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U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington on Dec. 28, 2012 to discuss how to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff.
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington on Dec. 28, 2012 to discuss how to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

What readers think

Dec. 29: Washington’s morning after, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

The sun also rises

It appears the Republicans are quite prepared to let the U.S. – and consequently its numerous trading partners – slide toward another recession (Hope Fades For Fiscal Deal As Deadline Looms – Dec. 28). After the recent election, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana offered the advice that, to thrive, Republicans must “stop being the stupid party.”

Good luck with that.

Vic Bornell, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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My prediction: The sun will rise over Washington on Jan. 1, 2013.

Murray Katzman, Toronto

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Mandela’s thorny past

Jeffrey Simpson (The Trends That Changed Our World – Dec. 28) states that Nelson Mandela, like Martin Luther King, followed the path of non-violence to overcome racial oppression. This was not always so: At a time when the apartheid regime was escalating its policy of violence and oppression against the black majority instead of accepting reasonable demands for racial justice, the African National Congress reluctantly adopted a policy of violence. Nelson Mandela, a leader of the ANC’s military wing from behind bars, insisted that this war should focus on the agents and symbols of the apartheid state, although some civilians were killed in the process.

This relatively humane approach to a war of national liberation distinguishes the ANC from Hamas and other groups that can be termed terrorist because they willfully target civilians.

Raymond Heard, Toronto

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Social smarts

Advocates for drastically increasing the human lifespan fail to take notice of the loss of meaning to human life when its span is exponentially increased. We already live longer lives than out ancestors, yet we spend our days watching viral cat videos and reality TV. If the limits of a finite lifespan ceased to be an appreciable reality, there would always be another day to focus on the intellectual or social good.

Life is precious precisely because it is a finite quantity. Rather than attempt to live longer lives, we should attempt to live more meaningful lives.

Francis Hane, Thunder Bay, Ont.

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Mayan smarts

I was disillusioned by your editorial cartoon (Dec. 27) referencing the Mayan calendar as an “icon devoid of credibility whose time has passed.” The Mayan calendar did not predict any calamities occurring on 21/12/2012, but rather made reference to the end of a cyclical count in one calendar and the beginning of a new count and cycle. Far from being like the idle-gazed, foolish character depicted in your cartoon, they were excellent mathematicians and astronomers, who thousands of years ago already possessed a yearly calendar (the Haab) similar to the Gregorian calendar we use today.

I am disheartened that there continues to be such ignorance and prejudice on this topic. Anyone who says that the Maya had it wrong, is wrong about the Maya.

George de La Roche, ambassador to Canada, Guatemala

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Gun-control logic

As someone who has not paid much attention to Canada’s gun laws, I was alarmed to learn from Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association that Connecticut’s gun-control system is “not much different than Canada’s” (Knee-Jerk Reactions Won’t Prevent Shootings, Argues Canadian Gun Group – Dec. 21). This raises the question: Could the system here fail much as it tragically failed in Connecticut?

We should not take any comfort from Mr. Bernardo’s self-serving platitudes that “Canada is a pretty peaceful country.” Fewer guns is the only definitive way to lessen the risk of a similar tragedy on Canadian soil. We must press MPs to make that happen.

Cormac Monaghan, Toronto

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A potential solution to the American obsession with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms would be to allow only those arms that were available when the amendment was adopted in 1791: single-shot muzzle loaders, one shot per minute – if you were good. Historical accuracy would be maintained and citizens would be a good deal safer.

Michael Clark, Hamilton, Ont.

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Having lived in the United States, I have the impression private-sector interests trump those of the common good much more than they do here. This explains, in part, the fierce opposition to “socialized” medicine. It also explains, in part, the fierce resistance by the National Rife Association and its supporters to effective gun control, including semi-automatic assault weapons.

The NRA and its supporters believe it is more important to preserve a lucrative industry that generates jobs and profits, and to maintain easy access to dangerous weapons than it is to protect public safety and the common good. So it would appear that any effective control of semi-automatic assault weapons, including the mandating of security checks and waiting periods for buying weapons, will again be sabotaged by the NRA and its backers – even though millions of Americans have contrary views.

Given this bizarre situation, perhaps the NRA’s proposal of putting armed guards in all schools should be considered. Better to do something than nothing at all.

Tom Healy, Gatineau, Que.

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Define ‘crisis’

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge saw that there were reckless mortgage standards at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., but failed to spur action (Ottawa’s $800-Billion Housing Problem – Report on Business, Dec. 27). Very few identified the near-identical issues in the U.S. with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the same time before their crises, but for them it was too late.

Canada’s federal government has had even more time than the U.S. to act on the issue, but the reforms have been too weak to slow the bubble. From an economist’s point of view, I can’t say that there’s much evidence for Canada’s overvalued-housing dilemma not to grow worse.

Jonathan Hartley, Chicago

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The balancing act between getting people on the property ladder and keeping prices from sliding to protect existing homeowners reminds me of the old recession/depression saw: It’s a recession if your neighbour is out of work; it’s a depression if you are out of work (Frozen Out – Report on Business, Dec. 28). There’s no affordability crisis if your neighbour can’t afford to buy a home; there is an affordability crisis if you can’t afford to buy a home.

Janice Campbell, Calgary

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