informed or misinformed, but also have no interest in the substance of their work. It is a situation that endangers democracy and one consequence is intensified political propaganda. Question is, can this reality be positively addressed. I haven't got the answer, but I feel that perhaps one route of getting at least somewhere is by presenting the public with the "people-and-their-work side" of politicians as distinct from their stance as members of a political party.

I planned, therefore, an event—an experiment or pilot event—that, if we can make it successful, can be adapted by other communities. The idea was to get two politicians, one federal, the other provincial, to talk about some aspects of their work in a dignified setting. Invitations for some press coverage would go out for people other than those attending.

I contacted, among others, Mr. Pierre Lemieux, who had served 20 years in the Canadian forces, rising to Lieutenant-Colonel, and served for nine years as an MP —deputy whip, parliamentary secretary, the works. I contacted him through an assistant.

It didn't work out. It didn't work out for good reasons. One reason, not so good, was that his response came too late. Wrote he, "I apologize for the lateness of this reply – it is my fault as Katharina had sent it to me, but I had been traveling on Veterans Affairs business. Although I read it when I received it, I was unable to give it my full consideration at the time and then it got buried amongst hundreds of other e-mails.

"I very much like what it is you are trying to organize as I think it would be very useful and informative for those who attend." Etc.

What struck me most that the writer took the blame, not putting it on his assistant. An honourable MP, alas not "The Hon. M.P."

I intended to renew my efforts the year following, but had to give up my driver's licence. Had lost consciousness a few times and did not want to endanger other people on the road.

Sorry, please forgive me. It's a bit annoying but I do have to go.

O, forgot. Mr. Lemieux lost the 2015 election. Or was the loser his riding?

As I was telling you, or didn't I? About my blog that soon turned into an essay? Maybe I didn't.  7

I began putting my simple ideas together on my website in that thus-far empty space named My-2-cents. Not a penny in it. So many people put so many things on the internet, I just left it blank until I had something really important to say. Then, early in 2014, I felt that I did.

The essay became a log of sorts about what learned about the Senate and some notes about what came to mind. One thing I learned right off is that "There has been very little consensus as to what that institution should be and, what if anything, it should do." Senator Serge Joyal wrote that way back in 1999, two years after joining the Senate. Senator Joyal strikes me as a competent person caught up in a not altogether competent environment.

"A not altogether competent ...." Didn't I put that charitably? Old fogeys can be quite tolerant of human foibles. They usually are. Stevie comes to mind.

Stevie was editor emeritus of Pulp & Paper Magazine of Canada when I got a job there as technical editor. That was more than half a century ago. Not that I had any experience editing; I was still learning English. It's just that they couldn't find anybody else. Not for what they were willing to pay. But I had to learn fast. I read Fowler's Modern English Usage from cover to cover and back. I read a Canadian style manual; from cover to cover and back. And I kept my somewhat harsh Dutch accent.

On assignment to New York for a story about the unloading of rolls of paper destined for the New York Times, I happened to sit next to a New Yorker in some diner. Friendly man. He struck up a conversation and asked if I was from Quebec. That surprized me. "How do you know?" I asked. "I can tell from your lovely Quebec accent."

Oh, yes; Stevie. Stevie was editor emeritus of Pulp & Paper Magazine of Canada when I got a job there as technical editor. He had been given a nice corner office and worked on a book about the history of making paper. That was more than half a century ago. Kind man. I showed him a draft of my first article, about unloading rolls of paper for The New York Times. He read a couple of paragraphs, then said, "A bit flowery." All he said.

I cut out all the flowers. Editors cut. "When in doubt, cut it out." Editors don't ramble. Not until they become old fogeys. Old fogeys just can't cut it. Right or wrong, they have no doubt.

I remember taking pictures of rolls being unloaded onto a dock and I remember walking through the warehouse where they are stored. I remember being chased by a trolley and having to jump among stacks of newsprint to not get hit. I remember some rough-looking stevedore coming up to me about what I was doing there, and him taking me to his union boss. I remember it well. The New York Times has no say at the docks. Union bosses have. Dockworkers didn't have lovely accents, not then. It was hard to make them out. Intimidating place to be, a New York dock.

I don't remember they ever said "f**k." That entered everyday discourse much later. Not in the Senate, obviously. Senators abide by Bourinot's Rules of Order. In debate, Senators address one another as "Honourable Senator So-and-so." When senators heartily agree, the Hansard shows: "Honourable Senators: Hear! Hear!"

Not all senators hear very well. Senator Bellemare once told her colleagues quite outright, "If someone were to ask me what has struck me the most in my three years in the Senate, I would say that it is the fact that there is no debate in this chamber. There is some debate, but most of the time people don't listen to each other. They plug their ears, close their eyes or look elsewhere. They don't look at each other, so the debate doesn't exist. There is no added value."

I learned fast. I learned that senators who don't show up get penalized. Their bodies must be there, their minds are free to roam.

A senator once wrote me that she was going to look over my essay during a debate. Not that anything came from it. Same as with other, repeated promises. Nice person, nevertheless. I mean that. Not having an easy life, I surmise.

Old fogeys aren't the only ones who forget. So do senators. And professors. A political-science professor promised to comment on my essay so that I might improve it. That was a year ago.

I shouldn't gripe about that. I've made promises I did't keep. And the professor has apologized since and promised to get on with it. I don't remember myself ever apologizing for forgetting. From crooked timber, you know.

Et dimitte nobis debita nostra
Sicut et nos demittimus debitoribus nostris

Not all people forget their promises. Senator Joyal promised to read my essay and he did. In response, he mentioned discussions he had with professors about how to improve the Senate, and that he expected a Senate committee to be formed, and that I should deposit a Brief with the to-be-appointed clerk of that committee. Which I did.*

But I am getting ahead of myself. A whole year ahead.

I'll come back, right after my pee. You know? Old fogeys pee a lot, and ramble a lot, and forget a lot. And forgive a lot—sicut et nos demittimus debitoribus nostris. Try saying that in a hurry.

To China.  8

Remember Justin Trudeau about China? I remember it well. That other fogey, Maurice Chevalier, he remembered it well, even when all the while his partner kept correcting him:

We met at nine / we met at eight.
I was on time / no, you were late.
Ah, yes, I remember it vell.
We dined with friends / we dined alone.
A tenor sang / a baritone.
Ah, yes, I remember it vell.

A song in one'a heart helps smooth the path through life.

Je chante, je chante soir et matin
Je chante sur mon chemin
Je suis heureux, j'ai tout et j'ai rien
Je chante sur mon chemin.

For me, that was cabaretier Charles Trenet, if you like to know.

Asked which government he admired most, Trudeau replied, "There is a level of admiration I actually have for China." Further, "Their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say we need to go green ... we need to start investing in solar."

Did he ever get it in the neck!

Conservatives' Peter van Loon and NDP's Hélène Laverdière raked him over the coals, as did newspaper columnists, as did CBC's super-erudite Rex Murphy, who illustrated his contempt with a picture of Mao Tse-Tung. A 35-year anachronism. China has been changing so fast of late, 35 years of progress there seems something like 200 years here.

That was back in 2013. Since then, Conservatives have worked hard to do business with China. Never mind Mao's picture on Chinese money. Pecunia non olet. And when Trudeau visited China three years later and again said what he admired about the country, Canadians widely praised him for his political adroitness.

Not only old fogeys forget.

I believe that we can learn much from China and wrote so in my essay. Also why we can. We can learn from other countries as well. And from our own. Back in 2013, Trudeau expressed admiration for Nunavut, the Nortwest Territories, and the Yukon for their administrations without political parties, but around consensus. He said, "I think there is a lot to be said for people pulling together to try and resolve issues rather than to score points off each other." That's something that comes up from time to time in the deliberations of our Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization, at work since February 2014. The counter-argument is still alive as well: A good debate needs adversaries, so it is said. And so it goes, on the one hand ..., but on the other .... I'll come to that later. Remind me if I forget. Old fogeys forget a lot.

Here is a suggestion for the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization: How about inviting Trudeau as a witness, about people pulling together to try and resolve issues rather than to score points off each other? Tongue-in-cheek nonsense? Of course. Probably.

Remember what made 1867 such an important year in Canadian history? I didn't know at first, but I do now. It was the year that the first Canadian-made automobile was introduced. At the Stanstead Annual Farm Exhibition. The Taylor Steam Buggy. Sadly, it failed at the exhibition—drove into a creek, I believe. But it was soon fixed up again and has happily puffed along Quebec roads for a couple of years—ridiculed wherever it went.

Someone, in the fifties, picked up the pieces and revived that buggy. He had broken and missing parts replaced and a brake added. Also a fresh coat of paint. Beautiful! A triumph for the conservative spirit. But with its top speed of 24 km an hour it would be a danger on today's highways.

Our Canadian Constitution, too, dates from 1867. Formally known at first as The British North America Act, 1867, it was cleansed of its colonial flavour by renaming as the Constitution Act, 1867. It has a brake: senatorial veto power to prevent the elected government from going off the road. Which often is a source of politicians' gripes. The veto power, that is.

Steam Buggy       Confedeation

The act was given a fresh coat of paint in 1982 by shifting it from the authority of the British Parliament to that of our federal and provincial legislatures. It was also given a new part, the Bill of Rights and Freedoms. That put a brake on ignoring minorities. Senator Joyal had a lot to do with that. He was co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Patriation of the Canadian Constitution that gave rise to our Constitution Act, 1982. He wasn't a senator yet; that came 15 years later. I like to add that he also is the editor of Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate you never knew. Written in 2003. It's full of good stuff. And you lnow what? On October 17,2017, there came into force An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies. The certain bodies are pubic institutions, even buses, where wearing a hijab is not tolerated.

Now I'll break for a snooze. Old fogeys snooze a lot. As do senators—during debates.

Shortly after I telling my MP about my simple ideas, I found that in 1980, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's Report on Certain Aspects of the Canadian Constitution listed four roles of the Senate, "all of which were complimentary to the functions of the House of Commons." They are:  9

        • A revising legislative role—Improving Bills before they become Laws, mainly.
        • An investigative role—Helping to improve Bills and senators looking into issues of their own choice.
        • A regional representative role—with 24 senators from each: Quebec, Ontario, the Maritime Provinces, and the provinces West of Ontario, plus some from up North.
        • A protector of linguistic and other minorities role.

To top it off, the late senator Pierre-Claude Nolin added another two roles:

        • Parliamentary diplomacy, and
        • Promoting and defending public causes.

Senator Nolin was a major force pushing for modernizing our Senate. I first learned about him from a report published by the Modernization Committee in October of 2015. Quoting from that report: "In articulating the investigative role, Senator Nolin and other senators emphasized the complementary role the Senate plays in relation to the House of Commons". In a speech delivered in the Chamber on April 1, 2014, he stated the following:

"Far from competing with the lower chamber, the upper chamber complements the lower chamber's work in many important ways, such as by conducting special studies."

"Both when it is studying legislative measures and when it is conducting investigations, the Senate deliberates, sheds light on legislative arguments through debate, listens to testimony and gathers a vast range of opinion from Canadians in all areas of activity and from every region of the country."

Just about all that had already gone through my mind about six months earlier and written down in letters to my MP. Didn't I mention my simple idea that senators should get to know Canadians, meaning also Canadians outside their everyday social circle? The men in the street. The women in the kitchen. Talk with them, not only to them. Learn to walk in their moccasins, away from politicians and bureaucrats. Writing to my MP and following through in my essay, I suggested that about one-third of our senators should be citizens' representatves, leaving other senators to do many other things that need be done.

And from the very beginning, it went through my head that our senators should shift a lot from second thought to sober forethought and tell the Executive and our ordinary MPs about what came to our senators' collective mind, often well before bills are sent up to the Senate. There is no room for dilly-dallying in a rapidly changing—and threatening!—environment!

And right now, this old fogey cannot—should not—dilly-dally any longer ... I have to go!

Ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? It's about progroms under the Tsar and about a poor man disowning a much-loved daughter because she failed orthodox Jewish tradition. It's about a dream that'll never would come to pass. It's about Tevye, a poor milkman, who loves his wife, his three daughters, and his cripple horse, helper and companion on his daily rounds over muddy tracks.  10

"Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either! ..."

If I were a rich man,
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum ....

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
"If you please, Reb Tevye ..."
"Pardon me, Reb Tevye ..."
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

'Fiddler on the roof' is a metaphor. The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology tells me that 'metaphor' means 'transfer'. The Online Etymology Dictionary digs even deeper. Among the meanings of 'meta', we have 'across', and 'phor' comes from 'pherein', to carry. To carry across. To ferry across? Traverse.

I love etymology. Like the bride's father in My Big, Greek Wedding does.

'Metaphysics', 'beyond Aristotle's 13 books on physics ...'.

Common sense; philosophy; science; Plato's Cave and a Truth we'll not likely ever know.

I'm adrift. Badly. Rambling, drifting, those are things old fogeys do a lot.

The fidler-on-the-roof metaphor transfers to us that survival in a life of uncertainty is as precarious as a fiddler on a roof trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck. I got that from the internet, but don't ask me who came up with that idea in th first place.

        ... je chante sur mon chemin ...

Back again to our Senate. From a Senate document, "The 1972 report of the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution recommended that the Senate's investigative role should 'be continued and expanded at the initiative of the Senate itself'." Combine that with forethought and we arrive at my major concern—central in my senate essay—that the Senate's investigative role should be expanded to:

        • an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role,

impatiently called for by Part II of my essay. I named that part Heart of our darkness. Guess why. It concerns urgent, complex issues that need attending to. Not later. Now! Like taking out insurance before the house burns down.

Joseph Conrad began writing Heart of Darkness in 1898 and even after its first publication, in 1899, he kept on editing his work through later publications. This short story of his was among the reading assignments when I went back to school around age 40. But returning to school is another story; let's not go there; not yet. The course was a world-literature course, given by an outstanding professor, a true artist who kept his audience of some 350 students spellbound and often was loudly applauded for his performances. His students were divvied up among teaching assistants who led discussions, gave out assignments, and marked them.

But what a shock! Mine was terrible. She didn't have the foggiest of what Heart of Darkness was about, or Joyce's Dubliners for that matter. She didn't seem to realize that a 'short-story' is not a 'short story'. It takes a long time to read short-story. HoD has layers of meaning with metaphores from psychology and technology, linguistic switch-and-bait, all wrapped around the author's biography of sorts, etc. with the whole kit-and-kaboodle firing away at the crime of colonial exploration, which itself was justified by the the Belgian Congo's private owner, King Leopold, bringing the blessings of Christian civilizationby to save black men's souls. To understand HoD, one must try to size up the author, know something about technology, about psychology, and so forth. She just didn't have the foggiest but for some surface elements. We used the Norton Critical Edition, "an authoritative text, backgrounds and sources, essays in criticism".

The experience taught me a thing or two about professors and critics. HoD is considered a jewell in the crown of literature and well may it be rightly so.

Half a century earlier, Eduard Douwer Dekker, nom de plume Multatuli, meaning 'I have borne a lot', wrote a critique of Dutch colonialism half a century earlier, from years of direct observation as an administrator in the colonial regime. An English version can be found on the internet, look for Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company. The Society of Dutch Literature proclaimed Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time. Too bad that he had died 15 years before being so praised.

By the way, I didn't like the translation one bit, but so what?

I read Max Havelaar well after I had returned from military service in Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies. One may well wonder: here I was, freed in 1945 from the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands and then, two years later, conscripted to serve a colonial regime. It had been renamed 'Indonesia' and "officially" considered an overseas part of The Netherlands. Like a leopard changing spots, but that's a notion that wouldn't have crossed anybody's mind; not then. I was utterly ignorant, and brainwashed like others who believed that this was for the good of all, something to be really proud of. Got a medal for it, too: Voor Orde en Vrede, For 'Order and Peace'.

Wonder what German soldiers were made to believe when they invaded us in 1940. Ever watched "My Honor was Loyalty"? Do yourself a favor, find it.

I liked it in Indonesia. A week or so after disembarking in Pladju on the Musi River where the Royal Dutch Shell had refineries, I got a job with the Royal Dutch-Indonesian Information Service and did some simple radio announcing and programming. An Indian—oops, an Indonesian—handled our turntables. A pleasant young man, always smiling and doing a fine job. He was a Lieutenant in the rebel army, but we didn't know that, not then.

The fragility of selfworth. Ever read The Good Soldier Švejk? I read it many, many years ago and can't remember a word of it. The name of the book just dropped in my head. A brief visit. In and out. Only it flavor lingered on, somehow. Refreshing a bit—Wikipedia, yes—Švejk, like thousands of others, drafted into the Autro-Hungarian army to fight in a conflict about which he didn't have a clue. Pro rege, lege, grege.

What has all this to do with our Senate? It's a question I didn't ask myself while writing these paragraphs. Should I cut them out? What made me write them?

I am called for dinner. But first a hurried pee—family is waiting. Annoying, all that peeing. Don't you find it annoying? My mind quickly grabs what it may hold on to; then people talk, ask questions, and, poof! All gone.

Writing is hard. For me, anyway. Made harder still by the ordinary interruptions of everyday life that need attending to. Makes me wonder about how senators manage thinking with clocks and bells and Order Papers shredding their existence. I believe there is a remedy as far as it may go. We'll get to that. It's in my essay, anyway.  11

When back in school, a course I chose was Economics 101. Quoting from my textbook:

"Production is something like a sausage machine. Certain things such as raw materials and the services of capital and labor, are fed in at one end, and some product emerges at the other."

A substantial part of human life is fed, along with stuff to produce some benefit, all neatly accounted for in dollars and cents. Labor plucked from a complexity of upbringing, education, spouse, raising children, beliefs, hope, the good will and ill will of others, empathy or lack of it, welbeing or lack of it, savings or lack of it, being squashed by commercial Sirens' sweet songs into ears unplugged.

The word 'Personnel' morphed into 'Human Resources', surreptitiously shifting people to become things, from human complexity to textbook simplicity, a Gordian knot cut to loose ends by Alexander's sword in a quest to conquer the world.

"Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the 'culture of waste', which doesn't concern only food and goods, but first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people."

That was a quote from a talk by Pope Francis; not by some village drunk. A TED talk—Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Ideas worth spreading—on April 20, 2017, around the time a nuclear holocaust became imminent.

... scarce heard among the guns below ...

Way back, when I worked for The Ontario Paper Company, it had been leaked to me that the manager of the paper company I worked for had told my supervisor that he could extract any amount of overtime at all; unpaid. "Immigrants have nowhere to go!" That's when I decided to go elsewhere, became a technical editor, a bargain for my next employer. That's where I met Stevie. Dr. J. Newell Stephenson, actually, the author of The Manufacture of Pulp and Paper, McGraw Hill, 1921. 'Old Stevie' to us. He tried to write the industry's history, but that didn't get finished. Old fogeys just fade away.

The fragility of selfworth.

Tevye—remember Tevye? "If I were a rich man"?—Tevye got trapped between tradition and affection, a tradition by God imposed, affection for a daughter he was about to disown. "On the one hand ..., but on the other hand ..., but on the one hand .... And Multatuli's story of Saïdjah and Adinda. Saïdjah and Adinda met their end when they, by sheer accident, got caught up in an uprising against the Dutch that was being suppressed by the Dutch-East-Indian military. The homefront was jubilant that an unrest had been taken care of. In Multatuli's words, "the King again awarded so much heroism with many orders of knighthood. And probably thanksgivings mounted to heaven from the hearts of the saints of the churches and tabernacles, at the news that the 'Lord of Hosts' had again fought under the banner of Holland ...."

"'But God in high displeasure turned away,
And honoured not the offerings of that day'."

Writing is hard. For me anyway. Made harder still by losing words. Waiting for them to pop back up from some lower level of consciousness. Or else try recovering them from the internet with a few prompts for Google or browsing what books I haven' given away.

Do you know that speech was a god thousands of years ago, well before John or whoever else wrote "In the beginning was the Word." Life begins with a belief in words by whomever surmises them to mean. In Words we trust. Children do. Old fogeys would like to. But their meanings often change. People's intentions often change. And we too often forget; words; promises.

Sometimes I'm asked, are you a Christian? But you do believe in God!? "What do you mean by God?", I ask. The topic changes.

I don't tell people that Jesus was not a Christian—he wouldn't kill a fly, metaphorically speaking; swine perhaps, but only metaphorical ones. Like I don't tell some latent supremacist that his ancestors came out of Africa and that if it were not for horses, he would not be so supreme after all. But I'm rambling again, leaving you wondering about those horses.

"Science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else."

That was the Pope again.

I need to pee. Badly.

I didn't do too badly, apparently. Got job offers from three other p&p publishers; two in the U.S., in New York. My own employer seemed to take a wrong turn and I decided to go for a more secure job, with a pension. Back to school I went, etc., etc. ....

I put that in for my daughter-in-law. She had asked me why I don't write something about myself and so, I kill two flies at once—Me and My Senate.

Three flies, maybe. My grandson had a marvellous idea. He gave some members of the family a notebook for them to answer some penetration questions about their lives. Quesions like "Given the choice of anyone in the world,whom would you want as a dinner guest?", "What is your most terrible memory?" "Share an embarrassing moment in your life," Is there an idea of belief you consider very important?" He would collect he books by Christmas and seal them away to be given to my great-granddaughter on Christmas day when she is 18. So? Why not enclose this story.?

Years ago, I might answer the first quesion with a name of some famous person, say Einstein. Later, I would choose someone I found interesting to converse with. But right now, at 90, nearing the end of my life, I very much prefer having dinner with my entire family. But still, I do like dinner with someone I can have an interesting conversation about their interests and mine.

From an interview by Barry Broadfoot for his book Six War Years 1939–1945: Memories of Canadians at Home and Abroad:  12

"How'd you like to have been a postal clerk in Edmonton and joined the LER's (Loyal Edmonton Regiment ang get a big party and send off from the gang and march off to camp and then to war, and get slammed back in the Postal Corps, and go to England and handle letters and parcels, and go to France and handle letters and parcels, and the Netherlands and Germany and still throw those letter bags round, and never get closer to any action than from here to Red Deer. And then come back home, with all the medals, the whole works, and like that kid in the comic strip, have your kid ask you: 'Daddy, what did you do in the war?'

"Do you tell the kid that all you were was a lousy postie?"

I tried to find that medal with its soiled orange ribbon. One of my children had played with it and then it got lost somehow.. I wanted to take the ribbon to the drycleaner to be ready for the next Remembrance Day, to pin on my Royal Canadian Legion jacket. Every year, the elementary school puts up a fine performance for which our Legion members are invited. Every year the number of bemedalled veterans drops off and last year I was the only one, and still coming without a medal. How disappointing, and so, for the kids sake ....

I did drop out once, for three quarters of an hour, then half a dozen or so more times while ambulance people—'first responders' they are now called, I believe—while first responders took care of me en route to the hospital, and a few more times afterward. Kept asking me, "What is your name?" " What day is it today?" And I kind of joked in response, "Henry, the King of Candyland—like on the chocolate bar." It's not a chocolate bar, really, legally; too low on chocolate and therefore legally named a candy bar. Never met Saint Peter, though. Don't believe everything you hear.

What you can believe is that I was saved by caring ambulance people and medical staff who also asked me for my name.

Tradition. Caring. Children, grandchildren; a great-granddaughter, six months when I began writing this stuff, surmising about a plastic milk bottle, half filled, firmly clasped by her little hands. Now, at 13 months, she is walking. How time flies. And how we are governed and what it does for the future. Tradition does, I mean.

"If we had an ideal House of Commons ... it is certain we should not need a higher Chamber," so said a keen observer of the British Parliamentary system, Bagehot.

Not too long ago, a political science professor wrote: "Much of the membership of the House of Commons is inexperienced and amateur to the point that members cannot perform their functions well. Amateurism in this sense means a lack of political experience before entering the House of Commons, a brief stay in the House itself, and a lack of other qualifications such as higher education, professional qualifications, and work experience indicative of high ability."

Reminds me of that plumber who almost made it as a Conservative candidate. His campaign was rudely interrupted by a CBC video from a hidden camera. It had caught him peeing in a client's coffee cup, then giving the cup a quick wash, and putting it back in a cupboard. No privacy for him. Or anybody else. A Theory of Everything should put an end to that. Or could it? I've still much to learn. Too bad I then quickly forget.

"An education is what survives when a man has forgotten all he has been taught," famous behavioralist B.F. Skinner said. He also attempted, during World War II, to develop a pigeon-controlled guided bomb. But electronic guidance systems have since put pidgeons to pasture.

Two books that came out in 2014 paint bleak pictures of democracy and government. Written by authors who know. What's Happened to Politics? by former Ontario Premier Bob Rae; What I Learned in Politics by former Nova Scotia finance minister Graham Steele.

Our democracy is not in good health. I commented on that in my essay, comments about those elected and about those electing. Here some snippets.

In April of 2015, at a time that our then suspended senator Mike Duffy went to trial, Angus-Reid tried to establish how well people are informed about the Senate. Of those expressing an opinion:

        • 19 % followed them in the news and discussed them with friends,
        • 36 % saw some media coverage and had the odd conversation,
        • 29 % just scanned headlines, and
        • 16 % hadn't seen or heard anything about it.

Interviewed for CBC's As it Happens, Graham Steele said, "The voters have generally not any idea of what you're doing.... Keep it simple. Policy debates are for losers. Focus on what is most likely to sink in with the distracted electorate which is slogans, scandals, personalities, pictures, and images."

Makes me wonder how electoral reform could fix that. A Minister of Democratic Insitutions had a website put up for Canadians to answer some questions. She had a mailing done to invite us to go there. Three percent responded.

My Brief suggests that our senators break their heads over how to bring our democracy back to robust health first. After that, we might begin to worry about electoral reform. Like putting the horse before the card.

A moment, please.

Some young Canadians signed up for WW-II service looking forward to getting a decent pair of boots. I found that in Barry Broadfoot's Six War Years 1939–1945: Memories of Canadians at Home and Abroad. They got a shock when their train passed a field where fit-looking German PoW's were hard at work. "Now here is what happened." a recruit told Broadfoot, "All of a sudden, out of the bush down a trail come this bunch of guys. About 40 of them, I'd say, and every bloody one was a giant, six-foot-teo, six-foot-four. You never saw such a bunch. All fair-haired, blue-eyed, thighs like hams and tanned like Charles Atlas, Mr. World, and we thought, 'Christ, who are these guys?" They were German POW's from Rommel's North-Africa corps. "... we sat around quiet for a while and then somebody said what we were all thinking. He said, 'God, do we have to fight guys like that'? It kept us thinking for a while."  12

Sorry. This old fogey rambles a lot, pees a lot, forgives a lot, forgets a lot, and remembers a lot of things that just pop into his head. I am trying hard to sort it all out. And cut out a lot.  13

Where am I going? Where was I?

Well into the muddle, you have to keep looking both forward and back. Morgan-like.

Yes, simple suggestions. And figuring out what kind of things our senators should look into when expanding their investigative role to an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role.

I made a number of notes on what to look into, some notes on dealing with global environmental threats; some notes on dealing with military, including terrorist threats; some notes on citizenship and ethics; some notes on improving parenthood; some on public education and the media; and so forth and so on. You may find them in Part II of my essay, Heart of our darkness: Urgent, complex issues. I wrote that before, I think.

Complex issues. Our government is head over heels balancing our economy and climate change, complexing two complex issues, kind of pitting one against the other. In July of 2016, there appeared an opinion piece by two respected attorneys, Julius Grey and his partner L.-M. Casgrain: Increases in economic disparities are dooming our democracies with the kicker Elections and courts matter less and less. That brings us to complexing a slew more of complex issue; let's see: economy, economic disparity, democratic elections, the meting out of justice, and climate change. And, o yes, education, upbringing, job losses brought about by progress in the digital domain, preparing for alternative jobs, what have you.

I myself went through many years of preparing for an alternative job. It was no fun, not for me, not for my family. Hell is closer to the truth. Makes me wonder about well-heeled people singing the benefits of artificial intelligence, robotics, and preparing for other jobs—that soon may be gone, perhaps before the retraining is done and over with. Singing songs that other well-heeled people love to listen to. At the Toronto Region Board of Trade, for example. Of course, there will be job losses, but ... let me quote from a report:

"In a speech in Toronto, senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins said Tuesday innovations like artificial intelligence and robotics are expected to help re-energize underwhelming productivity in advanced economies like Canada. Over the longer haul, she added that new technologies should eventually create more jobs than they replace.

"However, the fast-approaching changes come with concerns for Wilkins—from the challenging adjustment for the labour force, to the distribution of the new wealth.

"She noted how experts predict changes like automation to have downsides, which could include impacts on close to half of all jobs in some industrialized countries within 20 years.

"'Policy-makers', she added, 'must get ready to manage negatives like amplified income inequality brought on by conditions that could help workers whose skills are complemented by innovations and those whose tasks are replaced by machines'.

Her speech came as governments grapple with the challenge of providing support to these emerging fields, while also easing the fears of workers who could lose their jobs.

Is our federal government easing fears? Is the Prime Minister's Office? Are any of our government agencies? Are our provincial governments? Is our Senate?

"For Canada to get the most from these changes, Wilkins argued, it must address these concerns.

"'Canada should embrace new technologies and their benefits while at the same time proactively managing their more-harmful side effects', Wilkins said.

"Blaming the machines is not the way forward.

"Wilkins laid out potential approaches to ease the shifts that will likely accompany what she called 'a new industrial revolution'. She said policy-makers will have to have to put more emphasis on education and skills training to help many workers and businesses adjust to what could be a difficult transition."

Right .... Nice speech, though. Reported on by Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press. Was on CBC News. No, I don't think anything she said is wrong. Pretty damn skewed, yes, but still befitting our society's comfortable pew. It's the policy-makers we need to worry about more. And, I am inclined to believe, it is a conundrum our senators should try their darndest to come to grips with—the state of the future. I hope that my senate essay and my newly begun explorations about government morality and coping with global threats will offer some sort of promising opening toward coming to grips with that.

... Unless our senators have a better idea. Before some other nuclear disaster, preferably.

And now, a pee and some exercise on my tapis. All this sitting, getting on with my rambling, and cutting, cutting. No good.

I took a course in quantum chemistry. Shuffling differential equations around. Got an A for it, then lost it all in no time. Nothing left to boast about but a brownie point.

Theoretical physicists have done better, but struggling still to link relativity theory—very good for outer space—with quantum physics—the domain of particles too small to see. 'Particles' is hardly the right word. Common sense does not allow the force of gravity to be a particle. But they found it. Some people speak of the 'God particle,' but physicists frown on that. To muddle the waters even further, those tiny 'particles' behave like waves. They are not particles as we experience them other than being almost infinitely tiny. With wavelenths billions of time shorter than shortest wavelength of visible light in a space with far more dimensions than the four we are familiar with. The world we perceive is not the same as the world that is. You may not care about it, but there are people who like to discover the world that is. Big-dreaming theoretical physicists try hard to discover a Theory of Everything.

I bought a DVD course about The Theory of Everything: The Quest to Explain All Reality. Twenty-four lectures—math-free almost—by a man who discovered two of those subatomic particles. Not by himself, but along with a thousand or so others. "But don't tell my mother that," he begs. Not about all the others. Is there anything in this paragraph our Senate can use? Yes, sure, there is! The notion of teamwork by a blend of complementary expertise.

I'm still stuck on Lecture 5. Will have another go at it when this Senate thing is off my plate. In the meantime, I harbor doubt about scientists—confined as we all are in Plato's Cave—coming up with a real Theory of Everything. Is there some evolutionary potential for bringing forth species with brains superior to ours, vastly more perceptive beings, able to escape those confines and thereby better suited to create a Theory of Truly Everything, and thereby leaving todays's physicists in the dust.

Remember Carl Sagan's message for helping minds on other planets understand us?

Pax vobiscum?
Or showing our opponable thumb?

CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence) focuses on interstellar messages that may be understood by other technological civilizations. The best-known CETI experiment was that message composed by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan back in 1974.

Artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear threats, evolution of better brains, CETI. It all makes me wonder about what the world of my great-granddaughter will ve like when she 18 years of age. Will my ramblings make any sense to her? Would she care? Would she care about my name being on Mars, put there by the Mars Lander and the Mars Exploration Rover.

Mars Lander
"Together we will journey into space to discover and understand the many wonders of our universe."

My wife, Elisabeth—with an 's', she insists; and more down-to-earth than I am—is a semi-invalid. Spinal stenosis. Hearing problems. Painful hearing aids. And yet, she still carries on. Helps with the meals, bakes delicious walnut bread. And says, "Are we ever lucky; no cancer!" She still manages to scratch out a happy tune.

It came about that every year she exchanges short letters with Jack in Moose Factory. Jack is veteran from WW-II, which started it off. Ninety-two now; in an old-age home. The last vet surviving there. It strikes me that his cards always come addressed with my name first. River ice, wind, and temperature are important concerns because of connecting with the world outside. Family; a roaming bear; signing off "From Vet Jack." Never wrote Jack myself. I should.

She thinks the work on my senate essay is just a waste of time. By now four years have gone into it. She's probably right. The difference between her thinking and mine is probably. Sometimes I think back of scribbling comments on my students' work to then see find returned work thrown in or around a waste-paper basket. Was that a waste of time?

Elisabeth's father's name was Adriaan. A truly honourable man whose honorific was a simple Mr. He was a man of principle; of duty. Risking his life under the Nazis, tormented by a risk to his family. Despised politics. Fought off mental collapse. Stood back up. Publicly schlepped through the mud. And through it all, generous to a fault. Among his careful reading: Boetius' Consolation of Philosophy.

He died of cancer after only a few years of retirement. After a life in his printing business. Hot type metal: lead, tin, antimony. Still must tell something about him. In my Merckelbach history.

Once a Senate employee treated me to the parable of the village drunk, a man who wondered why everybody was drunk, except he himself. Put that in my pipe and smoke it!.

I surmise it came from a senator, but of course I can be dead-wrong.

I didn't want to compare myself to Galileo Galilei, who dared to overstep the authority of Aristotle. Aristotle surmised—I understand he was very good at surmising—but Galileo tested. Galileo also overstepped the authority of Church which held that the Earth is the center of the universe. With that, Galileo had gone too far and it was either recanting or being burned. Galileo chose he better part of valour, murmuring, a story goes, "E pur si muove", "Yet still she moves". The infallible Church wisened up too; eventually, bit by bit. It was Pope John Paul II who, 350 years after Galileo died, expressed regret about the whole affair.

No comparison!! Instead I meekly rambled, "At least, the village drunk was thinking. He was a philosopher." What a dumb thing to say. I often say dumb things. Done so all my life. That's one reason why I'm not a director of some corporation savouring tax-free directors' fees and having money stashed away, legally, in some tax-free haven. Paradise on Earth. If I were a rich man ....

Galileo took a big step toward the Theory of Everything, leaving Aristotle behind while paving the way for Newton. Next up: Einstein, who came to fork in the road: relativity or quantum mechanics, particles or waves. "God does not play dice with the Universe." Quanta are dice; funny dice: yes-or-no-or-both kind of dice. Swarms of them are trying to put Humpty Dumpty together by coming up with that Theory of Everything, phycisists' Holy Grail.

Who else cares?

My essay touches on a possible step toward putting things together. In short: Senators of the world unite! A better Senate here may beget better Senates elsewhere; think tanks all, that might meld together to make for a better think tank, one with with some clout over wayward politicians. A bit far off, I know, but ....

But who cares?

Maybe I am a village drunk. Just don't like to have it thrown in my face. That would never have happened if I were a rich man. Or merely prominent.

"If I were a rich man,
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum....
it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

Thus far, Senator Nolin and I have been saying about the same things. Nobody would call Senator Nolin a village drunk.

Maybe nobody did because he didn't talk about co-operative authoring and complex-problem solving. Not that I know of. Better make sure that I do know if I answer right or wrong.

Oh, just before I go for a pee something about religion. From what I said about Galileo and the Church you may surmise, correctly, that I am not a religious man. Not the way people ordinarily understand being religious. But I should make clear that I do believe the Church plays an important stabilizing role in a threatening global environment. Here's hoping the world's Senates will be more so.

Doug Engelbart was a dreamer. I knew him well for a couple of years, before he lapsed into Altzheimers. Softspoken, like Stevie, sort of. He kindly called me his younger brother. Doug invented the computer display screen and the computer mouse. He also used to ramble a lot, expressing himself by wavng his hands more than by finishing sentences. Recipient of an honorary doctorate (no 'u' in the States), a $500,000 prize, and National Medal for Technology along with a handshake from President Bill Clinton. And never his dream ever came true.  15

All his life, Doug dreamed of a better world by boosting mankind's capacity for coping with complex, urgent problems. Not with artificial intelligence, which he vehemently opposed, but by using computers to augment human brains. Humanity before efficiency. Doug sought to augment human intellects by co-operative authoring with associates. My essay has a short chapter about that. Guess what won out? Computers that replace humans.

Well, actually, some augmentation is still with us such as digital brain implants for, say, recovering sight. Digital brain implants now figure in a project named Neural System Engineering Design. It is supported by the U.S.'s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency as was Doug's work half a century ago.

Did you know that Doug's augmentation project led him, together with an associate, to invent the computer mouse and the computer display screen.

Getting down to brass tacks, from knowing Doug personally I believe that much of the deliberating by our senators and their advisors might well be much better done by co-operative authoring and/or editing with various people melding their thoughts into a single digital document. This way they can make their contributions at different places and at different times. And be able to think things through, quietly, uninterrupted by voices competing to be heard. Nevertheless, they might even use Skype or FaceTime to round off such digital collaboration.

Would you believe? Half a century gone by. A 50-plus-years ingenuity gap between science and those who are supposed to be on top of things of more than half a century while quantum mechanics has been ready to shower us with nuclear bombs. Tell me, who do you think are the village drunks?

My essay is in its entirity based on the thinking of people considered expert in their field. What is lacking is that the sum-total of what they might do to cut down the ingenuity gap of our Senate is way beyond me. Our Senate needs better people than I am. And fast! Time may be up any moment now! To be honest, I fear it's too late already. I fear for my children; for my grandchildren; for my great-granddaughter. "Handle with extreme care," says the cover of The Economist of April 20, 2017.

Nuclar bomb

Soon after the Trudeau government was elected, in 2015, 38 senators gathered for three days to toss around how they could work more efficiently. This lead to a Motion to Strike a Special Committee on Senate ModernizationMDRN for short. The motion was introduced by six short paragraphs beginning with That a or That the or That, notwithstanding—the usual kind of stuff. The debate itself was interrupted several times and after each interruption, the that ...that ... that preamble was repeated. What a waste of time! But there must be some underlying reason for doing that, something deeply buried in tradition. Maybe just to have all the going-ons in Senate debates properly entered into the record. But is there an excuse for continuing such an antiquated practice in the digital age?  16

I've read Hansard records of some debates; in the Senate; in the Commons. Senate debates are a model of rationality and efficiency compared to Commons debates, but, even so, it's easy to grasp why senators doze off. Opportunities for a snooze not to be missed.

Writing this story, I promised myself not to rant—rambling, yes; ranting, no. Enough said, therefore, but I wonder, if senators want to be more efficient, why not hire an objective witness, some efficiency expert to look things over and make rational recommendations?

MDRN went to work in February of 2016. Some 15 senators meeting in camera and in public, broadcast on TV. Transcripts of the public meetings are found on the committee's website. They are also found attached to my essay thereby allowing me to insert working notes. Those notes stand out by the use of a blue font, as if they are inked-in. It shows how co-autoring might be done.

Here a few lines stripped from such an "inked-in" comment:

Guarding Canadians against the potential ravages of changes in our global environment, natural disasters included, "entails the solving of hideously complex problems, problems, it seems to me, far more complex than those our MDRN committee is currently trying to resolve. It is well to remind ourselves that at the time I am writing this comment (April 13, 2017) this committee has been at it since February of last year. Such long a gestation make it essential to anticipate problems such as natural disasters, nuclear terrorism, and economic problems—the kind of problems exhibited in Part II of my essay—so as to be, as much as possible, prepared before some ax falls."

Villeneuve       Confedeation

Papers, articles, books have been written, and speeches made, about solving complex problems. There are a few paragraphs about this in my essay. Still, it is a bit of a bone in my throat. Academics give courses while still pondering how to advance this art. But just putting a bunch of people in a room will not get us very far. It takes leadership and know-how. It is obvious that among the witnesses called by the mdrn committee there should be people well informed about these things. But no joy thus far ....

I like watching Maamuitaau, produced by the Cree. It's mostly about keeping the young in touch with Cree tradition and encouring them to move foreward in the modern world; in business; in the arts. "To defend what was and the dream of what could be." Maamuitaau presents us with a worthy model. Why not watch some episodes? On our CBC.

N'weJinan's dream of what could be.

The name Zamoyski comes from an estate Zam's ancestors acquired in the 15th century; Zamość. The family figures prominently in Polish history. Most famous was Jan Zamojski, Chanellor of the Crown among a slew of other titles. He established a trust that his estate could never be divided and typically went from father to eldest son. Zam was the last in line—Nazis, Communists, and possession being nine-tenth of the Law.

Family members migrated to Canada. Zam had an unhappy marriage. Smoked a lot; died of lung cancer, January 18, 1998. Impressive service in Holy Cross, Montreal's Polish National Catholic Church. His ashes buried at his lawn's litoral. Few attended. His widow wiped her hands, "That's that." A neighbour laid a wildflower over the square-foot grave. A dandelion. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Elisabeth said, you're not going to put that in your story?! Would I? I wondered. She's usually right.

Yes, this old fogey rambles a lot, and is wondering still.

Would I? Wouldn't I? Should I?

Better go for a pee first.

January 18, 2018
Too late! Jack Wynne—you remember Jack, don't you? The last surviving vet in Moose Factory?—He died in 2017. I never did write him myself. Another regret. I learned about his passing two months after I did this story when my daughter found this:

Ωn the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we are gathered near the cenotaph in Lachute.

Two minutes of silence for the fallen.

Two minutes of me wondering what's going through the bowed heads.

Two minutes cut off by the skirl of a bagpipe.

Time's up!

At the Cenotaph
Photo: My caring daughter Elisabeth.

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