Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Worth noting among these effusions: Chong's proposal is not to remove party discipline, as is alleged in hand-wringing fashion. It would move the authority to discipline from the leader alone to the caucus collectively. The caucus will always have a strong incentive to remain united, because without it... opposition forever. It's just that caucus's discipline would apply to the leader as to other members.
The two former governors-general who attended the Mandela commemoration in Johannesburg seemed to me a credit to the country, adding grace, stature, sense,
Which reminds us what a hard sell it is for arguments like those to be found in Canada and the Crown, edited by D. Michael Jackson and Philippe Lagassé, another in a recent series of essay collections that strive to make a case for the continued relevance of the monarchy in Canada. How many members of the British royal family were relevant to Canada here? (The same number as most Canadians wanted, I would guess.)
Our ex-prime ministers were also prominent, of course, and at least one of them wanted more of these public assignments:
Mr. Chrétien also expressed his disappointment that Canada doesn’t put its former prime ministers to work for the country’s betterment and to promote international relations after they leave office. “It’s not our tradition,” he said. “And it’s too bad.”Roderick Benns of Fireside Press, who used to have a history blog, has moved on to a new one, devoted to precisely this topic: Leaders and Legacies, focussing on the post-prime-ministerial careers of retired Canadian politicians. With historical columns by Christopher Dummitt and John Boyko, so far.
(Photo credit Adrien Wyld, Canadian Press via CTV)
Monday, December 09, 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
Thursday, December 05, 2013
I'm a longtime reader, but have never emailed before. Here's my suggestion for your best book list: Sandra Campbell's biography of Lorne Pierce, Both Hands, from MQUP. It fills tons of gaps and is well written to boot.
Just knowing I have longtime readers is a gift to me. Anyone else have books to recommend?
Update: Yes. The Writers' Trust polled a crew of Canadian writers about their choices for the year and now has them up at its website here. fiction nonfiction, history, kids's, poetry, no borders (other than the 49th).
Brian Busby of the never dusty Dusty Bookcase offers:
these two books of highly creative and accomplished non-fiction: Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley (D&M)
This Great Escape by Andrew Steinmetz (Biblioasis)
First, who's for and who's agin? Seems that the party organizers, pollsters, advisers, and consultants are mostly hostile or incredulous: Warren Kinsella, Marjoleena Repo, Calgary Grit, and so on. This figures: if you have built a career striving to be the power behind the throne, it stands to reason you will be alarmed by a challenge to the power of the guys on the thrones. Something similar with a lot of the Parliament Hill press corps, many of whom seem determined to be dismissive (though I have not been keeping track systematically). Spend your career measuring the forces among (and nurturing sources among) the apparatchiks while sneering at the helpless, spineless backbenchers, and you have cause to be alarmed by MPs suddenly considering giving themselves a spine transplant. It's editorialists and punditti who seem more understanding of what Chong's bill is driving at.
Second, Michael Chong seems to be playing a long and careful game. His package doesn't push too far: he wants MPs to declare their authority to remove leaders, but nothing about their authority to choose new ones. And there is a gesture at balance: if he seems to be giving power to the "elite" MPs, he also has a populist pitch: empower the riding associations too.
And he is not playing alone, nor playing the rebel. We have seen our share of rogue MPs be lionized for getting themselves sanctioned by the boss, but some of them give the impression that they would not play well with others in any circumstances. Chong's point is that parliamentary power is collective -- and he seems to have lined up substantial numbers of allies all over the House of Commons in a time of furious partisanship. He also is careful to say this is a resolution of democratic principle, not a coup against his party's current leaders. And he has put it forward just as the government's reputation on accountability, democratic reform, and respect for parliament is, well, even lower than usual -- but just when the PMO might be glad to have MPs and the public talking about something else than its own mendacity.
Chantal Hebert, who started out dubious about the Chong bill and seems to be coming around, thinks the Chong bill may be part of a process more than a stand-or-fall proposal:
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
We don't cover much American history here, let along American politics. And it is hard to distinguish signal from noise in the intense American news coverage we get here. But evidence does seem to be piling up that this Obamacare thing really is going to be transformative down there. Here's the testimony of a guy who has being paying privately for health insurance coverage for his family at $1500 a month and rising. He just signed on (through that infamous website, no big problem) for a platinum plan with the very same private provider but now under the Affordable Care Act:
Once I factor in the lower co-pays, the dental, and the far cheaper premiums, I’m going to save at least $12,000 this year. No, that’s not quite right: I’m probably going to spend most of it, maybe replace our 12-year-old bed or my 13-year-old car or our 20-year-old washing machine—all things we’ve put off for years while we shoveled money to those skimming middlemen. I can’t believe my situation is unique, so multiply me by a few million individual-market serfs and that’s an enormous amount of money that’s going to start circulating through the productive economy.(Yanks are getting dental? he said selfishly)
Update: T'other hand, there is this testimony that's not so positive.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Cliff Chadderton, Second World War veteran, amputee, and longtime head of the War Amps program has died. To historians, Chadderton is probably best known for organizing campaigns to oblige the media and museums to make their treatments of Canadian military history conform to the veterans' version:
He was Chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada, an umbrella organization for a variety of veterans' groups. Chadderton played a leading role in the campaign against the controversial NFB documentary, The Kid Who Couldn't Miss and in pressuring the Canadian War Museum to rewrite its Bomber Command exhibit. In 1992, he led the fight to put pressure on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from re-broadcasting a controversial documentary series it commissioned called the The Valor and the Horror.In pursuing several of these fatwas against public institutions, it should be recalled, he had the enthusiastic support of many military historians, who should have known better.
Haven't browsed in it very far, but the basic encyclopedia content seems to be there and readily available, which is the main thing. And the redesign has grasped the design concept that Google understands so well: the home page basically features just a big SEARCH box, cause that's the thing people really want.
There's an "about" that lists the origins of the recent re-do.
Must-read this a.m: Chris Moore's review of The Selection & Removal of Party Leaders in the Anglo Parliamentary World http://t.co/AHtu3UVkId
— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) November 30, 2013
And while I’m at it, let me plug Chris Moore’s excellent democratic primer, 1867: How The Fathers Made a Deal. http://t.co/h1koeES8qs
— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) November 30, 2013
Monday, December 02, 2013
would formalize the convention that the party leader serves only with the confidence of caucus (here defined as the party’s delegation in the Commons; the Senate, being unelected, is properly left to one side). A leadership review vote could be triggered at any time on the receipt of written notice bearing the signatures of at least 15% of the members of caucus. A majority of caucus, voting by secret ballot, would be sufficient to remove the leader, and begin the process of selecting a new one.There's no indication that Chong had dropped the other and more perhaps important shoe -- by declaring that the process of selecting a new leader would also come from within caucus. But it's a start.
This is entirely unnecessary legislation, in one sense, because MPs have, always will have, and cannot be deprived of the power to support of withdraw support from any government or leader. They simply need to choose to exercise that power. But if formalizing the process by a parliamentary declaration gave MPs a backbone transplant, so that they would a) pass the act and b) act on it, it would be almost as revolutionary as Coyne thinks.
The bill would also transfer the authority to expel members from caucus from the leader to the caucus as a whole -- an excellent proposal -- and enable riding associations to nominate anyone they want, without interference from the party leader or the caucus.
There's a website set up to support "The Reform Act" and to encourage public participation.
Furthermore, to temper your modeling with a sense of realism you need to know something about reality — and not just the statistical properties of U.S. time series since 1947. Economic history — global economic history — should be a core part of the curriculum. Nobody should be making pronouncements on macro without knowing a fair bit about the collapse of the gold standard in the 1930s, what actually happened in the stagflation of the 1970s, the Asian financial crisis of the 90s, and, looking forward, the euro crisis.
I’d put my oar in for history of thought, too. Watching highly trained economists reinvent old economic fallacies suggests to me that there would be real payoff to requiring that students have some idea how the current leading doctrines got to where they are.
But must we reconstruct all of economics? No. Most of what we need, at least for now, is in those old books.
Friday, November 29, 2013
He would have called himself a journalist, not a historian, and a lot of historians would not call him a historian at all, but William Stevenson, the author of A Man Called Intrepid, has at least two claims to historical attention.
First, there are quite a few people who think the version of World War II that he provided in A Man Called Intrepid is the history of World War II, that is, that it was won not by armoured divisions and mass production and quite staggering quantities of violent death, but mostly by covert operations, and one man's covert operations at that.
Second, he seems to me notable as the author of the most successful historical novel ever written in Canada (and if you go back to Gilbert Parker and Thomas Costain, we have had quite a few, even without the wave of literary historical fiction of recent decades). A Man Called Intrepid really exemplifies the formula of mass-market historical fiction: it takes a large, complicated, "romantic" historical event, in this case the Second World War, and organizes it as the experience of one compelling protagonist, so that the fate of the protagonist and the fate of the world become the same thing. We ought to be more interested in the fictionalization of memory, and William Stevenson was one writer who was extraordinarily successful at it.
The CBC's obit is cautious, describing "Intrepid" by his actual historical role rather than the one Stevenson assigned to "A Man Called Intrepid":
He met another William Stephenson - no relation. This Stephenson was the head of British intelligence operations in the United States, whose code name was Intrepid. Journalist Stevenson immortalized spymaster Stephenson's story in the 1976 book A Man Called Intrepid.The Toronto Star pretty much buys the legend:
Stevenson will likely be best remembered for A Man Called Intrepid, his 1976 biography of Sir William Stephenson — the similarity in names is coincidental — a Canadian businessman who set up and ran Allied espionage efforts during World War II.I know smart people who knew him, and he seems to have been much liked and admired.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|Don't try this at home?|
The American Food and Drug Administration has ordered 23andme, one of the leading providers of home DNA test kit services, to stop selling and marketing its services.
The problem is not that 23andme might tell you your ancestors are not who you thought they were. The problem is that the same analysis that attempts to track your ancestry can also attempt to identify genetic predispositions you may have -- to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or Huntington's. The FDA sees that as being roughly akin to practising medicine without a licence.
If 23andme tells you you have a 50% probability of having West African ancestors in the last 300 years when mom always told you the family is 100% western European, that's genealogy. But if the same report convinces you that any children you bear have a good chance of inheriting a fatal disease, that's medical advice. When errors are surprisingly frequent and statistical probabilities can be misinterpreted, the selling of medical advice to anyone who sends in some saliva causes regulatory alarms to ring.
The FDA sees the DNA test not as an ancestry testing device but as a medical device. In a classic old-rules meets new economy smackdown, it doesn't want anyone practising medicine over the internet.
What is this gonna do to the ancestry tracing trend? Hmmmm.
(Image from Guardian Online story here.)
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The chart is a little complicated, but the trend ain't. It covers rich countries that have significant income inequalities, and it measures which of those do the least to combat inequality through tax and other policy measures. The least is over there on the left, and it is not surprising that it is the United States. But look who is third best at
Would be interesting to track this historically. I suspect it was developing in the Mulroney years, continued apace in the Chrétien years, and has just strengthened in the Harper time. (Open to being corrected on that!)
(Source: yank blogger Kevin Drum)
Run a blog and eventually you get on the lists of a surprising number of publicists and promoters who invite you to cover whatever it is they are publicizing. The pitches are mostly for coverage of items largely if not exclusively of American interest, and I mostly ignore them - which is no doubt the usual expected fate for these scattershot emails.
But this pitch from San
Hi Christopher. I'm Nick at Movoto, a real estate research blog down here in the United States. Our blog has become known in part for research in valuing properties. Today, we published a study which values 24 Sussex Drive at more than $7 million: http://www.movoto.com/blog/novelty-real-estate/24-sussex-drive/Looking around, I see a lot of media bigger than this blog also bit. Nice work, Nick.
Thought it might be a fun and interesting story for Canadians. I saw you wrote about Paul Wells' motion to tear 24 Sussex Drive down back in 2009.
Update: Now that I have actually reread Paul Wells's report, I'm thinking Movoto hasn't at all got the value of 24 Sussex Drive right. Wells reports that several years ago the renovation budget just to fix the place up a bit was $10 million. So just $7 mil for the house and the four-acres of grounds?
Even if it's a tear-down, there's gotta be more value there than $7 mil. Movoto finds its price estimate by a square foot valuation based on other large houses in desirable parts of Ottawa, but it has not allowed anything for the unique riverfront location, the prestige value, and other factors. There just ain't a bunch of homes in Ottawa to compare 24 Sussex to, and that's gotta cost. I'd say $20 million for openers, Nick.
Further update, November 27: Nick proves he's a real American person and not some spambot program:
Hey Chris. You’re right…the two that spent time on this probably didn’t take into account the true overall value of the land and historical nature of the residence. That can be hard to peg. Perhaps we should’ve consulted with a local realtor? It’s great that such a powerful person in
lives so modestly. I want to visit Canada …I’m gonna move it higher to the top of my list. I live in Canada , where we have cold winters, so vacation is usually to warm places! But I love me some snowboarding! Nick Indiana