Polygonic

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

Hockey Canada’s own goal

Following on from the unity theme, a good article here on a head-shaking development. Doesn’t a separate Team Québec kind of ruin hockey’s great, all-inclusive, unifying power?

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , ,

Gilles’ secret world tour

Trying to find evidence that Duceppe’s been on a sovereigntist publicity drive in Europe isn’t easy. Unless Google is broken, not a single British source has covered his visit to Scotland this week, excepting 1) an announcement from the University of Edinburgh, where he gave his actual speech, and 2) well, Polygonic. Which is a British source, after all. 🙂

Google searches for “gilles duceppe barcelona” and “gilles duceppe scotland” reveal nothing other than Canuckistani media covering his trip.

In their solitude, the Globe and NP seem quaint through the high drama with which they introduced Duceppe’s international tour. But it’s maybe a typically Canadian anguish. Outside the Ottawa conversation, no one has noticed a thing. Is that good, or bad?

More than complaining that Duceppe is using the Canadian taxpayer’s dime to trumpet separation, perhaps the concern should be that he’s using the taxpayer’s dime and hasn’t managed to provoke a single peep of interest in the condition of Canadian unity.

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

Novel concept

I can’t help but wonder if Peter MacKay is tempted to go off and form his own political party. Something that’s Conservative, but somehow… how to put this… a more kind of “progressive” Conservative?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , ,

Tories vs Republicans

An interesting sketch of the widening abyss between American Republicans and British Tories – two strands of conservatism that barely recognise each other anymore. The UK currently has a Conservative PM that, for all his fiscal draconianism, expresses only the barest of social-conservative principles as compared with the Tea Party, or the Reform Party up north.

Where would Harperites fit on this spectrum? Or is that just too depressing to contemplate?

Unlike Margaret Thatcher, British Conservatives no longer echo Ronald Reagan’s view that government is the problem not the solution.

But the important point is this: Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan shared a governing philosophy: ideology and pragmatism. Ideology was great for speech-making and letting people know what you thought, pragmatism was necessary for governing. As American and British Conservatives drift apart, like Gondwana and Pangaea, it seems that American Republicans have let go of their pragmatic inheritance.

Without pragmatic respect for what previous governments have done, can they really be considered “conservative” in the true meaning of the term?

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

I’ll show you happy

The UK’s coalition government plans to introduce a Gross National Happiness index to better understand how public policy interacts with the social soul. British public opinion so far seems to range from the confused to the outright skeptical. “How much is this nonsense going to cost?” is one of the refrains.

I’m amused in a way (though I don’t know how measurably) that the initiative should raise so many eyebrows. Many have long argued that GDP measurements only tell one particular kind of tale, and that they don’t tell a particularly convincing story of how well off people really feel. Singapore, for example, may have one of the world’s highest per capita GDPs, but few would argue they enjoy one of the world’s highest or healthiest standards of living.

Bhutan, on the other hand, the nominally impoverished Himalayan kingdom that invites the pity and probably misplaced goodwill of materialist Western aid workers, is actually already one of the happiest places on Earth.

The Bhutanese themselves famously pioneered the measurement of national happiness to bolster their own case that the country is a great success story in terms of enabling people to lead enjoyable lives, which is the best thing any set of state institutions can ever really aspire to do. The Gross National Happiness index aggregates social and economic indicators across a range of areas, including psychological well-being, use of time, community vitality, health, governance, and environmental sustainability, among others.

The Guardian, ironically, decides instead to give some credit to the UK’s decision to Canadian pioneering in the area of happiness measurement.

Canadian statisticians and researchers also poll subjective wellbeing across the country, but the data have thus far not attracted much policy attention.

Indeed. In fact, the entire prospect of data gathering has not attracted much policy attention in Harperian Ottawa. Sigh.

But I’m happy with the UK’s effort to get to grips with this. All the happier if I get surveyed myself, which will suit their purposes quite well. So, yes – if there are ulterior political purposes underlining it, though, they’ll want to try to avoid sending out the happiness questionnaires during Tube strikes, rainy days, or after any English sporting devastation on the world stage. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time.

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

Welcome to Starperbucks

It appears that Harper’s greatest chance of ever winning a majority government lies in placing all polling stations inside Starbucks outlets. Who’d have thought it would be possible to vote conservative, and still be able to pronounce a word like “macchiato?”

Éric Grenier counts the Starbucks density across federal ridings, and blows froth at the idea of the coffee chain as a fortress of wise-ass Liberal elites and their hip spectacles.

Does easy access to Starbucks latte really make you vote Liberal?

Some of the more striking figures:

– There are 31 ridings in Canada with a “high Starbucks density” of 10 outlets or more. A full 17 of them are held by Conservatives, 9 by the NDP and 5 by Liberals.
– Liberal ridings have the lowest average number of Starbucks outlets of the three federalist parties, at just 3.8 stores per riding
– Every single B.C. riding is home to a Starbucks. Alberta has more Starbucks outlets than the rest of the country (excluding B.C. and Ontario) combined.

No surprise to Westerners, I would think. My own retired parents suffer the ignoble fate of living in one of B.C.’s safest Conservative ridings, yet there are more Starbucks stores in their shopping mall than there are public washrooms. Long queues of pick-up trucks and SUVs snake around Starbucks drive-thru lanes at any hour of the day.

It’s coffee. People like it.

Disproving stereotypes of a supposed “elite class” is all good, but we remain left with this rampant classism itself. Why has it become acceptable to snarl at things like a university education? To treat anything remotely urban as distinctly “un-Canadian?” As evidenced by Rob Ford’s election, even Torontonians hate Toronto now.

Maybe it’s down to Palin contagion. A kind of vicarious Tea Party envy. Or, quite likely, a moribund media culture that sands away the sharp edges of a critical political discourse.

Oh well. So long as Starbucks doesn’t rebrand its range of Christmas coffees as an all-inclusive “festive season” range, Canada’s right wing will remain gloriously unperturbed.

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

On solutions

There’s a bit of discussion going on regarding Canada’s role in Afghanistan post-2011. Now, no one would suggest any similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam. That would be like comparing a McIntosh to a Granny Smith. Are you crazy?

Nevertheless, here’s une petite blast from the past as the CBC asks high school kids in 1966 what they think might be necessary in reaching a happy conclusion in Vietnam, and what Western leaders should be thinking about.

Where are they now? Not advising Peter Mackay, I guess.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , ,

How do you fire this thing?

It was British Field Marshal Earl Frederick Roberts, after fighting in the Second Anglo-Afghan war of the 1880s, who said:

“I am sure I am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us, the less they will dislike us.”

This coming from a man who himself is credited with being “instrumental in promoting the mass training of civilians in rifle shooting skills through membership of shooting clubs.”

Accidental Deliberations has posed the essential question on numbers required for a training extension, and identifies the Conservatives (and Bob Rae’s) long-standing desire to maintain a military presence post-2011. Recent U.S. pressure on Ottawa to stay put has been the twisting of a rubber arm. Ottawa’s ambiguity on the numbers belies an ambiguous, and probably more expansive, military purpose than what we’re being sold.

“Training” sounds benign. We hear assertions from Ottawa of a non-combat role post-2011: a “behind-the-wire” (sigh) type of service, nothing dramatically different from carrying out any other type of humanitarian or developmental activity.

This is pure pig-lipstick. Are Rae and Harper actually convinced that the greatest problem in Afghanistan is a lack of adequate military training? Afghan soldiers, after ten years of working with ISAF (and generations more of repelling every band of conquering heroes who nobly stumbled upon the Hindu Kush), still remain insufficiently knowledgeable in the ways of war?

In any case, military training has been going on for decades. The CIA were very effective in training mujahadeen warriors in the ’80s, of course. That didn’t lead to a very palatable outcome.

Afghanistan’s inability to defend itself is not down to poor military training, but to divided allegiances. Afghan soldiers aren’t yet sufficiently convinced that fighting for the Karzai government is where they want to be. Too many remain poachable in a mercenary landscape of immediate interests. What Canadian training in troop formations and rifle practice is going to do to change that is beyond me, when Karzai’s advanced dependence on NATO has already contributed to his failure to mobilise a self-sufficient and stable central government.

But, hey ho. Call it a training mission, and people might even make the correct mistake of thinking we’ve finally taken a bow on a war that’s got to be ended.

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

Dear NDP

I like you guys. I’d like you to take a record-breaking number of seats in a federal election, which does not seem unreasonable at the moment.

But what any pollster – or a Grade 3 student who gets arithmetic – could also predict is a hung parliament. And that, rather than tolerate minority governments ad infinitum and the fractious brinkmanship parliaments they engender, stable coalition government may well be coming to Canada.

Not that I distrust you’re prepared for that. But in advance, may I ask to kindly to please not cock things up this badly. If one senses a whiff of power, one must ensure one has 1) watertight authority over the departments and ministries they will oversee, and 2) a secure sense that election pledges are achievable.

NDP supporters, like Lib Dem supporters, are hugely idealistic, and that’s an asset. It’s also a vulnerability if the base, post-election, sees neck-breaking volte faces.

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

He makes the photo!

And he looks right chuffed with himself. “See, I’m not always forgotten in the loo.

The photo just reminds me, though – no stylist myself, but what is the story with Stephen Harper’s addiction to these fatdiagonallystriped ties? Is there no one around him who dares criticise them? Or buy him a new one?

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

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