Trump “unfit for command”(?), whales in Canadian waters, Brad Wall steps down, & “Our Lady of the Snows, 1911–1921”

Posted: August 12th, 2017 | No Comments »

Meeting of British empire’s Imperial War Cabinet, London, 1917. UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George is front row, fifth from left. Canadian PM Robert Borden is immediately to his right. Second from left, second row is the Maharaja of Bikaner, Ganga Singh, from India.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. AUGUST 11, 2017. It is getting harder and harder for Canadians who watch US TV to know just what is going on in the American Republic led by President Donald Trump.

Rex Tillerson advises against losing sleep, with what looks like a smile. This may be the right worldly wisdom. But it is also hard not to at least sometimes wonder : Are millions of people actually going to have to die — likely including large enough numbers in and/or from North America — just to comfort the juvenile hearts and minds of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un?

Thoughts like this take wings when we learn from a Keith Olbermann tweet that, as reported in the Wall Street Journal : “Analysts are trying to work out what happens to markets in the event of an all-out nuclear war.” (Olbermann just says “All of them would die #Idiots.”)

Olbermann has also been tweeting : “This mentally unstable man must be removed … 25th Amendment … Impeachment … Any legal means to stop him … Mattis ignoring him.”

l–r : Canada PM Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, First Ministers’ Meeting, Ottawa, 2015.

This  reminds us of :“Brinkley: Trump is ‘unfit for command’ … Author and CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley [with a day job at Rice University in Houston, Texas] says the Trump White House is in ‘utter disarray’ and concludes that the president is ‘unfit for command.’ His message: ‘He thinks you can govern by chaos, and it’s not working.’”

Possibly at some other exotic extreme, in Canada our early August TV news reports that the “federal government is ordering large vessels to slow down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as it tries to protect right whales who frequent the waters … Ten … have died in the gulf since early June … Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Marc Garneau were in Pointe-du-Chene, N.B., Friday to announce immediate temporary measures aimed at preventing further whale deaths.”

For political hardball, Saskatchewan’s once beloved premier Brad Wall has decided to step down. (“It has been and will always be the honour of my working life to serve as Premier of this Province that I love” ; “Stunning departure: Premier Wall announces his resignation.”)

See a Maclean’s article from this past June for deep background (Tammy Robert, “Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem.”) And note two helpful pieces on the CBC News site : Kendall Latimer on “Who will replace Brad Wall as Saskatchewan Party leader?” ; and  Éric Grenier on “Brad Wall’s departure highlights changing political landscape of Western Canada.”

“Justine Skye in white.” Compliments TierraAnyeaTv.

Talk about changing political landscapes also reminds us that we have just posted the latest installment of Randall White’s work-in-progress, Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters.

If you go to “Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar above (or just CLICK HERE), you will find a short introduction to this modern history of Canadian democracy, along with the “Prologue : too much geography.”

This is followed by links to the currently completed six chapters in Part I, four  chapters in Part II, and the first three chapters in Part III on the old Dominion of Canada. You will now find as well a link to Chapter 4 of PART III : THE DOMINION OF CANADA, 1867–1963, “Our Lady of the Snows, 1911–1921.”

Once more we caught up with Dr. White and his lovely business manager at the Tim Horton’s across from Kew Gardens in Toronto. He had a few quick thoughts on Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan, as well as Robert Borden as Canadian prime minister, in the second decade of the 20th century, which took in the First World War (in the days before nuclear weapons).

“Saskatchewan,” Dr. White remarked, “was the third most populous province in Canada, after Ontario and Quebec, from 1911 to 1941. Now it’s the sixth most populous province, after Ontario, Quebec, BC, Alberta, and Manitoba. Brad Wall was born in 1965. So you might say all this was before his time. But it was somehow still part of his political career. History can do strange things to politics, even when most people don’t know it.”

Who or what is really to blame for the dump President Trump has to live in?

Posted: August 2nd, 2017 | No Comments »

What a Trump White House could look like. Thanks to Catey Hill, MarketWatch.

I am not supposed to be doing this right now. I have allegedly more urgent work to attend to. But it is the middle of our short Canadian summer. And there is nothing quite like stealing time from more urgent work for a summer flight of fancy.

For my text see : “Did Donald Trump Call the White House ‘A Real Dump?’” ; “Trump reportedly described White House as a ‘real dump’” ; “Donald Trump Brands The White House ‘A Real Dump’” ; and “Report: Trump Tells Members Of His Golf Club The White House Is ‘A Real Dump’.”

All this was sharply brought to my attention this morning, almost as if it was somehow my fault. And there is a sense in which, if President Trump actually did call the US White House a dump or words to that effect, I think I can sort-of see what he means.

Marine Band performs on the South Lawn of the White House in 1921.

(Well … without in any way implying that there is anything on planet earth about which I agree with President Trump. Most people up here really liked President Obama. I was one of them.)

I base my own White-House-as-a-dump views largely on visits to US state legislatures back in the 1980s and 1990s — when my traveling companion and I had time for such things. And I should note we also toured Washington, DC during the same period (though I have never actually visited the White House inside, as it were).

Back from his own late 1950s and early 1960s visits, the American literary critic Edmund Wilson wrote that “Toronto [the Canadian city where I live today] also differs from the States, in spite of much Americanization, in preserving a British tradition of good order and capable handling.”

“In 1950, The White House was gutted of its interiors to undergo a massive restoration project set forth by President Truman. This painstaking process would eventually save the rapidly deteriorating building as it approached condemnation.”

My impression from my state legislature and Washington, DC tours of the 1980s and 1990s was that — perhaps in more of a “European” or even “Old World” legacy nowadays — public buildings in Canada are still typically better maintained than they are in the USA.

To me one crucial side of this just comes down to money, and especially tax dollars.

Canadians are at least somewhat more willing than Americans to spend money on government — including government buildings. (In 2015, eg, employment in general government as a percentage of total employment was 18.2% in Canada and only 15.3% in the USA.)

Moreover, as best as I can make out Donald Trump embraces the American political tradition that very aggressively demeans all forms of government activity as less worthy than virtually any form of private business enterprise — and less entitled to the economic resources that finally make the world go around.

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Top 12 late news extras as midsummer madness 2017 sets in : Oz Labor party will hold republic referendum etc, etc

Posted: July 31st, 2017 | No Comments »

Brownman Ali — one of the few serious “jazz” artists this or any year at the Beaches Jazz Festival in the east end of Toronto, where most who come to watch and listen seem to have a pretty good time anyway.

[UPDATED AUGUST 1]. The final “Streetfest” phase of the 29th annual Beaches International Jazz Festival is now over, and we’ve asked our wayward staff  to submit their favourite key current late news extras for post-festival tabulation. Without further ado :

(1) “Bill Shorten renews push for Australian republic, vows to hold referendum within first term of Labor government.” By Allyson Horn & Henry Belot : “Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised a national vote on Australia becoming a republic during the first term of a Labor Government … ‘One question — do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state? Yes or No?’ … Mr Shorten said if the result of the referendum was yes, it could mean a secondary vote to decide what form of republic Australia should become … The staunch republican previously said he had no plans to push for the republic until the Queen’s reign ends.”

(2) “Make Payette head of state” in Canada. In a letter published by the Toronto Star Ashok Charles, “executive director, Republic Now, Toronto,” writes : “The naming of Julie Payette as Canada’s next Governor General raises an important and timely question: Rather than being appointed as the representative of our head of state, shouldn’t she take over the top position? … let’s compare Payette’s credentials with those of Charles Windsor, the current front-runner set to become our next head of state if we don’t do anything about it … A clear-headed assessment, unskewed by habitual deference, makes Payette the winner of this contest, hands down.”

(And in the same place on the same day see also : “Happy 482nd birthday, Canada! … ‘Until the Quebec nation sees its recognition enshrined in the Constitution, federalist nationalists in Quebec will not forget that Canada, their Canada, also involves the history of Aboriginal people, French Canadians and Quebecers.’”)

(3) “The world according to Marshall McLuhan.” The Globe and Mail’s Mark Medley speaks with biographer Douglas Coupland “on why the culture and communications guru’s theories continue to resonate in 2017 — perhaps more than ever.”

We’d be happier hearing more about McLuhan’s “hick Baptist” inspiration Harold Innis (first Canadian president of the American Economic Association). But McLuhan can at least be a helpful entry drug.

(4) Kudos to the cw staff who tweeted “Midsummer madness has set in : ‘Conservatives say Trudeau’s Rolling Stone cover jeopardizes NAFTA talks’” this past week. For more on the August cover of Rolling Stone (whatever else, bound to win sneaking admiration or more from many we know) see : “Justin Trudeau lands on the cover of Rolling Stone” (Toronto Star — yes, again) ; and (as a kind of counterweight) “Justin Trudeau Rolling Stone Cover Is Brought To You By Desperate Times In America” (Huffington Post) —  “At a Canadian press conference, Rolling Stone witnessed Trudeau thanking reporters for the ‘essential’ role they play in a democracy … ‘Where are we? Narnia? Coachella recovery tent? 2009?’ Rodrick wrote. ‘We are in Ottawa, Ontario, a mere 560 miles from Washington, DC.’”

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Donald Trump’s 6-month approval rating isn’t that much lower than Bill Clinton’s

Posted: July 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

American people who probably didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but might have voted for Bill Clinton back in the day..

[UPDATED JULY 21]. “This may be the hottest day we’ve had this summer,” someone said in the parking lot. I don’t know myself. In any case that’s just up here — north of the lakes.

Contemplating the more southerly climate of la démocratie en Amérique, I’m still thinking about two world-wide web reports from this past Monday : Steve Benen’s “Trump sees his historically awful public standing as ‘not bad’” from the Rachel Maddow site ; and Harry Enten’s “Six Months In, Trump Is Historically Unpopular” from  Nate Silver’s

Both reports compare presidential approval ratings after six months in office since the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945.

Steve Benen’s work is based on “Washington Post/ABC News and Gallup Data.” Harry Enten uses “the FiveThirtyEight aggregate” (and if you are seriously wondering what this means try “How We’re Tracking Donald Trump’s Approval Ratings” by Nate Silver).

Because they use somewhat different configurations of polls, the two reports rank the “six-month-in popularity” of the 13 presidents since FDR somewhat differently. But they agree on the  key real-world results  :

* the four most popular presidents after six months in office are “Truman, Kennedy, Johnson,  Eisenhower” (Benen) or (in a slightly different order) “Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower” (Enten) ;

* the three least popular presidents at the same juncture are “Clinton, Ford, Trump” (Benen) or (in the same order) “Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Donald Trump” (Enten).

Two further propositions strike me as I ponder these reports at slightly greater length …

UPDATE JULY 21 : See also Jeffrey M. Jones at the Gallup organization on “Trump Sets New Low for Second-Quarter Job Approval.” (Which also shows President Trump not all that far away from President Clinton!)

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Memories of Gerry Mulligan and other time travelers in the strange North American summer of 2017

Posted: July 15th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

You can now buy Grace Lake Island in Haliburton, and “Create Your Own Private Escape” for $250,000 C — without electricity or anything else (but lots of mosquitoes in such a nicely wooded place).

At last we have summer in the city 2017 up here on the northwest shore of the most easterly great lake (well, sort of …). Back from a short communion with early July mosquitoes further north, I somehow bumped into a YouTube clip called “Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan — Stardust.”

As happens in the digital age this led to a slightly longer look at the “cool jazz” great Gerry Mulligan (6 Apr 1927 – 20 Jan 1996) — first encountered in my misspent youth many years ago.

I have just learned from  a quite good Wikipedia article that Mulligan died in 1996 at 68. This summer I am remembering someone very close who also played music and died at 68, in 2017.

One side of him would just raise his eyebrows and say “@#$% Gerry Mulligan : I don’t like jazz.” Another side might allow a few thoughts (no more) on the virtues of living until you’re 68 and still doing quite a lot with your life.

* * * *

Myself I like jazz. And Gerry Mulligan played a role in my discovery of the larger world beyond the near suburbs and old city north end where I lived as a teenager, from 1958 to 1964.

(I can even remember a local magazine article from the time, that claimed to examine both sides of a troubled marriage : “My wife’s an mental midget” vs. ”My husband’s an intellectual snob.” I later discovered both sides were written by the local literary survivor Hugh Garner, in an earlier tradition of fake news. One of the wife’s main complaints was that her husband listened too much to Gerry Mulligan records.)

On the view I absorbed in my teenage years Mulligan’s main talent was as an arranger (and composer). Yet as Wikipedia notes for “42 consecutive years (1953–1995)” he also won  “the Down Beat magazine reader’s poll for outstanding baritone saxophonist.”

Don Draper’s apartment, in the middle of Gerry Mulligan’s fame in the 1960s.

Mulligan was was not deft technically on the still somewhat unusual baritone (the heaviest of the big 4 saxophones to carry). But he cultivated an attractive tone, and used his arranger’s skill to craft tuneful and largely uncomplicated improvisations.

“There are some words,” he declared (later in life, I believe, after he married the Contessa) “that have been lost from modern usage that I like to bring to my music and have striven all my life to do, BEAUTY, GRACE, NOBILITY.”

(Or as the compelling user review jazz writer Don Bays has somewhat differently but still similarly explained, in his droll assessment of Mulligan’s 1963 album, Night Lights : “This is perfect bachelor pad music but actually stands up to serious examination quite well.” And if anyone ever said anything like this about something I’d done, I’d be very pleased.)

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Happy Canada Day, July 1, 2017 (or not if you like) + BC democracy, London squatting, & great Warren Buffet

Posted: July 1st, 2017 | No Comments »

For those who do feel inclined to celebrate the occasion, Happy Canada Day, July 1, 2017 — also the 150th anniversary of the northern North American confederation of 1867, established just after the American Civil War (1861–65) and just before the 1868 “Meiji Restoration” in Japan.

(Other notable events of  1867 include the Second Reform Act in the United Kingdom, publication of the first book-length edition of Walter Bagehot’s classic on The English Constitution, and publication of the first volume of Karl Marx’s classic Das Kapital — in German : an English edition did not appear until 1887!)

There are of course many reports on the 150th anniversary of the 1867 confederation in Canada currently extant. Our favourite is Randall White’s “Happy 150th Birthday To Ontario, Canada’s Most Populous Province,” on Susanna Kelley’s excellent Ontario News Watch site.

We also like “Canada Named ‘Most Reputable Country’ In Time For 150th Birthday” (Huffington Post Canada) and “PM Trudeau visits Parliament Hill protest teepee” (CTV News).

Meanwhile, the most interesting Canadian political action of the past week has featured the current adventures of Democracy in Canada’s Pacific Province.

This Republic Now billboard is up for a month in Toronto on Danforth Avenue east of Playter. A second is also in Toronto, on the Gardiner Expressway west of Sherbourne. A third is in Ottawa at St. Laurent Blvd. and Montreal Road.

You can follow these adventures in, eg : “Vaughn Palmer: Clark schemes, dreams NDP-Green alliance is a flop-in-waiting” ; “Judgment Day: BC Liberal tactics set up difficult decision for lieutenant-governor” ; “BC NDP asked to form government after Liberal defeat” ; and “Showdown at Government House: the meeting that ended 16 years of BC Liberal rule.”

For high commentary on the recent BC adventures in democracy we especially like Charlie Smith’s piece on The Georgia Straight website : “Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon’s unelected power should raise questions about dumping the monarchy.”

(And we’re guessing Mr. Smith would also like Republic Now’s Canada Day 2017 billboards in Ottawa and Toronto : “We don’t need a king : Our next head of state should be Canadian.”)

Former London, England town house of eminent anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers at 4 Grosvenor Gardens, occupied by squatters from Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians earlier this year.

Meanwhile, back in Canada’s old imperial metropolis of London, England, we’ve been struck by a report from earlier this year that we’ve just stumbled across : “Squatters ejected from oligarch’s £15m mansion move into new base yards away.”

The new base into which the squatters moved was a seven-storey town house at 4 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0DH. And it turns out that during the late 19th century this place — in posh Belgravia, not far from Buckingham Palace — belonged to the eminent anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt- Rivers.

(Btw during an earlier military career Fox Pitt- Rivers was briefly stationed in Canada, in 1861.)

We haven’t been able to discover online whether 4 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0DH is still being occupied by squatters (apparently from the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians). But the mere fact that such things happen in London today may have something to do with Brexit etc (well, maybe … somehow, in one way or another).

Finally, as evidence that Canada’s great geographic neighbour in the USA today is not entirely bereft of common sense right now — and that the capitalism Karl Marx criticized long ago continues to have its redeeming sides — see “WARREN BUFFETT: The Republican healthcare bill should be called the ‘Relief for the Rich Act’.”

Warren Buffet and friends break into song.

As evidence that Mr. Buffett has some appreciation for the USA’s northern neighbour as well, this article wisely concludes with :

“Buffett also reiterated his call for a single-payer system for healthcare, which he said would be ‘more effective.’” (As we have been illustrating in Canada since the late 1960s.)

So again, Happy Canada Day, July 1, 2017 — for those who do feel inclined to celebrate, with some form of inspirational refreshment, or whatever else might seem appropriate.

“O Canada! / Terre de nos aïeux, / Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux. / Car ton bras sait porter l’épée, / Il sait porter la croix. / Ton histoire est une épopée, / Des plus brillants exploits. / Et ta valeur, de foi trempée, / Protégera nos foyers et nos droits. / Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.”

Trying to escape the spectre (specter) of Donald Trump in southern ontariariario on a [Sunday] afternoon

Posted: June 26th, 2017 | No Comments »

“Poverty USA.” Bjorn Viberg.

One thing I’ve done today (well … yesterday really) is finish reading Jeff Madrick’s review of two recent books on poverty in the USA,  in the June 22, 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books.

(The two books are :  The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty, by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider ; and Happiness for All?: Unequal Hopes and Lives in Pursuit of the American Dream, by Carol Graham.)

As a former Ted Kennedy policy consultant, Mr. Madrick is almost certainly not a conservative or a Republican. As a former finance editor at Business Week magazine, he cannot be seriously accused of communist sympathies either.

In any case, his current pronouncements on the latest chief executive of democracy in America have instantly slaked my thirst for any similar further comment :

The “budget President Trump has proposed” is,  in Mr. Madrick’s view, “both incomprehensibly harsh toward the poor and bound to fail to help struggling regions of the nation develop economically …”

He goes on; “Trump’s budget would slash a total of $54 billion from social programs in fiscal year 2018 and funnel the money into defense spending. His proposed cuts in coming years would be far deeper. Many … are unlikely to get through Congress, but Trump’s budget makes clear that neglecting the poor is now a presidential priority.”

(1) SUBWAY GIRL IN OLD T.O. In the midst of such trumpeting from abroad (so to speak), it is altogether refreshing up here in the northern woods of  Toronto, Ontario, Canada to see news headlines like “Images surface of girl lying on top of subway car at Davisville Station.”

Wouldn’t you have thought this was cool when you were 13 too? At Davisville station in Toronto, late June 2017.

This story is simple enough : “A 13-year-old girl was escorted off TTC [Toronto Transit Commission] property and arrested Friday [June 23] after she was caught lounging on top of a parked subway train.”

No doubt it is not wise to encourage this kind of behaviour. But it is hardly criminal in any serious sense. No vandalism was involved. And I can see no reason for any vast punishment myself.

“TTC property” is not as sacrosanct as some at the TTC  think. In the end it belongs to the people who pay for it. And some Toronto public officials in recent years have gotten away with a lot worse than anything this nervy and interesting 13-year-old girl has done.

Finally, click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below for further reporting on :

2. Why are so many lazy journalists jumping on the anti-Wynne bandwagon in Ontario? ; 3. Discovering Eve Babitz’s Los Angeles at last ; and 4. The late Eric Hobsbawn on Weimar Berlin, and the long tradition of dumbo presidents in the USA — as seen by someone who, for a time at least,  really was a Communist, period.

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Democracy in British Columbia 2017 : suddenly it’s very interesting

Posted: June 19th, 2017 | No Comments »

Beautiful girls on the Capilano suspension bridge in beautiful BC.

[UPDATED JUNE 20, 22]. Without a doubt the most interesting thing in Canadian politics right now is the continuing fallout from the May 9, 2017 provincial election in beautiful British Columbia on Canada’s Pacific coast.

To start with, make a strong mental note that 44 seats constitute the barest of majorities in BC’s 87-seat elected Legislative Assembly.

(And recall from high school, or wherever else you were once told about it, that having or being able to regularly find a majority in the popularly elected legislature or parliament, to support your program by passing crucial laws, is what government is finally all about in our kind of parliamentary democracy.)

Alas or otherwise, depending on your point of view, when all the ballots were finally and properly counted (and where necessary recounted, two weeks after the May 9 election day), the lovely Christy Clark’s previously governing Liberals won 43 seats with 40.36% of the province-wide popular vote — one seat shy of a bare majority.

John Horgan’s New Democrats won 41 seats with 40.28% of the popular vote — 3 seats shy of a bare majority. And (make another strong mental note here) Andrew Weaver’s Green party won 3 seats with 16.84% of the vote!

Beautiful (and soon-to-be former?) BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark on Parliament Hill in Ottawa with Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who in an earlier career taught high school in BC, where his mother was born and raised), February 5, 2016.

For the time being Christy Clark’s Liberals — the party with the largest number of seats — have remained in office as the BC government.

For a short while after the election it also seemed that the easiest ultimate resolution of the challenging numbers would be for Andrew Weaver’s Green party to strike a deal with the Clark Liberals, that would give Premier Clark a “stable” governing majority of 43+3 = 46 seats.

It soon enough became clear, however, that the Greens were more interested in backing the more environment-friendly (and otherwise “progressive”?) New Democrats, to bring about a change at last from the Liberals who have been governing BC for the past 16 years. (Under the lovely Christy Clark, and then before that Gordon Campbell.)

On this scenario a new minority government will have NDP leader John Horgan as premier, in partnership with Andrew Weaver’s Greens, and with a 41+3 = 44-seat bare governing majority in the legislature. (As some advocates have also stressed, this NDP-Green government will represent 40.28% + 16.84% = 57.12% of the province-wide popular vote in the May 9 election.)

NDP leader John Horgan (r) and Green party leader Andrew Weaver (l) sign their agreement for government of BC, May 30, 2017.

A written document to this effect has been drawn up and signed by both Mr. Horgan for the New Democrats and Mr. Weaver for the Greens. On the weight of this evidence even Premier Clark has seemed to accept that her now-43-seat Liberal government’s days are numbered.

Back on June 7 Premier Clark “recalled the legislature for June 22 to test the confidence of the house in her government … Clark said last week that she fully expects to go down in defeat at the hands of the NDP and Greens.”

Now the new BC legislature will report for work this coming Thursday — only a day or two hence as I write. It will no doubt take a few more days for a suitable opportunity to test the Assembly’s confidence in Premier Clark’s government to arise. But the NDP-Green takeover scenario appears intact, except that there apparently remains one still-to-be-resolved fly in the ointment. Well … maybe make that two

UPDATE JUNE 20 : See “BC wants Christy Clark to accept defeat, new poll suggests … Angus Reid poll finds 71% surveyed don’t want another election,” Mike Laanela, CBC News. Dr W comments : “Cynics will just say voters never want another election so soon after the last one. But then when it happens almost no one complains.”

UPDATE JUNE 22 : For an account of what happened when the Legislative Assembly returned today, see Rob Shaw’s report in the Vancouver Sun : “BC legislature resumes, MLAs elect Liberal Steve Thomson as Speaker.” But don’t think this headline means the Liberals have resolved the now famous NDP-Green alliance Speaker issue (click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) by doing some altruistic, crazily public-spirited thing at last.

As Mr.Shaw explains : “if the NDP-Green alliance defeats Clark’s throne speech on a confidence vote next week, it’s expected the Liberal Speaker will resign and force the NDP to elect someone to the position … That would leave both parties deadlocked at 43 votes each, and force the previously non-partisan Speaker to cast the deciding vote on virtually all motions and bills. That is ‘uncharted territory’ for a legislature or parliament, say experts.” We should all clearly be staying tuned …

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Stop the war on streetcars .. why does Toronto’s Ford family hate them so much?

Posted: June 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

Doug Ford at the wheel of his car, being interviewed by media.

A cogent column by Edward Keenan in this past Saturday’s Toronto Star has prompted me to get something down on paper that has been bothering me for a while now. (Just ask my wife.)

The extended headline reads “Ford’s costly streetcar study will just reveal the obvious : Keenan … TTC CEO Andy Byford calls using streetcars on the Queen St. line ‘inherently more efficient’ than buses, and he estimates the TTC would need three times as many buses as new streetcars.”

I’ll start my story by confessing I have for years (decades in fact) lived along the Queen “501” streetcar line in Toronto.

It descends from an electric streetcar service  that began in the late 19th century. The area I live in was developed during the first few decades of the 20th century and is sometimes called a “streetcar suburb.”

Queen streetcar and rival automobile, later 1920s.

It was built around the great spine of the Queen streetcar service — on which I can get from my house to the heart of downtown Toronto at Queen and Yonge streets in not too much more than half an hour.  (Now, if I have to wait too long for a streetcar … but that’s another issue for another day.)

You might say I moved to the area I live in now — many years ago — because of the Queen “501” streetcar. I travel almost entirely by public transit, and in my experience the streetcar is the most civilized, efficient, and humane form of the genre.

On the other hand, I know some Toronto residents feel almost any form of public transit is just part of a legendary “war on cars.”

And many war-on-cars resisters seem to especially dislike streetcars. I think Edward Keenan’s Toronto Star column is especially good on all this.

Krista Ford, daughter of Doug Ford (and cousin of Michael Ford), at the wheel of her convertible.

He does “know what it’s like to be a car driver stuck behind a streetcar for blocks at a time, feeling like it’s slowing you down because you need to stop behind it every block while it loads passengers … It’s frustrating. And without even thinking that the vehicle has more than 100 people on it, it’s easy for a single car driver to think his car ought to have right of way here.”

Keenan goes on : “It’s easy to think that, in your car, on the way home … But it should be equally easy to realize, on reflection, that the big transit vehicles carrying thousands should get priority over the small personal vehicles carrying dozens … that, because they carry so many people at a time … streetcars are a solution to traffic, not the cause of it.”

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London Bridge not falling down Ricky Gervais says .. meanwhile what about that UK election on June 8?

Posted: June 5th, 2017 | No Comments »

“Man drinking pint while fleeing terror becomes symbol of London spirit.” Ashitha Nagesh for, Sunday 4 Jun 2017 (Picture: Twitter). Also retweeted by Ricky Gervais.

[UPDATED JUNE 9]. We were just watching TV on a Saturday night,  north of the North American Great Lakes. And then CNN, MSNBC, CBC News, CTV News Channel, and most immediately and crucially BBC News only had eyes for :

“6 people dead plus 3 attackers killed in London ‘terrorist incidents’ … ‘Evil, evil people’: Attacks leave many in hospital after van hit and run on London Bridge, market stabbings.”

(Subsequently updated as “Death toll in London ‘terrorist incidents’ rises to 7, police also kill 3 attackers … Dozens remain in hospital, some ‘critical,’ after van hit and run on London Bridge, market stabbings.” Note as well : “Canadian among 7 killed in London attacks … Nearly 50 injured as 3 assailants ram people with van on London bridge and stab others.” And  : “Christine Archibald, Canadian Killed In London Terror Attack, ‘Had Room In Her Heart For Everyone’.”)

My TV watching partner marveled yet again at how aging Canadians resting comfortably on their early 21st century couches can become so quickly connected to tragic (and other) events around the world — via a 60-inch TV and English-language cable news.

And I thought of my grandmother, who moved from London, England to Toronto, Canada very early in the 20th century when she was not quite 20 years old. She returned once to London for an extended visit 10 years later.

Cover of the Illustrated London News from the year before Dr. White’s grandmother moved from London, England to Toronto, Canada.

Then she came back to Toronto and never saw London or any other part of the United Kingdom again. And the random old copies of The Illustrated London News she kept in a magazine rack were nothing like  BBC News, CBC News, CNN, CTV News Channel, and MSNBC TV in 2017. (Just as the ships she crossed the ocean on — three times — were nothing like the airplanes today.)

It seems that in my advancing years one of my ways of trying to keep my grandmother alive —  and my military musical grandfather, and my father, and his sister my aunt, and on and on —  is to read the London Review of Books (not something any of them would ever do, but …).

On the Saturday afternoon before the Saturday evening London Bridge terrorist attacks of June 3, 2017 I had read two almost related articles from the June 1 issue : John Lanchester’s musings on voting strategy for the UK general election this coming Thursday, June 8, in his London riding of Vauxhall ; and Andrew O’Hagan’s review of Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain by Adrian Addison.

UPDATE JUNE 9, 2:45 AM ET/NORTH AMERICA : It’s now clear enough that the June 8 UK election result is pretty much what Dr. White earlier called (click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) the “worst result from Ms May’s point of view,” which “might (but probably won’t?) see her Conservatives with no more than what we call a minority government in Canada (‘hung parliament’ back in the Mother of Parliaments?).”

Conservative MP Boris Johnson, in earlier incarnation as mayor of London.

With only four of the current 650 seats in parliament still to report, the Conservatives have 315 with 42.4% of the UK-wide popular vote. This is the largest number of seats. But a bare majority is 326. And even if the Conservatives take all four of the remaining unreported seats they still won’t have even a bare majority.

Labour has 261 seats with 40.1% of the vote. The Scottish National Party has 35 seats (and 3.1% of the UK-wide vote, 36.9% of the vote in Scotland). The Liberal Democrats have 12 seats with 7.3% of the vote. The Green Party has 1 seat with 1.6% of the vote. UKIP  has no seats with 1.9% of the UK-wide vote.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland has 10 seats, and Sinn Fein 7. Plaid Cymru in Wales has 4 seats. The DUP has apparently indicated that it will support the Conservatives. This would give the Conservatives a bare majority in parliament if they take at least one of the four seats still to report. What has happened may not be the best result for a “hard” Brexit policy over the next while. But this could be a good thing if you don’t support Brexit. Meanwhile, there are many reasons to stay tuned. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a happy man — even if it may not last. And the pro-Brexit Kate Hoey hung on for Labour handily enough in Vauxhall, despite John Lanchester’s protest vote, which did nonetheless increase Liberal Democrat support in the riding by 13.7%!

UPDATE II, 12 NOON ET/NA : So… Theresa May’s Conservatives wound up with 318 seats in the end. Which means she has a slender majority with the addition of the 10 DUP seats from Northern Ireland. She is staying on as PM with this arrangement for now. But who knows how long this will last? In any case, many thanks to the people of the United Kingdom, who have given free and democratic political junkies in other parts of the world something interesting to think about — and offered further qualification to current international theories about the inevitable triumph of extreme right-wing populism!

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