By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 - 13 Comments
Finance department announces a $3.6 billion shortfall in March
For the first time in over a decade, the federal government finished a fiscal year in the red. The finance department announced on Friday that Ottawa lost $3.6 billion in March, closing the books on a fiscal year in which it ran a $2.2 billion deficit. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty blamed the shortfall on sharp declines in personal income tax and corporate tax revenue due to the recession. At this time last year, the federal government posted a surplus worth $11.4 billion. Flaherty says he doesn’t expect Ottawa to post another surplus for four years.
UPDATED: The first — and very possibly last — ITQ post in solidarity, or at least commiseration, with Pierre Poilievre.
By kadyomalley - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:37 PM - 61 Comments
A confession: ITQ, too, once laboured under the misapprehension that “tar baby” was actually a pithy, if anachronistic Southern colloquialism, and not a racial slur. In fact, she very nearly deployed it in a recent blog post. Luckily, she checked with her Hot Room colleagues before hitting publish, and was told in no uncertain terms that it was most emphatically not, but given that recent experience, she has no trouble believing that Pierre Poilievre had no clue that he was being hideously offensive — well, hideously offensive in an unintended way. Although really, when considering launching a revival of a word or phrase that seems to have fallen out of use, it’s a good idea to Google it first, just to make sure there’s not a very good reason why nobody says it anymore.
UPDATE: Colleague Wherry has the transcript of Poilievre’s remarks here.
Meanwhile, one of ITQ’s countless fans at PMO sent along the following examples of various media outlets, reporters and former Liberal cabinet ministers using the phrase “tar baby”, apparently without sparking a furious backlash, although it would be interesting to find out if there were any angry letters sent to the editor in response:
“Marois’s effort to shake off the referendum tar baby is good news…” (Editorial, “Cynical PQ bid to rebrand party,” The Toronto Star, Friday, March 7, 2008).
“Same-sex marriage has generally been treated like a political tar baby over the past few years, with most parties reluctant to whip up highly sensitive arguments touching on religion and deeply rooted social values.” (Susan Delacourt, “Martin could exploit gay-marriage gift,” The Hamilton Spectator, Friday, December 10, 2004).
“Nobody is saying you toss over your U.S. relations. Of course you don’t. But it doesn’t mean to say you have to become slavishly connected like some kind of tar baby with them.” (Lloyd Axworthy, “Canada’s new leader to improve U.S. ties,” Detroit Free Press, Thursday, December 11, 2003).
I agreed to post them, for fairness, but I’ll say the same thing here as I said in my email (edited ever so slightly for coherence, and leaving out the other side of the conversation):
Hey, I nearly made the same mistake he did — the difference is that I asked first, and heeded the wisdom of my colleagues. I’m sure he meant no harm, but if I were him, I would just admit it was a bad choice of words and try to move on. You have to pick your battles, etymologically speaking – and this is one that you can’t win.
I think that’s pretty much where I came in, although it’s probably worth noting that it seems to be at least slightly less unacceptable (yes, I know that’s a double negative, just get over it) to use “tar baby” to refer to a concept — like, say, the carbon tax — than a person, but for a politician, at least, it’s probably safest to avoid it completely, no matter how much it may seem to be le mot juste.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:02 PM - 16 Comments
“‘We resolved that the term `competitiveness,’ the term `productivity’ and the term `innovation’ was never going to appear in anything we said or did in the 2005-2006 election campaign.’”
— Ian Brodie, explaining yet again why big-time stupid is short-term smart
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:33 AM - 10 Comments
US Energy Secretary calls for white roofs and pale roads
Dr. Steven Chu, Obama’s energy secretary, has a simple solution to combating global warming—whitewashing roofs and making roads the colour of cement. It sounds too easy, but Chu, a physicist and Nobel Prize winner, says the idea could cut as much greenhouse gas as parking every car in the world for 11 years. Pale surfaces reflect about 60 per cent more light than dark ones, meaning one coat of paint could greatly reduce solar radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. This would also keep buildings and cities cooler, reducing energy demands for air conditioning. The idea has already caught on in California, where new laws require all flat-topped commercial buildings to have white tops, and soon only cool colours will be allowed on pitched roofs.
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:31 AM - 0 Comments
It reveals personality traits, expert says
Psychologist Glenn Wilson tells the BBC that the way each person holds a glass says volumes about his or her personality. Some examples: the “Flirt” (almost always a woman, according to Wilson) holds her glass with splayed fingers and often places it provocatively near her cleavage, sometimes teasing the rim with her finger. The “Gossip” (also generally female, Wilson says) may use her glass to gesticulate, or lean over it confidentially. The “Fun-lover” (which can be either gender) take short swigs from bottles so they don’t miss out on the conversation. The “Playboy” (generally male) uses his tall glass or bottle as a phallic prop. And the “Browbeater” (also usually male) prefers large glasses or bottles, which are wielded as symbolic weapons. “The next time you’re in a bar, it might be worth thinking about what you’re saying to the people around you, just by the way you’re holding your glass,” Wilson says.
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Tribes are fighting over access to water for their horses and livestock
More than 250 people are dead following a week of battles on horseback between tribes in central Sudan who are fighting over access to water for their horses and livestock. The dead include 75 police officers who tried to intervene and stop the bloodshed. Shrinking amounts of water and grazing land is fueling conflict in Sudan and across the Sahel region of Africa as the Sahara desert expands southward.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:29 AM - 5 Comments
Glen Pearson reports from the foreign affairs committee.
“In all my career, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Bob Rae muttered as he looked over an unusual array of 19 African ambassadors appearing as witnesses at Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Included in the impressive gathering were representatives from the 8 African nations who had been targeted by Canada to have a large percentage of their development assistance cut … Juliette Yameogo from Burkina Faso was the true champion of the meeting, challenging committee members as to why the cut nations had never been consulted prior to a press conference by CIDA in Ottawa. Almost all of them had discovered news of the cuts through the media. ”Canada was a friend who understood the challenges of Africa,” she began. ”For us, Canada is a country where its citizens stand solidly with oppressed people both at home and elsewhere in the world. In international gatherings, Canada has always stood shoulder to shoulder with Africa in defense of our continent’s interest.” The moment of truth came when she asked: “Are we to believe that our long time friend, Canada, is leaving?”
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:29 AM - 2 Comments
Woman is seeking $3 million a month in spousal support
Does Keanu Reeves have multiple love-children in Barrie, Ontario? That’s the allegation being made by Karen Sala. The 46-year-old mother of four—now aged between 20 and 25—claims she carried on a steamy affair with the Canadian actor for years and has filed a court motion to compel him to provide a DNA sample. However, Sala, who is seeking child support of $150,000 per month, retroactive to June 1988, as well as $3 million per month in spousal support, doesn’t seem to have much evidence of their supposed relationship.
By Wayne Tefs, Takeoffeh.com - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:21 AM - 1 Comment
From Enotecas to old grape skins
Tuscany, like Provence, is one of those destinations in Europe now. The light is superb, the people lovely, the food and drink remarkable. But we’ve had a bit too much Tuscan sun in books and the cinema in recent years. All that mooning and sighing becomes cloying. So—a brief antidote, a few correctives:
Driving in the bigger towns and cities: whoever introduced Italians to the motor car has a lot to answer for. Driving in places like Florence and Siena is a nightmare: everyone is honking, no one is in a designated lane, scooters play dodge-‘em between cars, frustrated Fiat drivers occasionally bolt down the sidewalk cinema noir style. Looking down a side street in an Italian city you might think you’ve just missed a parking competition for the blind. Take the train, bus, cycle, walk. Preserve your sanity. Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:14 AM - 15 Comments
The Liberals and Conservatives could stand to learn a thing or two about it
Perhaps it’s a sign of the tough economic times. As the ranks of the jobless continue to swell in Canada, politicians have taken to bickering over just what to do with them. Over the past month, the Liberals have made no secret they see employment insurance (EI) reform as a viable trigger for bringing down the government. “I just know in my guts as I go across the country,” Ignatieff told reporters at the party’s convention in early May, “that we have an EI system that is not purpose-built for the most serious economic crisis since 1945. And we have to fix it and we have to fix it now. We’re in a crisis situation.”
Fixing it, according to Ignatieff, means lowering the eligibility requirements to 360 hours, or nine 40-hour weeks, for everyone. In most circumstances under the current system, laid-off (or otherwise unemployed through no fault of their own) workers need to have worked between 420 and 700 hours in the previous year, depending on where in the country they live. (Under certain conditions, up to 910 hours may be needed to qualify.) That’s because EI requirements are based on a byzantine system of 58 “economic regions,” each differentiated by their unemployment rates. Regions with high unemployment, like the Gaspé and Northern Manitoba, have the lowest barriers to EI, while places like Ottawa and Saskatoon, where unemployment hovers in the low single-digits, require substantially more hours worked. (In other words, the system works unlike any other insurance plan: the more likely you are to make a claim, the easier it is to make it.)
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM - 2 Comments
Former PMO chief of staff Ian Brodie back in the headlines from the university lecture circuit
The last time his idle musings on politics made it on the national news cycle, it didn’t go well for Ian Brodie, whose now infamous off-the-record chat with journalists about then-Democratic nominees Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton sparked the so-called NAFTAGate scandal, and led to questions about whether the Conservatives were trying to game the US election in favour of the Republicans.
This time around, Brodie seems to be staying on safer ground, as far as his subject matter goes. Today’s Toronto Star reports on a speech to political scientists at this week’s humanities conference in Ottawa, during which the PM’s former right hand man dismissed the notion that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will be able to persuade voters that his party can be trusted to manage the economy. “The idea that the Liberal party has a brand as a fiscally responsible organization – I never once saw a single piece of market-research evidence to support that. Never,” Brodie told the assembled academics. According to Brodie, the Liberals “consistently rank last” when it comes to fiscal responsibility — despite the deficit-slaying record of former prime ministers Chretien and Martin. “There you go,” he concluded.
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 10:01 AM - 0 Comments
Stone-throwing pro-Sri Lankan protesters lay siege to Canadian embassy in Colombo
Just weeks after a series of chaotic but largely peaceful pro-Tamil demonstrations snared the streets of downtown Ottawa and blockaded Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, Canada’s embassy in Colombo is facing a distinctly more hostile crowd: stone-throwing, spray paint can-wielding pro-Sri Lanka protesters outraged over Canada’s “overly sympathetic” position on the now defeated Tamil Tiger movement. According to AFP, Canada has filed an official complaint with the Sri Lankan police for failing to protect the embassy from the angry mob, citing the country’s failure to step in as a possible breach of international obligations.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 43 Comments
Globe publisher Philip Crawley announced this week that editor Ed Greenspon had moved on to ‘new challenges’
“And now,” the editor of the Globe and Mail wrote in that newspaper’s pages a few weeks ago, “our hyper-innovative cartoonist is about to break new ground in partnership with our boundary-busting video-editor-cum-impresario, Jayson Taylor.”
This is how you write when you have no ambition except to appear modern. For a writer in the grip of such a frenzy it is no longer enough to innovate, nor even to super-innovate. Ground may be broken but boundaries must be busted. But none of this hyper-busting was boundary-innovative enough. Two weeks later the author of those lines, Ed Greenspon, was an ex-editor-cum-unemployed.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 9:02 PM - 27 Comments
(I have some less-flippant things to say about this seal heart business, but first, this: — pw)
Michaëlle Jean fits in. It’s what she does. Three times she has found herself amid strangers as they do what they often do. Three times she has joined in with them, only to be astounded, later, at how upset outsiders become when they stumble across a record of her action. Raising a glass with separatists in a Montreal tavern in the early 1990s. Delivering a very funny, self-deprecating speech (“Because I’m hot“) at a Press Gallery Dinner. Gobbling a chunk of raw seal heart in Iqaluit. She has a simple rule. “I am with others. They have rituals. All righty then.”
Michaëlle Jean visits New Jersey and ices a Teamster boss with a shiv down by the dockyards. She drops by London to file fraudulent expenses at the House of Commons. In Paris during Fashion Week she offers provocative ideas about hemlines. At the Berlin Love Parade she has a moment with a tattooed performance artist and votes Green. But back home in Ottawa, she meets her match. The one man who can fit into odd situations better than her. Michael Ignatieff. They try to become each other. He writes a book about his third parent, who was Haitian. She writes a long article for the New York Times admitting she was wrong about Iraq and the carbon tax.
It’s a standoff. Spectators come from miles around to watch their Zelig-off. Ignatieff dumps Zsuzsana for an eccentric Québécois documentarist. Jean promises to “mess with you until the sun don’t shine.” Ignatieff starts speaking very slowly in a hoarse whisper. Jean holds her breath until her eyebrows grow bushy.
By kadyomalley - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 8:28 PM - 26 Comments
As noted by one of our commenters in the thread below, another small, but important difference between the House and Senate versions of Question Period is that, when the minister charged with answering a question — which, in the Senate, is nearly always Marjory LeBreton — finds herself without a carefully prepared talking point to deliver in response, she can always offer to take the question under notice, and provide a written answer at a future date.
Which, as it happens, is precisely how we ended up with a — well, not exactly full, but partial — budget breakdown for the Prime Minister’s Office — the not-all-that-detailed details of which turned up in the Senate transcript this week, less than a month after Senator Lorna Milne asked the following question:
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 6:35 PM - 1 Comment
With Up, Disney/Pixar continues to set the bar for animated features. In world where Hollywood studios worship formula, what’s remarkable is that each of their movies is one-of-a-kind. There is no Pixar “house style.” Ratatouille and WALL-E had little in common except a sharply satirical sense of humour and a keen sense of story and character development. Up is not as sophisticated as either of those movies. The wit is less astrigent, the gags are broader and so is the sentiment. It’s more of a “cartoon” in the traditional sense. But it works like a charm in its own way, and I presume it will be more kid-friendly than the previous two pictures. It’s also in 3D, which serves to enhance the animation without distracting the viewer. Yes, you have to wear those 3D glasses. But there was no eye-strain, a minimum of eye-piercing gimmickry, and much of the time I forgot I was watching 3D altogether. In other words, the visuals remain in the service of the story. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 6:18 PM - 25 Comments
The Scene. Relaxing in the moments before Question Period, Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper looked across the aisle and nodded at each other—the Prime Minister no doubt recognizing the man opposite as the guy in all those bootlegged VHS tapes he’s been watching.
A short while later, Chuck Strahl, the Indian Affairs Minister, strolled across the aisle and engaged the leader of the opposition in what seemed a friendly conversation. Though the substance of the discussion was unclear, by all appearances Mr. Strahl understood clearly the words that were coming out of Mr. Ignatieff’s mouth.
As demonstrations of bipartisan collegiality, these were heartening scenes. As demonstrations of human ability, they were important clarifiers. Indeed, if these moments are any example, let there be no question that government and opposition do acknowledge and, at least passably, comprehend each other, whatever misconceptions today’s asking of questions and airing of accusations may have left you with. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
I haven’t had a lot of posting time today, but here are links to two pieces I wrote elsewhere on this fine website:
- My online article on seminal moments in the love triangle of Archie, Betty and Veronica, to celebrate the news of Archie’s imminent proposal to Ronnie. Includes a link to the first Cheryl Blossom story, where she tries to go topless on the Riverdale beach.
- From the print edition, my piece on Steven Suskin’s new book “The Sound of Broadway Music,” a book about the orchestrators of Broadway’s Golden Age. Ever since I listened to my father’s cast-album collection as a child, I have loved the sound of the classic Broadway orchestra and been interested in the names of the men credited under “orchestrations by” — how did they conjure up such different sounds for every number? — so I was glad that someone finally wrote a book like this, not just because it gives more biographical detail about these men and explains how songs go from being a piano-vocal sketch to the great arrangements we hear in the theatre, but because it tells us who orchestrated which numbers. It’s always been difficult for Broadway buffs to really judge the styles of individual orchestrators, because few orchestrators were able to do all the songs themselves. This was taken to an extreme in the ’50s by one of Broadway’s greatest orchestrators, Don Walker; shows like The Music Man say “orchestrations by Don Walker” but were actually done by a team of orchestrators.But even in other shows, there are individual numbers that were farmed out: In South Pacific, Robert Russell Bennett called in Don Walker to do one short number (“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”), while in the hit The Most Happy Fella, which had more music than any musical ever written up to that time — virtually an opera — was orchestrated by Don Walker almost entirely from beginning to end, but he called in his longtime assistant Robert Ginzler to do one song. With this book, we can finally definitively say who did what, and therefore understand what exactly makes one orchestrator different from another.
The book also has some great anecdotes, like the story about Stephen Sondheim demanding that the orchestrator, Irwrin Kostal, retain Sondheim’s over-elaborate accompaniment for one of his songs in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. The song didn’t work in performance, and Leonard Bernstein, who was in the audience, cornered Sondheim and said: “Who do you think you are? Me?” Upon which Sondheim let Kostal re-arrange the song with a more conventional accompaniment, and the song worked.
Here are some examples of classic Broadway orchestration and what it means: adding colour to the song, re-enforcing what the lyrics say without overshadowing them, and never drowning out the singers (who, remember, didn’t use mikes until the late ’60s). The qualifications for inclusion? They were online and I could find them quickly.
Robert Russell Bennett orchestrated virtually all of Jerome Kern’s music from 1922 onward, and all but two of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, was head orchestrator on My Fair Lady. His orchestrations for South Pacific are a major selling point of the current revival. Here from the original cast of My Fair Lady is Julie Andrews singing one of the songs Bennett orchestrated, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”
Hans Spialek, a Viennese who escaped to America after being captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia during WWI, was one of Broadway’s two busiest orchestrators in the ’30s; he’s best known for doing all the Rodgers and Hart shows in the late ’30s. Here is his original orchestration for “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from Pal Joey, using weird percussion effects and glissandi to convey the fact that this famous number is halfway between sentimental ballad and cynical sex song.
Don Walker started in the ’30s and worked consistently on Broadway until 1981. He was the main orchestrator on Carousel, Cabaret, Fiddler On the Roof, and many more; of all the Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:45 PM - 10 Comments
From QP this afternoon.
Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as sports fans, the Prime Minister and the finance minister know the axiom that records are made to be broken, but some records have seemed unbreakable, such as the Rocket’s 50 goals in 50 games and Babe Ruth’s 714 home run. Outside sports it was Brian Mulroney’s $39 billion deficit, then this Prime Minister and finance minister blew it out of the water. They did it with their ill-advised moves these past few years, so when the recession triggered this deficit on steroids, for those who really need help, they have nothing left but placebo announcements. Why?
Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC): Mr. Speaker, since when does the member opposite take this hypocritical position? Why does he stand and criticize the government for running a deficit, as we are obliged to do in order to help unemployed people in Canada, and at the same time say that the government should spend even more money? One does not make the playoffs that way.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit was a Cold War comic interlude
History, as Karl Marx’s famous dictum would have it, is supposed to be tragedy first time around, degenerating into farce only on its repeat swing. Hard then to say what the dour Marx might have made of his high-spirited fellow Communist Nikita Khrushchev and his 1959 tour across America. As described in journalist Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top (Public Affairs), even at the time the shambolic two-week affair struck many as a Cold War comic interlude, a kind of real-life rehearsal for Dr. Strangelove five years before the film. From our perspective, looking back over half a century during which East and West—thanks to MAD, that apt acronym for the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction—managed to avoid incinerating mankind, Khrushchev’s excellent adventure inspires not just laughter but nostalgia for a time when external threats did not come from shadowy organizations undeterred by the threat of retaliation. And for when the enemy had a sense of humour.
The visit must have seemed a serious event when first proposed. Khrushchev, who had slowly accumulated supreme power in the U.S.S.R. since the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, may not have been as murderous as his predecessor. Nonetheless, he was devoid of diplomatic skills (“We will bury you”), thin-skinned, and ever ready to remind foreigners he had nuclear missiles at his beck and call. His would be the first-ever visit of a Soviet leader to America, and the prospect that he and U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower might, as the latter delicately put it, have a “mutually profitable informal exchange of views,” would have sounded hopeful to most Americans.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:39 PM - 36 Comments
“Yet the Tory election platform was explicit. It promised a ‘”Made-in-Canada” plan focused on ensuring future generations enjoy clean water, clean land and clean energy here in Canada.’”
— Canadian Press, 2006
“Prentice, speaking to reporters by conference call from London, said regulations for big industrial emitters will have to be harmonized with U.S. rules in order to protect Canadian jobs and investments.”
— “Prentice delays emissions cap until 2012 or later,” Canadian Press, today
Just to make everything clear: I won’t hear a word about broken election promises. The Conservatives were careful to spell it out: “future generations” were going to enjoy clean water, clean land and clean energy. Present generations should not have jumped to conclusions.
By Julia McKinnell - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:20 PM - 1 Comment
A blind B.C. skier who does ‘ridiculous’ stuff has people gasping
On a warm spring day, a small crew of skiers meets at the bottom of the Wizard chair on Blackcomb Mountain. One of the skiers is Donovan Tildesley, 24, Canada’s flag-bearer at the Beijing Paralympics and a world-record-holding swimmer. Wearing a black and orange vest with “Blind Skier” printed on it, he jokes about his other problem, dyslexia. “I was born with one of the poorest senses of direction you could have. Friends tell me I walk around like an old man.”
Tildesley, who was born without retinas, learned to ski at age three on Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. He skied backwards the first year because it felt easier that way. “Yeah, it’s not like I can see where I’m going.”