Sunday, December 19

Before you move to Canada

There are few things more annoying, other than having your candidate lose his bid for the White House, than deciding to move to Canada and discovering that you need to wait in line for up to a year in order to get a work permit. So while you are waiting, I would like to suggest that you take advantage of the wait to check out some other options before you pack up and leave.

Moving out of the country is a pretty drastic way to escape from under the President and his supporters. If you are willing to take such drastic action, perhaps you do not need to actually leave the country, why not just move to a bluer part of it?

If you happen to be the only one who voted for Kerry on your block other than your husband, wife or partner, than perhaps moving is a logical solution for you. As we all know, some parts of the country already embrace the ideals of the Democratic Party. Take Washington, DC for example. Sure, the president lives here, but it is not like you are going to be his neighbor. He spends very little time in the city at all and he spends most weekends either at Camp David or home in Texas.

So what about moving to Washington, DC? Sure, it’s no Canada, but it does have some good points. First, the city is and has been controlled by Democrats. Many of the District’s residents are foreign nationals, which has the same effect as moving out of the country to an international utopia. The residents who can vote overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. With the Federal Government being the biggest employer in the region, I would guess that a majority of them do not like their boss considering the local election results. My one Bush vote was canceled out ten times over by Kerry votes.

While District income taxes are high, they are progressive to impact the rich much more than the poor. There are tax breaks for people with low income, including subsidized housing and reduced rent if you are under set income limits. DC has one of the country’s strictest gun bans in the country. There is no ‘state’ death penalty. DC also has a European-quality public transport system. With it you can take the metro not only to work, but also to all the protests downtown.

Another benefit would be having your government at arms reach. Instead of sending flaming emails and just showing up at a weekend protest, you can go right to the offices of all the members of congress to make your feelings known in person.

Of course all of the basic things would be the same; the language, monetary system. There are no international dialing codes to call friends and relatives, and you can still use regular stamps.

If you are still dead set on getting out of the country, then I highly suggest you visit where you want to move to first. If you have lived outside the country before, then you already know. This suggestion is for those who have never been anywhere outside the country. So get yourself a passport and experience life outside the US. We all remember the phrase “the grass is always greener…” well you might be surprised at what you see.

I spent over four years living in Finland. I was told numerous times that Finland is “The most American Country in Europe.” Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is anything like the US. I was amazed at how often I felt stupid for not understanding how the system there worked.

One of the most annoying tasks while living there was finding a job. I was pretty lucky as I managed to find three jobs. The work was offered because I had a specific skill in demand. So if you have a specific skill in need, you might manage to find work in your new country. The most common rejection reason I heard was that I needed to be able to speak their language. You can expect the same excuse. Now before you go and learn it, I have a warning for you. Once you learn the language, they will find other excuses not to hire you. It just so happens that the language excuse is the easiest one to dismiss you with. Learning Finnish only got me to the second excuse which was if I could speak their other national language, Swedish. Even though Swedish is the native language of about 6% of Finns, I suddenly was confronted with the fact that it was the more important of the two languages. Strange that it was not mentioned before I mastered the now completely useless Finnish. The last time I checked, Canada has two official languages, so be prepared.

There are some other serious problems in finding work in other countries besides language. Most other countries have a higher unemployment rate than the US. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s unemployment rate in October was 7.1%. Unemployment in the EU averages about 9%. If you can find a job, there are two differences you can expect from your present job, lower salary and higher taxes. Not only are income taxes higher but so are sales and ‘value added taxes’ or VAT. The VAT for purchases in Finland was 22% and was applied to almost everything.

Some people will not need to look for a job because they own their own internet business and can run it from anywhere. For those in this situation, I highly suggest that you carefully research the tax implications of your move. You may end up being taxed in both countries. The IRS generally excludes the first eighty thousand in income not generated in the US. This probably would not apply if your internet business is generating revenue from purchases made in the US. I am not sure how Canada would view this income. In Finland, all of your global income is taxable, once you have been a resident there for six months, subject to double taxation treaties.

Don’t expect that the locals will like you just because you share their hatred of our president. Europeans hated Bush before he was elected president the first time and they hated America well before they ever heard his name. In a bar in Belgium, an attractive woman from the Netherlands heard me speaking English to a woman had I met there. She came over and interrupted the conversation to tell me how much she hated Americans. With nary a thought, the reply “get in line” came out of my mouth as I quickly returned to trying to convince my new friend that she really did want a tour of a merchant ship. The Dutch woman quickly walked away, clearly agitated that I could care less about what she thought. That was in 1992. I have since been confronted by Germans, Finns, Brits, Canadians, and Australians who shared the same opinion. I have been to a number of countries in the Middle East and was always received warmly by the locals, who all seem to have a relative or two already living here. I was confronted once in the UAE, by a Brit who hated Americans because they earned much more than he did there. The last time I checked Great Britain is our ally. My guess is that not all in Canada will welcome you. You might want to find out where the Red and Blue provinces are before you move up there. I bet that you do not want a Bush supporting Canuck for a neighbor.

Speaking of Canada, there are some basic differences that you would have to adjust to if you do move up there. Now I have never been to Canada, but I understand that Finland shares a similar climate. Anyway, if you are moving from the southern US, you are going to need a new wardrobe for starters. The further north you go the less sun you’ll see in the winter. Anyone who has drive up and down I95 has seen the cars with the Canadian license plates headed to Florida for the winter. This would have me believe that Canada’s ‘Banana Belt’ is somewhere inside the Sunshine state.

We have all heard that prescription medicine is much cheaper in Canada. What you have not heard is that not all medicines are available, especially the newest drugs. About three months after arriving in Canada legally, you should qualify for public health care. The good news is that everything that is covered is free. The bad news is that you might have to wait months for treatment. Prescription medicine just happens to be one item that is not covered.

Don’t think that paying for treatment will help you receive better service. If the national system treats the illness you are suffering from, than it is illegal to pay for better treatment, as it would be unfair to those who cannot afford to pay for better care. You might end up back in the US for treatment, without the medical insurance your former job provided you with. However, you can probably find a Canadian doctor to treat you as many have migrated to the US.

As far as I am concerned, I can care less if you move to Canada. I would rather have you move there than to DC. The last thing I need is yet another person asking me if I have a minute to help kick Bush out of the White House. However, I ask that you take a minute to realize that we are all Americans and it is simply impossible to get two hundred plus Americans to agree on most anything. I managed to survive eight years of Clinton in the White House; I am sure you can survive another four with George running things. This country is by no means perfect. I am sure that Canada is a nice country too. I look forward to visiting there sometime in the near future. Would I want to live up there? Perhaps, but that decision will be based on what is best for me, not whether or not I like the persons running the government. If moving north is best for you, than I wish you good luck on your adventure. I look forward to greeting the Canadian that moves south to take your place.

Seeing things in Black and white instead of in shades of gray.

There is no shortage of complaints about President Bush. One specific criticism that I heard recently really got me thinking; The President is a poor leader because he sees issues only in terms of Black and White.

President Bush calls things as he sees it. After September 11, he stated to the World "You are either with us or against us." The President's statement is a perfect example of not only his black and white view of the world, but also of the President applying that view to American Policy. His innumerable critics say that this type of thinking is not appropriate, as the world is a complicated place where issues must be seen in shades of Gray.

I started thinking about the differences between the two ways of seeing things. Looking at our daily lives, I was surprised at how often we all take advantage of looking at things the gray-way. It seems that the main reason to apply this way of thinking to our everyday life is simply that this way of seeing is to our benefit. Unfortunately, this way often allows us to reason away being on the wrong side of the law.

Take speeding for example. The roads are highways of gray. Most cars on the highway are speeding. How fast is too fast? How often do you end up in the passing lane behind a car going too slow for you? The slower car should move right to let you pass but often does not. Perhaps they do not because they are already speeding. In the world of gray, who is wrong and who is right? Other than the fastest car and the super-aggressive driver, the rest of us can speed by the police with no risk of any of us getting a ticket.

Is it wrong to pace a group driving on the Interstate when they driving twenty miles over the speed limit? Is it wrong to jaywalk across a busy street interfering with traffic? What about littering, tailgating, driving drunk, double parking, and all those other activities that people should not be doing but have somehow decided that it was alright for them to do it. These actions degrade the standard of living for all of us. Over three hundred million people live in the United States, many of us take some liberties and often the outcome is a decrease in the standard of living for all of us.

What is the result when governments see issues in terms of gray and not in black and white? Israel building settlements on land that they occupy and theoretically should eventually de-occupy. Palestine failing to institute needed reforms for self-rule and put an end to suicide bombings. Iran concealing information from UN Nuclear arms Inspectors. India failing to hold a referendum in Kashmir on its future because they know that the Muslim-Majority their will vote to join Pakistan. The Sudanese Government permitting genocide within their own country. North Korea failing to care for its citizens.

France and Russia Take full advantage of gray for personal gain. Both countries were racing to be the first to violate Sanctions against Iraq with direct flights to Baghdad in 2000. The spokesperson of the French delegation on the first flight that arrived in Baghdad stated "There is no need for permission from the United Nations'' concerning France's actions in the matter. That's a good thing to know, especially coming from a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Governments of many countries are not behaving in a responsible manner. They are not properly educating their children. Their leaders are parties to questionable transactions that enrich secret bank accounts around the globe. They prevent free travel out of their country. They spend limited government resources on their military while ignoring the social wellbeing of their people. Failing to provide health care for their people. Blaming other countries for their problems.

We should all care about the people trapped in these countries. Governments of countries like North Korea use collective hate and fear of a menacing United States to maintain control of their population. Any questions concerning their government's own criminal activity is explained away with a reference to how all of North Korea's problems are the fault of the United States.

Where is the United Nations to stop all of this bad behavior? The UN is the international body entrusted to preserve world peace, and enhance the lives of all people living on this planet. Unfortunately, the UN does not appear to be able to act effectively in making the world a better place. Its members have infected the Organization with the gray way of viewing the world. Every country is able to gray-away whatever they are accused of.

This is why a number of countries have UN Resolutions that they are in violation of. Where is the threat against non-compliance from the United Nations? Why was there no real action after the first resolution was violated? There is none. The 'good' countries do not have the determination and will to force the 'bad' countries into doing good things. Countries are quick to condemn horrible deeds committed in other countries but their words ring hollow.

President Bush's words ring loud and clear. The world pays attention to what he says. Ex-President Taylor of Liberia listened and stepped down from office to go into hiding in Nigeria. Without a word spoken in their direction, Libya got the message of the Bush Administration and decided to re-establish normal relations by handing over their complete WMD program. Afghanistan and Iraq are both under new management. Saddam is behind bars and years later, Bin Laden still does not dare to walk openly, even in areas sympathetic to his cause. These results were all because of the actions of the United States and those Countries willing to stand with her.

There is still much to do. Countries like North Korea, The Sudan, and Iran all have leaders who count on the world community to view their activities in shades of gray. Unfortunately, when we see things in shades of gray, the result often ends up much closer to the black position than the white one.

I am sure that President Bush knows this and he does not find it acceptable. I wish more or the world's leaders would too. We have a coalition of the willing, now we just need to win over the unwilling. Once that happens, the bad apples of the world will have no excuse to hide behind. The world may be a complicated place, but it is because the leaders make the world it complicated by refusing to implement the simple solutions to most of the world's problems.