Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stop the Stupid

First Rick Salutin, and now, according to Paul Wells, Tabatha Southey.

Maybe the Globe staff heard that big whale Teneycke was available and are trying to slip down to his standards to win him over.

Canada no longer has serious major newspaper.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adam Radwanski's Crystal Ball

This is an odd article.

Radwanski suggests that the pitchforks are being gathered in populist anger towards incumbent governments. Something about the recession and big government... or something.

Yet every single politician he names is in it up to his neck for a very good reason. You don't need to put on your wizard hat and blather on about "residual resentment toward public employees" to figure out why Brown lost, Campbell is done, and New Brunswick has a new government. Nor do you need to read very much into a Provincial Premier trailing in the polls after a trip up in the economy. There's nothing mysterious here.

God I hate fake narratives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Black Sheep of the Social Sciences

"teach political economy on more modern and more socialist lines than those on which it had been taught hitherto, and to serve at the same time as a school of higher commercial education"
-Sidney Webb on the purpose of The LSE

This is a funny place. The LSE was created in a different time. A time when Smelly Ol' London really was Smelly Ol' London. When poverty was a civic emergency that mobilized people like Sidney Webb to fight against the newest breed of robber barons.

Today I had my School Orientation presentation and the difference between then and now was striking. On one hand we had the head of the student union talking about the glory days of The LSE, showing pictures from massive demonstrations down Fleet Street. She rhymed off all the achievements of the Union and its latest fight against unchecked tuition fees and encouraged us all to show up at the General Meeting to give the Director hell. She got a polite round of applause. The Dean of Graduate Studies, on the otherhand, told us a tale of a young economist he got a job for after Lehman Brothers collapsed. This produced an audible, impressed, gasp from the assembled would-be bankers.

Paul Krugman talks about this alot, but the difference in reactions from the students really illustrated to me how far Economics has fallen away from the other social sciences. I don't want to get up on a high horse, but very few people get into Comparative Politics for the bling, but for economics students it really is all about the money, and the way to that money is by acknowledging The Truth of free markets and evil government. There has to be some serious grave spinning going on in Westminster Abbey (aside: what happens when the spinner in question was cremated?).

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Canadian Abroad

You face a bit of a conundrum when you commit to an extended period of time away from your home. As an "informed citizen", do you keep up with goings on at home, or do you take a break and enjoy the responsibility free feeling of being a foreign alien in another country?

The last time I was living in Europe I didn't have much of a choice. Internet access was infrequent in the small oceanside village where I lived, and The Munster Express doesn't exactly have a Canadian office. It was a pleasant experience. Being forcefully removed from the gong show that is Canadian politics was good for me after my undergrad in Ottawa. Actually, having only a general sense of what was going on back across the Atlantic put me on the same level as most Canadians. I think it put alot of things in a more real perspective. It was nice to be able to read a newspaper and laugh about Irish political scandals (invariably involving alcohol) instead of kvetching about fake crises in Canada.

This time I have an actual choice to make. I'll have internet access and I'll be in a major world city, with access to all the media I could possibly want. So I have a decision to make over the next few days, between pints of real ale and the resultant hangovers. To be honest, the choice has already been made. I don't want to be reading Jane Taber and checking Paul Wells tweets from London. To that end, I, like anyone with half a brain, will be spending every spare second out and about in the City of Cities and every spare minute doing beer runs to Brussels and breakfast trips to Amsterdam. So really it's just a matter of discipline.

All that said, a few months from now, sitting in my local with a pint of Fuller's, I think I can realistically look forward to seeing an article in The Times with the line, "Canadian Conservative Party wins another minority government, sparks dissent within caucus." If I had a particularly cheery disposition, I might have written "loses", but it's always better to lower your expectations. Frankly, I think watching Harper fend off Flaherty, Clement, and Bernier, as they try to stab him in the throat would be pretty enjoyable.

So I'm off! Wish me luck.

A Coup by the Elites

Toronto Elite (Harvard trained no less) replaces Toronto Elite as Toronto Elite's Chief of Staff. Toronto Elite Party President is thrilled. Conservative grassroots is outraged... surely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Conservative "Thought"

Now, David Warren is, objectively speaking, a very stupid man. For that reason, I'll rarely comment on one of his brain farts. But he wrote something this weekend that I just had to share:

They (Shiner: Thatcher, Reagan) knew that bureaucracy is an evil; but accepted it as a necessary evil, susceptible to reform and occasional "downsizing." We need to take one step farther, and grasp that it is an unnecessary evil -- that any human activity which requires a cumbersome bureaucracy is itself morally dubious; that anything which reduces the human being to a "unit" for bureaucratic purposes is in its nature inhuman.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the activities he's talking about are war and justice. Am I close? If anyone can decode the above nonsense, please share.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Wychcraft

And the countdown is on, one week until London! In honour of that, a bog standard English Pale Ale just released at the LCBO.

Wychwood Brewery
Oxfordshire, UK
English Pale Ale

Looks like a straw lager. Very pale gold. Loads of visible carbonation. Medium white head settles quickly to a thin film. Spotty lacings.

Hm. Don't know if I've ever talked about diacetyl in beer before. Diacetyl is a compound produced by fermentation. It also happens to be a key compound in butter. Usually, but not always, it's a sign that something has gone wrong in a beer. You'll get a very buttery taste, it will seem almost slippery. You'll also notice it on the nose, which is the case here. That said, there is also some vague citrus aroma, sweet orange, with just a bit of fruity malt in there.

Carbonation seems to get in the way a bit. It's almost club soda like up front, hard to get much taste off it. Once you get past that there's a noticeable lager character to the flavour, sort of grainy as opposed to the usual fruit and caramel you get from and English ale. Hopping leaves a bit to be desired. Bittering, but I'm getting almost no citrus flavours off it. Moderate sulfur throughout. Aftertaste leaves a nice hint of lemon.

Mouthfeel threw things off for me. Carbonation seems out of whack.

Not my favourite from a brewer I've always enjoyed. Their Fiddler's Elbow was one of my favourites, though many find it too sweet. Give this one a shot while the LCBO has it, let me know if I'm way off.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I like to think that I usually pass on stories that everyone else is going to be commenting on unless I have something worthwhile to say. Not in this case. Like it says above, awesome.

EDIT: Paul Wells via twitter: June 9, 2010 - Sept. 15, 2010: the best summer job since Kim Campbell's. Ha!

"Tories thrilled"

That's how Don Martin describes the mood in the CPC caucus after Layton's declaration that he has saved the long gun registry. His (or Funke's) analysis is spot on. The opposition should have let the registry die. The Conservatives never wanted to win this fight, and Layton (and Ignatieff for pushing him) played right into their hands. Which is bizarre because my dog saw through this little nugget of political strategy... and he's a Lab.

Others saw this coming a mile away.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Afternoon Beer: Blanche du Paradis

Beautiful thing about being happily unemployed is that Monday afternoons are the same as Friday nights. Don't tell my girlfriend though, she thinks I'm reading Lipset, Horowitz, and Said.

I've been a bit lazy when it comes to beer news in Onterrible, and so failed to tell everyone about a big Dieu du Ciel promotion in the province. Dieu du Ciel, a brewpub in Montreal, is probably the best commercial brewery in the country. Take a look at the link above and check your local LCBO's online inventory for any stock. They're all good beers. Peche Mortal, an imperial coffee stout, is widely considered the best beer in Canada. Corne du Diable is a wonderful Canadian IPA. Aphrodite was an epiphany beer for me when I had it at the Montreal beer festival this year.

Today I'm going with something new for me, DDC's take on the delicate wit, Blanche du Paradis. Wit beers, if you'll pardon the expression, broke my good beer cherry. Unfortunately we don't get many good examples in Ontario. Blanche du Chambly from Unibroue is probably the best made, and I'm not a big Unibroue fan. The wit is the classic Belgian wheat beer. It has little resemblance, aside from maybe colour, to its German cousin the Hefeweizen. I said delicate above, and that, I think, is the perfect description for a wit. These are light refreshing beers, but they're incredibly full-flavoured. We're talking about a barnyard wheat base, dusty Belgian yeast, zippy coriander spicing, and bittering citrus from orange peel. The best ones blend all these flavours perfectly on top of a nice chewy, I like to say cookie dough, malt base.

Blanche du Paradis
Dieu du Ciel

Looks like a wit should. A very light straw. Hazy. Snow white head balloons up and settles quickly.

Strong spicing on this example. A nose full of coriander first, followed by some mellow tangerine. Also a noticeable bitterness that suggests some heavier than usual hopping unless it's coming from the spices.

It's that odd bitterness right up front. There's a really unique herbal character to this beer. You can feel those nice rounded flavours, but they're lingering behind heavy spicing. There's a real out-of-place bitterness to it.

Mouthfeel is right. This should be a smooth, lightly-carbonated beer.

An interesting example. I think I enjoy it more than the Chambly from Unibroue, and it's certainly better than Hoegaarden, but I wouldn't buy it by the case. Worth a try. Do a blind tasting with the other two and even include the Keiths' and Rickards' examples for a real learning experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The New Economics

Interesting read from Salutin in the Globe.

Once upon a time Europeans and Americans built things, Canadians mined and farmed things, and everyone else bought things. Then free-trade became all the rage. Suddenly Europeans and Americans were still building, but the nuts and bolts manufacturing had been shipped off to China and South America, Canadians kept mining and farming. Free-trade was sold as an evolution of things, yes we (or they, the Americans) were moving away from the dirty work, but they were heading towards the information and knowledge economy, an entire nation based on the creative class, a nation of people that simply came up with stuff for other people to build and then bought it from them.

The theory that all this was good for Americans was sound... as long as the Chinese, Indians, and South Americans stayed poor and uneducated. Well, they aren't anymore. Suddenly the technology and productivity of the poorer countries are sneaking up on, or moving ahead of, that in the United States.

The only way to stay ahead is by becoming more educated, which is near impossible given the speed of knowledge today, or to have value buried in the dirt, Canada's saving grace (though probably not for long given the new Conservative's insistence on selling off every harvesting asset in the country).

So there's the question, what happens when the Western world no longer has anything to offer to the invisible hand?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

8 Long Years

Something caught my eye this morning. Here's the story. To be completely honest, it caught my girlfriend's eye. My reaction was "So what?" and she said "Well, I just think it's interesting. Everytime you hear about soldiers dying over there you hear that they have young children. Guess their children aren't so young anymore."

It's true. The children of soldiers who were deployed in 2002 are now eight years older. A 9 or 10 year old, not even in highschool when the Twin Towers came down, is now heading to university. To put it another way, the children of the younger members of our military are just about ready to join dad or mom in Afghanistan.