Thursday, September 30, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: CLASH OF THE TITANS
As you know from my driver's license, I'm Canadian. I can't vote in the November election. But I do happen to have a blog, so I get to have a say (you all should really start one). While I am a Conservative, I'm by no means a Bush apologist. I think the Bush Administration has given its opponents a significant amount of material by which to attack and possibly defeat it. So, I come into this debate somewhat "subject to spin".
In the past, I have been swayed by both candidates' arguments and I have had some doubts about others. So I wanted to watch this exchange to see how I would react to their style, arguments and demeanor. I'm not exactly a "NASCAR Dad", so let's call me a "STAR WARS Dork". I wanted to see if my opinion would change based on tonight's exchange.
And you know what? It did.
Before I get to that, let me speak about the format. I think it went better than I though, especially considering the 32-page rulebook that was in place. Although I have to admit, the moderator seemed less in control when we made off-the-cuff decisions like: "Well...... Sure, let's have 30 seconds of debate on that, shall we?". I though both men looked polished and look comfortable in their own skin at the podium, which I know can be hard for Dubya. You could have played football in the space you had between them, but its all we could do to stop them from inflicting mortal wounds on them (and hide the fact that John is a might bit taller than "The W").
I won't do a blow-by-blow, but I'd like to comment on each.
SENATOR KERRY: He was obviously the more skilled debater, although he almost never looked in the camera. He made his points clean and relatively effectively. He also managed to bridge some of the President's statements to make some of his own. However, he really shouldn't have been nodding emphatically to anything Dubya was saying. I thought he made some good deflections and highlighted the shortcomings of the Bush Administration.
But he lost me after that, and I blame his campaign. Its fine to be against the war in Iraq, because its the popular thing to do in the Democratic party. But he just didn't tell me what he would do different except to "get the job done". He says he would do things differently, but didn't say how. His campaign has put him is an unenviable position: "I we shouldn't have be in Iraq, but since we are, let's win".
That's your message? Lacks credibility, don't you think? How can anyone feel you are committed to winning the war when you think its a mistake? And which world leader (the one's you want to bring into the coalition) would join you with a view like that? Why would I commit my troops (all 300 Canadian forces) to a war you tell me you think is wrong? Are you telling me we will win because you're new? Senator Kerry really couldn't give a definitive answer.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I always cringe when I watch Dubya speak. I know he talks like a "real person", but I watch too much TV--I expect great speeches and compelling soundbites. I said to my wife that The W seemed to approach this debate like an aide grabbed him while he was walking by, brought him to the podium with no preparation and said "I have a great idea, boss. Why don't you debate tonight!" And Dubya said "Hell, why not? I got nothin' better to do Let's have us a chat!"
While I thought his presentation was less than stellar, I though (as expected) he drove home the message. I don't watch CSPAM (yes, Kmac, the spelling was intentional) and I don't attend White House briefings, so I don't absorb a lot of the messaging of the day. I have never been totally comfortable with how the ongoing efforts to establish peace in Iraq we progressing. Sometimes, I have been happy that Canada is not engaged. This was the first time I heard President Bush clearly and simply explain his motivations on pushing forward with the war: If we give up now, they win. We are in a fight over Iraq itself. If insurgents--who are crossing the border to fight against US troops--are able to take control, there will be no end to what else they can and will accomplish. It will send a dangerous message to terrorists in that region and beyond that if you preserver, you can eventually achieve your goals.
You might question the President's motives, but you cannot question his resolve. Senator Kerry has demonstrated to all that his resolve is not absolute. No one with his position on Iraq could be fully resolved to see this through. That's bad. President Bush reminded me (not that I totally forgot, I was just distracted by new episodes of Law & Order) that you can't blink in this situation. And because of all the criticisms the Royal Hollywood Foreign Policy Congress, Democrats, the Sean Penn National Institute of Counterterrorism and the Canadian media have constantly told me--when George W. Bush sets his mind to something, he gets to doing it. In a war like this--that's good.
Now I get it. And if he did that to me, imagine what he can do to you!
So, while it might not surprise folks that I thought President Bush won the debate, it actually suprises me. And that's where he really won.
POLITICS AS USUAL: YOUNG MP
Youth on their side
Young Tory MPs created in Stephen Harper's political image
September 30, 2004
OTTAWA - They look like the typical political staffers that buzz around all members of Parliament -- young, shiny Echo Boomers, fresh out of school and brimming with vim and idealism. But while Jeremy Harrison, 26, Pierre Poilievre, 25, and Andrew Scheer, 25, used to work behind the scenes on Parliament Hill, yesterday they were attending MPs' school as the three youngest politicians in the House of Commons ahead of next week's new session.
Harrison, the fresh-faced Conservative MP for the Desneth Missinippi Churchill River riding in northern Saskatchewan, said he has had trouble convincing overzealous security guards that he is one of the latest crop of honourable members. "It was amusing at first, but it's starting to get annoying," he said.
All three debutants are Conservatives, following in the tradition of the class of '97 -- Jason Kenney, Rob Anders, Rahim Jaffer -- bright, outspoken and university-educated. Like the infamous Snack Pack, the next generation of Conservatives has only a nodding acquaintance with the world of mortgages and taxation. But they all pledge they will make up for what they lack in experience with the exuberance of youth.
"I feel completely prepared for this job -- I don't feel lacki
ng in any area. I'm ready to walk in for Question Period totally equipped if my leader asked me to ask a question," said Poilievre, who unseated Cabinet minister David Pratt to win Nepean Carleton in Ottawa.
The election of this new frat pack will have delighted party leader Stephen Harper. Not only has he transplanted some youth on to his greying, balding backbenches, but those members are all created in his political image.
"We're pretty similar politically," said Poilievre, "libertarian-minded and pretty much in line with the leader."
Harrison said Harper is not a man who cultivates proteges, "but he has been my mentor in politics in lots of meaningful ways. He is a tremendous political role model."
While the youngest Liberal elected in the June election is 27-year-old Navdeep Bains, the Conservatives will welcome four new MPs born since Pierre Trudeau won a majority in the 1974 election. Rob Moore from Fundy Royal will join Harrison, Poilievre, Scheer and the now-veteran James Moore.
The consensus explanation for why so many ruddy-cheeked newcomers have thrown their MP3 players into the ring is the structure of the Conservative party, which does not have its own youth wing and has a fairly open nomination process, independent of the party establishment.
"Other parties are more top-down and seniority-based," Poilievre said. "[In other parties], the top prize in your universe is president of the youth association. That doesn't exist with [us] ... so we develop the confidence and audacity to seek office in our mid-20s."
Harrison, Poilievre and Scheer are not complete strangers to Ottawa. Harrison worked in Harper's office in the summer of 2001 and was elected to the national executive of the party two years ago. Poilievre worked for both Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney, while Scheer laboured in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition as an advisor to Harper. Yet, as if to emphasize their rawness, Harrison points out he was still studying for his law school final exams a month before the writ dropped for the June election. By his own admission, he didn't go to classes for the past two years and crammed for three weeks before his final exams in April, still emerging in the top 20% of his class. His MP's salary will now go toward paying down debts accumulated over nine years in university.
All three say they feel the additional weight of responsibility that comes with office. "I can't wake up on a Saturday now and not shave. I have to look my best and act my best at all times. I'm now a public figure in the community," Poilievre said. "It's changed my behaviour for the better because it's caused me to remind myself constantly that I represent 87,000 people in the Parliament of Canada and I have to conduct myself with dignity and professionalism."
It would be easy to snicker at such sentiments, but perhaps if more of Poilievre's new colleagues paid heed, we wouldn't be holding expensive public inquiries into sponsorship scandals. There was even something quite touching about his attempts at image manipulation: "We are all connoisseurs of Scotch, particularly Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Perhaps you could call us the Blue Labelers, which is the colour of our party."
Fortunately, their boldness is mixed with humility. Scheer, who beat NDP veteran Lorne Nystrom to win Regina Qu'Appelle, said the transformation from lowly staffer to having access to the members' restaurant has been stark.
"It is awe-inspiring. To step into that chamber and look around and imagine the people in Canadian history who have occupied that hall -- John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie King, John Diefenbaker -- and to think I'll be participating in the same forum is awe-inspiring and humbling."
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE GREAT DEBATE
Has Kerry the brains to act dumb?
By LAWRENCE MARTIN
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Thursday, Sep 30, 2004
Canadians will be hoping John Kerry pummels George W. Bush in the presidential debate tonight. They'd like to see Mr. Bush get it right between the lieballs.
The stakes are stark. From the global perspective, this election is about unilateralism, which is another way of saying Dictatorship v. Multilateralism. It doesn't divide up quite that sharply between the Republican President and the Democrat challenger. But the tendencies, one to the former, the other to the latter, are there.
In the debate, Mr. Kerry bears the burden of too many Democrats who went before him. He's articulate, knowledgeable, and, more troubling, has intellectual depth.
In 1968, Raymond Price, a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, wrote a memo about the coming campaign against Hubert Humphrey. "Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making an effort to understand what we're talking about." Don't bother trying to engage their intellect, he counselled. "This, for most people, is the most difficult work of all."
The memo was written in the pre-dumbing-down era. Things have hardly improved. In today's politics, the less sophisticated and the less nuanced the argument, the better. The presidential candidate from the World Wrestling Federation is likely just around the corner.
In the debates in the 2000 campaign, Al Gore had the same erudition problem that Mr. Kerry now confronts. At one point, he grew so exasperated at Mr. Bush's vacuousness, he sighed. It was an audible sigh and it was condescending. It was like, "Come on, George, surely you've heard of at least four of the six continents."
Jimmy Carter wore that same look 20 years earlier as he debated the amiable Ronald Reagan. Everybody credited Mr. Carter with encyclopedic knowledge. The book on Mr. Reagan was the colouring book. The pundits said he spent too much time with crayons. But the Gipper won that debate and that election, and G.W. won, too.
So what's Mr. Kerry to do with his surfeit of intelligence? You can almost picture his advisers at this very moment, telling him: "John, leave your brains in the parking lot. If you get out there and start sounding like Aristotle, you're finished."
Mr. Kerry has been debating since prep school. He has a Lincoln-esque countenance and a sonorous voice. He's got the most ammunition of any Democrat challenger in memory: the war, the war lies, the war deaths, the failure to find Osama bin Laden, the increase in terrorism, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton, gas prices, the biggest deficit in U.S. history, etc., etc.
He has the potential to bury Mr. Bush in these debates. But he's had the potential to bury him for months now and all he has done is fall behind in the polls. He wasted most of the summer trying to find a middle position on the war. He declined to attack Mr. Bush on the deficit. Unbelievably, he has barely mentioned the prison-abuse scandal, whose tracks lead right to the Defence Secretary's door.
In this last week, he finally abandoned his timidity and staked out hard turf on the war. Much of Iraq is under the control of the insurgents. He will come at the President aggressively tonight, arguing that instead of bringing freedom he has made the country a breeding ground for terrorism.
With his warmth and swagger, Mr. Bush will be ready to parry the charges with any patriotic platitude he chooses. The media — Fox News is at the ready — will let it pass. Mr. Bush will also have a store of one-liners to deflect criticism. Mr. Kerry has flipped-flopped so many times, Mr. Bush has legitimately pointed out, that he could spend the entire 90 minutes debating himself.
Mr. Kerry lacks the charm of a John Kennedy or a Bill Clinton. He comes out of a long line of grim-faced Democrats who made the mistake — how could they be so dumb? — of thinking knowledge was important. There was the polysyllabic Adlai Stevenson, and then Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Al Gore.
Their styles were drearily, eerily similar to John Kerry's. Which is to suggest that, failing a last-minute lobotomy, Canada's candidate will run into some problems tonight. In American politics, colouring books sell better than encyclopedias!
B! TALK DAILY: THE APPRENTICE 2: DIVIDE AND CONQUER
So far this season, the women are totally falling apart. As I have said previously, they're much more vicious and personal. Sure, last season we all enjoyed watching Erica and Omarosa scrap, but it seems NONE of these new crop of candidates can get along. And the focus on personalities are costing them dearly.
Take Jennifer C . Notwithstanding the fact that she got on Carolyn's bad side pretty well right from the beginning (Man, I love watching her take them down), her decision to get personal got her fired. I'm of the belief she could have survived if she had acted differently. While the Project Manager is always on the hook for the loss, there have been many occasions when the focus shifts to a particular aspect of the task that failed. In this task, it was the decor. People hated it and it was the wrong fit for the area. That was Sandy's deal [Thanks, kmac]. Period. If she was there, Jennifer C. could have shifted the blame.
But she got personal and brought in wee Stacey. Why? She didn't have anything to do with the loss. Neither, really, did Elizabeth, although she is having a hard time keeping it together (so I could see a reason for being there). Anyway, when you don't bring any worthy targets in with you, you become a target. At least Elizabeth (PM in last episode) brought in "nutjob" Stacie J. to deflect attention, and it worked. So, Jennifer was left with the focus on her and it costed her big time.
One last thing: Why do the gal continue to pick two people? Pick three, damnit! The more potential targets, the better your chances of survival! Listen to Bill: Worry less about partnerships and alliances, worry more about yourself. Jennifer M sold her "friend" Jenn C. down the river when she was cornered. It can happen to you!
These gals have to get it together.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: EXPOS R.I.P
Farewell, Olympic Stadium
Here's a portion of comment from scribe Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette, which was reprinted in today's National Post:
"End of an error," said the wise-guy headline on the Yahoo Sports site yesterday, heralding the end of the Expos. But it was never an error: Not from the beginning when Major League Baseball came to the tolerant city Branch Rickey had chosen, a quarter-century earlier, as the ideal place for Jackie Robinson to break into pro ball. Not when Jarry Park rocked night after night with a team losing close to 100 games a season. Not when the Expos made their pennant runs year after year at the Big O, with 50,000 screaming fans shaking the concrete, and talents as large as Andre Dawson and Gary Carter and Tim Raines on the field.
"Now that it looks like it's going to happen, that this is going to be the end, it's a little tough for people to get up and talk about it in the positive way that they should," Expos manager Frank Robinson said the other day. "And I think that's kind of a pity, really, because it deserves that people say more about how they feel about the situation, about the possibility of losing baseball in the Montreal area.
"I think there were a lot more good times possibly than bad times. This is where an expansion ball club grew into one of the best organizations in baseball, at one time, and it's sad the way it has gone over the last few years and the way it is going out, if this is the end."
Amen. But that's what happens when you set out to build a Field of Dreams and end up, for whatever reason, with a Field of Condos instead.
Fan attendence last night was 5,416. What a shame.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: POLE POSITION
Stripper pole brings trouble for students
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Three students at Jacksonville University have been punished for installing a stripper pole in an on-campus apartment and taking pictures as clothed female students performed on it at a party.
About a dozen women competed for a $100 Victoria's Secret gift certificate Sept. 11, said James Foster, a 20-year-old who hosted the party. None of the women disrobed.
The men bought the steel pole from Home Depot, bolted it to the concrete ceiling and attached the bottom to a plywood stage covered in red felt.
"Honestly, we just wanted to say we had a stripper pole," Foster said. "We never actually expected girls to dance on it." When university officials ordered the men to remove the pole, they complied, but not before building a huge party around it.
Signs reading "Pole Dancers Wanted" were posted around campus and the men bought large quantities of beer. Friends were enlisted friends to check identifications and manage security. They charged $5 for men, and women were let in free. The party ended shortly after the beer ran out.
John Daigle Jr., a school spokesman, said the party's hosts may have violated the university's alcohol policy and broken rules against indecent behavior and the making of unapproved changes to university property.
Daigle, citing school privacy rules, would not identify the students or the punishment they received, but said: "The university took this seriously and the punishment was appropriate."
Punishments at the university can range from a reprimand to dismissal.
Foster said he was put on residential probation through Nov. 9 and had to write a letter of apology. The penalties imposed on the other students were not released.
None of the women faced any disciplinary action, Daigle said. "There was no public nudity involved here," he said.
Residential adviser Amber Davis said the party degraded women.
"There are other ways they can go out and get a girlfriend if that's what they want," she said.
The men have taken down the pole and converted the stage to a pingpong table.
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE NEW CHURCHILL?
ON THE 1S AND 2S: HIP HOP TERMINOLOGY
(adj) A disc jockey operating two turntables and a mixing board.
See also: "Wheels of Steel"
"On the 1s and 2s"
Monday, September 27, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: T-SHIRTS GONE MAD
B! TALK DAILY: THE O'REILLY FACTOR
- Pro-gun control;
- Anti-death penalty;
- For greater environmental regulation;
- Extremely critical of the current war in Iraq.
Doesn't sound like the raving right-wing lunatic Al Franken et al. make him out to be. By the way--is Air America still on? I didn't notice.
POLITICS AS USUAL: WHAT IS A CONSERVATIVE?
As part of that debate, I would like to reprint an article in today's Globe by William Thorsell. It provides substantial food for thought. I also happen to agree with him. Being a Conservative means much more than cutting taxes.
"A conservative frame of mind starts with respect for the depth of our social experience, for our history and inheritance as a civilization, if you will. It values the successful adaptations of previous generations, and is slow to throw over well-grounded, much-tested means of securing social order and economic prosperity.
A conservative frame of mind is suspicious of complete answers, total solutions and centralized controls. It is humble with the memory of history's horrors and excesses. It remembers, as well as dreams. It looks askance at the fragility of humanity, the distortions of power, and the enthusiasms of any given moment.
It puts more faith in process than specific outcomes -- the rule of law -- and expresses more faith in aspirations than prescriptions.
It recognizes free markets as a fundamental expression of democracy, and values their power to generate technological change and productive work. It is fierce in its respect for individual human rights against aggression by any group, even for admirable ends.
A particular level of taxation is not seminal to these conservative attitudes. The purposes and structure of taxation are.
A conservative may even support higher levels of taxation in the interest of prosperity and social health. Look what Brian Mulroney and, yes, Paul Martin finally did in raising taxes to slay Canada's deficit -- which underlies so much of our current economic and social success.
Conservatives will happily invest public money on education, infrastructure, defence and social programs to perpetuate and strengthen the traditions of their society. These responsibilities come with the Constitution, after all. It is how they are done -- efficiently, carefully and affordably -- that matters.
Conservatives appreciate the limits of public programs to change human nature or solve existential problems. Conservatives know where levels of regulation and taxation become counterproductive, however laudable the political goals may be. So they stop there, often with a rueful smile.
Whether it be John Tory, Stephen Harper or, indeed, Paul Martin, a Canadian conservative in this early 21st century should be able to articulate a much deeper, resonant vision of what a conservative is than any particular attitude to tax levels. The conservative frame of mind offers much more than that to an electorate looking for value beyond a cliché."
Friday, September 24, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE CANADIAN CONNECTION
You know what? She's probably right.
Poll after poll have shown that the vast majority of Canadian voters would rather see Kerry than Dubya in the White House. Why is that? I suppose Canadians feel that Kerry's multilateral approach to world affairs, with greater emphasis on the UN, etc, is more appealing. I think we Canadians don't mind the benefit of having a strong continental partner, just as long as it doesn't get too big for its britches. I guess they would prefer their U.S. President to be more "Canadian": timid and quiet.
It's not like Kerry's policies will necessarily benefit us. You think his union buddies will allow for more free trade or lower tariffs? Or that he will stem the tide of terrorist strikes? Doubt it. But hey--Kerry would fall in line with the kind of leaders we seem to elect: multimillionare lawyers/businessmen who are short on ideas and fairly happy with the stauts quo.
I can see why Diana Kerry has her work cut out for her--why would all those ex-pats care about voting for the next President? They have their own paradise right here in the Great White North.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
B! TALK DAILY: APPRENTICE 2--C'MON JOIN THE PILE ON
Poor Stacie J . I think we all knew she was a marked women the second she went squirrly with her 8 Ball. But man, we've never seen the entire team beat up on on individual. Well, the women folk got what they wanted. Who ever said they were the fairer sex? They are vicious.
But they keep losing.
I'm kind of sensing a different approach with the big DT this time. Last time, the evaluation process was pretty straight forward: success or failure. This time, while he is focusing on substantial but unrelated actions or issues (Stacie's wig out and Bradford trying to be a big man), they are saving people who straight-up failed at their job. How many times can Ivana be saved by someone doing something really wierd? Maria should have been fired, no question about it.
I'm not sure if it will make for better TV, as all the interesting personalities are being smoked. All you're going to be left with are guys like Rick--he was commenting on the QE2 and I swear I had never seen him before (sounds like he's following my "Rule of Invisibility").
One other point: I am severely unimpressed with the efforts of both teams this time. How many of you out there are concerned about the future if these are the "best and brightest"? Pretty boring B-school crop this time around. I would have had a street team for the promotion, getting out to hot spots, subways, etc, while my second team hit the newswire, radio stations, internet, whatever. Piazza was pretty good, but they didn't have to do much work.
One last thing--I hate misleading ads. Where was the "Boardroom shocker"? That they all were called back in? Not exactly Must See TV.
POLITICS AS USUAL: PUTTING THE "SOFT" BACK IN "SOFT POWER"
Weak and irresponsible
It is ironic that Paul Martin used his speech at the UN to lecture other countries about responsibility, when successive Canadian governments have irresponsibly weakened Canada's effectiveness on the international stage.
In a speech yesterday to the United Nations General Assembly, the prime minister urged several areas in which the organization must reform itself, including the "responsibility to protect" those facing humanitarian catastrophe, the "responsibility to respect" the dignity, freedom and diversity of all people and the "responsibility to build" those public institutions that help people overcome poverty, disease and global insecurity.
No rational person would disagree with these sentiments. The difficulty is the vast distance between rhetoric and reality. It is not so much that Mr. Martin and his advisers are naive in their soft-power enthusiasms, but rather that they don't recognize how their views expose the failings of Canadian foreign policy, and, indeed, promote the surrender of Canadian sovereignty.
Consider what Mr. Martin said on the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. While the prime minister wouldn't use the word "genocide," as U.S. President George W. Bush did at the same podium the day before, he did acknowledge that "war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed" in Darfur.
"We must not let debates about definitions become obstacles to action," he continued, but then he retreated from doing anything to stop the killing, claiming the Security Council hadn't provided the justification under international law for intervention. "We need clear principles that will allow the international community to intervene much faster in situations like Darfur."
Just how clear does Mr. Martin want things to be? The U.S. says genocide is occurring in Darfur. Canada says there are war crimes and crimes against humanity. But because the Security Council hasn't given us its blessing to intervene, we have to stand by and let that continue.
Compare Mr. Martin's attitude to that of Mr. Bush, who also told the General Assembly that it is irresponsible to not take action in a time of dire need. But unlike Mr. Martin, Mr. Bush said the U.S. will act on its obligations when others won't. Such a contrast suggests that Mr. Martin is using the UN's inadequacies as justification for Canada's own inaction. We want to act, he claims, but can't because other members of the UN won't let us.
To say this is to make a virtue of weakness. Canada long ago abdicated real responsibility for its defence. Our navy and army need to take "holidays" from overseas missions. We can't be leaders on disarmament issues, as we once were, because the Foreign Affairs department has gutted its expertise in that area. So while the prime minister says he wants the United Nations to be stronger, the UN's reticence to back up its resolutions with decisive action allows him to portray Canada as upholding international law even when we stand by as crimes against humanity are committed in defiance of the Security Council.
Such an attitude is indeed irresponsible, for it abdicates our foreign policy, and the values on which it is based, to other countries, many of which do not share those values.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: DOES YOUR SOUP KITCHEN HAVE A MUSHROOM BOUILLABAISSE?
Vancouver's skid row jeers Clarkson
By JANE ARMSTRONG
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Wednesday, Sep 22, 2004
Vancouver — In her baby-blue fleece jacket, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson gave a steely smile as she waded into the phalanx of protesters yelling unregal epithets at Her Excellency.
The crowd gathered in a noisy clump outside a dental clinic in Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside. They were riled that the Governor-General had asked for a tour of one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods.
It was a small group of no more than two dozen and they were nearly outnumbered by police officers and reporters. But they made lots of noise and dogged Ms. Clarkson and her husband, author John Ralston Saul, every step of the hour-long walkabout.
“Hey Adrienne,” one woman yelled as Ms. Clarkson and Mr. Saul left the clinic and walked along Hastings Street. “Why don't you buy me lunch for two bucks?”
It wasn't clear what — if anything — the protesters wanted, because their grievances changed as the morning walkabout wore on.
Some said they felt degraded at the Governor-General coming for a quickie tour of their troubled neighbourhood. Others accused Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell of exploiting the neighbourhood by providing the out-of-town couple with a “sanitized” version of the drug-ridden area.
“The Downtown Eastside shouldn't be used as a backdrop for politicians,” anti-poverty activist David Cunningham shouted as onlookers gathered on the sidewalk in the September sunshine.
“It's degrading to see people come down here and walk all over us. This is where homeless people live and die.” The couple arrived — a little late — on foot, dressed casually, as if out for an autumn stroll. After the clinic, they stopped in a coffee shop, toured a recycling depot run for the homeless, visited an art gallery and took a tour through the city's old Woodward's building, which is slated to become a housing development.
They appeared animated and undaunted by the throng of banging drums and rising voices. Ms. Clarkson told reporters it is her job to visit every cranny of Canada.
“This is what the Governor-General should be doing,” she said. “Being with people. No matter who they are. No matter what they do. And living and witnessing what their lives are.”
The epithets ranged from profane to personal. At one point, Mr. Cunningham, chasing Mr. Saul, told the writer he wrote bad books. Mr. Saul did not respond.
The anti-poverty group had planned the demonstration long before the Governor-General arrived. The group also complained that police had rounded up homeless people hours before the tour to make the neighbourhood appear less threatening.
“I could show you a dozen places where homeless people were sleeping last night,” said Adam Pierre, an unemployed man who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than 30 years.
While the Governor-General toured the dental clinic, Mr. Cunningham stood outside and complained that Ms. Clarkson should be outdoors, getting a street-level look at the poverty of the neighbourhood. “The shelters and the food lines are the Downtown Eastside, and they're making sure that no politicians get anywhere close to the reality that we're forced to live in,” he said. “That's where we're going to take Adrienne Clarkson.”
However, the Governor-General made her way to the street on her own time. After the dental clinic, Ms. Clarkson, surrounded by a bubble of reporters, police and protesters, walked east along Hastings Street, a corridor notorious for its drug dealers, prostitutes and homeless. She walked past a young man sleeping on the sidewalk, with a jacket covering his torso.
Ms. Clarkson's Vancouver trip is the last stop in a series of six Canadian cities she has toured since 2003. Her foray into Vancouver's skid row isn't her first up-close brush with deeply entrenched social problems. In Toronto, she toured the downtown neighbourhood of Regent Park, and in Saskatoon, she visited an urban first nations reserve. At the recycling plant, Ms. Clarkson told reporters the protesters have a right to vent their anger.
“It's a free country,” she said, her smile intact. “I was a journalist for years and I was involved in lots of things, where people swung baseball bats and did all sorts of things, and I think people are legitimately concerned with poverty.
“They're legitimately concerned with housing. They're legitimately concerned with their needs, and if it sometimes takes the form of this kind of anger, well so be it. That's the way it is. And that's what the whole thing means is that we should be basically looking at how to make a change that will reduce that anger.”
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
ON THE 1S AND 2S: HIP-HOP TERMINOLOGY
Now, everyone has caught on to terms like "phat", "bling" and "fo' shizzle". I will try to define a few that you might not know about.
Today's word: "Crunk"
1) (adj.) Exciting, very good: "Tonight is going to be crunk"
2) (adv.) To have a good time: "We are all going to get crunk tonight"
Monday, September 20, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE FIRST PAGE OF A NEW TORY
I have never claimed to be an idealogue; I have always considered myself to be somewhat of a pragmatist--there is a role for government and certain policies make more sense during certain times. But I do have principles that I stand by. Government cannot be all things to all people. It should create a positive environment for business and provide the necessary (but not excessive) regulations to protect consumers, the environment, etc. It should be limited in its size, doing what is necessary to serve the people and not much more. I'm a firm believer of law and order and an unapologetic supporter of law enforcement agencies. And I do think we pay too many taxes.
I for one am willing to give John Tory a chance.
There is no question Mr. Tory is a well-regarded man. I supported him during his run for the mayoralty of Toronto. I think he brings a lot to the table. But I (and I would argue many grassroot PC members) have some concerns. During the leadership race, he said very little about his vision for Ontario. While that might have been on purpose, it still doesn't tell me what I can expect he will put forward to Ontario voters in 2007. And that makes me nervous.
I have no problem with someone who is more of a "moderate" (although I personally believe Mike Harris did what was right for the times, as opposed to espousing policies because he was a "neo-conservative"). I think the PC Party has a lot to offer Ontario voters, especially as an alternative to Premier Dalton McGuinty and his boulevard of broken promises. But if you want the top job, you need to show voters why you are worthy of it. Its not enough to not be someone--you need to specifically show them your vision for the province.
My (unsolicited) advice to John Tory is to unabashedly be who you are. If you're a moderate, fine. Be a moderate. If you do believe in more "right-wing" policies (you did pledge to reinstitute the lifetime ban for those convicted of welfare fraud) then put it out there and stick to it.
Voters appreciate knowing what to expect. And frankly, so do I. I can respect someone who is true to what THEY believe in, whether or not I believe in it. I can say I didn't agree with everything that Mike Harris did while in government, but I still supported him wholeheartedly. Don't follow polls and try to please everyone. That's where you will lose support. And always do what you said you were going to do. Never break the trust voters have placed with you.
Best of luck. And if you want to give me a call, you have my number.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
B! TALK DAILY: THE APPRENTICE 2--SHUT YOUR MOUTH!
Bradford is a gigantic idiot. I know that most of the contestants (and not just the men) are charter members of the "swinging wiener society", but sometimes talking for the sake of talking is like putting a target on your chest. Bradford should NEVER of given up his immunity, but he thought he was being clever. He should have shut his mouth. Look at all those people who have stood out only to get smoked: Sam. Omarosa. And you knew Bradford was gone the second DT said he had "strong feelings" on his decisions.
Jennifer the Real Estate chick should have also taken a cue and shut her mouth. Defend when necessary and hit someone when they're vulnerable. Look at these other non-descript people. Are they in the boardroom? Nope. Did anyone even have an opinion on Bill last season until he cracked the top 5? No, because we (and the other Season One candidates) were all obsessing about the larger personalities. Raj may dress loud, but he never stands out. Smart. For now.
Bradford is a such an idiot. You'd have to take my immunity out of my cold, dead hands.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: THE WORLD BELONGS TO CANADA
We rule the world.
Well, the hockey world, anyway.
GO TEAM CANADA!
You boys rule!
Monday, September 13, 2004
B! TALK DAILY: APPRENTICE 2--ROB THE KNOB
So, the humiliating honour of "First to be Fired from The Apprentice 2" goes to Robert, a corporate branding salesman (whatever that is) from Texas. Robert joins another notable, David Gould, the socially awkward MBA/MD who chased after potential Lemonade customers with a pathological furvor during the first season. His reward for his "enthusiasm" was to be booted in the first episode.
Rob was less than impressive during the first episode, but no less than many of the others (let's look at PM Pamela, who spent much of her time with Mattel execs dissing the little kids during the focus groups). Some contributed so little, I didn't even know some of the candidates were ON the show until they showed up in The Boardroom! My favorite part about Rob was his intense reactions to anything someone said about him. When someone commented that he was "underutilized", they could have been telling him that Mark Burnett slept with his wife, considering the bugged-out look on his face. Poor Rob--we hardly knew ye.
I don't know what my favorite part was: Stacie J. and her Magic 8 Ball going totally nutters while waiting for the results, or Bradford's stupid-ass remote controlled head car that he insisted would be a winner with kids. Its gotta be Stacie. Sorry, I just love watching people have a total meltdown.
Oh, one more thing-- Raj is the man. The cane? The red pants? Brilliant.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
THOUGHT OF THE DAY: WHAT'S IN A NAME?
POLITICS AS USUAL: WELCOME TO CANADA--PLACE YOUR EYE HERE, PLEASE...
While regrettable than these kinds of measures are even necessary, they are sorely needed. In this day and age, where terrorists show no regard whatsoever for innocent lives and have open threatened Canada with attack, security measures such as these are prudent, to say the least. Coming to Canada to work and/or live is a privilege and should not be taken lightly. Indeed, Canadian citizenship is something that has value across the globe.
People who come to this country (and even those who were born here) should have a method of identification which we can have faith in. I always find it interesting when a spy movie shows the villain thumbing through his/her fake passports and Canada's are always in the pile. There is a societal value of knowing who is whom. Even from a safety point of view, registration of those entering the country can be helpful for notification purposes (family illness, natural disaster, etc).
Unfortunately, the usual suspects claim this idea is nothing short of creating a "surveillance society". Over an ID card? Please. Maybe they should save that for the "a camera in every home" Safety and Security Plan the Conservatives plan to put into place once elected (kidding).
BOTTOM LINE--Those who have nothing to hide hide nothing.
Friday, September 03, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE COST OF EDUCATION
I have an outstanding student loan from my days as a student. Actually, its quite a large one. My parents didn't pay for any of my education fees, so I had to front the cost of tuition myself. My first year, was the worst as far as the amount of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funds I received. Worst because that year's OSAP loan represented over half of the total amount I am now paying back. And I diligently make my payments every month.
Truth be told, I didn't need as much as I received. It covered more than tuition and campus housing, so I didn't feel the need to get a part time job (thanks to birthday money and my very modest savings account, GST rebate cheque).
And now I'm paying for it.
Thankfully, I woke up in subsequent years and realized I was just making things tougher for myself by taking more and more OSAP money. In fact, in my third year, I took some of the money left over after tuition and returned it. In my fourth year, I didn't apply for OSAP.
You know why? It wasn't because I starved, or borrowed my books. I got a job! I worked part time during the school year and full time during the break. And I chose my school largely based on the fact that it was in the same City as my parents, which allowed me to eliminate housing expenses. Was it ideal? No. Did it allow me to avoid "crippling student debt"? Yes.
If the CFS really wants to help students, they could assist them in truly preparing for real life--which means learning to be accountable. No one is going to pay your way once you get out of school, so we should break that habit early.
Bottom line--I'm all for keeping tuition affordable, but people (especially students) need to learn that anything worth having has a cost.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: BREEDING CYNICISM
Sometimes the most painful wound is of the self-inflicted variety.
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