Posting New Articles

September 20th, 2015
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To our readers, apologies for the very long drought in posting by either of us — we haven’t even posted published articles, shame on us.

We will now resume posting articles published in the print media, starting with catching up on the backlog of MrK’s Investment Executive articles. There will also be items coming from the National Post, Ski Canada, Backcountry and more!

Please check back regularly.

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Nice start Mr. Liepert!

April 13th, 2014
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So another round of the continuing intra-Conservative shenanigans in Calgary West/Signal Hill is over. For the first time in over twenty years, a Red Tory will have the best opportunity to represent the constituency.  Where Allison Redford and Donna Kennedy-Glans failed, Ron Liepert has succeeded.

Reasonable observers would concede that the out-going MP, Rob Anders, had “issues” as one euphemistically says these days.  His style, if not his politics, was off-putting to some and he was arguably “inclusivity-challenged”. With a prospective change in MP Conservatives might have – whatever the change in politics -hoped for a change in style.

Perhaps their hopes were misplaced. No sooner had Mr. Liepert been nominated than he attacked a senior cabinet minister, Jason Kenney. Apparently he was displeased that Mr. Kenney had endorsed Mr. Anders. Despite the fact that Anders had been Kenney’s colleague for 17 years, the endorsement was seen by Liepert as interference.

Besides displaying questionable judgment in general, Liepert could not have chosen a more inappropriate target for his anger. Jason Kenney is one of the hardest working Conservative MPs and one of the most successful and effective cabinet ministers. If the Conservative Party now enjoys a majority government it is in no small part due to Jason Kenney.

By contrast, I am not aware of any significant involvement by Mr. Liepert in the federal party over the last 10 years. Perhaps he was working feverishly behind the scenes but, as I say, I am not aware of it.

So what do Conservatives and other residents of Calgary Signal Hill have to look forward to with a prospective new MP after 2015? Ironically, the new and old man may turn out to be cut from the same cloth, just cloth of a different colour.

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We’re back in the National Post

March 17th, 2014
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Please click on Latest Article at top left to see our recent column on Quebec nationalism, published in the print edition of the National Post last week.

Also, at long last, we have moved beyond our “Merry Christmas” post. Yikes.

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Merry Christmas

December 24th, 2013
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From DrJ and me, a very Merry Christmas to all of you. Joy to you and your loved ones through this season of light, and good health in the New Year.

In these troubled times, it seemed fitting to offer this video (don’t forget to hit skip ad) as a symbol – only half tongue-in-cheek – of hope and strength.

“So gracious is the time,” indeed.

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More lessons from Munich

October 8th, 2013
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This Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the occupation of the Sudetenland. That day, streets were lined with cheering crowds welcoming the German troops, while Jews and the politically-threatened hid or fled. The anniversary offers another opportunity to consider Chamberlain, Hitler and appeasement, and to learn other lessons about international conflict.

Firstly there is the use of historical grievance. The Sudetenland crisis occurred where it did for a reason, beyond mere German aggression. Czechoslovakia was carved out of the dead Austria-Hungary in 1919, as a client state of the victorious Entente. It was meant as much to contain Germany as to satisfy Wilsonian ideals of self-determination. Its founding leaders, like Masaryk and Benes, over-reached by demanding “historic” borders. Besides 10.2 million Czechs and Slovaks, the new country contained 3.3 million Germans, 700,000 Magyars and 500,000 West-Ukrainians. As self-determination went, some were more equal than others.

Czechoslovakia was not embraced by all its prospective citizens. At the end of World War One, the German members of the Austrian parliament, including those from the Sudetenland, voted to join defeated Germany and drafted a constitution to that effect. This union was prevented by the Entente, and Czech armed force, providing the kernel of legitimacy for Sudeten grievance and a pretext for Hitler’s later expansion.

No maps of the Sudetenland marred Canadian bus stops in 1938 as maps of Palestine do today. The controversial ad campaign suggests that territorial grievance is alive and well. It also shows that the Palestinians, much more than the hapless Sudeten Germans back in the day, have galvanized a certain segment of international opinion to their version of history. This is not trivial. Palestinians have floated an alternative history of the Middle East that largely denies ancient Israel, so the bus stop maps can be seen as part of a broader agenda of de-legitimization.

Arguing over lines on a map may seem futile, but it provides a framework for the larger conflict. If arguments over territory and boundaries neutralize or convert key players, as the Palestinians have achieved in much of the EU, you’ve stolen a march on your enemy.

Then there’s Realpolitik. Sudeten German aspirations in 1919, as legitimate as those of the Czechs, were squashed by the Great Powers – as so often happens. Prospects of Czechoslovakia as an “eastern Switzerland” were also stillborn, as founding president Masaryk spoke of possible autonomy for Czech Germans only “if they prove themselves to be loyal citizens”. In the same breath he alluded to a quick “de-Germanizing” of the border regions. Masaryk’s successor, Eduard Benes, made good on the “de-Germanizing”. The expulsion he implemented, beginning in 1945, expelled roughly three million Germans and caused up to 200,000 deaths. The refugees could keep what they could carry.

Interestingly, the verdict of history has been almost as harsh on the Sudeten Germans as on Chamberlain: how could so many have welcomed Hitler? Hindsight of course is 20-20, but what seems to be demanded here is 20-20 foresight. After all, no magic ballot question was posed 75 years ago: option one – Hitler, your sons killed in war, the Jews exterminated, expulsion with loss of all your property, thousands killed in the process or: option two – discrimination, economic hardship and possible assimilation in Czechoslovakia.

But this kind of choice is precisely what faces many groups today, including the Palestinians, even if they don’t realize it. And they aren’t particularly clairvoyant either. We see reports of a seething population under Israeli rule, much worse in fact than the Czechs in Austria-Hungary or the Germans under the Czechs. Despite Israel having already offered several key concessions, no agreement appears likely. Arguing continues over, among other things, lines on a map and “historic” boundaries; hence the signs in Canadian bus stops.

One clear lesson of Munich, for the aggrieved minority at least, is that their perceived way of “liberation” may be a delusion or, worse, fatal. A look around the region would give Palestinians an idea what their state may look like. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and they don’t have to repeat the mistakes of history. That said, the prospects of a state dominated by radical political parties and religious zealots appear dark. Nor will acting as proxies for other combatants in a regional or international conflict guarantee the Palestinians what they want. Ask the Sudeten Germans.

Lastly, it’s worth asking how much choice the pawns in the great game actually have. The most frequent outcome seems to be: when someone else lights the fuse, you have to choose sides. That rarely ends well.

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Parisian postcard, 2013

August 28th, 2013
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Those of you contemplating a trip to the City of Light ™ may benefit from these few words. My family and I spent eight days there last month and have a few experiences worth sharing.

All indications are that Paris, as a tourist destination, is more popular than ever. This suggests that people are weighing the cultural experience against the shall-we-say challenges, and deciding to visit.

It’s worth stating off the top that all the cultural advantages are still present, as they were decades ago. And they now pick up after their dogs – making navigation of the irregular sidewalks a lot easier. Smoking is also banned from the inside of restaurants, so those wanting to relive the ambience of the old Paris need only sit outside.

The best way to describe Paris today is that it’s over-taxed, and not the kind of tax that sent Gerard Depardieu into the arms of Putin either. No, there are simply too many tourists, at least in the high season, for the infrastructure.

Like many trips to la ville lumiere, it starts and ends with the Louvre. To say the venerable museum is overrun is an understatement. Imagine the healthy crowds of yore with a large new Asian contingent added, plus all those eastern Europeans once held back by the Iron Curtain. Could one be nostalgic for the Iron Curtain?

The crowds themselves could be managed. As in Florence, the tours only visit about five spots in the museum. Rooms with say, the Dutch Masters, are basically empty. The problem is in the room with the porcelain fixtures.

As in many cities, museums are one of the few reliable places one can find digestive refuge. In Paris, unless you want to use a street-side johnny, this is especially true. The loos in the Louvre are just not up to the traffic. Our visit showed, in the Men’s, three of five stalls out-of-order and no soap. The Ladies’ had the usual endless, serpentine line-up; cleanliness was not reported. One alternativeto this overcorwding has been tried in China, but may not be catching on.

Another crowd scene occurred at the Versailles train station. The Chateau closes at the same time every day.  Several thousand visitors, like us, neglect to buy return tickets back to town. That means that, every day, hundreds/thousands of tourists need to use the same three ticket machines – or line up at the one wicket – all at the same time. What happens when one machine is out-of-order (sound familiar?) and another only takes coins. Think “Fall of Saigon”.

One solution, as implemented by the state-owned regional railway, is to put two well-meaning summer interns in the packed station to “assist” travellers. Poor kids. At least with their limited English, they didn’t understand half the expletives hurled their way.

One other solution? MORE TICKET MACHINES THAT WORK. Another one? How about more ticket sellers at the peak time? Don’t hold your breath for either of those.

And one last bouquet to French customer service. Margaret Wente describes how a female Parisian Maitre’D dressed down an American customer, telling him “I’m not a servant”. That attitude perhaps explains why it’s so difficult to get “service”.

Wente says that the French feel themselves equal to everyone else and readily inform you when they have taken offence. Well, that doesn’t quite describe how we were treated in the well-known Angelina Teahouse.

The young lady who waited on us in fact made one thing quite clear. Namely, that your average twenty-something French cafe waitress is in fact superior to her somewhat-educated, polite Anglophone customers. But rest assured, the Parisians are much kinder to tourists now than they were before.

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Investment Executive articles

June 4th, 2013
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I’ve been horrifically remiss, not merely in writing new blog posts, but even in posting published print articles. I’m continuing to write regular columns in the Investment Executive newspaper. Starting with my most recent column, posted today under Latest Article above, I’ll post my most recent eight or so columns, working backwards, about once a week until we’re caught up.

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Liberal leaderships then and now

April 17th, 2013
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Eighty percent is a big number. There are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes a “coronation”, but 80% has got to be pretty close. I speak of course about the level of endorsement received by Justin Trudeau in this week’s leadership vote.

The big number is something that can’t be denied, that can’t be taken away from Mr. Trudeau. The result causes one to reflect again on the race and why the fine group of people running against him could only muster 20% of the vote.

It wasn’t always so. It’s been noted that the Dauphin won the leadership almost exactly 45 years after his father became Liberal leader. The 1968 leadership is actually very instructive.

Far from being a “coronation”, Pierre Trudeau was hard-pressed to win that vote. He won by 249 votes (50.9%) over Robert Winters, partly because John Turner (yes, THAT John Turner) refused to drop off the last ballot. Turner garnered 195 votes in the final count.

Many aspects of the 1968 convention affected the Liberal Party, and Canada for decades. The election of Trudeau shifted the party well to the left. Imagine, runner-up Winters favoured the privatization of Crown corporations! Kind of reminds you why some people were Liberals back in the day.

Paul Martin Sr.’s poor showing lit the fires of ambition in his son, which did not extinguish until 2004. Turner became the “leader-in-waiting” for almost a decade, his manoeuvring against Trudeau presaging the Chretien-Martin feud of later years. Chretien himself became a Trudeau loyalist at the convention after his mentor, Finance Minister Mitchell Sharp, supported Trudeau.

Of Trudeau’s seven main opponents, all were federal or provincial cabinet ministers. What a contrast to 2013. Where were the heavyweights this time? Where was John Manley, Frank McKenna, Scott Brison, Hedy Fry? As I’ve suggested in these pages before, how could one expect any such candidates to emerge? As a party that exists only for power, when there is little guarantee of easy power and position, there isn’t much of a drawing card. Remember poor, bitter Ken Dryden, ranting from the opposition benches? Opposition wasn’t what he signed up for!

What a sharp contrast, also, with the current government. While Trudeux’s commitment to the Liberal brand should be acknowledged, it is arguably not as admirable as when, for example, Peter MacKay fought for the leadership of the 5th-place PCs in 2003; or even when the Prime Minister ran for the leadership of the fractured Canadian Alliance in 2002.

It is reasonable to predict one thing. Should Mr. Trudeau appear to be reversing Liberal fortunes, the power-seeking “names” will return.

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CBC April Fools?

April 2nd, 2013
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While vacationing in the Lower 48, I’ve made the mistake of occasionally tuning into CBC Radio One on the internet.  Nostalgia? Home-sickness? Stupidity?

So it was that the morning newscast yesterday led off with a story on hydraulic fracking. No surprise, I guess, if it was to recount the latest controversy surrounding this petroleum recovery process.

But no, the story had an informative slant, delivered with almost child-like wonderment by the reporter. Apparently there is this new technology called “multi-stage fracking” that has revolutionized the oil and gas industry! And, added the CBC correspondent, “few people seem to know that much of this process was pioneered in Alberta”. Wow, you could knock me over with a feather.

As it was the morning of April 1st, my first, conspiratorial thought was that this had to be a joke; perhaps a story re-cycled from five years ago? I then waited for the chuckling admission from Mothercorp … which never came. So it was in fact a straight up, real report delivered, as Mr. K would say, “without irony”.

When I realized this, I was rather of two minds about it. The snivelling optimist in me  thought I should be thankful that CBC was running a real news story on fracking, show-casing the industry and actually highlighting Made-in-Alberta technological achievements.

The other side of me was less magnanimous. “Where the hell have they been for the last decade”? I thought. How could they deliver a story like this, apparently ignorant of these monumental industry developments? Well apparently they can and I know precisely where they HAVE been for the last decade. They’ve been reporting all the activists’ protests against fracking (and continue to do so), the “controversy” surrounding the process, interviewing the various Indie filmmakers’ “definitive” works on the subject, and of course reviewing Matt Damon’s take on it. That’s what they’ve been doing.

They haven’t seriously attempted to report facts – like the experience in Pennsylvania which I wrote about in these pages. The fact that not a single instance of groundwater contamination due to fracking has been proven in that state. No, they’ve been content to report, unfiltered, the manifestos of activists and the opinions of celebrities.

So what are we to think about this latest, seemingly fact-based report? Is it a much-belated attempt at corrective action? Past behaviour, forces me to conclude that, no, that’s highly unlikely. It’s more than likely a fortuitous error, or worse, the one fair story they can point to when accused of biased coverage. Call me a cynic, but there it is.

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Driving Nenshi’s glaciers

February 24th, 2013
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Despite the best efforts of a warming, that is “changing” climate, snowcat tours of the Rocky Mountains’ Columbia Ice Fields are still very popular.  Calgarians will know that they can enjoy a little bit of that adventure every winter day, just by driving the city’s residential streets.

You see, as hard as it is for outsiders to believe, there is no ploughing of snow on residential streets in Calgary. I described the whole seasonal fiasco in this quite inspirational post a couple of years ago. This winter has been fairly mild in Calgary but, because of the aforementioned lack of ploughing and an uncooperative climate/latitude, ice doesn’t actually melt off many Calgary streets until well into March.

Despite the renowned Chinooks, Calgary doesn’t get the balmy mid-winter rains of central Canada, that melt snow and ice and wash away salt and sand. Areas not actually exposed to the sun are particularly prone to pernicious snow and ice buildup. Hence the glacial terrain on city roads. None of this any comfort to the beleaguered Calgary motorist or pedestrian.

Adding insult to injury are the proclivities of our outspoken mayor, Naheed Nenshi. His Worship is known as an intelligent man, of firm opinions, readily and endlessly expressed. The Germans have a word that might best describe this, namely that he has a “Mundwerk“. That translates into 21st century parlance as, roughly, a “mouth that walks like a man”.

The mayor is remarkable in many ways, having emerged, fully formed, from the academic ether a few years ago. I first saw him in person acting as a commentator at the Calgary convention centre the night of the 2008 federal election. His deep-throated anti-Conservative invective echoed loudly around one corner of the room. Having just returned from 19 months in Ottawa, and never having seen the impassioned gentleman before in my life, I asked a passerby who he was. “Oh, that’s Naheed Nenshi, an instructor from Mt. Royal College” I was told. “Ah”, I said. It was then that I knew Keith Brownsey had met his match.

In more ways than the obvious, Nenshi is no champion of Calgary’s silent majority. He has the usual fixations of post-modern municipal government, namely anything but the basic services that average people actually care about. A stark example of this was his recent attendance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Traveling on the taxpayers’ ticket, the mayor took the opportunity to grandstand on the issue of pipelines, claiming that the province and feds had bungled the Keystone pipeline file and that he had successfully lobbied “senior U.S. officials” at Davos. Given that it might have taken some time for him to explain to the Americans who he was, the purported lobbying was quite a feat indeed. Good thing he had everything back home taken care of – road construction and repair, waste removal, budget tightening, program analysis and reductions; oh yes, snow removal too – that he had time to devote to higher matters like pipelines.

While it is easy to scorn Mr. Nenshi’s activities, his opponents would be ill-advised to underestimate him. Besides the necessary intellect, there is the aforementioned “Mundwerk” and the fact that his persona will compel the media to give him a pass. His interests and inclinations will almost certainly cause him to run provincially or federally in due course – as some of his leftish predecessors did.

If his effectiveness baring winter pavement is any indication, taxpayers should remain vigilant. And once he has the mayoralty gig engraved on his resume, they should beware an inevitable political reincarnation.

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