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Hero Worship, Part II

It’s no sin to be one of God’s beautiful creatures, nor to be married into a famous family.  But it’s kind of amazing that Sophie Grégoire made the cover of Chatelaine twice in three years.  The shame of it isn’t merely that at this point (October 2006), Justin Trudeau is simply a former high school drama teacher; it’s that a magazine which still pretends to embrace progressive causes has wasted the entirety of its interview on the minutiae of how Sophie met Justin.

Since September 2005, Mme. Grégoire had been Quebec correspondent for CTV’s eTalk entertainment news programme; the accompanying 6-page article contains exactly two paragraphs about her own career aspirations:

During her first year at Montreal’s McGill University, she studied commerce but switched to the Université de Montreal, where she graduated with a communications degree.  She then worked as an account manager at an ad agency, took another job selling advertising space for a Montreal magazine, and worked in PR.  Until recently, she was a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew, but wanted to shift into broadcasting, where she was doing spot gigs on the side.

Seven years ago, she landed her first break.  “I thought, My God, the camera loves her,” recalls Sylvain Chamberland, the Montreal executive who hired her for a local all-news channel doing two-minute entertainment spots.  He was struck by Sophie’s bouyant sense of self, an anti-cynic.  “She’s authentic,” says Chamberland, a vice-president for the communications giant Quebecor.  “Believe me, I’ve met a lot of phonies in this business.”

– Sanati, Maryam. “She made it all happen.”  Chatelaine, October 2006. p. 72.

There could have been an interesting story there (especially regarding the unusual shift from white-collar office work to retail), alas the rest is meet-cute and relationship fluff.  But then who wants to read about a woman’s boring career goals (and the struggle to attain them) when you can sigh over her dreamy husband instead?

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Hero Worship

Perhaps it’s a failing that comes with having a Y chromosome and a devil-may-care attitude, but your correspondent had never been particularly interested in Chatelaine magazine.  I was dimly aware of it, and only to the extent that it was the origin of some of my wife’s recipes.  Otherwise Chatelaine seemed to a creature of another era; a plodding dinosaur of fussy, uptight second-wave feminism that kids today would consider weaksauce.  I was a little bit surprised to discover it is also something of a house organ for doyennes of the Liberal Party:


Today, Justin Trudeau is a father of two, the Member of Parliament for Papineau and a noted amateur boxer.  But back in June of 2008, he was a former schoolteacher whose most notable event on the public stage was saying some nice things at his dad’s funeral.  The election which brought Justin to Parliament occurred 4 months after his wife, Sophie Grégoire, appeared on this cover of Chatelaine.  Ask yourself whether (absent the Trudeau surname) the wife and child of any other rookie political candidate—from any political party—would stand a chance of making the cover of the 3rd-highest-circulating Canadian magazine.

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Journalistic objectivity, c. 1979

A few weeks ago, your correspondent was asked to assist an aged relative in the de-hoardification of their home.  This sort of task is neither easy nor pleasant, but the relative was motivated—and under a deadline due to impeding structural repairs on the home.  One of the rewards of the effort (aside from seeing a home made neat and habitable again) is archaeological in nature; an opportunity to examine the cultural ephemera of an era through preserved artefacts.

Some finds will make one shake his head and laugh.  This Toronto Star story from the summer of 1979, for example.

Toronto Star, "B" section front page, 28 July 1979. Click to enlarge image.

The Star has never been particularly shy in its partisan support of the Liberal Party, but this is one of the more thorough examples that I have seen.  In addition to a photograph of the Progressive Conservative then-Prime Minister, the Star helpfully includes a chart detailing exactly how Joe Who? has fallen through on his campaign promises.  What elicits a belly laugh from yours truly is that the Star saw fit to pronounce Joe’s government a hypocritical failure a mere 55 days after being sworn in.

Just try to imagine a situation where the Star might do the same for a Liberal government that had distanced itself from the gambits necessary to win power.  The Chrétien government famously abandoned many of its campaign policies (as enumerated in the 1993 Red Book), to the point where then-Finance Minister Paul Martin uttered an infamous takedown of his own work:

Don’t tell me what’s in the Red Book … I wrote the goddamn thing.  And I know that a lot of it is crap … The Goddamn thing [was] thrown together quickly in the last three weeks of July.  Things hadn’t been properly thought through.”  In any event, the government reneged on a number of commitments—both large and small—including the pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, to introduce daycare, to replace the GST, to strengthen the Department of the Environment. and to cut spending on outside consultants by $620 million annually, beginning in fiscal year 1996-96.

– Savoie, Donald J.  Breaking the Bargain: Public Servants, Ministers, and Parliament.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.  p. 200.  [Emphasis mine]

But did the Star bother to print up a nice reader-friendly chart less than two months after Jean’s swearing-in, telling us how he and Paul were a bunch of no-good lying bums?

Incidentally, the reporter who penned the Star article—Mr. Andrew Szende—became a senior bureaucrat (Associate Secretary of the Cabinet and Secretary of the Policy and Priorities Board) in the Ontario government circa 1988, during David Peterson’s second term as Premier.  Imagine that.

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Summation of the Jaffer/Guergis affair

Helena Guergis tries to hold back her emotions while speaking to reporters at her campaign office in Collingwood, Ont., Friday, April 15, 2011. (Canadian Press)

The Toronto media establishment is positively giddy over the announcement that the Hon. Helena Guergis—a former MP and  junior minister in the Harper government—has launched a defamation suit against many former colleagues, including the Prime Minister.  Mrs. Guergis is skilfully playing the tearful victim, and the press—as it always does when there is the potential for blood in the water—is lapping it up.

If the press had a reasonable memory—or was prepared to salivate less at the thought of inflicting damage upon the government—it might recall that Guergis and husband Rahim Jaffer may not have committed any criminal acts warranting prosecution, but in the eyes of Parliament’s ethical watchdogs, they fell afoul of professional codes of conduct.  An editorial by the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin does a good job of summarising the alleged professional misdeeds.

On Jaffer:

In a report released on Monday, [Lobbying Commissioner Karen] Shepherd criticized the actions of Jaffer and his business partner, Patrick Glemaud, who were involved in a political controversy which also snared Jaffer’s wife Guergis, the former Simcoe-Grey MP.

Shepherd said that while Jaffer and Glemaud were unsuccessful in attempts to secure $178 million in federal Green Infrastructure Fund funding, they should have registered as lobbyists.

… This matter has been investigated by the RCMP, which determined there were no grounds for criminal charges.

But Jaffer and Glemaud broke federal rules by failing to register as lobbyists before trying to obtain taxpayers’ money.

– “Jaffer, Guergis still acted contrary to what is ‘right’.”  Editorial, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, 17 December 2011.

On Guergis:

Last summer, federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson determined that Guergis broke Parliament’s conflict of interest code by sending a letter to Simcoe County officials, encouraging them to hear a presentation from a green waste management firm’s owner, who had business links to Jaffer.

According to the conflict of interest code, politicians are prohibited from using their position to further their private interests, or those of their family members.

Guergis responded to Dawson’s findings by saying there was no proof she had done anything wrong. She was also investigated by the RCMP and not charged criminally

… Part of her responsibility as an MP, however, is to know what the conflict of interest guidelines are and adhere to them. Most politicians know enough to steer clear of any potential conflicts of interests.

– “Jaffer, Guergis still acted contrary to what is ‘right’.”  Editorial, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, 17 December 2011.

Anyone who watches police and lawyer shows on television will know that giving the police no grounds to pursue criminal charges is not the same thing as being spotless and squeaky-clean.  In the eyes of the Lobbying Commissioner and federal Ethics Commissioner, there were violations of professional codes of conduct.  Those details will certainly be relevant to the defence in the defamation suit.

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Predictable

X’mas Parade (I’m Rob F**King Ford), originally uploaded by PeacefulHeart.

It’s all but certain that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is going to spend the next three years tripping over landmines laid down by his own hyperbole, clumsiness and lack of forethought.  His Worship has done rather a lot to erode the goodwill of his supporters and, according to the Toronto Star, is now alienating the swing voters [1,2] on City Council.

I understand the Star‘s distaste for the current mayor; following his first term as mayor of the amalgamated city, I had an overwhelmingly negative view of Mel Lastman (and what I judged to be his appalling lack of vision and competence).  In the 2000 municipal election, I voted for one of Mel’s opponents; the tranny rather than the troubled hippie, mainly because I judged the hippie to be an unserious fringe candidate—and if one is going to vote for an unserious fringe candidate, that person should at least be entertaining.

As I said, I understand there will be opposition; what is less easy to understand is the Star‘s analysis.  Writing for Openfile.ca, John Michael McGrath looks at the newspaper’s methodology and finds it wanting:

If we go to the Ford Council Scorecard (an always-useful resource for council-watchers), we see just how broad a group these [eight swing-vote] councillors are. Moeser has voted with Rob Ford more than 80 per cent of the time, while Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) has voted with the mayor only 30 per cent of the time. That’s a huge range, which makes the idea of a “swing” bloc questionable.

– McGrath, John Michael.  “Ford losing the swing votes on council, but what’s a swing vote anyway?”  Openfile.ca, 21 December 2011.

McGrath posits that the swing councillors are more properly those whose votes accord with the mayor around 40-60% of the time, rather than the 30-80% range the Star uses.  In which case there are just three swing voters—not the Star’s eight—on a council of forty-four.

It’s a short piece, but well worth the read.

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Straight Talk Express?

Long before he made his 2008 bid for the presidency, Senator John McCain was the darling of the Washington press corps.  He had cultivated the image of a realist hawk; a raptor who was critical of others of his kind.  The sort of gent who was not afraid to criticise his peers in the Senate (and former peers in uniform) for wanting to shovel barrels of pork at every billion-dollar gewgaw the military-industrial complex could dream up.  Meanwhile, McCain took PAC money from the defense lobby just like everyone else.

None of this will be new to longtime observers of US defence policy, but I still find it entertaining when Senator Maverick gets caught speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  This brief item from the “Verbatim” section of last month’s Air Force magazine was so good it had to be shared:

Sen. Straight Talk, Now …

“Over [about 15 years], Congress has authorized and appropriated funds for 113 F-35 jets. Lockheed has, however, delivered just 11. … Some of us saw this train wreck coming.”—Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), remarks at Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, May 19.

… And Then

“We want to increase funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an aircraft and weapon system that in the view of many experts—including my view—would be far more capable [than the F-22] of meeting the emerging threats of the future.”—Same senator, Senate floor speech praising the F-35 when his immediate objective was to kill the F-22, July 13, 2009.

Good one, John.  Tell us another one!

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Beyond parody

Dear defeated Members of Parliament (of all political parties):

It’s called getting fired.  It will happen to virtually all Canadians at some point in their personal and professional development.  Most of your fellow citizens will deal with it on their own, without the benefit of any outreach program.

“It’s as sudden as death,” said one defeated Liberal MP. “The only thing you don’t go through is that you don’t have to walk into a funeral home and peek into the box and say, ‘Well, he was a nice guy.’ ”

When Canadian researchers interviewed 45 former members of Canada’s federal and provincial parliaments within five years of their defeat at the polls and asked how they coped with their “involuntary disengagement”, one in three invoked images of death.

… For a number of defeated candidates, the prospects of finding gainful employment after an election defeat becomes remote, said McMaster’s Shaffir. “Some of them have sacrificed a lot. It’s not as if they can take a 10-year absence from a law firm and then just parade back, saying, ‘I’m back.’ The whole legal world changes, or the technology has shifted.”

Joe Jordan developed a kit for defeated MPs called “Your Life After Politics”. He provides volunteer counselling to assist in the transition from public to private life. “I’m not Dr. Phil,” he said. “It’s just that someone who has been through it can answer their questions. I lived this.”

– Kirkey, Sharon.  “The death of a thousand votes: defeated MPs coping with grief, rejection.”  Postmedia News via the Montréal Gazette, 9 May 2011.

Suggestion: get over yourselves.

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Winning the lottery

Ms. Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Member of Parliament for Berthier-Maskinongé

This is probably my favourite election story from 2011.

A rookie NDP candidate—a former pub manager who was in Vegas for the campaign, and whose command of French leaves something to be desired—got elected by a comfortable 6,000-vote margin in a riding north of Montréal.  Which, if nothing else, demonstrates that in spite of the language laws, it’s entirely possible to be unilingual in Québec and still get government work.

(Via Darcey at MetisOnline)

UPDATE 040332Z MAY 11: it appears that Mme. Brosseau had some irregularities on her nomination papers. Residents who don’t recall signing, misspelled name of a signatory, etc.

Two things come to mind.

First, if the young lady speaks little French, how did she manage to convince 128 people to sign her nomination papers in a riding which is nearly 100% francophone?

Second, it’s nice that the national media is clueing in to these things. It would have been better if they had been a little more rigorous with the NDP before election day.

Category: Amor Patriae  Tags: ,  Comments off

Ends, means, etc.


Somehow I doubt this significant news will affect our leftist friends’ preferred narrative/slogan “Bush lied, people died.”

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” he said. “They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”

– Chulov, Martin and Helen Pidd.  “Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war.” Manchester Guardian, 15 February 2011.

(Via the Tiger on Politics.)

There’s no question that Saddam Hussein was brutal tyrant of poor moral fibre—a despot who employed chemical weapons against his own citizens—and every punishment that was finally heaped upon him was undoubtedly deserved.   There is no question that the first Gulf War had been ended only by a temporary ceasefire—whose terms Saddam had repeatedly violated from 1997 onward with malice aforethought.  But I would not blame the policymakers, diplomats and servicemen of the United States for feeling a twinge of resentment at having been misled by a zealot into an essentially avoidable endeavour.

Saddam’s story is one we might have seen earlier, in an alternate history.  If the French and British had gone to war in 1936, when Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles by remilitarising the Rhineland, it’s likely we would have a much sunnier image of the 20th century’s most famous dictator.  Let’s suppose der Führer also managed to survive the 1936 war, clinging to power in an economically crippled Germany (still hobbled by Versailles reparations), only to be deposed by an Allied invasion ten years later when an escaped scientist (an Einstein perhaps, or a von Braun) fabricated details of a Nazi superweapon program.  Without the horrors of a worldwide war and the additional nightmare of the Holocaust to prejudice our judgment, he would probably be a university campus hero today, like Che Guevara; just another hopeless, seedy foreign outlaw snuffed out by the reigning imperialists of the day.

Saddam was not Hitler, of course, though he was demonstrably brutal, tyrannical and anti-Semitic.  But even given all of that, one’s attitude toward the errors and deception underlying our casus belli probably depends on whether one believes Saddam’s greatest evils lay behind or ahead.  It’s a question to which—perhaps fortunately—we won’t ever have a definitive answer.

TRUE LIES UPDATE: A reminder that belief in Saddam’s WMD program was very much a bipartisan affair.

“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”

– President William J. Clinton, Statement on Iraq, 17 February 1998.

“Iraq is a long way from Ohio, but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.”

– Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Town Hall meeting on Iraq, Ohio State University, 18 February 1998.

“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.”

– National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger, Town Hall meeting on Iraq, Ohio State University, 18 February 1998.

“Mr. Speaker, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

– Representative Nancy Pelosi (D—California), Statement in support of air strikes underway against Iraq, 17 December 1998.

“This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to refine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.”

– Congressmen John McCain, Jesse Helms, Henry Hyde, Richard Shelby, Harold Ford Jr., Joseph Lieberman, Trent Lott, Ben Gilman, Sam Brownback. Joint letter to President George W. Bush calling for stepped up action against Iraq, 5 December 2001.

“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.”

– Senator Carl Levin (D—Michigan), Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, September 2002.

“As a condition of the truce that ended the gulf war, Saddam Hussein agreed to eliminate Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and to abandon all efforts to develop or deliver such weapons. That agreement is spelled out in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687. Iraq has never complied with the resolution.”

– Senator Tom Daschle (D—South Dakota), Statement on authorisation of the use of United States armed forces against Iraq, 10 October 2002.

Category: Foreign Affairs, National Defence  Tags: , ,  Comments off

Abdication of Responsibility

When a state refuses to enforce its monopoly on violence—allowing others to arrogate that prerogative to themselves—that negligence destroys public confidence in its institutions.  This is precisely what has happened at Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates; whether the land belongs to the natives or developers and homeowners ought to have been a question of law and torts; instead it has given rise to a de facto dual standard in law enforcement.

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings has two excellent posts on the subject, the first being a lengthy and meticulous précis of the Caledonia affair, and the second delving into former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino’s failings as both a peace officer and the Conservative “law and order” candidate.

The Ontario government has created a precedent whereby it has tacitly accepted the right of certain ethnocultural groups to take up arms and oppose the Crown, which hardly seems like a long-term recipe for peace and amity in a province whose heterogeneity is steadily increasing.