Ave atque vale Stephen Harper MP : his Conservative government of Canada could have been a lot worse

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | No Comments »

Outgoing prime minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin Block office in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 21, 2015, just after his government’s defeat in the October 19 Canadian federal election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

Those of us who regularly have breakfast while watching cp24 in Canada’s most disliked city region will already have seen the reassuring video of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, resigning today as Member of Parliament for Calgary Heritage.

I never voted for Mr. Harper’s party, and I remain opposed to most of its declared  policies. As he takes the final finishing step in his partisan political career, however, I have a little more respect for him than when his government first took office on February 6, 2006.

Judging from this morning’s video, he seems content and even happy with his time as a democratically elected political leader.  And I think he has enough of a right to feel this way.

In the end he was a more typical Canadian politician than he seemed at first. (Or maybe any at all long-lasting Canadian prime minister soon comes to see  that there is limited room for real manouevre in domestic public policy, for a host of tedious good reasons?)

Gérard Deltell (right) takes 51% of the vote for the Harper Conservatives on October 19, 2015 — in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, named after former Liberal prime minister Louis St. Laurent, and largely a reconfigured version of his old riding of Quebec East. At least one thing PM Harper could smile about on that occasion. (CBC.)

Stephen Harper recited, for example, a litany of conservative achievements in this morning’s video clip. But like others I think that in broad economic policy he finally had a lot in common with his Liberal predecessor Paul Martin. (And to me that also had a lot to do with the growing support in the province of his birth that finally gave him a majority government in 2011.)

Similarly, as founder of the modern Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper stressed the continuing importance of the French language in Canadian public life, to his everlasting credit. And it was no accident that even through the tears of the 2015 election he was rewarded with such headlines as “Conservatives more than double seat count in Quebec.”

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Does Donald Trump really have enough money to pay for even one Canadian city’s school repair backlog?

Posted: August 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

It may be that I’m just getting too old  …

But my patience with so much of the political rhetoric that has engulfed us since the middle of the 1970s — and contributed to so many of our continuing key current “complex problems of society” — has grown razor thin.

I woke up this morning to two main news reports that, put together, can only make any sane and reasonable person yearn to explode into some other more rational plane of being …

The first was from what the TV station did have the good manners to identify as the “right-wing” Fraser Institute. It proclaimed that the average Canadian family is now paying more in taxes (including various “hidden” taxes) than they spend on housing, food, and clothing.

The second was from our local school board. It explained that “School repair backlog hits $3.4B [yes Virginia that B is for Billion] … But student safety not compromised, board insists.” The reporter on TV showed several examples of the bad repair in many local schools. I was personally appalled.

When I was younger the tax-supported schools I went to were always well maintained and in good repair. They were examples of how we future citizens of the free and democratic society should look after ourselves.

Over the past four decades now organizations like the Fraser Institute have preached their anti-taxation/anti-government gospel all too well.

A host of public infrastructure — schools, roads, transit, bridges, and on and on — has deteriorated before our eyes.  And our society has grown more and more unequal …

It is also true that another TV clip from this morning showed Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne in Barrie, Ontario — “at the city’s transit garage to announce $3B to improve public transit across the province.”

And it does seem that the successor to Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party finally lost last year’s Canadian federal election partly because it took the Too Many Taxes message too seriously.

But I’m still hearing reports about the Fraser Institute’s latest shrill anti-government rhetoric, that serves the interests of the people who fund it and virtually no one else.

It was refreshing to be in Helsinki, Finland briefly earlier this year. According to the recordings on the tour buses, people there appreciate that if you want civilized public services — to ensure your health, education, private sector job training, transportation and piped service needs, public libraries, parks and swimming pools, peace of mind in retirement, etc, etc, etc — you have to be willing to pay the kinds of taxes that support them.

How much more refreshing it would be to hear something like that when I turn the TV on in the morning …

here in “the Great Lakes region of North America” (with apologies to the late great George Grant, who tried to explain    Technology and Empire )

… in the long hot summer of 2016 …

… in the latest year of living dangerously, in the shadow of Donald Trump

who may or may not really have enough money to meet the current school repair backlog in Toronto … on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario up here.

August in Ganatsekwyagon : “On the dangerous flood / Of history that … / … Held one moment, burns the hand”

Posted: August 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

Ivanka Trump (r) and Wendi Deng Murdoch (l) on vacation in in Dubrovnik, Croatia this summer. Who knows what this means? If anything?

As crucial drugstore evidence that we are indeed on the dangerous flood of history this long hot summer of 2016, we quickly submit the following key current headline without further comment — “National Enquirer : Hillary Gains 103 Pounds …

(Is it surprising that Donald Trump and National Enquirer chief executive David Pecker are “very close … friends for years,” and that “David Pecker flies to Florida from New York on Trump’s private jet”?)

Meanwhile, we’ve asked everyone crazy enough to show up at the office in this continuing hot summer weather to submit quick and dirty items on their key current news issues.

We’ve finally come up with six items, followed by a postscript on the lovely 26-year-old London (England) blogger, Elvira Vedelago :

(1) BREXIT & RIO : Richard Florida offers some interesting calculations in “How well is Canada really doing in the Rio Games?” (Toronto Star).  But to us the most remarkable side of the current Olympics in Brazil so far is the performance of “Great Britain” (pop 64 million). As we write, it is third in medal rankings after the first-place USA (pop 325 million), and China (pop 1.4 billion) in second place

Elvira Vedelago in London, summer 2015.

Note that among Great Britain’s European neighbours, Germany is in sixth place, France in seventh, Italy in ninth, and the Netherlands in twelfth place. And we at least find it hard not to wonder a little if Britain’s comparatively stronger performance has anything at all to do with the recent Brexit referendum on leaving the European Union?

On where Brexit itself was as of the start of this week, see the Guardian’s excellent “Brexit weekly briefing: Westminster’s lack of a plan leads to turf war … The exit looks farther away as the government offices set up to handle Brexit lack staff and bicker over their powers.”

(2) ONTARIO HEALTH CARE : Apparently we aren’t the only ones perplexed by the so-called 63% of doctors who voted to reject the latest deal between the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ontario Medical Association.  (And note only 55% of those eligible actually voted.)

Elvira Vedelago on vacation in Ibiza, summer 2016.

We agree with the Toronto Star editorial that urged :“Those who cheer on the Ontario’s doctors’ vote as a defeat for the Wynne government and the OMA’s much-criticized leadership must say how much they [are] willing to pay to satisfy the doctors.”

Similarly, we don’t always or even often agree with Konrad Yakabuski at the Globe and Mail. But we do like his Thursday, August 18 opinion piece :

Ontario’s doctors don’t get it: Health care is a team game … in 2015, Ontario spent more of its health budget on doctors – 16.4 per cent – than any other province … Astonishingly, the very commentators who have complained the most about the Liberals’ horrendous fiscal management are siding with the doctors … Younger doctors … favoured the Ontario government’s offer …  acknowledging that there are bigger health-care priorities than doctor compensation.”

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Do Hillary’s current poll numbers mean she’ll win ? Remember : NDP leading in Canada on August 27, 2015!

Posted: August 14th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Steve Kornacki explains election statistics on MSNBC!

This past Friday night the excellent Steve Kornacki at MSNBC TV (sitting in for Rachel Maddow) presented some intriguing 2016 US election statistics. They showed that in the more recent past presidential candidates with as good polling numbers as Hillary Clinton has now, two weeks after the last national convention, have gone on to win the election.

One problem with this calculation in 2016 is that you have to go back to 1960 to find a last convention held as early as this year. (I think : see the two Wikipedia articles, “List of Democratic National Conventions” and “List of Republican National Conventions” — which I have just looked at very quickly!) In 2016 even two weeks after the second convention we are still 12 weeks and change away from election day.

For what this could mean just think back to our own Canadian election last October 19, 2015. On August 27, 2015 the Toronto Star was telling us that : “NDP in reach of majority, new poll suggests … A new poll puts the NDP with 40 per cent support, with the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives in second place with 30 per cent. The Tories have 23 per cent support.”

In the end, when it counted on October 19 Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took 39.5% of the cross-Canada popular vote. The Harper Conservatives took 31.9% , and the Mulcair New Democrats 19.7%! There would be a cautionary tale here for US Democrats today, if Canadian evidence were not so seldom taken seriously in the USA, for a host of tedious good reasons.

There are also current signs that Donald Trump himself is at least briefly starting to wonder just how well he might actually do on election day. See, eg, the Associated Press report :“’We’re having a problem’: Trump acknowledges he could lose to Clinton.”

At the same time, Mr. Trump has also now told one of his adoring crowds in rural Pennsylvania that the only way he can lose the 2016 election is if the Clinton Democrats cheat — by instructing their supporters, eg, to literally “vote early and often” (as the old joke has it).

Steve Kornacki and some fellow MSNBC and NBC political reporters — all progressively cuter and hotter than on Fox News!

My own 100% opinion right now is that those of us clearly in the Hillary camp shouldn’t get too cocky. There are still 12 weeks and change to go. The wisest prophecy at this juncture in my mind is still what a palpably progressive lady from Chicago on a cruise ship of my acquaintance recently predicted : “Anything can happen.”

(Meanwhile, two articles from the August 18, 2015 issue of the New York Review of Books show how even if Hillary does win handily on November 8 some very big and intractable problems will of course remain.)

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Mel Hurtig and (very) early second thoughts about where the new Trudeau government is taking Canada ??

Posted: August 8th, 2016 | No Comments »

“Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau magnifique en blanc pour rencontrer la reine.” Compliments Johanne Masson.

The recent Radio Canada report “Noted nationalist and author Mel Hurtig dead at 84” has coincided with several bursts of fresh interest in old Justin Trudeau articles on this site. See, eg :

* “The quiet evolution of ‘La femme de Justin Trudeau’ carries on” ( 5 Mar 2012) ;
* “The unbearable lightness of being Justin Trudeau” (28 Sep 2012) ;
* “Is Jean Chretien right — ‘today marks the beginning of the end of this Conservative government’?” (15 Apr 2013) ;
* “A new moment of truth for Justin Trudeau” (17 Apr 2015) ;
* “Are the Mulcair New Democrats doomed already??” (29 Sep 2015) ;
* “Justin Trudeau is a rock star .. and that’s the simplest truth?” (18 Oct 2015) ;
* “Back to the real Canadian future with Justin Trudeau .. maybe?” (20 Oct 2015) ;
* “On the new era in Canada .. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould” (7 Nov 2015).

What does it all mean? Until now we’ve shared the general sense (among all but diehard Conservatives, hard-core New Democrats, and old-style Quebec separatists?) that Justin Trudeau has been doing quite well as Canada’s 23rd prime minister : Not perfect, of course, but …

However, a CBC report last week reminded us that the Trudeau II regime has also already shown what strike us as signs of a potential tragic flaw.  And this could place strict limits on what the son of Pierre Trudeau from Montreal and Margaret Sinclair from Vancouver will finally prove capable of doing for the long-term future of Canada.

The headline on the CBC report was “PM Trudeau to join royals on Yukon visit next month … Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire will be in Whitehorse with William and Kate …”

“Sightings of a shirtless Justin Trudeau” — see far left rear of photo here — “are causing a stir internationally this summer.” Marnie Recker Photography. CTV News Vancouver.

This is, certain Canadian citizens with whom we sympathize will urge, just one more nail in the coffin of the theory that Justin Trudeau’s early 21st century Liberal Party of Canada will ultimately usher in the free and democratic Canadian parliamentary republic that the confederation of 1867 has been logically evolving towards for the past 150 years.

And this is the free and democratic republic that today’s Canada has actually been in practice for the past half century or more. Note, eg, the allusion to “a free and democratic society” at the start of the Constitution Act, 1982.

And read the political scientist Frederick Vaughan, a retired professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario who now lives in Nova Scotia. In a book published in 2003 he argues that the Charter of Rights in the Constitution Act, 1982 is “based upon republican principles … the closest Canadians have ever come to a document that affirms the rights of the people.”

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And now for something not completely different : blaming it on Rio for the 2016 Olympics

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 | No Comments »

[UPDATED AUGUST 4]. Does anyone really think the US presidential campaign of Donald Trump is the only weird thing going on in the global village right now ? Whatever else, the start of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this coming Friday will confirm that this is a bizarre year across the planet.

See, eg : “Is Brazil ready for the Olympics?” ; “Brazil not prepared to handle Olympics” ; “Amidst recession in Brazil, Olympics opening ceremony to ditch opulent traditions” ; “Horrific Pre-Olympics Press Dooms Brazil To Poor Economic Returns From Hosting Games” ; “Rio’s image marred by claims of human rights violations” ; and “Rio athletes, visitors warned: Keep heads above water.”

Then Brazil at the moment, in the midst of hosting the 2016 Olympics, is also in the midst of a rather serious political crisis (bred in part by the above-noted economic recession).

Two items from this past April can add some longer-term depth and perspective here. The first (and more extensive) is Perry Anderson’s “Crisis in Brazil” from the 21 April 2016 issue of the London Review of Books. The second is Uri Friedman’s “The Slow Implosion of Brazilian Politics,” posted on The Atlantic website April 19, 2016.

For me the most immediately distressing of all the negative Brazilian images purveyed by our North American media lately have dealt with major water pollution in and around the vast urban agglomeration of Rio de Janeiro. (As in, again, eg :  “Rio athletes, visitors warned: Keep heads above water.”)

The broader sadness of the deep background is suggested by the opening paragraph from Perry Anderson’s piece this past April : “The BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China] are in trouble. For a season the dynamos of international growth while the West was mired in the worst financial crisis and recession since the Depression, they are now the leading source of anxiety in the headquarters of the IMF and the World Bank … Nowhere, however, have economic and political crises fused so explosively as in Brazil, whose streets have in the past year seen more protesters than the rest of the world combined.” (UPDATE AUGUST 4 : And for the very latest political wrinkle  see this brief report from today on the CBC News site : “Brazil Senate committee votes to put president on trial …  Dilma Rousseff alleged to have manipulated government accounts ahead of 2014 re-election.”)

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Northern lights on US election I : Will Sunday audacity of hope in Europe finally reach American midwest?

Posted: July 31st, 2016 | No Comments »

A Muslim woman carries a child at Catholic Mass in tribute to assassinated priest Jacques Hamel in the Rouen Cathedral in France on July 31, 2016. AFP pic.

If the bad sides of current events in Europe can reasonably be seen as part of the 2016 US election (and something US presidents can somehow be viewed as responsible for), then so should the good sides.

I was impressed in this light myself by the Raphael Satter and Colleen Barry Associated Press report variously published in North America this Sunday as “Gesture of unity: Muslims attend Catholic Mass across France” and “Muslims go to Catholic Mass across Europe to show solidarity.”

Here, it might be said, is a working example of the audacity of hope President Obama was alluding to yet again in his recent oration to the 2016 DNC in Philadelphia, the Quaker William Penn’s city of brotherly love.

At Rouen Cathedral in France, Sunday, July 31, 2016.

Note, eg, as Raphael Satter and Colleen Barry report, outside the church in Rouen, France where an elderly Catholic priest was recently gruesomely murdered by some near-random jihadist fanatic, “a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: ‘Love for all. Hate for none’.”

Satter and Barry go on : “Churchgoer Jacqueline Prevot said that the attendance of Muslims was ‘a magnificent gesture … Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass … I find this very heartwarming … I say to myself that this assassination won’t be lost, that it will maybe relaunch us better than politics can do; maybe we will react in a better way.’”

Despite the “better than politics” here, keeping this kind of hope alive (to use the old Jesse Jackson language, from back when he was warming up the institutions for what Barack Obama finally managed to do in 2008) is yet another elusive treasure at stake in the 2016 US elections, whose great mystery will only be definitively solved on November 8.

General Election 2008 : McCain vs Obama.

Meanwhile, I am once again finding whatever it is that has followed the two major party conventions, on TV and so forth, less than compelling or even attractive.

Things are not as bad in this respect as they were this past March, when I was endorsing the view that “2016 so far is ‘democracy as depicted by Hieronymus Bosch’ (from the Huffington Post’s ‘Top 12 Reasons This Is The Most Depressing Election Ever’).” I am warming a little to Hillary. The recent DNC was almost inspiring.

Yet so far at least I can’t quite see an interesting trail to follow coming out of Philadelphia. And even MSNBC is starting to annoy me … well a little anyway. (It may just be that it’s the dead centre of summer, and I want to just wake up and drink the coffee, taking the boat to buy gas across the lake … well in my mind anyway, from the comfort of my second storey office near the east beach in the city, only a few hundred yards north of the most easterly Great Lake. The interesting action will start after Labour Day.)

State-by-state in 2016 Democratic Primaries : Green = Bernie Sanders ; Gold = Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile again, I also find myself turning to interesting smaller facts at least vaguely related to the 2016 US election. Like the two interesting maps here.

The first shows that in the 2008 presidential race “Barack Obama held a 4-point lead over John McCain going into the Republican convention on September 2. But by the second day of the convention, McCain’s polling numbers had eclipsed Obama’s. They took a little while to sink back down to where they were before.”

“Members of the congregation in Santa Maria Caravaggio church in Milan, Italy during a multifaith service organized by Italy's Islamic Religious Community (COREIS) on July 31, 2016. Photo by Flavio Lo Scalzo/EPA.”

The second map shows states won by Bernie (green) and Hillary(gold) in the Democratic primaries this year. A Canadian is bound to notice that, except for New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, all the northern states that directly abut the Canadian border voted for Bernie. And from this one might guess that if the 2016 US election were being held in Canada, Bernie would be running for the Democrats — and almost certainly win! (Except, some will protest, we already have at least much of what he has been talking about — as Stephen Harper would sometimes complain in his now vanished youth.)

Whatever else, Democrats show they’re the real party of Great American future

Posted: July 27th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Lovely US First Lady Michelle Obama stands up for Hillary and knocks ‘em dead — while Bill O’Reilly at Fox News still thinks it’s important to note that the slaves who built the White House were well-fed and decently housed.

[UPDATED JULY 28, 29]. According to two US national polls at the start of this week on Monday, July 25, “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied going into Democratic convention” and (still worse) “Donald Trump bounces into the lead.”

And then, very early on Wednesday, July 27, even the Associated Press was reporting : “Sanders loyalists warn of party split in wake of Clinton victory.” (Despite a July 26 New York Daily News column by ardent Sanders loyalist Shaun King, headlined “To stop Donald Trump, I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton.”)

Watching the second evening of the Democrat convention on TV Tuesday night, I was more impressed myself by Bernie Sanders’s own motion to make Hillary Clinton’s nomination unanimous.

“Panel speakers at the Native American Council on the first day of the Democratic National Convention included, from left, Charles Galbraith (Navajo), Rion Ramirez (Saquamish), Jodi Gillette (Standing Rock Sioux) and Kimberly Teehee (Cherokee).” Photo : Suzette Brewer.

And I was most impressed by the image of the current US Democratic party floating up from the state-by-state reporting of the vote that preceded Bernie’s final declaration of party unity. (Despite the press-reported hurt feelings of a 22-year-old “college student from Flint, Michigan, who expects the Democratic Party to break apart over Clinton’s victory.”)

Then, at 9 AM (and updated just after noon) on Wednesday, July 27, the excellent Éric Grenier was reporting that : “According to the CBC’s new Presidential Poll Tracker, which you can follow throughout the campaign to see where the race to the White House stands, Clinton retains a narrow lead with 44.6 per cent to Trump’s 42.8 per cent in a weighted average of polls.”

America Ferrera and Lena Dunham at 2016 DNC.

There has as well been much applause for Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night and Bill Clinton’s on Tuesday night. (I was also especially impressed by Cory Booker — and I think I mostly agree with Amy Davidson’s Bill Clinton reservations in the New Yorker.)

President Obama will no doubt do brilliantly yet again tonight. And there have been more than a few other impressive TV clips from African Americans, Alicia Keys, business gurus, handicapped individuals (remember FDR), Hispanic Americans, movie stars, Native Americans, police officers, politicians, professional comedians, and on and on, at what was starting to look like a pretty smart and well-executed convention by the end of Tuesday night.

For me so far, however, the most compelling part of all the “great political theatre” (Chris Matthews, I think) was still the image of the current US Democratic party floating up from the state-by-state reporting of the vote, that finally officially confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s status as 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

UPDATE JULY 28, 3:30 AM : On the evening of Wednesday, July 27 in the city of brotherly love President Obama did in fact do brilliantly yet again — his best speech ever on some accounts : a mix of farewell address and passionate advocacy for his successor Hillary Clinton (who finally joined him onstage at the end!).

Other great speeches were delivered by business magnate, political Independent, and former NY City mayor Michael Bloomberg (a cutting attack on Donald Trump : “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one”), Barack Obama’s Vice President (and “friend and brother”) Joe Biden, and (quite surprisingly to me) Hillary’s Vice Presidential running mate, the social-gospelling former Governor of Virginia, Senator Tim Kaine.

Whatever else, the Democrats finally do seem to be getting some kind of compelling act together for the fateful general election of 2016 — as the party of democratic change (in Bernie’s spirit) and traditional American optimism and can-do conviction. Will it be enough to defeat the Dystopian Donald? Only the next 100 days will finally tell … Meanwhile, I was happy to be happily blown away last night.

UPDATE JULY 29, 12 NOON : The big question before Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most important speech in her life last night was could she pick up and run with the big boosts from the two previous nights at the DNC in the city of brotherly love.

For what it’s worth I agree that she will never be the orator that her husband and President Obama are. (Though I also like the view I hear on TV, sometimes at any rate and even from some Republicans, that Obama is the best American presidential orator since Lincoln.)

At the same time, I felt myself that Hillary’s 56-minute performance last night was close enough for jazz. And President Obama’s remarks the night before have finally convinced me that she is altogether an excellent choice for Commander in Chief of Democracy in America in 2016.

Note as well, of course, that Canadians almost always vote Democratic in American elections. And resolute exclusively Canadian citizen as I am, I of course cannot actually vote on November 8 in any case. May the best woman nonetheless win.

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How to miss the Republican Convention in Cleveland without being sad ..

Posted: July 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

As it happens, summer family obligations mean I’ll miss most of the US Republican convention in Cleveland. Veteran North American progressive political junkie that I am, why am I not sad?

(Well … I did stay up last night with the diverse gang at MSNBC, as they only somewhat gleefully pondered the news that at least a few parts of Melania Trump’s 2016 speech sound remarkably like a few parts of Michelle Obama’s parallel speech of 2008. I will try to catch a little more of their work. And I am especially looking forward to connecting once or twice with Bill Maher’s convention coverage, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.)

A very economical piece posted today by Johanna Schneller, the Toronto Star’s “media connoisseur who zeroes in on pop-culture moments,” has helped me understand why I am almost happy to almost sit out the Republican convention.

“Johanna Schneller and Ian Brown at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Gala,” December 2012. (Tom Sandler For The Globe and Mail.)”

The title summarizes Ms Schneller’s essential message : “It’s too late for Colbert and Stewart’s Comedy Cavalry … The divide between the issues of the world and Donald Trump’s inadequacy to handle them is too serious for jokes.”

There is a sense in which I  agree. One side of me cries out that it is not President Barack Obama but Donald Trump who has coarsened and lowered the level of public debate, to the point where some even in our “free and democratic” societies (as alluded to in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982) viciously conclude that shooting your opponents is legitimate political action.

Trump has been telling the American people that you have to be strong the old-fashioned way, stand up for yourself belligerently, and push people around to get what you want. And that’s what he’s good at.

Apart from anything else, however, we’ve heard all this before and it never has worked. Donald Trump may say he’s some next new thing. But it is just his kind of thinking that got Democracy in America into the longest and least successful war in its history in Iraq.

Trump thinks he avoids that problem by saying it was wrong to go into Iraq, and the mistake was caused by intelligence failure. Or possibly Sadam Hussein was a useful hedge against terrorism? Yet all this does is underline what Johanna Schneller calls Donald Trump’s inadequacy to handle the issues of the world. It was wrong to go into Iraq because that kind of strong, push-people-around strategy cannot very often achieve American foreign policy goals in the 21st century.

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If Bird’s bebop finally did become the new pop music it just might sound like Allison Au and Tara Kannangara

Posted: July 15th, 2016 | No Comments »

The great Charlie Parker — Bird in flight.

[CW EDITORS NOTE : Nos cœurs et les esprits vont vers les gens du premier pays de mère européenne du Canada, à la suite de l'attaque terroriste épouvantable à Nice hier --- un jour que tous ceux qui aiment la liberté et la démocratie dans le monde d'aujourd'hui célèbrent, épaule contre épaule avec le peuple de France.]

Years ago now I spent the better part of a summer holiday sketching yet another book project that never reached fruition. The projected title was Bird Hop : Charlie Parker and American Culture.

I have just now been searching old files. The introductory paragraphs of my proposed first chapter went as follows :

Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1920. After a short and tormented but stunningly productive life he died in 1955 in New York City, at the suite of the Rothschild heiress Nica de Koenigswarter in what was then the Stanhope Hotel (now known as 995 Fifth Avenue).

Robert Altman — a great movie director hard at work even in his old age.

His unique contribution to American popular culture remains a minority taste. But you can still buy virtually all his major recordings and various written-down versions of his music. Clint Eastwood made a controversial 1988 feature film about him (called Bird — Parker’s nickname). A very young Charlie Parker is portrayed briefly in Robert Altman’s 1996 movie, Kansas City.

The early 21st century Internet includes an official website run by the Parker estate, an item about a 32 cent US stamp with Parker’s image, and many other related attractions (including downloadable music files). Considerably larger numbers of people must know and appreciate his music now than at the height of his all-too-brief live career, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Charlie Parker Residence at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, Manhattan. His last home, with Chan Richardson and family. Designated a New York City landmark in 1999.

My own feeling is that the numbers will continue to grow quietly. After a long meditation, I have come to the personal conclusion that Charlie Parker is probably the greatest and certainly the most interesting musician that America has yet produced.

To start with, he is the world’s most brilliant saxophone player. Much beyond this, he is the great innovator of bebop jazz, which remains the finest achievement of American popular music — the point at which it comes closest to an authentic high art.

Along with a draft text for the remainder of this first chapter the material I still have on file in my basement includes a set of headings for nine further chapters. The tenth and final one somewhat crazily asked “What If Bop Had Become the New Pop Music (instead of rock n’ roll)?”

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