Anti-democracy mobs burned Canada's parliament on the 25th of April, 1849.

Canada had its own Tahrir Square, its own rebellion that won democracy. It happened, not on January 25 (#Jan25) but but on April 25. The year was 1849.

A hotly debated bill was passed in the Canadian legislature, then in Montreal. A rebellion a dozen years before, in 1837, had damaged property of residents of Lower Canada, now Quebec, like today, largely French-speaking. The bill promised money to repair damages from that rebellion. The bill passed, infuriating the English of Upper Canada. It was democracy, but those against the bill would have none of it. Their last hope was that the Governor-General would not sign the bill into law. He did, and rioting began.

Those who were against the bill believed those who rebelled in 1837 were traitors to Queen Victoria and should never be compensated. They were loyal to the Crown, and not to democracy. They were the elite of Canada, wealthy, many owing their positions to their pedigree. True democracy, responsible government, was not supported by them, and here was an example of what democracy could do. Furious, they burned parliament to the ground.

It happened quickly. A large mob gathered, further fueled their anger with speeches, and marched to the parliament where government members were debating. The mob angrily broke the windows of parliament, used a ladder as a battering ram and entered, overpowering those inside. After they burned parliament five days of rioting followed, damaging other property. There was looting. A coup was feared, local militia were armed. Trust was gone. A leading government minister, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, was attacked by mobs and rescued by soldiers. Both the government and the head of the Canadian armed forces, Lieutenant-General Sir Benjamin d’Urban, said they would not fire on the rioters.

It took great restraint. Lord Elgin, the governor-general, the highest ranking government official, the representative of Queen Victoria, was attacked  by a mob in his carriage. The mob stoned it. Elgin, surrounded, was rescued by soldiers as well.

The members of parliament bravely walked through the streets for a meeting at a hotel, a temporary parliament. The mob blocked them, stoned them, threw anything they could. Soldiers separated the two sides. The government met, and there Elgin said, “A free people…can discover…the best security..for their rights and liberties.”

The mob was not through. When Governor-General Elgin left the meeting, the mob attacked him again, and nearly destroyed his carriage. For four months he was under guard while tempers cooled. Elgin would continue to use the same near-destroyed carriage to open parliaments for the rest of his term of office, as a reminder of how dear democracy is, and how near it came to being lost in Canada, just at its birth.

Eighteen years later, July 1, 1967, Canada was born, with the asserted stance that  parliament, and therefore the people, were supreme.

Every free people faces a moment that determines how much they want democracy. Ours began on the 25th day on a month long ago.


Ironic that of all publications, Rolling Stone magazine can bring down a general. The killer quote can indeed kill.

The article, written by a features writer, not a news reporter, and one obviously unfamiliar but fascinated with the testosterone-laden, disdainful, and by necessity over-confident world of senior military staff, was also as obviously deeply embedded somehow among the general’s staff. The trust given him seems unprecedented. The result is considerable damage.

The article was a weapon of general destruction. It should not have been. An experienced president with more confidence than Mr. Obama will ignore the article, speak to the general, have a public meeting in the White House rose garden complete with its array of microphones and eager press, and announce confidence in the general. The war could then go on uninterrupted. This is, after all about war.

But President Obama may have fired the general. As of this moment, the Stars and Stripes published this photo, above left , and the general concerned, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, fit, professional and every inch the commander he should be, looks stricken. His eyes tell the tale, looking into forever, at a unknown black future before him.

When I noticed one other picture, in a news story, the photo taken some time ago, the one at left, I was struck by the body language. There was something odd about it, something uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Ever been in a meeting where someone has their turn speaking and you know what they are going to say, but you have to keep silent and listen politely? That’s the impression I had of McChrystal from this photo. Both men are leaning forward, there are things to discuss, but Obama looks down, guesturing with his hands, looking at his talking points. The photo was taken at a moment when there is no eye-to-eye dialogue, no let’s-do-this, no eye-to-eye contact, but one has the impression that even if there were, the general would still give the impression he was listening patiently but not taking in anything vital. He is there for an appointment. Imagine the general getting up and leaving this meeting from his chair. It is easier from the position he is sitting in to leave in a dismissive huff than with polite deference.

One does not take in new information from such a position. There is no openness. I gather from that he has not asked a question of the president who is going through his talking points, but that Obama is lecturing, providing general information, getting a message out and the general is politely taking it in because he has to.

Obviously the photo was taken aboard Air Force One, the general a top commander or he wouldn’t be there. The commander, even at rest, looks like a man of action. He is not there to relax.

Isolating McChrystal in the photo, without his wide stance and without Obama, we have a different impression. We focus on his face more. Gen, McChrystal is listening intently. His body language says, tell me what do do and I’ll do it. It is a look of deference and respect, in contast to the impression when both men are in the image.

Another president, Lincoln, had his trouble with generals, several of them. I remember once reading that he wrote and angry letter to one general and put it away and sent him another.  General Ulysses S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, who might have been a forgotten loser without the civil war, was the last in a long line of his top commanders. Grant drank. When someone complained, Lincoln said, more eloquently than I can put it, if whiskey was what it took, he should send some to all his generals.

Truman, too, had his general problems and met with a the corn-cob smoking, open shirted egomaniac Douglas McArthur on Wake Island after sitting on the tarmac in the ancient rendition of Air Force One before there was such a thing. Truman, aware of his position, was damned if he was going to go outside the plane and wait for the general. The general had to wait for him and greet him. Truman stubbornly sat in the plane until McArthur showed up.

Obama should be well above Rolling Stone magazine. This is war. He should not give a flying fig about the contents of the article. Both men recognize the landmine for what it is and avoid such in the future.

A feature writer for Rolling Stone magazine should not decide the fate of a general or the outcome of a war.

BBC news reports a gang in El Salvador torched a passenger bus, killing 14.

My sister-in-law, Nancy, a garment factory worker from the Philippines, rose to management from sewing machine labours in Honduras and Nicaragua. Part of her management assignments, liaise with sister factories, at least one in El Salvador. Provided a car, she drove alone. Her protection, a cell phone. Once an hour she was to call.

After dialing, she would hear: “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she replied. She called each hour. That cell phone, all the protection the company could afford.

Too bad I lost those dozen or so followers on Twitter. Hard not to notice the spike in readership.

This modest blog had its best readership during the American presidential election when people were desperate for information, any information, on Sara Palin. Best day about 300 hits. Not anyone’s readership numbers to envy, certainly, but there it is.

Then this blog languished (and so did I), dropping to five readers per day, two, one, reading what became very, very occasional blog posts.

Then I discovered Twitter. From those modest numbers a spike of 42 readers. Then I lose my place (see last post). But I am impressed. Twitter really is not at all what I thought it was.

Now I can truly be called a “Twit” on Twitter.

For that story, my reply to Diana Gallardo, kind enough to inquire in comments about the sudden loss of aardvarkcola from the Twitter landscape, is provided below, as an only slightly edited duplicate of my reply to her.

“Ah, Diana, so kind of you to notice. My fault, actually. I tried to log out of Twitter and to my horror found I could not. Work computer. That would never do, Twitter on the job, my tweets and twitterings readily available and readable to all and sundry. What to do? I had to delete all. It simply would not log off.
To save the name aardvarkcola from being erased forever from Twitter, I had to find a new name. Error270 came to mind. Then new password, new email and I moved to cancel that, which I never would have need of, thus saving my place on Twitter. Good plan, but it didn’t take. I should have waited longer for the Twitter server and computer to acknowledge all. I couldn’t log back in. Twitter simply reported back instantly deleting accounts was not something one could undo.
I am back, allowed in with new and altered email, “aardvarkcolamail”.
I see my tempermental work computer, available for use by students and instructors of chess in the evening, now logs out, having had its laugh.
Good to hear from you. Looking forward to add you again on Twitter.
And that, Diana, is the behind-the-scenes story of “Error270″.”

To me Twitter was 10 trillion boorish announcements, millions more spouting every second, of what some Twit was eating at that moment.

(I’m eating a ham sandwhich! Yum!)

Cyberspace, like the Gulf of Mexico, polluted with oily black Twitter plumes no one could cap.

I’ve had a change of heart. Twitter is poetry. Concisely penned expressions, from the sublime to the purely mundane. Twitter is a garden of precious expressions to be contemplated like I imagine a resting samuri once contemplated a flower petal.

After disdaining Twitter and ridiculing it, I have today, become Twitterpated. From India, Natasha Badhwar tweets as natashabadhwar at https://twitter.com/natashabadhwa It’s worth a read.

Notwithstanding the excellent film, Bend It Like Beckham, which, I understand was a pure love story, ball meets girl, there is no game but hockey.

Soccer just does not have the balls.

They are similar. In both games there is a goalie. There is also a  face off of sorts. In both games the object  is to crush the goalie’s vocal chords with the ball. Or puck.

There is passing, tripping, head butting, kicking and elbowing. Canadians like that. I get very excited, nationally speaking, with the possibilities, too, of gouging, spearing and knocking teeth out. That’s where real sports passion lives. Giving your cartilage for your country is something Canadians understand deeply.

Did I say spearing? Aye, there’s the rub. For how, in that spear to deaf-en, or to inflict what injuries to come, when we carry not a mortal foil, must give us pause. No hockey shtick.

The hockey stick is a weapon so cleverly disguised as a necessary tool of ice warefare, er, sportsmanship, that it boggles our beer befuddled minds. This is what is lacking in soccer. We simply do not understand it. How can you dig an eye out with no stick? Use your fingers? How barbaric! Is this what civilization has come to? I beg you, give us a civilized sport. Let us glide on ice with the wings of birds, the speed of sparrows, to flit and twirl not kick like girls.

I notice in soccer (the English mistakenly call it “football,” proving they’ve never attended a Grey Cup), I say again, I notice in soccer even the goalies are ashamed to be on the same team. They never wear team colours. What’s up with that? Fashion statement? Oh dear. Say no more. Give us a man’s game, I beg you.

Let us enjoy sport (read “hockey”)  the way God intended. Give them sticks. Let us watch Uruguay bash Nigeria the way Canadians bash each other. With pine, steamed and cured for that just-right feel when you connect with someone’s skull and hear that lovely crack sound just right.

Let us cheer an expert Irish backhand drop pass to fool English defenders and an Englishman cracking the blade of his hockey stick through a German or Mexican mouth, resulting in a beautiful slow-motion replay shower of molars spraying the field like welcome snow flakes on a cold crisp Canadian Christmas day.

Now, I ask you.  Isn’t that, gentlemen, what a good sport is made of?



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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence