Thursday, April 27, 2006

Channelling Captain Cook

The bell finally tolls on the next grand travel escapade - and this one was surely worth the wait. Courtesy of my sister's job with Westjet, this weekend has me set sail for St. John's to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother's mother on Friday and Saturday. Then it is to the airport bright and early Sunday morning for a 3 stop, 9000 km, 20-odd hour marathon extravaganza. Destination, you ask? None other than the middle of the Pacific ocean and the Hawaiian islands of Oahu (days 1-3) and Maui (days 4-6). Luck is often the residue of design, and just as often the residue of luck.

Fortunately when it comes to such trips, I seem in ample supply of both. In researching a bit of history before embarking on the voyage (the ideal procrastination ploy), I was ever so pleased to discover the far-flung connections between the George Street of my departure and the Waikiki of my arrival. None more inspiring than their shared linkage to legendary James Cook - the man who, as his legion of followers say, "saw the world first."

For it was the British Cook who sailed all those years in the grand tide of the Pacific, who first discovered the "Sandwich Isles" of Hawaii for the Europeans in 1778 (only to meet his ill-starred end there a year later). And it was Cook, as well, who had already become the first to circumnavigate and map Newfoundland in the 1763-1767. (He went oretty well directly from there to New Zealand, where he was the first round that isle too, the cheeky bastard.)

How he might marvel at the ease and speed with which we aeronauts do get about! To think such a journey can be done in but a day - with enough time out at the Vancouver layover to track down another Bad Boy Burger at the Flying Beaver. And for a discounted fare (the privileges of a sibling in the business) that surely doesn't even begin to cover the fuel costs attributable to me alone.

So off we go tomorrow - and armed with a stockade of words from the local library, whose "subject keyword" search yielded some fiction set in Hawaii such as Hotel Honolulu, Jack London's Tales of Hawaii, The Floating City, and even one called (wait for it) Aloha, Mr. Lucky. Indeed. In approaching an oasis of such strangeness, it will no doubt suit me well to have already begun fostering my own mythology on the place even before I set foot.

Enjoy the next while. With any luck, I will be half a world away in a few days, swimming again in the glorious Pacific. It is times like this - as a wise man once said over Guinness in a Temple Bar pub - I know I'm living my life right.

See you back again on the 8th.


Tories offer plan to fix election dates. Excellent. Now here's an idea whose time is well overdue.

I would hope that our MPs can make this a truly non-partisan affair, and I would particularly like to see some of the Liberal leadership candidates come out unequivocally in favour.

But the article wouldn't be complete without a little trumped up righteousness from the NDP, far and away that party's (one I voted for in 2006, mind you) most nauseating quality:
NDP House Leader Libby Davies said her caucus agreed yesterday to support the proposed bill. Ms. Davies said the law would stop what she called the abuses of Mr. Chrétien. "He was toying with the idea and calling people to the polls when he didn't need to, when it suited the Liberals to do so, and I think people got quite upset with it and this would remove that element," she said.

Oh sure. Because when NDP Premiers Clark, Dosanjh, and Rae held off calling the election until the last hour of their constitutionally-allowed 5th year, they were acting out impartially out of the interests of the people. Or, for example, when Conservative Premiers in Nova Scotia trigger elections in the summer so as to avoid the student vote in key ridings, they are not doing it to suit their own fortunes at the expense of a properly run democratic system.

These people are politicians, so of course we expect them to take every advantage available to them under the structure. The problem lies not with certain players, but in the rules themselves. Change them to make the governments of the day more accountable and less subject to the whim of the moment, and let's move on. This is exactly the kind of initiative that I hoped might happen under Harper. He has, thus far, dropped the ball on floor-crossing, the Senate, appointment of Cabinet Committee Chairs, and the muzzling of his Cabinet. Let's hope he follows through here.

Weather or Not

In line with the post below, MP Garth Turner identifies the underlying concern over the Conservative position on media recording of repatriation ceremonies at Canadian bases:
MP Garth Turner said the issue has been characterized by Harper and O'Connor as one of privacy, and most of his colleagues have accepted the explanation.

"Whether in fact that's a truthful position, in other words weather the media would infringe on privacy, is another matter," Turner said.

It is a Canadian Press piece, so I suppose I can't blame the Star for the glaring grammatical error in Turner's quote. Good for a morning smile though, and dreams on what the weather holds for the middle of the Pacific next week (more on the relevance of that in a few hours...)

Flags, Cameras, Soldiers

There has probably been all too much ink spilled over the recent policies out of the PMO on the peace tower flag and media access to military bases during such tragic times. My position most of the week is aptly summarized in 4 sentences by Radwanski:
I support having Canadian troops in Afghanistan. I agree with my colleagues at the Post that each soldier's death, while tragic, cannot be treated as a national emergency if we're serious about our commitment there. But this is bad news. Opting not to lower the flag on the Peace Tower doesn't dishonour the fallen, but treating them like a dirty secret sure does.

As Liam noted yesterday, there is a cheapness and hypocrisy to some of the shrillest commentators on the flag issue. Still, Rick Mercer makes some difficult-to-refute points regarding who we chose to honour. Let's not run from these debates on what we are doing overseas, and let's not let rank partisanship (on either side) have us forget what we are arguing about.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Left Right Left

Political Staples points to an Ivison piece on the much talked about "move to the left" contemplated by the Liberals in their leadership campaign. One excerpt:
So if a union on the left is a non-starter, does it make sense for the Liberal
party to drift in that direction? One Liberal strategist points out that the
party lost the election mainly because it hemorrhaged votes to the Tories,
rather than to the NDP. The numbers seem to bear this out -- the Conservative
vote rose by 6.7 percentage points to 36.3%, almost the same amount the Liberal
vote dropped. NDP support rose just 1.8 points. Of the 30 seats the Liberals
lost, only five were won by the NDP.
This will likely prove a much repeated refrain in the months ahead, but it's pretty much all bollocks. While the fact that more votes were lost to the Tories than the NDP is irrefutable, it is far from clear that the voters who switched away from the Liberals to the Tories did so because they are inherently more "Conservative".

I would posit that these voters were sick of (a) actual/preceived Liberal arrogance, (b) actual/perceived Liberal corruption, (c) the failure of the Liberal party to conceive of and articulate new policies, (d) the growing gap between Liberal rhetoric and results in areas like environmental policy. In short, the votes swung to the Tories more because it was the only legitimate "government in waiting" than out of a rigid ideological bent.

The Liberals need not look too closely at the shifting tide of political numbers. That's a mug's game, and likely the main reason that the poll-driven Martin PMO failed so spectacularly. Put forward reasoned, comprehensive policies that resonate with Canadians - leaving the "left" or "right" analysis for the journalists. This talk of planting the party firmly in the "center left" of the spectrum will mean little to the average voter who look at the concrete proposals put forth. Do it correctly and the you'll drag the so-called "middle" along with you.


I hate reflecting too much on last year at times, on final days, like this. It is important - remember - that I had no (ie. little) money last year, and all that was spent was the bank's, who I did then and now do owe desperately. And yet.

It is slightly, simply sad, to think of Stratford-on-Avon, and the ease of last season's birthday for Shakespeare, as if it was a natural selection, regardless of what choice. Because it so was. I belonged at that sermon and I'll never forget the reverence for the cakes and ale.
"I painted a still life this morning, of a throat lozenge I'd seen on a copy of a tropic of cancer, the only thing that's funny is that I never thought I'd paint anything again. I think I might go visit Estelle. those Utah mountains are good for the soul. I'll bring my brushes and some Jack Daniel's and we can make up for lost time........."

Talking tonight - Saturday night - with a host of characters, about the import of today. All of whom have the head strength to know the world By His (its) Bootstraps, as much as that is the more fascinating of stories, and as much as it is too quickly sa(i)d that no (one) of them could.

It is a new world. Brave, as you might have wished for, Master Shakes, but scarce that you could have imagined. We love you still, and give the proper deference. And so panache. As milady so described at the Bitter End tonight, not just a sense of dash or verve, but (actually!) : "A bunch of feathers or a plume, especially on a helmet." A feather in your cap, so to speak, in the time of Louis Treize. "But I'll keep after it, and one day I'll get it all right." Indeed.

Happy St. George's, master Shakespeare. It's your holiday, after all, and you have always been my favorite. With Panache, as madame on the Liffey would say...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Another week, another quote:
"Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories. It was my intention to board every train that chugged into view from Victoria Station in London to Tokyo Central; to take the branch line to Simla, the spur through the Khyber Pass, and the chord line that links Indian Railways with those in Ceylon; the Mandalay Express, the Malaysian Golden Arrow, the locals in Vietnam, and the trains with bewitching names, the Orient Express, the North Star, the Trans-Siberian. I sought trains; I found passengers."

-Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar

One bright morning... Here's the song of my week as well - Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint - chosen by Spike Lee to open and close his latest film, Inside Man, despite it having virtually nothing to do with the story. Yet it is not a stretch to say it is clearly the best aspect of an overly average work. Classically addictive. Walk in the shadow.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I love when Google pays homage to artists (etc...) without disrupting its clean front page. Today calls attention to Joan Miró, whose birth of the world is above. His surrealism has been referred to as a "sandbox of the subconscious mind". He's less familiar to me than my favored Spanish titans, Gaudi and Dali, but a nice diversion for this Thursday afternoon, to think of his birth 113 years ago today. The world spins so quickly on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I dare ya (?)

These type of method, on the other hand, is a terrible ways to justify public policy.

Harper's muzzling of his own members is troubling enough, though in today's media context I can feign at least to understand his purpose. For those frustrated by the (frankly) anti-democratic animus of the Chretien/Martin concentrated PMO, and looked to Harper for some relief on this front, his first few months have been an ominous disappointment. I am too tired to dispense with the links - but the appointing the committee heads, Emerson and Fortier, the Cabinet quieting, the vote-for-daycare-or-else... I thought the point of a new administration under him was that we would get to argue the merits of new policy on their actual merits. Maybe this is no longer possible in a Parliamentary democracy? To claim it has been somehow sanctioned by the 6% of voters who flopped from 2004 to 2006 is insulting to a thinking person's intelligence.

The point that somehow "the tide of the electorate favours us this month so I dare you to cause an election" mentality is anything other than politically expedient. Maybe it is savvy politics. It is terribly distressing that it has so quickly become the paramount modus operandi in Ottawa. Maybe I was too naive to being with. This is, at root after all, the party that vowed to talk MP pension reform up until the day they qualified for it. Human nature is a bitch to fight. And who is to say I and we would be any better?

Oh, hypocricy, thou tyrant beast. You are just waiting with a Capirinha on Waikiki next week, aren't you? I can almost feel your Pacific...

My Voice is my Passport...

This is smart, given the circumstances. It might be annoying to those who only ever visit the U.S. for the L.L> Bean store in Maine, but there is nothing too onerous about advising Canadians to pick up passports if they want to travel outside the country. The cost is reasonable, they last a few years, and incentive to see the wider world is good. Creating a mess of a new system of ID cards strikes me as the worst of all worlds. The larger concern over this whole deal is whether American tourists will take the time to comply with the new bureaucratic requirements to shop inside Canada. That's the larger concern, truth be told.

You need a passport (or a birth certificate and photo ID) to fly to the U.S. anyway, as I almost found out the hard way in February... why not make the requirement for drivers the same? It solves at a stroke the concerns over other, more intrusive methods. And God help us if the radicals down South decide a northern fence is needed to keep the Canadian bacon out as well...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Dead Dreams in the Rain"

Ah, how I love the writing of Times columnist Simon Barnes. Opens his latest column about the recent (and massive) gambling exploits of wunderkid Wayne Rooney with three lines from the Pogues, proceeds to mention the riotous pleasure that accompanied an ancient 60 quid victory of his in backing a horse named "Swing Alone" back in 1982, and drops in a bit of Shakespeare to finish up. Lovely bit of truth captured here:
Gambling supplies the crushing disappointment and soaring elation that lie at the heart of sport, and it can supply them (without telling which you will get) at any time you want. All you need is money. Preferably lots and lots of money, but any sum of money that you will miss will give you a buzz.

My kind of sporting columnist, as I (Federer as Van Gogh and Hamlet) have noted (Wuthering Heights and fan obsession). Classic, and one of the legacies of last year that lingers on courtesy of the world wide web. Pity I canna beam myself as easily over the wires to this. Next time, perchance.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Quote of the (Good Fri)day

Happy long weekend to all, and a happy "El Ron and Coke" Friday as well. Home in Moncton, I'll be taking advantage of the Cuban imports that the parents brought back from their vacation to Varadero last week. Sweet.

On to the quote. Courtesy of my sister's work with Westjet, I could be heading 9,000 km out to Hawaii in about two weeks time. In researching some traveling inspiration for such a trip, I had no idea that Mark Twain was considered one of the first "tourists" to those islands. Perfect.

Here's Twain's description of his arrival by steam cruiser in 1866. Magic:

"ON a certain bright morning the Islands hove in sight, lying low on the lonely sea, and everybody climbed to the upper deck to look. After two thousand miles of watery solitude the vision was a welcome one. As we approached, the imposing promontory of Diamond Head rose up out of the ocean its rugged front softened by the hazy distance, and presently the details of the land began to make themselves manifest: first the line of beach; then the plumed coacoanut trees of the tropics; then cabins of the natives; then the white town of Honolulu, ..."

(Roughing It, Part 63-LXIII)

Enjoy your Easter. And don't eat too much chocolate.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Political Meetup

Cherniak has posted a few comments in recent days about his participation at "meetups" organized through the Dryden campaign:
This was a meeting of people that was organized by forwarded emails. Some of the attendees were there as Liberal Dryden supporters, some were Liberals interested in the event and some were non-members who wanted to join the party to support Dryden. I believe it is the sort of thing that the Dean campaign did to create momentum in his run for the Democratic leadership. The moderator mostly just asked questions and facilitated brainstorming; it was all about the campaign listening to people.
Given that these types of events are probably going to catch on in many of the leadership camps, let's clarify a bit the history of the political "meetup". It's essentially a simple way of harnessing technology to bring together people with the same interests. Imagine you are interested in something a little bit off the wall - at the time Dean's supporters started spiking dramatically, the most popular link on meetup.com was "witches", believe it or not - and want to meet others similarly minded. So if you were an avid Dean supporter in, say, Seattle almost a year before the primary, but were keenly (some might say obsessively) interested in participating, you would sign up on the site and use meetup as an incredibly simple way to get in touch with other people in your city who wanted to get involved as well. The power of numbers.

Wikipedia has an excellent summary of the phenomenon. But the key thing to recognize is that meetups, at their core, are not necessarily "organized" by the campaign or the candidate at all. They depend only on the enthusiasm of the grassroots (call them ordinary, politically aware citizens) wanting to contribute. Of course, campaigns would be stupid to ignore gatherings of their supporters, and it remains their responsibility to put this discovered energy and willingness to get involved to good use. As Dean said, "We fell into this by accident... I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to figure this out. But the community taught us. They seized the initiative through Meetup. They built our organization for us before we had an organization."

Why then and why Dean? Unfortunately, too many people only just began hearing of Dean at the beginning of 2004, just as he began to flame out. Few remember that he began his quixotic quest for the Presidency in November 2002 as an asterix candidate. His candidacy stood for an idea - that Democrats were tired of their leaders rolling over to the Republicans and wanted someone to stand up. That, in a nut shell, was why he garnered such a strong grassroots following. That and the fact that the presumed frontrunners (Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman...) were viewed as tired and boring and woefully out of touch.

The campaign innovations, the role of the Internet in raising funds, blogforamerica... these were ways of connecting Democrats across the country who looked at the list of conventional candidates, deemed them unacceptable, and - in a real sense - helped invent another one. That Dean subsequently failed to stand up to the scrutiny when he got to the top of the heap doesn't take away from the campaign's amazing accomplishments in putting him in position. Ironically, it was the endorsement of Al Gore - the old school technique of garnering leadership race support, that started Dean's decline.

In stark contrast to the Democratic primary of 2004, however, this Liberal leadership race has a wealth of quality candidates. More importantly, almost all of whom are in complete agreement on the need for profound renewal within the party that starts at the membership level. The wide-open nature of the contest ensures that the grassroots will already play a huge part and that people other than the "professional" political operatives will get plenty of opportunities. So it is difficult for a Carolyn Bennett to inspire new members with the idea of further access and involvement, because all candidates are already doing this and, further, it doesn't appear that real policy differences are going to emerge.

The meetup concept would likely have been a much more useful way for Liberals dissatisfied with a Paul Martin type frontrunner, who seemed to have all the key players locked up. An exclusive team, in other words, that was more intent on crossing the finish line than putting forth new ideas on where the country should go. But that's yesterday's story. Meetups and their sort will have an impact only where the enthusiasm of the base outstrips the campaign's ability and understanding of how to meet the demand. This time, that doesn't look to be as large an issue. But maybe someone's out there that can prove me wrong.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


As I said, and like I imagined, milady, I did indeed see the original with Torsten. Don't challenge my memory, even at Pizza Corner: (courtesy of wiki)
It is now in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, along with about two dozen preparatory works. The exact location was controversial in Spain, since Picasso's will stated that the painting should be displayed at the Prado Museum. However, as in the late twentieth century, the Prado moved all of its collections of art after the early 19th century to other nearby buildings in the city for reasons of space, the Reina Sofía, which houses the capital's national collection of 20th century art, seems the appropriate place for it. A special gallery was built at the Reina Sofía to display Picasso's masterpiece to best advantage.
Sadly, I did unconscionably miss the rest of the deserved Prado for some afternoon Estella Dram with Schadendorf (only Gongshow gets to slag me on that one) ... and in my defence, it was just that the sun looked so good on that solitary magic day in November '99. I have photos somewhere.

Yet a good choice by the lady Jill of earrings tonight, who claimed "Guernica"'s shrowding at the UN qualified as interesting. That I did not know. We roll on.

Though better was the girl who claimed, over my shoulder, that she fell in love with her boyfriend because he removed the cucumbers from his sandwiches. Truly, the stuff that dreams are made on.

Monday, April 10, 2006

'In Meal or in Malt'

I love those magical little discoveries. I love how the ancient language of the law can truly bring a smile at the end of a long day. To wit, Drummond's Case (circa 1868), L.R. 4 Ch. 772, where Sir G.M. Giffard, L.J. said:
If a man contracts to take shares he must pay for them, to use a homely phrase 'in meal or in malt;' he must either pay in money or in money's worth. If he pays in one or the other, that will be satisfaction.

The Daycare Battle Ahead

The Hill Times has an interview today with Minister Finley that clarifies the government's position a bit in the coming battle over daycare funding that is sure to dominate this session of Parliament.

A word of advice to the NDP, Liberals, and BQ as they attack the Conservative approach. The idea of "choice in childcare" resonates with Canadians, as the campaign aptly demonstrated. Yet the Tories have also shown signs of recognizing an equally persistent demand for some type of approach that focuses on the creation of spaces - spaces that Tories admit will not appear without some targetted help.

So some type of compromise may be possible. On that note, consider this brief Question and Answer 3/4 of the way through the article:

Will high-income families receive the $1,200 a month per child as well?

"This is a universal benefit that will be available to all parents of children under the age of six."

In a word: Why? Are the most wealthy Canadians really in need of an additional monthly cash handout for every child under 6? Is this really the most efficient use of resources, that the single mother struggling from pay cheque to pay cheque gets the same allowance from the government as Canadians at the very top of income tax brackets? Even Conservatives should bristle at such an absurd suggestion. Simply put, how does offering a subsidy to people who can already afford daycare if they so chose make any sense?

I know - Harper has this "stealth" plan to help out the middle class... the fact remains that the policy as is has flaws that could be better exploited by its opponents. Rather than attacks that the Tories are not offering enough money, why not attack its allocation. Who knows - maybe Harper can even be convinced to put an upper income cap on this allowance, thereby increasing the amount available for those in need of it and offering a small victory to the Liberal and NDP members campaigning to ensure that the access funds really are spent on daycare.

A compromise that features the better aspects of several party plans. That's how an ideal minority Parliament would function. I wonder if our Parliamentarians might yet come to find something along those lines before this is done.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Under the Microscope

Apres the launch, le deluge.

Lots of critical scrutiny of Michael Ignatieff on the day after his announcement that he will indeed be a candidate. Jeffrey Simpson hits on his most apparent and difficult-to-rebut thesis - the man has been absent from the country and its core political debates for a long time (the Tiger has excerpted some key paragraphs here). This Star piece also has some comments about Ignatieff's "American identity" that have raised the eyebrows of Warren Kinsella et al. That, along with the glee shown by the NDP at the prospect of facing an Ignatieff-led party on the left, will be serious weaknesses to overcome in a brokered race.

Harper's keeness for a majority means one thing - whoever wins has no real margin of error. They will face the prospect of an imminent general election with pretty large stakes. Ignatieff is certainly impressive, but you wonder how long his inexperience (both in government and in the country) will cause delegates to pause before making him their second or third choice. But that's why the leadership campaign will be so critical, of course.

Ignatieff's presence does ensure that a vigorous, intellectual debate over the course of the Liberal Party and the country will be at the heart of the race. On that note, I should point out Ignatieff's new website. It's teeming with substance. A friend of mine in the Ignatieff campaign asked if I would contribute a piece on the "role of the federal government" as part of the launch of its policy forum, and you can read and debate that effort and others here. The commenting section can be a bit unwieldy, but I'm sure the kinks will be ironed out in time. Go have your say.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Zen's Cold Mountain


When men see Han-shan
They all say he's crazy
And not much to look at -
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don't get what I say
And I don't talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
"Try and make it to Cold Mountain."

(tr. Gary Snyder)

Quote of the (Fri)day

From the ever-excellent Battlestar Gallactica:
Commander Adama: "Sometimes, you gotta roll the hard six."

A beautiful morning and I feel a lucky and beautiful weekend coming on. I wonder where it might lead us tonight. I am indeed a master of wondering.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Stronach's Exit

Belinda Stronach answers questions at her press conference today:
I think, for me, the way I can have the greatest impact on the renewal of the party is to not seek the leadership, to be free to express my views, to spark debate on different ideas, about what could bring forward a stronger and more inclusive, more open, transparent, and democratic Liberal party and I feel the best way to do that is to speak as a member.

Well, I always thought people chose to ENTER leadership contests in order to "express their views, to spark debate on different ideas"... especially in the most wide open leadership in a generation. You can be fairly certain that Ignatieff, Dion, Kennedy, Dryden, Brison, Rae and the rest will have no trouble speaking openly on democratic renewal. Then again, I have never understood why people continue to treat Stronach's candidacy with any credibility whatsoever. I doubt we'll have to hold our collective breath for any radical ideas issuing from her office in the months ahead. The next one will be her first.

I must admit, I did love the relief on Belinda's face, laughter, and clicking of cameras when - after just saying that her French was "mieux que voulle pense" - the reporter from Radio Canada said she would continue her follow-up in English. Priceless. Like the outburst of laughter at Paul Martin's Press Conference (when he insisted the primary reason behind her defection was not in winning the budget vote), for a moment an air of reality punctured everyone's willing suspension of disbelief that Belinda Stronach's pre-written spin should be accepted as embodying the truth.

Simpson's Implicit Message to Liberal Leadership Candidates

Here's his closing paragraph from today's online chat:
The Harper government's policies are givens. What the country needs, however, is a focus on its productivity, on using less energy, on becoming smarter and fairer. These are the kinds of ambitions almost all other countries enjoying success and preparing for the future are debating and pursuing. None of these policies point Canada in that direction. Perhaps when the famous five are done, with whatever changes are negotiated in the minority Parliament, we can get around to catching up in our public discourse with the rest of the successful world.

Issues of economic innovation and improved productivity have long been on Simpson's mind. (note point #6) While Harper busies himself with his 5 priorities and a tightly-lipped cabinet, it will be interesting to hear how various candidates in the Liberal leadership race debate alternatives on these more crucial issues to the country, and what impact it may have inside the House.

On that note, here's your evening laugh. Thanks to the "insider edition" firewall, you only get the first sentence from this Globe article. Fortunately, it is probably enough to discount the conclusions of the entire piece:
Stephen Harper has offered a Speech from the Throne that, barring the truly unforeseen, will lead to the re-election of the Conservative government in 2007, because he understands what his critics do not understand: the hidden fears of the middle class.

So this speech from the throne will lead to Harper's re-election in 2007 "barring the truly unforeseen". Heh. Conventional wisdom is so funny, as it turns on a dime without the slightest sense of irony. My favorite part of the conclusion has got to be that "truly", though.

Haven't we learned that election campaigns (or *gasp* who the opposition elects as leader) might actually matter to voters?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Now that it's about to begin...

I should say that at this moment I have pretty well narrowed my own support in the LPC leadership race (whatever that's worth -ed.) to a trio of candidates - Ignatieff, Dion, and Kennedy - all of whom impress and intrigue me in relatively equal measure. I need to watch the race unfold a bit before committing further, but my signing up for a new Liberal party membership looks to be a foregone conclusion.

Suffice it to say, though, that these are exactly the types of leaders I hoped would emerge in writing about Liberal Leadership Woes last April, citing a similar post of James Bow's. Wonderful to consider how competitive and interesting the field looks to be, even as so many of the imagined favourites have subsequently declined to offer. A robust contest, but only to be expected.

So let the debate begin.

UPDATE - note TDH Strategies (april 5th) has posted excellent arguments up in favour of Kennedy, though I am still waiting to see him in action on the main stage. His most difficult task will be to raise his profile across the country. As for the other two, I met Ignatieff when he was in Halifax and to say I came away extremely impressed at his grasp of the issues, passion for Canada, and ability to articulate his vision would be an understatement. Dion I respect immensely for his time at Intergovernmental Affairs and then as Environment Minister.

It's a damn fine short list.

Rae's Takes the First Step

Talk about sour grapes… 16 years on, David Peterson is still smarting over his surprising electoral loss to Bob Rae:
Former Ontario premier David Peterson warned Wednesday that erstwhile NDP rival Bob Rae won't be welcome in the federal Liberal leadership race.
Peterson’s grudge is the more apparent, considering his comments on the other two “recent” Liberals, Brison and Stronach:
"It does absolutely (hurt) but it doesn't hurt them as much because the sense is
they've been sanitized at least by (running for the Liberals in) one election."
Well, let’s consider, shall we? Rae’s break with the NDP has been obvious for years (his membership in that party lapsed in 1998), and his moderate left-wing credentials are well known. The Liberals under both Chretien and Martin courted him for a federal run. Just because he has remained tokenly non-partisan does not change the fact that his natural ideological home is now within this party.

Contrast that with the two would-be Tory leaders, who ran directly for the federal Tories as candidates best positioned to remove the Liberal Party of Canada from power. In 2003 and 2004, respectively. Their new found zest for all things Liberal notwithstanding, it doesn't change the fact that they were touting fairly non-Liberal views, at least on economic and security matters, not so long ago.

Incidentally, I think all three of these candidates are fatally flawed candidates, at least this time around. But for Peterson to state publicly that Rae presents some type of special “dilemma” for party members? There’s a pretty simple solution available – just don’t support him!

Rae’s candidacy is actually the truly fascinating one of the race. The conspiracy theorist in me sees him lining up support on the left of the party, with considerable help from the Chretien wing - because which frontrunner will be desperately casting about to improve his standing from just those delegates after the opening ballots. Conveniently, Rae’s old roommate. Rae organizing delegates that can be subsequently delivered to Ignatieff on the convention floor will prove eminently more helpful than a simple endorsement in the early stages would...

After all, it’s never too early to look to the endgame.

UPDATE: Oh, and what he said, too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Wit and Wisdom of the English

OK - here's a forward from a buddy who studied overseas with me in Scotland, who in turn had it sent from a friend in England. Its theme aside, the language is simply glorious.

My Spring starts on the day after St. Patrick's. My Summer.... well read on:

Ah, Tit Monday. It's not that far off now, that glorious day when, heading into work on the bus, or walking to the Tube, or sitting on the train, you find yourself suddenly chirpier than you have been in months. You find yourself smiling at strangers again. There is a mild involuntary tumescence in your trousers that comes and goes throughout the morning with the comforting regularity of a heartbeat. And then you get a text around lunchtime from a mate which says: "At last, Tit Monday!" And you instantly understand why you are so happy.

For Tit Monday is that special day in the year when, for the first time, the temperature rises above that magical point which causes girls getting dressed in the morning to decide to show a bit of skin. After months of dull colours and chunky knit, the world's birds suddenly dive into last summer's wardrobe (they've not had chance to buy this season's stuff) and chuck it on without a thought.

Your urban landscape is suddenly lightened with acres of naked arm and leg and, after many dark months of burrowing, breasts rising to the surface like moles at dusk. Big breasts in white work shirts straining at the buttons. Small breasts braless in vest tops, the nipples frotted by ribby fabrics. Breasts in summer dresses bouncing in the distance so that they catch your eye before you even notice there is someone wearing them. Breasts nudging out from the crowd at traffic islands, quivering to cross the road... And you know it is nearly summer. For previous generations, the arrival of spring was heralded by the sound of the first cuckoo. For us, it is Tit Monday.

Not that it always falls on a Monday. Like Easter, Tit Monday is amoveable feast. Last year it fell on a Friday. Friday 29 April, to be precise, when temperatures maxed out at 22.1C after nothing much above 16C all year. It last fell on a Monday in 2004, when temperatures leapt to 22C on 24 April. And then, of course, there is Tit Monday Night. You see, in early summer, temperatures drop off very dramatically when night falls (Tit Friday 2005 dropped away to a parky 11.8C). But the dollies are not prepared. Slightly stunned by the morning heat, they drag out the summer clothes but forget to bring a cardie (a mistake they will not make again until next year), so that when they're all standing outside All Bar One after work celebrating the arrival of spring, their barely covered nipples have no protection from the cold. It's like a Bring-and-Buy sale where everyone has brought hat pegs. It's like a prog-rock gig where, instead of lighters, everyone is holding up nipples.

So when will Tit Monday fall this year? Will you be the first to text your mates with the announcement? Do not shoot your bolt too early. There will be false starts. You will smell fresh cut grass and see a couple of early starters and feel compelled to declare Tit Monday. But your more level-headed friends will tell you to hold your horses, keep your powder dry, don't fire until you see the whites of their bra straps.

As the poet once said: One bold Northern slapper in a bikini doth not a summer make.