Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Latest on Ignatieff

Simon Pole proves the value of the blogosphere with a comprehensive roundup of Ignatieff news. From his backpeddling on support for the war in Iraq, the continuing ire of Ukrainian-Canadians across the country, and news that Ignatieff won't even be in the country for the first portion of the campaign - Not the best start in politics, to put it mildly.

No signs that these problems will be soon forgotten, either. The latest press release from the Etobicoke-Lakeshore Riding Association [via Rabble] makes for particularly compelling reading. Tonight's nomination meeting should be explosive to say the least.

Cherniak says this morning that no one is considering the implications of the "problem" here. Respectfully, he's the one who misses the issue - hoping that the "controversy blows over" (and stating it should!) simply because Ignatieff will make a great MP. Well, I can name a lot of people who I think would make great MPs too - unfortunately, perhaps, we live in a democracy where certain rules apply regarding their election! At least if he were appointed, then the process would have been an honest one. As it is, the "acclamation" reeks of crass political maneuvering.

No one is entitled to office, regardless of their previous track record. Such special treatment at the constituency level is not only ill-conceived, but probably unnecessary.

Whether PMO officials or Ignatieff organizers are responsible for this spate of errors is beside the point. The buck must be seen to stop with Ignatieff. After all, you think a candidate who supports military intervention in the name of democracy would take care not to flout it so needlessly at home in his first foray into politics. If he is such a worthy candidate, why not be prepared to follow the proper procedures and take on all challengers? Why run scared?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Five Further Thoughts for Day One

1. How bizarre is it that Tom Green is doing ads for CPAC? I like it.

2. Calgary Grit dices the absurdity of the campaign's first straw man fallacy - "Who loves Canada most" - so I don't have to.

3. On July 28th, 2005, I wrote as follows:
"Parrish and Grewal are easily the two most embarrassing MPs of this session. The real question is whether they are the most ridiculous of all time... My faith in democracy would be greatly enhanced if voters rewarded their absurdity and incompetence by summarily turfing them from office. Here's hoping."

Seems we didn't even need the voters to rid Parliament of both. Happy day.

4. I like and endorse what Responsible Government League said about "Star Candidates" yesterday, particularly on the recent Ignatieff fiasco. Hoped he would be different, but then again, I wonder how much it's his fault. Might never know.

5. Via Sinister Thoughts, Paul Summerville's Saturday National Post piece on the potential emergence of a market-aware NDP. Elections should involve more debates on these types of issues. More please.

Instapundit's Canadian Political Naivety

So according to one of the premier American bloggers, Captain's Quarters might deserve some of the credit for bringing down our government for breaking the publication ban on Gomery!?

What hogwash. It might have sparked a few days of flurry in the blogosphere back in April, but it certainly played no bearing whatsoever on yesterday's non-confidence motion. Only someone with zero understanding of our politics over the last few months could even think of floating such a dumb proposition.

Reminiscent of the stupidest Instaposts of recent memory, where the esteemed law professor seems to forget about the possible existence of legal justification for a TEMPORARY ban on public testimony. Makes you wonder on the reliability of instacomments re: other countries...

But just goes to show that the blogosphere's not perfect, of course.

Cross-Country Odds and Ends

Just decompressing from marathon journey across the great country. Walked passed security at Victoria International in time to see Broadbent stand and defeat the government. Landed just over 12 hours later at Halifax International just as the Governor-General was being consulted. I am (obviously) exhausted behind my desk at work and behind on my blog readings.

An assortment of random thoughts before I get back on Atlantic time:

1. Paul Martin sure looked positively giddy for a man leading a government in the process of being turfed. Elated, you could say.

2. Count me in the camp that likes the look of Ignatieff, but recoil from the latest internal machinations. Were such ruthless, anti-democratic tactics necessary? Why not accept the legitimacy of challengers? Is that really the way you want to begin a career? Shameful, sadly. A mark against.

3. The election really is on. Saw both Geoff Regan and Peter McKay in the airport lobby, as my connector from Toronto landed at the same time as their flight. Shook their hands and wished them well. Wells is right - good luck to all the candidates, and kudos in advance for their hard work.

4. Lots of grumbling regarding the election overheard on airports and airplanes across the country. Seems there is universal displeasure with all players. That got me thinking that all those assuming the House will look identical on January 24th might be proven very wrong. In the course of a long campaign, could Harper, Martin, or (to a lesser extent) Layton find that tipping point?

5. The election date itself? Outstanding. Symphony Nova Scotia is performing Rhapsody in Blue on January 20th. Plan to hit that, then head to Ottawa to join fellow political geek BNS for celebrations in the Nation's capital for a mad-cap weekend. Time to recover on the 24th, followed by a toast to Robbie Burns on the 25th and then home. Looking forward to staking out the many parties!

6. I favour 4 debates - 2 before the holiday and 2 after. Let's hear the leaders head to head.

7. Working on predictions - once I have time to consider the ridings in a bit more detail, I'll post some numbers. Hoping to make a preliminary prediction and then a revised night-before submission and see how they compare to the final results. You gotta love a horse race.

8. All in all, a great day to fly from West to East. To understand the immensity of the task facing the leaders and parties who chose to serve and aim to govern. I'll try to remember that respect as I critize over the next 50-odd days. 'Tis not an easy job, to say the least.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Magical 93rd Coupe Grey

An insta-classic. Started out with the booing of Paul Martin and only improved from there, culminating in heroic catches, kickoff returns, bizarre penalties, and high overtime drama. We parked the car downtown around 1PM and immediately came across an over-eager scalper intent on selling 4 tickets in a row - exactly what myself, my sister, Gongshow, and his girlfriend required. $145 face value that we negotiated down to $75 each. Perfect. The seats were 4 rows back in the second level, just above the back corner of the endzone where all the late 4th quarter and overtime catches occurred.

So happy to report that Zeus, the traveler's God, continues to watch over MacDuff. In passing I will note that I have spent a total of 8 days in Vancouver - 5 in the summer of 2004 and 3 this time - and have yet to see anything but glorious sun. But the most fortuitous example? The Winnipeggers sitting beside us reveal a sign midway through the 4th quarter that is - well, see below. Honestly - how random. How many of these signs could possibly exist in the stadium, yet we happen to land tickets immediately beside it?! Ridiculous. Just take a look:

Excellent. This is an idea, particularly after this beautiful weekend, that I can get behind wholeheartedly. Bring out the Halifax Privateers. Careful viewers will note that over Gongshow's left shoulder, the Eskimos are kicking the tying extra point of the first overtime. Oh my.

Heading soon to Victoria by ferry in order to fly standby home - to Calgary to Toronto to Halifax. Across the country on this "historic" day, according to Duffy. 5:51:12 to go on the Non-Confidence Countdown. Predictions, further analysis, when I land on the other side.

And (hopefully) see you outdoors in Winnipeg for number 94.

Friday, November 25, 2005

20 Ridings, Redux

A bit of an electoral preview post to mull over while Ahab flies from Atlantic to Pacific in a spontaneous journey wholly inconceivable a century ago. Yet no such progress in the world of politics - you apologize. No, you apologize. Such a shame of a way to begin. After Monday, the Tories need to cool their jets, release their plan, and forget the word "Gomery" until the new year when the Libs go hard negative. On the other side, my dad has never voted anything other than Liberal or Tory, yet mentioned today that he is finding Layton more and more impressive. Here's hoping he avoids the hystrionics and keeps his eye on the prize. Keep criticism within reasoned limits.

Anyway - back in May, before Belinda slipped the two swords lengths and one foot across the House, I pulled out 20 Ridings of especial interest. It's a post worth revisiting 6 months later, and not just for nostalgia's sake. Many of the comments still apply, others have been o'ertaken by the tide of events.

I still think that Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Saint John, and Fredericton will be the real Maritime seats to watch for early trends. And the numbers out of King's Hants will also be revealing. As for Quebec, Lawrence Cannon's attempt at Pontiac will show just how much work the CPC needs to put into winning in la belle Province again. The key question in Quebec is really how many Ministers Martin will lose? And will anyone in English Canada shed much of a tear if the Bloc win Outremont?

Can the Conservatives win anything in Ontario? Can Layton? Lots of fun races to handicap here. Belinda's flip-flop has ensured her a massive win, but some of those other races highlighted remain compelling. Dewar also faces a winnable, if uphill fight to hold Ottawa Centre against Mahoney. How much help can Broadbent provide? Will Tonys Valeri and Ianno hold off an Orange wave? What riding has Ignatieff secured? And though Carolyn Bennett likely wins St. Paul's, that might be the riding of the election in terms of quality candidates. We need more challengers of this calibre.

Looking West - Layton's command on the balance of power might well hinge on some prairie CPC-NDP matchups, particularly Palliser and Regina Qu'Appelle. Add Bev Desjarlais' open seat to the mix. In Alberta, the only question mark is Edmonton Centre, where all eyes will be, again, on landslide Annie. As for B.C., sadly Cadman's riding falls off the radar following his untimely passing. Vancouver Centre sure looks even more fascinating now with the news of "the people's jeweler" possible comeback. And despite Reynolds retirement, his riding should still make for good viewing. Hands down the best name - "West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country". Love it.

Any other intriguing contests I have missed? I said in May that I felt opportunity existed for many voters to cast different ballots than 2004, and remain convinced of this possibility. While not the most likely outcome, there is a chance that the mid-January Parliament will look much different than the current one. 36 + days is a long time.

Quote of the (Fri)day

"The Art of Coarse Travel, like that of Coarse Fishing and Coarse Cricket, is one designed exclusively for the enjoyment of those who practice it and accept its first and last principle: that of travelling in the greatest possible comfort for the least possible amount of money with the sole purpose of getting from one point to another in pursuit of leisure and pleasure in foreign parts. While the methods of Coarse Travel may change with the times, its spirit does not and to-day it flourishes more strongly than at any time in the past.

In The Art of Coarse Travel, Spike Hughes discusses its practice and traditions, its technique and application. The experienced Coarse Traveller will recognise many incidents which remind him of what once happened to him, while the newcomer will gain a useful grounding in the dilemmas and adventures which await him as he progresses in the practical experience of the Art (together, of couse, with one or two handy phrases which may be needed to avoid arrest by the police abroad).

Though it is written in a characteristically light-hearted way, The Art of Coarse Travel is based on the author's own experience, thus giving what is designed as comedy that solid foundation of truth and probability without which it might degenerate into farce. If the book needs a sub-title, it might be: It Can Happen To You!"

-From the flyleaf of the Spike Hughes' masterpiece, The Art of Coarse Travel. I bought this at Blackwell's on Broad Street last July, the same day I bought my first digital camera. The camera I was destined to lose less than 24 hours later. But when asked upon immediate discovery of the loss whether I would rather have parted with the camera purchased for 99 pounds as opposed to the hearty, random used book purchased for 5 pounds, I had no hesitation in preferring the words.

Turns out there are many in the series, more information is here. " 'The Art of Coarse ...' is a book title unfamiliar to few", so says the author of the website. In time, I hope that will be so.

And tomorrow, I will be putting the art into praxis yet again. Decided yesterday to take advantage of the sister's Westjet connections to splash out to Vancouver and a rejuvenating glimpse at the Pacific. Might even catch the Giants game in Seattle on Sunday. Or scrounge up some tickets to the Coupe Grey? Oh, to have options. Report following the weekend and the fall of the government.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Will You Be There?

Somewhat bizarrely, today's featured article at wikipedia is on Canadian Military History.

The link is "advertised" with this regal WWI recruitment poster:

Will you be there? I wonder. Every now and then, especially with current focus abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, I find myself imagining how life thus far might have turned out if other opportunities weren't quite so available, or the personal constitution were slightly more amenable to such service, or the necessity were more obvious. The cubicle I find myself in now is as random as any other. Who is to say for certain where the paths not taken led? I suppose it is the constant, consummate dilemma for us plagued with a penchant for experience.

It was with a somewhat heavy heart that I first walked the beach of Brighton and gazed across the Channel to France at the age of 21, fresh off an undergraduate year abroad in friendly Glasgow. Brighton in Southern England in May with my mother and her mother. Arriving in that city after taking the overnight train to London that cost 50 quid one-way, because I missed the bus (I had paid for) in saying a too-long farewell to a Swedish girl I adored. The same city where my grandfather - who also bears the name of James Anderson MacDuff - was first stationed in 1943. When he looked into the Channel for an incoming enemy.

Oh, how different our experiences through Europe were. I wonder sometimes how I am going to pay him and his comrades back. Or whether, by living as I do - quixotically - whether I am.

On this day in 1971

D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane, then jumped out of it with 21 lbs of $20 bills strapped to his torso.

And, despite the manhunt, he was never heard from again.

I would put up some excerpts, but it is just too fascinating a story. As the radio told me this morning, that's why you are no longer allowed to board a plane with a parachute. Do yourself a favour and go read about the classic of modern day mysteries.

"The world's only unsolved skyjacking". Magic.



So if the answer is no....

... can I change your mind.

The song of the moment is "Change Your Mind" by the Killers. The rhythm perfect, the lyrics immaculate:

Racey days
Help me through the hopeless haze
But my oh my

Tragic eyes
I can't even recognise myself behind
So if the answer is no
Can I change your mind

Out again, a siren screams at half past ten
And you won't let go
While I ignore, that we both felt like this
Before it starts to show
So if I had a chance
Would you let me know

Why aren't you shaking
Step back in time
Graciously taking
Oh you're too kind
And if the answer is no
Can I change your mind

We're all the same
And love is blind
The sun is gone
Before it shines
And I said if the answer is no
Can I change your mind

Brilliant. Oh, how much Hot Fuss is my favorite, amazingly consistent album since All That You Can't Leave Behind. I cannot count the ways. The sun is gone before it shines. But in a little while...

Monday, November 21, 2005

A British Day of Thanksgiving?

Only a few days until Britain finally makes the long overdue move to join the rest of civilized Europe and extend pub licensing hours past 11PM. Now revelers in the UK won't necessarily be forced to leave the comfortable environs of the local in favour of the darkness of ridiculous clubs. And surely it is ironic that opening night, as it were, is set to begin this American Thanksgiving? I count this all as an eminently good thing.

So does Tim Hames at the Times in a delightful column today that makes all the right points to the naysayers:
The real issue, nonetheless, is not whether licensing reform leads to “more drinking”, but can it, as it should, in time result in different drinking and in better drinking? The true test is whether the English will come to appreciate that drinking no longer needs to be a sprint, that it is permissible to be seated while imbibing alcohol and that, if one must mix chicken vindaloo with lager, it is better to ingest the former before the later and not, as has become the norm, vice versa.

Well done in following through on these proposals, merry England. And further congratulations on not listening to the advice of Police Chief Clive Wolfendale on the advent of a 7 pound pint! Yoikes.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Big Mac Milkshake

Someone, somewhere, at some time, told me a story of a dare that involved putting a Big Mac meal into a blender and then drinking the contents. I have subsequently learned that Colbert did a Daily Show piece on "How to Gain Weight" and popularized the "experiment".

Anyway, tonight was the inevitable culmination of that lingering idea. After a few hours spent drinking at the Atlantic Bowl and then Uncle Tom's Havana, my good friend Andrew volunteered for the task.

He drank about a quarter of it. Hilariously, he is by no means the first to make the effort. How hard it is to come up with that truly unique and original idea. So much has already been done before.

Saturday Early Evening Miscellany

(1) Great listing by Forbes of the 20 Greatest Individual Athletic Performances. Amazing to think my grandparents were at #18, and we have two tickets to the game in our basement. My favorite on the list might be Beamon's jump though. Consider:

"At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, the world record for the long jump stood at 27 feet 4 3/4, and the best in the sport were vying to be the first to break the 28-foot barrier. On Oct. 18, Bob Beamon, a 22-year-old New Yorker, broke the 28-foot barrier. And the 29-foot barrier. After 19 strides down the runway, he hit the board perfectly and flew through the air like no athlete before him. When he finally landed, 29 feet 2 1/2 later, he had shattered the world record by nearly two feet. It would be 12 years before anyone jumped even 28 feet again."
(2) In Prince Edward Island, "no person not being a blind person shall carry or use a white cane in any public thoroughfare, public conveyance or public place." But it only applies to residents.

(3) The Global Language Monitor has released a list of the top 10 "politically incorrect" words for 2005. My favorites:

Deferred Success as a euphemism for the word fail. The Professional Association of Teachers in the UK considered a proposal to replace any notion of failure with deferred success in order to bolster students self-esteem. [similar sentiments expressed at Montgomery Elementary School.]

Banning the word Mate: the Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra issued a general warning to its security staff banning the use of the word 'mate' in any dealings they might have with both members of the Parliament and the public. What next? banning Down Under so as not to offend those living in the Up Over.
(4) It's ridiculously hard for Americans to work in Canada. Ridiculous. There's no natural political constituency to push for simplified reforms, but some politician should remedy this issue.

(5) Courtesy of the Hollywood Stock Exchange - a hilarious virtual market on movies and celebrities - comes news that Ridley Scott is thinking of making a movie about Encylopedia Brown. I loved those books growing up. Colour me excited!

(5) My sister works at Westjet so I can fly where they do for cheap. Very excited about the prospect of a $150 roundtrip from Halifax to their newest destination, Hawaii. A post-election blowout? Burns day on the beach? You know it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Scribbled Quotes from Notebooks Past

A restless night. Dove back into old journals in the process of packing away the most recent effort into the old Corfu pack. Amazing how memory plays its tricks best on such cold, quiet, early Winter eves. So many stories. Always the theme of those writings was randomness - to preserve that elusive, haphazard saying or quote or observation for posterity, to save what would otherwise have escaped me into the air. Commitment to this is a dying habit of mine that needs renewal.

And so, a slapdash assortment of quotes from the past, one for each of the past 6 years, on an especially early Friday installment. Dates as when I read and scribbled them down to fill the empty whiteness of the pages:

Brussels - January 2000:

After you have these understandings, think of me
And of my path, who walked therein and knew
That neither man nor woman, neither toil
Nor duty, gold nor power
Can ease the longing of the soul,
The loneliness of the soul.

- Edgar Lee Masters, James Garber's entry from The Spoon River Anthology

Halifax - November 2001:

In the past and at my lowest ebbs, I used to think that maybe drink had destroyed my life, but that was dramatic nonsense and temporary gloom. Without alcohol, I could have been a shopkeeper or a business executive or a lone bachelor bank clerk. But why pick on bank clerks? The side-effects and spin-offs produced by my chosen anaesthetic have at least produced a few wonderful dreams that turned out to be reality. Even the hangover from the nightmare contains sweet nostalgia.

- Jeffrey Bernard, Sunday Telegraph

Tate Gallery, London - February 2002:

Good prose of the kind can mean much in that way, to each of us - whether it is Synge describing a funeral, Whitman describing wounded under the moon, or Joyce putting Daedalus, alone with the power of his life, on a beach in Ireland.

- Geoffrey Grigson, Blake exhibit

Apple Blossom Festival, Wolfville - August 2003:

It was a marvellous night - the sort of night one only experiences when one is young. The sky was so bright, and there were so many stars that, gazing upward, one couldn't help wondering how so many whimsical, wicked people could live under such a sky. This too is a question that could only occur to the very young - but may God make you wonder like that as often as possible. -

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, White Nights

Halifax - April 2004:

My barn has burned down.
Now I can see the moon.


Galway - March 2005:

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potter's Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

- Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The Height of Vanity

A hilarious scoop from Drudge. Honestly, it truly is the age of the daily show and the onion:

Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) named buildings after THEMSELVES in the Labor-HHS Appropriations conference -- which they oversaw!

The 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee Conference Report (109-300) names two new buildings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after the Chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, and Ranking Democratic Member, Senator Tom Harkin.

The building with the new visitors center would be named after Senator Harkin.The Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center Building (Building 21) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to be renamed as the Arlen Specter Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center.

But rule XXI of the House Rules for the 109th Congress states: "6. It shall not be in order to consider a bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report that provides for the designation or redesignation of a public work in honor of an individual then serving as a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or Senator."

Staffers on The Hill mocked the move as the latest example of egos completely out of control. By late Thursday, the conference report went down in flames when the House voted down the request. Congress will now have the opportunity to remove the vanity plates from the report when it reconvenes and revotes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"in vain, O Pain"

In the process of research this afternoon, came across this delightfully philosophic passage from a 1988 speech delivered by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Dickson:
As the Court explained in a decision three years after the trilogy: Pain and suffering and loss of amenities are intangibles. They are not possessions that have an objective, ascertainable value. Professor Kahn-Freund in his brilliant essay "Expectation of Happiness" (1941), 5 Modern L. Rev. 81 [at p. 86], cites the example of the Stoic philosopher Poseidonios, who, when tormented by pain, is reported to have exclaimed: "Pain, thou shalt not defeat me. I shall never admit that thou art an evil."

However, Professor Kahn-Freund asks, could we award damages for pain and suffering to this philosopher who welcomed his misery as a test of his own power to resist it? Is the Stoic entitled to less compensation than the weak-willed person who recoils at the slightest suggestion of pain or unhappiness? These examples only reinforce the conclusion that it is fruitless to attempt to put a dollar value on the loss of a faculty in the way that we put a dollar value on the loss of a piece of property.
In yet another bow to the powers of the Internet to distract and inform, such words simply begged for further (procrastinating) inquiry. Quick googling led me to the more common spelling of this philosopher's name - Posidonius - and a brief review of his life story. Remarkable. And though the quote bolded above initially sparked the mid-day break from routine, I admit to much preferring this slighly convoluted translation and adopt it wholeheartedly:
"in vain, O Pain," he exclaimed one day under the pangs of it, "in vain thou subjectest me to torture; it is not in thee to extort from me the reproach that thou art an evil."
Indeed. And thus the daily struggle against the mappined limits of our lives continues.

(more) World Cup Briefing

(1) Well, the Socceroos have done it, dispatching Uruguay in penalty kicks last night (this morning) to qualify for only their 2nd World Cup Appearance. I worried back in September's briefing about the challenge of overcoming South American opposition, but the boys proved mighty in victory.

(2) Congrats also to Trinidad and Tobago on their first-ever qualification. Switzerland looks set to take down Turkey, while Spain's 5-1 lead over Slovakia is sure to hold up. Norway is likely to have a terrible time tonight in Czech against Petr Cech. Will the Norwegian coach's criticism of the team spark a resurgence: "We were too much like ladies in the game at Ullevaal," Age Hareide told NRK public radio, "we tiptoed around on high heels."

(3) Regardless, at the conclusion of the day, the full field will be set. As for England, what a friendly against Argentina! A portent of things to come? We can only hope. God Save Wayne Rooney. He is the difference-maker.

Political Observation of the Year

A telling, accurate, and hilarious closing line from Chantal Hebert's column this morning:
"If anything, in the coming election each will be striving to portray himself as the natural heir of ... the defunct Progressive Conservative party."
As if on cue, Joe Clark himself also piped in with his opinion today as well. While I happen to agree with everything he says, the comments remain sadly ironic, given the speaker. Yet further examples of our country's leadership deficit. Somewhere, Dalton Camp is looking down on this mess, and laughing sadly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

23 + 5 = Dean or Kerry

Tagged by Truffles on the latest blogger meme, enjoyable if only for its abject randomness...

The instructions:
1) Go into your archive.
2) Find your 23rd post.
3) Find the fifth sentence.
4) Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5) Tag five people to do the same.

Considering that Ahab's true blogging started at the dream site as an online continuation of Hofbrau-inspired conversation on the state of the '04 American Presidential race, this one's eerily appropriate. I actually posted #23 a day after arriving at Oxford, "Imagining a Dean Candidacy", in response to an article written by Peter Beinhart.

The 5th sentence hones in directly on the core of the debate: "Would Dean have made a better candidate than Kerry?"

Some context: Back in November 2002, Cooper and I met up for a holiday in Europe - two weekends in England bookending a magical three day visit to Gaudi's Barcelona. At that time, Kerry was the presumptive nominee and we both considered him extremely flawed. It was on that first weekend that Tim mentioned the intriguing potential candidacy of the Vermont Governor. You could say we were especially early on that bandwagon.

We followed Dean's rise from his extraordinary March 15, 2003 speech to California Democrats ("What I Want to Know") to his emergence as the favorite. I discovered the blogging phenomenon via that campaign and actually took a week off to campaign for him out of Concord in the New Hampshire primary. The greatest political experience thus far, without doubt. What stories - from listening to Martin Sheen speak in Bartlett, NH, to dropping DVDs and Videotapes door-to-door for undecideds two days before the vote. The emergence of the uninspiring Kerry was disheartening back then, even as a Dean victory post-Scream was almost unimaginable.

So, in retrospect, would Dean have made a better candidate than Kerry? I think my analysis back in September '04 (when a Bush re-election was far from certain) holds up fairly well, as does Cooper's the following day. Though It certainly would have been a more enjoyable head-to-head matchup. Alas. I still wear my Dean for America shirt with pride. At least the 2006 midterms present a very real opportunity for the Democrats (and their Chairman) to reverse the tide.

Whew. That took longer than expected. On to the tagging process - Who hasn't been hit? Who even reads this thing? Who knows? Let's start with these three:

(1) Liam O'Brien at Responsible Government League

(2) Mike Lindsay at The View from Spires (partly since he has an alternative explanation for the rise of Dean that I don't accept - the Governor's rise from an asterix to frontrunner was simply not media driven, but attributable to a legion of Democratic primary voters who wanted someone to stand up to Bush. He filled a void left vacant by Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt)

(3) Shari at Lefthanded Catastrophe

Monday, November 14, 2005

Petty Politics, Ad Nauseum

So the stage is set.

I never bought into the sanctity of Martin's pledge for an election following the report, especially after its release was broken in two and made to stretch into February 2006. It will be nice to see a federal election occur on a date not pre-determined to best suit the needs of the incumbent Prime Minister.

That said, prepare for one of the most annoying and inconclusive federal elections in Canadian history. How many times will the Liberals repeat this talking point?:
"A lot will be lost to serve the opposition's demands," Tony Valeri, the Liberal House leader in the Commons, predicted Sunday.

"Families will be interrupted by candidates campaigning on their doorsteps through the Christmas holiday season."

Meanwhile, the opposition will counter by repeating that old Mulroney classic - you had a choice, sir:
"The fall that Mr. Martin says he wants is available to him," Layton said after a two-a-half hour meeting to plot strategy with the other opposition chiefs.

Harper added: "If the government wants to avoid a Christmas election, this will give them the opportunity."

It's your fault. No, it's your fault. No, it's your fault. Grow up and treat the electorate with some respect. I am so tired of hearing what "Canadians want" and about "making Parliament work". How long until we can have an actual honest, grown-up debate on issues and policy solutions? Answer: a while yet.

Hopefully at some point in this campaign, the timing of this election will cease to be its central theme. Until them, petty politics will carry our days, ad nauseam.

Kinsella's "Predictions"

Kinsella's latest musing (November 14th) sees him bragging about an end of year prediction, namely: "1.The Martin government will fall in 2005."

Otherwise, no mention of other predictions, or even a link to his archives for December 2004 for further context. It's a slow Monday morning following the long weekend, so why not look closer? A quick Google search revealed the full text of his predictions, with odds and commentary provided. A few thoughts on our budding Nostradamus's accuracy.

1. The Martin government will fall in 2005, likely over missile “defence.”
Interesting how the last four words were conveniently omitted from today's braggadocio.
2. It is not a given that an election will immediately take place. Adrienne Clarkson, who the Martinites have done their level best to defame and demean, may ask Stephen Harper if he has the confidence of the House. He just might, too (cf. his Belgian love letter to Gilles Duceppe).
This certainly doesn't sound like a prediction from someone anticipating the fall of the government in the dying months of the year. Safe to say this one's a bust, although in the face of the recent "compromise", it is surprising that the opposition parties never really looked into it. To make Parliament work without the Liberals actually running the show?
3. If an election results, the Liberals will not – repeat not – win a majority. If Ralph Klein and Tory caucus kooks (cf. White, Gallant, ad nauseum) can be persuaded to shut up, Stephen Harper will be Prime Minister in a minority Parliament. He will do a surprisingly okay job.
Certainly a probable result on the current evidence, though only Cherniak seems to be predicting against it. The Harper minority remains the distinctly underdog position, for now.
4. Paul Martin will count himself lucky to win 70 per cent support for his leadership at the March Liberal convention. If he gets more than that, it means (a) a rigged convention and/or (b) that every real Liberal stayed away due to (a).
Actual result: 88% at a convention attended by Kinsella himself.
7. Approaching mid-term, thinking legacy, George W. Bush will start to look and sound more moderate. All of us will be surprised, including those of us who have predicted it.
While no one could have predicted Katrina enhancing the fall to historic popularity lows, the President spent all his political capital in a losing fight to privatize social security, came out against torture, backtracked on Miers, and remains defiant on the War. That be not moderation.

All in all, not the type of predictions I would be especially proud to have made. But there you go.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Quotable Rex Murphy

Happy am I that the opposition leaders are meeting, and count me among those who favour the December Blackjack date. If the House has lost confidence in the government, it is infinitely ridiculous to continue the charade for sycophantic reasons.

The inimitable Rex has a similar message in his Saturday column this week, notable for its eminent quotability. Amazing how the random tossing together of various words can prove so adeptly hilarious. To wit [emphasis added]:
Evidently it is so important that the mere idea of an election during Christmas, whatever its justification, is anathema. Like bingo at a funeral...

Hence the delirious dance going on in Parliament. The opposition parties are in a fever to trigger an earlier election than the one already pledged by Paul Martin, but are exercising every fatuous ingenuity not to wear the blame for a Christmas check with the voters. Santa coming down the chimney and Jack Layton at the front door at the same time is conceived as just too awesome for the Canadian elector...

So the opposition parties have a string of opportunities to act on their combined appreciation that the Liberals have no moral authority to govern. They have parliamentary opportunities to move no-confidence themselves, or vote down those crucial estimates.

And what do they do? They hedge. They bluster. Mostly, they talk about the horror of a Christmas election. No one wants to be "blamed" -- that is the word of choice -- for a "Christmas" election. Maybe they fear the hymns. After Gomery, any appeal to the angels is apt to be awkward...

They feel that there is the hope of a fractional advantage for each of them in the earlier vote. But they also know that most Canadians know this as well -- and that they are just as political in wanting to force the election a little earlier, as Mr. Martin is political in wanting to stick to his timetable.

So they cry principle even as they dream tactics. If their call for the government to resign were indeed a principle, then whether folks are running off to Canadian Tire to stock up on lights and toys for the kids would have no part in their judgments.

But because it really is all tactics, they are afraid to annoy Canadians. That is
the difference between tactics and principle. Principle insists that they go ahead anyway. Tactics includes measuring annoyance...

The decision facing the opposition leaders (I speak of Harper and Layton here) requires less concern over the optics of a seasonal vote. The question of confidence remains a simple one: has it been lost? When the answer is yes, the path forward is clear. Bring 'er down. And let the chips fall where they might. Especially as waiting only plays to Martin's advantage.

Whiskey, Whiskey, Votes for Whiskey...

Hard not to feel a bit sorry for Joe Ellis down in Casey County, Kentucky. Not only did his preferred candidate fail to win the local school board election, but now he's headed to jail for trying to, ahem, creatively influence a few votes:
Jurors deliberated 30 minutes Wednesday before finding Joe Ellis guilty on four felony charges of buying votes. They recommended Ellis serve only the minimum prison sentence of one year. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.

Ellis gave pints of Ancient Age whiskey and $5 bills to Stella Johnson's son and daughter and a friend during a meeting the day before the November 2004 election, according to testimony during the trial.

Ouch. There's a latent point in here on the "mandatory minimum" debate currently underway in our Parliament. But since Hockey Night in Canada is underway (Leafs-Canadians, and my two younger sisters have press passes from Dad's old curling buddy Bob Cole!), I'll leave it for you to deduce, dear reader.

[for the record, I agree with Cotler - both on the general point and making an exception for gun crimes]

Friday, November 11, 2005

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

-Laurence Binyon, 1915.

For all our brave, valiant men and women, past and present and future. As Hamlet might say, whiles memory holds a seat in this distracted globe, we shall remember thee...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Toward Places Unknown

"...the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself." -William Least Heat Moon (William Trogdon)

[Photo taken last November on the walk up Arthur's Seat, overlooking Edinburgh. Oh where will the next extravagant voyage lead us? I dream so many dreams.]

Political Understatement of the Year

"It's not the first time in Canadian politics that obfuscation has been a substitute for action."

-Queen's Professor Ned Franks.
It won't be the last, either. I might just start dropping the observation into my regular commentary at random. I'm sure it would fit seamlessly.

The quote actually refers to the latest NDP "plan" to trigger a non-confidence motion that wouldn't actually kick in until January 6th. Or something. Maybe they should hire a few political science undergrads to tell them how little sense this makes.

Is it so difficult to draft a simple confidence motion? To Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton - if you want an election now, you know what to do. If not, stop posturing about and acting like frightened little children. It is so terribly embarrassing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Of stars, eyes, riddles, and hidden magic

"Oh, how incomprehensible everything was, and all sad, although it was so beautiful. Nobody really knew anything. People lived; they ran here and there about the earth and rode through forests; so much seemed to challenge or to promise, and so many sights to stir our longing: an evening star, a blue harebell, a lake half-covered in green reeds, the eyes of beasts and human eyes; and always it was as though something would happen, something never seen and yet sighed for, as though a veil would be pulled back off the world; till the feeling passed, and there had been nothing. The riddle remained unsolved, the hidden magic unrevealed, so that in the end, people grew old, and looked comic like old Father Anselm, or wise like old Abbot Daniel, though perhaps really they knew nothing, still waited, pricking up their ears."

-Hermann Hesse, "Narziss and Goldmund"

Monday, November 07, 2005

Depends on what your definition of "Torture" is

Bush Declares: "We Do Not Torture"

Andrew Sullivan Responds: "The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining "torture" in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree."

Boom. Go read the full takedown. Sullivan has been all over this issue from the beginning. If you haven't been reading the Daily Dish regularly, look at what you have been missing.

Harper's Reaction

Given the NDP's reaction today, you'd think Stephen Harper would be overjoyed at the prospect of his comments. At the very least, his initial reaction must surely be an optimistic one, urging Layton to meet with him and discuss strategy on forcing a confidence vote at a mutually beneficial time. Right? Er, not so much:
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appeared unimpressed by Layton's address. Harper said he expects Layton is continuing to negotiate with the Liberals.

"I'm not sure anything has changed yet today," he said. "If Mr. Layton is really serious about opposing this government, he can take the initiative."

However, Harper refused to provide details about a motion the Conservatives have scheduled for November 15, but he did say, "it's not a confidence motion.

"We're not going to bring forward our own confidence motion before Christmas," he said. "If there is a consensus of all parties ... then we'll have a vote."
Talk about gun shy. I understand he wants to be cautious, but he is already fully on record as supporting an election call. Someone tell him that this reaction from Layton is *good* news for him, eh?

UPDATE: Or as Wells puts it, much more succinctly, he just "seriously, seriously needs to stop looking gift horses in the mouth."

Layton Cries "No Confidence" on Health Care Reforms

... and (just possibly) lets slip the first dogs of a Christmas election at the Empire Club ?

[via bourque.org]

Never a fan of phony Liberal entreaties that "no one wants an election until it is convenient for our party", I am pleased to see Layton at least demonstrating the will to apply added pressure. Bring on a December or January vote. Snow hasn't stopped us in the past, and it is insulting to say democracy must wait for the seasons to change.

The tactics of such a move cannot really be faulted either. Surely the most compelling aspect of this entire ordeal, from Layton's perspective, is that any new House configuration is unlikely to give him quite the balance of power position that the NDP currently hold. He can hardly be faulted for only reluctantly ceding such a powerful, leveraged position. Hence his continued reluctance to commit out-right to toppling the government. And yet...

From Jack's perspective, an election framed on a Gomery non-confidence question is eminently preferable to one brought about in the wake of Liberal budgetary sweeteners and a cooling off period. The NDP can also now campaign on health care in direct contrast to the Liberal proposals (or lack thereof) and present themselves as a truly leftist alternative to a party overly welcome to failed Conservative leadership candidates, embattled by perceptions of corruption and engulfed in a "civil war" of sorts.

Indeed, the swirling rumours have indicated that both Broadbent and Blaikie have been pressuring Layton to pull the plug. Unsurprising, I'd say, considering the importance both old school politicians place on representation in the House of Commons. To remain a continuing force in Canadian politics, the wily veterans realize the need to make substantive gains where it counts - in terms of seats won at the ballot box. Now seems like an opportunity to attempt (at least) to consolidate their recent, hard-fought advantage. It is an election that can be fought squarely on NDP terms. The alternative - attempting to squeeze out the last few concessions before the call in the Spring - is simply not as valuable.

In the immediate aftermath of Belinda's defection across the floor, I mused openly and randomly about a possible temporary alliance between the CPC and the NDP on various policy positions that might sustain a non-Liberal minority. Others on the right have recently begun speculating to that effect as well. It just might be time to roll those dice. Fortune favours the bold.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Saturday, November 5th, 1955

50 years ago today, in some alternate universe, Doctor Emmett Brown fell off his toilet and invented time travel. Great Scott!

The Gunpowder Plot

Another year, another celebration of Fawkes day - as I lie on the couch recovering from an epic night, watching Arsenal kill Sunderland. Amazing the popularity of the Premiership on this side of the Atlantic among friends since my return.

November 5th surely ranks up there as one of the quintessential English "holidays". You can read my thoughts about the incessant fireworks from last year here. And also check out this BBC's "what if" story - truly compelling stuff.

Both these fatal weaknesses were contingent, however, on one accident of history; the postponement of Parliament. It had originally been scheduled to meet on 3 October 1605, and only the lingering traces of bubonic plague in London made it seem sensible to put off the occasion for a month.

Let us suppose that this one variable had been removed, and there had been no plague in the capital that summer. Parliament would have met a month before,
very probably when the gunpowder (stored in the cellar since July) was still lethally effective, and arguably before one of the less discreet plotters had lost nerve enough to talk to Monteagle.

We are thus in a real position to suppose that in October 1605, King James, Queen Anne, and both Houses of Parliament would indeed have gone sky-high together, leaving the Catholic conspirators ready to seize the kingdom. What would have happened then?

Oh, but for the "accidents of history".... A what if for the ages indeed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Quote of the (Fri)day

Gongshow and I caught the closing night of Frayn's Democracy in London last summer. Extraordinary. Political intrigue, espionage, humour: a truly encompassing performance.

In a few scenes of the play, German Chancellor Willy Brandt is portrayed as a womanizer on the campaign trail, and at one point his aide asks him:

"What is it about women, Chief?" His response - sad, poetic, and rambling - ends thus:

"All the different people you can be with them... All the different ways your life might go."

'Tis tragic we get only one life to lead - and can only speculate about what might have been left behind along the road. That famous saudade of the Portuguese. The consequences of seemingly trivial decisions. Perfect conversation for Rum and Coke Friday conversation. Bring out the week's end.

In Search of the Elusive Alternative

The Tiger quotes the inestimable Rex Murphy's reaction to the fallout from Gomery, but goes on to say as follows:
He's got more outrage left in him than I do. I just figure, it's par for the course in the Great White North. :-) People will just go along with it.

That's a terribly simplified position, and allows me opportunity to make a larger point. There are several other culprits at fault in this mess, but our current electoral system is by far the worst.

For the last 4 Liberal "mandates", they have never received over 42% of votes CAST (putting aside support among ELIGIBLE Canadians). Here are the numbers, courtesy of the ever-valuable Wikipedia site:

2004 - 36.7%
2000 - 40.85%
1997 - 38.46%
1993 - 41.24%

The majority do not, have not, and will not support these Liberals. And yet... It's why Layton should have used this opportunity to fix our antiquated and terribly dysfunctional system, compounded as it is by our regional disparities, while the opportunity presented itself. At the very least, he could have worked to institute some meaningful checks and balances on the Prime Minister's virtual monopoly.

But, as Scharma himself has noted, even this system would not be enough to save these Liberals, if the opposition were even *reasonably* competent and could control the delivery of their message, propose alternatives, and contain their respective fringe (read: often hysterical) elements for the sake of the grander goal. Last night on Mike Duffy's show, a Conservative "advisor" mentioned that Stephen Harper would be issuing a Conservative proposals in response to Gomery today and that "Canadians wanted to hear from Mr. Harper". Maybe. But too bad it has taken him this long since winning the leadership in March 2004 to begin talking policy.

And so it is in democracies worldwide. Even when Bush is seen as a "miserable failure", if 50.1% see Kerry as worse, he wins. Again, alas. But people should not heed claims that Canadians are simply shrugging their shoulders over Gomery. Some honestly believe in the "new" Liberals. And though most of the country does not, they still struggle to find an acceptable alternative. The Gomery revelations make that pursuit all the more critical. But there's a reason that the saying "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" is so timeless. This opposition will never win simply by default.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gomery, in Two Excerpts

Two excerpts from our very best columnists, on why the sponsorship scandal holds (or should hold) consequences for the Liberal Party of Canada:
"...The Gomery report describes what it calls a "culture of entitlement" among senior officials in the Liberal Party, the same culture that finds it acceptable to ship cronies into the Senate, that treats appointments to Crown corporations as a reward for good and faithful service, that accepts the right of the perpetually governing party to use the grease of patronage to lubricate its rusty machine.

Mr. Martin shows not the slightest discomfort with that culture, which is why he recently sent his former principal secretary, Francis Fox, to the Senate without even blushing. Every Canadian who doesn't call the Prime Minister by his first name turned away in disgust.

That is why healthy democracies rotate political parties: to exploit the brief period of probity that accompanies a new party's arrival in power, until the culture of entitlement seeps into their souls as well..."

The personal responsibility or otherwise of Mr. Martin is irrelevant to the question of whether the Liberal party should be held accountable. Suppose a corporation were discovered to have dumped toxic waste in the local river. And suppose, in the wake of the scandal, the corporation brought in a new CEO -- not just promoted the senior VP, but hired someone wholly unconnected with the firm. The new CEO could protest with absolute justice that he could not personally be held to blame for the misdeeds that had gone on under his predecessor. But would that absolve the corporation as a whole of liability? No it would not.

The corporation would still be legally liable, that is, with all of the rules of evidence and standards of proof that implies. But the Liberals, whatever their legal liability, may be held to another standard, that of political responsibility. The public does not need to know, to form such a judgment, which persons broke which laws. It is enough to ask: How did it occur to so many people to do so? And, as important, how did they think they could get away with it? It wasn't only a "culture of entitlement" that was at work here. It was -- is -- also a culture of impunity.

Why the Public Loathe Politicians

Because they'll say anything, and contradict themselves as quickly, so why believe anything? Case in point, British Labour MP David Blunkett.

YESTERDAY'S headline at BBC: "I am not resigning, says Blunkett."
Mr Blunkett told The Star newspaper: "I have done nothing wrong at any stage."
TODAY'S headline at BBC: "Blunkett quits after 'mistakes' "
"Was I at fault not writing to the committee?" he asked. "Yes, I was. It was the
same fault on three occasions arising from the same misunderstanding by me."
What can you do.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"All These Things That I've Done"

Others in the long and infinite list of reasons to love living and working in Halifax:

1. The Tommy's Uncle at the Fireside's Martini Mondays.

2. The Apple Barrel omelettes in the early, early morning of all Saint's day.

3. The Halloween in between.

4. Waking up in the morning, late but not terminally so, to majestic radio tunes. Lunch hour purchase of said record. I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier.

5. Slow, peaceful reintroduction to articles following the mock trial of bar course.

6. All the above occurring within a 10 minute walking radius.

The Spin

My favorite quote thus far:

"It was this prime minister, Paul Martin, who ended the sponsorship program. And it is only one leader, Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has had the guts to say 'Enough is enough, we're going to end this'." [emphasis added]

-Scott Brison

The necessary implication? Of all the federal leaders, only Paul Martin wanted to end the Sponsorship program. Layton, Harper, Duceppe - they just didn't have the *guts*. The others wanted to let it continue.

Some days I really think we need a Canadian Daily Show equivalent. Honestly.

The Report's Release

I wonder, in passing, what possible legitimate justification exists that would allow the party targeted by the Gomery Inquiry to have the exclusive first crack at reading it. Do we really need to provide TIME for fickle government spinmeisters to churn out the talking points before we even have access to the facts for ourselves. Certainly one of the true shames in all of this.

Scott Reid got the report last night. I am still waiting to read it. Although why bother now? Martin had nothing to do with the scandal anyway, right? So vote Liberal. They are best positioned to make sure Liberal corruption never occurs again. Until it does, of course. But by then, there will be someone else in charge, who had nothing to do with it. Even if he was finance minister. Oh, accountability, you dark lady of the night. Wherefore did thou run to?

Kinsella, upset, predicts Separation

What else can you conclude from his latest (scroll down to November One):
7. As a result of all this, Paul Martin dropped the party by nearly 20 points, and pooched federalism in Quebec for some years to come. It has yet to recover. If there is a referendum in the next short while – and there will be – Canada will lose it. You're welcome. See you in the 'Peg.

Not because of the sponsorship misfeasance, mind you. Because of Gomery and the Inquiry. Wow. There will be a referendum soon, and Canada will lose it, says Kinsella. That's bitterness for you. Let me go out on a limb and say, er, no.

One thing continues to be clear. One of the great moves of Chretien's career was bringing Dion on board. One of the profound miscalculations of Martin's has been his demotion to the Environment portfolio. It is eminently sad that when the response to the Gomery report is made official, Stronach and Brison will be heading it up. Put the Professor in charge of this file. At least he can speak the damn language.