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

Posted: February 10th, 2020 | No Comments »

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.”

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.)

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

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.)

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.)

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!

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 Fran?ois-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.”)

Walking through the last nine months of 2019 with our favourite counterweights articles (& fate of next chapter in “Democracy in Canada Since 1497”)

Posted: December 21st, 2019 | No Comments »
“Tower of Babel”, by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, December 2019.

We’ve already noted our favourite counterweights articles for the first three months of this year (in “Six from the 6ix in early snow as 2019 winds down : Impeachment, Throne Speech, 1st Quarter, Birdhop at last”). We’re now ready to cover the final nine months.

(And at the end of this we’ll also have a very brief report on the fate of the next chapter in Randall White’s current work in progress, tentatively entitled Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497. We’ve spent much of 2019 waiting for his chapter on 1976–1992, so we can add it to “The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar at the top above.)

More exactly, our favourite pieces for each of the last nine months of 2019 are :

APRIL : “Happy earth day 2019 : will the people of PEI elect the first Green government in North America tomorrow?

MAY : “Will Labor win in Land of Oz on May 18 (and what will it mean for Liberals in Canada if they don’t) ??

JUNE : “Is Toronto Raptors’ first outside-US championship 2019 just the start of a new NBA in the global village?

JULY : “RIP Sean McCann .. who among many other good things believed in the brilliant future of a Canadian republic

AUGUST : “Three cheers for BC & AB Blue Jays fans in Seattle .. from admiring fellow Canadians in Toronto, only 3400 klicks away

SEPTEMBER : “Are Prince Andrew and even Prince Charles really suited to their current symbolic roles in Canada’s Constitution?

OCTOBER : “A ‘Pearsonian Liberal’ minority government, facing some big challenges but still with Justin Trudeau as PM

NOVEMBER : “Autumn leaves 2019 : watching US, UK, Canada from the northwest shore of the smallest North American Great Lake

“Deep Time” by Michael Seward, December 2019.

DECEMBER : “Six from the 6ix in early snow as 2019 winds down : Impeachment, Throne Speech, 1st Quarter, Birdhop at last

As for the next chapter of Randall White’s Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497 he has just now promised that it will be ready before the end of this year!

He explains that this has been an unusually challenging chapter — dealing with such deep issues as Canada’s new Constitution Act, 1982 and the persistence of unresolved Canadian constitutional issues with the failure of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

This, the author urges, has also been a year when (like others among us) he has been working on too many other projects. (See, eg, “The 2019 UK Election and Ontario’s More Diverse Future.”)

In any event, Dr. White has now promised. And we look forward to posting the final draft of Part IV, chapter 2 on “New Constitution and New Continentalism, 1976–1992,” before the possibly still more unsettling 2020 new year begins.

“18th of December in the year 2019 and President Donald Trump is impeached”

Posted: December 19th, 2019 | No Comments »

It is a kind of Rachel Maddow moment. The best beginning may just be to quote her : “This is really happening. This is your life. This is our country in our time … It is Wednesday, the 18th of December in the year 2019 and President Donald Trump is impeached.”

Like my counterweights colleague Citizen X, my mind has gone back and forth on the impeachment inquiry launched by the Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives early this fall. Now the deed has been done, there remain good reasons for continuing uneasiness.

See, eg : “Warning lights are flashing for Democrats as they prepare to impeach Trump” ; “Americans split on impeachment in new polls” ; and “Trump Approval Inches Up, While Support for Impeachment Dips.”

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds hands with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) as they walk to the chamber where the House begins debate on the impeachment[s] charges against President Trump. J. Scott Applewhite/AP.”

At the same time, not all the latest polling is all bad. Unlike polls made public December 16 and 17 — which showed Trump beating all the major Democratic presidential contenders in 2020 — an Emerson College poll on December 18 at least showed Biden, Sanders, and Warren beating Trump (while Buttigieg managed a tie).

For me personally, at some point on the evening of December 18 I settled into a quiet confidence that, whatever the future may bring, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and (almost) all the other Democrats in the House have unquestionably done the right thing. And it will give them new strength in the long run.

President Trump’s December 17 letter to Nancy Pelosi — his ultimate defence (drafted by Stephen Miller some say) — shows some low cunning. But it also leaves itself open to rejoinders like Bess Levin’s in Vanity Fair : “Trump pens deranged six-page impeachment letter, mails it to Nancy Pelosi … It’s the sort of document that itself makes the case that Trump is unfit for office.”

The next step is a trial in the Senate, the Republican majority in which will almost certainly not remove President Trump from office. The worst scenario here for my side of the argument is that the Senate will acquit the president in a way that bolsters his chances in the 2020 election.

At the same time again, plots are afoot to contain possible damage of this sort. See, eg : “Some House Democrats push Pelosi to withhold impeachment articles, delaying Senate trial” ; “House Democrats Weigh A Move To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial” ; and “Pelosi Signals Possible Delay To Senate Impeachment Trial.” (And we may be excused for wondering : could the delay last all the way to the 2020 election next fall? Well, probably not, but …)

Two final notes : First, around 4:30 on the afternoon of December 18 Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star re-tweeted a quite remarkable old Wolf Blitzer CNN interview with Donald Trump, long before he somehow became president of the USA.

Benzie explained : “On an extraordinary day, an extraordinary video. Trump on CNN hailing Pelosi, denouncing the Clinton impeachment as ‘nonsense,’ and saying W should have been impeached for the Iraq war. Astonishing.” (Or as the original tweeter Josh Jordan put it : “This video of Trump praising Pelosi and saying W Bush should’ve been impeached for lying is so great I can’t stand it.”)

Second, and finally, so much of the fight against Trump and what he wants to do with and to America has to do with women. Generally, it seems, the majority of men are for Trump, and the majority of women are against him.

This underlines just how, as it were, almost evenly divided American voters are right now on Donald Trump’s political future. It would be wrong to underestimate this side of an inevitably sad story. But it also draws my attention to the counterweight editors’ recent approving comments on the pro-impeachment calculations of the American historian Jill Lepore :

“The abuses of office of which the President now stands accused are the very definition of impeachable … The madness lies in … how many people had to give up on the idea of democracy for things to come to this. The sadness lies in …. the unlikelihood of anything getting much better anytime soon … A farmer walks across a field, bracing against the wind. Hardness is what’s required to get through a political winter: determination, forbearance, sacrifice, not bitterness but a certain sternness.”

To which I can only add my own obscure grass-roots Amen, from the friendly much less populous country in the true north, strong and free, just next door.

Six from the 6ix in early snow as 2019 winds down : Impeachment, Throne Speech, 1st Quarter, Birdhop at last

Posted: December 8th, 2019 | No Comments »
Jill Lepore, in her office in Robinson Hall at Harvard, keeping warm with a certain sternness for the political winter ahead.

At night, or very early in the morning, you feel the early December snow outside your window, and you contemplate half a dozen souvenirs of the strange year that’s winding down :

(1) Jill Lepore on “The Impeachment Hearings and the Coming Storm.” The Harvard historian who writes for the New Yorker (and has recently published an impressive fresh one-volume history of the USA today) has just revealed her honest understanding of the journey the US House of Representatives has now embarked on :

American historians have been asked for so long … Is this President really that bad? Is this unprecedented? Almost always, I bite my tongue. But, yes, he is that bad, and this is unprecedented … the abuses of office of which the President now stands accused are the very definition of impeachable … The madness lies in … how many people had to give up on the idea of democracy for things to come to this. The sadness lies in …. the unlikelihood of anything getting much better anytime soon … A farmer walks across a field, bracing against the wind. Hardness is what’s required to get through a political winter: determination, forbearance, sacrifice, not bitterness but a certain sternness.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Julie Payette (who he appointed in 2017), just before December 5, 2019 Throne Speech in Senate Chamber at Ottawa. In background in red dress is prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire.

It sounds like good advice to us.

(2) Meanwhile what about the Trudeau Liberal 2019 Throne Speech in Canada? To start with, the BBC back in one of the old-world “mother countries” doesn’t seem to have had much trouble figuring it out. See “Throne Speech: Six things on Trudeau’s to-do list.”

And the CBC here at home has summarized the only serious political reality right now (despite much other attention elsewhere) : “Tories, NDP won’t support throne speech but Bloc will back Liberals’ agenda if it comes to vote.” So the new federal minority government is certainly not going to fall right away (in case anyone really thought there was any chance of that).

(3) Looking back at our favourite counterweights article for January of the year about to end (soon enough) : “Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird … It may well be that 2019 proves a difficult year on any number of fronts. But I was lucky enough to spend its first Thursday evening at one of the ‘top 21 new bars in Toronto’ … 2072 Dundas St W, at Howard Park.”

George-Etienne Cartier (left) and John A Macdonald (right) had taken money from railway interests in the Pacific Scandal, which prompted their Liberal Conservative government to give way to the Liberal Reformers in 1873 — inaugurating a political tradition in the Canadian confederation of 1867 that is at least still trying to persist to this day!

(4) Our favourite counterweights article for February 2019 : “Pacific Scandal is great grandma of SNC-Lavalin : but all ‘systematic organization of hatreds’ is obsolete today.” (Even if even we far northern North American political junkies had to spend far too much time entangled in these hatreds in 2019 — with scant relief in site for 2020?)

(5) Our favourite counterweights article for March 2019 : “‘While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him’”. And our favourite passage from this piece is still : “Mr. De Leon’s March 25 tweet is in the tradition of the Great American Laughing-To-Keep-From-Crying Songbook : ‘Dear good white folks … I know that the the Mueller Report has been underwhelming. Do not despair. If necessary, please report immediately to a person of color near you. We are well versed in “Crazy Shit America Does” and have tons of “fucked by the system” experience. We can help.’”

Andrea Motis attends to an alto saxophone in Barcelona, as our Birdhop site in Toronto pays homage to jazz in Catalonia today.

(6) Finally, our companion arts and music site “Birdhop” has managed to pull its latest international jazz enthusiasms together (as too long promised) in “Remembering ‘Petite Fleur’ : Sidney Bechet, Andrea Motis, and the remarkable Municipal School of Music in Barcelona.” We quote from the vaguely anonymous author’s conclusion :

“With Europe and America at the 70th NATO summit clouding my mind, I find it o-so-warmly reassuring to see how some of the seriously great things the USA has given the universe are being cultivated in 2019 in Catalonia …

“Today Catalonia may or may not really want to be a part of Spain. Not altogether unlike Quebec in Canada, Canadians are bound to think. As the early snow rises around us in this year of climate change, crazy politics, and the 2-faced nice guy … still much admired on the street where I live.”

And we here “@counterweights … Canadian Political Magazine … Democracy in North America … Peace (and free trade) in the Global Village” will return soon enough, with at least our favourite counterweights articles for the last nine months of 2019!

On continuing the new liberal era in Canada (with minority government sworn in at slightly less formal Tent Room?)

Posted: November 25th, 2019 | No Comments »
MP for Saint Boniface-Saint Vital in Manitoba, Dan Vandal, from “a Métis family in Winnipeg,” is sworn in as a new stand-alone Minister of Northern Affairs in Justin Trudeau’s latest cabinet, at the Tent Room in Rideau Hall, Ottawa, November 20, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.)

Just before the November 20, 2019 swearing-in of the new Trudeau Liberal minority cabinet — in the “Tent Room” at Rideau Hall in Ottawa — the counterweights editors brought a piece I did on the swearing-in of the first Justin Trudeau cabinet four years ago to my attention.

It was posted on November 7, 2015, under the headline : “On the new era in Canada .. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.”

I was asked : what are the big differences between now and then?

Others have of course been asked the same question by other editors, and replied more promptly. During the afternoon of November 20 I seem to have heard more than once on TV that 2015 was “cinematic” and 2019 is “pragmatic,” or words to that effect.

For slightly later reporting see, eg : “Who is in Justin Trudeau’s 2019 cabinet” ; “7 new faces at cabinet table as Trudeau unveils his inner circle” ; “Reaction and quotes about the new Liberal cabinet” ; and “How Trudeau’s cabinet has changed since his first trip to Rideau Hall.”

Canadian federal Cabinet appointed November 20, 2019 — “the strong, diverse, and experienced team that will work together to tackle the big issues that matter to people from coast to coast to coast … making life more affordable for the middle class, taking action on climate change … keeping our communities safe” (PM Justin Trudeau). PHOTO : ADAM SCOTTI.

For the official list in “order of precedence” (a complex concept that I wouldn’t try to explain myself) CLICK HERE. And note as well “Trudeau seeks to keep eyes on Prairies with new role for Winnipeg’s Jim Carr” — regarding a former minister with unfortunate health issues who nonetheless remains of if not exactly in the cabinet.

Same Trudeau II era with more seasoned realism?

My first thought of my own about my November 7, 2015 article and now is that there really was the start of a “new era” back then.

What follows in 2019 will certainly be different in other ways. But it will still be a continuation of the Justin Trudeau Liberal era in Canadian federal politics — even though in 2019 PM Justin Trudeau (like his father on his second election as Liberal leader in 1972) has managed only a minority government with an uncertain shelf life.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier of Ontario Doug Ford share a laugh after Ford spoke French during a meeting in Ottawa on Nov. 22, 2019.” ADRIAN WYLD/CANADIAN PRESS.

Some of the new-era “sunny ways” optimism of 2015 has no doubt been superceded by a more seasoned realism as well. Jody Wilson-Raybould may be the clearest case in point. She did win re-election in Vancouver Granville in 2019 (with just under a third of the vote in a six-candidate local race). But she is now the sole Independent in the new House, and no longer eligible to sit in a Liberal cabinet (having wittingly or otherwise done her best to harm her former party’s fortunes in the SNC-Lavalin affair, pushed so hard by the Scheer Conservatives).

I seem to have four further quick thoughts as what happened last Wednesday settles into mind several days hence (here in Canada’s present largest metropolis at least, far away from any thoughts of winning the Vanier or Grey Cups) :

(1) The most intriguing feature of the new cabinet is the elevation of Chrystia Freeland to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The prime minister and his new deputy, at her swearing-in on November 20, 2019 (and after she put her arm around his waist!). Governor General Julie Payette looks on. REUTERS/Blair Gable.

The Liberals won no seats at all in Alberta and Saskatchewan this time around, and the more populous Alberta especially (Canada’s Texas etc) has many grievances over the latest rumblings in its oil and gas economic base.

Ms Freeland has been a star of the 2015 Trudeau cabinet, much applauded for her role in renegotiating the NAFTA trade agreement with Donald Trump’s volatile USA today. This past October 21, 2019 she won 51.7% of the local vote in the upscale Toronto riding of University–Rosedale in Ontario. But she grew up in Alberta, where her father is still a “retired lawyer” who “drives a combine and harvests Barley on a 6,000-acre farm in Peace River.”

What will happen on this front remains a matter of great fascination. For the time being see, eg : “Deputy PM Freeland to oversee relations with US and provinces in Trudeau’s new cabinet” ; “Don Martin: Freeland wins a waiver from PMO control” ; “Alberta wants a champion, Trudeau needs a saviour. Can Chrystia Freeland be both?” ; and “Has Justin Trudeau set up Chrystia Freeland to fail?” Stay tuned here, of course, of course … much much more to come …

(2) A new dynamic duo in search of some energy and environment symbiosis — Jonathan Wilkinson and Catherine McKenna

“Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna speaks at the G7 meetings in Halifax on Sept. 20, 2018 while Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson listens. Photo by Alex Tétreault.”

One of Justin Trudeau’s main policy themes seems to be the need for some fresh creative symbiosis on the frequently warring energy and environment issues. It’s like love and marriage in the old song : you can’t have one without the other.

To this end he has now put a kind of energy industry guy — Jonathan Wilkinson from North Vancouver, BC — in charge of the environment as Minister of Environment and Climate Change. (See “Jonathan Wilkinson and a stick of dynamite … Shannon Proudfoot: The new minister of environment and climate change has a very hard job—and an intriguing background well suited to it.”)

On the other side of the symbiosis PM Trudeau II has put former environment minister and green policy activist Catherine McKenna — from Ottawa Centre, Ontario — in charge of (presumably) such things as building oil and gas pipelines (in some degree at least?) as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Who knows where all this will lead, of course? But it could prove interesting down the road. (Or like Jody Wilson-Raybould last time around, it may just not work out. But hey … “Justin” is at least trying to do something new and relevant on two difficult but increasingly urgent issues!)

(3) New kinds of cabinet ministers for new times? Two (or even three) 2019 appointments have been understandably enough mocked in some quarters, but nonetheless reflect another interest in and willingness to try something different in new and increasingly challenging times :

The Tent Room at Rideau Hall, unoccupied, with copy of state portrait of Queen Victoria in centre of wall.

Former Liberal House leader Bardish Chagger from Waterloo, Ontario as Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth ; Joyce Murray from Vancouver Quadra, BC as Minister of Digital Government ; and Mona Fortier, from Ottawa—Vanier, Ontario, as Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance.

It will no doubt take a while to see how and if these appointments work out, and whether they actually do bring some fresh weight and heft to new kinds of key current issues in Canada’s present free and democratic society (and in the federal bureaucracy in Ottawa).

Meanwhile, at least someone is trying etc. (And for too easy if understandable scepticism see “New Minister of Middle Class Prosperity declines to provide clear definition of middle class.”)

(4) Why the Tent Room in 2019 etc? According to Wikipedia the Tent Room at Rideau Hall, where the 2019 cabinet was sworn in, is typically “used for slightly less formal gatherings” than the Ballroom.

“Fans gathered at the Blue Bombers street party at Portage and Main following the team’s Grey Cup win. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press).”

The Ballroom is “the centre of state life at Rideau Hall” where “honours and awards ceremonies take place, members of the Cabinet are sworn in, ambassadors present their diplomatic credentials, and large-scale state dinners are held.”

Back in 2015 the Ballroom was where the new Trudeau Liberal cabinet was sworn in. And maybe the difference between 2015 and 2019 is finally summarized by the switch to the slightly less formal Tent Room in 2019! That at any rate is the note on which I’m concluding this slightly less formal report — from the grass roots of the present largest far northern metropolis.

(With big congrats to Calgary on winning the Vanier Cup in Canadian university football, and to Winnipeg on its first Grey Cup in 29 years in the Canadian Football League. Does this mean the present bout of Western alienation is starting to fade? Probably not … but … we are still jealous back here in the wilderness of Central Canada, if that’s any help at all.)

Looking towards Justin Trudeau’s new minority cabinet in Canada (with Ms Motis from Barcelona at the back of our minds)

Posted: November 17th, 2019 | No Comments »
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who told reporters after their meeting that his support ‘won’t come free,’ and he’s prepared for another election at ‘any time.’ The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade.”

It is somewhat agreeable to turn from the latest tweets on the sorta-civil-war front south of the northern US border to our slightly less antagonistic federal politics in what the Constitution Act, 1982 calls Canada’s present “free and democratic society.”

It is still more agreeable to turn from Canadian federal politics to some brief but compelling weekend YouTube adventures with the brilliant swing jazz prodigy from Barcelona, Andrea Motis — and her equally remarkable mentor and jazz educator at the Municipal School of Music of Sant Andreu, Joan Chamorro.

To get the only somewhat agreeable scene out of the way first, the next big event in Canadian federal politics will be the swearing-in of Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal minority cabinet, on Wednesday, November 20.

Then the freshly elected Canadian House of Commons will convene on Thursday, December 5. And Governor General Julie Payette will read the new minority government’s throne speech in the Senate, outlining its priorities. As explained by CTV News : “Traditionally, the vote on the throne speech is considered the first test of confidence in the House of Commons … considering the minority dynamics, the Liberals will need allies on the opposition benches to vote in favour in order for it to pass.”

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Fran?ois Blanchet at his West Block office on Nov. 13. Mr. Blanchet signalled where the Liberals can expect co-operation from his party … The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade.”

On all these matters we have quickly consulted, on the CBC and CTV sites : “Trudeau urged to give Freeland domestic portfolio, name her deputy PM” ; “May: Greens will vote against Liberal throne speech unless carbon targets toughened” ; “For the opposition, a dilemma: work with Trudeau, or cut him down early?” ; “Trudeau has a choice, work with NDP or work with Tories: Singh” ; “Would Blanchet go to Alberta to talk oil? ‘With pleasure’” ; “Blanchet spars with Kenney after meeting with Trudeau.”

Our initial quick and dirty sense is that the new Trudeau Liberal minority government is unlikely to fall right away on the throne speech. But how much longer it will last is no doubt anyone’s guess right now.

Both Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May seem to us to be pushing their initial demands harder than their actual numbers of seats in the Canadian House of Commons (and their current party treasuries) support. Yves-Francois Blanchet’s somewhat more weighty Bloc Québécois may be happy enough to help keep the new Liberal minority government led by a fellow Quebecer in office for some respectable length of time (18 months to two years on the historical experience?). And Mr. Trudeau probably can work sometimes with the NDP and other times with the Tories, despite Mr. Singh’s initial rhetoric. (Will even Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives vote against something crucial for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, eg?)

Andrea Motis playing “Petite Fleur” at 16.

Stay tuned for a further cautious assessment just before the December holiday season starts in earnest.

Meanwhile, listening to the 24-year-old Catalan jazz musician Andrea Motis and her mentor Joan Chamorro on YouTube this weekend has been both more entertaining and somehow more reassuring than keeping up with the latest North American political wrinkles (and much worse), even in Canada.

In some ways all this should be more properly dealt with on our presently o-so-gradually reviving companion site, BIRDHOP! Rumour has it that an article on “Remembering ‘Petite Fleur’ : Sidney Bechet, Andrea Motis … etc” has been planned for that cultural (as opposed to political — and economic) blogazine. And these few further words here are probably just a kind of teaser for this future article in another place, whenever it may finally get done in these too hectic times.

It may be best to start with a quotation from the often quite informative and not inaccurate Wikipedia : “Andrea Motis (born May 9, 1995) is a Catalan jazz singer and trumpeter who sings in Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and English … From the age of seven, Motis developed musically at the Municipal School of Music of Sant Andreu, a neighborhood of Barcelona, becoming the school’s lead trumpeter and later saxophonist. In 2007, at twelve, she began to collaborate with the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, led by teacher and musician Joan Chamorro … In 2010, at the age of fifteen, she recorded an album of jazz standards, Joan Chamorro Presents Andrea Motis.”

Supporters of the Bloc Québécois in Canada could of course be happy about the Catalan separatist angle in Spain. (And Spain is having its own political crazy season on this and other fronts as well.) But what we find reassuring is how an assortment of often very young Spanish musicians of the early 21st century are bringing new life to the American swing jazz of the 1930s and 1940s. More will no doubt follow in the “Remembering ‘Petite Fleur’ : Sidney Bechet, Andrea Motis … etc” article on BIRDHOP, when it finally gets done.

Meanwhile again, here is a quick introduction to the subject on the remarkable musical resource that YouTube currently provides internet junkies like all of us :

(1) The best place to start is with the 16-year-old Andrea Motis’s quite enchanting rendition of Sidney Bechet’s 1952 classic “Petite Fleur,” as performed in Barcelona in 2011. Her mentor and teacher Joan Chamorro on this occasion is playing string bass. The youthful Ms Motis is playing a soprano saxophone — like Sidney Bechet himself. She also plays alto sax, trumpet, and sings beautifully (in four languages as above).

Andrea Motis (l) with Joan Chamorro (centre) and Scott Hamilton.

(2) Jumping ahead some four years — late 2014 or early 2015 — “Minor Swing” presents the altogether amazing young student musicians of Joan Chamorro’s Sant Andreu Jazz Band, aided by two senior musicians, the guitarist Jopsep Traver and the American swing tenor saxophone specialist Scott Hamilton. Andrea Motis plays trumpet here (and her younger sister Carla Motis also plays guitar). The piece features the young violinist Elia Bastida, underlining all its debts to the 1930s Quintette du Hot Club de France with legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli. (The work of violinist Elia Bastida, with a much smaller group including Joan Chamorro can also be sampled in a quite striking 2017 rendition of the Django Reinhardt classic, “Nuages.” Swing and other jazz in Spain today — even or especially in Catalonia — inevitably has European as well as American roots. And who would complain in the age of the global village?)

“Pedestrians cross Peel St. in downtown Montreal at the beginning of a major storm Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019… JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE.”

(3) Two numbers from 2015 offer intriguing sides of Andrea Motis’s work. In the first she plays alto sax in collaboration with the contemporary American altoist Jesse Davis, on the Duke Ellington classic “All Too Soon,” accompanied by the students of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band. In the second Andrea Motis sings the old American standard “Just Friends,” accompanied by the Andrea Motis Joan Chamorro Big Band — and of course in English.

(4) Just this past spring 2019 in Zurich, Switzerland the Andrea Motis Quintet (with “Josep Traver, guitarra ; Ignasi Terraza, piano ; Joan Chamorro, contrabajo ; and Esteve Pi, bateria) performed “Dan?a da solid?o.” Ms Motis sings (in Portuguese here, we’re guessing?) And plays trumpet.

Someone should invite some suitable version of these talented people to play for the swearing-in of the new Trudeau cabinet this coming Wednesday, November 20. (But of course too many taxpayers — in both official languages — would complain about the waste of scarce tax dollars, that could be better spent on pipelines and public pharmacare programs for all, etc, etc, etc, etc.)

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