Babymetal: the band that will destroy metal

They’re also my current favourite band of all time: choreographed bubblegum pop fused with hardcore? Nobody has ever done that before!

The old metalhead at the start, horrified by what has happened to his genre? That’s my brother and his grizzled friends, realizing the genius and might of Babymetal, and that the end is nigh.


Behold the issue that will dominate Canadian politics for the next year, and then some

If the separatist Parti Quebecois government calls an election “soon, soon” – and if, as many expect, they win a majority government – strap on your seat belts. We are in for another bumpy ride, Canada.

In recent years, of course, it has been become de rigueur for the commentariat to declare that the separatist movement was “dead.” I’ve never agreed with them. When your politics are entirely about identity, and long-nurtured grievances and humiliations, you never give up.

Separatist longing is unkillable, because logic has nothing to do with the desire for a separate nation.  If it did, we wouldn’t be hearing – once again – about the likelihood of another Quebec referendum.  It is a matter of the heart, not the head.

Politically, the circumstances favour the separatists.  Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Statistics Canada notwithstanding, most Canadians and Quebecois do not feel that a robust recovery is underway.  They know, as I wrote in the Sun on the weekend, that they are still only a couple pay cheques away from living on the street. To nervous Quebec voters, Canada does not seem to be thriving any more than Quebec is. Why not give it a try?
  • The great separatist-slayers of the past – Chretien, Trudeau the Senior – have left the scene.  They have been replaced by a passionless, Western anglophone Prime Minister who is reviled in Quebec, a novice Liberal leader who lacks any support off the island of Montreal, and an NDP leader who clearly sympathizes more with sovereignty than federalism. Who, then, will speak for Canada, in the coming confrontation?
  • The political culture/stature of each of the federal political parties has changed.  Conservatives quietly wonder if Canada wouldn’t be better off without Quebec; Liberals have zero – zippo, zilch – strength on the ground in Quebec anymore; the New Democrat caucus is mainly made up of former Bloc and Parti Quebecois supporters, who will not lift a finger to save Canada.  Not good, not any of it.
  • As a Conservative friend told me at lunch this week, it is a fact that Canadians themselves cannot be counted on to rally in support of a united Canada, as they did in 1980 and 1995.  Instead, they can be expected to respond with anger and/or indifference to the sovereignty issue being revisited, yet again.  I do not know if he is right, but he is not wrong when he observes that Harper/Trudeau/Mulcair do not have any of the populist political skills of Trudeau Senior and Chretien to rally average Canadians.
  • All of the symbols of Canada – ranging from things as simple as Canada Post offices to the flag – have been disappearing in Quebec over the years.  Quebeckers, therefore, can’t be condemned for wondering what their federal taxes pay for.  Watch their newscasts: their world does not extend past the Ottawa River. Canada is an illusion, to most of them.

None of this is to say that the separatists are without their own problems.  Marois, in particular, is no populist firebrand like a cane-wielding Lucien Bouchard was.  She is no Levesque.

But politics, like comedy, is all about timing.  And, presently, the timing favours the separatists.

Thus, my prediction: our preoccupation, in the months to come, will not be Crimea or Syria or Iran or the Central African Republic.

It will be Quebec.


In Tuesday’s Sun: …in which I use a word to describe the National Post that I am not allowed to use

As Russia and the Ukraine slip towards war – and as the West looks on, unable or unwilling to do anything – it’s easy to forget that nice things still happen. The birth of babies, for instance.

Everyone likes babies. They are innocent and helpless and they make us smile. Like Johnny Depp once said, they are the only creatures evolved enough to convey pure love. Their arrival, therefore, is a time for celebration.

Their arrival is not, however, a time to associate them with genocide, or anti-Semitism, or depravity. It is not an occasion to mock the baby, or its parents. All of us would agree with that.

But not all of us work at the National Post.

Some background: on Friday, Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire, welcomed their third child into the world. He was eight pounds, three ounces, and they named him Hadrian. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen immediately offered their congratulations. So did NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

With war seemingly starting in the East, and Winter seemingly never ending in the West, it was a welcome bit of good news. For the National Post, it was something else entirely.

Shortly after Hadrian arrived, the Post published a “news story” – I use flying quotes, there, for reasons that will shortly become obvious – about him. The story had no byline, and it was later quietly (and significantly) altered. But here are some of the things it said about young Hadrian.

His father is “obviously no fan of history,” said the Post, and proof was found in the name Trudeau and his wife selected. It was a Roman Emperor’s name, declared the Post, and he was “surrounded by controversy.”

He was “ruthless,” said the Post. He is also still “reviled among the Jewish community.” He committed acts of genocide, and his name is still associated with a “curse,” the Post decreed.

When a few of us saw that “news story,” we were surprised. To us, it seemed like the National Post was actually insinuating that Hadrian Trudeau was named after a homicidal, anti-Semitic maniac. And not, apparently, some other Hadrian the Trudeaus know.

I sent a note on Twitter to John Ivison, a Post writer who had earlier tweeted about the Trudeau baby and the genocidal Jew-hater. I asked him who linked Hadrian Trudeau to the mass-murderer. Ivison professed not to know. “No idea. Wire? I haven’t read it.”

At that point, a wire service used by the Post, Canadian Press, chimed in. Bruce Cheadle, a senior writer with CP, wrote: “Those particular files were not from Canadian Press.”

Thereafter, I wrote to Stephen Meurice, the Post’s editor, to ask (a) who wrote it and (b) if he agreed it was a mistake. So far, no answer.

Here’s the thing: babies aren’t political. Even if you hate a baby’s father – as we can only assume, at this point, the Post does – its birth should not be an occasion to do what was done here.

If you look up Hadrian’s name, baby name dictionaries say it’s simply a variant of “Adrian.”

If you look up “National Post,” this week, you’ll see that it means “a bunch of assholes.”

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Ukraine: what would you do?

Wikipedia is a joke, but here is a bit found thereon that I suspect has been accessed many times in the past few days:

“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly independent Ukraine had on its territory what was the third largest strategic nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It was larger than those of Britain, France, and China combined. On June 1, 1996 Ukraine became a non-nuclear nation when it sent the last of its 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling. The first shipment of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia (by train) was in March 1994. In return for giving up its nuclear weapons, Ukraine, the United States of America, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, pledging to respect Ukraine territorial integrity, a pledge that was arguably broken by Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.”

So, the good news – if there is any – is that they don’t have nuclear weapons. But Russia has now clearly broken the treaty that led to Ukraine’s disarmament.

What to do? As you all know – and as I have written in the Pussy Riot and Sochi cases – I have long believed Putin is a loathesome despot, and a clear threat to the world. Now that his Olympics are over, he’s proving that in a dramatic and unambiguous way.

So what would you do, dear reader, if you were running things? None of the leaders we’ve got seem to know. So, over to you.

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In Sunday’s Sun: The one time Conservatives like Statistics Canada

Following the great global recession of 2008-2009, the game plan of the Right was clear: repair the tattered flag of capitalism, fight any modest regulation of the banking system, and restore six-figure bonuses to all those 25-year-old millionaire hedge fund managers.

Oh, and vilify the Occupy kids.

The Occupy movement – much like the Tea Party movement, ironically – was anti-banker, anti-bailout and anti-bonuses. Its rallying cry, the 99 per cent versus the one per cent, attracted the support of the majority in every democratic nation.

Occupy was, most agree, the most successful populist progressive movement of the past Century. (In fact, it was probably the only populist progressive movement of the past Century.)

At the time, Frank Luntz, the conservative manipulator of words, confessed to a group of Republican legislators: “I am scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. They’re having an impact on what people think of capitalism!”

So, it therefore became necessary to destroy Occupy. Conservative governments used every means at their disposal to physically drive out the Occupiers – and conservative polemicists literally accused them of everything from rape to murder. It recalled what the Romans did to the Christians, except it was televised on FOX.

While the Occupiers may have faded away, the Occupy message did not. To many of us, Occupy was actually Christ-like: it argued that those who deserved Heavenly reward were those who had nothing (or next to nothing) while here on Earth. Not the aforementioned 25-year-olds driving pimped-out Hummers to private clubs to expense magnums of Cristal.

This week, the Canadian Occupy-haters found a statistical basis for their greed. Statistics Canada issued a report, and it seemingly suggested that the middle class is doing just fine. Income disparity, crowed the capitalist-fetishists, had been proven a myth! Stats Can is useful after all! Who knew?

Except the report didn’t say that. Sure, Statistics Canada dryly noted that the median worth of Canadian families had jumped some 44 per cent over the past seven years or so – from $168,700 to $243,800. And, yes, the mythical middle class increased its share of the country’s $8.07 trillion personal net worth by slightly less than two percentage points.

But, there’s this: had Stats Can asked Canadians if they felt life was getting in any way more affordable, they would have been laughed at. Most of us citizens, the citizens would say, are always about two paycheques away from the street. To average folks, the standard of living is getting worse, not better.

And, for those who examined the Statistics Canada report carefully, the rise of the putative middle class is a mirage. Or, at best, built on desert sand.

The report explicitly acknowledged two things, and passingly referenced another. One, much of the higher net worth of Canadians has been fueled by sky-high home prices. Two, pension fund gains have helped a lot, too. Three, we have among the highest per-capita household debt in the civilized world.

And that, as no less than Comrade Jim Flaherty and the Finance Department proletariat continually remind us, suggests that there is still plenty to worry about. Indeed, an overheated housing market, undercapitalized pension funds, and too much personal debt all suggest that much of the middle class “gain” could be swept away in the Biblical blink of an eye.

It was amusing to see the Right-wingers waving around a Stats Can report, like Moses descending from Mt. Sinai. But, like Moses, the Right-wingers aren’t going to see the promised land.

We’re not out of the desert, yet, folks. What Stats Can giveth, the bankers can (and will) take away.

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Why the National Post is so often loathsome

Check this out.  It’s only been a few hours, and the National Post have run an attack piece masquerading as a news story on…the Trudeau baby. I shit you not.

Quote:

It’s unclear why Trudeau chose the name Hadrian, however the Liberal leader is obviously no fan of history, since the Roman emperor most commonly associated with the name is surrounded by controversy.

Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138 A.D., is commonly called one of the five good emperors because of his economic stewardship of the empire and his lack of belligerence in launching wars on his neighbours.

A ruthless military leader, Hadrian realigned borders and quashed revolt, stabilizing a territory critically overstretched by his predecessor, Trajan.

But he is reviled among the Jewish community. During the Third Jewish War, Hadrian launched an almost genocidal war against the Jews, killing upwards of 500,000 and destroying almost 1,000 villages. The Talmud follows his name with the curse “Crush his bones.”

Arguably Rome’s most enigmatic emperor, he also built a legendary wall separating England and Scotland to keep the warlike Scots at bay.

Ruling an empire that comprised much of Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, Hadrian was also one of the first emperors to openly display his homosexuality. His gay lover, Antinous, accompanied him on his trips round the empire and when he died young in a swimming accident, Hadrian named a city after him in Egypt.

Got that? We don’t like the Liberals, so we think it’s fair game to insinuate that a baby is a homicidal anti-Semite. Oh, and he’s gay.

We’re the National Post, after all, and we’re fucking jerks.

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