Broken Government & George Will – The Proud Madisonian


As my friends know, I’m a Charlie Rose fan (witness this earlier Charlie Rose post) and a U.S. political junkie. Over the last 15 years, with TiVo at the ready, I have rarely missed an episode.

I’m also an admirer of the Pulitzer price winning, George Will, a level-headed, conservative-leaning, syndicated Washington Post columnist that appears weekly on the ABC Sunday morning news show This Week.  While an ‘admirer’, I often (perhaps, usually) disagree with him. George can fairly be characterized as both a thoughtful and principled Republican pundit. I, on the other hand, would characterize myself as a centrist – a fiscal conservative and social liberal. If I could vote in U.S. elections, I would be an Independent.

On August 9, 2011, Charlie Rose interviewed George Will for the hour (you can watch the full interview here – click on the image of George on that page to start the video).  George happily states that he’s a proud Madisonian – the fundamental characteristic of which is the notion that the U.S. Constitution imposes ‘a government full of blocking mechanisms’ that make it extremely difficult (usually taking a lot of time) for things to change – including for progress to be had and fundamental justice to be realized.

This is one area where I profoundly diverge from George – the belief that this is necessarily or always a ‘good’ thing. At the 18:34 mark in the interview, George states:

“I can think of nothing that the American people have wanted intensely and protractedly that they did not get. The system works!” 

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Toronto G20 Protest Under My Window–Esplanade & Scott

T0ronto G20 Protest on Esplanade between Scott and Lower Jarvis

The narrated video above is hard to see because its dark. It is easier to see it on full screen. See the non-narrated version of the same event (below) taken 5 minutes earlier. It is a bit easier to see.

A few days after a man was arrested in front of my building with gasoline tanks and various items that could be used as weapons (see pictures below), a largish Toronto G20 protest took place under my window.

There were about 75 to 100 sit-in style protesters on Toronto’s The Esplanade, between Scott and Lower Jarvis (about 1/2 mile from the G20 fences). The protestors blocked the road, stretching about 5 people wide, between the Keg on one side of the street and the Novotel (where low-level G20 officials are staying)  on the other. Easily 100 to 150 police in full riot gear showed up in successive waves. While an initial group of police surrounded the protesters (2 lines, 2 officers deep), another phalanx of police organized at Front and Scott. They marched in formation (about 5 x 25), banging batons on shields with each step. After that group arrived, the police arrested the protestors one by one – dragging them into a dozen or so waiting paddy wagons as two helicopters hovered overhead. While all that took place a dozen or so police per street corner blocked all adjacent streets ensuring that no more protestors could arrive.

Non-Narrated Version of Video recorded 5 Minutes Earlier

Non-narrated version–shorter, easier to see–nice Toronto skyline shot


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Where Do You Diverge from the Pop Culture Consensus?

From time to time I find myself swimming against the current of accepted wisdom. Below are just some of places where I diverge from the pop culture consensus. I’ll add to this list as items occur to me.

Where do you diverge from the pop culture consensus?

—- MOVIES —-

jar jar binksJar Jar Binks

I liked Jar Jar Binks. What else is there to say. I thought he was an amusing character. I was happy to see him return in Attack of the Clones and the Clone Wars.


gigli movie poster  Gigli

I didn’t think Gigli sucked. It was far from great. It would probably rate 2 out of 5 Dale-heads if I were to review it formally. But it doesn’t deserve to be the butt of all jokes and one of the most lambasted movies of all time.



the english patient movie poster The English Patient

If there ever was a more boring, self-indulgent, overly-hyped movie, than The English Patient, I don’t know  what it is. It was cathartic to see the fictional Seinfeld character Elaine Benes hate on the movie in the English Patient episode! :)  This is probably the only thing I ever agreed with the Elaine character on.

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Canadian Cabinet Ministers, Party Leaders & Members of Parliament using Twitter

   canadian parliament   twitter logo 

Following recent reports (see here, here and here) on the growing number of U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives that use Twitter (about 120 right now), I decided to look into which Canadian Cabinet ministers, party leaders, Senators and Members of Parliament use Twitter. Below are my preliminary results as of May 12, 2009. I have included the number of each person’s Twitter followers in parenthesis.

This list is not exhaustive. If you know of other Cabinet Ministers, Senators or MPs using Twitter, please add them in the comments with a link to their twitter profile. Many thanks.

Cabinet Members

Stephen Harper – Prime Minister: (12,219)

Jason Kenney – Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism: (702)

Tony Clement – Minister of Industry: (501)

[Update: This must be someone spoofing a Tony Clement profile.]

Stockwell Day Minister of International Trade:  (2 – hasn’t posted anything yet)

Steven Fletcher – Minister of State (Democratic Reform): (377)

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Can the U.S. Stimulus Package Work?

Of late, I’ve heard countless Republicans, Fox News pundits and others emphatically state that:

  • Keynesian stimulus spending has never worked in the past;
  • World War II was the sole impetuous for recovery after the Great Depression – not spending; and
  • the New Deal had no ameliorating effect on the Great Depression’s high unemployment rates.

All of this is said, of course, in argument against the current Obama/Democratic stimulus package.

It is certainly true that World War II proved to be an enormous, if not THE most important, stimulus to post Depression recovery. The chart* below, however, makes it clear that Roosevelt’s stimulus spending did have an important, positive effect on the U.S. economy:

msnbc (Feb 9 2009) - U.S. Gross Domestic Product 1929 to 1941

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U.S. Job Losses – Current vs. Recent Recessions

msnbc (Feb 2009) - job lossess in recent recessions 

This graph speaks for itself! It shocked me!

It puts into perspective the depth of the current economic downturn compared to the most recent 2001 and 1990 recessions. U.S. Job losses are almost double those of the prior two recessions in the same amount of time and already deeper than they were in the worst of the prior two. It is also the first time in my living memory where the unemployment rate in the U.S. is worse than in Canada.

*The chart above was displayed on MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow show on Monday February 9, 2009.

Biden as Obama’s VP – Pros and Cons

Barack Announces Biden in Springfield Illinois

Fresh off the announcement, these are my initial thoughts on the strategic pros and cons of Biden being named Obama’s running mate:

(a note on my personal opinion at the end)

Biden Pros:

  • Chemistry: The chemistry is right. They have an established working relationship having worked well together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with Biden being Barack’s ‘boss’).
  • Ends the Clinton Drama: After the speeches and roll-call next week, the post-primary Clinton drama will be ended. There will be no issue of what to do with “Bill” had Barack picked Hillary.
  • Scrappy Fighter: Barack can remain above the fray during the election campaign while Biden (who is no shrinking violet) gets down and dirty in the presidential fight/debates – similar to what Cheney did for Bush. He’ll effectively handle the Republican attack machine — in the words of Chris Matthews, “the Carl Rove, divisive, swift boating, character assassinating partisanship that calls every disagreement treason or appeasement, every electoral rival an enemy of the people”. Ha! 🙂
  • McCain Knowledge: Since Biden has worked with McCain for his entire career and knows him intimately, he’s strategically positioned to go toe-to-toe in debating McCain and his VP on every  policy issue.
  • First Rate Debater: He’s a terrific debater. He’s well versed in every major policy area. He’ll be a good debater against any McCain VP pick.
  • Foreign Policy Chops: He’s extremely knowledgeable on foreign affairs and military policy (shoring up a perceived Obama weakness – he called for the surge YEARS before either Bush or McCain did). Biden should send flowers to Putin for the South Ossetia affair – which probably secured Biden’s place on the ticket. He has established personal working relationships with most every major foreign leader. Has travelled the world widely.
  • Third Pennsylvania Senator: While Biden is a senator from Delaware, he was born in Scranton Pennsylvania – a key battleground state that Hillary won in the primaries. Given Delaware’s proximity and overlapping media markets with Philadelphia, Biden’s considered Pennsylvania’s third senator.  While Bush took most of Pennsylvania in 2004, Kerry won the state by taking Eastern Pennsylvania – the part closest to the Delaware border.

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Tim Russert – My Issue This Sunday

Tim Russert - Waves Goodbye Tim Russert (1950 – 2008) believed that “being informed is the first job of being a good citizen”. I do too. For more than a decade I have watched Tim interview his guests each and every Sunday. I rarely missed Meet the Press.

I was saddened to hear of Tim’s passing last Friday. I’ve been watching the bountiful tributes with misty eyes. I respected his intelligence, preparation, passion for what he did, his omnipresent big smile, good humour and down-home humanity.

Tim’s relationship with is father, Big Russ, was inspiring. When he announced his book, Wisdom of our Fathers, I purchased a copy to give to my dad on father’s day. I used the page included in the book to write a bit about what my father meant to me. My dad liked that.

During every U.S. primary, caucus or election night, I would be keenly interested in what Tim had to say. I never found myself disagreeing with him. I don’t remember a partisan moment. If he said it, I took it very seriously.

It’s Sunday morning as I write this. Tom Brokaw is doing a tribute show for Tim in the background. I have never watched Meet the Press under another moderator. He helped to keep me informed. Sunday morning won’t be the same without him.  His chair will be tough to fill.

Tim Russer's empty table at Meet the Press

Click to watch interview with Tim’s son Luke.

The Obama Fist Bump, Thumbs-Up Moment

Michelle and Barack Obama Fist Bump on Night Obama Wins Nomination Michelle Gives Barack Thumbs Up on Night Obama Wins Nomination

As Barack was about to make his Democratic nomination victory speech, Michelle looked at him, fist-bumped, smiled a huge smile and gave him the thumbs up.

There is something awfully wonderful about this picture. In a flash you see a couple that is truly in love. Truly supportive of each other. Terrific.