Wednesday, August 30, 2006

News From a Couple of Old Friends

1. My accomplice from Forum for Young Canadians (Session 4, 1998), Richard Diamond, better-known as President of the Young Liberals, has apparently endorsed Scott Brison. Richard, Richard, Richard - *could* you disappoint me any more?

(The same site also reveals that Jenn Pereira, another colleague from Forum, has joined the large but inexplicable Kennedy bandwagon.)

2. Remember Dave Dowling? Of course you do! Well, looks like he's found a new vehicle. Sort of. The good news is you can join for free. The bad news is that in order to get on the Board of Directors, you'll have to lay down a hundred grand deposit, only half of which you get back if you win.

Also, it's interesting to note that Dave's the only member of the Board of Directors identified by first name, with the rest only having an initial. Not that I am by any means suggesting anything.

3. Apparently I'm now a a Liberal blogger. It looks like Stéphane needs the endorsement, though, so I won't bother correcting the misconception for the time being.

Too soon?

Not to be insensitive, but I'm extremely curious to see whether Elizabeth May will be running to represent the newly unrepresented riding of Repentigny.

Update, moments later: And, for that matter, what about Michael Fortier? It's not far from his stomping grounds of Montreal, and it's a riding in which the Conservatives made some significant gains during the last election (significant gains all the way to 18.08%, granted, but it was still good enough for a second place finish). He assured us that he'd leave the Senate once the next federal election rolled around, but with a riding opening up so close to Montreal...

(I jest, slightly - it clearly won't happen. But I'm not convinced, in order for the spirit of his post-election pledge to be upheld, that it shouldn't.)


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

There's Something About Iggy

While my contempt for the Liberal Party remains pretty much intact, there's no denying that its leadership race has attracted the kind of raw intellectual horesepower that the other parties can only dream of (I think Stephen Harper and Tony Clement are both highly intelligent, but any race in which Belinda Stronach makes up one third of the candidates is going to be in direr straights than one in which Joe Volpe makes up one tenth of them). Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, and Stéphane Dion all have successful academic careers behind them, and most of the other candidates - in particular Martha Hall Findlay, Carolyn Bennett, and Ken Dryden - are cerebral enough not to embarass (Gerard Kennedy, while certainly no dunce, is the most inexplicably overrated candidate in any party's leadership race in a long time - maybe since Stronach). Still, there's no doubt that the candidate who's attracting the most attention, the one being compared to the Liberal Party's last Philosopher King, is Ignatieff.

I said earlier that I was "lukewarm" on Iggy. In hindsight, that's not the most apt term, or even the most apt thermal metaphor - a better one would be "hot and cold". There's much to like about the man: his mind is obviously first-rate, and he's a powerful communicator (albeit more in the written word than the spoken). His history (see here for what might, somewhat inaccurately owing to sheer length, be termed a "summary") indicates a defiant unwillingness to pigeonholed - witness the self-designated socialist criticizing striking coalminers in the U.K., or the pink-ish human rights expert supporting the invasion of Iraq - which, the issues which he's used notwithstanding, is an admirable trait that's missing from most Canadian politicians who are not actually in government. He is possessed of a humility that suits a leader (and, uh, helps torpedo comparisons to the Liberal Party's last Philosopher King), admitting that he might well be wrong about Iraq without actually backpedalling. For whatever it's worth, nearly everybody he's ever dealt with in a professional capacity comes away thinking that the guy would make a great PM. Though slightly to my right on a number of issues, he seems like a guy who should at least be a sentimental favourite or mine, à la Joe Lieberman.

But. There is a gulf - a maddeningly wide gulf, as it happens - between the level at which this guy should be performing and the level at which he is. His policy proposals are dull, and never ground-breaking (I expose myself to charges of hypocrisy, here, as a Trudeau admirer - Trudeau himself was notoriously uninnovative and non-specific during both his leadership campaign and the 1968 federal election campaign). His commentary on breaking issues, most notoriously his comments on the Israel-Lebanon affair, tend to be delayed and bring little new to the table (I'm not even talking about his "not losing sleep" comment - I'm far more willing to forgive an ill-considered off-the-cuff remark than than I am the far more prevalent safe platitude). In fact, even his past writings are infuriatingly academic, theorizing copiously about causes and ramifications of the problems facing the Earth without being very useful in terms of solutions (I base this last statement on a smaller sample size than I perhaps should be).

To top it all off, the free four page advertisement that Maclean's gave him this week (as far as I can tell, it's not posted on their website) reads a lot like, well, Paul Martin with its enthusiasm to satisfy everybody. Apparently "The country does not to be administered, it wants to be led" and "it doesn't want to be divided, it wants to be united." Really, Michael? Because I totally thought that Canadians wanted to be divided. Could you get on that?

Environmental policy? "The federal government's environmental plan must work with the provinces to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, take proactive steps to preserve and enhance the quality of air and water, and creat real incentives for good environmental behaviour and innovation." At long last, a leadership candidate coming out in favour of proactivity! "It's time to get touch, before it is too late." And admirable, if largely meaningless, sentiment, but it also follows directly on an assertion that "good environmental policy needs to be implemented in step with the normal rate of new investment", which sounds kind of Stephen Harper.

Aboriginal affairs? "A future Liberal government must return to the original Kelowna agreement and meet it in full. But it must go beyond Kelowna. The federal government must demonstrate leadership in working with Aboriginal communities to close the opportunity gaps that remain." So, you know, just like Paul Martin, only better.

Education? "The federal government should work with the provinces to eliminate all remaining barriers - of income and family circumstance - to post-secondary education." Finally, somebody willing to stand up to the powerful pro-barriers lobby.

It goes on. He favours reaching the 0.7% of GDP level of foreign aid, but declines to set a time table, managing to put him in exactly the same league as both Paul Martin *and* Stephen Harper. He apparently supports a strong federal government, but one that doesn't trample on the jurisdictions of the provinces (as opposed, one presumes, to his opponents, who favour a weak federal government or one that does trample on the jurisdiction of the provinces). For a feature that's advertised on the cover of the magazine as "The most intriguing new face in Canadian policits [revealing] how he'd change the country," it goes well beyond disappointing in failing not only to tell us anything new, but in failing to tell us anything at all.

I'm supporting Stéphane Dion, as this entire blog is aware, but I'm not blind to his faults. For a guy who had a cup of coffee as Foreign Affairs critic, he's surprisingly timid on foreign affairs (witness his non-position on the Afghanistan mission). On democratic renewal, he's awful. And then there's that thorny matter of Meech Lake, where he and I will never agree. But at least Dion's an extremely smart guy who's campaigning like an extremely smart guy instead of like, well, you know, that last highly touted and virtually coronated Liberal leader.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Tracker-Inspired Post

Who could possibly be reading me daily from the National Institutes of Health?


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Just a hunch

I think this might prove to be bad news for the NDP though, paradoxially, also bad news for the Greens. Instead of pretending, like they did under Jim Harris, that the party was "neither left nor right" (in fact, it was pretty solidly left of centre), Elizabeth May is going to push them to the point that they'll be fighting the NDP for the same pool of voters. Meanwhile, a lot of people who voted Green in that past well be disenfranchised by the turn to conventional environmental activism. Time will tell, though.

Next Day Edit: I've decided that I was wrong, and that this is probably actually good news for the Greens, if only because voters who voted Green because they thought the Green Party was significantly different from the so-called "mainstream" parties probably aren't the kind of voters who pay much attention to these things anyway. Still bad news for the NDP, I suspect.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Everything Jason Kenney says is really dumb: the first in an occasional, but not nearly occasional enough, series

I'm not really sure how reasonable a comparison the one between Hezbollah and the Nazis is (I suspect not really very reasonable, because it was made by Jason Kenney and because Hezbollah does not actually control the mechanism of a state, which was kind of key to the Nazis' success). What I'm quite sure is unreasonable is using the comparison to justify a prohibition on dialogue between the Canadian government and Hezbollah, which is what Jason Kenney was doing. I mean, can you imagine how completely fucking stupid a policy that stipulated that Canada (or, better yet, England or France) wasn't allowed to talk to the German government in the thirties would have been? Jesus.

I also enjoy how, in response to response to Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj's explicit statement that Hezbollah was a terrorist group preying on Israel, Kenney said that "[Wrzesnewskyj and his ilk's] view of a balanced approach is one where Israel is always wrong."

In conclusion, everything Jason Kenney says is really dumb.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm still a Dion man, and I'm still lukewarm on Iggy...

But the Harvard Professor is suddenly looking more progressive on carbon emissions than the former Environment Minister.

The gauntlet's down, Stéphane - don't disappoint.

Update: Chris over at Blue Tory makes a fairly bizarre comparison between the Ignatieff proposal and the NEP. I call the comparison bizarre because the primary aim of the NEP was to keep energy prices low, while the Ignatieff proposal quite specifically aims to hike energy prices (at least insofar as "energy" = "oil").

Chris also suggests that this proposal is bad for western Canada (at least insofar as "Western Canada" = "Alberta and to a much lesser extent Saskatchewan"). To the extent that this proposal would cut consumption of oil, it is indeed bad for Alberta. But I'd be very curious to see a carbon emission-reduction plan that *didn't* cut consumption of oil, and that wasn't, at least by Chris's definition, bad for the west.


Monday, August 21, 2006

If a man who's leading by twelve points in polls for Connecticut Senator is "out of step with the people of Connecticut"...

...you sort of wonder what that means for this guy's preferred candidate. Or, for that matter, for defeated Presidential candidates.

I've said it before and I've said it again: all evidence suggests that the people of Connecticut would like, on balance, to retain Joe Lieberman as their Senator. It takes a very special kind of disregard for democracy to suggest that they should be robbed of that option.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sidebar Updated!

I've added, sorted, and (temporarily) stopped culling. I'm working on a new system to deal with delinquent posters, for whom I've inexplicably recently acquired some compassion. I've also removed people's names all together on account of enough people apparently not wanting to be Googlable (which I guess isn't something that a guy named "Steve Smith" can really appreciate).

If there are any errors or omissions, let me know.

Cranky Classic Rock Nerd Bashes Folk Acts Undeservedly

So, owing to sleep depravation (meaning, in my case, that I was averaging less than twelve hours per night), I was in a pretty cranky mood for the weekend's Folk Fest. Accordingly, I'm likely giving short shrift to some pretty talented artists with these selected reviews. It's my sound, man.

Hawksley Workman: Familiar with him only by reputation before hearing his set, everything about this guy irritated me, from his carefully torn jeans to his contrived voal sound to the fact that he was probably the most talented songwriter I'd seen perform live in a long time. Then, just as I was developing a good hate-on for him, he closed with a Paul Simon cover. Fucker.

Feist: Yeah, she's one of Canada's best vocalists. But I'm a Neil Young fan and a Leonard Cohen fan, so it's pretty obvious that vocals aren't my priority, and the more I listen to her the more I realize how little else she has going for her.

Geoff Berner: Familiar with him primarily on account of this (seriously: read it), this is the first time I'd heard any of his songs other than Maginot Line. Falling somewhere between music and comedy without actually qualifying as musical comedy somehow, Geoff Berner is one crazy motherfucker (and also a religious figure, he assures us). I thought his number about the Vancouver Police was trite and too focussed on the cheap laugh, but he's a great entertaininer and a deceptively good accordian player (I assume).

The Waifs: Enjoyable enough, but I'd be lying if I said I could remember a single lyric or a single bit of melody. If I asked you to imagine mostly-female folk quartet, you'd probably imagine the Waifs. Bleah.

Jason Collet: This shithead gives a bad name to all suburban kids who have grown up to reject many of the predominant values of suburbia. He dedicated a song to the families of everybody serving in Afghanistan, which was a nice gesture until he smugly stated that nobody serving in Afghanistan understands the real reason they're there. Nice going, shithead. Also, all of his songs seemed to involve 1. some waiting-related theme, and 2. the main line repeated about fifty times. (Jason: "What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for?" Me (not quite as loud as I would have said it if I wasn't such a pussy): "For you to shut up!"). In conclusion: shithead.

Paul Kelly: Advance billings called him Australia's answer to Leonard Cohen, and compared him to Bruce Springsteen. As divergent as these references were, they managed both to be misleading. In his melodic simplicity and starkly political lyrics, he resembled nothing so much as a down under Pete Seeger, one song in particular - a catchy little ditty entitled "From Little Things, Big Things Grow" - reminding me of Seeger's latter works (for those who have heard the Smithsonian Folkaways collection of Seeger, think "We'll All Be a Doubling"). Thumbs up.

Bruce Cockburn: (Pronounced, for the benefit of the uninitiated, "Co-burn") One of the few artists I was excited about seeing in advance, his rendition of "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" provided a welcome respite to the peacenik pablum so predominant in the other performances (and I say this as something of a peacenik, and as one who despised the song the first time I heard it, on the same Air Canada flight that introduced me to "Like a Hurricane"). His other performances, alas, didn't quite measure up - but he is a much better guitarist than he's generally given credit for being.

Sarah Harmer: In advance of the weekend, I had vaguely positive feelings towards her - nice voice, I think I heard her on a Great Big Sea live album once, I hear she cut her first album as a Christmas gift to her parents or something, etc. Unfortunately, her songs were universally schlocky, and she was at her best when harmonizing with Cockburn on the latter's "Waiting for a Miracle". She also had a strange habit of nodding sagely at everything anybody else played, which reached its most ludicrous as she nodded in apparent agreement with Cockburn's "Rocket Launcher" *immediately* after singing a song called, I believe, "Peace = Good". Wacky.

There were other performances, but I slept through most of them.


Monday, August 14, 2006

How Serious Am I About This Newfound Stéphane Dion Fixation?

I just sent him a hundred bucks. For those who are counting, that makes the first time I've supported financially supported any political party or candidate by any means besides the purchase of Big Rock's fine range of products since I bought a Progressive Conservative Party of Canada membership, circa 2000.

Despite all the fanfare about how the huge number of candidates means that anybody could emerge as a compromise candidate, of the ten remaining contenders the only ones that have *any* chance of winning this thing are Ignatieff, Rae, Dion, Dryden, and Kennedy. And the last two's chances are very small indeed (this isn't the same thing as saying those are the ones who deserve to win - I think Martha Hall Finlay and Carolyn Bennett are both considerably more credible than either Bob Rae or Gerard Kennedy, but so it goes).

My money's still on Ignatieff, and, truth be told, the party could do a lot worse. But that there is even one person who has a legitimate shot at becoming Prime Minister of Canada in the next decade who legitimately excites me is a very pleasant and unfamiliar sensation.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Connecticut on my mind

Anybody who pays the slightest attention to my political philosophy knows that I like politicians who transcend partisan boundries and who are willing to buck clearly-expressed public opinion to hold firm to their beliefs. Joe Lieberman is unquestionably such a politician. On the other hand, I also like politicians who oppose the Iraq War, who don't support legislative intervention in specific right-to-die cases, who believe it's perfectly patriotic to question the actions of a commander-in-chief in wartime, and who like to keep their religious faiths separate from their politics. Lieberman is not such a politician.

The above paragraph explains in a nutshell why I feel so ambivalent about today's Connecticut Democratic primary, which most polls predict that Lieberman will lose. Compounding my very mixed feelings on Lieberman are my similar feelings on challenger Ned Lamont, who strikes me as something of a crass opportunist, cashing in on Lieberman's support of the Iraq war to buy himself a Senate seat. Moreover, even at this early stage of his career, he is demonstrating a great willingness to rush towards the centre to squeeze out an opponent, which is possibly the single greatest flaw in North American political culture today (people who worry that this alleged tendancy to drive the moderates out of both parties is leading to a dangerously polarized political landscape have it backwards - the real problem is that a mad rush to the centre by the very people accused of doing the polarizing is transforming politics from a true contest of principles to a hair-splitting contest). No matter what the results of today's primary, I'm going to be a little disappointed.

What I feel no ambivalence about at all is my conviction that, if Lieberman loses the primary, he should run as an independent. If he believes that he is a better Senator than Lamont would make - which I assume he does, or he presumably wouldn't be running against him - it's absolutely incoherent for him to decline to challenge him in a democratic election.

UPDATE: Mustafa, now holding the POI fort basically on his own it appears, takes issue with a couple of my accusations against Lieberman, claiming that Lieberman has never suggested that it's unpatriotic to question the C in C in times of war and that Lieberman's faith doesn't guide his politics. I'll briefly deal with each in turn.

On the question of questioning Commanders-in-Chief, Mustafa himself quotes the passage to which I was referring:
It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.

Maybe I'm out to lunch, but that looks an awful lot like a suggestion that domestic debate on the handling of foreign wars isa bad for the country.

(Mustafa closes by saying 'I think this is much more nuanced than "if you criticize the commander-in-chief, you are a terrorist!"'. It's an ironic thing to say in accusing me of failing to appreciate nuance.)

On the other question, Mustafa points out that Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, is highly progressive on a number of issues that have traditionally divided Americans along religious/secular lines, such as abortion and gay marriage. I concede this immediately, and note that stem cell research could also be added to the list (though I don't believe Orthodox Judaism has been as silly about this as fundamentalist Christianity). On the other hand, he has supported providing state funding to religious institutions, which blurs the line between church and state. He supported keeping the feeding tube in Terry Schiavo (which Mustafa correctly points out is not proof of allowing religious faith to infringe on secular politics, but must be considered in the context of the rest of his record). He has a Tipper Gore-esque record on censorship of popular media.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

So many of you have been urging me, for no apparent reason, to start this sucker back up, and for some reason what it takes to make it happen is for Chris! over at Covered In Oil to tage me with one of these stupid blog surveys. Go figure, huh?

1. Have you ever been in a fantasy league?

I popped that particular cherry last season with my entry into the Gateway Cup, the now legendary Plural of Mongoose. Highlights of the season include my clever decision to take a chance on Sidney Crosby in the fourth round, my thirteenth round steal of Shawn Horcoff, and my late season pickup of Cristobel Huet. Lowlight included my drafting Roman Chechmanek (Paul Owen assured me he was L.A.'s starter going into the season), my trading away Jonathan Cheechoo twice (the guy I traded him to in the first instance dropped him, and I picked him back up), and my screwing up my number one waiver priority and consequently managing not to get Alexander Ovechkin. In the end, I finished second in the sixteen team league during the regular season, but choked in the playoffs for an overall fourth place finish.

2. What was the first jersey you ever owned?

Um, my Family Furniture Fireballs hockey jersey? That's all I can think of. Sorry.

3. Top 5 sports books

Hmm. As a kid, I used to read a lot of Matt Christopher - does that count?

4. 10 favorite athletes

Off the top of my head, in no order, and surely forgetting some who should obviously be on here:

Mark Messier
Steve Yzerman
Todd Marchant
Larry Wruck
Rod Connop
Blake Marshall
Steve Krupey
Brendan Shanahan
Ryan Smyth
Damon Allen

Apparently I'm a huge homer. Also, I was apparently a huge Esks fan in the early nineties. Note that this list omits all of the early twentieth century baseball players to whom I'm growing rather attached through playing Baseball Mogul 2007.

5. Three Athletes I secretly admire but am ashamed to admit it for fear of ridicule

Let's go with five:

Steve Smith (the NHL one - do I really have a choice?)

Ty Conklin (it's funny - I loathe Fernando Pisani for proving me so very wrong in my assessment of his abilities, but I bear Ty Conklin no ill will for doing exactly the same thing, but in reverse)

Theoren Fleury (say what you will about the guy, and most of it will be accurate, but this is once-dominant NHL-er who, when his NHL career and personal life were in shambles, decided to play in a Northern Alberta seniors' league - can you see Alexei Yashin doing the same?)

Darryl Strawberry (oh, the nefarious influence of the Simpsons on a non-baseball fan)

Ricky Williams (it's impossible to pay attention to this man without having it driven home to you just how stupid professional sports really are)

6. The 5 people I tag are:

Not that any of these people are still checking on this place on account of it being dead to the world, but I tag Mike Garlough, Kyle Kawanami, Mike Hudema, Jake "Rainbow" Troughton, and Catrin Berghoff.

I'll post something about politics as soon as I figure out what the hell's been going on the last four months.


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