How serious are different political moods on COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and the United States?

Posted: March 28th, 2020 | No Comments »
At the Ambassador Bridged between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, March 18, 2020. Rebecca Cook / Reuters.

Andrew Cohen’s “Why Canada’s response to COVID-19 is so different from that of the US,” from the Ottawa Citizen this past week, won applause from many Canadians.

Zach Carter’s “Coronavirus Is A Defining Test And American Government Is Failing It … It’s not just Trump. Our politics are unfit for this calamity,” from Huffington Post, seemed to confirm the argument from the American side.

It could simply and not entirely inaccurately be said that the United States has a more diffuse political system, especially at the federal level. Canada’s parliamentary democracy is more focussed.

Or the US system (by quite deliberate design of the 18th century founders) makes it harder for government to do things. The Canadian system (more like the UK and Western Europe) makes it easier for government to act when a parliamentary majority wants to.

“Facial Recognition # 9” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, March 2020.

At the same time, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may be at least somewhat more complex. The Economist magazine’s special intell unit has just predicted that “nearly all G20 nations will be pushed into a recession by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The latest Economist estimates of GDP this year suggest three different groups. In the first GDP declines by -7% in Italy, -6.8% in Germany, -5.4% in Mexico, and -5% in the UK and France. In the second group it declines by -2.8% in the US and only -1.3% in Canada. In the third group it actually increases by +1% in China!

Pete Evans at CBC News yesterday reported in more detail on “How bad will Canada’s COVID-19 recession be? … 2 million jobs could be at stake, and the economy could shrink by more than it did in 2009.”

(Note as well that the Canadian dollar, hovering around 76–77 cents US from the fall of 2019 to the end of January this year, fell to just below 68 cents US this past March 21, though it had risen back to 71 cents US by March 27.)

It is also worth noting, I think, that according to the Gallup organization, for all President Trump’s palpable foolishness on the COVID-19 pandemic, his approval rating has risen from 44% of US adults March 2–13, 2020 to 49% March 13–22.

Moreover, Gallup also suggests : “Trump’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic may be behind his higher overall approval rating. Americans give the president generally positive reviews for his handling of the situation, with 60% approving and 38% disapproving. Ninety-four percent of Republicans, 60% of independents and 27% of Democrats approve of his response.”

“Facial Recognition in Paint” by Michael Seward, March 2020.

My own sense is that Trump’s recurrent scepticism about the ultimate wisdom of health officials and medical professionals in their views on how to best combat the COVID-19 pandemic still strikes a responsive chord with much of the US public.

I do myself finally prefer our Canadian political leaders’ broad support for the health experts’ strategy (“go home and stay home” as Justin Trudeau has advised all of us who are not working in some essential service). This is the most prudent path to follow in our current circumstances. But it does also seem to me that much remains uncertain about current public policy on all fronts.

Trump is voicing this uncertainty. And until it becomes altogether clear that following what the health experts are saying very rigorously and absolutely really will mean more lives saved, there will no doubt be an appetite for President Trump’s scepticism among many Americans.

At the same time again, as someone over 70 with an underlying respiratory condition from too many (now bygone) years of smoking, I am increasingly finding TV reports about COVID-19 from medical professionals on the front lines in, eg, New York City, disturbing. There are clearly much better ways of dying.

Born-in-Canada US comedian Samantha Bee, from her home during the coronavirus crisis : “I feel like Sam Bee from 14 days ago is a completely different person from Sam Bee today … I don’t even feel particularly certain that an election will happen.”

I take heart from such current news as “101-year-old Italian man released from hospital after recovering from coronavirus.”

And I was at least agreeably amused by a joke an artistic friend passed along via email yesterday morning : “Well, it’s come to the point where I’m giving up drinking for a month … That came out wrong … I’m giving up! Drinking for a month.”

Finally, I should duly note, of course, that virtually no one in the USA today is really interested in what Canada may or may not be doing differently, about COVID-19 or anything else.

As the “strategic adviser to the US government,” Edward Luttwak, nicely explained in a recent London Review of Books, there is always “the inherent self-absorption of all very large polities” to take into account.

Canada has not quite 38 million people today. The United States has more than 327 million. (Even if Canada is actually slightly larger than the USA geographically — and is in fact the second largest country in the world geographically, after Russia!)

Citizen X on COVID-19 update north of the lakes — “How Deep is the Ocean?” .. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”

Posted: March 24th, 2020 | No Comments »
Canadian forces put on streets of Montreal by PM Pierre Trudeau during the October Crisis of 1970.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MARCH 24, 2020. I want to stress that I like the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who comes on TV somewhat before lunch these days, from the porch just outside his current democratically ordinary-looking residence in “Rideau Cottage,” to tell us where our Canada-wide fight against the COVID-19 pandemic stands.

I’m not averse either to the latest gunslinger version of a PM Trudeau broadly hinted at yesterday (and alluded to again today). As CBC News reported : “Go home and stay home, Trudeau tells Canadians as government warns of COVID-19 enforcement measures … Random inspections, hotlines could be on the way to enforce rules to limit spread of virus.”

“Facial Recognition # 1” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, March 2020.

CTV News was slightly more restrained (surprisingly?) : “‘Enough is enough’: PM says people must follow COVID-19 health measures, commits funds for vaccine.” The CTV report also underlined an especially provocative remark by the 2020 edition of Prime Minister Trudeau : “Listening is your duty and staying home is your way to serve.”

All this can remind we aging Canadians of an earlier Prime Minister Trudeau’s steely 1970 response to an earlier human (if rather more political) disaster, when “Troops, tanks roam Quebec streets during the October Crisis.” Pierre Trudeau had his critics on his tough October Crisis action, among elites in both official languages. But we in the great masses admired his backbone.

Yet, having said all this, like many ordinary citizens, taxpayers, and voters I also find myself wondering about many things these days, as I stay home and ponder the historic trials and tribulations of humanity in our time.

This morning, no doubt in response to all the unsettled thoughts that sleep had not dispelled, I woke up with two classics from the Great American Songbook (1920s to 1950s) stuck in my mind : “How Deep Is the Ocean” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

Irving Berlin at the piano (bottom left) with friends in Hollywood, 1936. In front row right, singing together, are Chico and Harpo Marx. AP Photo.

“How Deep Is the Ocean” was invented in 1932 by Irving Berlin — born in Russia, moved to New York City with his family when he was 5 years old in 1893, and died at 101 in 1989 at 17 Beekman Place in Manhattan. As Wikipedia explains : “The song was written at a low point in Berlin’s professional and personal life.” It was a huge hit in 1932, “and brought Berlin back to the top again.” Like so much he wrote its melody and lyrics are simple but beguiling and powerful: “How much do I love you? / I’ll tell you no lie / How deep is the ocean? / How High is the Sky?”

If the year 1932 proved good for Irving Berlin, others were not so lucky. It marked the depths of the US Great Depression, with a December unemployment rate of 23.6%. It was also the year that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Republican President Herbert Hoover in a landslide, and began the New Deal that would do so much for the modern US welfare state, such as it is. (Democrats won control of both the House and Senate in 1932 as well.)

“Facial Recognition # 3” by Michael Seward, March 2020.

Two original 1932 recordings of “How Deep Is the Ocean?” can be sampled on YouTube today. One is by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with vocal by Jack Fulton. The other is by “Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees,” with vocal and C melody saxophone solo by Mr Vallee himself.

Some 14 years later, in 1946, in the wake of the Second World War (“the deadliest military conflict in history” in which an “estimated total of 70–85 million people perished”), a somewhat more hip version of “How Deep Is the Ocean” was recorded by a 30-year-old Frank Sinatra “with Axel Stordahl arranging and conducting.” It “was released as a 78 RPM single by Columbia Records.” Sinatra recorded the tune some 14 years later again in 1960, in his mid 40s and “with Nelson Riddle during his Capitol period.”

Wikipedia lists 16 other recordings. My personal favourite is the very hip instrumental from the alto saxophone jazz giant Charlie Parker, late in 1947 (not long after the first Sinatra vocal). The power of the melody comes through in Parker’s playing, just decorated by his astonishing pyrotechnics. Two takes from the 1947 session can be sampled on YouTube today. Both include a trombone solo by J.J. Johnson, and a concluding chorus by a youthful Miles Davis on trumpet, playing in his lyrical later style and not trying in vain to match Parker’s phenomenal technique. As an added wrinkle 1947 was also the year Irving Berlin and his family moved into the five-story house on Beekman Place, where he would finally pass away at 101 in 1989.

Charlie Parker at Carnegie Hall in New York, 1947.

Finally, to me at least the relevance of the question “How Deep Is the Ocean” in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic ought to be obvious. What everyone would like to know but no one clearly does is just how deep the pandemic will be. When will those of us following the official advice to “Go home and stay home” be able to go back to work, theatres, sports events, restaurants, bars, and on and on and on? (And when, many already exhausted parents are no doubt wondering, will the children be going back to school?)

Meanwhile, Duke Ellington’s 1943 classic “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is also bound to mean something to all of us who are, again, following the official advice to “Go home and stay home.” Ellington was born in Washington, DC in 1899 and passed away in New York City in 1974, at the age of 75. He wrote remarkably urbane and sophisticated American popular music. As Wikpedia explains : “A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions … the largest recorded personal jazz legacy … many of his pieces” have “become standards.”

“Duke Ellington at the piano with his band in 1945. (Michael Ochs Achives / Getty Images).”

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was “originally entitled ‘Never No Lament’ and … first recorded by Duke Ellington and his orchestra” in 1940. It became a hit as “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” after “Bob Russell wrote its lyrics in 1942.” Two different recordings, “one by The Ink Spots and the other by Ellington’s own band, reached No. 1 on the R&B chart in the US in 1943” (a year or so after Franklin Roosevelt’s New-Deal USA finally joined the Second World War). The Ink Spots version can be sampled on YouTube today. It includes Bob Russell’s verse, as well as the better-known chorus : “When I’m not playing solitaire / I take a book down from the shelf / And what with programs on the air / I keep pretty much to myself.”

This tune from the Second World War in the first half of the 1940s can also mean something to some of us in the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, as we go home and stay home, following the advice of various governments (federal, provincial, and local in Canada, and no doubt similar locations in other democratic federal systems around the global village).

Meanwhile yet again, back in the real world of early spring 2020, I have been struck and even somewhat surprised by one of yesterday’s headlines : “More than a million Canadian citizens and permanent residents returned home last week … Repatriation flights headed to Peru, Morocco, Spain, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala.” (The editors have also asked me to mention that this site will be trying to keep pace with this very fast-moving story over the next several weeks, at least more often than over the past few weeks. We do suddenly seem in a strange new era that begs for further thought, while at least many of us remain obediently at home, with time on our hands!)

“If you want to know what a panic looks like this is it” (while Biden “has won in states where he barely made an effort”??)

Posted: March 12th, 2020 | No Comments »
Kriti Gupta, raised in Dallas, now works in New York, contemplating the latest upheavals in global financial markets.

[UPDATED MARCH 13, 17]. 3/12/2020. TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA [all Indigenous North American words]. I awoke this northern morning to the wisdom of Kriti Gupta from New York on our local Bloomberg Business News, explaining the latest stock market meltdown in the wake of the coronavirus, low oil prices, and on and on.

(Ms Gupta succinctly advised : “If you want to know what a panic looks like this is it.”)

Meanwhile, back at Democracy in America, for the second Tuesday in a row Joe Biden (“the moderate progressive”) has almost decisively moved ahead of his one remaining opponent Bernie Sanders (“the revolutionary progressive”) in the 2020 Democratic primary season.

It is no surprise that Bernie will soldier on somewhat longer. There is a debate ahead (Sunday, March 15, in Phoenix, Arizona, “without an audience,” in deference to the “coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the nation.”) Bernie might well look better than Joe in this contest between two almost dead white males.

“Digital World 1” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, March 2020.

And then there are Democratic primaries on Tuesday, March 17 in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. Current polls show Biden leading in all four cases. But from the standpoint of almost all the smart money less than a month ago, it is a miracle that Joe Biden is where he is now! [UPDATE : As of early in the morning, March 17, Ohio seems to have backed out of its primaries. See “Ohio governor announces polls will be closed Tuesday over coronavirus .”]

So Bernie is bound to hang on until at least March 17, hoping for another miracle in his direction this time. And exit polls from the last two contests apparently do suggest that Biden is finally winning as older Democrats make up their minds. But Bernie still commands the young and does well among the middle-aged.

The problem remains (in a stronger than usual case of a broader trend?) that more older voters are showing up to vote. The weight of the smart money at this exact moment says Biden is, after all, going to be the Democratic man who will face the Republican Wizard of the White House on November 3 this year.

According to Frank Bruni in yesterday’s New York Times, already “it’s not too soon to imagine what Biden’s general-election campaign would ideally look like.”

“Digital World 2″ by Michael Seward, March 2020.

The part of Mr. Bruni’s early imaginings that lingers clearest in my mind is : “Americans aren’t looking for a superhero, and Biden’s success in the Democratic primary has shown that campaign events and retail politics aren’t the be-all and end-all. He has won in states where he barely made an effort, and that’s because his brand transcended traditional campaign mechanics.”

It may just be me. But I think this sounds a little like the political methodology of Donald Trump. Traditional experts are even more often wrong in politics than in other walks of life. And the experts who specialize in traditional campaign mechanics are no exception.

You could say of Trump as well that his brand transcends traditional campaign mechanics. (I am old enough myself to find this use of the adman word “brand” not very helpful in talk about politics, but I of course concede I’m in a minority here in 2020.)

In any case does this mean that after much wandering in the wilderness lately the US Democrats finally have come up with the best candidate to face Donald Trump on November 3 — even if he is someone who much smart money was rejecting less than a month ago?

Or is this just more wishful thinking? In the spirit of : If Joe Biden is now almost certainly going to be the Democratic candidate for the November election, all of us in the good guys’ camp (even in Canada, where we don’t actually vote in American elections) might as well believe he is the Democrat best able to beat Donald Trump like a drum?

In any case again, Donald Trump is not really a serious political philosopher like Bernie Sanders at all. But there do seem a few senses in which Trump and Biden have almost too much in common in their populist appeal. (While the good thing about Biden is that it seems easy to believe he will nonetheless hire and listen to staff who have the devil that lies in the details covered — and/or phone Barack Obama when truly in doubt about the very deep weeds.)

Whatever, right now we live at a time when Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is “self-isolating as wife Sophie awaits result of COVID-19 test.” [UPDATE : As of early morning March 13 Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has in fact tested positive for COVID-19. PM has not yet been tested because he is still not showing symptoms.]

And “Florida Sen. Rick Scott in Self-Quarantine After Potential Contact With Brazilian Official … who tested positive for the new coronavirus, also posted photo with President Trump.”

With recent decisions by major sports organizations in mind, you may even be wondering if the November 3, 2020 US presidential election will somehow finally be called off too (well …).

Just when the Democrats have finally landed on the guy who really can beat the current Republican Wizard of the White House like a drum!

(And of course all this is quite crazy … but we increasingly do seem to be passing through a glut of even crazier times than what we have already been living with for longer than is no doubt healthy … and at the moment no one really seems to know just how much longer they will last!)

Our quick and dirty report on the Ontario Liberal leadership convention, Saturday, March 7, 2020 ..

Posted: March 9th, 2020 | No Comments »
“astronomical/biological interface” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, March 2020.

We watched the Ontario Liberal Party’s Saturday, March 7, 2020 leadership vote — in the International Centre in Mississauga — at our more easterly Ganatsekwyagon headquarters, some 150 yards from Lake Ontario’s soothing waters on a sunny day.

In the main 2nd-floor boardroom we had the excellent cp24 coverage on the big-screen TV. In the nearby chief editor’s back office, looking out the window at still leafless trees, we had Steve Paikin’s excellent video coverage from the TV Ontario site.

The long and short was explained by CBC News : “About 3,000 people attended the two-day leadership contest, co-chaired by federal Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland and interim provincial leader John Fraser.”

The event started Friday night with a tribute to former provincial Liberal leader and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Speeches from the six leadership candidates and then the final vote took place on Saturday.

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates 2020, l to r : Winner Steven Del Duca, Brenda Hollingsworth, MPP Mitzie Hunter, Alvin Tedjo, Kate Graham, MPP Michael Coteau.

In the end, as widely predicted, former Wynne cabinet minister Steven Del Duca “won in a first ballot landslide with 58.5 per cent of the vote at a delegated convention … Current Liberal MPP Michael Coteau was Del Duca’s closest rival, taking 17 per cent of the 2,140 votes cast.”

Whatever else, our widely agreed-on counterweights impression from both cp24 and TV Ontario was that this is certainly not a political party about to subside into the dust of Ontario political history. At one point Steve Paikin himself alluded to the “spirit in the room.”

As far as the speeches from the half dozen candidates go, many on both cp24 and TV Ontario were impressed by the self-confessed “small-town girl from southwestern Ontario” Kate Graham. She gave an unusual speech which (Mr. Paikin underlined) included the word “bullshit” and ended with a song. In conversation with Mr. Paikin, both Deb Matthews and Kathleen Wynne had good things to say about Ms. Graham’s future in the Liberal party.

“Les Fleurs de Temp” by Michael Seward, March 2020.

Our own counterweights editors group at our more easterly Ganatsekwyagon headquarters was somewhat more impressed by Michael Coteau’s speech, with its recurrent allusions to Ontario political history, going back 200 years. With us as well Mitzie Hunter’s enthusiastic panegyric on the Ontario Liberal future came in a very strong second (or in one or two cases first).

Ultimately we also think Kathleen Wynne was right, as well as suitably diplomatic, when she told Steve Paikin that all six candidates had made strong speeches, including Ottawa lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth and even the much predicted winner Steven Del Duca.

Mr. Del Duca won in the end because he managed to recruit by far the largest number of voting delegates to the convention. He proved himself “a good organizer.” And that may do the Ontario Liberals as much good as anything else between now and the 2022 provincial election.

At the same time, as many have noted Steven Del Duca does lack “charisma.” In some ways the six leadership candidates together were more impressive than any single individual. And as the world looks right now, the prospects of the Ontario Liberals under Mr. Del Duca’s leadership depend a lot on the current “vulnerability” of the Ford Conservatives, and the current somewhat listless state of Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats.

Federal Liberal and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who co-chaired the March 7 Ontario Liberal event with interim leader John Fraser, added some further weight and heft to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, federal Liberal MP Judy Sgro’s daughter told Steve Paikin that the Ontario Liberals’ big mistake in 2018 was not “listening” hard enough. Convention delegate Don Matheson, a Del Duca supporter, told cp24 that the“Liberal Party wasn’t listening to what the needs of the people of Ontario were” in 2018.

Whatever else, the March 6–7, 2020 Ontario Liberal leadership convention finally looked better than almost anything else about the race. (And the co-chairing by federal deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland added to this look.) Meanwhile again, our guess is that Steven Del Duca does have to prove himself over the next two years. His organizing talents may finally compensate for his charismatic deficit … or not!

Meanwhile yet again, an EKOS poll published January 23, 2020 showed Libs 36%, Cons 31%, NDP 21%, Greens 9%. But a Campaign Research poll that appeared February 11 reported Cons 30%, Libs 30%, NDP 26%, Greens 11%.

Green Party leader (and sole MPP) Mike Schreiner may be onto something when he says about Mr. Del Duca : “I am not sure that someone associated with the old guard of [the] Liberal establishment and embroiled in past controversies can deliver the leadership that Ontario needs.” (It is also a problem of sorts that the new Liberal leader does not have a seat in the legislature at the moment.)

This kind of thought was echoed by Conservative and NDP partisans as well. At the same time again, as we saw the universe electronically in our office board room, there was something about March 6–7, 2020 in Mississauga that suggested it would be a serious mistake to write the Liberals off for 2022 — despite their historically worst-ever performance in 2018. And as CBC poll tracker Eric Grenier noted just before the March 7 vote, as matters stand right now the legendary Ford Nation Conservatives are vulnerable indeed.

Deep winter in Ontario 2020 : COVID-19 in global village, Democratic race in US, Bojo in UK, Indigenous blockades across Canada, etc, etc, etc ..

Posted: February 29th, 2020 | No Comments »
“Dreams and Memories” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, February 2020.

GANTSEKWYAGON, ON. 29 FEB 2020. [UPDATED MARCH 1, 4]. Serious snow fell two nights ago, as the TV promised. It is still on the ground, and my deep winter thoughts here are a follow-up to “Just watching TV in early January can fill you with foreboding about the year ahead” — posted on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.

I can of course report that the early January foreboding seems more than justified some seven and a half weeks later.

COVID-19 in global village

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in the world at large CBC News was telling us “WHO reluctant to declare COVID-19 pandemic as coronavirus spreads to more countries.”

Next day the Daily Beast carried on with :“Dow Plunges 700 Points Over Coronavirus Fears.”

Oh and btw : “The S&P 500 is at trading levels not seen since October and the Nasdaq also plunged at the opening bell … making this the worst week for Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis.”

(And, from the same source, same day : “Gasps of horror greet Larry Kudlow’s placement on coronavirus team: ‘Might as well inject the virus into our veins’.”)

Democratic race in US

Hunter S, Thompson (l), author of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, talks with George McGovern (r), who lost to a second term for Richard Nixon in 1972.

Meanwhile, there’s good and bad news if you’re hoping Democrats in the USA today will choose a November 3, 2020 presidential candidate who can prevent a second term for “Trump’s Running US Like Bush Ran Iraq. What Could Go Wrong?

If Bernie Sanders were considerably younger and, say more like JFK (or still better Barack Obama) in dress and manners, I might warm more to the argument that “This Is Not McGovern’s America: Crazy Bernie Can Win It All.”

When President Trump is getting 49% Gallup Poll approval ratings the USA today is already so crazy that … hey why not? If Trump with his mindlessly ideological right-wing agenda can win by electoral college magic, why not Bernie with his mindlessly ideological left-wing etc. And then there would at least be some kind of US movement in progressive new directions.

“Liquid Time” by Michael Seward, February 2022.

It may just be that I am myself too old — unlike the somewhat younger Californians I know best who help explain why Bernie is popular enough right now to put him at the head of a still tight race. But while I agree today is Not McGovern’s America, I lived just next door in the early 1970s too.

Despite remarkable moves ahead in certain sectors over the past several decades (culminating with President Barack Obama, 2008–2016), America does not seem all that different today.

To me at my age, the Bernie Sanders who grew up in Brooklyn and wound up in Vermont does not finally look like a Democratic leader the USA — or the 55–58% of its adult citizens who have actually voted recently — will elect in November 2020.

Like others, I have lately been thinking that Joe Biden is not quite the right fit either. If he does win the South Carolina primary today (Saturday, February 29) by a very strong margin (helped by a warm endorsement from “Congressman Jim Clyburn, representing South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District”), I might think again — one last time?

TV stars Hannah Simon (l) and Zooey Deschanel ( r) stress importance of voting in 2016 US election — a message that ought to ring even louder for Democracy in America in 2020!

I similarly had some enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren earlier. But, as just one case in point, I now see her through my local Ontario eyes as too much like our former Premier Kathleen Wynne, who led her Liberal party to its worst defeat ever in the 2018 provincial election. (And, I should add, despite my personal enthusiasm and support for Premier Wynne’s quite progressive government, and her almost surprising earlier win in the 2014 Ontario election.)

In the end I was pleased to see that the late-entry billionaire populist “Mike Bloomberg” did better in a February 26, 2020 Town Hall than he has so far done in two debates with his fellow candidates. (“Bloomberg finds his footing in town hall format.”)

Like others on this site, I’m starting to think (so far at any rate) that everything considered, Mike Bloomberg (especially with an African American running mate) just might be the right guy in the right place at the right time. But a week is a long time in politics … and the US Democratic Convention is not until July 13–16, 2020, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

UPDATE MARCH 1: Joe Biden has in fact taken the South Carolina Democratic primary quite decisively.

In round numbers : Biden 48%, Sanders 20%, Steyer 11%, Buttigieg 8%, Warren 7%, Others 5%.

Personally I still don’t know just what I think of this at the moment.

I’ll probably wait and see just how well Mike Bloomberg does in the big Super Tuesday Democratic primaries this coming March 3.

Meanwhile, both Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg have now withdrawn from the race.

Stay tuned. More to come on Tuesday … and far beyond. As at least the progressive and somewhat less crazy side of the USA today struggles to somehow grow beyond the current too crazy fake-news Wizard in the White House.

UPDATE MARCH 4, 2:30 AM ET : The Globe and Mail in Toronto has summarized the results of the March 3 Super Tuesday Democratic primaries in the USA quite succinctly : “Super Tuesday: Biden has big night, Sanders takes California as Democratic race narrows.”

For the New York Times report see “Super Tuesday 2020 Live Updates: Polls Close and Winners Are Called.” Broadly, as it looks right now, Biden has taken Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and probably Maine. Sanders has won in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont.

Bloomberg has taken only American Samoa! My own immediate conclusion is of course that he is clearly no longer the guy to watch, largely because Biden has suddenly come back to life. The race now is between “moderate” Joe Biden and “revolutionary” Bernie Sanders, with Biden once again the most likely Democratic candidate on November 3.

Who would have thought this could happen as recently as a week ago? I confess I have no idea whether it all may change again, though that seems unlikely. I’m waiting to hear more from both Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren — and from Bill Maher this coming Friday night!

Bojo in UK

Boris Johnson celebrates massive majority he won in House of Commons with less than 44% of the popular vote in December 12, 2019 UK election.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the United States in the midst of change and god knows what else — and that’s part of what makes so many parts of planet earth so fascinating if also intermittently discouraging right now.

My first of two further quick notes is from the United Kingdom that the current conservative-majority “colonial” Legislative Assembly of Ontario has recently bowed dutifully to, with its “step backwards” decision to start singing God Save The Queen again, after a long absence.

My recommended text here is “Après Brexit … Ferdinand Mount on the new orthodoxy” in the 20 February 2020 issue of the London Review of Books — which strikes me as well worth reading in detail (and with real literary pleasure), several times and so forth.

To start with, try the Wikipedia article on “Sir Ferdinand, as he is formally styled … regarded as being on the … ‘wet’ side of the Conservative Party,” who “succeeded his uncle, Sir William Mount, in the family title as 3rd baronet in 1993, but prefers to remain known as Ferdinand Mount.”

Ferdinand Mount’s “liberal Toryism” (his own words) — inherited from, whatever else, some genuinely brilliant British aristocrats who for a time in the 19th century ran “the greatest empire since Rome” with some success — is critical of Boris Johnson’s right-wing “simplifying of democracy,” which may be generating “a sort of low-tar fascism which you don’t actually have to inhale.”

Indigenous blockades across Canada, etc, etc, etc …

“Geological Quandry” by Michael Seward, February 2020.

Finally, living where I do I can’t leave this current moment without at least noting the recent wave of Canada-wide Indigenous protests, ostensibly over a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia through territory claimed by the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en first nation.

(And note that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in Canada’s Pacific Northwest have been especially strongly backed by Indigenous activists from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory reserve on the Bay of Quinte in southeastern Ontario — who for a time blockaded considerable railroad traffic in central Canada.)

Like many others again, I believe there is more to all this than meets the eye. And I hope I live long enough to say more about it sometime, for myself at least. Meanwhile I just note that my views generally are similar to those of my colleague on this site, Randall White, in his recent contribution to the Ontario News Watch site, “Indigenous Peoples Were “Fundamental to the Growth of Canadian Institutions.”

I’d add to that Thomas Walkom’s “Blockades have exposed the contradictions of Justin Trudeau’s ambitious reconciliation agenda” in a recent Toronto Star. On a very last note see also the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute polling organization on “Half of Canadians call for patience; half support use of force to remove anti-CGL blockades.” And, of course, of course, stay tuned for further foreboding news about the year whose lion’s share still lies ahead.

UPDATE MARCH 1. See today’s ambiguous but still interesting report on the CBC News site : “Wet’suwet’en chiefs, ministers reach tentative arrangement over land title but debate over pipeline continues … Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader says they remain opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.”

Will Michael Bloomberg unmask the fake Wizard of Oz in the White House at last?

Posted: February 10th, 2020 | No Comments »

[UPDATED FEB 19, 20]. One particular strange thing about Steve Bannon’s appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Friday, February 7, 2020, was his portrayal of Boris Johnson’s Brexit- at-last on January 31 as an achievement of Donald Trump.

In a similar vein I do not at all agree with the Daily Beast assessment that “Steve Bannon Outduels and Embarrasses Bill Maher on ‘Real Time’.”

Bannon is a bright guy with some talent. But he lives in a political fantasyland, where Donald Trump in the White House can somehow magically move Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, 3500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

(In another region of the global village Steve Bannon also seems to think that Jared Kushner’s Middle East Peace Plan has been a success. And I’d agree with President Trump himself that Bannon’s downscale casual clothing is terminally vexatious.)

Donkey party in trouble …

Panel on Real Time with Bill Maher, February 7, 2020.

As an objective political analyst, Bill Maher agreed with Steve Bannon that “your boy had the best week so far.”

(For as hard as the evidence can get, try the almost latest polling on Trump’s approval rating at, eg, FiveThirtyEight, especially the Gallup Poll, and/or Real Clear Politics.)

Like other Democrats on US TV lately, Maher believes the followers of the historic donkey party are in trouble. He thinks they have to start aggressively re-thinking and re-organizing, with the November 3, 2020 election foremost in mind. (Or so at least his February 7 message struck me.)

I think Bill Maher effectively used his February 7 interview with Steve Bannon to make this point — which was then taken up on “Real Time” by a stimulating panel of Andrew Gillum, Sarah Isgur, and Ezra Klein, joined by Fareed Zakaria at the end.

But … “Trump slammed the phone down on Boris Johnson”

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson walk to a working breakfast at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. (Photo by Erin Schaff / POOL / AFP).

I am myself as worried as any non-right-wing fanatic who lives in Canada and does not vote in American elections can reasonably be.

Yet I do think as well that there are potential upsides for the cause of the free and democratic society in today’s American political turbulence. One of them is the headline : “Trump slammed the phone down on Boris Johnson after an ‘apoplectic’ call with the prime minister.”

In fact, that is to say (and contrary to the political thought of Steve Bannon), Donald Trump cannot get Boris Johnson across the sea to just do what Trump wants, in the depths of his possibly even religiously inspired leadership of the free world (or at least that part of it inside the USA today).

According to the Business Insider account by “Adam Bienkov Feb 7, 2020, 5:21 AM” : “President Donald Trump reportedly hung up on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after what officials described as an ‘apoplectic’ call last week …

“Trump ended the call by ‘slamming the phone down,’ a source told the Evening Standard … The call, which one source described to the Financial Times as ‘very difficult,’ came after Johnson defied Trump and gave the Chinese telecoms company Huawei the rights to develop the UK’s 5G network …

“Trump’s fury was triggered by Johnson backing Huawei despite Trump and his allies’ threats that the United States would withdraw security cooperation with the UK if the deal went ahead … The Sun reported on Friday that Johnson had pushed back a planned trip to Washington to March, adding that it ‘may be pushed back still further.’”

Has Trump just peaked prematurely for November 3?

Even the lovely Bernie Sanders supporter AOC would vote for “Mike Bloomberg” on November 3 if he became the Democratic presidential candidate? Right?

Adam Bienkov’s report in full is worth looking at (as above or CLICK HERE) — for various intriguing details of life at two intermingling tops.

But the larger significance of this particular US-UK/Trump-Johnson dispute may be that the not-at-all-insignificant political forces in American society Donald Trump has so successfully managed to appoint (anoint?) himself leader of have peaked too early in 2020.

The self-willed optimistic note I’ve finally left my understanding of February 3–7, 2020 in American politics on is that I can somehow magically see signs the Democrats are in fact finally going to rise to the challenge Bill Maher and others on US TV have been raising.

Maher nicely ended his starting Steve Bannon interview with “I Wish We Had Someone On Our Side As Evil As You.” Yet the rest of his February 7 show with Andrew Gillum, Sarah Isgur, Ezra Klein, and Fareed Zakaria (to say nothing of the host himself) showed that our Democratic or just democratic side — bolstered by various anti-Trump Republicans and Independents — has lots of good people ready to play hardball (as Chris Matthews might say etc).

Is Michael Bloomberg one way ahead?

Donald Trump speaks to Michael Bloomberg during a memorial service in New York on 11 September 2016. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images.”

Maybe they are just starting to play in earnest now. And maybe they finally will choose Michael Bloomberg (who will choose Andrew Gillum as a VP running mate, say).

And the fact that seems so obvious in California today, eg — that Democrats in the end really are smarter and do have more money than Republicans — will on November 3 finally defeat Donald Trump (who doesn’t really have that much money at all, etc).

Steve Bannon thinks all this is something to make jokes about. But that’s because he does live in a political fantasyland. In fact, President Trump’s track record since he took office early in 2017 has been light years from one uninterrupted success story. He inherited a growing economy from the Obama administration — which he has not yet managed to sabotage. Beyond this virtually nothing he has done has made ultimate sense or shown any serious staying power (except his right-wing judicial appointments and impressive mass media savvy — and possibly NAFTA 2).

Mike Bloomberg on the Dallas Morning News in Texas, January 11, 2020.

Michael Bloomberg (who is so much richer than Trump in the real world) could be the guy to dramatize just how profoundly Donald Trump has failed on the issues that matter most to most Americans. Bill Clinton’s labor secretary Robert Reich (who now teaches at Berkeley) has reservations about Bloomberg (not unlike those that Steve Bannon finds amusing). But he also agrees that : “If the choice comes down to tyrant or oligarch, we must choose the latter.” [UPDATE FEB 19 : Reich has now come out as altogether opposed to a Bloomberg candidacy.]

Evolution of US-UK relationship between now and Democratic Convention in July

The ongoing development of the relationship between the Trump administration and the new Johnson government in the UK — between now and the July 13–16 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — may also say a lot about just how good shape the Trump Republicans are really (NOT) in for November 3.

President Trump in the past, eg, has at least briefly suggested that getting rid of the UK’s National Health Service could be one price of the kind of new US-UK trade deal that would make Brexit a practical success. (To level the playing field in both countries etc.)

Similar politically insane notions (from Boris Johnson’s point of view) may gradually start to drive home the point that even a Conservative UK today really does have more in common with the European Union than with Donald Trump’s USA. (And, more importantly for November 3, they could take some useful message to the US domestic electorate as well.)

Boris Johnson promoting his novel, Seventy-Two Virgins, some 15 years ago.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s analysis of Boris Johnson in the February 13, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books (“The Opportunist Triumphant”) is far from laudatory. And no doubt the political constituencies of “Bojo” and “Trump” do have a few things in common. But my guess at the moment is that, as opportunistic as he may well be, Boris Johnson is not really very much like Donald Trump at all. (Johnson, eg, has actually written a novel — called Seventy-Two Virgins. As best as I can make out Donald Trump has never even read one.) [UPDATE FEB 19 : Bojo has more recently come under further fire from the Trump administration over Huawei — and from critics in Australia and even within his own party in the UK! I continue to wonder how worried he is about all this myself.]

Still much room for concern, of course …

I end on the note that there of course remain a good many reasons for me (and so many others like me) to be as worried as any non-right-wing fanatic who lives in Canada and does not vote in American elections can reasonably be.

But, in the midst of all the obvious sorrow surrounding the partisan impeachment of President Trump in the US House followed by his opposite partisan acquittal in the Senate, the underlying vibe I seem to be getting is that Democracy in America is far from dead yet!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 20 : A half-dozen key current articles online suggest a number of recent related developments. (I also understand the counterweights technical support experts in California currently seem to think Bernie Sanders is the man. I myself and a few others I know up north in Canada, where most of us don’t vote in US elections, are still thinking more seriously about the testy non-populist billionaire Mike Bloomberg.)

In more or less chronological order the articles are : “72% OF DEMOCRATIC VOTERS BELIEVE BERNIE SANDERS WOULD BEAT TRUMP IN 2020 ELECTION, NEW POLL SHOWS” (Newsweek) ; “Poll: Trump edges out all top 2020 Democratic candidates except Sanders” (The Hill) ; “‘MIKE WOULD HAVE DINNER PARTIES AND PISS ALL OVER OBAMA’: WHY OBAMAWORLD IS MAD ABOUT BLOOMBERG’S OBAMA” (Vanity Fair) ; “A VERY BAD NIGHT FOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG IN A CHAOTIC DEMOCRATIC DEBATE” (The New Yorker) ; “Winners and losers from the Democratic debate in Las Vegas … Make no mistake about it, Bloomberg had a dreadful night” (The Hill) ; Maybe Michael Bloomberg wasn’t as awful as he looked” (Raw Story).

My parting thoughts at almost 6 PM ET Feb 20 on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario are “It’s not over till it’s over” and (with apologies to Winston Churchill) : “the Americans finally do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else first.”

Is new Liberal non-strategy working well enough (except for the monarchy)?

Posted: January 29th, 2020 | No Comments »
“passing thoughts” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, January 2020.

The most striking political thing I’ve heard lately came from a lady on the 39th floor of a downtown Toronto residential tower — over grapes, nuts and Perrier water, looking south out a big window on the naked city in all its current wonder.

She follows Canadian federal politics with real interest, but without any great pretence of the sort so many of us over-persuaded by our own wisdom frequently exhibit. And she is starting to wonder if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is even going to run in the next election.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to members of caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, January 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.”

She has seen how the once ebullient 40-something PM — even viewed through the inexact media prisms we ordinary voters rely on — has seemed different, much quieter say, since the October 2019 election, in which his Liberal “natural governing party of Canada” won only a minority government.

(As have various earlier incarnations of Liberal governments on the old Ottawa River canoe route, including Justin Trudeau’s father’s in 1972. And as did two of Stephen Harper’s three recent Conservative governments, in 2006 and 2008.)

After some deliberation the view that PM Trudeau may not even run in the next Canadian federal election finally strikes me as an interesting extreme explanation of the unusually big role he has given Chrystia Freeland in his new cabinet.

In any case I’d of course agree that, especially since he returned from his year-end holidays with a greying beard, he does seem more cautious and less warm and friendly than he was after his first majority government win in the 2015 election.

Now there’s the estimable Chris Hall on the CBC News site as well : “If there’s anything to be said about the Liberal minority government so far, it’s this: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his inner circle don’t seem to be in a hurry to do much of anything.”

Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in Edmonton, late November 2019. (Amber Bracken/CP).

Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez has responded to Mr. Hall’s recent queries with : “We have a full set of agenda that’s coming. Look at the throne speech …”

Chris Hall notes that the “speech, delivered Dec. 5, does provide clues … strengthening the middle class, continuing ‘to walk the road of reconciliation’ with Indigenous people and positioning Canada for success in an uncertain world.”

Abacus Data’s latest Canada-wide opinion poll, taken January 19–20, 2020, also suggests the current Trudeau Liberal non-strategy may be working well enough : “If an election were held at the time of the survey, the Liberals would win 34%, the Conservatives 30% … followed by the NDP at 17%, the Greens at 8%, and the BQ at 6% … In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservatives have a massive 37-point lead over the Liberals. In the rest of the country, the Liberals hold a 10-point lead.”

Meanwhile, I offer a note on a suitably less serious issue.

Justin Trudeau and the governor general he appointed (technically through the Queen), Julie Payette — at the December 5, 2019 reading of the Speech from the Throne. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/La Presse Canadienne.

There have been various hints over the past number of years that “senior officials advising Prime Minister Justin Trudeau” include some who believe the federal Liberals should, presumably to help firm up the alleged right wing of their popular support base, at least intermittently show warmth towards the dying embers of the British monarchy in Canada.

A few days ago the Canadian Press reported that a “memo provided to Trudeau shortly after the Liberals won re-election last fall” noted how an advisory committee established by Stephen Harper “to offer up names” for appointments of “the governor general and provincial lieutenant-governors” has not met since the 2015 election.

As explained by the Canadian Press : “The task of coming up with candidates for vice-regal appointments — including Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who was named in 2017 — has been left with the Prime Minister’s Office and its bureaucratic arm, the Privy Council Office.”

The memo sent to Trudeau shortly after the October 2019 election — which the Canadian Press “obtained through the Access to Information Act” — suggested Trudeau consider “re-engaging” the advisory committee to “give greater structure to the identification of potential candidates.”

PM Justin Trudeau with Queen Elizabeth II at Scottish Palace of Holyroodhouse, July 2017.

My own idea of how to choose a “Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada” in the 21st century is the same as my colleague Randall White’s in “Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century.”

And one of my personal big disappointments in the Trudeau Liberals is how ultimately gutless and wimpish they have been in standing up for Canadian parliamentary democracy, and against the future of the aristocratic British monarchy (and even what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called “economic royalists”) in northern North America.

This might not stop me from voting for the Trudeau Liberals when all the alternatives are considered. But it does stop me from giving money and joining in on what they recurrently seem to be casting as a serious progressive political movement.

It‘s worth remembering, I think, that even at the peak of their electoral popularity in the 2015 election the Trudeau Liberals — like the Harper Conservatives before them — won a majority government with no more than 40% of the Canada-wide popular vote.

My own guess is also that the Liberals could become something like a real majority party of progress in Canada today if they ever did move solidly onto what the Constitution Act. 1982 calls the “free and democratic” bandwagon, and plan for some polite and constructive disengagement from the monarchy in Buckingham Palace across the seas (more or less like the Labor Party in Australia?), at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Looking south at downtown Toronto on a snowy early evening in December. GETTY IMAGES/Katrin Ray Shumakov.

The ultimate problem here, it may be, is that too many of the senior officials who might write memos in this direction are in the NDP! Even so … as I return to my memories of the 39th floor over grapes, nuts and Perrier water, deep downtown in the current largest Canadian metropolis, I recall how on our last visit the same political lady suggested that if it weren’t for the resurgence of the Bloc Québécois Justin Trudeau would have won a majority government in 2019 as well.

That I think is altogether true — which almost makes me start to wonder if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is even going to run in the next election myself.

But for the moment I’m still guessing he will.

Getting real about Harry and Meghan in Canada 2020 (or is this really the future we want to go back to?)

Posted: January 18th, 2020 | No Comments »
“Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pose for a group photo at the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on Jun. 26, 2018. (John Stillwell/AP Pool Photo/CP).”

From a Canadian point of view, it probably does make some kind of sense that, as the Queen has recently informed us, Harry and Meghan will be going through “a period of transition in which” they “will spend time in Canada and the UK.”

As suggested by Philippe Lagassé, described in the New York Times as “an expert on the British monarchy at Carleton University in Ottawa,” this particular royal transition in Canada strikes at least some residents of the place as a “vindication of the Canadian way of life.”

Philippe Lagassé, associate professor and Barton Chair at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Yet Mr. Lagassé, in his talk with the Times’ “Canada correspondent” Dan Bilefsky, also “floated a view that, hypothetically, the federal Parliament could make Harry and Meghan king and queen of Canada.”

But “he stressed that a majority of Canadians would be unlikely to support that.” And “support for the monarchy generally remained lukewarm at best in a country where many viewed constitutional ties to the crown as a historical relic rather [than] a necessity.”

At the same time, according to another source : “More than 60 per cent of Canadians said they support the appointment of Prince Harry to governor general, a Postmedia poll has found.”

Or, more exactly : “In a poll conducted for Postmedia by Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada, 61% of Canadians said they support Harry taking on the iconic government role … Even 47% of Quebec respondents thought it would be a good idea.”

There are two main answers to what is wrong with this poll — especially if you share my own grass-roots hopes and passionate aspirations for the future of an independent Canadian republic, rooted in the “free and democratic society” already alluded to in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that begins the Constitution Act, 1982 :

(1) Monarchist bias of the poll conducted for Postmedia by Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada

“Prince Harry chats with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory in Toronto on May 2, 2016. (CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES).”

The Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada poll which finds 61% of Canadians would support a Governor General Prince Harry is, on any careful examination, closer to monarchist political ideology than to any (more or less) objective political science.

Consider, eg, the question the pollster’s online panel was actually asked:

As you may know, the current governor general of Canada is former astronaut Julie Payette who was appointed in 2017 and would normally conclude her service by 2022. The role of the governor general is to represent the monarch and to act as Canada’s head of state. A member of the royal family may serve in this position.

Meghan Markle and friend back in the day in Toronto, wearing a Blue Jays baseball hat.

The Queen’s grandson, Prince Harry, has often visited Canada and his wife Meghan lived in the country for years. Given this, how supportive would you be in having Prince Harry serve as the next Governor General of Canada? … [Choose One] … Very, Somewhat , Not very, Not at all.

Only 28% of the online panel, Canada-wide, were “Very Supportive” here. You have to add the only “Somewhat Supportive” group to come up with 61%. And people such as myself are bound to wonder how all the results might have changed, if the Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada panel had been asked a more historically exact question from the second sentence on ; eg :

The role of the “Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada” is to serve as de facto head of state for our present Canadian parliamentary democracy.

From Canadian confederation in 1867 to 1952 governor generals of Canada were British aristocrats. Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, and the third son of Queen Victoria, was the first member of the British royal family to serve as Governor General of Canada (1911–1916). The former Prince Alexander and subsequent Earl of Athlone, who served as Governor General of Canada 1940–1946, was the uncle of King George VI (the present Queen Elizabeth II’s father). The Earl’s wife, Princess Alice, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, third son of Queen Victoria, a few years before he was appointed Governor General of Canada, 1911–1916.

From 1867 until 1931 Canadian governor generals were appointed on the advice of British prime ministers. Since 1931 they have been appointed on the advice of Canadian prime ministers.

Vincent Massey was appointed as the first Canadian Governor General of Canada in 1952. And “from that day the Governor General has always been a Canadian citizen” — not a British aristocrat or a member of the British royal family. Given all this how supportive would you be about having the current British Prince Harry serve as the next Governor General of Canada?

(And on a very final note here, if Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada had been impressively accurate in their 2019 Canadian federal election prediction, three days before the actual vote took place, we would now have a Conservative instead of a Liberal minority government in Ottawa in 2020 — and Justin Trudeau would not still be the Prime Minister of Canada who appointed the current Governor General Julie Payette!)

(2) The different perspectives of the independent Angus Reid Institute poll

The second main answer to what is wrong with the Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada poll which finds 61% of Canadians would support a Governor General Prince Harry comes in the form of another still more recent opinion poll on the broad Harry and Meghan subject by an older, more established polling organization. (Though also one with an arguably somewhat conservative tilt, even if it is formally non-partisan?)

Prince Harry and son Archie in beautiful BC — one part of Canada they’ll likely be spending more time in now. “Photograph By THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF SUSSEX VIA INSTAGRAM.”

The independent Angus Reid Institute “conducted an online survey from January 13 – 14, 2020 among a representative randomized sample of 1,154 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.” The poll asked various questions about Harry and Meghan and the British monarchy in Canada more generally.

Almost all the results are worth contemplating at length. (CLICK HERE, eg.) But the responses to two questions in particular cast quite different light on the subject than the Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada monarchist poll about Prince Harry as a potential Canadian governor general.

The first question highlights what seems the most controversial aspect of Harry and Meghan’s forthcoming time in Canada. It asked : “There will be security and other costs associated with having members of the royal family here. How do you feel Canada should handle this?”

Only 3% of the 1,154 Canadian adults asked by the Angus Reid Institute replied “Pay whatever security and other costs are necessary.” Another 19% opted for “Pay for some of the costs but not all of them.” And a decisive 73% chose “Not pay for any of these costs — they should cover it themselves.”

Another revealing question in the Angus Reid Institute poll asked “Thinking about the royal family, how relevant is it to you personally these days?”

Only 4% of the Canadian adults surveyed replied “More relevant than ever.” Another 31% answered “As relevant as it used to be.” But 25% chose “Becoming less relevant.” And 41% said “No longer relevant at all.”

Conclusion — two and a half cheers for Andrew Cohen’s “welcome Harry and Meghan but ditch the monarchy”

New York Post cover January 9, 2020.

In my own particular Canadian case, I do find Harry and Meghan the most interesting and even admirable British royal celebrities in the third decade of the 21st century.

And if staying here in the vast geography of the most northern North America for a while does give them some relief from the appalling tabloid press in the UK I am all for it. Hip hip hooray, and so forth.

But I am also among the 41% plus 25% (= 66%) who believe (and in my case very strongly) that the monarchy in general is not relevant to the Canadian future today.

The vanished old British imperial past of Governor General Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught (1911-1916) or even the Earl of Athlone whose wife was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria (1940–1946) is not the future I want to see Canada going back to. I think it would be a major political disaster for any current Canadian prime minister to appoint either Prince Harry or his charming wife Meghan Governor General of Canada in or around 2022.

Put another way, I would agree with most of the estimable Andrew Cohen’s excellent recent piece in the Ottawa Citizen : “Canada should welcome Harry and Meghan but ditch the monarchy.”

More exactly, I would warmly welcome the following details in the conclusion of Professor Cohen’s piece : “The next, natural step is to dissolve our ties with the monarchy. This should happen on the death of Queen Elizabeth, when we should make the governor general Canada’s head of state … And no, we should not make Harry the vice-regal representative now, as some star-struck monarchists suggest.”

My disagreement over details turns around Andrew Cohen’s next sentence : “Our new head of state should be a Canadian, chosen by Parliament, or perhaps, by a special conclave of members of the Order of Canada.” I tried to set out my own somewhat different view here a few years ago in “Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century.”

If, however, some popular referendum on the exact method of choosing a new “republican” (or “free and democratic” or just post Elizabeth II) Canadian governor general were to favour Professor Cohen’s suggestions rather than mine, I would of course accept the will of today’s sovereign people of Canada — the real modern rulers of the country, even now, as Harry and Meghan struggle to define their own non-royal future (in a chateau on Vancouver Island or a very big house near Casa Loma in Toronto, or possibly a condo in snowy St. John’s, Newfoundland?).

Just watching TV in early January can fill you with foreboding about the year ahead

Posted: January 7th, 2020 | No Comments »
“Patio Luncheon, Weimar Republic,” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, January 2020.

[UPDATED JANUARY 9, 11, 2020]. On the northwest shore of the smallest North American Great Lake just watching the TV news in the early days of January can fill you with foreboding about the year 2020.

There are the wildfires and extreme heat in Australia. There is flooding in Indonesia. Then “China removes top official in Hong Kong after eight months of anti-government protests.”

And then : “Trump Declares War … It is, of course, possible that Trump is unaware of this” ; “Rockets fired after day of mourning for slain Iranian leader” ; “Anxiety, anticipation in Canada’s largest Iranian diaspora as news of Soleimani’s killing stuns” ; and “Camp Simba: Three Americans killed in Kenya base.”

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia, on December 31, 2019. Matthew Abbott/The New York Times/Redux.

Oh and don’t forget South America. See, eg, Tony Wood in the London Review of Books on “What next for Bolivia?” His conclusion begins : “There can be no doubt that the right is willing to spill blood to get its way: since the October elections, at least thirty people have been killed and more than seven hundred injured by the Bolivian security forces.”

In Canada we have made a lot of noise about our concern for the increasingly unusual wildfire season in our fellow Commonwealth Land of Oz down under. This past Saturday Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne tweeted : “Disturbing developments in Australia. I have been in touch with my counterpart @MarisePayne. Canada stands ready to provide additional assistance as required,”

“Following the killing of Iranian top military officer, Qaseem Soleimani by a US air strike ordered by President Donald Trump … Iraq’s parliament has called for the removal of US troops from the country.”

Yesterday it was reported that “Canadian fire teams flock to Australia to help with wild fires.” More exactly (and down to earth), “86 Canadian personnel have been sent to Australia as of January 6 … The latest deployment will replace the first group of 21 people who left on December 3.”

Here in my local home town “Toronto business donating proceeds to help with Australian fires.” But there are domestic environmental issues as well : “Experts say TTC subway air quality is bad for human health.”

Inevitably, the somewhat strange juxtaposition in the USA just next door, between lingering questions about what may or may not be President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and his sudden provocative sabre rattling on Iran, is on many Canadian minds, especially when some wild and crazy people are actually talking about World War III! (Like certain American comic books of the 1950s in my cousin’s vast collection.)

Kerry Washington at 2020 Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, CA — showing that there has been at least some good news in the new year inside the giant bubble of the USA today.

See, eg, “Lawyer describes chaos at border as Iranian-Canadians report being detained.” (The official US explanation seems to be that this was just delays caused by too many people crossing the border at the end of the holiday season.)

Inside the USA itself it is no doubt also interesting that “John Bolton says he would testify in Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed.” But it seems that Republicans loyal to Trump have enough votes in the Senate to prevent any such subpoena.

I have been especially struck myself by yesterday’s US “Poll: 43 percent approve of Trump strike on Soleimani.”

I am just a Citizen X of course and whadda I know about American foreign policy? But when it comes to serious prospects of World War III I don’t quite see how any successful war can be prosecuted by Democracy in America when only a little better than 40% of the American people will likely support such a thing.

You can say that’s naive and it may be. Look what happened with George W. Bush’s original Iraq War not so long ago.

The political news is at least more attractive still further north : “Meet the new Government of Finland. From left to right: Minister of Education Li Andersson (32), Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni (32), Prime Minister Sanna Marin (34) and Minister of Internal Affairs Maria Ohisalo (34).”

On the other hand, even George W. Bush’s Iraq War was ultimately a response to terrorist attacks on actual American soil, that have no remotely comparable analogues in the “Soleimani’s killing” which has stunned Canada’s Iranian diaspora (concentrated in the Toronto region). And probably the somewhat larger group of the same sort in Los Angeles was stunned as well.

Thoughts of this sort are at any rate helping me get through the night right now.

(Along with the thought that Jean Chretien’s Liberal Party of Canada at least kept us out of the Iraq War back then. Surely Justin Trudeau’s stewardship of the same “natural governing party” would do the same if Donald Trump’s America ever did prove crazy enough to embark on yet another big-time war in the Middle East, if not exactly World War III. And besides President Trump himself is allegedly on record as an opponent of the Iraq War, just like Prime Minister Chretien — if that means anything at all in the wild and crazy USA today.)

PostScript : Here are two intriguing statista charts that I bumped into just after I finished my jottings above : “Australia is Warming Faster than Global Average” by Katharina Buchholz ; and Niall McCarthy on “Where US Troops Are Based In The Middle East.” A Belated Happy New Year as well. X.

UPDATE JANUARY 9, 2020 : Various plots continue to thicken in various directions. The following half-dozen reports on the CBC News site sketch probably the biggest still developing story, from the standpoint of the northwest shore of the smallest North American Great Lake :

US President Donald Trump says no US casualties, Iran appears to be standing down” ; “What we know about the Iran plane crash victims who were headed to Canada … 63 passengers on Flight PS752 were Canadian citizens; many others had ties to the country” ; “Trudeau is just the latest PM to keep his distance from an American act of war” ; “Trudeau says evidence indicates Iranian missile brought down Ukrainian flight” ; “Iran denies that missile brought down Ukrainian airliner despite Canadian, US assertions” ; “So far, Iran is offering Canada only limited access to its crash probe.”

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS’ NOTE : Our commiserations to all those who mourn one or more of the 176 fallen passengers on Flight PS752 out of Tehran — 138 of whom were en route to Canada, and 63 of whom were Canadian citizens. And see this BBC News report from January 9 as well : “Iran plane crash: Why were so many Canadians on board?” We also agree with Citizen X btw that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Government of Canada are handling this difficult issue as it should be handled.

UPDATE JANUARY 11, 2020 : See “Ukrainian plane was ‘unintentionally’ shot down, Iran says … Military blames human error for mistaking jetliner as ‘hostile target’” ; and “57 Canadians confirmed dead in Ukrainian plane crash: Foreign Affairs Minister”. Meanwhile : “Australia urges hundreds of thousands to flee as winds fan huge bushfires … 27 people have been killed and 103,000 square kilometres of land burned” ; and “You’re looking at Canberra, the national capital, from the top of Red Hill. It’s getting worse by the minute. This is not normal!” (And btw, we’re also expecting massive rainfall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada today, and are concerned about basement flooding in our houses. Welcome to 2020.)

Happy new year/bonne année 2020 .. (while trying to remember what happened in Canada, 1976–1992)

Posted: December 31st, 2019 | No Comments »

God only knows just what is going to happen to planet earth in the year 2020 that is about to begin.

Here in Canada we are bound to be paying a lot of attention to the US presidential election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. (Even if the companion Democratic presidential primaries do not seem as interesting as they ought to be.)

Then there will be the unfolding of Boris Johnson’s Brexit in the old mother country of the old British North America — and what may or may not be pressures to boost the nowadays quite modest Canada-UK trading relationship.

Then there is the continuing fascination with (among many other things he wrote) George Orwell’s 1947 speculation : “It may be that Europe is finished and that in the long run some better form of society will arise in India or China.” (As hard as this long run may currently be to see in the lands of Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping!)

We’ve taken some heart lately from stumbling across assorted remarks of the US Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis (1856–1941), especially “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

We’ve taken some heart as well from the recent 2019 Canadian federal election, in which the Justin Trudeau Liberals at least managed to hang on to a minority government (and new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at least managed to show he is up to the job).

We’ve finally also taken a little heart from the good news that our esteemed colleague on this site, Dr. Randall White, has, as promised, finally finished the latest chapter of his current work in progress, tentatively entitled Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497. See “New northern directions (and two lights that failed), 1976–1992.”

We once again caught up with Dr. White (and his alleged mistress in beguiling pig tails) at the local Tim Hortons, across from the Toronto version of Kew Gardens (also available in London, England and Queen’s, New York City). And he elegantly explained why it has taken him so long to complete his chapter on the 16 years of recent Canadian political history between 1976 and 1992 :

“A lot happened over this decade and a half — the first Quebec sovereignty referendum, the ‘patriation’ of Canada’s constitution from the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the new Constitution Act, 1982, the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (soon folded into the North American FTA that included Mexico), and the unsettling failure of Brian Mulroney’s two efforts to win Quebec’s signature on the Constitution Act, 1982, in the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords.”

Dr. White took a sip of Tim Hortons coffee (with one of the new paper cup lids that Justin Bieber has recently called “a damn outrage”), and continued : “It took me quite a while to get it all straight in my head. Whether or not I’ve succeeded is of course for readers to judge. This is in any case easily the longest chapter in the book so far. I am certainly hoping that none of the three chapters which remain will prove to be at all as long.”

The doctor paused again, for another sip of coffee from the outrageous lids, and then concluded : “I am also hoping that I will be very close to the end of the entire project by this time next year, in 2020. Meanwhile, [counterweights managing editor] Jeanne MacDonald and I very warmly wish everyone paying any attention at all a very Happy New Year — and to all a good night.”

(And this New Year’s Eve Day interview, btw, was conducted by Citizen X. Again, you can examine Randall White’s at last completed new chapter here : “New northern directions (and two lights that failed), 1976–1992.” You can also look at all so-far completed chapters in the larger Democracy Since 1497 project at “The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic”, and on the top bar of this page above. Et bonne année 2020! “M’introduire dans ton histoire.”)