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        Does murder in Alice Munro country early last spring say things about the troubled big political picture today?

        Posted: January 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »

        David Salter, 71, neighbour to the murdered Doug and Marian Fischer on C Line Road in Huron County, Ontario, and his dog, Donald Trump. Photo : Mike Hensen/The London Free Press.

        I’m told that I haven’t personally contributed a crime story to this site for more than a decade (“Depression economics and crime : Marine murders in California, Toronto youth violence,” Nov 15th, 2008).

        And the site itself hasn’t dabbled in the subject for not much less than a decade (“Murder on the Bruce Peninsula revisited .. again .. and again .. and again …,” Jun 4th, 2009).

        There has been a much more recent editorial decision to reclassify a political piece as a crime story (“Has Donald Trump pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, like Orwell’s time between the two world wars?” Jun 20th, 2018).

        But much more recently again I’ve been intrigued by a crime story in the old (not politically inspired) sense. And the counterweights editors have agreed to indulge my interest.

        Why am I (or are we, the editors would say) suddenly returning to old-school crime, after so long away?

        The case that intrigues me now involves the hometown of Southwestern Ontario’s Nobel Prize-winning short story writer, Alice Munro. It raises (almost political) issues that she has long explored but may be unusually relevant today — north of the North American Great Lakes and in other places elsewhere.

        Bluevale, Ontario today.

        Possibly more to some exact point, when the regional mass media first began to explore the scene of the crimes in question here, on C Line Road near Bluevale, Ontario, they interviewed a rural neighbour,? David Salter, 71, who “said a retired couple lived on the property in a new home they shared with their adult daughter.”

        On March 29, 2018 Mr. Salter had been puzzled by some very early morning barking from “his dog, a two-year-old Australian shepherd mix he named Donald Trump.”

        (And for a few further gruesome details on “1. Kevin Carter from Wingham murders ex-girlfriend’s parents then rapes her on crazy morning at 42371 C Line Road, near Bluevale,? March 29, 2018,” and “2. Kevin Carter’s day in court and the ways in which the tragic story of Gail and Kevin and Marian and Doug does sound like something by Alice Munro,” click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

        Read the rest of this page »

        Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird — one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto”

        Posted: January 4th, 2019 | No Comments »

        It may well be that 2019 proves a difficult year on any number of fronts. But I was lucky enough to spend its first Thursday evening at one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto” (blue bird or The Bluebird, 2072 Dundas St W, at Howard Park).

        I was listening to an excellent jazz trio called The Three Chris(s)es (Chris Banks, bass ; Chris Gale, tenor sax ; Chris Wallace, drums).

        This Thursday, January 3, 2019 at the blue bird was only the third outing for The Three Chris(s)es. (Each is a master of his instrument and has a now long career on Toronto and beyond musical scenes, in many other settings.) But already it seems clear that they work well together.

        Chris Banks lays down a solid foundation for the trio’s musical adventures, but also has an almost melodic approach to his upright string bass. This fits nicely with Chris Gale’s “lyrical sensibility and soulful approach” to his 1940s Selmer tenor sax. And this fits with the work of Chris Wallace, who has been aptly called “a drummer of supreme musicality.”

        What’s missing with just bass, drums, and horn is someone playing the chords, that form the middle of a tune’s harmonic structure for which the bass gives the bottom. (On piano or guitar say.) In the Los Angeles of the early 1950s Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker nonetheless showed that just bass and drums and horns can work — with the right players and arrangements.

        Many years later up in We the North, on January 3, 2019 at the Bluebird, The Three Chris(s)es showed something similar, on such Great American Songbook tunes as “Darn That Dream” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Eddie DeLange), and on modern jazz classics like “My Little Suede Shoes” (Charlie Parker) and “Good Bait” (Tadd Dameron/Count Basie).

        The American classical composer Virgil Thomson (1896–1989) once called jazz a “persecuted chamber music.” This has positive as well as various negative connotations (to my mind at any rate). And something about the small and intimate blue bird bar (and its excellent staff) brought out these positive connotations for me.

        The jazz played by The Three Chris(s)es is very hip “chamber music.” But if you really like to listen to the music you hear it brings similar high-minded rewards.

        At a time when so many low-minded impulses are competing for our attention, listening to? Chris Banks, Chris Gale, and Chris Wallace contemplate some of the good things America has given to the wider world was at least a great beginning to 2019.

        Who really knows what will follow over the next 12 months in the same wider world? But if you do find the year is starting to get you down, remember that one of the “top 21 new bars in Toronto” — the blue bird, 2072 Dundas St W, at Howard Park (not far from the Dundas West subway stop) — has first-class live music every Thursday night, from 8 to 11 PM.

        From my own point of view, eg, the tenor sax of Chris Gale will be returning January 17, 2019 (this time with Brendan Davis on bass and Ted Quinlan on guitar). And on January 31 Irene Harrett on bass and Chris Platt on guitar will accompany the tenor sax of Ms Chelsea McBride, who “performs everything from straight ahead jazz classics to original compositions influenced equally by jazz and pop music.”

        So … if my own sanity seems threatened by any of the current White House occupants, the Alberta provincial and Canadian federal elections, or god knows what else in many different parts of the world (the Australian federal election eg, or Chinese detention of Canadian visitors and vice-versa), I now know of one place I can go to seek relief. And I can recommend the brand to others. As was wisely said long ago, by various learned and other authorities : “Jazz is the music of democracy” (which we need more than ever just now).

        Our top 10 counterweights articles for that strange year 2018 (and happy new year to an even stranger 2019 ??)

        Posted: December 31st, 2018 | No Comments »

        At the end of this annual exercise for this (even unusually?) strange year we suddenly realize that our deepest recent preoccupations have been quite local — north of the North American Great Lakes, on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.

        We may have been seeking refuge (albeit in vain) from the larger wild and crazy events in such related larger democracies as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (to say nothing of Mexico, or Australia, or Narendra Modi’s India, or Doug Ford’s Ontario, John Horgan’s BC, Rachel Notley’s Alberta, or Fran?ois Legault’s Quebec!).

        For broader Canadian commentary we recommend the excellent Angus Reid Top 10 Stories of 2018. (“Story 1 – Ford Nation takes Ontario, Story 2 – The TransMountain pipeline saga, Story 3 – The New NAFTA, Story 4 – Poverty a problem, Canadians want more from government, Story 5 – The Opioid Crisis, Story 6 – Future of Saudi relations, Story 7 – Immigration and Asylum Seekers, Story 8 – Indigenous Issues divide country, Story 9 – Carbon Pricing Tension, Story 10 – The #MeToo Movement.”)

        Here is our own unusually local “top 10 counterweights articles for that strange year 2018” :

        1. Sunday Bloody Sunday with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, Jan 29th, 2018.

        2. Jill Lepore’s three lectures in Toronto .. in the shadow of the new Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford, Mar 21st, 2018.

        3. Putting David Livingston in jail is what’s harmful to the future of parliamentary democracy in Ontario, Apr 11th, 2018.

        4. Toronto van killings : strong city that ignores painful truths joins real global village at last, May 2nd, 2018.

        5. Ontario election 2018, VI : Donald Trump clone inevitable after all north of North American Great Lakes, Jun 8th, 2018.

        6. Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century,? Jul 1st, 2018.

        7. Toronto Danforth Shooter : strong city that still ignores painful truths still joining real global village at last, Jul 27th, 2018.

        8. O Cannabis .. and the looming midterm elections in the USA today, Oct 17th, 2018.

        9. Happy 100 First World War Armistice .. a view from the northern woods, Nov 11th, 2018.

        10. Can Justin Trudeau be defeated Oct 21, 2019 (& what do Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau say) ??,? Dec 27th, 2018.

        We end with not only our most recent article, but one that raises the clearly largest Canada-wide? political issue of 2019 — the Canadian federal election on October 21, 2019!

        On this site we will be focusing as well on two other elections — the Canadian provincial election in Alberta, that under current law must “be held between March 1 and May 30,” and the Australian federal election which “must be held by 18 May 2019 for half of the State Senators and on or before 2 November 2019 for the House of Representatives and Territory Senators.”

        May the best candidates in all three contests win. (A lame wish no doubt, but at least high-minded!) May the coming 12 months bring everyone everywhere on planet earth at least some good news, along with all the bad news and fake news and god-knows-what-else that seems to loom ahead. And, whatever else, look for the silver lining and Happy New Year 2019.

        Can Justin Trudeau be defeated Oct 21, 2019 (& what do Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau say) ??

        Posted: December 27th, 2018 | No Comments »

        Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Gao, Mali, Saturday December 22, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

        One counterweights item from the year now ending that has seen fresh visits in the most recent past is Randall White’s “Can Justin Trudeau be defeated in the next Canadian federal election?,” first posted back on May 8, 2018.

        In the new age of fixed-date elections (sort of) the campaign for the 43rd Canadian federal contest on October 21, 2019 has already begun. (And note the December 16, 2018 Canadian Press report “Trudeau rules out early election, 2019 federal vote to go ahead on Oct. 21.”)

        As it happens, we recently had a chance to ask the estimable Dr White how he sees Justin Trudeau and the election this coming October now, at the very end of 2018.

        Just last week he finally dropped off the latest installment of his work in progress, now tentatively known as? Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497.

        Lester Pearson who, among many other things, gave Canada its own flag at last in 1965! Photo : Winnipeg Free Press.

        More exactly, the chapter 1 of the final Part IV he handed in for initial digital publishing this past December 23, 2018 is called “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976.”

        It deals with the Lester Pearson and early Pierre Trudeau governments in Ottawa — which arguably began the present great age of “Democracy in Canada Since 1497,” and so forth.

        Spending so much time over the past months mentally re-living the early 1960s to the middle of the 1970s, Randall White concedes, has affected his thinking on the fate of Justin Trudeau in 2019. Will it, eg, be like the fate of his father in 1972 or 1974?

        Dr White went on : “In 1972 Pierre Elliott Trudeau almost lost his second election — and finally only hung on with a Liberal minority government, dependent on David Lewis’s New Democrats in parliament. In 1974 the elder Trudeau (with the help of Justin Trudeau’s mother, legend has it) easily enough won another majority government.”

        Mr. White also noted two different polling exercises, both reporting as of December 21, 2018. The first is éric Grenier’s Federal Poll Tracker on the CBC News site. The second is “Canada’s political mood as 2018 comes to an end,” by Bruce Anderson and David Coletto at Abacus Data.

        Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau carries son Justin from the destroyer Restigouche in Powell River during a 1976 visit to BC. STEVE BOSCH.

        Both these year-end polling exercises suggest that we Canadian politics junkies can still look forward to a competitive election, with the Liberals and Conservatives as the primary players. But in the end Justin Trudeau’s Liberals still seem to have the edge. For now at least.

        As Anderson and Coletto explain : “our latest data shows tight races in BC and Ontario, strong? Conservative leads in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and significant Liberal leads in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.”

        At the same time : “While party voting intentions show a one-point gap, preferred Prime Minister reveals a 16-point advantage for Mr. Trudeau over Mr. Scheer.” More generally : “Thanks to large leads in Quebec and Atlantic Canada and a competitive position in BC and Ontario, the Liberals still have the advantage over the Conservatives.”

        éric Grenier’s latest Federal Poll Tracker averages (as of December 21, 2018) similarly show the party voting intentions close. (In this case Lib 36%, Con 34%, NDP 17%, Green 6% in round numbers.) But when the much more efficient (ie more geographically dispersed) Liberal vote is factored into the seat projections, the Trudeau Liberals still have five more seats than they need for a bare majority!

        Latest additions to California technical staff, 2018.

        For further intelligence on the current scene Dr. White also recommends Mitchell Anderson’s December 20, 2018 item on the excellent Tyee site from BC : “Alberta vs. Canada? … Feeling unsupported, some Albertans want to go it alone. Let’s explore that.”

        We ourselves can equally recommend Randall White’s own “Canadian flag to Parti Québécois government, 1963–1976.” For more detail on the larger project of which it is a part go to “The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar at the top of this page, or just CLICK HERE.

        Meanwhile, we counterweights editors join with our colleague Randall White and everyone else connected with this site (in Canada editorially and California technically too) in wishing all who come this way a very Happy New Year 2019!

        On the edge of 2019 : will Trump jump? ; Fats Waller ; Trudeau’s Senate ; CANZUK still crazy after all these years

        Posted: December 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

        Strictly fake news of course.

        On the third-last Monday of 2018, here are four short notes on the world as it looks up close in We the North of the North American Great Lakes :

        1. Is Trump getting ready to jump (what would Machiavelli think?)

        This past Saturday morning Maggie at “Hear Me Roar” — who specializes in “The best Trump memes! Humor and parody of GOP!” — posted a fake photo of Donald Trump high up on the ledge of some high building in New York, looking poised to jump to the pavement far below.

        I copied the thing into my electronic notebook with the comment “if only it were true!” What we pick up from US TV (and Twitter) up here, however, is starting to suggest that the current American fake president is, whatever else, increasingly beleaguered psychologically.

        I’ve been asking myself what the great inventor of modern political science in the western world, Niccolò Machiavelli, would make of it all? I still don’t have an answer (though I’m guessing he would counsel caution in assessing whether Trump actually will jump any time soon, of course).

        Meanwhile, here is a recent related observation from John Dean, who did so much to prompt Richard Nixon’s ultimate resignation over Watergate on August 9, 1974 : “Trump’s bitching and whining and complaining is non-stop. The presidency reveals its occupant: Trump’s not only incompetent he’s actually a wuss. Like most bullies he’s a coward. As with most autocrats he’s a very frightened person. He’s a fake leader, who thinks nasty is strong.”

        2. Honeysuckle Rose : commemorating Fats Waller (1904–1943)

        Fats Waller at the piano, 1938.

        Along with various fake Trump photos, this past Saturday, December 15 marked the 75th anniversary of the death of the legendary Harlem “stride” pianist and entertainer Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, at the still too tender age of 39.

        Here as elsewhere in the early 21st century world of music You Tube has compelling? resources for digging deeper. To start with (if you have time), try classic versions of what may be the two greatest Fats Waller hits : “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and the endlessly beguiling “Honeysuckle Rose.”

        If you have still more time You Tube also offers an intriguing four-part documentary on Fats Waller featuring recollections from his son Maurice — Part I ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; and Part 4.

        Mr. Waller was born in New York City in 1904. He was 13 years older than Thelonious Monk and 16 years older than Charlie Parker. As his son Maurice explains, to survive in his world black entertainers still had to adopt habits that later jazz musicians like Monk and Parker disavowed. Fats Waller nonetheless died near Charlie Parker’s Kansas City hometown. Wikipedia explains : “Waller contracted pneumonia and died on December 15, 1943, while traveling aboard the famous cross-country train the Super Chief near Kansas City, Missouri.” He “was returning to New York City from Los Angeles, after the smash success of [the African American movie] Stormy Weather, and after a successful engagement at the Zanzibar Room, in Santa Monica … during which he had fallen ill.”

        3. Justin Trudeau’s minimalist Senate reform in Canada

        Justin greets Melania while Donald looks on at G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, May 2017.

        I am more than happy to go on record as a confirmed supporter of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Like the rest of us, he is far from perfect. But to me at any rate he continues to stand head and shoulders above any of his competitors.

        At the same time, I also strongly believe that one of M. Trudeau’s imperfections is his strategy for minimalist reform (really just a re-arrangement) of the still unreformed Senate of Canada.

        So I remain unimpressed as well with his actions as reported by the excellent Joan Bryden at Canadian Press — “Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms.”

        Who wants to listen to further details on this subject these days? (And read Ms. Bryden’s helpful piece if you are among the truly enlightened here!) Meanwhile, I will just argue that the big problem with the current unreformed Senate of Canada is not its political partisanship. It is that so long as senators are merely appointed in our day and age, they will lack the credibility to play any useful role in Ottawa — even as some mythical place of “sober second thought.”

        4. Canadian Conservatives and CANZUK : an idea whose time passed a long time ago

        Tks to the excellent people at Access Copyright, Happy holidays 2018.

        As one sign of problems among Justin Trudeau’s competitors (with a view to the coming October 21, 2019 federal election, say), another piece of my news intake from this past Saturday was Jackie Dunham’s “เงินฟรี คา สิ โน 99” on the CTV News website.

        Ms Dunham’s rather long but still helpful report on the movement aka “CANZUK” (ie Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom) notes that, according to James Skinner, founder and chief executive of CANZUK International, even though “the CANZUK movement is technically non partisan … conservative politicians in Canada and in the other three CANZUK countries have been the most enthusiastic about the proposal.”

        Ms Dunham notes as well that CANZUK “advocates of an agreement calling for freer trade, movement, and greater co-operation between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom” have lately been buoyed by “official support from the federal Conservatives in Canada and the promise of a Brexit deal next year.”

        The current circumstances of Brexit in the UK are one warning flag here, no doubt.

        To me the decisive objection is also covered in Jackie Dunham’s helpfully long report : “Finally, some critics have accused CANZUK organizers of trying to create a new ‘Anglosphere’ comprised only of English-speaking or majority ‘white’ countries.” Srdjan Vucetic at the University of Ottawa “has published several opinion pieces about CANZUK supporters’ interest in the Anglosphere and how it is founded on a ‘vulgar nostalgia for the colonial past,’ as he wrote in an iPolitics story last year.”

        And on this note (and along with the late great Percy Faith who was descended from the Toronto Jewish community) I can only add : “Happy Holiday to you.”

        Trump & Russian mafia .. Japan/China & Canada/United States

        Posted: December 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

        Ordinarily as the year ends we post a few lists of our own favourite or at least most-visited articles from the time on its way out. And we will be doing this again before December 31, 2018 (New Year’s Eve), at least once — and possibly twice. (Or more? Who can really say anything in these troubled times, etc?)

        Meanwhile, a request to all editors for late 2018 general news items grabbing their attention has resulted in the following two short notes on The Way We Were (some of us at any rate) during the last few weeks of one of the most remarkable years in the more or less recent past :

        1. Trump & Russian mafia

        This past Sunday evening one Kent B — a “Martial Arts Teacher, Harley Nut 91Q Army Vet” and supporter of? Veterans Against Trump — tweeted : “ I was originally from NY. I’ve known this about tRump for decades. It was always common knowledge that he had Russian mob ties but never got caught. Now he is getting caught, finally justice seem to being served soon.”

        Mr. B was pointing to a recent article from Ezra Klein’s impressive VOX website : “Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades … Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and ‘one of the greatest intelligence operations in history’” — by Sean Illing.

        At Helsinki, July 2018.

        Mr. Unger claims that the “Russian mafia”? — which “is essentially a state actor … part of the KGB … part of the Russian government” — has “been using Trump-branded real estate to launder money for over three decades.” And according to Sean Illing, “the case” Unger “makes for how much potential leverage the Russians had over Trump is pretty damning.”

        It is probably worth noting that Craig Unger is the author of the controversial “2004 book, House of Bush, House of Saud, that was also featured in Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11.” And Mr.Unger’s new 2018 book that VOX and Sean Illing are reporting on — House of Trump, House of Putin — finally left Mr. Illing “wondering if any of it really matters. As you said, most of this stuff is hiding in plain sight, and although the special counsel investigation is underway, there’s a subset of the country for whom no amount of evidence is enough to persuade them that something wrong has occurred.”

        At the same time, the martial arts teacher and motorcycle enthusiast Kent B, from Twitter as above, may continue to have some kind of point as well.

        Melania Trump and Justin Trudeau in Toronto, September 2017.

        At the same time again, the anti-Trump conservative military historian Max Boot’s latest piece in the Washington Post is urging that Mr. B is probably wrong about “ justice … being served soon.” The estimable Mr. Boot writes that after the latest words from the Mueller special counsel investigation? : “What we are left with is a president who defrauded the American people to win office — and who is now protected by the immunity that his office confers. He is protected, too, by his dwindling band of followers in Congress who argue that Manafort should be pardoned for his financial crimes (Rep. Matt Gaetz) and that Trump should not be prosecuted for merely breaking campaign finance laws (Sen. Rand Paul) …? All it takes is 34 votes in the Senate and Trump can serve out his term even as his administration is consumed by the biggest political scandal in American history. Our long national nightmare is just beginning.”

        2. Japan/China & Canada/United States

        All this about Russia and the current American president is just too depressing for the holiday season, when even many where we have our offices who are not Christians (or otherwise attached by personal history to Santa Claus and so forth, like so many if not all of us here) try to enjoy ourselves and spread good cheer among others.

        World War 2 (1939–1945) map from New York Times showing Japanese expansion of its Asia Pacific empire, 1895–1940.

        So … to end with thoughts from a land that must still have a lot in common with the North Pole where Santa Claus and his reindeer (and Mrs Claus and the Elves etc) spend their time preparing for the one night in the year when they ride through the sky with enough presents for every child in Marshall McLuhan’s global village? under 10 years old.

        In fact, the story of Santa Claus is not all that unlike many of the stories President Trump tells about the world as he sees it, and how much it has improved under his remarkable leadership. And a tweet just yesterday around lunchtime by the estimable map enthusiast Simon Kuestenmacher raised some comparative statistics that suggest an only slightly less unrealistic world scenario we editors here have been amused by before, over drinks after work and all that.

        More exactly, Mr. Kuestenmacher’s tweet showed a terrific map of Japan and China and their wider region —? back at height of Japan’s former empire, in the early days of what finally became World War II (1939–1945). As the map shows in its darkest shades, for a short while in the 1930s Japan actually took over parts of a then struggling China closest to it. Here, in our office board room over some preliminary seasonal cheer, we calculated that Japan has only 9.1% of China’s population today. And then someone noted that Canada has 11.2% of the US population today. And we unanimously agreed : Season’s Greetings to All, and to all a goodnight.

        Grey Cup 2018 : red and black will triumph, whoever wins in Canadian regulation time

        Posted: November 24th, 2018 | No Comments »

        In fact Rihanna is a fellow Commonwealth citizen of Barbados. But who knows? If she ever did get together forever with Drake, she might even go to a Grey Cup game — as long as it wasn’t in Doug Ford’s Ontario.

        SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2018. GANATSEKWYAGON,ON. Both Donald Trump in the neighbouring USA today, and his wily colleague Doug Ford right here in the new Old Ontario, have become so appalling lately that I have sought refuge in thoughts about the 2018 Grey Cup — annual championship of the Canadian Football League, held for the 106th time in Edmonton, Alberta this Sunday, November 25, 2018.

        There are some respects in which the 106th Grey Cup? — with the Calgary Stampeders (western champions) vs. the Ottawa Redblacks (eastern champions) — will mimic certain current political grievances in the true north, strong and free, from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific oceans. The Calgary demonstrators who recently greeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Ottawa (including those holding especially appalling signs about his mother) are just one case in point.

        As noted, however, I’m focusing my thoughts on the big game this Sunday in an effort to avoid appalling politics. So, to get my TV-watching partner’s key question out of the way first, the Stampeders (“the class of the CFL once again this season”) are “4-point favourites on the Grey Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.”

        Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts QB, in 2017 Grey Cup game on snowy day in Ottawa.

        At the same time, the “Stampeders have advanced to the Grey Cup on five occasions over the past decade, but have come up short in three of those championship bids including a stunning 39–33 loss to the Redblacks … two years ago at BMO Field in Toronto.”

        (And then there is last year’s magnificent Canadian game in the snow at Ottawa, when my own home team, the historically fabled Toronto Argonauts, unexpectedly beat the Stampeders 27–24. As if in some just compensation, the Argos have come up with the worst record in all of the CFL this year! But, further back historically, it is somewhat intriguing that in the 56th Grey Cup, almost exactly 50 years ago, on November 30, 1968, the old Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Calgary Stampeders 24–21 at the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.)

        Part of the Stampeders’ Grey Cup struggles may involve their “touchdown horse Quick Six.” Back home at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Quick Six (and his rider Chelsea Drake) celebrate every Stampeder touchdown by racing along the sidelines with the team flag. Yet, as explained by Global News : “In the past two years, the horse hasn’t been allowed at the Grey Cup game.” (For safety reasons. And this has been true at other such games in faraway places.)

        The Calgary Stampeders “Outriders” cheerleaders in action.

        This year (as also explained by Global News) the “touchdown horse won’t run the length of Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday.” But — perhaps because it isn’t all that far to travel as well — Quick Six and Chelsea Drake will “still be allowed to celebrate touchdowns with the players in the end zone, according to the Stamps.” Who knows? This could also improve the Stamps’ odds of actually winning the Grey Cup in 2018.

        (As evidence of just how old I seem to have become in my own age of recurrent senior moments, I seem to similarly remember suitably lubricated Calgary Stampeder fans in cowboy hats bringing a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, in what must have been the early 1960s. I can also remember when it was still not unusual to see horses pulling milkwagons and breadwagons in Toronto in the 1950s. As the historian Ramsay Cook long ago observed, the 19th century did not really end in Canada until 1950.)

        Ottawa RedBlacks’ QB Henry Burris is awarded MVP after leading his team to victory over heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders in Grey Cup 2016.

        I can say that I have been to Edmonton a few times myself, and I like the place a lot. It is a serious city further north than any other metropolis of more than a million people in North America — and home of “the Yardbird Suite … Alberta’s jazz hub … 60 years strong, volunteer run, and a Downbeat Great Jazz Venue.”

        This 106th Grey Cup will mark the fifth time Edmonton has hosted the game. It typically draws what counts as a large crowd in Canadian football. The average attendance for its four earlier games is 61,590. As just one comparison familiar to the likes of me, the average attendance for the last four Grey Cup games hosted by Toronto is only 46,180.

        Some will just say that this just shows Toronto is the CFL city least interested in Canadian football. I am not a serious Toronto football fan, at all. But I do know people who are, and who feel only an NFL team could keep their interest up — in a city that already has the Maple Leafs in the NHL, the Raptors in the NBA, and the Blue Jays in MLB.

        Shania Twain arrives by dog sled for 2017 Grey Cup half-time show. The 2018 show will feature the Grammy-winning artist from Brampton, Ontario, Alessia Cara.

        Perhaps influenced by such serious fans around me, I have long seen the Canadian Football League as something of a whimsical phenomenon. Note, eg, that the team colours of both this year’s Grey Cup rivals are red and black. And then there is the name Ottawa “Redblacks” itself. It is, I suppose, slightly better than the old name of Ottawa Roughriders, whose colours were red and black — from the days when two of the nine CFL teams were called Roughriders (Ottawa and Saskatchewan). But really … what kind of name is “Redblacks”? It’s like calling the fabled Toronto Argonauts — who apparently actually hold “the title of the oldest sports franchise in North America” —? the Doubleblues.

        In my old age I have nonetheless come to the point where I am looking? forward to watching the Grey Cup from Edmonton on my TV in beautiful, downtown Ganatsekwyagon, Ontario tomorrow night. The stupidest thing the CFL tried in its recent history was expanding into the United States in the first half of the 1990s. But current CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave a good press conference the other day, about more realistically reaching out to such places as Mexico and France? — and (most crucially, I think) finally getting a team in Halifax. (Which I later heard on TV has now wisely decided on the name Atlantic Schooners. They already have 5,000 season-ticket subscribers, and only need a suitable stadium.)

        There will always be many crazy things about the CFL. But as even Rihana from Barbados has apparently concluded lately : “Clinton made me want to be faithful ; Bush made me want to be smarter ; Obama made me want to be better ; Trump makes me want to be Canadian”!

        POSTSCRIPT : Congrats to the Stamps on their 27-16 win over the Redblacks.? They happily beat their Grey Cup jinx of the most recent past.

        The height of the game on our TV at any rate was a “record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf” by Calgary’s Terry Williams.? Game MVP was Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

        Not everyone here north of the lakes really got into the game. Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail tweeted : “After two classic Grey Cups I guess we were due for a bit of a comedown. At some point the league’s dominant team had to dominate.”

        My TV watching partner here on the north shore of Lake Ontario, on the other hand, worked in Banff as a student. She was cheering for the Stamps and their mascot Quick Six, and went to bed happy.

        Happy 100 First World War Armistice .. a view from the northern woods ..

        Posted: November 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

        “Le maréchal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929) lors de la signature de l'Armistice dans un wagon du train d'état-major appelé le "wagon de l'Armistice", dans la clairière de Rethondes, en forêt de Compiegne. ? Pèlerin”

        The site administration staff have told me that I’ve already contributed at least one (as we say in Canada) Remembrance Day piece back in the past (“O valiant [Toronto] hearts who to your glory came .. your memory hallowed in the land you loved,” on November 11, 2013).

        They’ve pointed out as well a still earlier related piece by my esteemed colleague L. Frank Bunting (“Afghanistan agony haunts November 11, 2010”).

        This November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War (aka at the time the Great War) — “dans le wagon-salon du maréchal Foch, à Rethondes dans la forêt de Compiègne.”

        And — Bunting being otherwise occupied at his almost winterized wilderness retreat in the Kawarthas (or is it Haliburton?) — I have been asked by the managing editor here to share some further thoughts on the present-day meaning of the end of the First World War. (Or “First German War” as the old-school English historian George Clark called it, in his masterful 1971 summary English History : A Survey.)

        “Aboriginal soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) along with elders, ca. 1916-17.”

        I want to start with a few background notes. The Veterans Affairs Canada website, eg, has a helpful synopsis : “The armistice of November 11, 1918, brought relief to the whole world … Sixty-five million men from 30 nations were involved in” the war ; “at least ten million men were killed; twenty-nine million more were wounded, captured or missing.”

        Starting in the summer of 1914, the war “was also a landmark in Canadian national development … Canada entered the war as a colony, a mere extension of Britain overseas.” At the end, for a place “of eight million people Canada’s war effort was remarkable. Over 650,000 Canadian men and women served in uniform … with more than 66,000 giving their lives and over 172,000 more being wounded … It was this …that won for Canada a separate signature on the Peace Treaty.”

        This Peace Treaty was not signed until June 28, 1919. The Armistice signed on November 11, 1918 just marked the end of fighting. It would take another six months to negotiate a formal treaty of peace among all participants.

        Our best guess is that this is the band of Canada’s No. 2 Construction Battalion, which “sailed from Halifax Harbour to England, and then to France, where they served with the Canadian Forestry Corps during the First World War.”

        It took some time to negotiate even the November 11 Armistice. The process began when the German government sent a message to US President Woodrow Wilson early in October 1918, proposing negotiations for peace on the basis of his “Fourteen Points.”

        The Americans had only joined the war, however, in April 1917. The supreme commander of “the Allies” fighting Germany and its allies was the Marshal of France, Ferdinand Foch. And the November 11 Armistice was (as noted above in Canada’s other official language) finally signed in a railway car “given to Ferdinand Foch for military use by the manufacturer, Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits,”

        Foch’s railway car was parked near a station at Rethondes, in the forest around the nearby larger urban centre of Compiègne in northeastern France. For the Allies the November 11 Armistice document was signed by Supreme Commander Foch and the British First Sea Lord Admiral Rossyln Wemyss, representing Allied naval forces. Four men signed for Germany —? Matthias Erzberger,? representing the German government, and envoys from the German foreign ministry,? army, and navy.

        Canadians — more exactly Montreal’s Black Watch regiment — marching through Mons, warmly received by liberated Belgians, November 11, 1918.

        No Canadians (or Americans for that matter) actually signed the 1918 Armistice. But there is a serious Canadian wrinkle on November 11. After some deliberation I have decided my own best source here is A.J.P. Taylor’s English History, 1914–1945.

        Taylor notes that when the 1918 Armistice came into force, at 11 AM GMT on November 11, “German troops” were still for the most part “everywhere on foreign soil.” Yet, happily enough, “Canadian forces entered Mons [in German-occupied Belgium] about an hour before the armistice and thus, appropriately, ended the war where the ‘old contemptibles’ had begun it” (at the Battle of Mons between British and German forces, on August 23, 1914).

        In his 1983 volume of memoirs entitled A Personal History, A.J.P. Taylor noted that when he was commissioned to write English History, 1914–1945, as part of the Oxford History of England, he had to make certain decisions : “I was not interested in writing the history of the English upper classes which is what English history usually amounts to. Maybe the English people had no history until fairly recently. In the twentieth century they had, and that is what my book is about. I was glad when [critic and reviewer] Max Beloff described it as Populist history.”

        “A time for rejoicing: Armistice Day celebrated on November 11, 1918, in London ( Getty Images ).”

        At a now considerably later time when “populism” has become a much-abused term, too often used to describe a right-wing political pathology that real (and left-wing) populists like the late A.J.P. Taylor would find abhorrent, it seems appropriate to end my own reflections here with Taylor’s account of what happened (in his country at any rate!) right after the 1918 Armistice was signed. (As a mark, whatever else, of just what “Populist history” can involve.)

        I quote the late great man’s entire and admirably lean paragraph at the bottom of p. 113 and top of p. 114 in the 1970 paperback update of the 1965 first publication of English History, 1914–1945 :

        In the fighting-lines there was bewildered relief when the guns ceased to fire. There was no fraternization and little rejoicing. In England people were less restrained. Work ceased in shops and offices, as news of the armistice spread. Crowds surged through the streets, often led by airmen and Dominion troops on leave. Omnibuses were seized, and people in strange garments caroused on the open upper deck. A bonfire heaped against the plinth of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square has left its mark to this day. Total strangers copulated in doorways and on the pavements. They were asserting the triumph of life over death. The celebrations ran on with increasing wildness for three days, when the police finally intervened and restored order.

        November 6, 2018 in USA .. not exactly a night to remember for the rest of our lives?

        Posted: November 7th, 2018 | No Comments »

        Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York becomes youngest woman elected to Congress.

        6:20 PM ET : Nothing too striking in the earliest 2018 US Midterms vote, as best as we can tell, on Twitter and/or TV. But it’s a relief that the evening has finally begun, as Rachel Maddow has recently observed.

        12:15 AM : We agreed to wait somewhat longer before making any brief comments. Until after the popcorn runs out in the office board room with the big TV.

        2:40 AM : So … early but soon faded prospects that Democrats might take both the Governor race and a Senate seat in Florida and a Senate seat in Texas set too high initial expectations at our election-watching party. The ultimate results were more sobering.

        In the end the smart-money predictions beforehand were borne out. As summarized by the New York Times : “Democrats Capture Control of House; G.O.P. Holds Senate.”

        A best progressive spin on how it all looked on the early morning of November 7 also appeared on the Times’ digital front page, under the headline “Unusually High Turnout Illustrates Intensity of Trump Backlash.”

        Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has become the new governor of Michigan.

        The spin went on : “Democrats harnessed voter fury to win control of the House and capture pivotal governorships, delivering a forceful rebuke of President Trump … An array of diverse candidates — many of them women, first-time contenders or both — ended the Republican Party’s eight-year grip on the chamber … But in an indication that the country’s political and cultural divisions may only be deepening, the Democratic gains did not extend to the Senate.”

        The exact but still to be finalized numbers reported by the Times as of 4 AM showed the Democrats gaining 26 seats in the House, while the Republicans gained two seats in the Senate, and the Democrats gained seven new state Governors.

        We finally agreed here on a number of quotations from eminent persons on Twitter, as summaries of our own initial reactions.

        Two largely negative comments to start with. First from Susan Delacourt at the Toronto Star : “I’m going to go right out there and predict that these midterms did the sum total of nothing to fix polarization in the United States and may have made it worse.”

        Democrat Sharice Davids in Kansas becomes first Native American woman elected to Congress, “with New Mexico’s Deb Haaland expected to pull off a similar victory.”

        Second from the anti-Trump former Republican commentator Bill Kristol : “I assume the election will embolden Trump. His political strategy of focusing on Senate victories in red states will have worked. He’ll have no incentive not to continue demagoguing immigration. He’ll be tempted to fire Cabinet members and others he regards as not true loyalists.”

        We’ll end with a number of more positive comments, by various hands and from various directions. First here from Van Jones at CNN : “It’s a rainbow wave … with the Democrats taking control of the House, the new Democratic party is ‘younger, browner, cooler’.”

        Next from Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star : “Democrats have won the Senate and governor races in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the states that narrowly put Trump over the top in 2016.”

        Then from John Dean, of Watergate fame long ago : “MIDTERMS: A few close races that are heartbreaking. It is obvious the Trump con is not working for the overwhelming majority of American voters. Democrats controlling the House means we have a real check on our autocratic president. Trump is the big looser of the 2018 midterms.”

        Democrat Gavin Newsom, celebrating here with family, has been elected California's next governor — “in a win for the resistance against Trump.”

        Then from Doug Saunders at the Globe and Mail in Canada : “It looks like close to 60 per cent of Americans voted for Democrats tonight. It’s a majority centre-left populace, as it was in 2016.? Just that the electoral system, outside the House, is based not on demography but on geography.”

        Finally, from the excellent Ezra Klein, founder of the news website, Vox : “Trump’s political rise was so stunning that the media is scared to say about him what we would say about any other president polling this badly, and who lost the House, amidst this economy … He’s failing politically. He’s an anchor on his party.”

        3:45 AM : In our view there is indeed a civil cold war going on in the USA today. We believe that the growing demographic majority represented by President Obama and the Democrats is bound to win over President Trump and his Republicans in the very end. (Just like the North finally won the shooting Civil War over the South in the 1860s.)

        Meanwhile, the long journey to the 2020 US presidential election has now begun. And there are no doubt many further struggles ahead for the great cause of human progress and Democracy in America. Again …? from the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli …

        On the 2018 Toronto election … “it could be worse” seems the best you can say?

        Posted: October 29th, 2018 | No Comments »

        Councillor Ana Bail?o, who grew up “in the rich cultural diversity of the Davenport area,” and studied at West Toronto Collegiate and the University of Toronto, appeared as deputy mayor at John Tory’s first press conference of his second term as Mayor of Toronto. A city councillor since 2010 Ms Bail?o also won more than 83% of the 2018 vote in the new Ward 9 : Davenport.

        The day itself was an entire week ago now, but no matter …

        The drama of the 2018 municipal election in Canada’s current largest city was all before election day.

        The somewhat Trumpian Doug Ford, new premier of Canada’s most populous province of Ontario (and failed Toronto mayoral candidate in 2014), finally managed to reduce the size of city council from 44 to 25 members, in the middle of the campaign!

        His quest may have had its moments — notwithstanding an ultimately unnecessary appeal to the fabled “notwithstanding clause” in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982.

        In the end, however, it just set the stage for a traditionally boring municipal election — nicely summarized in Denise Balkissoon’s Globe and Mail report, “Meet the new Toronto Council, same as the old Toronto Council.”

        (And in the Toronto Star see Edward Keenan’s “Toronto’s new council has as many ‘Michaels’ as visible minorities.”)

        To start with, reducing the size of council seems to have strengthened the local political system’s longstanding bias towards incumbents — those who have already served on council, and whose names are well enough known among the traditional minority of the electorate who vote.

        Michael Thompson from Scarborough cuts Canadian flag cake at citizenship ceremony in Toronto, February 19, 2014. A longtime conservative councillor (since 2003), he returned as both one of the four “people of colour” and one of the four Michaels on the slimmed down 25-member Toronto City Council of 2018.

        After the 2018 election in Toronto there are only “four new faces on a 25-member council.” For further intelligence see “Rookies on Toronto city council could hold balance of power” in the Toronto Star, by Jennifer Pagliaro, David Rider, and Samantha Beattie.

        The same Star piece also notes? : “Looking at previous vote records and past allegiances on council, it appears there are 10 very reliable votes for [now re-elected Mayor John] Tory, including his own, and seven stalwart progressives. The rest are somewhere in the middle …”

        A bare majority on the new 25-member council (plus one mayor = 26) is 14. Graphic material at the end of the Pagliaro-Rider-Beattie report in the Toronto Star notes that, strictly speaking there are now 20 “incumbents” and five “new councillors.”

        (Shelley Carroll in “Ward 17 — Don Valley North” — resigned her earlier council seat to run unsuccessfully in this past June’s Ontario provincial election. So she technically qualifies as a “new councillor.” But : “Prior to her provincial bid, she represented the former Ward 33 on city council? [Don Valley East] for 15 years.”)

        The same Star graphic material divides the new 25-member council ideologically into 12 “right councillors”, nine “left councillors”, and four “unknown”.

        As a further sign of just how much the present is trapped in the past, the “unknown” on this reading are the otherwise designated “new councillors” above, less Shelley Carroll.

        Re-elected Mayor John Tory and family watch winning returns on election night 2018.

        (And even here the four “new faces” — as still further above — include Mike Colle. He is a former member of the Ontario provincial parliament at Queen’s Park, and before that a municipal politician in the old local federalist days of Metro Toronto. He has now successfully run to replace his retiring son Josh Colle, on the current amalgamated City of Toronto council. )

        I have four further quick notes to add on all this : (1)? Voter turnout in 2018 and 2014 … a tale of two quite different city elections ; (2) When will the “new very diverse Toronto in the inner suburbs” show up on city council? ; (3) NOW magazine and Jennifer Keesmaat as a winner anyway ;? (4) Finally getting John Tory’s ancestry right … he’s not really descended from the early 19th century Family Compact or even the mid 19th century Tory Toronto Charles Dickens found so “appalling” … but the mayor’s great grandfather (it seems) did welcome Winston Churchill to Toronto in 1929, not long before the historic great stock market crash in New York.

        Those who may want to pursue these matters still further can click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!

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