Elect the House of Lords! .. Hirsi Ali, Olbermann’s girlfriend, BC natives, on and on ..

Mar 8th, 2007 | By | Category: Key Current Issues

On March 7, 2007 the UK House of Commons unexpectedly “voted 337 to 224 in favor of pursuing legislation to elect the entire” House of Lords. This “would represent a major constitutional shift.” (It’s also a major embarrassment for Canada, still struggling to elect its federal Senate, which was half-modeled on the British House of Lords 140 years ago.) Meanwhile, forget about Scooter Libby : The Dutch “‘Infidel’ Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali” has just brought “Her Incendiary Views on Islam” to Washington. Not too much Internet research reveals that rising MSNBC media star Keith Olbermann, 48, has a 22-year-old girlfriend. (Nice, Keith.) Natives are getting restless in British Columbia too. New DNA research says the English, Irish, and Scots are “all the same.” Stephen Harper has just dumped a tidy chunk of Canadian federal change back into Ontario. And the mad world of the 1960s is deja vu all over again, sort of.

1. House of Lords: More than just another fine cigar …

Back in the real last days of British North America, many decades ago now, your father might have sent you to the corner store from time to time, to purchase a package of House of Lords cigars. (For him of course not you: even in those days children were not supposed to smoke. That only happens on Trailer Park Boys.)

Later in life you discovered that the House of Lords was also a once influential aristocratic political institution across the sea. It would be tedious, up here in today’s forgotten attic of America Junior, to go into any great detail on just what the British House of Commons tried to do to the British House of Lords on March 7, 2007. (If you absolutely must know, check out The Guardian, or the BBC, or The Australian, or CTV, or the New York Times.)

The key things to keep in mind for the moment are that what has happened is, according to the Labour government’s House of Commons leader Jack Straw, “a dramatic result in the history of the British Parliament.” Or as Menzies Campbell, the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, put it: “After nearly 100 years, the House of Commons has at last taken the momentous step to reform the upper house and make it fit for a modern democracy.”

The next key point is that this just marks the beginning of a potentially rather long process of reform, whose exact destination is still less than altogether clear. As explained by Theresa May, the Conservative shadow leader in the House: “Tonight’s votes are a victory for democrats. The House of Commons has clearly expressed a preference for a substantially or wholly elected House of Lords. But this is only a first step.”

As nicely if rather provocatively summarized in The Australian : “The decisions pave the way for one of the most radical constitutional changes in British history … It is almost certain to involve the renaming of the House of Lords … It may still take several years for the change to an elected system to take place. The Lords will vote next week and are expected to reject elections and opt for an appointed second chamber … With both the main parties backing reform, however, the Government is likely to bring forward legislation in the next session of Parliament for an elected House.” The counterweights editors will continue to follow all this, admiringly and from afar, in the old Canadian tradition (English and French). And there will be future progress reports.

Meanwhile, by accident or otherwise, what has happened to date has at least proved considerably more radical than the reforms officially backed by the soon-to-retire Tony Blair’s Labour government. (The series of March 7 Commons votes on the fate of the Lords were “free” – i.e. MP s could vote their consciences without regard to the usual discipline of party whips.) And it all makes Canada’s current tortuous debate on Senate reform look somewhat pathetic. What are we Canadians anyway? Men (and Women too of course)? Or mice?

2. Hirsi Ali arrives in America

The “tall, black, angular, charming,” lapsed-Muslim (and cute) rebel female, Hirsi Ali (a kind of Irsad Manji on speed), has now settled for a time in Washington, compliments of the American Enterprise Institute. And her new memoir Infidel, is currently “at No. 7 on the New York Times bestseller list!”

Her track record to date is impressive – even as it suggests that she can be dangerous to be around. She comes from Somalia, by way of the Netherlands. And: “She was elected to the Dutch parliament, but resigned in a scandal that brought down the ruling party. She scripted an 11-minute film about the Koran and domestic abuse of women that resulted in the throat-slitting assassination of its director, Theo van Gogh, by a Muslim fanatic.”

Over the next while she apparently wants to try her hand at living the American dream. Neely Tucker of the Washington Post predicts that: “Smart, angry, tough, vulnerable: She’ll be a big hit in this country.” But remember: you could get burned if you get too close.

3. Q: What about Keith Olbermann’s girlfriend?

Keith Olbermann of Countdown fame at MSNBC – the new greatest white knight of the real democracy in America on US TV today – has been taking a well-earned (and no doubt much-needed) vacation for most of the week of March 59, 2007. (He couldn’t resist phoning in one item in the midst of the Scooter Libby trial verdict. Other than that he’s been having some attractive female colleagues read his scripts.)

So this seemed a good time to inquire into just what Mr. Olbermann does when he is not carrying forward the great cross of freedom on television every weeknight. You can find out almost anything on the Internet these days, of course, and this is no exception. With regard to the question that counterweights’ own in-house focus group felt most important, note as follows:

Q: What about Keith Olbermann’s girlfriend? … A: What about her? He has a girlfriend. Her name is Katy. She’s 20+ years younger than him. She’s from LA. They share an apartment. Anything beyond that is none of your damn business … Q: Is Keith Olbermann Gay? … A: Since he has a live-in girlfriend, I doubt it.”

No doubt it is none of our damn business, but somewhat more beyond this is now known anyway. E.g., Keith’s “girlfriend of nine months, Katy Tur,” is “a 2005 graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara.” The pair “recently caught Patti Smith’s sixtieth-birthday show in New York.”

There’s still more. Katy’s father is “one Robert Tur,” who owns something called the Los Angeles News Service (LANS). “Bob Tur” is also said to be the “reporter that found O.J. Simpson and broke the LA Riots.” In the opinion of one jaded cyberspace observer: “KO has looked like shit on air ever since he took up with this girl. I guess being with a 22-year old when you’re pushing 48 is not healthy … rumor has it that her father is younger than Keith.”

Finally, it would appear that Keith and Katy were first noticed in a big way back at a June 2006 “Al Gore book party,” where “they seemed to be more than just friends.” Somewhat later Olbermann announced on his TV show that a particular piece of news footage “was obtained by our Countdown L.A. deputy bureau chief, Katherine Tur.” A lot of people might want to say a lot of different things about all this. All someone who only wishes he was still 48 can say is Keith Olbermann, whadda guy. He really is the king of the moment on US TV today.

4. Death of aboriginal woman after jailing draws criticism in BC

Meanwhile, back in Canada there have been further signs that the earliest natives are continuing to get restless in provocative and important ways – far beyond the Six Nations Iroquois land-claim protest in Caledonia, Ontario.

Check out, e.g., two recent items in the Vancouver Sun: “Death of aboriginal woman after jailing draws criticism;” and “BC given poor rating for mining investment climate.” On the broader issue Carol Goar’s “Natives look beyond Kelowna” in the Toronto Star is interesting as well. And for some intriguing if also rather distressing comparative intelligence on very broadly related stirrings in the USA today there’s the March 3 Washington Post report: “Cherokee Nation To Vote on Expelling Slaves’ Descendants.”

5. A United Kingdom? Maybe

Why can’t we all just get along? According to the New York Times, e.g., recently many “geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles … are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans.”

The article goes on to note how the “implication that the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh have a great deal in common with each other, at least from the geneticist’s point of view, seems likely to please no one.” (Especially leaders of the current Scottish and Welsh separatist movements and of course the Irish Republic.)

Yet anyone who has lived amidst the warring regional cultures of such a still very “new country” as Canada over the past more than 48 years will not be too surprised by news of this sort. As many historians do seem have at least dimly grasped for perhaps more than a century or so, the history of conflicting human cultural identities is a lot more complicated than genes.

In Canada these days a person of Chinese descent from Vancouver or Calgary can still see a person of Chinese descent from Toronto or Montreal as a part of “the Other.” Some people think “DNA” is going to solve everything eventually. But history suggests humanity is very creative, and will always find something to fight about. Science alone, alas, will never conquer that.

6. Harper gives McGuinty some money at last (and Paul Hellyer on climate change)

People who enthusiastically watch Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on US TV from a comfortable couch somewhere in Canada’s most populous province of Ontario were no doubt not altogether pleased by Stephen Harper’s nicely calculated local showering of federal funds over the week of March 59, 2007. Or by the news that New Decima polls show Harper’s new Canadian Conservatives nicely keeping up their current Canada-wide lead over the Liberals – and breaking through in Ontario too. Or by Susan Riley’s March 7 Ottawa Citizen column: “Harper winning image war.”

And then a report from not too long ago on the climate change views of Paul Hellyer, 83, continues to offer some especially sobering perspective on the eventual fate of former Liberal federal cabinet ministers. (Mr. Hellyer, some may recall, was one of Pierre Trudeau’s opponents in the 1968 Liberal leadership race. And he subsequently resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet when he realized that even Pierre Elliott Trudeau from Quebec had a quite “decentralist” view of Canadian federalism. Yes Veronica in the east end of Montreal, that’s decentralist.)

Here is the report, from February 28, 2007 (also the first anniversary of the Six Nations Caledonia protest): “A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change …’I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation … that could be a way to save our planet,’ Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.”

The report continues: “Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels, he told the newspaper … Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico – which has become a shrine for UFO believers – as an example of alien contact.” Ya gotta wonder just what Keith Olbermann and Katherine Tur and even Al Gore would make of that? It at least must take some kind of prize for thinking outside the box.

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