That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Scientalific evidamence

Panicked into embarrassment over Arctic inaction, I suppose? Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon today announces he has something he calls “scientific evidence” that supports Canada’s claim over the Lomonosov Ridge.

Scientific evidence! Wow. That sounds quite fancy. Real scientists, getting real evidence. Wearing lab coats, adjusting spectacles, nodding at maps… acting all sciency.

I wonder if Cannon could give us a teaser as to what new evidence he’s excited about? Or is he possibly just trying to appear to be doing something, anything constructive in the Arctic the day after Russia and Norway resolve a border dispute?

I remember John McCain during the Presidential debates:

“I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him. I’ll get him no matter what, and I know how to do it.”

Like Lawrence Cannon, if he had a real clue, you think he’d have shared it.

With the Russia-Norway deal demonstrating what progress looks like, Ottawa needed to ratchet up the tone and appear to be “progressing” on its own Arctic file. As so often, getting this tone right trumps getting the actual scientific evidence. Just ask Munir Sheikh.


Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , ,

Let’s 2000

Oops, I did it again. ♫ I played with your heart. ♫ With another photo of my dinner.

The occasion? We’ve passed the 2,000 hit mark on Polygonic, taking three months to get here. Thanks friends! (and enemies) It’s clicks like yours that keep me flying high as a weather balloon.

Anyway – I’d planned this stir-fry, but delayed it a few days due to working late or going to birthday drinks – resulting in the chicken being marinated for three days! OJ, soy sauce, star anise, tarragon, salt, pepper, lemon and ginger. Then chucked in the wok with other bits and bobs.

So tasty, angels wept – for they were unable to get out of Heaven to come try some.

Thanks again all – keep on visiting!

Filed under: Uncategorized,

Twiddling in the Arctic

Norway and Russia have resolved an Arctic maritime border dispute through negotiation, while Canada buys multi-billion dollar stealth fighter jets. Which do you think is the more effective route to asserting Arctic sovereignty?

So, much to Harper’s chagrin, racing around on an ATV in Tuktoyaktuk and getting your photo taken atop a submarine is not enough to assert Arctic sovereignty. Nor are multi-billion dollar stealth jet fighters that are primarily designed to blow up bridges and villages.

Unfortunately for Harper, negotiating a settlement is how these things work. You can’t prorogue it away, you can’t lie about it or spin it off the front pages. You can’t just tell the process that “you think you make the rules.” You just have to bite your lip, go into that negotiating room, and work.

Not that the discourse of Arctic territorialism is something I’m very happy with. There is of course a dark irony in seeking to exploit the effects of climate change to drill for even more oil and create a freeway system of cargo boats to churn through one of the world’s most environmentally sensitive areas.

I have a quaint (but still passionate!) plan for the Arctic myself, though this falls in the category of ultranaive internationalism. So. Everything north of 75 degrees ought to fall under the authority of an international Arctic Treaty system – something not as far-reaching as the Antarctic Treaty, but nevertheless a treaty regime that would forbid all military activity, resource exploitation, and shipping, forever and ever.

Of course this would have implications for Santa Claus, but it’s for the greater good.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , ,

It’s upside-down Down Under

Australia’s Labor Party hammered out a working coalition government last week (huzzah!), and so then came the naturally arduous task of cabinet building. In a highly surreal twist, Australia’s new Foreign Minister is apparently… ex-PM Kevin Rudd? The same fellow who was unceremoniously ousted as Prime Minister by Julia Gillard short months ago?

Rudd’s now got the awkward task of representing the government of his vanquisher, and he’s starting right away. He’ll be in Washington this week, then to the UN General Assembly on Gillard’s behalf. I don’t envy him the task, and am very curious as to why and how he came to accept the role. It’s glammy, but what a bizarre career trajectory.

I’m trying to imagine Paul Martin naming Jean Chrétien as Defence Minister in 2004, or Gordon Brown placing Blair as a Deputy Minister for Health in 2007. It just confirms to me: I don’t get Australia.

In other weird Aussie political job-hopping news: ex-Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett has been moved from Environment to Schools, Childhood and Youth. That’s also a demotion. But so was going from rock star to MP, I suppose.

Filed under: International, Politics, , , ,

A good week for the NDP

I like what’s going on with the NDP right now, and not only gun registry wise. During tricky and trying circumstances, they’re nonetheless showing a verve and confidence that I was not expecting.

First, Saskatchewan. Jack Layton’s convened his caucus in Regina, which some might consider very hostile territory. But they’ve done well to remind everyone that the party has Farmer-Labour roots, was born in the Prairies, and that Saint Tommy Douglas belonged to both Saskatchewan and the NDP. New Democrats aren’t exclusively urbane smart-asses, they’re a worker’s party that belongs in the Prairies. And why not? They are polling ahead of the Liberals in Saskitoba, after all.

This Saskatchewan-themed week seems to suggest 1) the New Democrats may be looking to a genuine 308 strategy, and won’t write off any corner of the country as infertile ground, and 2) they know the long gun registry has been a tightrope through a windstorm for them, and they are going to have to reach out to rural voters in more ways now. Even unwhipped support for the gun registry could hurt the NDP in rural Canada, so they need to look for other ways to engage them. The caucus meeting, and the Tommy Douglas statue business are at least an early declaration of intent.

Second, the long gun registry itself. Jack seems to have done the impossible: convinced enough of his members to vote to save the registry which is a huge turnaround from NDP free votes on first reading. If this sticks, it is a massive success for Jack Layton. He knew he couldn’t whip his caucus like the Liberals and CPC could, as a lot of NDP support in northern B.C. and rural Manitoba is soft and volatile.

Giving caucus a free vote inflamed some NDP supporters (for a time, me too) as a limp sort of non-strategy. An abdication of real leadership, and timidity in the face of hard decision. But that isn’t the way the approach has panned out – Layton’s been able to articulate a principle higher than simply “should long guns be registered” – he’s articulated a grassroots democratic principle of empowering constituent MPs to consider policy implications as well as local opinion. It was a risky decision, as it could have drawn the NDP as disunited and impotent in advancing its interests. But Jack’s power to persuade, rather than whip, is an asset to his leadership, and the party looks more considered and more democratic as a result. It contrasts nicely against the authoritarianism of the big parties.

Some argue that, by saving the long gun registry, the NDP (and Liberals) would suffer a pyrrhic victory, handing the Cons a hot-button issue, and allowing Harper to enjoy whipping up anti-registry “gun freedom” rhetoric long into a future election campaign. That doesn’t worry me – such rhetoric is not going to convert centrists and lefty folks, it’s not going to get women or any of the cities on his side, and it won’t assist in any quest for a Reform Party majority government. Canada is not Tea Party Land.

Finally, they’re polling at 16% in Québec. That’s just one point behind another well-known federalist party, the Conservatives. I’m going on about the 308 strategy thing, but if we saw the NDP really hammering on this and working seriously for Québec gains, that would be thrilling. Naive? Maybe. But I see room for them to draw the Bloc as arrogant luddites who wrongly assume Quebecers aspirations are no more complex than the sovereignty question. The NDP are real social democrats who believe you get a fair and prosperous society by having a big society….. anyway, I’d like to see them nurture these growing numbers in QC.

I’ll be accused of weirdness to be so impressed by recent New Democrat movements when, overall, they’re not enjoying any polling surge, and have indeed bled support to the establishment as the gun registry debate’s taken its toll. But I think they’ve weathered the storm well, and should reap dividends before too long.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,

A page from Maxime’s book?

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – Maxime Bernier’s come out swinging against the Colisée funding proposal – I can’t help but wish the Liberals had taken the same position.

If they had, they’d have come off as 1) the sensible economists with a masterplan, versus the spendthrift, giddy, erratic Conservatives, and 2) ballsy enough to be able to say no to Québec projects once in a while. And I don’t think that would have cost them dramatically in la Belle Province… like anyone, the Québécois can appreciate that Ottawa isn’t really there to build NHL rinks.

Ignatieff came out of the summer bus tour full of piss and vinegar, sleeves rolled up, and with a mean glint in his eye. It was good. The Liberals need now to follow through with tough, united, defensible opposition to dumb Harper moves like this – not seem cowed into agreement, for fear of what retribution opposition might bring.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

The Mili-battle goes haywire

Diane Abbott suggested recently that Labour shouldn’t simply “anoint its next leader,” and it seems as though her message might be getting through. Not in the way that she perhaps intended, but in terms of affecting Labour party supporters’ perspective on the Mili-Battle.

Brother Ed is for the first time seen to be leading Brother David in the race to lead the Labour Party. Abbott’s calls for blue-sky thinking does play a role in this turn, I think, as she is someone to whom the media flocks for opinion in the leadership race, if not for seriousness regarding her own competitiveness.

But there is a real element, as well, of Brother David starting to display some very negative characteristics. Arrogance, Blairism, Condescension. It’s a simple ABC recipe for alienation.

These two Polly Toynbee interviews (15 minutes long each, but worth it: here’s David’s interview, and here’s Ed’s) are telling, with each brother highlighting some differences between them – in vision, but perhaps most crucially, in character. David is aggressive, frequently interrupting, not a little self-idolising. Ed is more responsive, thoughtful, and in many ways seems more committed to Labour ideals, if not perhaps to the principle of the party’s electability.

I see Labour’s dilemma as this: “should we be a party of principled opposition (Eddism), or a party of compromised government (Davidism)?” I suspect many Labour supporters are torn in this way – there are loads of Eddists who nevertheless consider seriously voting for David, calculating that he is the more likely victor in a 2015 slug-fest against the Tory war machine. The Tories apparently fear the same, though I find this “leak” somewhat suspect meddling from the Prime Minister….

While Eddists are convinced that Ed’s the good guy, the heartfelt intellectual with a moderated modernist vision for Labour, they’ve not yet been convinced he has the mega-watt charisma and the power to rally others to his cause. Thing is, if Eddists view David as a bit of a prick, they may now be wondering whether the whole of the country would draw the same conclusion at election time – if that suspicion snowballs, they may decide “it would be better that Labour lose for being too lefty, rather than for being too smarmy.”

Filed under: Politics, UK, , , ,

The Conservatives’ latest own goal

Curiouser and curiouser. We know the extent to which Stephen Harper drives for total message control – so the sight of a group of Québec Conservative MPs in Nordique jerseys and thumbs up could mean (at least) one of two things:

1) Harper’s sanctioned funding for a new Colisée already – out of panicked desperation for something “feel-good” he can do, but we all see it’s another sign he’s lost his supposed “shrewdness” and is blowing any remaining reputation as someone committed to fiscal restraint during a time of deficit, or

2) J.-P. Blackburn and his Québec colleagues are going a bit rogue here – trying to force the PMO’s hand by whipping up Québec excitement in advance of a decision. A new sign of party rifts.

Either way, Harper now seems damned whatever he does. He’ll infuriate most of Canada if federal funding goes ahead for it, and he’ll humiliate his Québec caucus (along with any tentative voter support in Quebec) if he doesn’t. He’ll violently confuse his Reformer base if he’s seen freewheeling on a bread-and-circuses agenda and kissing boots in Québec while taking the west for granted, but equally he’ll come off as indecisive and not in control if he backs away from this now.

Perhaps there will be a national programme for arena development, so that the Québec pandering charge loses its stick. But does he really want to come off as a Johnny-Manley-come-lately?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,


September 2010
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