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Bells of the New Year
News of the closing of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England, is sad news indeed to all who love the sound of bells (Sign Of The Chimes – Focus, Dec. 24). In Victoria, we have 10 Whitechapel bells, custom-made for the Anglican cathedral and hung for ringing the changes (striking sequences) in the English style. We plan to ring them tonight for New Year's Eve, but more on that later.
Eight of the bells arrived in 1936 and were hung in one of the cathedral's two then-unfinished towers. They have been rung by volunteers on virtually every Sunday since. Two more were added in 1983. The bells range from just more than five hundredweight to about a ton and a half. (Bell weights are traditionally expressed in the Imperial system.)
We do not play tunes on these bells, but change the order in which they are rung each time the ropes controlling them are pulled. There are fixed rules, called "methods," by which the sequence of changes is built up. These bells also ring out for special occasions, both sacred and secular. Tonight, we will follow the tradition of ringing out the old year and ringing in the new. This has been done, with possibly one or two exceptions caused by bad weather (by Victoria's standards), since the bells arrived.
Fans of Dorothy Sayers's fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, will be familiar with the Nine Tailors – the ringing of a single bell to announce a death. It's tradition is to ring the Nine Tailors on the heaviest bell – in this case, to mark the death of the old year – before welcoming the new.
Alan H. Batten, Tower Captain, Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria
Democracy's price, per vote
Conservative MP Scott Reid is correct, the past annual $2 per-vote subsidy did give the parties too much money, even when they lost voter support. And Bloc Québécois Leader Louis Plamondon is also correct that tax credits give lots of public money as subsidies. And former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley is also correct that the per-vote subsidy is democratic because it gives money to parties who are supported by people with low incomes (Most Opposition Parties Support Return To Per-Vote Subsidy – Dec. 27).
The most democratic solution to all their points and concerns is a $100 annual donation limit (as Quebec has). It could be up to $200 federally, but in either case with no tax credit. Clearly, $500 is too much as all the parties' donation patterns show that most voters can't afford that much.
The per-vote subsidy itself should be no more than $1 – to give each party a base of funding but no more – and then public funding should be provided to match up to $1-million in donations raised by each party each year. That funding will go up and down, depending on how much donor support each party has each year (Quebec matches up to $200,000 of what each party raises each year).
Finally, volunteer labour must be disclosed to stop businesses and other organizations from giving employees time off as a "donation." Other enforcement measures also need to be implemented to ensure everyone follows the rules. Always.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch
What John Kerry said
Re U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Low Point As Kerry Lashes Out In Speech (Dec. 29): After listening to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's full speech, at no time did I get the impression he was "lashing out." What he said is factual: There are now close to 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Under international law, settlers are illegally occupying land, a clear political and geographic barrier to any shared-state solution. Fourteen other countries voted to support the resolution that the U.S. refused to veto. What Mr. Kerry and Barack Obama are trying to do is very brave – and backed by facts. Diverting attention from that seems petty.
L.M. Russell, Toronto
John Kerry's parting shot is utterly emblematic of U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration: Lash out at friends and allies and cosset enemies.
Ron Freedman, Toronto
Mad dogs and stock markets
As two hard-working spaniels, we write to take the strongest possible exception to your newspaper's depiction of 2016's ailing stocks and currencies as "dogs" (The Stars & Dogs Of 2016 – Report on Business, Dec. 24). We see our canine selves as blue-chip, steadfast investments. Unlike the ailing British pound you pillory, we have no plans to exit the central relationship of our universe. Unlike the pharmaceutical company you red circle, we do not have any plans to ditch our CEO: We are truly "valeant."
You may be right about Blackberry's sagging fortunes, but our customers maintain a Fido-like allegiance. As dogs, we display abiding transparency and provide an excellent price-to-earnings ratio to those who invest in our perpetuation. In fact, the Dow Jones 100 would do well to include a few canine indicators in its index. We would suggest Brittany and Springer hedge funds.
We took particular umbrage to your illustration, which associated dogs and toilet bowls. You should know that we are ethical drinkers, eschewing eco-harmful bottled water in our dish.
Equally dismaying was your depiction of the "star" investments of 2016 being hoisted aloft by a machine labelled "Cat." Everybody knows cats are emotional short-sellers – skittish and secretive in their loyalty. We dogs, on the other hand, are regular, open and rational in our behaviour.
So, no more "stars" and "dogs" at the end of the year. Find a more appropriate metaphor.
Lily and Tucker, Kingston (human associate: Duncan McDowall)
PS: Stay away from "turtles," as we are informed they are pretty quick to respond to stereotypes, too.