THUNDER BAY, ON ---- January 28, 2012 -- This is a different sort of political column. We’re not going to be discussing who’s going to win the NDP leadership, what Stephen Harper may or may not be doing to the country, or the ways in which Northwestern Ontario is treated like a feeder colony by the government at Queen’s Park. All worthy topics; just not right now.
You see, we’re going to talk about politics right at its most absolute root level - the individual. That’s you and me and that guy I see out the window shoveling off his front steps. Politics is a discussion amongst individuals for the purpose of creating a state that is more perfect, safer and healthier than it is today. It is a discussion about health. So let us look at health today and in particular the issue of Depression. read more......>
A Speech for Occupy Thunder Bay
THUNDER BAY, ON --- November 10, 2011 --- (I’ve received a very kind invitation through Facebook to say a few words at the Occupy Thunder Bay event scheduled for 3-6PM Sunday, November 20th at Thunder Bay City Hall. While I’m open to sudden inspiration carrying me away from the script, this is what I’m planning on saying...)
I hope you’ll forgive me if I admit to being a bit nervous about this. It’s been several years since I’ve spoken from a stage of any kind, and more years than that since I’ve done a political speech for my own voice. When I’ve written speeches they’ve mostly been for candidates who go on to lose the election. So now that I’ve admitted to being a nervous hack of dubious merit, thank you for allowing me to share my evident lack of expertise.
First, I want you to give yourselves a big hug. I mean it. Give the person next to you a hug, unless they have a drippy cold; then give the person next to you a Kleenex. I’ll wait. read more....>
Occupy Movement Part 5 What The Movement Can Learn from Mao Zedong
THUNDER BAY, ON ----- October 23, 2011 ----- If you give me credit for nothing else (which would be a shrewd decision on your part), you have to admit that’s a pretty catchy headline. Oh it’s intentionally misleading with only a kernel or truth to it, but it got you reading this far, so it therefore has proven the utility of its existence. I do admit to a certain pleasurable fantasy of Twitter or Facebook or Reddit readers running across the eight words above and yelling out, “I told you Margaret! Them Occupiers is a bunch of commies!” (pause) “Where’s our little red books from back when we was students?”
Let’s leave the amusing sitcom fantasies aside however, and deal with the reality of the Occupy Movement. It’s doing quite nicely as of this writing. The tent villages are still intact; the police attacks seem to have eased back, and Occupy has passed from ‘ignorable novelty news item’ to a seemingly fixed demographic on the political map. I know that this is deniable, and any Pentagon spokesman or White House Press Secretary would react in shock worthy of Claude Rains if faced with the hypothesis, but I would be willing to bet large and give good odds that the American pull-out of all troops from Iraq by the end of the year is a direct reaction by Barack Obama to Occupy. read more......>
Occupy Wall Street Part 4: Imagine Power to the People
THUNDER BAY, ON --- October 16, 2011 ---- When I was directing live theatre, which I did for the better part of a decade after swearing off politics (and believe me, there was a fair bit of swearing involved), what I would wait for is the ‘Aha! Moment’. You could see it physically happen to an actor. It was in their eyes, their body, and their voice. Suddenly the play and the character stopped being objective things that were being learnt by rote and embodied by a series of repeated moves and vocal inflections. Instead, the experience burst into the subjective. A life was being explored on-stage. If you could bottle that electric charge, that moment, you’d make billions.
I had my Aha! Moment regarding the Occupy Movement in the wee small hours last night. A friend of mine, Tammy Lee Marche, a professional communications consultant based out of London Ontario, attended the Occupy Toronto event on October 15. Tammy’s an all-around good egg who has dedicated her business, BullMarket Consulting Limited, to building community consensus that will advance the cause of the disadvantaged: unemployed youth, Aboriginals, and Women’s Health in particular. Anyway, Tammy wrote a short blog entry on her website (http://tammyleemarche.com/) explaining why she marched in the Occupy Toronto protest. I invite you to read it. Trust me, it won’t take long. I quote the second paragraph: read more....>
The Occupy Movement, Part Three Hot Chicks and The Empire Strikes Back
THUNDER BAY, ON --- October 15, 2011 -- Equally to my delight and relief, the Occupy Movement is no longer operating within a Cone of Silence. A quick Google search of ‘Occupy Together’, the catch-all name for the activities associated with the activism emerging from the original Occupy Wall Street, sprang out a pretty impressive 209,000,000 results. Indeed, it is now worldwide. A quick list of countries and/or cities with Occupations either on-going or planned:
United States of America (50+ cities)
Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Thunder Bay)
New Zealand (Wellington, Christchurch)
Italy (Rome, Milan)
Spain (Madrid, Barcelona)
South Korea (Seoul)
Australia (Sydney, Melbourne)
The Occupy Movement, Part Two The Armies of the Day
THUNDER BAY, ON --- October 13, 2011 ---- I looked something up before writing this, the second of a five part series on the Occupy Movement that was the genius idea of a group of Canadians at AdBusters, came to birth on Wall Street and now is busily reproducing in parks, city squares and financial centres in the great cities of the world. Is it a revolution? Of course it is. Now before one starts imagining scenes of guerrilla warfare and screaming widows bearing slaughtered children, I remind you that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was also a revolution and Darwin never fired a shot. So far, so peaceful, so good.
It all brings back childhood memories, of the last time thousands took to the streets and occupied buildings, city squares and the like. Not the Big Media one-time million man marches or vast prayer meetings or outdoor town halls - those are as instantaneous and instantaneously forgettable as any year’s Super Bowl. (Go ahead, name me any five plays from any individual Super Bowl. You can name one or two, but five? Exactly.) No, we’re talking about the sustained effort here - the long campaign that stretches across vast terrains of time and space, emergent from mist and ending in sunlight. read more.....>
PART ONE: What’s It All About? Occupy Your City movement
THUNDER BAY, ON --- October 9, 2011 --- As always, I refrain from writing about politics until I actually have something to say that will be informative and if we’re both lucky, entertaining. For that reason I had no worthwhile comments to make on the provincial election just passed in Ontario. Early on I perceived it as mediocrities in a quest for complacency and nothing happened to shake me from that opinion. Enough said.
Now what is interesting is the whole Occupy Your City movement that is generating and spreading from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration that began in New York on September 17th. That is a topic a man can sink his teeth into. As the major media coverage has been sketchy and patronizing at best, it will be worth both our whiles to look deeper into the phenomenon with the ultimate question considered: What’s in it for You?
PART ONE: What’s It All About?
Background - The Bailout
First, a bit of background. In 2008/2009 the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street were in crisis: Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, the insurer AIG among them. We’ll use the catch-all term Banks for ease of description. Because of the dubious mortgage and hedge fund practices invented by the Banks, consumer lending in the U.S. was drying up, foreclosures were accelerating, and the conclusion reached was that the U.S. Government needed to bail out the Banks. Primarily through loans from the Federal Reserve, the U.S. and its taxpayers are currently on the hook for $4.6 trillion.
A one-state solution to the Palestinian issue, it is a pipe dream
THUNDER BAY, ON, ----- September 18, 2011 --- It’s been awhile, but when I decided to write these columns I promised myself that I wouldn’t file unless I actually had something fresh to add to the debate. There are so many important things to read out there that I hate to waste your time. But as a result of some fairly intensive reading and author interviews in the last two years, I’ve had the experience equivalent of taking at least a third year or possibly a Masters level course in Political Studies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I refer you in particular to a very recent interview I did with David Berlin, an Israeli-Canadian writer who has written the quite brilliant memoir the Moral Lives of the Israelis. You can find it at bythebookreviews.blogspot.com .
The point is, as much as one would like the notion of a one-state solution to the Palestinian issue, it is a pipe dream. The tragedy of the region is that Jew and Arab alike living side by side and developing the land in a secular, multi-ethnic democratic state could have happened. It actually was and is the opinion of the most Orthodox Israeli Jews who thought that the religion had no business running a state. They seem to be correct. Theocratic states haven’t had a good run of it as peaceful international partners, unless it’s the Vatican, small and unarmed except by men in colourful garb carrying spears. Monaco would be more of a threat if it loaded its dice. read more....>
Brothers in Arms
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- July 4, 2011 --- Have you ever known brothers who don’t get along? Or, to put it less mildly, have you ever known brothers who positively hate one another? They put on a good enough public show of solidarity at family weddings, funerals and to read the Christmas cards sent from one address to another one would think that the two were united from the cradle to the grave in love and solidarity. Oh, they’re united to the grave all right - but each prays that the other is dropped into the hole first. The survivor (and yes I’ve actually heard this with my own ears) then wants nothing more out of life than to send a pleasantly arcing stream of golden, beer-fueled piss onto the deceased’s headstone. read more.....>
After the Gold Rush
THUNDER BAY, ON - May 4, 2011 - It seems like an appropriate enough place to start. Neil Young is the greatest songwriter Canada has ever produced. After the Gold Rush, both album and song came out in 1970, with Richard Nixon in the White House and growing divisions splitting generations as military and surveillance needs with accompanying near-paranoid government secrecy conflicted with desires for freedom, peace and social equality. read more...>
Reckless Coalition Maybe?
THUNDER BAY, ON --- April 29, 2011 --- I don't know what's going to happen on Monday any more than you or any of the national pollsters. The spread of the three most recently released polls is: read more.....>
How to vote
THUNDER BAY, ON ----- April 16, 2011 ------We will absolutely be completing the series on the party platforms. The feedback I've had has been both positive and angrily negative from all sides so therefore we're doing something right. But for now, I want to share with you some thoughts on how to vote.
No, I don't mean that in a candidate or party-specific way. That I think is the trap that Big Media springs on the average voter. The concentration on large, macro patterns such as national or provincial polling; along with large, macro topics such as the relative popularity of the party leaders takes the great national argument away from what its rightful subject. You.
Some rather toxic combination of schools, churches and correct parenting drive into us the notion that it is always wrong to be selfish. Have you ever seen the last piece of pie get tossed into the bin because no one in the family wanted to appear so selfish as to take and eat that last wedge of fruit-filled pastry? I swear we as a nation waste tonnes of food per year because we don't want to be appear like greedy little piggies. read more.......>
Re-engage the electorate
THUNDER BAY, ON --- April 14, 2011 ---- For those who missed my previous column, I'm doing the heavy lifting that the national media has shirked. They care about chicken suits and poor seating at Harper rallies...I'm looking at the policy proposals at of the Big Three parties. My goal is to re-engage the electorate with the election before the only people bothering to turn out to the polls are the candidates, their friends and family, and some guy named Pete who had to use the washroom.
Last time we looked at the Parties' plans for your Family. Today: Jobs.
The Job Situation at Present: read more.....>
My duty is to stop the madness
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- April 9, 2011 --- It was a sobering thought - and this being the weekend, the fewer of those the better - when the early morning bus driver mentioned that he had been reading this column on-line and sincerely appreciated my take on the election. This in turn amplified a little voice that I have been doing my best to ignore, which is that I can't just write things like ... read more.....>
How to Win An Election
THUNDER BAY, ON -------- April 3, 2011 ---- I've just been reading some tweets from @acoyne - Andrew Coyne of Maclean's and CBC. His complaint is that elections are always covered in the same way: Why are you ahead? Why are you behind? Why are you such a loser?
He has a point. We do get so fascinated by the horse race that we never get around to wondering why the horses are racing in the first place. Worse yet, coverage becomes absolutely presidential in nature. Everything becomes all about the leader, what he (or rarely she) says/does/wears. The daily gleanings are aligned into constellations and a political horoscope is drawn. read more......>
Puttin' on the Writs
THUNDER BAY, ON ----- March 26, 2011 --- I've said in many places that in my heart I've always been a sportswriter who has spent a career moonlighting in the arts, literature and politics. Well, it's good for a man to have hobbies.
Sports comes in handy in all those other fields. When it comes to physical duress and obsession with a goal brought to the breaking point, I'd rather watch a good football game than read 'Moby Dick' any day. And I'm not ashamed to admit it either. Evidently.
The metaphors work so nicely too for politics. Winners. Losers. Power. Struggle. Battle. Strategy. Choosing the geographic and demographic targets is not unlike deciding between 4-4-2 and 4-1-3-2 going into a Champions League draw. And what is a rally but a slightly more polite version of the ritual burning of the opposition's jersey the night before the Big College Game? read more.....>
What's the Story, Morning Glory?: Campaign 2011
THUNDER BAY, ON -- February 5. 20011 --- In the last installment, I promised to lay out for you a campaign that would work in the next election. This was originally going to be focused on the Liberals, until I realized that I was making distinctions between Liberals and NDP that aren't actually there. Now, before any Endipper has a conniption and roars that the New Democrats are not a bunch of shuffle-footed policy flip-floppers who will sacrifice principle for victory … yeah, I know that. But the Liberals are, and therefore that which works for one major Opposition party will work for both. read more ,,,,,,>
Michael Ignatgieff and the Lessons of Literature
THUNDER BAY, ON ------ January 22, 2010 ---- I'd been planning on writing something for you about the Conservative style-attack on the Liberals and Michael Ignatieff when by sheer fortune I happened to be reading something that adds an interesting resonance to my already prepared remarks on the attempt to re-shape Stephen Harper as 'un autre petit gare'.
For that is what it is. We are witness to a fascinating Frankenstein-like clod hopping march by Harper and Ignatieff towards the target of becoming Canada's Next Top Jean Chretien. Mister Jay will be advising them on the suits and Fierce Looks. (Actually, I would happily shell out $29.95 to see that on Pay-Per-View.)
Why the fascination? Principally it is because all of Harper, Ignatieff and their pilot fish of yes men, ass kisses and stylists have tried one design and discarded it. read more.....>
The Wikileaks Scandal Where Do You Draw the Line?
THUNDER BAY, ON ------- December 5, 2010 --- All right, so it has been formally confirmed that Prince Andrew is a buffoon. What else is new? Quite a bit actually, and all of it is quite, quite scary.
Once the Wikileak and Guardian (q.v.) stories drawn from an immense cache of (ahem) secret American diplomatic messages were released, I knew that this was a subject that was going to require a reasonably deep analysis. For the past several years, people have been speculating on the subject of what 'new media' was going to look and feel like – such fabric ranged from kitten-soft woolies to a corduroy impossibly charged with enough static electricity to light the New York Times Building for a year.
Who was going to win out? The old media companies like the NY Times? The newer, gauche, arriviste typed like the septuagenarian Rupert Murdoch? Maybe sexy-looking and saucy web concoctions like Slate or Salon? read more......>
Copyright and the Right to Copy
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 28, 2010 ---- For curiousity's sake, I wonder how many readers know what legislative language actually looks like. In relation to the government's Bill C32, amending the Copyright Act, the following is how Parliament describes what you or I know as “a band putting out a CD”:
It is for this reason that no Canadian Member of Parliament will never, ever be seen on stage doing a guest shot with the Tragically Hip.
That was a fairly cheap joke taken at a serious issue, but Copyright Law is dry enough to turn an ocean into a beach, so one must squeeze in the entertainment where one can. This week, a Murderer's Row of Canadian writers from Atwood to Yann Martel signed a letter printed as an ad in the Usual Prominent Dailies protesting C32. So what's the beef? read more........>
The 'Network' Voter
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 7, 2010 ------ Although I've been saying if for years, someone actually decided to test my declaration that Paddy Chayefsky's Network was the most prescient picture ever made. We are living only a slightly less intense version of the world of rant over reason that the late screenwriter predicted all the way back in 1976. read more....>
Old Guard on council is returned
THUNDER BAY, ON -------- October 26, 2010 ------- I've always thought that the best thing the late Rod Serling ever wrote and produced wasn't an episode of The Twilight Zone, or even Requiem for Heavyweight. There was an Emmy-nominated episode of Night Gallery in 1971 called 'They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar' in which a down-on-his luck William Windom stands outside his now closed neighbourhood purveyor of liquid pain relief and is visited by the ghosts of his past. It ends with Windom left alone as an emotionally broken man, a grey soul living the words of the under-appreciated William Greenleaf Whittier, “of all words of tongue and pen, the saddest are, 'It might have been'”.
Which of course leads us to election night in Thunder Bay. This will definitely be the last of the parochial Thunder Bay columns for a long, long time – but having begun a story one should finish it. read more.....>
Issues like Tissues - Why Voters Eschew
THUNDER BAY, ON --- October 10, 2010 ------ I have promised, and I mean to keep that promise, that this will not become a parochially interested, Thunder Bay municipality column. we will be switching into Federal election mode shortly, and whatever happens in the American mid-terms - as volatile a situation as I’ve ever seen, even more than the Newt Gingrich Revolution of 1998 - will impact the Canadian election. The reason for the latter of course is that every lazy pundit in Canada will spend column inches and televised minutes speculating on the impact of the American mid-terms on the Canadian election. read more.....>
Sympathy for the Devil
THUNDER BAY ON ----- September 27, 2010 ---- You might think that a deliberative body comprised of the supposed crème de la crème of the world’s diplomatic corps would know better. On Thursday of this past week, Harper addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations regarding the failure to reach the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The problem, was, not much of the Assembly chose to assemble. The last of thirteen leaders to speak on that day - Obama batted lead-off - the video evidence shows an audience of a dozen or two at best at the celebrated and massive hall. Unpopular people have better attended funerals. (Then again, as Red Skelton famously said upon the occasion of Columbia Pictures’ dictatorial Harry Cohn having a jam-packed funeral, ‘You give people what they want to see, they’ll show up.’) read more.....>
As Canadian as a Timmy's eh?
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- September 12, 2010 ----- Its never a good thing watching someone lose their touch in public. One moment, or many moments, you’re Big Johnny Swagger able to make victory appear with a point of your finger; the next, you’re Brian Mulroney. Or Tiger Woods for that matter. This isn’t just a political thing.
I used to like using the ‘jump the shark’ phrase until everybody and their Aunt Mabel started using it and it became like 57 year old white guys with beer guts saying ‘word.’ But jump the shark was a good one while it lasted and deserves a one-time revival.
I am seriously starting to wonder if Stephen Harper has jumped the shark. Granted, I would be delighted if that proved in the affirmative. Equally though, there are all the signs of a politician who has been locked in the bubble too long and has lost his mojo, his karma, his ability to bend minds in order to obey his commands. Or in Tiger Woods’ case, reading eight foot putts. It’s the same thing. Doubt - doubt starts to enter the mind - and doubt is the dark child of fear and the loss of instinct. read more.......>
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- September 2, 2010 ---- I thought of the title for this one as I was preparing to write about the dubious practice of the trial balloon. Those who have fond memories of the pastel T-shirt with unstructured jacket era surely remember 99 Luftballons, the anthemic German-English pop song heartily sung by Nena walking through a war zone. The controversy at the time was that Nena had armpit hair. That was the 1980s. Ronald Raegan was simple-minded and so was the decade. read more.....>
Hello Joe, Waddaya Know?
THUNDER BAY, ON --- August 22, 2010 ---- For this, the first of I hope many political columns to come, I had prepared to write a quite serious piece about the Harper Government’s decision to close the prison farms from the angle that because of climate change, we are actually going to need more people who know how to run a tractor, not less. You’ll be reading, I hope, that take on a present issue quite soon. read more......>
Citizens of Nowhere
THUNDER BAY, ON --- September 5, 2010 ---- I have no intention of turning this into another book review column. While that is certainly an endeavour I enjoy, it is ably covered elsewhere. However, on those occasions when a new book brings up a topic that I believe you should be aware of, it is certainly more ethical to discuss the book with you than to pretend the thoughts are my own and strip-mine the book in return for a passig acknowledgement.
Citizens of Nowhere is a new book written by veteran CBC News and Public Affairs producer Debi Goodwin. It reads, by the way, very much like a documentary. One can imagine the shots on a full-hour of The Fifth Estate, with much of the text as voice-over. That is not a criticism. Rather, it is a metaphor that the video-happy reader will be comfortable with. A bookumentary. read more......>
Municipal Election Notes: Why run for Mayor?
THUNDER BAY, ON ---- October 2, 2010 ----In all likelihood, your home town is in the middle of a hot municipal election campaign. Lawn signs with bold phrases and eye-dazzling colours stand like proud, crisp soldiers lining the streets of your neighbourhoods. Of course, after the first good rain they turn into limp and ragged hobos, serving as markers for the dogs marking the streets of your neighbourhood.
Equal to that in likelihood is the probability that the hottest, headline-grabbing-est race is that for Mayor. As I write this in Thunder Bay, Ontario there’s an interesting enough race for the Big Gold Chain among incumbent Lynn Peterson, multiple times contender Councillor Frank Pullia and past President of the Thunder Bay Police Association Keith Hobbs, a political neophyte who seems to be carrying whatever momentum there is. (Thunder Bay wouldn’t know a properly run poll if it sat on one. I’m going by lawn signs and conversation.) That said, were I a betting man - and I am - I’d raise if I had Peterson as one of my hole cards. Pullia will run third, but he will draw enough votes to split the anti-incumbent chunk of the electorate. read more.....>