How about the Pontiac or Louis Riel Block? : global-village Canadiana (and North Americana) in the winter of 2017

Posted: February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Northern Lights, Tom Thomson, 1915.

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA ETC, Mid-to-late February 2017.

RE : Steinmeier in Germany, Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and a footnote on changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac (or Louis Riel) Block.

I first started pondering this quartet of obscure but deep political thoughts on the day that the snows came down. It was a winter wonderland in the old streetcar suburbs.

We went for coffee on the local main street, under rejuvenation through contextual condo development — the unsettling new urban mainstream in affordable housing. And somehow the flow began, in between other things with more immediate priority :

(1) We had just heard that the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier had been elected President of Germany. I think  this should be more interesting to Canadians than it is in the winter of 2017. I could not convince my coffee-drinking partner, but that’s just the point …

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, president (ceremonial head of state) of Germany. Critic of Donald Trump and Brexit in the UK. And according to Chancellor Angela Merkel : “an excellent president who will enjoy wide support.”

The President of Germany is nothing like the President of the United States. As the Associated Press explains, the office “has little executive power, but is considered an important moral authority and symbol of the country as its host for visiting dignitaries.” It is in fact very much like the present office of Governor General in Canada.

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany — or as we say in Canada, following the UK and France, prime minister (or premier ministre) — remains the practical chief executive of the German federation : or “head of government” as opposed to “head of state.” And her next electoral test is not until September 24, 2017.

Meanwhile, Ms Merkel relates to the new President Frank-Walter Steinmeier more or less as Justin Trudeau relates to Governor General David  Johnston.

And what should be interesting to we Canadians in this 150th anniversary year of our 1867 confederation is that the office of President of Germany is one model for what the office of Governor General of Canada could evolve into, after the sad passing of Good Queen Bess II — offshore in the United Kingdom.

Model Valerie Poynter celebrates Canada Day 2012, with help from photographer Spencer Edwards.

The crux of the issue is how do you select what some branches of Canadian officialdom still call the Queen’s representative when there is no hereditary monarch to make the choice? (Strictly in theory of course : even in Canada today the real choice is made not by the monarch but by the democratically “elected” Canadian prime minister — which is probably even worse!.)

As the Associated Press explains again, in 2017 the new German President “Steinmeier was elected in Berlin by the assembly made up of the 630 members of parliament’s lower house and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 states.”

In Canada this would imply an independent Canadian Governor General (or President even) “indirectly elected” by the current 338 members of the Canadian House of Commons, and an equal number of representatives from the 10 provinces and three territories.

This is the more conservative option for choosing ceremonial heads of state in independent parliamentary democracies. A variation on the theme also appears in the modern constitution of Canada’s fellow Commonwealth of Nations member, the Republic of India.

Personally, I lean  towards the more progressive and democratic option of direct election by the sovereign people — as now long (and successfully) practised in Ireland and Iceland. But I think involving Canadian provinces in some nominating process makes sense as well.

Northern Lights, A.Y. Jackson.

In any case this is no doubt already a more elaborate discussion of the issue than many Canadian citizens seem ready for at the moment … .

Some among us may nonetheless have to start pondering such things sooner than we think. In the early 21st century all of us who live in the country and take an interest in its future are stumbling towards our collective liberation, at last.

[For Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac Block  click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]

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Boris Johnson’s US citizenship renunciation .. and notes on the French presidential election April 23 / May 7

Posted: February 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

UK Foreign Secretary and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (left) and US President Donald Trump : two peas from a New York pod, even if US tax laws have finally prompted Boris to renounce the American citizenship he earned by being born to British parents living at the time in New York City.

I woke up yesterday morning to a brief but provocative text statement, at the bottom of the screen on Toronto’s cp24 cable TV channel. It read something like  : “UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, born in New York City, renounces US citizenship.”

Like perhaps millions of others around the world, I wondered. Is even the current UK Conservative MP (and former Mayor of London) Boris Johnson renouncing his US citizenship, because he disagrees so fundamentally with President Trump’s recent immigration-policy actions against citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East?

A little knowledge, however, really is a dangerous thing. On deeper examination I am now quite convinced that (unfortunately) Mr. Johnson’s renunciation has nothing to do with Mr. Trump — even if they do have somewhat comparable “blond” haircuts.

“BoJo” with Cheeky Girls, back when he was Mayor of London.

See, eg : “Boris Johnson officially gives up US citizenship” ; “UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Renounced US Citizenship in 2016 … British politician’s name on latest quarterly list from Treasury Department” ; and “Boris Johnson Renounces US Citizenship … The British foreign secretary had previously complained about a US tax bill.”

Not surprisingly, The Guardian in the UK has the most exact summary : “Boris Johnson among record number to renounce American citizenship in 2016 … Foreign secretary had previously protested against ‘absolutely outrageous’ US tax obligations after sale of his north London home … Johnson was born in New York when his [British] parents worked there, but has not lived there since he was five years old. His decision does not appear to be an attempt to distance himself from the politics of Donald Trump, but may instead be a move to ensure he is out of reach of America’s Internal Revenue Service.”

Marine Le Pen on the campaign trail : globalisation and 'Islamic fundamentalism' are undermining French culture. Can she “pull off a Trump in 2017”? Current polls say no.

Meanwhile, there is bigger news from Canada’s first European mother country. And I have lately been trying to catch up with the increasingly intriguing French presidential election, some 10 and 12 weeks hence on Sunday, April 23 (first round) and Sunday, May 7 (second round).

Here are the current five major candidates — from “far left” to “far right” : Jean-Luc Mélenchon, FI (France insoumise) ; Benoît Hamon, PS (Parti socialiste) ; Emmanuel Macron, EM (En Marche) ; François Fillon, LR (Les Républicains) ; Marine Le Pen, FN (Front national).

Until recently it seemed the race would ultimately reduce to François Fillon of the right-wing Les Républicains, versus Marine Le Pen of the very right-wing Front national on May 7.  But then M. Fillon was hurt by a scandal about appointing family members to lucrative government jobs.

Centrist (or centre-leftist?) Emmanuel Macron of new En Marche party/movement : suddenly he seems to have become the unexpected candidate of change, for the moment at least?

The latest polls are showing that the more centrist or centre leftist (and even former Parti socialiste cabinet minister) Emmanuel Macron, who has started a new “En Marche” party (“On The Move in English”), will finish up against Marine Le Pen of the right-wing extremist Front national on May 7 — and finally defeat her handily.

Put another way, the race has unexpectedly shifted somewhat leftward. It is still early enough days, however, and one big question about  Emmanuel Macron is what kind of governing coalition he could put together in the legislature. So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, for further immediate details see :

* “Macron to beat Le Pen in French election run-off vote, says Opinionway poll” ;

Jean-Luc Mélenchon arrives at Elysée Palace for dinner with Raul Castro last year. This Morocco-born man of the French far left has no chance of becoming France’s next president, but still strikes a compelling pose. Photo : AFP/ Alain Jocard.

* “Spotlight: French presidential election 2017: Macron or Le Pen?” ;

* “Emmanuel Macron’s Unexpected Shot at the French Presidency … The former economy minister’s surge in popularity makes him the front-runner—for now” ;

* “Who’s who in the French presidential election? … With months to go until the final vote, the battle for the Élysée Palace has already proven extraordinary” ;

*  “Can Marine Le Pen win the French presidential election? … The far-right leader says globalisation and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ are undermining French culture” ;

* “Look left for the next French election surprise.”

Very finally (and believe it or not), back here in our home and native land / terre de nos aïeux : “Trudeau’s Approval Rating Tops Trump In US And Canada: Poll.”

Electoral reform in Canada 2017 : a relic of the 4½ months in 2015 when New Democrats looked like winners?

Posted: January 31st, 2017 | 3 Comments »

CW EDITORS NOTE : Nous adressons nos plus sincères condoléances à tous ceux qui ont été touchés par l’épouvantable tuerie mortelle d’une mosquée de Québec, dimanche dernier. Nous appuyons les propos du premier ministre Trudeau sur ce méprisable acte de terreur contre le Canada et tous les Canadiens. Et nous accueillons chaleureusement ses rassurances auprès du million de fidèles musulmans de notre pays: «Trente-six millions de cœurs rompent avec les vôtres» / “Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours.”

Economist magazine projections of what did happen in 2015 Canadian federal election (first past the post), and what would have happened under proportional representation. A bare majority in Canadian House of Commons at this time is 170 seats.

[UPDATED FEBRUARY 1]. From the start of things in the last federal election campaign, I’ve had trouble understanding the mainstream media’s obsession with the electoral reform plank in the 2015 Liberal platform.

Between the lines, at the very least, it has always seemed clear enough that what finally became Justin Trudeau’s majority government was only half-serious at best on this issue.

The crucial Liberal message was : “We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.”

As the report of this parliamentary committee in the real world has subsequently confirmed — and surely not to the surprise of many honest observers —  there is no practical version of electoral reform on which all the federal parties (or even just the three largest) can agree.

To start with, forget about “mandatory voting, and online voting.” They are just distractions (just rejected out of hand by the committee). And right at the start they were further signs that the Trudeau Liberals were mostly just blowing smoke on electoral reform.

NDP MP's Nathan Cullen and Alexandre Boulerice hold press conference on electoral reform in Ottawa, spring 2016. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP.

From here, for decades New Democrats have liked “proportional representation,” which would broadly mean that each party gets a share of seats in parliament equal to its share of the cross-Canada popular vote. (Note that both the present Trudeau Liberal and previous Harper Conservative “majority” governments won just under 40% of the popular vote in the elections that brought them to office!)

The NDP’s long-favoured proportional-representation electoral reform, however, could mean that Conservatives would be almost permanently shut out of forming governments in Ottawa.

And/or the Canadian people at large would be condemned, on some accounts at any rate, to perpetual Liberal-New Democrat (or vice-versa) coalition governments. (Perhaps only occasionally relieved by Conservative minority governments, in semi-secret alliance with some revived Bloc Québécois ????)

CW EDITORS UPDATE, FEBRUARY 1, 2017 : It is just one day since Citizen X wrote in his conclusion to this piece (click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) : “like others I would not be surprised if at some point between now and May 4, 2017 the Trudeau Liberals back away officially from their 2015 platform commitment on electoral reform.” And as of 12:55 PM ET Aaron Wherry on the CBC News site has reported :“Trudeau government abandons promise of electoral reform …”

X tells us this has happened a little earlier than he was imagining, but “as predicted I am not surprised.” He underlines as well his very last sentence (again click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) : “Proportional representation may be a good thing, from several points of view far above the partisan political wars. But right now only the federal New Democrats really believe in it. And if they ever managed to win a majority of seats in parliament with not quite 40% of the cross-country popular vote, they might start changing their minds too.”

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“History has many cunning passages” : remembering the remarkable spring of 2009 on January 20, 2017

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

. Bird n Diz at Birdland in New York, 1951 — Charlie Parker (alto sax), left, and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), right, alleged founding partners of bebop jazz — still the hardest kind of jazz to play properly, according to Charlie Parker’s old colleague, Red Rodney.

What can be said on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States of America? Our view is not much at all.

If we had to pick a quick quotation, we’d go with the passionate cultural conservative T.S. Eliot, who was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and went on to become “the greatest French poet in the English language” in London, England : “History has many cunning passages.” Beyond this, we have two further gestures :

(1) For some time now a piece by our Citizen X from May 2009 has been finishing close to the top of our daily list of visits to more popular postings — “Save the last dance for Manmohan Singh .. democracy in India pulls off a surprise in Obama’s early days.”

Much of the traffic involved  is, we believe, malevolent and spam-oriented. But this piece has been finishing close to the top of our daily numbers for so long now that at least some of its popularity must be authentic.

Accordingly our Dominic Berry has just today quickly knocked together a slightly revised version of the original Citizen X posting (far too long, but you can skip the four appendices) — which we’ve, as it were, re-posted with the following note at the end :

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. (Doug Ball/CP).

Second  (and as yet only slightly revised) edition, Friday, January 20, 2017. On the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of  the democracy in America that took such a very big step forward during the no-drama presidency of  Barack Hussein Obama, 2009–17. In the firm conviction that something as big in history as the past eight years in the USA can never really be erased or reversed. Especially when the former president concludes his regime with a 60% approval rating from the American people, via the lying pollsters who did manage to get the Hillary Clinton popular vote victory in the 2016 US election right.

(2) We’ve also been especially impressed by several related news items from the past several days :

* “President-elect Donald Trump will enter the White House Friday with most national security positions still vacant, after a disorganized transition that has stunned and disheartened career government officials.” (From the far-from-left-wing Foreign Policy magazine daily online “Situation Report,” Thursday, January 19, 2017.)

Marshall McLuhan (r) with Woody Allen in Annie Hall, 1977.

* “‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood,” by Coral Davenport and David E. Sanger in the New York Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017. See also : “Trump offered Rick Perry a job neither one of them understood” one day later at MSNBC.

* “Scum of the earth lowlife packs a bag for Trump’s inauguration,” by Steve Lopez in the  Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017. This is both the most intellectually impressive and entertaining lying media piece we’ve come across on the Trump inauguration. (Eg : “So stop bawling, California. We are out of step, thank God, because civil rights, human rights and environmental protection are civic virtues in the Golden State, and we’re going to build a kale-powered bullet train through almond and walnut orchards, come hell or high water … The wall will get built, and we’re still not paying for it … That’s the Trump plan in this new era of magical thinking, details to come … You’re damn right I’m going to Washington … I’ll report back soon on whether I think we should give more thought to secession.”)

Our thanks to the wonderful WWF Bear’s excellent photographer. And congrats to all the brave consenting adults who immersed themselves in Lake Ontario for the future of the planet on March 12, 2015, at Balmy Beach in Toronto. The lake is cold enough in August.

* “President-elect pays out $25-million Trump University settlement,” by Kristina Davis in the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017.  (Which nicely begins with : “Three days before his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump paid out $25 million in compliance with the settlement reached in three Trump University lawsuits.”)

Finally, this past Tuesday, October 2, 2016 our editor in chief opined :“as long as there is no real chance of his actually winning, the political career of Donald Trump may finally be more interesting than even he thinks.” On the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration we have asked Dr. White what he thinks now. And he just said that he plans to visit the overwhelmingly most populous US state of California this spring, to see if it actually has seceded from the union yet!

Was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest success in 2016 the seduction of right-wing hockey icon Don Cherry?

Posted: January 14th, 2017 | No Comments »

Father and son in Peterborough, Ontario, May 1989.

Up here in the northern woods the imminent departure of Barack Obama and accession of Donald Trump in Washington has focused attention on our own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — summarized by Mark Bonokoski of the Postmedia Network several days ago as the “eldest son of Canada’s Philosopher King.”

This time last year Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government was just settling into office, after it took a clear majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons (184 out of 338 or 54.44%), with a mere 39.47% of the cross-Canada popular vote, in the October 19, 2015 general election.

Less than a month later, on November 7, 2015, I posted my own initial reaction to the Trudeau II government, in “On the new era in Canada. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.”

I’m told it is still attracting some new visitors in January 2017 — perhaps, cynics have suggested, because it includes the F-word in its final sentence. It also includes comparatively rare allusions to the prime minister’s younger brother, who now lives in his father’s legendary art deco house on Avenue des Pins in Montreal (aka Maison Ernest-Cormier).

For most of 2016 both Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government in Ottawa managed to do very well in opinion polls — and considerably better than the party’s not quite 40% popular vote in the October 19, 2015 election. Yet as the year concluded all this began to moderate.

Pierre Trudeau’s legendary art deco house on Avenue des Pins in Montreal, now the home of Alexandre Trudeau and family.

On December 15, eg, pollster Angus Reid reported : “Is the Honeymoon ending? Trudeau’s declining job approval in Ontario drives ten-point national slide.”

As the pollster explained, even with this 10-point slide in December 2016 : “More than half of all Canadians (55%) still approve of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s job performance.” (Though it no doubt is interesting enough as well that the number was 65% in September 2016.)

Similarly, a Forum Research poll conducted early in December 2016 showed that “the Liberals dropped from 51 per cent a month ago to 42 per cent nationally.” (Though, again, 42% is still somewhat better than the share of the cross-country popular vote they won in the 2015 election.)

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Our quiet northern agenda for 2017 — 150th anniversary of the 1867 confederation in Canada

Posted: January 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

Emperor Meiji moves from Kyoto to Tokyo 1868, as imagined by Le Monde Illustre.

In the United Kingdom and the United States 2017 will be the year we start to find out just how crazy Brexit and Donald Trump are really going to be. We make no predictions. But we are trying to pretend we’re mentally (and financially) prepared for almost anything. L’histoire a beaucoup de passages astucieux.

Meanwhile, we will be focusing on our own backyard  — up here in what the conclusion to Harold Innis’s 1930 Canadian history classic perhaps somewhat over-exuberantly called “the northern half of North America.” (Or what we have more recently alluded to as “the most northerly part of North America entirely covered by ice 20,000 years ago, now known as Canada.”)

One excuse is that July 1, 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of the present Canadian confederation of 1867 — in the wake of the American Civil War, and just before the ironically christened Meiji Restoration in Japan.

Toronto Street Railway snowbound — by W.N. Langton in the Canadian Illustrated News, 12 February 1881.

(We agree as well that it is not quite right to call this date the 150th birthday of Canada. Modern Canada is both much older and younger. “Canada” itself is an aboriginal or indigenous word. And as the editor of the admired first volume of the Historical Atlas of Canada explained in the late 1980s, research since the Second World War “has tended to confirm Harold Innis’s general insights … As Innis maintained, the pattern of Canada has been taking shape for almost 500 years … .” And then it is also true that, as noted elsewhere, “Canada today is a much younger country than even many Canadians imagine. There was no such legal status as a ‘Canadian citizen’ until after the Second World War. The first Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947” — a mere 70 years ago in 2017!)

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Looking back on the fourth quarter of the fateful year 2016

Posted: December 30th, 2016 | No Comments »

Campfire 1916 by Tom Thomson

As noted in our review of the first quarter of this fateful year, back some two weeks ago : “The short story about 2016 in the English-speaking global village is just Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump in the USA.”

Brexit was the big surprise of the second quarter. The electoral college victory of Donald Trump was the big surprise of the fourth quarter.

(While Hillary Clinton took more of the popular vote, by a quite dramatic 2.8 million votes — and the “Cook Political Report has shown that just three counties, representing 77,759 voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, determined the outcome of the election” practically.)

We offered our immediate assessment of the Trump surprise in : “Northern lights on US election VI : trying to be positive about democracy in America 2016, as it happens,” Nov 8, by Citizen X ; and “What happened? … without rigged system of the electoral college Trump wouldn’t have won,” Nov 9, by Randall White.

Back in October the same pair of contributors had offered what would later seem relevant reporting with : “This isn’t the first time Donald Trump has pretended to run for President etc …,” Oct 4, by Randall White ; and “Northern lights on US election IV : history will not be kind to FBI’s last-minute Orwellian intervention in 2016,” Oct 31, by Citizen X.

(This last piece began : “FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute intervention in the 2016 US election — regarding certain freshly discovered ‘emails of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were found on a device seized during an unrelated sexting investigation of Anthony Weiner’ — has cast a dark Orwellian shadow over democracy in America in the early 21st century.”)

Meanwhile, we had tried to remember that, whatever happened among the “Yankees to the south of us” (who “must south of us remain”), we still had our own exotic public life in the rising new “free and democratic society” in Canada. And late in October we posted “Maybe new Advisory Board for Senate Appointments in Canada should experiment with selection by lottery too,” Oct 28, by Randall White.

A full month later we counterweights editors ourselves noted : “As much as we want to escape the long arm of Donald Trump in the US (and other) mainstream media during the last lame-duck weeks of 2016, we keep bumping into it all, like it or not.”We expanded briefly on this thought in “Reaction to Justin Trudeau’s Fidel farewell just one early sign of new age of Trump .. well, sort of .. maybe?,” Nov 28, by Counterweights Editors.

This brings us to the current final month in the fateful year 2016. And we will end both this exercise and the soon-to-be old year of 2016 with a further two contributions from the same pair of fourth-quarter contributors noted above.

The first is “Private night thoughts inspired by Stephen Marche on the Obama years, in the Los Angeles Review of Books,” Dec 7, by Randall White.

Early Snow 1916 by Tom Thomson.

The second is “Belatedly discovering Zadie Smith .. and Olbermann’s back : 2016 holiday gifts from the world wide web,” Dec 20, by Citizen X. (And the wise and wily X ended here with a quotation from the culture writer Marta Bausells : “This year needed Zadie Smith. 2016 was crying out for her particular clarity …” Whatever, we’re glad X discovered her for us at last.)

So a very happy new year / bonne année, whoever you are and wherever you may be. And here’s to all of us, in a year when virtually no one remotely sensible seems to be even just pretending to know just what may or may not happen — especially in the United Kingdom and the United States. (And many other places in today’s global village too, including the most northerly part of North America entirely covered by ice 20,000 years ago, now known as Canada).

Top 10 counterweights articles from the third quarter of the fateful year 2016

Posted: December 29th, 2016 | No Comments »

The third quarter of any year is mostly the summer, with a week and a half of autumn at the end. In any case, 2016 is almost over and without further adieu here are the top 10 counterweights articles for the third quarter of this fateful year, as selected by our own central committee :

* Meditations in time of almost civil war .. US election, Dallas shootings, and summer in a northern city 2016. Jul 8, by L. Frank Bunting.

* If Bird’s bebop finally did become the new pop music it just might sound like Allison Au and Tara Kannangara. Jul 15, by Citizen X. (“On the evening of 14 July 2016 a 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and injuring 434.” Our article on Bird’s bebop here was prefaced with “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.”)

* And now for something not completely different : blaming it on Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Aug 3, by L. Frank Bunting. (Mr. Bunting noted :  “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”).

* Mel Hurtig and (very) early second thoughts about where the new Trudeau government is taking Canada ?? Aug 8, by Counterweights Editors.

* Do Hillary’s current poll numbers mean she’ll win ? Remember : NDP leading in Canada on August 27, 2015! Aug 14, by Randall White.

“Portrait Of An Urban Princess” — Ms Vedelago in London.

* August in Ganatsekwyagon : “On the dangerous flood / Of history that … / … Held one moment, burns the hand.” Aug 19 by Counterweights Editors. (This piece was illustrated with photos from Elvira Vedelago — who we bumped into when we searched the W.H. Auden first line ‘August for the people and their favourite islands’ on Google Images. As Ms Vedelago explains : ‘I’m a 24 year old [now 26 in fact] SW London blogger just expressing my personal style to the world … I’m half Nigerian and half Italian but currently living in UK.’ She would later remind us of Zadie Smith! Except in the Vedelago case it’s SW not NW London. And last month Ms Vedelago and her boyfriend visited one of her two ancestral lands in Nigeria.)

* How important was Rob Ford’s brother in latest Ontario byelection? Sep 4, by Randall White.

* Northern lights on US election II : What if Conrad Black is right and Donald Trump actually wins ???? Sep 7, by Citizen X.

New Year’s Eve in Toronto.

* Is the old British dominion in Canada still half-alive (sort of) .. as well as historically interesting? Sep 15, by Counterweights Editors. (This linked to another chapter of Randall White’s current Canadian republican book project, and ended with : “And then Dr. White and his business manager wandered off to buy more fresh corn — traditional crop of the ancient Wendat/Huron nation due north —  on the last unseasonably warm day of summer 2016.” Now Dr. White tells us his New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to make much more progress on his sketch of the historical roots to today’s Canadian democracy, buoyed by the 2016 year-end poll showing that “Majority of Canadians say ties to monarchy should be cut when Queen dies.”)

* Australia asylum seekers face a refugee policy to condemn, not replicate, despite what PM says. Sep 24, by Greg Barns. (We were especially pleased to hear from Greg Barns and Anna Talbot in Melbourne — in a piece which began with “This past Tuesday Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, stood in front of world leaders and claimed his government’s refugee policy was the best in the world. But many people in Australia will tell you that Mr Turnbull’s boasting was misplaced.”)

Our final quick review of the 2016 fourth quarter will be posted tomorrow, as we all get ready for a happy new year’s eve the day after that!

Ho ho ho : our Top 10 reports 2Q 2016 & Dominic Berry on metro news & the Sparrow on ex-Blue Jay Edwin

Posted: December 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2016. TORONTO, CANADA. The legendary arrival of Santa Claus is now a very few days away. Our esteemed colleague Dominic Berry took a trip downtown yesterday on the Queen streetcar for some last minute shopping — at HMV on Yonge Street and the Indigo bookstore in the Eaton Centre.

The trip takes a while. And Berry reports that he was unusually impressed by the December 22, 2016 local edition of metro news he read to pass the time. He singled out half a dozen items for especially high praise.

(He also asks that we preface our further short account with a bow to the ubiquity of many different local editions of metro news nowadays, including one in Helsinki, Finland — which he apparently caught up with on a Baltic Sea cruise this past May.)

Dominic Berry’s half-dozen highly praised pieces from yesterday in Toronto divide into four news reports on early 21st century life in this particular big city, and then two largely political columns by clever women. The four news reports are:

Santa Claus in South Korea.

* “How Toronto’s urban planning department embraced diversity … Toronto’s planning review panel helps city staff receive input from people who aren’t just ‘affluent white homeowners.’”

* “One Toronto crossing guard’s quest to make his intersection safer … Crossing guard Domenic Pillegi is asking Mayor John Tory to solve the problem of aggressive driving at Avenue and Wilson.”

* “Ikea warns Toronto teens not to try sleepovers in stores … A spokesperson for the Swedish store said unsanctioned sleepovers, where teens hide in closets and enjoy comfy beds, were on the rise this year.”

* “Undocumented migrants in Toronto describe life in the ‘shadows’ …  In a new book, young people with precarious immigration status in Canada share their fears, dreams and struggles.”

Kendall Jenner and Santa, 2011.

The two more political columns by clever women (on the same page) feature Chantal Hébert from Ottawa (and Montreal) and Vickly Mochama here in town :

* Chantal Hébert : “Parliamentary coverage has been changed by the times …  Long ago, if you wanted to cover Parliament, you had to be based in Ottawa. Not anymore.” Ms. Hébert’s ultimate conclusion here is that “the daily reporting of Parliament Hill media insiders” has, for better or worse, now lost its former “pride of place in the national conversation.”

* Vicky Mochama : “Let’s extend our holiday generosity to the boldly ungenerous … It’s certainly better to give than to receive — but taking has its place, too.” Ms. Mochama presents a younger and suitably more cynical (but still ultimately encouraging) view of life in the big city today, starting admirably with : “In the lead-up to the Plunderer-Elect of the United States taking the oath of office, it’s become clear that this is the Age of the Thief.”

Winter in Northern Ontario.

Now, those who want to see our Top 10 selections from counterweights for this past second quarter of 2016 can just click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below. (Where you’ll also find Rob Sparrow’s view on the latest Blue Jay news re Edwin.) We will post similar lists for the third and fourth quarters of the year on December 29 and December 30.

Meanwhile, Happy Holiday from the late great Percy Faith, who was born in Toronto in 1908 and died in the Encino neighbourhood of Los Angeles in 1976. May Santa Claus at least be good to you too this year, in one way or another.

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Belatedly discovering Zadie Smith .. and Olbermann’s back : 2016 holiday gifts from the world wide web

Posted: December 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

Keith Olbermann’s latest incarnation : “Denounced by Trump and hacked by Russia. I'm, like, a smart person.”

Almost a month ago the editor in chief reported on how the “usually agreeable X keeps telling me that he is working on some major tone poem called ‘Toronto notes : Donald Trump as Rob Ford, Part Deux .. and that really did end tragically.’ He wants to take the time to get it right. It will be ready soon …etc.”

I am here now to report myself that I have finally abandoned this project, except for the long-meditated first two paragraphs, as follows :

“My first reaction to the new America of Donald Trump is just to avoid it as much as possible. Stop watching the news on US TV. Watch old movies instead.

“My sober second thought is to seek consolation in the view that  American political history is about to turn into a comic book for the next four years. And I should at least aspire to the Classics Illustrated brand that I valued so highly in my childhood.”

Now, in a cold and snowy late December of the fateful year 2016, I can further report that pursuing this train of thought has at last led me in two more sensible directions :

(1) OLBERMANN’S BACK. To start with I’ve rediscovered Keith Olbermann, now leading something called The Resistance on the GQ magazine website.

The counterweights editors first belatedly discovered him on this website with “Who is Keith Olbermann? .. getting real at last on MSNBC,” on September 28, 2006 — more than 10 years ago.

French Resistance fighters who joined forces with Canadian army at Boulogne, September 1944.

For further counterweights reflections on the bumpy course of the Olbermann career see : “Hey MSNBC, you’ve made your point — Put Keith Olbermann Back On The Air NOW!” (November 7, 2010) ; and “Waiting for Keith Olbermann’s new Huffington Post style media empire?” (January 23, 2011).

For the latest installment of the current Olbermann incarnation — as leader of The Resistance on the GQ magazine site —  see “Alexander Hamilton’s Plan to Keep Trump From the White House … The Electoral College was designed to prevent just this sort of emergency.”

(And for a recent feisty Olbermann tweet on key current events see “You treacherous Russian whore @realDonaldTrump the White House and all of us have been after you for this for months. And we will get you.”)

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