Dead Souls

Listened to Joy Division on the way back into the city yesterday. It was the right soundtrack for a cold and bleak November landscape.

Played Dead Souls three times. What a song! Which, later, led to the rediscovery of this extraordinary bit of film: Joy Division at the Ardwick Apollo almost exactly forty years ago. The band’s manager, Richard Boon, just set up a primitive Beta camera on a tripod and shot this.

It’s incredible, like they were. One of the bands that literally changed my life.

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities
That keep calling me
They keep calling me
Keep on calling me
They keep calling me


Kristof in the Times:

We humans make a lonely crowd, and it’s killing us.

Social isolation is more lethal than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or than obesity, according to research published by Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University. Since obesity is associated in the United States with 300,000 to 600,000 deaths a year, the implication is that loneliness is a huge, if silent, killer.

Loneliness increases inflammation, heart disease, dementia and death rates, researchers say — but it also simply makes us heartsick and leaves us inhabiting an Edvard Munch canvas. Public health experts in many countries are debating how to address a “loneliness epidemic” that corrodes modern life, but Britain has taken the lead: Last year it appointed a minister for loneliness.

“It touches almost every one of us at some point,” Baroness Barran, the current minister for loneliness, told me. “It can lead to very serious health consequences for the individual and leads to erosion of our society, where people become isolated and disconnected.”

The Liberals had a caucus meeting, too

It happened yesterday. You didn’t hear much about it, because all the drama had happened the day before, with the seven-hour-long Conservative mass-suicide disguised as a caucus meeting.

The Liberal caucus meeting was a happier affair. For one thing, the newbies – and Trudeau has a lot of them in his caucus – are now just two short years away from qualifying for the fabled gold-plated Parliamentary pension. That kind of boodle tends to keep the natives from getting restless.

Ditto re-election. A lot of them didn’t expect to be back. Forget about Aga Khan, Gropegate, LavScam and the Griswolds Go To India – who could ever expect to survive multiple mid-campaign revelations about their leader wearing racist blackface? But they did. They did.

So, the Grit nobodies were happier than the Tory nobodies (that’s what Justin’s Dad used to call MPs, by the way – nobodies).

But all is not well. A sampling of the Liberal Nervous Nellie list:

• The Emperor’s Clothes. He doesn’t really have any. Liberal MPs universally do not trust the judgment of Trudeau or his inner circle like they used to – they’ve simply made too many big, big mistakes. Exhibit One: turning a sure-fire second majority into a minority. There’s no mutiny on the horizon – but nor is this the united, happy group it once was. Many are looking past Trudeau, now.

• Events, dear boy, events. Who said that? Harold MacMillan? I think so. Anyway, the aphorism applies here. The Mounties have indicated that they haven’t closed the book on LavScam. Trudeau himself has said there are more Trudeau scandals/embarrassments as-yet unrevealed. The economy is expected to slump. The Tories may indeed get a leader who knows that God loves gays, lesbians and women who get abortions, too. And so on, and so on. Events happen, events affect political fortunes. Liberal fortunes, too.

• They didn’t win. If the Grit caucus is being honest with themselves – a tall order, we know – they will admit that Andrew Scheer lost. Justin Trudeau didn’t win. They were up against a placeholder Tory leader, one who didn’t inspire, but who has “hidden agenda” stapled onto his DNA. And they were up against a Conservative Party that forgot that data analysis is no substitute for voter ID and GOTV. I wager that won’t happen next time: I think the Tories will have a new leader (because, honestly, they have to get one) and a Senator Doug Finley-style election operation (because that wins elections, not columns of numbers).

But what do I know? I worked for Hillary Clinton in three states, and I was sure we were going to win.

Maybe Andrew Scheer will get another chance and become an actual progressive conservative. Maybe Justin Trudeau will learn from his many documented mistakes. Maybe the economy will be fine and the RCMP will decide that obstruction of justice is no more serious than a broken taillight. Maybe, maybe. Who knows.

All I know is the Liberal gathering didn’t generate as many headlines. And that suggests the Liberals are learning.

And the Conservatives? They aren’t.

A seven-hour caucus meeting creates seven big problems

The Conservative caucus met on Parliament Hill yesterday.  Watching them from afar, it recalled a big therapy session.  But without a therapist in charge.

It went for seven hours, reportedly.  That’s a long caucus meeting.  At the end of those seven hours, seven big problems remain.

  1. They did not dump Andrew Scheer, but nor did they embrace him.  They opted for the worst of both worlds: a weakened leader who many of them blame for their loss, but a weakened leader they decided to keep around.  Make sense to you?  Me neither.
  2. The Andrew Scheer-related problems cannot be fixed, because they are in his DNA.  If you believe, as I do, that his social conservative views killed him in urban and near-urban centres – and with women, in particular – you will also agree he needs to change those views.  But he can’t, because he won’t.  It’s who he is.  A volte-face now on abortion, equal marriage, etc., would only look cynical and dishonest.  And, when you consider that Andrew Scheer was also felled by that hoary old chestnut,  “hidden agenda” (American citizenship, resumé exaggeration, etc.) – a personal-belief reversal would only add to the “hidden agenda” narrative.
  3. They think all of their problems can be solved with a leadership change.  Um, no. In my limited experience, you don’t win (or lose) in politics for a single reason – it’s always a bunch of reasons.  So, too, the CPC: it wasn’t just their leader who failed – so too did their platform, so did their lack of a compelling single message, so did their GOTV and voter ID efforts. Also, star candidates: did they have even one?
  4. They lack an alternative.  With the notable exception of the Trudeau Liberal Party, which bears all the hallmarks of a cult, the Liberal Party of Canada has always had viable leadership alternatives.  When I had the honour and privilege of working for Jean Chretien, we had ambitious ministers (Messrs. Manley, Tobin, Rock, et al.) who kept their ambitions within reasonable limits – and, yes, one who didn’t (M. Martin).  But we had alternatives.  The Conservatives presently have many suitable leadership alternatives, but none who want to be the alternative.  Not good.
  5. They’re fighting in public again.  The Tories only win when they are united (ditto all political parties).  They win when they have strong, strategic leaders who expertly control caucus and the membership, like Messrs. Mulroney and Harper.  They lose when they don’t.  Their history – as suggested in the above cartoon – is one of fratricide, discord, and civil wars.  Which permits Liberals to say: “If they can’t manage their own affairs, how can they manage the affairs of a country?”  As they will.
  6. They gave Trudeau back what he lost.  With the exception of the separatists, everyone lost in the 2019 Canadian federal election: Justin Trudeau lost his majority; Andrew Scheer lost an election; Jagmeet Singh lost Quebec and half his caucus; Elizabeth May lost credibility when – after no shortage of boastful balance-of-power claims by Elizabeth May – she could only add a single Parliamentary seat.  But the Tories’ leadership sturm und drang has given Trudeau back what he lost – a majority in all but name.  There won’t be an election anytime soon.
  7. They’re bleeding.  They are going to lose fundraising support.  They are going to lose grassroots support.  They are going to lose an opportunity to capitalize on Justin Trudeau’s problems – because he’s got problems aplenty, too.  They are, instead, just bleeding all over the place, looking leaderless, luckless and clueless.  And it is going to go on for months.

A seven-hour caucus!

And, at the end of it, they’re in worse shape than they were at the start of it.

Reposted: to shear Scheer, surely? Or not shear Scheer?

Them are the questions. What’s your view, O Smart Readers?


  • Trudeau will engineer his own defeat and force a snap election during a leadership race
  • The next guy or gal may be way worse
  • The problems aren’t just Scheer-related – they’re party-related, too
  • Harper, McGuinty et al. all won big after first losing
  • He’s not Satan, for Pete’s sake


  • His fundamental problems – SoCon, can’t win in cities, etc. – will still be there
  • He couldn’t beat a Liberal leader caught wearing racist blackface mid-campaign
  • Le Québéc, ne l’aime pas
  • He’s still going to be a guy when the Conservatives need a gal
  • He isn’t Satan, but apparently Torontonians think he might be