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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend...

Woo-hoo! I feel gleeful. Ottawa is a-buzz with well-founded rumours that there is a coalition government in the works, and that it will take down Harper and his familiar, Flaherty, early next week. If so, the Governor-General will be faced with a decision on whether to call a new election (and spend another $300 million in taxpayer dollars) or allow the coalition to give governing a chance. I have friends in Calgary who are livid, simply livid, that this kind of non-democratic, crass politicking can go on.

OK, maybe it is crass politicking, but watch it when you say non-democratic. The new coalition of the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois would represent 54.4% of the Canadian popular vote in the 2008 election, compared to 37.7% for the Conservatives. I would say the majority of Canadians would be open to seeing if these guys and gals can make it work together.

The more interesting point may be, who will become Prime Minister? Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader, has said he will step down in May of 2009. The Bloc has said they want anybody but Stephane. And Ed Broadbent (NDP) and the wily old Jean Chretien (Lib) are in the background pulling the levers. Whoever it is, s/he's gotta be better than the incumbent.

Harper is palpably nervous. He has already backed down from a promise of cutting federal financing for political parties, hoping the Coalition was acting in a purely self-serving manner. No such luck - they apparently have the best interests of Canadians in mind.

This is Canadian poitical theatre at its best. And lucky me! I will be in Ottawa next week to celebrate, er, observe, the proceedings first-hand. I'll keep you posted from the nation's capital.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Enigmatic Mr Paulson

I've been doing some research on Hank Paulson lately and have come across some fascinating stuff. Seems the Treasury Secretary is a nature enthusiast, and is a keen herpetologist. Yes, the man loves snakes. Somewhat ironic, I thought, as many peg him to be one of them. He wanted to be a forest ranger when he was growing up, and when he did grow up, he kept all kinds of animals on the farm he had in Illinois. The menagerie included raccoons (that he let live in the house with the family) alligators, tarantulas, flying squirrels, and the more pedestrian pets too, dogs and cats.

But he loves snakes. And all manner of animals of prey. The article goes on to quote him: "I'm fascinated because they're at the top of the food chain." He goes on to posit a very interesting theory - that when those at the top of the food chain are healthy, the rest of the ecosystem is healthy too.

Clink! The penny has finally dropped. That is why he is doing what he is doing, namely bailing out his friends and enemies at the top of the food chain that is Enterprise America. If Wall Street eats, we all eat. But he is savvy enough to know he cannot actually say this out loud. Howls of indignation and outrage would result.

Strange though, as he is also a devout Christian Scientist and therefore believes that love trumps fear. So really, shouldn't he just offer us a big group hug and be done with it? But no, it seems in the real world, fear trumps love almost every time. One look at the markets lately will reinforce that.

And by the way, Mr Paulson, you can't live on love. Just ask the birds of prey you so respect about that one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Historian's Night

There is no doubt about it. Barak Obama's decisive win last night in the US presidential race is one for the history books. And as much as I have tried to run away from history as a profession after spending the better part of my life training for it, I do like these kinds of historical moments. They are transfixing. And the Obama camp knew just how far to push the pomp and circumstance last night. He delivered a presidential speech; not that of a candidate. He was humble, yet inspiring; cautious, yet optimistic; folksy, yet conveying the aura of a leader. A difficult task, and, unfortunately, not the only one he will face in the next few months as he seeks to right the course of Good Ship America.

I have had only a few other days/nights/moments which I feel I can rate as historic. Of course, 9/11 was one. The feeling that the entire continent was numbed and huddled together in shock was one that I hope never to experience again. The Challenger disaster was another, although I must say I did not feel the same for poor Columbia. I do remember being distracted for some time when the first Gulf War began. I had just moved to the UK to do my PhD, and simply could not believe a war (other than the far, far away Falklands) could break out in my lifetime. I can barely remember Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon, although my parents allowed their five-year-old child to stay up for it. And to be honest I'm really not so sure to this day it actually even occurred. (Yes, I'm one of those people - the conspiranoiacs.)

I grew up with parents who lived through WWII in England. I always felt a certain envy as they had seen and lived real history.

Perhaps, as surreal as it seems the day after, just perhaps, I have too.