Pacific Scandal is great grandma of SNC-Lavalin : but all “systematic organization of hatreds” is obsolete today

Posted: February 15th, 2019 | No Comments »

Moon over the Canadian Yukon ... just after sunset.

On Valentine’s Day 2019 it is hard to know just what to make of the first prime minister of the 1867 confederation of British North American Provinces now known as Canada.

(Well … my thoughts here are actually being posted just after Valentine’s Day, but that’s just because I’m a little slower than I used to be.)

John A. Macdonald’s 19th century career nonetheless retains some enduring twisted relevance. And it could help us with the real issue at the bottom of the February 13, 2019 CBC News report : “Commons justice committee to probe SNC-Lavalin affair — but Liberals limit witness list.”

I cite some recent sentences citing still others on what in “the spring of 1873 … burst upon the general public as ‘the Pacific Scandal’ — the ‘first major political scandal in Canada after Confederation,’ which ‘involved the taking of election funds by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald in exchange for the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.’”

Newspaper headlines of the day on the Pacific Scandal, 1873.

As I see it as well, the Pacific Scandal “marked the start of a long and dishonourable but enduring Canadian political tradition of defeating federal governments by mobilizing scandals against them — as revived in the ‘Adscam’ squabble [aka sponsorship scandal] that helped the Harper Conservatives win their first minority government in 2006.”

(And note this February 12, 2019 headline : “Vancouver MP Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation revives ‘vivid memories’ of sponsorship scandal.”)

As I ponder the depths of Valentine’s Day 2019, voices from my TV set and computer are growing adamant about what some mainstream media professionals are already calling the SNC-Lavalin Scandal.

Tks to BohoGirlResists.

I offer this selection of headlines culled from my local Globe and Mail and Toronto Star websites earlier this morning (February 14) : “Wilson-Raybould’s resignation is an off-brand, disastrous narrative for the Liberals” (Lori Turnbull, Globe) ; “Trudeau risks isolating himself over his attacks on Wilson-Raybould” (Chantal Hébert, Star) ; “Wilson-Raybould’s departure is a calamity for Trudeau’s Liberals” (John Ibbitson, Globe) ;“Is the SNC-Lavalin scandal’s biggest victim Trudeau’s relationship with Indigenous people?” (Tanya Talaga, Star).

These strike me as the kind of headlines that brought the embryonic Canadian people of 1873 the Pacific Scandal — and that just might bring yet another descendant, the SNC-Lavalin Scandal of 2019, with similar giddy consequences.

(The Pacific Scandal soon enough brought down John A. Macdonald’s first Conservative government of the 1867 confederation, and replaced it with a less organized group of Liberals led by the penny-pinching stone mason Alexander Mackenzie.)

Back in the northern woods of early 2019, if something very much like this is what is actually going on today, as the leading issue in the Canadian federal politics breaking news, my own unshakeable reaction is just Wake Me When It’s Over.

And I say this as a Canadian citizen who has voted in every federal election since the advent of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1968.

I am relieved as well that in Canada today I can also hear other voices from my TV set and computer who seem to agree with me, one way or another, more or less. Not everything from the past is worth preserving.

The Age of the Pacific Scandal in Canada ought to have ended long ago. It is just distracting us from the real problems of — in the tidy words of Joe Clark’s preface to Jean Chrétien’s 2018 book of Canadian political stories — “our remarkably diverse country and complicated world.”

Of course, the people of Canada in all their remarkable diversity may finally decide, this coming October 21, that someone and something other than the Justin Trudeau Liberals will be governing Canada 2019–2023.

(And remember : in our present system 40% of the cross-country popular vote can win a governing majority of seats in the House at Ottawa.)

That is at least how our democracy works at the moment. But if at least 40% of the people of Canada do chose Andrew Scheer as prime minister over Justin Trudeau (indirectly), let us at least pretend that this is the result of some wise and measured debate on the key issues before us — from the Trans Mountain pipeline to housing costs for young families to Indigenous reconciliation to jobs, jobs, jobs, and on and on and on.

The Age of the Pacific Scandal, that is to say, was captured in the American historian, journalist, and presidential grandson Henry Adams’s patrician observation of 1907 : “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

More than a century later we aren’t driving the same kind of automobile that Henry Adams bought in 1902. We shouldn’t be practising his kind of politics as the systematic organization of hatreds either. But that’s what scandals do so well — while pretending to appeal to higher standards that grow increasingly vague and slippery the closer you get to their dead centres.

Finally, for the names and addresses of those whose online and related media voices on this issue I have appreciated and enjoyed the most so far — and a few further thoughts on the later long career of the John A. Macdonald who was chased out of office by the Pacific Scandal in 1873 —  click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

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Is AOC just trying to revive the progressive democratic legacies of FDR, JFK, and LBJ?

Posted: February 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in conversation. Photo Credit: Jose A. Alvarado Jr.

The almost sudden rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the more intriguing things about American politics right now.

She has become an almost sparkling new standard bearer for variously labelled radical, progressive, or just left Democrats (and even some “Wall Street liberals”!), energized by the 2018 midterm elections and the ongoing foibles of the Trump Republicans — and their reckless “populist conservative” leader.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez is also known by her three initials AOC. (And if this reminds you of FDR and JFK, or even LBJ, that could be the intention.) In just a few words, she is the unquestionably charismatic new House of Representatives member for the eastern Bronx and north-central Queens in New York City (aka congressional district NY–14).

A few weeks ago a group of FOX News commentators were nervously discussing the prospect that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might even become the Democrats’ presidential nominee for 2020. They forgot that at 29 AOC is “the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress” — and fails to meet the minimum age of 35 for presidents under the US Constitution.

If Ms Ocasio-Cortez cannot run for president in 2020, however, her policy ideas can still wield considerable weight and heft.

This past January 15, 2019, eg, the radical Michigan film maker Michael Moore urged “that the Democrats follow the lead of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She stands where the MAJORITY of Americans stand: Tax the rich, Medicare for All, a New Green Deal, stop ICE, end mass jailing, higher min wage, free college. NOW.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) carves Thanksgiving turkey as his especially progressive activist wife Eleanor looks on.

AOC’s policy ideas have also come in for much criticism. The first concept in the seven-point program summarized by Michael Moore has attracted the most attention.

According to the Daily Beast, eg : “Howard Schultz blames Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for his decision to run as Independent and it has to do with her plan to tax the rich.”

Taxing the rich was similarly attacked by Mr. Schultz’s fellow billionaires at Davos in Switzerland. And again attention came to focus on Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s more specific proposal for “a 70% marginal tax rate for incomes above $10 million.”

Michael Dell (Dell computers etc) urged that a 70% tax rate on the highest annual incomes was absurd.  Yet his “name a country where that’s worked, ever” was met by MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson’s crisp reply : “The United States … from about the 1930s through about the 1960s.” (From FDR, that is, through JFK to LBJ.)

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Nanaimo byelection in BC could be sign of Canadian times (even if NDP finally wins)

Posted: January 28th, 2019 | No Comments »

Beautiful downtown Nanaimo from the waterfront.

The most interesting Canadian political event this week is almost certainly the BC provincial byelection in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Wednesday, January 30, 2019.

John Horgan’s current BC NDP government in Victoria remains in office with the help of three Green party Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). And the NDP/Greens together are just very slightly ahead of the opposition BC Liberals.

Last June former NDP MLA for Nanaimo Leonard Krog announced he would resign his seat if he won the Nanaimo mayoral race in October, prompting a byelection to fill the vacancy. At this point headlines advised : “NDP seat ‘pretty safe’ in looming Nanaimo byelection: analyst.”

Nanaimo in its regional setting.

Krog did win the mayoral election in October, and the byelection became inevitable. But in November 2018 Mainstreet Research released a poll “that shows a neck-and-neck race between the BC Liberals and the NDP.”

According to this November poll, “if the [by]election were held today likely NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson would get 39.8 per cent of the vote, while Liberal candidate Tony Harris would get 38.2 per cent of the vote.”

The byelection was finally called early this month for January 30, 2019. The main candidates are in fact Sheila Malcolmson for the NDP, Tony Harris, for the Liberals, and Michele Ney for the Greens.

The NMA Big Band kicks things off at Diana Krall Plaza as the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival gets underway, September 15, 2017. (JOSEF JACOBSON/Nanaimo News Bulletin).

As the excellent BC website The Tyee has explained : “Also running in the byelection are Justin Greenwood for the BC Conservative Party, Robin Mark Richardson for the Vancouver Island Party and Libertarian Bill Walker.”

Andrew MacLeod at The Tyee has also explained what would happen if Tony Harris actually did take Nanaimo for the opposition Liberals this Wednesday  : “If the Liberals win, they will hold 43 seats, matching the number that the NDP (40) and Green Party (three) together hold. Since the Speaker supports the government in tie votes, the New Democrats would have the ability to govern, but with little margin for error …”

(And as noted by John Copsey at Global News, such a recurrent standoff in the legislature could soon enough “result in an early provincial election.” )

To add to the excitement, Mainstreet Research has just come out with a Nanaimo byelection poll that suggests “among decided and leaning voters, the Liberals have 44.7 per cent support while the NDP have 32.2 per cent. The Greens have 13.7 per cent while the BC Conservatives have seven per cent.”

Nanaimo provincial byelection signs, January 2019.

Byelections can be notoriously difficult to predict. Mainstreet CEO Quito Maggi notes : “The caution here is that voter turnout patterns in by-elections are always quite different … It might be a little bit closer than these numbers point to.”

But if Tony Harris does win for the BC Liberals the potentially wild and crazy Canadian political year of 2019 (with Alberta provincial and Canadian federal elections also looming ahead) could be off to an even more intriguing start than usual. The best advice of course remains stay tuned! The deciding moment in The Case of the Nanaimo Byelection is now only two days away.

UPDATE JAN 31, 2 AM ET/JAN 30 11 PM PT : Despite the latest poll above, with most of the vote now counted Sheila Malcolmson has about 49% for the NDP and Tony Harris only 41% for the Liberals. As one Nanaimo resident has explained : “A lot of people didn’t want a change in government” in Victoria, when push came to shove.  And that crystallizing feeling in the end may have been the last-minute movement (or “pattern”) that the most recent Mainstreet poll couldn’t capture. Congrats to Ms Malcolmson (and Mr Horgan) in any case. The NDP/Green show continues on Canada’s Pacific Coast!

Does murder in Alice Munro country early last spring say things about the troubled big political picture today?

Posted: January 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »

David Salter, 71, neighbour to the murdered Doug and Marian Fischer on C Line Road in Huron County, Ontario, and his dog, Donald Trump. Photo : Mike Hensen/The London Free Press.

I’m told that I haven’t personally contributed a crime story to this site for more than a decade (“Depression economics and crime : Marine murders in California, Toronto youth violence,” Nov 15th, 2008).

And the site itself hasn’t dabbled in the subject for not much less than a decade (“Murder on the Bruce Peninsula revisited .. again .. and again .. and again …,” Jun 4th, 2009).

There has been a much more recent editorial decision to reclassify a political piece as a crime story (“Has Donald Trump pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, like Orwell’s time between the two world wars?” Jun 20th, 2018).

But much more recently again I’ve been intrigued by a crime story in the old (not politically inspired) sense. And the counterweights editors have agreed to indulge my interest.

Why am I (or are we, the editors would say) suddenly returning to old-school crime, after so long away?

The case that intrigues me now involves the hometown of Southwestern Ontario’s Nobel Prize-winning short story writer, Alice Munro. It raises (almost political) issues that she has long explored but may be unusually relevant today — north of the North American Great Lakes and in other places elsewhere.

Bluevale, Ontario today.

Possibly more to some exact point, when the regional mass media first began to explore the scene of the crimes in question here, on C Line Road near Bluevale, Ontario, they interviewed a rural neighbour,  David Salter, 71, who “said a retired couple lived on the property in a new home they shared with their adult daughter.”

On March 29, 2018 Mr. Salter had been puzzled by some very early morning barking from “his dog, a two-year-old Australian shepherd mix he named Donald Trump.”

(And for a few further gruesome details on “1. Kevin Carter from Wingham murders ex-girlfriend’s parents then rapes her on crazy morning at 42371 C Line Road, near Bluevale,  March 29, 2018,” and “2. Kevin Carter’s day in court and the ways in which the tragic story of Gail and Kevin and Marian and Doug does sound like something by Alice Munro,” click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

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Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird — one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto”

Posted: January 4th, 2019 | No Comments »

It may well be that 2019 proves a difficult year on any number of fronts. But I was lucky enough to spend its first Thursday evening at one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto” (blue bird or The Bluebird, 2072 Dundas St W, at Howard Park).

I was listening to an excellent jazz trio called The Three Chris(s)es (Chris Banks, bass ; Chris Gale, tenor sax ; Chris Wallace, drums).

This Thursday, January 3, 2019 at the blue bird was only the third outing for The Three Chris(s)es. (Each is a master of his instrument and has a now long career on Toronto and beyond musical scenes, in many other settings.) But already it seems clear that they work well together.

Chris Banks lays down a solid foundation for the trio’s musical adventures, but also has an almost melodic approach to his upright string bass. This fits nicely with Chris Gale’s “lyrical sensibility and soulful approach” to his 1940s Selmer tenor sax. And this fits with the work of Chris Wallace, who has been aptly called “a drummer of supreme musicality.”

What’s missing with just bass, drums, and horn is someone playing the chords, that form the middle of a tune’s harmonic structure for which the bass gives the bottom. (On piano or guitar say.) In the Los Angeles of the early 1950s Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker nonetheless showed that just bass and drums and horns can work — with the right players and arrangements.

Many years later up in We the North, on January 3, 2019 at the Bluebird, The Three Chris(s)es showed something similar, on such Great American Songbook tunes as “Darn That Dream” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Eddie DeLange), and on modern jazz classics like “My Little Suede Shoes” (Charlie Parker) and “Good Bait” (Tadd Dameron/Count Basie).

The American classical composer Virgil Thomson (1896–1989) once called jazz a “persecuted chamber music.” This has positive as well as various negative connotations (to my mind at any rate). And something about the small and intimate blue bird bar (and its excellent staff) brought out these positive connotations for me.

The jazz played by The Three Chris(s)es is very hip “chamber music.” But if you really like to listen to the music you hear it brings similar high-minded rewards.

At a time when so many low-minded impulses are competing for our attention, listening to  Chris Banks, Chris Gale, and Chris Wallace contemplate some of the good things America has given to the wider world was at least a great beginning to 2019.

Who really knows what will follow over the next 12 months in the same wider world? But if you do find the year is starting to get you down, remember that one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto” — the blue bird, 2072 Dundas St W, at Howard Park (not far from the Dundas West subway stop) — has first-class live music every Thursday night, from 8 to 11 PM.

From my own point of view, eg, the tenor sax of Chris Gale will be returning January 17, 2019 (this time with Brendan Davis on bass and Ted Quinlan on guitar). And on January 31 Irene Harrett on bass and Chris Platt on guitar will accompany the tenor sax of Ms Chelsea McBride, who “performs everything from straight ahead jazz classics to original compositions influenced equally by jazz and pop music.”

So … if my own sanity seems threatened by any of the current White House occupants, the Alberta provincial and Canadian federal elections, or god knows what else in many different parts of the world (the Australian federal election eg, or Chinese detention of Canadian visitors and vice-versa), I now know of one place I can go to seek relief. And I can recommend the brand to others. As was wisely said long ago, by various learned and other authorities : “Jazz is the music of democracy” (which we need more than ever just now).

Our top 10 counterweights articles for that strange year 2018 (and happy new year to an even stranger 2019 ??)

Posted: December 31st, 2018 | No Comments »

At the end of this annual exercise for this (even unusually?) strange year we suddenly realize that our deepest recent preoccupations have been quite local — north of the North American Great Lakes, on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.

We may have been seeking refuge (albeit in vain) from the larger wild and crazy events in such related larger democracies as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (to say nothing of Mexico, or Australia, or Narendra Modi’s India, or Doug Ford’s Ontario, John Horgan’s BC, Rachel Notley’s Alberta, or François Legault’s Quebec!).

For broader Canadian commentary we recommend the excellent Angus Reid Top 10 Stories of 2018. (“Story 1 – Ford Nation takes Ontario, Story 2 – The TransMountain pipeline saga, Story 3 – The New NAFTA, Story 4 – Poverty a problem, Canadians want more from government, Story 5 – The Opioid Crisis, Story 6 – Future of Saudi relations, Story 7 – Immigration and Asylum Seekers, Story 8 – Indigenous Issues divide country, Story 9 – Carbon Pricing Tension, Story 10 – The #MeToo Movement.”)

Here is our own unusually local “top 10 counterweights articles for that strange year 2018” :

1. Sunday Bloody Sunday with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, Jan 29th, 2018.

2. Jill Lepore’s three lectures in Toronto .. in the shadow of the new Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford, Mar 21st, 2018.

3. Putting David Livingston in jail is what’s harmful to the future of parliamentary democracy in Ontario, Apr 11th, 2018.

4. Toronto van killings : strong city that ignores painful truths joins real global village at last, May 2nd, 2018.

5. Ontario election 2018, VI : Donald Trump clone inevitable after all north of North American Great Lakes, Jun 8th, 2018.

6. Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century,  Jul 1st, 2018.

7. Toronto Danforth Shooter : strong city that still ignores painful truths still joining real global village at last, Jul 27th, 2018.

8. O Cannabis .. and the looming midterm elections in the USA today, Oct 17th, 2018.

9. Happy 100 First World War Armistice .. a view from the northern woods, Nov 11th, 2018.

10. Can Justin Trudeau be defeated Oct 21, 2019 (& what do Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau say) ??,  Dec 27th, 2018.

We end with not only our most recent article, but one that raises the clearly largest Canada-wide  political issue of 2019 — the Canadian federal election on October 21, 2019!

On this site we will be focusing as well on two other elections — the Canadian provincial election in Alberta, that under current law must “be held between March 1 and May 30,” and the Australian federal election which “must be held by 18 May 2019 for half of the State Senators and on or before 2 November 2019 for the House of Representatives and Territory Senators.”

May the best candidates in all three contests win. (A lame wish no doubt, but at least high-minded!) May the coming 12 months bring everyone everywhere on planet earth at least some good news, along with all the bad news and fake news and god-knows-what-else that seems to loom ahead. And, whatever else, look for the silver lining and Happy New Year 2019.

Can Justin Trudeau be defeated Oct 21, 2019 (& what do Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau say) ??

Posted: December 27th, 2018 | No Comments »

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Gao, Mali, Saturday December 22, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

One counterweights item from the year now ending that has seen fresh visits in the most recent past is Randall White’s “Can Justin Trudeau be defeated in the next Canadian federal election?,” first posted back on May 8, 2018.

In the new age of fixed-date elections (sort of) the campaign for the 43rd Canadian federal contest on October 21, 2019 has already begun. (And note the December 16, 2018 Canadian Press report “Trudeau rules out early election, 2019 federal vote to go ahead on Oct. 21.”)

As it happens, we recently had a chance to ask the estimable Dr White how he sees Justin Trudeau and the election this coming October now, at the very end of 2018.

Just last week he finally dropped off the latest installment of his work in progress, now tentatively known as  Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497.

Lester Pearson who, among many other things, gave Canada its own flag at last in 1965! Photo : Winnipeg Free Press.

More exactly, the chapter 1 of the final Part IV he handed in for initial digital publishing this past December 23, 2018 is called “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976.”

It deals with the Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau governments in Ottawa — which arguably began the present great age of “Democracy in Canada Since 1497,” and so forth.

Spending so much time over the past months mentally re-living the early 1960s to the middle of the 1970s, Randall White concedes, has affected his thinking on the fate of Justin Trudeau in 2019. Will it, eg, be like the fate of his father in 1972 or 1974?

Dr White went on : “In 1972 Pierre Elliott Trudeau almost lost his second election — and finally only hung on with a Liberal minority government, dependent on David Lewis’s New Democrats in parliament. In 1974 the elder Trudeau (with the help of Justin Trudeau’s mother, legend has it) easily enough won another majority government.”

Mr. White also noted two different polling exercises, both reporting as of December 21, 2018. The first is Éric Grenier’s Federal Poll Tracker on the CBC News site. The second is “Canada’s political mood as 2018 comes to an end,” by Bruce Anderson and David Coletto at Abacus Data.

Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau carries son Justin from the destroyer Restigouche in Powell River during a 1976 visit to BC. STEVE BOSCH.

Both these year-end polling exercises suggest that we Canadian politics junkies can still look forward to a competitive election, with the Liberals and Conservatives as the primary players. But in the end Justin Trudeau’s Liberals still seem to have the edge. For now at least.

As Anderson and Coletto explain : “our latest data shows tight races in BC and Ontario, strong  Conservative leads in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and significant Liberal leads in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.”

At the same time : “While party voting intentions show a one-point gap, preferred Prime Minister reveals a 16-point advantage for Mr. Trudeau over Mr. Scheer.” More generally : “Thanks to large leads in Quebec and Atlantic Canada and a competitive position in BC and Ontario, the Liberals still have the advantage over the Conservatives.”

Éric Grenier’s latest Federal Poll Tracker averages (as of December 21, 2018) similarly show the party voting intentions close. (In this case Lib 36%, Con 34%, NDP 17%, Green 6% in round numbers.) But when the much more efficient (ie more geographically dispersed) Liberal vote is factored into the seat projections, the Trudeau Liberals still have five more seats than they need for a bare majority!

Latest additions to California technical staff, 2018.

For further intelligence on the current scene Dr. White also recommends Mitchell Anderson’s December 20, 2018 item on the excellent Tyee site from BC : “Alberta vs. Canada? … Feeling unsupported, some Albertans want to go it alone. Let’s explore that.”

We ourselves can equally recommend Randall White’s own “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976.” For more detail on the larger project of which it is a part go to “The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar at the top of this page, or just CLICK HERE.

Meanwhile, we counterweights editors join with our colleague Randall White and everyone else connected with this site (in Canada editorially and California technically too) in wishing all who come this way a very Happy New Year 2019!

On the edge of 2019 : will Trump jump? ; Fats Waller ; Trudeau’s Senate ; CANZUK still crazy after all these years

Posted: December 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

Strictly fake news of course.

On the third-last Monday of 2018, here are four short notes on the world as it looks up close in We the North of the North American Great Lakes :

1. Is Trump getting ready to jump (what would Machiavelli think?)

This past Saturday morning Maggie at “Hear Me Roar” — who specializes in “The best Trump memes! Humor and parody of GOP!” — posted a fake photo of Donald Trump high up on the ledge of some high building in New York, looking poised to jump to the pavement far below.

I copied the thing into my electronic notebook with the comment “if only it were true!” What we pick up from US TV (and Twitter) up here, however, is starting to suggest that the current American fake president is, whatever else, increasingly beleaguered psychologically.

I’ve been asking myself what the great inventor of modern political science in the western world, Niccolò Machiavelli, would make of it all? I still don’t have an answer (though I’m guessing he would counsel caution in assessing whether Trump actually will jump any time soon, of course).

Meanwhile, here is a recent related observation from John Dean, who did so much to prompt Richard Nixon’s ultimate resignation over Watergate on August 9, 1974 : “Trump’s bitching and whining and complaining is non-stop. The presidency reveals its occupant: Trump’s not only incompetent he’s actually a wuss. Like most bullies he’s a coward. As with most autocrats he’s a very frightened person. He’s a fake leader, who thinks nasty is strong.”

2. Honeysuckle Rose : commemorating Fats Waller (1904–1943)

Fats Waller at the piano, 1938.

Along with various fake Trump photos, this past Saturday, December 15 marked the 75th anniversary of the death of the legendary Harlem “stride” pianist and entertainer Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, at the still too tender age of 39.

Here as elsewhere in the early 21st century world of music You Tube has compelling  resources for digging deeper. To start with (if you have time), try classic versions of what may be the two greatest Fats Waller hits : “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and the endlessly beguiling “Honeysuckle Rose.”

If you have still more time You Tube also offers an intriguing four-part documentary on Fats Waller featuring recollections from his son Maurice — Part I ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; and Part 4.

Mr. Waller was born in New York City in 1904. He was 13 years older than Thelonious Monk and 16 years older than Charlie Parker. As his son Maurice explains, to survive in his world black entertainers still had to adopt habits that later jazz musicians like Monk and Parker disavowed. Fats Waller nonetheless died near Charlie Parker’s Kansas City hometown. Wikipedia explains : “Waller contracted pneumonia and died on December 15, 1943, while traveling aboard the famous cross-country train the Super Chief near Kansas City, Missouri.” He “was returning to New York City from Los Angeles, after the smash success of [the African American movie] Stormy Weather, and after a successful engagement at the Zanzibar Room, in Santa Monica … during which he had fallen ill.”

3. Justin Trudeau’s minimalist Senate reform in Canada

Justin greets Melania while Donald looks on at G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, May 2017.

I am more than happy to go on record as a confirmed supporter of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Like the rest of us, he is far from perfect. But to me at any rate he continues to stand head and shoulders above any of his competitors.

At the same time, I also strongly believe that one of M. Trudeau’s imperfections is his strategy for minimalist reform (really just a re-arrangement) of the still unreformed Senate of Canada.

So I remain unimpressed as well with his actions as reported by the excellent Joan Bryden at Canadian Press — “Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms.”

Who wants to listen to further details on this subject these days? (And read Ms. Bryden’s helpful piece if you are among the truly enlightened here!) Meanwhile, I will just argue that the big problem with the current unreformed Senate of Canada is not its political partisanship. It is that so long as senators are merely appointed in our day and age, they will lack the credibility to play any useful role in Ottawa — even as some mythical place of “sober second thought.”

4. Canadian Conservatives and CANZUK : an idea whose time passed a long time ago

Tks to the excellent people at Access Copyright, Happy holidays 2018.

As one sign of problems among Justin Trudeau’s competitors (with a view to the coming October 21, 2019 federal election, say), another piece of my news intake from this past Saturday was Jackie Dunham’s “Increased push for free movement between Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand” on the CTV News website.

Ms Dunham’s rather long but still helpful report on the movement aka “CANZUK” (ie Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom) notes that, according to James Skinner, founder and chief executive of CANZUK International, even though “the CANZUK movement is technically non partisan … conservative politicians in Canada and in the other three CANZUK countries have been the most enthusiastic about the proposal.”

Ms Dunham notes as well that CANZUK “advocates of an agreement calling for freer trade, movement, and greater co-operation between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom” have lately been buoyed by “official support from the federal Conservatives in Canada and the promise of a Brexit deal next year.”

The current circumstances of Brexit in the UK are one warning flag here, no doubt.

To me the decisive objection is also covered in Jackie Dunham’s helpfully long report : “Finally, some critics have accused CANZUK organizers of trying to create a new ‘Anglosphere’ comprised only of English-speaking or majority ‘white’ countries.” Srdjan Vucetic at the University of Ottawa “has published several opinion pieces about CANZUK supporters’ interest in the Anglosphere and how it is founded on a ‘vulgar nostalgia for the colonial past,’ as he wrote in an iPolitics story last year.”

And on this note (and along with the late great Percy Faith who was descended from the Toronto Jewish community) I can only add : “Happy Holiday to you.”

Trump & Russian mafia .. Japan/China & Canada/United States

Posted: December 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

Ordinarily as the year ends we post a few lists of our own favourite or at least most-visited articles from the time on its way out. And we will be doing this again before December 31, 2018 (New Year’s Eve), at least once — and possibly twice. (Or more? Who can really say anything in these troubled times, etc?)

Meanwhile, a request to all editors for late 2018 general news items grabbing their attention has resulted in the following two short notes on The Way We Were (some of us at any rate) during the last few weeks of one of the most remarkable years in the more or less recent past :

1. Trump & Russian mafia

This past Sunday evening one Kent B — a “Martial Arts Teacher, Harley Nut 91Q Army Vet” and supporter of  Veterans Against Trump — tweeted : “ I was originally from NY. I’ve known this about tRump for decades. It was always common knowledge that he had Russian mob ties but never got caught. Now he is getting caught, finally justice seem to being served soon.”

Mr. B was pointing to a recent article from Ezra Klein’s impressive VOX website : “Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades … Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and ‘one of the greatest intelligence operations in history’” — by Sean Illing.

At Helsinki, July 2018.

Mr. Unger claims that the “Russian mafia”  — which “is essentially a state actor … part of the KGB … part of the Russian government” — has “been using Trump-branded real estate to launder money for over three decades.” And according to Sean Illing, “the case” Unger “makes for how much potential leverage the Russians had over Trump is pretty damning.”

It is probably worth noting that Craig Unger is the author of the controversial “2004 book, House of Bush, House of Saud, that was also featured in Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11.” And Mr.Unger’s new 2018 book that VOX and Sean Illing are reporting on — House of Trump, House of Putin — finally left Mr. Illing “wondering if any of it really matters. As you said, most of this stuff is hiding in plain sight, and although the special counsel investigation is underway, there’s a subset of the country for whom no amount of evidence is enough to persuade them that something wrong has occurred.”

At the same time, the martial arts teacher and motorcycle enthusiast Kent B, from Twitter as above, may continue to have some kind of point as well.

Melania Trump and Justin Trudeau in Toronto, September 2017.

At the same time again, the anti-Trump conservative military historian Max Boot’s latest piece in the Washington Post is urging that Mr. B is probably wrong about “ justice … being served soon.” The estimable Mr. Boot writes that after the latest words from the Mueller special counsel investigation  : “What we are left with is a president who defrauded the American people to win office — and who is now protected by the immunity that his office confers. He is protected, too, by his dwindling band of followers in Congress who argue that Manafort should be pardoned for his financial crimes (Rep. Matt Gaetz) and that Trump should not be prosecuted for merely breaking campaign finance laws (Sen. Rand Paul) …  All it takes is 34 votes in the Senate and Trump can serve out his term even as his administration is consumed by the biggest political scandal in American history. Our long national nightmare is just beginning.”

2. Japan/China & Canada/United States

All this about Russia and the current American president is just too depressing for the holiday season, when even many where we have our offices who are not Christians (or otherwise attached by personal history to Santa Claus and so forth, like so many if not all of us here) try to enjoy ourselves and spread good cheer among others.

World War 2 (1939–1945) map from New York Times showing Japanese expansion of its Asia Pacific empire, 1895–1940.

So … to end with thoughts from a land that must still have a lot in common with the North Pole where Santa Claus and his reindeer (and Mrs Claus and the Elves etc) spend their time preparing for the one night in the year when they ride through the sky with enough presents for every child in Marshall McLuhan’s global village  under 10 years old.

In fact, the story of Santa Claus is not all that unlike many of the stories President Trump tells about the world as he sees it, and how much it has improved under his remarkable leadership. And a tweet just yesterday around lunchtime by the estimable map enthusiast Simon Kuestenmacher raised some comparative statistics that suggest an only slightly less unrealistic world scenario we editors here have been amused by before, over drinks after work and all that.

More exactly, Mr. Kuestenmacher’s tweet showed a terrific map of Japan and China and their wider region —  back at height of Japan’s former empire, in the early days of what finally became World War II (1939–1945). As the map shows in its darkest shades, for a short while in the 1930s Japan actually took over parts of a then struggling China closest to it. Here, in our office board room over some preliminary seasonal cheer, we calculated that Japan has only 9.1% of China’s population today. And then someone noted that Canada has 11.2% of the US population today. And we unanimously agreed : Season’s Greetings to All, and to all a goodnight.

Grey Cup 2018 : red and black will triumph, whoever wins in Canadian regulation time

Posted: November 24th, 2018 | No Comments »

In fact Rihanna is a fellow Commonwealth citizen of Barbados. But who knows? If she ever did get together forever with Drake, she might even go to a Grey Cup game — as long as it wasn’t in Doug Ford’s Ontario.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2018. GANATSEKWYAGON,ON. Both Donald Trump in the neighbouring USA today, and his wily colleague Doug Ford right here in the new Old Ontario, have become so appalling lately that I have sought refuge in thoughts about the 2018 Grey Cup — annual championship of the Canadian Football League, held for the 106th time in Edmonton, Alberta this Sunday, November 25, 2018.

There are some respects in which the 106th Grey Cup  — with the Calgary Stampeders (western champions) vs. the Ottawa Redblacks (eastern champions) — will mimic certain current political grievances in the true north, strong and free, from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific oceans. The Calgary demonstrators who recently greeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Ottawa (including those holding especially appalling signs about his mother) are just one case in point.

As noted, however, I’m focusing my thoughts on the big game this Sunday in an effort to avoid appalling politics. So, to get my TV-watching partner’s key question out of the way first, the Stampeders (“the class of the CFL once again this season”) are “4-point favourites on the Grey Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.”

Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts QB, in 2017 Grey Cup game on snowy day in Ottawa.

At the same time, the “Stampeders have advanced to the Grey Cup on five occasions over the past decade, but have come up short in three of those championship bids including a stunning 39–33 loss to the Redblacks … two years ago at BMO Field in Toronto.”

(And then there is last year’s magnificent Canadian game in the snow at Ottawa, when my own home team, the historically fabled Toronto Argonauts, unexpectedly beat the Stampeders 27–24. As if in some just compensation, the Argos have come up with the worst record in all of the CFL this year! But, further back historically, it is somewhat intriguing that in the 56th Grey Cup, almost exactly 50 years ago, on November 30, 1968, the old Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Calgary Stampeders 24–21 at the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.)

Part of the Stampeders’ Grey Cup struggles may involve their “touchdown horse Quick Six.” Back home at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Quick Six (and his rider Chelsea Drake) celebrate every Stampeder touchdown by racing along the sidelines with the team flag. Yet, as explained by Global News : “In the past two years, the horse hasn’t been allowed at the Grey Cup game.” (For safety reasons. And this has been true at other such games in faraway places.)

The Calgary Stampeders “Outriders” cheerleaders in action.

This year (as also explained by Global News) the “touchdown horse won’t run the length of Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday.” But — perhaps because it isn’t all that far to travel as well — Quick Six and Chelsea Drake will “still be allowed to celebrate touchdowns with the players in the end zone, according to the Stamps.” Who knows? This could also improve the Stamps’ odds of actually winning the Grey Cup in 2018.

(As evidence of just how old I seem to have become in my own age of recurrent senior moments, I seem to similarly remember suitably lubricated Calgary Stampeder fans in cowboy hats bringing a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, in what must have been the early 1960s. I can also remember when it was still not unusual to see horses pulling milkwagons and breadwagons in Toronto in the 1950s. As the historian Ramsay Cook long ago observed, the 19th century did not really end in Canada until 1950.)

Ottawa RedBlacks’ QB Henry Burris is awarded MVP after leading his team to victory over heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders in Grey Cup 2016.

I can say that I have been to Edmonton a few times myself, and I like the place a lot. It is a serious city further north than any other metropolis of more than a million people in North America — and home of “the Yardbird Suite … Alberta’s jazz hub … 60 years strong, volunteer run, and a Downbeat Great Jazz Venue.”

This 106th Grey Cup will mark the fifth time Edmonton has hosted the game. It typically draws what counts as a large crowd in Canadian football. The average attendance for its four earlier games is 61,590. As just one comparison familiar to the likes of me, the average attendance for the last four Grey Cup games hosted by Toronto is only 46,180.

Some will just say that this just shows Toronto is the CFL city least interested in Canadian football. I am not a serious Toronto football fan, at all. But I do know people who are, and who feel only an NFL team could keep their interest up — in a city that already has the Maple Leafs in the NHL, the Raptors in the NBA, and the Blue Jays in MLB.

Shania Twain arrives by dog sled for 2017 Grey Cup half-time show. The 2018 show will feature the Grammy-winning artist from Brampton, Ontario, Alessia Cara.

Perhaps influenced by such serious fans around me, I have long seen the Canadian Football League as something of a whimsical phenomenon. Note, eg, that the team colours of both this year’s Grey Cup rivals are red and black. And then there is the name Ottawa “Redblacks” itself. It is, I suppose, slightly better than the old name of Ottawa Roughriders, whose colours were red and black — from the days when two of the nine CFL teams were called Roughriders (Ottawa and Saskatchewan). But really … what kind of name is “Redblacks”? It’s like calling the fabled Toronto Argonauts — who apparently actually hold “the title of the oldest sports franchise in North America” —  the Doubleblues.

In my old age I have nonetheless come to the point where I am looking  forward to watching the Grey Cup from Edmonton on my TV in beautiful, downtown Ganatsekwyagon, Ontario tomorrow night. The stupidest thing the CFL tried in its recent history was expanding into the United States in the first half of the 1990s. But current CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave a good press conference the other day, about more realistically reaching out to such places as Mexico and France  — and (most crucially, I think) finally getting a team in Halifax. (Which I later heard on TV has now wisely decided on the name Atlantic Schooners. They already have 5,000 season-ticket subscribers, and only need a suitable stadium.)

There will always be many crazy things about the CFL. But as even Rihana from Barbados has apparently concluded lately : “Clinton made me want to be faithful ; Bush made me want to be smarter ; Obama made me want to be better ; Trump makes me want to be Canadian”!

POSTSCRIPT : Congrats to the Stamps on their 27-16 win over the Redblacks.  They happily beat their Grey Cup jinx of the most recent past.

The height of the game on our TV at any rate was a “record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf” by Calgary’s Terry Williams.  Game MVP was Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

Not everyone here north of the lakes really got into the game. Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail tweeted : “After two classic Grey Cups I guess we were due for a bit of a comedown. At some point the league’s dominant team had to dominate.”

My TV watching partner here on the north shore of Lake Ontario, on the other hand, worked in Banff as a student. She was cheering for the Stamps and their mascot Quick Six, and went to bed happy.