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Yappa Ding Ding

by Ruth Ellis Haworth

Updated: 2018-04-11T00:01:46.691-04:00


Watergate 2016


The underreported part of the DNC email scandal is that it occurred, apparently, because Russian operatives hacked the DNCs. Clinton campaign chair Robby Mook said that "...experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these e-mails and other experts are now saying that Russians are releasing these e-mails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”

In this election cycle, the Democrats and Republicans were each beset by someone from outside the party who wanted to be president. Bernie Sanders, a long time independent senator, and Donald Trump, an unaligned nut job, joined the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, the year they entered the primaries.

The Republicans, despite knowing how dangerous Trump is, allowed him to become the candidate. Leading Democrats apparently discussed over email how to keep Sanders from winning the candidacy (even though he was always a long shot). Of course they did. And so they should have.

Where have all the anti-globalization activists gone?


Over the last decade or so, every time there's a WTO meeting or G8 summit, a lot of protesters show up to bring attention to some very real concerns about free trade agreements. Most recently there have been a number of protests against the TPP.Globalization has made the world richer, but the way it has been implemented has given much more power and wealth to corporations, and diminished the ability of nations to regulate activities within their borders. At this very moment, for example, a Canadian pipeline company is suing the US government for $15B for not approving a very unpopular pipeline proposal - and it's suing based on the rules of NAFTA.So now Britain has voted to leave the EU. Polls showed that "the top issue among those voting to go was Britain's right to act independently" (link).The deficiencies of the EU are widely recognized. As Paul Krugman wrote recently:The E.U. is deeply dysfunctional and shows few signs of reforming. ...Today’s E.U. is the land of the euro, a major mistake compounded by Germany’s insistence on turning the crisis the single currency wrought into a morality play of sins (by other people, of course) that must be paid for with crippling budget cuts. Britain had the good sense to keep its pound, but it’s not insulated from other problems of European overreach, notably the establishment of free migration without a shared government. ...The most frustrating thing about the E.U.: Nobody ever seems to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. If there’s any soul-searching in Brussels or Berlin about Europe’s terrible economic performance since 2008, it’s very hard to find. And I feel some sympathy with Britons who just don’t want to be tied to a system that offers so little accountability, even if leaving is economically costly. (link)Soon after England and Wales voted to leave the EU, Larry Elliott, Economics Editor at the Guardian, wrote an article in the Guardian titled "Brexit is a Rejection of Globalisation" (link). He talks about the free trade movements of the last 30 years resulting in "a much diminished role for nation states". Elliott argues that the EU failed:Jobs, living standards and welfare states were all better protected in the heyday of nation states... than they have been in the age of globalisation. Unemployment across the eurozone is more than 10%. Italy’s economy is barely any bigger now than it was when the euro was created. Greece’s economy has shrunk by almost a third. Austerity has eroded welfare provision. Labour market protections have been stripped away....Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, analysed the voting patterns in the referendum and found that those parts of Britain with the strongest support for Brexit were those that had been poor for a long time. The result was affected by “deeply entrenched national geographical inequality”, he said.There has been much lazy thinking in the past quarter of a century about globalisation. As Bell notes, it is time to rethink the assumption that a “flexible globalised economy can generate prosperity that is widely shared”.So do you see my problem? Brexit is such an enormous boon for anti-globalization that it is being heralded as a reversal of the entire globalization trend. Why aren't the anti-globalization organizations marching in the streets?I can answer that question, but it saddens me. Over the last week, "conventional wisdom" has decided that everyone who supports Brexit is racist. I have been practically spat on because of the sentiments I expressed in my last post (link), that "my head said Remain but my heart said Leave". One supposed old friend wrote:60+ year old citizens of the UK who voted to leave (and they are the majority of wanna-be leavers) are delusional. They want to restore that tiny little island to its imperial greatness, or at least to its completely diminished splendour during WWII. They want an England with white rulers and black slaves.And of course the slaves are all rapists, and none of the white rulers is. Foreigner[...]

Another View on Brexit


I wasn't eligible to vote on Britain's exit from the European Union, and I'm not sure how I would have voted. My head said Remain but my heart said Leave - and I find myself quite pleased that England and Wales found the strength to free themselves from the EU.

During the campaign, every article I read made the assumption that the Leave camp were all skin heads, xenophobes, illiterate farmers, or doddering old fools. ("Doddering old fool" was defined as anyone over 54.) They said that people who supported Brexit were doing it out of fear and loathing. The only rational reason for Leave that I saw was that Brexit would lower the value of the pound, thus boosting British manufacturing and blue collar jobs.

In fact, there are lots of good reasons for England and Wales to leave the EU. The EU is a mess. Eight years on, Europe hasn't recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. The central bank situation leaves Europe unable to fix its economy. (How did they think they could share a currency but not have a strong central bank?) European countries are having to resort to negative interest rates as unemployment soars.

I'm not even scratching the surface of the problems with the EU. The upshot is that this incompetent organization dictates a huge array of things that should be up to the people: Britain is unable to regulate everything from the size of trucks to how foods are packaged to, yes, immigration. Trade has superseded democracy.

Since the Brexit vote, everyone's going on about market turbulence as if markets have fallen into the sinkhole of hell. In fact, markets have been turbulent since January, mostly because of fears that China won't grow as fast as it used to. Market turbulence is a serious problem but is nothing new. In general, the market goes down and then it goes up again.

I'm not ordinarily a fan of direct democracy. Voters in my town were conned by anti-vaxxer types into voting to take fluoride out of our water. Californians have damaged their public schools by their crazy and conflicting propositions, resulting in some schools being forced to offer after-school dance classes while cutting core subjects.

But this is different. Free trade agreements and common markets restrict our democratic rights. We, the people, should have a say in that. David Cameron called this vote for all the wrong reasons, but still, history will show that he did an important and progressive thing in allowing Britons to decide to Brexit.

LRT in Waterloo Park


This used to be a line of mature trees alongside a pretty railway line. Now there is a hideous raised rail bed of gravel, structures every 50 feet that look like power pylons, and a long impassable chain link fence dividing our once-lovely park in two. Why oh why have our elected officials allowed this to happen?

(image) (image)

It didn't have to be like that. LRTs don't have to be godawful ugly eyesores.

The pros and cons of getting drunk at the theater


Ten years ago I wrote a post about a performance of Ibsen's Ghosts at Stratford (link). The production was powerful, tragic and grim - but the seemingly-drunken audience tittered and laughed all the way through it.

Last week I had the opposite experience - a production of As You Like It that was so amped up on audience participation - being on stage during Pee-Wee's Playhouse would have been more sedate - that I suspected the only way to enjoy it was to be drunk.

At least, looking around at the third-full Festival Theater at the mostly blank faces of people being yelled at to wave pine boughs, hold up stars, proffer carrots, hold out lights, clap and sing, and even get on stage to dance - it seemed that the only person truly enjoying himself was the man seated directly behind me, who had obviously imbibed heartily from the theater bar.

(The production, when it was allowed to continue, was quite good. Petrina Bromley played Rosalind - and Petrina Bromley is a great, great talent. This is her first year at Stratford and if we're lucky she'll stick around for a long time. She brought a whimsical incandescence to Rosalind that I haven't seen since Maggie Smith was at Stratford in the 70s. Bromley is a naturalistic actor but has all the gravitas of a great Shakespearian. From now on, if she's in something, I'm going.)

For a couple of years now, Stratford has been aiming to involve the audience more in the play, and to make the play a more immersive experience. Actors talk to the audience before the play, people sit on the stage, actors talk directly to the audience at times during the play, and so on. This year's As You Like It takes this idea to an absurd degree and it distracted from the play... but I like the sentiment behind blurring the separation between fluffy musicals and Shakespeare. I like the idea of making the play a raucous experience, as it might have been in Shakespeare's day. I thought the setting really worked (Newfoundland in the 70s). It's just that I drive 30 minutes to get to Stratford so I can't get drunk enough to enjoy waving a pine bough over my head every 10 minutes.

The Rape of Brunnhilde


I came to Houston this weekend to see a new production of the opera Siegfried by the Houston Grand Opera. It was stunning – breathtaking – especially the final act, when Brunnhilde (Christine Goerke) is awakened by Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris).

I have written before about my fascination with Wagner’s fascination with the subjugation of women (Musings on Love and Freedom in the Ring Cycle; Hail, Isolde). It comes up again and again in the Ring Cycle and Tristan und Isolde: women are forced to marry men against their will, resulting in the repeated rape and slavery of the woman.

I don’t see any social commentary in this – these are tales of Norse gods and Celtic healer-princesses, not radio talk show hosts – and I don’t see anything of interest on the more general topic of free will. This obsession with female subjugation is more in line with Wagner’s [lesser] interest in incest (twins; an aunt and her nephew). It seems to be emerging from some moral ambiguity in Wagner’s psyche, and as I’ve written before, it feels like an itch he has to keep scratching.

In the production I saw tonight, Goerke’s voice was so inhumanly glorious that I lost myself in it for a while: I entered a state of concentration where I absorbed everything and can remember it perfectly, but at the time I had no conscious thought. When I emerged, I had the clearest sense that this was a woman who was desperately trying to stop a man from having sex with her. (And her last line in the opera, as she succumbs to Siegfried's sexual advances, is, “Laughter in death!”)

I don’t want to do some analysis based on rereading the libretto; what I’m writing about is an emotional reaction.

In bad productions of Siegfried, the final act can drag terribly. There must be 45 minutes of Brunnhilde waking up and meeting Siegfried. In most productions I’ve seen, Brunnhilde is coquettish, or needs some time to make up her mind. In this production, she is fighting him off. But I’d like to see a production that dealt with the matter even more blatantly: Wotan has magically forced her to become the slave of any man who can break through the fire that surrounds her. She fights against that, appealing to Siegfried to not force her. When he refuses, she must succumb. This should be a brutal scene: he should manhandle her; he should, against her will, remove enough of her clothing to be disturbing; she should become humiliated; and her final acceptance should be Stepford-wifish, or something along those lines.

That would make Gotterdammerung make more sense. Brunnhilde cheated in her subjugation: she knew that her nephew Siegfried would be the one to find her, and welcomed it. So when she succumbed to loving Siegfried, Siegfried quickly set off on a new quest, leaving her alone, and later was tricked into transferring the subjugation to another man who she truly loathed.

I don’t particularly like Wagner’s repeated plot lines of female subjugation, but I’d like to see a production that handles it head-on - that does it justice.

Correction: This is not a new production. It was first performed in 2007-2008 for the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain.

Viva les Piratas Canadienses!


My friend Kate is currently in a 500 km boat race called the Ngalawa Cup in the Indian Ocean - sailing a dugout canoe with outriggers and a single sail. (Ngalawa is the Swahili word for outrigger, and this is a traditional Tanzanian fishing vessel, although in my memory they were smaller, fitting only one person, and had a simpler outrigger. They were frequently partly or completely submerged, with the fisherman standing to his ankles in water.)

I would be in awe even if Kate weren't in her mid-50s. She's a fantastic sailor and has all sorts of training in knots, navigating, weather, etc, but this still seems impossible to me.

There are ten teams, and three people on her team, the Piratas Canadienses. Here are some links to info and updates:

Video of the last Ngalawa Cup
Pre-launch news updates
Kate's Facebook
Adventurist's Facebook
Updates by team

Update: I forgot to add - Kate's team is asking people to make a donation to Cool Earth.

Memorial for Dr. Helen Bridger Ellis


My mother, Helen Ellis, died this morning. I am using this space to post information, and will update it as I have more.Several people have asked me how old my mother was in the picture above. She was 50.Update: I have posted more pictures here: link.Update: On Wednesday, September 23, I buried my mother's ashes in a private ceremony. She has a lovely spot under a tree. The marker should be installed in 6-8 weeks. The location is: Memory Gardens, 2723 Victoria Street North, Breslau, Ontario, Plot 1446A. Here is a photo of the urn that her ashes are in. It's a metal rectangle that reflects her love of Art Deco:Some interesting links* Obituary* UW English Department post (with a photo of my mother receiving an award at her Rollins graduation in 1949, standing next to her best friend Pat Meyer)* Helen reminisces for the 50th anniversary of the UW English department* Sale of mother's condo: listing and photos* Notice in Memphis Commercial Appeal: linkThis is the address given by William Wallace Ellis, Helen's brother and my uncle, at the memorial service:"These are the days when birds come back, A very few, a bird or two,To take a backward look."Echoing the lines of Emily Dickinson, I came here today to remember and to honor my remarkable sister.Helen had a long life of giving to her family and her friends. Twenty years ago she purchased 64 hymnals for this church, listing the name of a relative in each volume. I thank you for nurturing her over the years, and I especially thank you for furnishing transportation to church from her Willow Street apartment.We were all raised in a small home on a family farm in west Tennessee. Mary Martha was born four years after Helen, Cassandra Ruth three years later, William Wallace in 15 months, followed by Gwyn Watson six years later and Nat Bowe three years later. Then, when Helen was a senior at Rollins College, Nancy Lee was born.We were surrounded by numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. The home was one and a half miles from teh crossroad village at Capleville, where the local Methodist church and elementary school were of lasting importance. Big Memphis was ten miles to the north-west, and the Mississippi state line was four miles to the south. Seventy miles south in the Mississippi Delta Tibbs, the location of our grandfather's small country store. To the east of Tibbs in the hill country was Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner.We lost our mother in 1984 and our father in 1991. Helen became the matriarch of the family.In "Absolom, Absolom", Faulkner wrote, "Yes, they lead beautiful lives - women." Twenty pages later he wrote, "Beautiful lives women live - women do." Helen lead a beautiful life."Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."[...]

In a PM, Character Matters - Be Wary of Mulcair


Years ago when Parliament was looking into Brian Mulroney's envelopes of cash from an arms dealer, I followed every minute on TV. I was most impressed by two MPs on the committee: Pat Martin and Tom Mulcair, both of the NDP. Both were particularly focused, prepared, and effective. When Mulcair became NDP party leader, I was pleased.

Now, not so much.

I have heard Mulcair tell this little joke: "NDP governments always balance the budget. There was one exception, but he turned out to be a Liberal." Hardy har har. I have heard this "joke" three times and I don't own a TV anymore, so Mulcair must have told it about a million times. It's offensive to me on several levels. One is that it's a lie that the NDP has such a great history of fiscal responsibility. Another is that his target, Bob Rae, was much more fiscally responsible than the rest of the Ontario NDP, which kept hearing Ka-ching Ka-ching and went to the mattresses to oppose any compromise on civil service payrolls. Another is that such casual condemnation of a great statesman like Rae is just icky, especially since they're former colleagues.

It's well known that Mulcair has a bad temper and can be a mean guy. We hear about how hard the NDP spin doctors are working to soften his image, even how his performance in the debate was affected by his attempts to repress his natural temperament. This should be a red flag. There is a very real chance that Mulcair will be our next prime minister, so there should be serious discussion about his character.

The last nine years have shown how much character matters in a prime minister. We have suffered through nearly a decade with a PM who is an uncaring jerk, and Harper's mean streak has been the cause of attacks on our social safety net, justice system, and other things.

I'm very much afraid that Mulcair walks the same road as Harper, character-wise. That won't result in identical policies, but could mean something like the following: we could continue to have a too-powerful, too-secretive PMO; with a power-madness that focuses too much on polls and not enough on good governance; with an inability to compromise and collaborate; that is paranoid and vindictive. I'm very afraid that Mulcair does not have the right character to be a decent prime minister of Canada.

Katrina remembered


Today is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which struck on August 29, 2005. In the days following the hurricane, I copied messages off a New Orleans message board and published them on this blog. Here are some of them.Aug 30:From Greg Henderson, MDThanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2PM . I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, MS, and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carleton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generator and losing food and water fast. The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that are admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and n!o medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard presence.The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests haveHave unusual diseases. They are unfortunately . 'We have better medical letter. There are ID physicians in at this hotel attending an HiV confection. We have commandered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of about 7 doctors and PA and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and fool of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into gargace bags and removed them. All uner police excort. The looters had to be held back at gun point. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many with be from the hotel, but many with not. We are anticipating to dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major p[...]

Review of Hamlet (Stratford 2015)


This year's Hamlet, directed by Antoni Cimolino, makes sense. I say that as the highest praise. I've seen the play many times and it never flowed so naturally before.

Like... Ophelia's pregnant. She always struck me as a bit of a cry-baby, going bonkers because she gets jilted and her dad dies. Add the pregnancy, and we see a young woman whose brother is far away, whose father is killed by her powerful ex-lover - who is without protectors, pregnant... it all clicks into place. When Laertes says to the other mourners at Ophelia's graveside, "Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead" - it's completely obvious that she's meant to be pregnant, but I have never seen a production before where she was.

Once Ophelia is pregnant, she becomes much more central to the plot. For example, it makes sense that Laertes is in such a murderous rage at Hamlet, to the point that he wants to stab him with a poisoned sword and poison his wine.

Another first for me is that Cimolino's production is not introspective. Hamlet doesn't do soliloquies in this production: he narrates. He speaks directly to the audience, even at times pointing at individuals. That turns the whole play on its head. It took me a bit to get used to that.

In this production, "To be or not to be" is perfectly easy to understand. There's nothing cryptic about it. Hamlet is facing two options: keep quiet and stay alive, or take action against his uncle. He knows that he has to take the second option, and that it will lead to his death, so he muses about death.

The dialog in this production is naturalistic. Everything makes sense, and the characters interact naturally. Even in very good Shakespeare productions, there is often a problem that the actors focus more on the magnificent language than on creating a character. Of course the language is the jewel, but I want distinct believable characters with depth and nuance.

Elora Festival - Bach B Minor Mass (review)


Friday night at 7:30 the audience was seated in the Gambrel Barn in Elora. Onstage were the Elora Festival Orchestra, Elora Festival Singers, the VOCES8 choir, and Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal. Noel Edison was at his podium, his back to the audience, arms at his sides. There was an almost-overlong pause, maybe a minute of dead silence. Then Edison raised his arms and the choir and orchestra opened up at full volume. It was like a knife edge between silence and music. If beauty can be shocking then that's what it was. It was so beautiful I cried.

Bach doesn't do filler. It started and then it just carried on as this breathtakingly beautiful experience. I wish the soloists hadn't walked out to the front from their places in the choir because it broke my concentration a little, but I suppose the musicians needed to catch their breath.

The Elora Festival Singers are better than ever this year. There are such distinctive, beautiful voices, and Edison has made use of them in many solos during the festival. VOCES8 added three countertenors to the choir for the B Minor Mass, and Edison created moments when their sound was able to shine through.

It's a tragedy that the barn was only two-thirds full. This was the greatest musical event of the summer in southern Ontario and seats were just $45. The production wasn't promoted or reviewed by local or Toronto media, as far as I can tell.

Berlin Wall in Waterloo Park


Back in 2011, the Record asked me to write an op-ed about the LRT (link). I outlined my major problems with the LRT proposal, including: "Waterloo Park will be sliced in two by trains. It seems likely a fence will be required, especially since the tracks border a children’s zoo. This will leave the park looking like postwar Berlin."

That reference to the Berlin Wall caused a big kerfuffle. LRT supporters claimed I was being hysterical: there would be no fence; in fact, the tracks would roll through grass in an attractive way and enhance the park setting.

This week it was announced that there needs to be a fence along the tracks in Waterloo Park and that it must be at least 6 feet high. This completely cuts the park in two. Add to this Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic's concerns about unsightly substations that will line the route to power the transit system, and postwar Berlin is starting to look pretty accurate. I wish I had been wrong.

It just breaks my heart what the LRT is doing to Waterloo Region. In the first place, it's too expensive - so expensive that it will suck all the air out of any other initiative for decades. (Just look what RIM Park did to our budgets, and it's a drop in the bucket of what LRT will end up costing residents of Waterloo.)

The route is ridiculous - going through Waterloo Park and the UW campus instead of heading straight down King Street North where a huge density area has developed. I am absolutely certain that the only reason the Powers That Be chose the campus route is that they need students to up their ridership numbers - even though student riders don't add one dime to revenues. Students are young; they can take the bus. The aging population - and the growing problem of impoverished seniors - is totally a non-issue for the people who forced the LRT on us.

During the LRT discussions I met with many politicians and staff members. It was beyond frustrating to be constantly met by lies, obfuscation and stonewalling, especially by Waterloo Region staff. They totally poo-pooed my concerns about traffic on Park Street, but now Thomas Schmidt is casually quoted in the Chronicle as saying that traffic police may be required at Park and Green after the LRT is built.

I went to just about every public forum on the LRT, and witnessed first hand that the public was lied to. In surveys, about half of local people supported the LRT; few people showed up at the anti-LRT rallies I helped organize. But people are going to be mighty unhappy once they see what they were tricked into.

Oh, one more thing. There's a perfectly reasonable solution to the fence problem. For the short distance that the train passes through the park, have it go slow. Presto-besto: no fence is needed. Freight trains have gone through the park for as long as it has been a park, and we never needed a fence BECAUSE THEY GO SLOW. I wrote Waterloo's mayor about this and he said he'd pass on my email to the LRT planners, but I know from sorrowful experience that they won't listen, not even to the Mayor of Waterloo - these outsiders who aren't elected and don't even live here want to save two seconds by running fast trains through "the Jewel of Waterloo", so we'll just have to live with a Berlin Wall that slices our park in two.

I'm supposed to tell you you missed your flight


Not since "Did you get pears?" have I been so entranced by a Mad Men line.

Don Draper's ex-girlfriend, Rachel, appears in Don's dream and says, "I'm supposed to tell you you missed your flight." Dream-Don says, "Rachel." Rachel says, "Yes." Don says, "You're not just smooth. You're Wilkinson smooth." Rachel says, "Thanks."

The next day Don finds out that Rachel died the previous week. He goes to her apartment (where her family is sitting shiva) and meets a sister who knows about their affair (Don was married to Betty at the time) and is quite hostile. In the background, Rachel's children are very prominent. Since (if I recall correctly) Rachel dumped Don abruptly and married quickly, it seems possible that the eldest is Don's. Or maybe they're twins and both are Don's.

Several plot lines seem to have opened up in this first episode of the final season: Don's philandering past might have caught up with him. Roger and Pete's callous treatment of other people might have caught up with them. Peggy might have found "the one" (or might find that Paris is better than "the one"). Joan might have come to terms with her new status as an independently rich woman.

It's quite possible that none of this will ever get explained.

Peace, Order and Good Government


I'm not against the globalization movement. More trade is occurring, so we need safeguards to protect less powerful countries from more powerful countries, as well as protecting all people from corporations. Trade agreements should be creating those protections, and in most cases they do.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Last week, WikiLeaks leaked the "Investment Chapter" of the TPP. The WikiLeaks announcement said:
The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can "sue" states and obtain taxpayer compensation for "expected future profits".

These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country's laws or policies affect the company's claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more.

Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9.

ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing in secrecy for five years and are now in their final stages.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor, said: "The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."


Let's send Bardish to Ottawa!


This is my official endorsement for the Waterloo Liberal Riding Association candidate to stand in the next federal election. I'm rooting for Ms. Bardish Chagger.

Bardish is an amazing person and an incredible asset to our community. She has done everything - really - go see her web site for all the details ( Most recently she served, for the last four years, as president of the Waterloo Federal Liberal Association (WFLA, formerly the KWFLA).

When Bardish talks about the five years she worked as Executive Assistant to Andrew Telegdi when he was our MP, she says, "I learned about the work of an MP, but most of all, I learned the value of helping constituents surmount their challenges. Inclusiveness, community building and social justice are at the heart of my work and of my volunteer and Liberal Party involvement – all of which position me to help return the Liberals to Ottawa."

What mostly impresses me about Bardish is her leadership ability: she draws people in, motivates, makes them part of the community. And she does it non-stop, year after year. I have interacted with her at LPC(0) AGMs, on the KWFLA board, in election campaigns, and many other places, and I have always been impressed. I don't know if her political ability is natural or learned, but she has it in spades.

I really like both of the other candidates (Dan Herman and Cathy MacLellan) and I wish them all the best, but Bardish is the best choice, by a mile, in my opinion.

The nomination meeting will be held on Sunday, February 22 from 4 pm to 7 pm at the Waterloo Inn (475 King St. N.). To vote, you must be a member of the Liberal party by now. Details are here:

Horrible Regional Signage is Causing Construction Chaos


The Ion LRT is going to take three long years to build, three years of construction and traffic jams, three years of mud, three years of inconvenience and unpleasantness. The process started a few weeks ago, and I live in the epicenter of it. The Region has got to improve their signage.Here is an example: Caroline Street is torn up from Allen to Erb. Park Street has no construction. However, there are signs along Park Street saying, "ROAD CLOSED LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY". Here is Park at Union (construction starts three blocks away from here):The signs on Park should not say "ROAD CLOSED LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY". They should say something like "Caroline Street closed from Erb to Allen". Here's another confusing "ROAD CLOSED" on Park, this one near Allen:You might think that the arrow is supposed to show that the road closure is to the right, but look at this signage on Alexandra at Euclid, which is showing that the road behind the sign is closed ahead:In fact, the arrow directions (up, down, left, right) used in the road closed signs are inconsistent and confusing. I'm not sure about the placement of the signs in the road either. On Alexandra, they blocked the east-bound lane with a "ROAD CLOSED" sign and traffic cones, even though I have to turn there to get to my home. (A local resident kindly moved the sign to the curb so we can get by.)Here is another example. Alexandra Street is not torn up, but it is blocked at Caroline. At the next intersection to the west, there are three ROAD CLOSED signs. Any law-abiding person driving east on Alexandra will think, as they approach Euclid, that they have to turn around and go back. On Euclid heading to the left and right there are signs saying "ROAD CLOSED LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY" and straight ahead on Alexandra there's a sign saying simply "ROAD CLOSED". It's a little difficult to see, but here's a photo taken from Alexandra looking east at the intersection with Euclid, showing "ROAD CLOSED" signs in every direction:I have to drive past the "ROAD CLOSED" sign on Alexandra at Euclid every day, because I live on Alexandra between Euclid and Caroline. That sign should also say "LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY". People living on Alexandra and Short Street have to drive through there.The Euclid signage saying "ROAD CLOSED LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY" appears all along Euclid even though there is no construction on or near Euclid - the signs were put up in an attempt to keep cars from cutting through on Euclid. When I complained to the Region about it I got an email saying it was required by community safety. Fair enough, but the signage should NOT say "ROAD CLOSED" when the road is not closed. When a motorist drives on a road that has been signed as closed, their insurance can be denied if they have an accident. They can be stopped by the police. The Region could put up signs saying "LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY" but it is madness to tell us that the road is closed when the road is not obstructed.Strangely, on Caroline at Allen, where the Caroline road closure begins, there is no signage at all. Same thing at Caroline and Alexandra: there's nary a "ROAD CLOSED" sign, and in fact confused drivers have been driving along Caroline on the dirt track the construction trucks use.Finally, here's a map showing the current construction.The yellow line shows where Caroline is closed.The yellow line with red dashes shows where a road is partially closed.The red X's show where there are "ROAD CLOSED" signs. (I missed quite a few: for example there is also one at William and Westmount, nine blocks from any construction.) Note that these red X's are places that say "ROAD CLOSED", implying that the current road is [...]

Wearable tech


Forget the eye glasses, the arm band, the watch, the ring. What I want is a smartphone in a narrow stick about 18" long, and I want the controls to be based on gestures (moving the stick through the air) and voice commands. C'mon.... we have got to have wands.

Buffalo's wall of snow


Here are some photos of the blizzard that rolled into Buffalo a couple of days ago dropping five feet of snow in one day. I've seen similar photos of snow squalls around here, but none that high. Gadzooks.


It was a joke, ya dummies


At the remembrance day ceremonies in Ottawa, CBC interviewed a guy dressed like a soldier. Later on CBC discovered that the guy was not really a soldier. CBC used print and video to condemn the guy, adding in lots of outrage from real veterans, calls for criminal prosecution, and dark speculation as to why he was impersonating a soldier.

But CBC is still in the dark: the outfit is obviously a gag. Maybe it was a dare. In the background of a CBC video you can see the man and his wife trying to keep a straight face. At one point she is laughing so hard that she wipes tears from her eyes.

This reminds me of the April 1 interview Michael Enright gave to an obviously fake Jimmy Carter, and the front page article in the Globe & Mail that Just Didn't Get the Joke.




Update: Some time later I read that this guy was convicted for this act. I'm not sure what the charge was. I can see that we might not want people pretending to be military personnel on duty, but impersonating a veteran seems to be a harmless prank. Throwing the book at this guy, or even being outraged at his act, smacks of patriotic hysteria.

Framing sadism


[This post is inference and speculation based on reports that have not been fully vetted (especially the claims in the @BigEarsTeddy account). In this post I wander down a line of thought that is a bit "out there".]

So what is a sadist anyway? In Jian Ghomeshi's case, it seems to be a guy who gets off on beating up women. He apparently calls this "rough sex" and "BDSM lifestyle" and "kinky sexual preference". Once we call something a sexual preference then a lot of people, myself included, feel they should be accepting – but I’m not sure that this case merits tolerance.

There are, apparently, clubs where sadists meet masochists and have fun together consensually. If Ghomeshi belongs to any of those clubs, he seems to have also strayed beyond them.

One might argue that Ghomeshi’s dating life is one long quest for the perfect girl who will let him beat, humiliate and dominate her. In that sense, you might see his alleged assaults on women as try-outs, or as mistakes based on miscues. But along with unsuspecting dates, the BigEarsTeddy account also alleges that Ghomeshi hires prostitutes to beat up, and that he lures women to his house under false pretences.

It seems odd that in some of the women’s recountings there’s no sex involved and the beating was brief. Ghomeshi seems to like to attack women on his own turf, which might simply be for sound-proofing and isolation, but might also be related to photographic equipment. There is evidence that he records his attacks. In an attempt to prove that his sadism was consensual, Ghomeshi gave CBC brass a video of himself injuring a woman, and the police now have that video. Also, the Twitter account BigEarsTeddy posted, last April, that “@jianghomeshi keeps an impressive anthology of videos and photos of the young girls he chokes out.” So the real turn-on might be watching himself hurt women.

In his Facebook post a week ago, Ghomeshi was able to get out in front of this story and frame it. He says the story is about his kinky sexual preferences. I think a lot of people, even while reviling him, are still thinking in those terms. But if you throw out the BDSM aspect then what you’re left with is a sexual predator – less a Pee-Wee Herman and more a Colonel Williams. That’s what really haunts me about this story: is what we have heard so far all there is? What if a woman fought back? What if his compulsions escalated?

It is possible that the master manipulator is still manipulating us – misdirecting, framing the story, keeping his liberal fanbase worried about sexual intolerance so they aren't sure if it's wrong. It is possible that what we know now is just the tip of the iceberg.

...or not. I am certainly not claiming the guy is a murderer, but it seems that there are kinky, consensual role-playing sadists and then there are narcissistic, sociopathic serial-assault sadists. And Ghomeshi might be trying to confuse us as to which type of sadist he is.

Ain’t love grand


“Happy Monday!” he gushed to me in an early morning tweet. He told me that he wanted a family and that I was “the one”. He was smitten with me. His eyes lit up when he saw me. He couldn’t keep his hands off me.

Those memories were recounted by women who dated Jian Ghomeshi, some of whom he allegedly beat up and some of whom he didn’t. He certainly didn’t marry any of them.

One of them recalled a bizarre, hot and cold relationship with Ghomeshi. She concluded, “Jian was grooming me for the same violence he inflicted on other women. I think he was pursuing and encouraging me because of the existing power imbalance, creating a level of emotional intensity as a preface to his “big reveal” so that I would ether acquiesce or never tell. He trained me to feel sorry for him, to feel guilty about not giving enough of myself to him, to believe I was special to him.”

Some insight might be gleaned from research on pedophiles. In a 2012 New Yorker article, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about how child molesters ingratiate themselves into communities, create a persona that makes sexual abuse seem unlikely, get access to a large pool of potential victims, and then start the selection process. Gladwell writes about “standard child-molester tradecraft”:

The successful pedophile does not select his targets arbitrarily. He culls them from a larger pool, testing and probing until he finds the most vulnerable. Clay, for example, first put himself in a place with easy access to children—an elementary school. Then he worked his way through his class. He began by simply asking boys if they wanted to stay after school. “Those who could not do so without parental permission were screened out,” van Dam writes. Children with vigilant parents are too risky. Those who remained were then caressed on the back, first over the shirt and then, if there was no objection from the child, under the shirt. “The child’s response was evaluated by waiting to see what was reported to the parents,” she goes on. “Parents inquiring about this behavior were told by Mr. Clay that he had simply been checking their child for signs of chicken pox. Those children were not targeted further.” The rest were “selected for more contact,” gradually moving below the belt and then to the genitals. ... The child molester’s key strategy is one of escalation, desensitizing the target with an ever-expanding touch.

Ghomeshi, so cool in some ways, was remarkably uncool in others. Were the overly-strong cologne, the creepy grab-hand way he first approached women, the corny pickup lines, the early hair pulling, all part of a cull? Was there method in his uncoolness? The alleged assaults have occurred for over a decade without anyone reporting Ghomeshi to the police, so it seems he was doing something right.

To grossly paraphrase Gladwell, "When monsters roam free, we assume that their victims ought to have reported them. But that might be wishful thinking. A sexual predator is someone adept not just at preying on women but at manipulating, intimidating, deceiving, and charming them."

Terrorism, really?


He was a homeless, mentally ill drug addict. He had a single gun, an old hunting rifle that held seven bullets. He had four bullets left when he entered Parliament. The RCMP has said that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had no connections to terrorist organizations.

Still, our prime minister made a speech that referred to Zehaf-Bibeau's actions as ISIS-inspired terrorism. The media in Canada and around the world has piled on with the terrorist rhetoric.

The truth that is emerging is very different. Far from inspiring violence, it seems that conversion to Islam was a search for goodness and an attempt to cure himself. It seems he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia not to join a jihadist group but to find religious guidance to help conquer his demons. In fact, over the last several years Zehaf-Bibeau has made several attempts to get help for his drug addictions, including robbing a restaurant with a pointy stick and then asking the judge to incarcerate him so he could get help.

So what do I know. Zehaf-Bibeau's trigger looks to have been our government's decision to participate in the bombing of Iraq, but I can't see this as Islamic terrorism, and I suspect that the only reason it's being called terrorism is that half of the guy's name is Arabic. Even that is from his adoptive father. Until he was 13 his name was Mike Hall.

King & University: a traffic problem?


Taxi drivers are saying that they are risking their lives to pick up and drop off passengers outside the new high rises on King Street north of University Ave. The problem is that the buildings have no pull-in area so cabs have to stop on busy King Street. I have noticed private cars stopping on the street to pick people up, too.

Waterloo Square Withers


Some photos of Waterloo Square yesterday... that's BEFORE the surrounding streets are shut down for extended periods to build the LRT. Where's the uptown success story now? What's going on? At a guess:

*There is no longer enough convenient parking.
*Dozens of big box stores with loads of convenient parking have recently gone up nearby.
*Rents are too high (I have heard this from store owners).

Waterloo Square has a good and popular grocery store, a great flower shop and a drug store, but it needs another anchor: an LCBO, beer store, department store, Starbucks, City Cafe Bakery... something like that. It needs more convenient parking (currently, the Station Lot at Regina and Erb is considered parking for Waterloo Square in parking studies).

We need activities in the Square that really draw people - people who shop at the stores in the square. During the Winterloo Festival I walked into some stores asking how the festival affected business, and some retailers told me that it decreased sales. Sadly, some of those stores are now shuttered.

Uptown Waterloo became successful through a lot of hard work. Are we becoming complacent and letting it slip away?

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