Monday, November 30, 2009

All Points Tasteless

I will be uncharacteristically brief here because I have no wish to add to the unimaginable grief of the families, friends, and communities of the six people who died in Sunday's float plane crash at Saturna Island. As is so often the case when a commercial flight goes down, we are beginning to hear and posthumously appreciate the gifts that were those lost lives.

What I write for is to draw attention to the utter insensitivity of the producers and staff of CBC's All Points West who sent a reporter down to Victoria's float plane terminal and asked passengers if they felt safe flying today. It seems hard to believe that no one from the afternoon program had the minimum intelligence needed to immediately recognize just what a bad and heartless idea this was.

It was vulturous, the depraved act of two-bit journalists whose only interest, apparently, is to fill up more time on their already bloated show. For All Points West was expanded from 2 to 3 hours a few months ago at the same time that a truly wise and fine program, BC Almanac was cut back to one hour. Naturally, I wrote CBC back then and asked for a financial accounting as to how Alamanc being diminished while the less than shining Miss Roberts and her Vancouver opposite number had their shows enlarged, could be justified. No answer yet from the folks whose salaries I pay.

Just think about it, if you are at all familiar with the now sadly abridged host, Mark Forsythe - can anyone imagine him countenancing for a moment such callousness?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Journalistic World of George Packer

Another very early waking for me and a vain attempt -- it almost always is - to chase mundane but nerve-racking thoughts away and get more sleep by listening to the drone of some podcast I've downloaded. One of my favourite podcast subscriptions is the Carnegie Council which with what seems high pretension subtitles itself "The Voice for Ethics in International Policy." Holy cripes, I thought when I first ran into this bunch, I hadn't known such a voice exists and I wouldn't have expected it to arise from the riches of one of the great robber barons (yes, I know I've used that word now in two consecutive posts , so now, one more time and it's mine), the industrialist arguably to be blamed for such notorieties as the bloody 1892 Homestead Strike in Pennsylvania and the Johnstown flood of 1889 in which over 2,000 died. That Carnegie would later become a reputed philanthropist, among many other things endowing public libraries throughout the English-speaking world, still seemed merely redress for a wild and woolly career of plunder. Thus my initial puzzlement at also being the benefactor of a centre with such immodesty about its role in "global ethics" whatever the heck that is.

But this said, and with my usual concision, the Carnegie Council has some fascinating podcasts usually centered on an author of some repute with a just-released tome which she or he discourses on, as some relatively small and select audience munches on breakfast in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Among the most recent event was a presentation by a journalist from the New Yorker, George Packer who has compiled a book of essays, titled Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade.

I knew his name by sight but not much of him (still don't matter even after the inevitable "enlightenment," such as it is, from Wikipedia!). Packer is one of the New Yorker's stable of in-house writers whose articles are lengthy - often over 15,000 words - insider perspectives on difficult places. Yes, I know, that is an odd generic epithet but how else does one group contexts that range from the seamiest slums of the bloated city of Lagos, Nigeria, to the butchery in Baghdad, to the soldier-children of the Cote D'Ivoire. Packer's tack is go deep inside finding intimate narrators who can give dimension to the otherwise voiceless. He calls it "long form narrative journalism" and has not only practiced this difficult art form but even transmuted his research from the Iraq context, into a stage play, Betrayed, exposing the shameful treatment of Iraqis who served as translators for the Bush invading force.

But the points that caught my attention circa 4 this morning were those about the perilously rare brand of reportage that Packer conducts, and its perilously plentiful opposite, the talking heads on most news TV networks who, without ever having been to the places they pontificate about, feed their cheap tripe to the great unwashed. Further, that broad public, according to Packer, can now be seen as doing little more in the enunciation of its views than parroting high-paid ignoramuses whether from Fox or Al Jazeera. Insightfully and worryingly, Packer tells of squabbles overheard in heartland, USA diners that are also verbatim playbacks of whatever shallow debates among armchair experts that CNN ran the night before.

I shall not spoil more, the trip you really ought to take to the Carnegie podcast with George Packer nor (look in my side bar) this rare bird's New Yorker blog).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's time to Boycott Wal-Mart

I grew up or, at least came of age, in an era of passionate boycotting. The earliest I recall was the Delano grape boycott and vivid images of the great Cesar Chavez marching on Sacramento. It was distant news and I don't recall ever passing up a nice grape no matter its provenance. But this was merely the signs of things yet to come as the 1960s writhed with all varieties of social protest, of which boycotting was but one.

Now, of course, the world did not begin with me on a sullen gray evening 61 years ago to this very day (shameless hint that, yes, this is the anniversary of my hatching and any good wishes and gifts you wanna send along, do so, except if they are from Wal-Mart the matter of which I am getting to, trust me). The word, boycott, derives from one Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, a land agent for John Crichton, the 3rd Earl of Erne. Poor Charlie was caught somewhat in the middle. Having defended his employer against angry tenants, he became their target and was so successfully ostracized that he hightailed it out of the Emerald Isle and, unwittingly into the dictionary.

Since those etymologically fateful days of the 1880s, boycotts have become legion. Some we can look back on admiringly, as for example, the courageous bus boycotts in old Dixie in the early 60s, the miscellaneous determined anti-apartheid boycotts - I can still remember snubbing Paarl Roodeberg one night during a period when I snubbed very little of the alcoholic beverage family. And there were infamous boycotts as well, most notoriously, the Nazi ones against the Jews.

Overall, however one hears less about boycotting these days but it is long overdue now to direct one at the great Satan of Bentonville, Arkansas, Sam Walton whose Wal-Marts have become one the primary causes of the de-industrialization of most of the western world. In the process, Wal-Mart has led the way in enabling an even greater nemesis, the Peoples Republic of China to use economic judo on America and its allies, turning the force of our insatiable appetites for cheap crap into our undoing. I am tellling you nothing you don't already know, to say that there are very few goods we buy today which have not been manufactured in China. But the role that Western greed and cupidity has played in not allowing but forcing this to happen is too often forgotten as we race into one of the always proliferating Peoples' Republic factory outlet stores, AKA so-called "dollar stores" or to the very nucleus of the problem, Wal-Mart.

Along the way to reeking macro-economic havoc, Wal-Mart has not neglected the micro-level, making sure that it decimates older down-towns and at the same time brutally fights off any attempts by its workers to unionize. the latest development in this and indeed the impetus for this grousingly call for a boycott is the adjudicated finale exonerating the Wal-Mart bullies for their blatant tactics of intimidation. The setting is Jonquiere a small city on the Saguenay in Quebec. In 2004 the Jonquiere Wal-Mart was unionized by United Food and Commercial Works (UFCW). Within a few months, Wal-Mart Canada made a press release to the effect that the Jonquiere store was not "meetings its business plan." Indeed! The very presence of a union that can offer some modest counterbalance to Wal-Mart's despotic intolerance of the slightest uppitiness of employees, is certainly not part of old Sam or his descendant's "plan." To the contrary in its own stores and in the massive infrastructure of Chinese suppliers, worker democracy is verboten.

So it came as no surprise that a mere six months after unionization, Wal-Mart pulled the plug at Jonquiere. Uncharacteristically for the corporation -- which has used cut and run punitive tactics before when the spectre of unionization loomed, the locals fought back. Two former clerks Gaeten Plourde and Johanne Desbiens led an ultimately quixotic legal tilt at the giant claiming that not only had the closure violated Quebec's labour laws but, that since joining a union was a basic right, Wal-Mart had violated the charter.

In a split decision on Friday, the majority of our highest court chose to affirm 21st century serfdom. Largely disregarding the charter rights issue, the majority of 6 over 3, came to the brilliant conclusion that since Wal-Mart had, for whatever reasons it saw fit, closed the plant, naturally it permanently laid off its workforce in Jonquiere. That the closure was a direct attack on a sanctioned right and, indeed a very much planned threat to any employees in Canada and beyond, was disregarded in this trivialization of the matter by our learned lead justices. There is some solace to be taken in the minority opinion, written by Madam Justice Rosalie Abella who, in an unusually candid statement, opined that the majority decision was a ""a marked and arbitrary departure from the philosophical underpinnings, objectives and general scope of the labour code."

Two things emerge with painful clarity here: Wal-Mart can and will continue to throw its behemoth weight around in all aspects of its business (a similar union busting closure hit Wal-Mart's tire and lube outlet at Gatineau, Quebec, just last year) and the highest court of the land cannot be counted upon to challenge these robber barons. It is just for such a case that the valiant precedent of the good but poor tenants of Erne in 19th century Ireland should be followed. The extraordinary social and also economic costs of supporting Wal-Mart with your consumer loonie are crystal-clear. Each time you check out so much as a chocolate bar at one of the many outposts of these thugs, you are shoring up their dismal vision of self-aggrandizement and tyranny over all.

Googling the phrase "Boycott Wal-Mart" already turns up about 300,000 hits (though I have to admit that such sums are only to be expected, since googling damn near anything turns up crazily high numbers) but I believe sifting through all the usual internet chaff to find legitimate and potentially effective movements against us all having to live in Sam's dreams, is important enough that in coming blogs, you'll be seeing a kind of "field guide' to the options. Meanwhile, as Christmas comes on: please, please think about this question before you get sucked into one of those smiley-faced emporia of social repression: just whose job or community are you helping to wreck today?!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finishing the Job in Afghanistan

News Flash! Peace Nobelist Obama has just finished protracted deliberations with his brightest and best, with a Bush-y style one liner about finishing the job, to wit, being able to show that America's going-on-ten-year Afghan police action has amounted to something more than a hill, nay, a mountain of corpses.

The likelihood of such an achievement is severely diminished by vagueness as to what success would even look like. All those years ago when the American led alliance was cutting through the Taliban and Al-Qaeda traditional forces like the proverbial hot knife through butter, the objective was to eradicate Muslim terrorism's cancerous core.
Then, totally predictably, the enemy just slipped into the hills, adopting and adapting the same successful guerrilla tactics that have worked all over the world for dedicated indigenes to confront vastly superior foreign military forces.

Over the years the relevance has become inescapable of historical precedents wherein world-class imperial forces were humbled in the rugged terrain of the Afghans. Alexander the Great was one of the earliest and, in fact, most successful of would-be overlords there. Yet having driven his way inexorably and rapidly all the way from Greece to the Orient, it then took three years to reach a semblance of control over the land then known as Bactria. Accordingly, he is said to have whined immodestly to his momma, "I am involved in the land of a leonine and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldiers. You have brought only one son into the world, but everyone in this land can be called an Alexander." Multitudinous latter-day Afghan Alexanders re-appeared over the ages to play havoc with the British Raj and, more recently, the mighty USSR, which is now the former USSR, a fact not entirely unrelated to the ruinous war in Afghanistan from 1979 to1989.

This history means, that to "finish the job", as Monty Python might say, it's time for something entirely different, tactics that shall not win Amnesty International's seal of approval for playing nice with killers. And that does not mean pouring in thousands more troops but devising a strategy that will get a killing force right into the strongholds and refuges of the enemy. Of course, far more likely, will be proliferating political junk talk to make the continuing stalemate (or worse) smell like victory. Had I farm to bet on what things are gonna look like, say, in 2020, it would be that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda or some even worse Muslim extremist entity, will have retaken full control over the country, as we retreat under the spray of machine-gun-fast cover laid down in a second term of Obama's verbiage.

Not the least reason for this, other than all those latter-day Alexanders scurrying about in their rugged highland refugia, is well shown back home in one of the countries that has been sacrificing the most lives over there, Canada. Nationally, we have taken our eye of the ball, just, as at long last, Obama seems on the verge of doing something decisive, however questionable.

Our Afghan policy attention these days is almost entirely focused on the treatment of detainees. Cross-Canada hand-wringing predominates as we all feign shock at learning that Taliban and Al-Qaeda captured by Canadian troops get manhandled when turned over to an army composed largely of those who suffered under Taliban rule.


Allegedly, those who serve the high masters of terror and fatwa, are getting what many would say they had coming to them: treatment almost as brutal as what the same young minions and their masters dished out to their captives -- remembering for example, Daniel Pearl, but, more broadly, countless, nameless women murdered or maimed in the name of Sharia law. Figure out for yourself whether the adjacent picture illustrates compliance with UN conventions.

Now, at a time when the uncaptured buddies of these detainees are still blowing up Canadian and other soldiers - not, to my knowledge humanely or in accordance with any rules except their own - we are glued to the media watching the debate over how much our military and political leaders knew about the likelihood of torturing the bad guys. On principle, I do have respect for Richard Colvin and any whistle blower who socks it to the craven bureaucrats and pols of Ottawa, but in this case, really: there are so many more injustices in this world we ought to be attending to before losing sleep over pay back to the Taliban and Al Qaeda bully-boys. And unless we stop fretting over international laws of war -- ones that no winning side has ever given a sweet shit about -- and get literally bloody-minded about the strategies used to dig the perps out of their mountain lairs, there will be no real "finishing the job" in any meaningful sense. We can just pack up, go home, and wait for the bad guys to return to power and start cloning the terrorists, who'll kill us and our children -- without concern for the Geneva or any other convention espoused by "decent" societies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And Bless You More, Bobby Orr!

From the category of I-told-you-so's: The Bobby Orr was in the Grouse's current smelly domicile. i.e. Prince George, BC, this week as part of the local version of the Chevy Safe and Fun hockey camps. Naturally the presence of one of Canada's most deservedly famous sports celebrities led our daily garbage liner's reporter down to the coliseum for an interview, during which the question was popped: who is the greatest hockey player of all time?

"Orr takes little time in answering...--and it's not Gretzky, Beliveau or Lemieux. 'Gordie,' Orr answers with no hesitation...He could do everything."

Hey: who you gonna believe?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bless You, Cathy Haag!

I am pleased to announce to the night-shifters, sleepless, early risers and the like that CBC has at long last trashed its long-irritating overnight programming, something which I had badgered them about for years (although I am not delusional enough to think they were paying me much attention). For those readers so fortunate as to spend the time between midnight and 5 am in the tender arms of Morpheus, you will have the added good fortune to have had, I presume, minimal if any knowledge of the indigestible smorgasbord our national broadcaster had been dishing out nightly.

The "feast" so to speak, began not too badly, in fact, with an hour long and often quite entertainingly newsy show from Radio Netherland. Thereafter, came Radio Sweden for a half hour, often featuring some deservedly unknown Swedish pop music. Then a taste of the BBC, a program called Outlook which now is sensibly at a better time on the new CBC Overnight. Thereafter half hour blurts followed one after another. For a while the absolutely dreadful Russian show, often an apologia for Putin's latest violations, would ensue; a ho-hum Czech or Romanian newscast that would probably not even interest its own nationals, and then in the darkest hour before dawn, we would be set up by a reasonable 30 minute piece from Germany followed by what was the crown jewel of dreadfullness that CBC Overnight would spring on the early-risers or utter insomniacs, Radio Polonia.

Canadians may have some sympathy to the mentality of Poland which like ourselves resides next to famous or, if you prefer infamous giant world powers. Always living in that shadow can lead to a collective inferiority complex and, springing from that motivation no doubt, Radio Polonia devoted almost every show to hyperbolic claims for the superiority of all things Polish - some backwater that produced the indisputably best pigfoot pies in the world or the "little known fact" (as Cheers's Cliffie used to say) that Einstein's theory of relativity had already been articulated though never written down by a late 19th century dockworker from Gdansk. It was truly the most dreadful programming I have heard on CBC or anywhere else.

Not one to leave such transgressions alone, some time ago I Googled up CBC Overnight and encountered the veritable last straw pushing me to abandon my characteristic reserve and register objections: There for all to see -- and none to readily dispute -- was the preposterous claim "CBC RADIO OVERNIGHT has become a huge success among listeners."

Huh? By what measure? And, more importantly, in comparison to what alternatives that the sleepless have such as listening to the wavering signal from a Los Angeles sports call-in show or a Wichita evangelist?

Now, I should say that writing and bitching to the CBC about anything - I do mean anything - evokes almost as surely as summer follows spring a boiler-plate response along these lines: "Dear Mr. Dale - Thank you for your interest in (name of program). We are always glad to hear from our listeners. We appreciate your concern about (slight paraphrasing of whatever I complained of). However, you should know that we get just as many listeners who like (whatever the hell I took umbrage at)... This happens so often that I now include in my initial crank letters a preemptive warning that I am not interested in hearing the standard insubstantial and un-substantiatable drivel about all the people who have spontaneously written countervailing feedback.

And so I wrote, suggesting, just for the fun of it, that not only was the programming bad, period, but that it was - O the horror of it! - Eurocentric. Where, I asked, were the rest of the continents, the Asian, the African the South American, that is, those who are not white?

The reply I received was, of course, along the aforementioned predictable vein, but went on to lament the extraordinary difficulty of getting such programming -- this, in an era when a few taps of the mouse and you can listen to radio stations from every nook and cranny of creation. The show host, Cathy Haag, then gave me a quick lesson in global economics, explaining that "Only rich nations can produce and broadcast external programs in English." A rather odd claim I thought for two reasons:

a) many of those less well off nations have English as a major second if not primary language (e.g. India, Nigeria, South Africa)

b) that some of the European Nations that were part of the current CBC Overnight stable are hardly "rich", by any standards: e.g. Romania!

Then, finding her groove, no doubt, Ms. Haag, ended her letter by telling me, and I quote, "If you do not enjoy Overnight, you do not have to listen to it." Oh the rapier repartee well honed from years of telling us who she is and that we're listening to CBC Overnight a dozen times a night! Of course I really was not confused about my basic freedom to shut her mixed but primarily trashy program off. But as I advised Ms. Haag in reply, alas, I have no such choice of whether my tax dollars subsidize such crap.

I think we had a few more vituperative little exchanges including her kindly providing me with a more senior locus to direct my nasties to. Then, our newfound relationship in tatters, life returned to normal, her telling us who she is over and over nightly, me suffering from frequent insomnia and the jingoistic early morning proclamations of Polish cultural hegemony.

But then several weeks ago, with the sudden joyous relief that remission of toothache can bring, Radio Polonia and the rest of the aural dog-breakfast vanished without even a magical "poof". Although they have yet to change the information on their website, the CBC Overnight show now begins with a redux of As It Happens between 12 and 1; some - omigod! - US programming from their National Public Radio, twixt 1 and 2; two hours of an excellent show from Radio Canada International, The Link, which is for "connecting new immigrants to Canada and Canada to the World"; and finally in the immediate pre-dawn two fine BBC shows, Outlook (which used to come on at 2:30 a.m.) and The Strand, a global trot around intriguing vanguard cultural art happenings.

Always one to show appreciation, your humble Grouse wrote again to Miss Haag, who still announces program transitions and herself throughout the night, and complemented her and her colleagues for having, midst this literal darkness, at last seen the light. Nothing back so far, but I am sure she's having to do a lot of thank you cards up for the all the night-crawlers who, like me, are singing "Hallelujah!"

Friday, November 06, 2009

Of Symbolism

Not to harp on things – nay, never in this blog! – I am moved to add a few more lines about the monarchy and its symbolism, prompted by the attention, so to speak, His Majesty’s visit has brought forth.

In particular, I have just finished listening to and trying – unsuccessfully as usual; - to get through to respond, to BC Almanac, guest hosted by Gloria Macarneko this week. There was a good back -and forth on the deliberately provocative either-or choice that Ms. Macarenko used to lure call-ins. The question was – “Are you keen about the visit or would you rather do away with the monarchy?” Like most exercises in political legerdemain, a logical fallacy -- the false dichotomy of choosing between two extremes -- was amply employed.

A pro-monarchist guest more than held his own against the usual bevy of pseudo-nationalists who equate being a good Canadian with snuffing out all connections to Britain. There was also a surprising number of what I would deem sensible souls (because they agree with me) who, among other good points, spoke of what bad manners it was, with Charles and Camilla in BC at this time, to even be making this a discussion item. After all, if you have a house-guest, perhaps it’s best to defer debates about whether you want them as long-term friends (which, really, is what the British monarch is for Canada) until they’ve headed home.

I was struck by the anti-monarchists several times bringing up the “symbolism” issue, as in “what does it say about a country that isn’t mature enough to have its own native head-of-state”!? – Most of them seemed intelligent enough to be able to grasp that Queen Elizabeth II has about as much power over the conduct of Canadian governance as the wee dachshund sleeping across the room from me does. But it’s the symbol, get it?

Well, if we are going to get excited about symbols, perhaps we should think harder about how so many of these same astute Canadians are queuing up to see an endless array of nobodies run about the country with a lighted stick in their hands in tribute to the gathering of an elitist small array of wintery nations in a city whose jingoist residents are always telling everybody else that they do not even “get winter” (a fabrication, of course, perpetrated by Vancouverites' feigned looks of shock when every year they do get snow). This glorious little flame that we’re hoisting around like excited tots is, like the British Monarchy, a tradition, something which droves of Canucks seem to think connects us and our costly little two week skiing party with the glory that was Greece.

Well, that was where this particular silly flambeau was lit all right, but the custom is far less ancient. The torch relay appeared for the first time at another Olympiad when the host nation was also out to make an international impression for itself: Berlin 1936 where the ceremony fit nicely in with Hitler’s intent to establish the superiority of what he deemed to be his Aryan race. Oh yes, let’s not also forget as we bandy about symbolism, that when this monster’s quest for supremacy culminated in the ferocious bombing of London, our future King’s grandfather was standing upright with the Queen Mother amidst the ruins, a symbol of resistance for all their subjects, including Canadians.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Audrey-Lea Dawson - 1950-1989

Twenty years ago today my ex-wife, Audrey-Lea Dawson died by her own hands and wishes. Earlier this fall I marked the 40th anniversary of my first meeting her and what would have been our 37th wedding anniversary too. Ah, unforgiving numbers. Lea and I separated in '85 and a couple of years later formalized a divorce by which time the lustrous friendship we had had in earliest days had rekindled. She had come out as a lesbian well before that and it was with her primarily lesbian friends that I gathered for a vigil, wake, what is, I think too euphemistically termed " a celebration of the life" a few nights after November, 5th, 1989. They were good people and they comforted me with little stories of Lea and affirmations that she had always spoken well of her "ex".

Now, two decades later there is pretty well no one I see much anymore who knew "Lea and Norman" as a never-all-that-happy but deeply attached and loyal couple. And so to this dubiously read blog I must turn to mark this moment, to repeat how much I admired Lea's courage in the face of inner demons that arose from a markedly unhappy childhood, and, possibly from sublimated abuses she was only just beginning to explore at the time of her death. Most of all I want to say how I loved her in a way that went beyond the fragility of romance.

In the days immediately after she chose to leave us I wrote this sonnet which, obviously, is to and for her.


To know someone as well as I knew you
Was to walk down the same path every day
For years on years, until, so known the way,
That not a twig would snap as we passed through.

And so this quiet between us was a sign
Of closeness that no marriage could divide.
I could look forward to the change in tide
to times when, in a new way, you were "mine."

But without you, I wander through a place
Of which I have no knowledge and less hope.
This land is now an unfamiliar face
That scowls. I ask the question: can I cope?

With thirty - perhaps more - years apart from you
And from those well worn paths of love we knew.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Birthday King Charles III !

I probably have always had a soft spot in my heart or head for Prince Charles who is now embarked on a what at least CBC I determined to feature as an under-whelmingly received Royal Visit to Canada. Charles and I grew up together. At least in a fashion – he was born 13 days before me in 1948. Thus as my own little life story unfolded with its statutory milestones – turning 13, 16, 21, 30, 40 etc. – I could bask parasitically in the limelight of my more famous, regal cohort-mate.

Like anyone else, I noticed the ears and – admitting hastily all that stuff about people in glass houses and stone throwing – that he was no matinee idol, his lack of beauty somewhat exaggerated by the formal demeanour and puffed-up accent of his coddled upbringing. When others rather obviously spotted the young Prince’s resemblance to the Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman, I confess to having chuckled agreement.

Then came Diana – a choice of wife with which I immediately disagreed, as my phony-spotting antennae were immediately aroused by this moderately pretty and much younger minor -ruling class booby. The future King and his handlers may have thought that he would benefit from Lady Dianna’s appeal and I suppose he did until his sensible but long-unrevealed lack of romantic interest in this foppish Barbie doll, combined with her inbred nuttiness and penchant for hyper-rich playboys, to place the marriage among the most infamous British disasters since Dunkirk.

Flash forward decades to a time when both Britain and her once predominant British inhabited former dominions have become multi-cultural kaleidoscopes with ever-growing numbers of new citizens who, for quite sensible reasons bear no allegiance to the monarchy, especially since a goodly proportion of them are descended from the “subjects”, i.e. subalterns of the Empire on which the sun used never to set. I can live with the outcome for our political system, the seeming inevitability that at some point not too long from now, in another of its petty demos of selfhood, Canada will devolve into a nation with not a constitutional trace of fealty to the Windsors, the pomp and circumstance they once commanded. We will show a real lack of class as a nation if we even talk about doing this before Elizabeth II joins her ancestors at Westminster.

Now – and this along with the current Royal Visit is what prompts this entry - I learn that it is not only peabrains on FaceBook who create silly polls but purportedly respectable professionals. Apparently lacking for anything else sale-able to poll us about, CP/Harris Decima asked 1000 of us if we think Charles should step aside for his son, Willy. Go look and see for yourself the results – I don’t want to add to the already overly scurrilous nature of my blog by bothering with the responses to this useless question. It is rather by way of lament that I must reveal that the majority of the 1000 poll-ees gave an opinion at all rather than telling the pollster to get a life and hanging up.

One of the many good things about our Constitutional Monarchy is that, unlike democratic elections it is not a popularity contest. For the sake of both brevity and persuasion, just turn on CPAC’s House of Commons stream and see where we get when Canadians go to the polls en masse. Watch the truly small-and-mean minded Prime Minister and his minions equivocate about H1N1 vaccination which now Minister Aglukkaq is promising us as a Christmas present; watch the amazing shrinking Leader of the Opposition as he demonstrates ever more each day with appropriate academic rigour his inability do what should be a no-brainer and send Harper packing off back to the corporate world that he has never really left, in spirit.

Then, if you can find it, try to tune in on the never-that-popular Prince of Wales and ask yourself whether our exercising our democratic mandate does any better than this gracious and thoughtful prospective king, indeed, whether our Canadian ability at making leadership choices makes it worth having some Harris Decima butt-pain disrupt the rightful enjoyment of the World Series.

So then an early Happy 61st King Charles, on the 14th of this month (which if you’ve read this carefully should enable your adroit calculation of your humble grouse’s upcoming natal day and thereby your advance planning of appropriate celebrations).