Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

David Letterman is the bridge between Johnny Carson and the current late night crop

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Johnny Carson asked David Letterman on the “Tonight Show” in 1991, “Can you envision yourself 20 years from now doing your late night show?”

Letterman laughed, making it clear that he had no interest in lasting as long as Johnny Carson’s 30 years in late night.

The fact that Letterman lasted 33 years in late night speaks to two things about David Letterman. He would have been embarassed to say in front of Carson that he had that level of ambition. And Letterman wanted to outlast Carson in general and Jay Leno in the 11:30 pm Eastern time slot.

So if you are a Millennial and wonder if Letterman has gone past his prime, go back to that Johnny Carson episode in 1991. It’s not that Carson is bad, but that the talk show world was different from when Carson started.

David Letterman was that world for that generation. When “Late Night” started in 1982, the TV world centered around Baby Boomers. Late night TV had made a few pushes such as “Saturday Night Live” (thought the original cast had left), “Fridays” on ABC, and SCTV reruns on NBC. Monday-Thursday was the “Tomorrow” show territory but that show had an intellectual audience and had peaked a few years back.

In 1982, David Letterman was late night. Stupid Pet Tricks, The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Viewer Mail, velcro, legendary appearances (sometimes for the wrong reasons) from Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler as well as Crispin Glover.

Letterman would go outside the studio to dispute other NBC shows, national and WNBC-TV, New York. He would drop various items from a rooftop. This was not Carson by a long shot.

Letterman came up with a late night show that emulated Carson and also gave us something new. Letterman had a monologue and a band, but Carson had a longer monologue and a band that was more interested in old music than new music. Ironically, the shorter monologue and smaller band were demands from Carson to differentiate his show from Letterman’s. Turns out that helped Letterman greatly.

Then again, when Letterman had the opportunity to expand the monologue and band at CBS, he did both.

Letterman’s humor might have been too old for Millennials, but his music taste expanded instead of being held back. Carson would never have dreamed about having on what would have been the 1991 equivalent of First Aid Kit.

If Letterman is missing a beat these days, it’s that his style has lost some of its anger, its edge. Unlike the Incredible Hulk, we did like Dave when he was a little angry.

Letterman challenged his guests. Cher, Madonna, and Oprah had issues with that. Bill O’Reilly as well, but for different reasons.

Letterman might not voted for John McCain, but Dave had the presidential candidate on quite often, asking him better questions than his news counterparts. When John McCain blew Letterman off in 2008, and his people discovered the CBS News feed where McCain was on the Evening News, his feisty nature made for beautiful TV.

Letterman was sincerely hurt but recognized in the moment, and this happened while the show was going, that this was comedic gold. When Letterman shouts at the TV monitor, asking McCain if he needs a ride to the airport, the audience bursts into laughter and applause. The situation was legitimately awkward: pinch hit guest Keith Olbermann, in the height of his MSNBC run, looks shaken at what is going on.

In subsequent nights, Letterman went after the joke about being abandoned. Letterman’s efforts were rewarded as McCain went back on the show and admitted to a national audience that he had “screwed up.”

Jon Stewart had McCain on a lot, but after McCain turned the page, the presidential candidate never went on “The Daily Show” ever again. McCain did go back to Letterman.

That exchange with McCain was less than 7 years ago. Carson never had anywhere near that kind of moment in his last 15 years.

During the Jay Leno vs. Conan O’Brien battles, you wanted to watch for Letterman’s reaction. Watching Letterman’s take on Leno made you forget that they used to be friends and that Letterman helped Leno get famous during the Late Night era. But that anger made Letterman funny.

Letterman’s take on General Electric when the company bought NBC was amazing television. That is the major reason why Letterman didn’t get the Tonight Show. But the idea of taking on your bosses spoke to a generation that couldn’t do that in real life but could on TV through Dave.

Letterman’s comedy was about release. Throwing items off a roof to see what would happen when they hit the ground. Full disclosure: we did that in college though inside down the center stairwell in the process of emptying out our refrigerators at the end of the year. We felt the euphoria that Letterman and his audience did on TV.

So as Letterman does his last show tonight on CBS, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Conan O’Brien, and in September, Stephen Colbert will be some of the many choices the current young generation will have to mourn their retirement years down the road.

David Letterman is the bridge between the old time talk shows and the current crop. In Letterman’s NBC show, he would often give credit to Steve Allen — the first “Tonight” show host — for borrowing some of his old bits. Every single major late night talk show host has Letterman to thank and credit for their success.

video credit: YouTube/Johnny Carson

Alberta votes for change, NDP, Rachel Notley

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

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Rachel Notley is the new premier-elect for Alberta in the first NDP government in the history of the province.

The New Democratic Party started the day with 4 seats of 87 seats in the Alberta legislature; the party won 53 seats in the election.

Notley was one of 2 members of legislative assembly (MLA) for the NDP elected in the 2008 election.

The Progressive Conservatives had been wobbly in recent elections, even if the number of seats was still rather high. For the first time in 44 years, the PCs will not be in power.

The last 4 years have seen 4 different PC premiers.

The NDP were predicted to do well in Edmonton and swept the capital ridings, but also won the majority of the Calgary ridings. Calgary hadn’t elected a NDP MLA since 1993; the party won a number of Calgary area seats.

The party had a high of 16 seats in the 1986 and 1989 elections; now the NDP has more than 3x the previous all-time high.

Rachel Notley is the 3rd female premier among Canadian provinces, joining Christy Clark in western neighbor British Columbia and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario. 2014 saw 3 female premiers leave office: Kathy Dunderdale (Newfoundland and Labrador), Alison Redford (Alberta), and Pauline Marois (Quebec). Notley is the first female premier elected since the 2014 negative wave.

Danielle Smith spent Election Day on the sidelines. Last fall, Smith was the leader of the opposition Wildrose Party as the majority of the Wildrose MLAs crossed over to the PC Party.

Smith lost her bid to run for the PCs and had to sit out this election. Alberta has its 2nd ever female premier and her name is not Danielle Smith.

A number of the NDP candidates were slated as federal candidates. Well, those candidates will be in Edmonton instead of running for seats in Ottawa in the federal election this fall.

Then again, the NDP will have momentum to recruit federal MP candidates, something the Alberta Liberals do not have.

Notley said during the campaign that she will not lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline or support the Northern Gateway pipeline, though she is in favor of other pipeline projects. Energy diversity will be more than just a buzzword in a Notley government.

Jim Prentice, the now outgoing premier and PC leader, brought in a poorly received budget. Prentice had been a Conservative MP in Ottawa until 2010. Prentice won the PC leadership battle last fall.

The PC Party went from 70 seats to a 3rd place finish with 10 seats. Prentice, in his concession speech, resigned as party leader and MLA. Since Prentice won his seat, there will be a by-election and you can almost count on the PCs losing that seat.

The PC and NDP literally tied in the Calgary-Glenmore riding.

Brian Jean is the new opposition leader for the Wildrose Party. Jean won a seat in the Alberta legislature after serving as a federal Conservative MP and retiring from politics last year. The Wildrose Party went from 5 seats before the election to 21 seats.

The Wildrose had 17 seats in the last election in 2012 under Danielle Smith.

Interim Liberal Party leader David Swann will go to Edmonton as the only Liberal Party MLA. The Liberals had 5 seats, one more seat than the NDP before the election.

Greg Clark won a seat for the Alberta Party, a more progressive party. This was the first seat ever in the history of the party.

Calgary celebrated its #CofRed last night with the Flames OT win, but the red of the Liberals have as many seats as the Alberta Party.

Alberta’s pattern is to give a different party a chance to establish a dynasty and not go back to that party one they’ve lost.

The Progressive Conservatives won its first election in Alberta in 1971. The PCs took over from the Social Credit Party that was in charge for the previous 36 years.

The Liberal Party won Alberta’s first 4 elections, ranging from 1905 to 1921. The United Farmers Party was in charge from 1921-1935.

Before last night, 4 parties have had a chance to rule in Alberta, and 2 of them don’t exist anymore.

photo credit: CBC Calgary

Green Maritimes? Prince Edward Island elects Green Party MLA

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

The Green Party and the NDP combined for more than 20% of the vote in yesterday’s provincial election in Prince Edward Island. In a province where only Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have run government and only one member of legislative assembly (MLA) came from a 3rd party, the electorate wanted something other than chocolate and vanilla.

The Liberals stayed in power though they lost 4 seats of their margin: unofficially 18 Liberals, 8 Progressive Conservatives, and 1 Green Party MLA.

Country dentist Peter Bevan-Baker became the first MLA of a 3rd party since 1996 and only the second ever in the history of the province. Bevan-Baker joins David Coon of New Brunswick as Green Party MLAs in the Maritimes.

Bevan-Baker was running in his 10th election and had never been elected to any post … until Monday.

Wade MacLauchlan retains his post as premier with a late comeback to win his own district. MacLauchlan was the only one who ran for the Liberal Party leadership after long-time premier Robert Ghiz resigned.

Rob Lantz, the Progressive Conservative leader, didn’t win his own district. Both MacLauchlan and Lantz became their party leaders in February.

Mike Redmond was running his first race as NDP leader. Redmond finished 3rd of 4 candidates in his district but fellow NDP candidate Gord McNeilly came so close to winning a district. McNeilly was leading with all but one poll remaining, but the last poll put incumbent Liberal Kathleen Casey over the top.

Herb Dickieson of the NDP was the only MLA not from the 2 major parties to be elected in 1996. Dickieson is a physician and Bevan-Baker a dentist, so both MLAs from 3rd party are doctors when not being politicians.

* MacLauchlan is the first openly gay premier elected in Prince Edward Island and the second openly gay premier in Canada alongside Kathleen Wynne in Ontario.

* The NDP and Green Party wanted to challenge the province’s stance on not allowing abortions. The PCs and Liberal Party campaigned on keeping the status quo on abortions.

* Prince Edward Island is the smallest of the provinces in terms of population (74,571 voted in the 2011 election) but its voter turnout is astoundingly high. The province had an 84.6% voter turnout in this election. PEI has only had 2 voter turnouts in almost 50 years at less than 80%, with 2011 coming in at 76.4%.

Would love to see the 2015 Canadian federal election come close to those marks.

If you watched the CBC Charlottetown coverage or listened to it via CBCT on CBC Radio One out of Charlottetown, you might have recognized Bruce Rainnie. Rainnie is known in sports circles for his coverage of numerous sports. Rainnie has even filled in on Hockey Night in Canada telecasts.

Despite his sports prowess, Rainnie is the news anchor of CBC News: Compass, the only TV newscast geared specifically toward Prince Edward Island.

As someone who has done news and sports on radio, I can appreciate someone who can do both jobs rather well, and Rainnie certainly belongs in that category.

Written by democracysoup

May 5, 2015 at 10:15 am

Posted in Canada

Tagged with ,

Seeing Canada’s Governor General in person

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

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Canada’s Governor General David Johnston spoke of a “diplomacy of knowledge” between Canada and the United States, to work across disciplines with different yet complementary attributes across relationships.

Johnston, despite being the Governor General of Canada, does have experience observing the United States. Johnston grew up in Sault Ste, Marie, Canada — just across the border from its fraternal twin, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree.

Johnston’s speech in Chicago was the first time in about 100 years that a governor general visited the city. This despite the fact that Illinois is the second-strongest trading partner among U.S. states only behind Michigan.

He talked about what it was like to grow up next to the United States. Johnston noted the “most special relationship in the world” between the two countries, despite the issues and tensions.

Johnston eagerly quoted from President Kennedy’s speech before the Canadian Parliament in 1961 when Kennedy said, “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.”

I asked Johnston about the idea of portability of people across borders, such as they do in the European Union, and bringing that idea to North America.

Johnston likes the idea and would do it in stages, using NAFTA as a framework to get that done. “Intellectual capital should flow more easily” between the two countries.

He noted that products can have 68 passages across the borders before the product is finished.

“Cherish our teachers” — this is how Johnston described what makes Canadian education distinct. He noted that teachers are well-paid in Canada and how teachers are respected.

Johnston said if it were up to him, Canadians would spend a year abroad to develop intercultural relationships.

When asked about Canada’s role on the international stage, Johnston said Canada should be Athens to the new Romans, meaning that Canada should be known for education around the world.

He did note, and his Harvard experience is only an example, that the United States has the majority of the top universities in the world.

The discussion also covered free trade. Johnston brought up the Trans Pacific Partnership and Canada’s recent trade deal with the European Union.

He also talked about NAFTA and how, as North Americans, we need to look 3 ways in the trade discussion.

Johnston says he is in favor of free trade but with fair rules. Societies have prospered with trade over the years, he noted.

The words Keystone and pipeline were not used, but Johnston tossed out the question about “what if the U.S. got all of its oil from North America?”

Johnston gave a speech followed by a Q&A. He talked about lighter topics such as growing up in Sault Ste. Marie and playing on a 17-and-under team with Phil Esposito and a 14-year-old backup goalie named Tony Esposito. Johnston played hockey at Harvard.

The role of the governor general is an intriguing one to someone who is still learning about Canada. People rose when Johnston entered the room but when he was speaking, he was very down to earth.

Governor General David Johnston is the head of state in charge of the military in Canada. Yet he’s also not a politician or a king. Johnston’s stint as governor general was recently extended by 2 years in great part to show consistency during what should be a significant federal election.

I got a chance to tour Rideau Hall — the home of the Governor General — last summer in Ottawa. But an even better way to learn about the governor general and its role in Canada is to hear the Governor General give a speech.

photo credit: me

Is Harper Government playing politics with 2-year Governor General extension?

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended David Johnston’s tenure as Governor General of Canada for an additional 2 years.

Though the Governor General technically represents the Queen in Canada, how long the Governor General serves depends on the prime minister.

The Governor General usually serves about 5 years in the role in Canada. Johnston has been in the role since October 1, 2010.

The end of a 5-year term would come right around the federal election, provided that election is on time. Extending the term is not the surprise; extending the term by 2 years is the surprise.

Roland Michener was the last Governor General to serve as many as 7 years (1967-1974), though a few have served 6 years. Michaëlle Jean, Johnston’s predecessor, served 5 years and 4 days. Adrienne Clarkson, Jean’s predecessor, served about 10 days short of 6 years.

Jean was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005, so Johnston has been Harper’s only pick. Jean was helpful to Harper in 2008 when she prorogued Parliament, ensuring that the Conservatives would remain in power.

We were told in the announcement last week that the extension was also to cover Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. Plausible, but the real impact will be serving through the next election and beyond, no matter which party wins the election.

The fixed election date that Harper and the Conservatives pushed through is designed to call for an election every 5 years. The Governor General’s term lasts 5 years, so the 2-year extension would change the timing so that the two don’t collide.

If Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair is the new prime minister, they will end up with a Governor General they didn’t pick for 2 years.

The presumption for Harper’s decision — besides him making the decision and not the Queen — is that the announcement implies that Harper will win in October … or September or August.

Every politician thinks they will win an election; acting as if that is guaranteed to happen comes across as pompous.

Of course, Johnston’s 2-year extension is subject to change if someone other than Harper wins this year, though expect Johnston to remain for a few months at absolute minimum.

Canadian-born Ted Cruz to run for U.S. president

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

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By every interpretation of “natural-born citizen” in the United States Constitution, Ted Cruz is not eligible to run for President of the United States. Yet the junior senator from Texas will announce his presidential run for 2016 later today.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1970 and lived in Canada for his first 4 years.

Though Cruz did not have to do so, he eventually renounced his Canadian citizenship. Cruz’s father is Cuban; Cruz has not renounced any ties to Cuba because of the status of his birth.

The argument for Cruz is that because his mother is American, Cruz is a “natural-born” citizen. The only problem is that we don’t know if that is allowed.

The intriguing subplot to this story is that the Tea Party, the source of a lot of Cruz’s support, offered up a theory that a person born to a foreign-born father and an American mother outside the United States is not eligible to be president.

They claimed this was true for President Barack Obama without offering a shred of proof. All but a tiny percentage have been quiet on this point of order about Cruz.

Now that Cruz will be a presidential candidate, the media should ask him about his words about why he didn’t want to be a Canadian citizen. If Cruz gets elected, he’ll be the first president who was a Canadian citizen and lived in Canada. President Cruz will have to work a lot with Canada on numerous trade and security issues. Yet you get the feeling that I know more about Canada than Senator Cruz.

In reality, Cruz has less of a chance of winning the 2016 GOP nomination than George Romney did in 1968. Romney was born and raised in Mexico and is a child of U.S. citizens.

Ted Cruz can be prime minister of Canada, even if he wasn’t born in Canada. But until they changed the rules, he can’t be president of the United States.

photo illustration by: Gage Skidmore / Todd Wiseman

2015 Canadian politics preview

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This column courtesy of CanadianCrossing.com runs here with complete permission.

The primary focus on Canadian politics in 2015 will be the much-awaited federal election, scheduled for October 19.

Students of Canadian politics might be puzzled at a fixed date, but the Harper Government changed the rules to be on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election.

The election could be called before this date, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated so far that the date will not change.

Stephen Harper is now the sixth longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history. On November 13, Harper marked his 3,203rd day on the job. The prime minister went past the last elected Tory PM Brian Mulroney and Robert Borden, who led Canada through World War I.

Harper’s run will be longer than the Mulroney/Campbell term, but 9 years is often a breaking point for the electorate. The Conservatives haven’t had a majority all those 9 years, but Harper has been visible in that role all this time. Even if somehow Harper were to abdicate in the role to a fellow conservative, there isn’t an obvious successor.

We are seeing signs of an election year from the Harper Government. After over a year without a meeting and many questions about why Harper wouldn’t visit with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Harper finally visited with Wynne in Toronto before going to the World Juniors final.

Julian Fantino was a disaster as Veteran Affairs minister. So Harper dumped him from the post but kept him in the cabinet as an associate minister on Defense (current, not former troops).

In 2 on-camera incidents, Fantino is arguing with a veteran and brazenly ignoring a veteran’s pleading and angry wife.

Both moves were to shore up Ontario support, specifically ridings in the Toronto suburbs — the 905 area code.

In an non-Ontario move, Harper appointed House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers the new ambassador to Ireland. Vickers will likely do a fine job but the timing feels really political.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu, and Forces et Démocratie Party Leader Jean-François Fortin all want to take advantage of the anti-Harper movement. Quebec, the Toronto suburbs, and scattered seats in the West are the best path to victory in 2015.

The Forces et Démocratie is brand new. This is a new political party formed last fall as MP Jean-François Fortin (Bloc Québécois) and Jean-François Larose (NDP) left their parties to form a new party. The party’s ideology, according to Wikipedia, is social democracy, Quebec nationalism, and regionalism.

Of the current 308 seats, the Conservatives have 163 seats. the NDP, as the official opposition, has 95 seats. The Liberals have 35 seats.

The parliament has 7 independents with 2 seats each for the Green Party, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Forces et Démocratie as well as 2 vacant seats.

The NDP losses since the 2011 federal election is a pattern to watch for 2015. Those seats that were mostly Bloc Quebecois in 2011 that went NDP in the last election are seats that the Liberals and NDP will be fighting for in 2015. The Liberals won’t come close to getting a majority without those Quebec seats.

One of those lost NDP seats came when Olivia Chow resigned from Parliament to run for mayor of Toronto. The Liberal candidate won the Trinity-Spadina riding in a byelection.

Even with the federal election in 2015, we know there will be some stirring in the provinces, though 2015 would have a difficult time topping 2014.

Last month, Danielle Smith and 8 other Wildrose Party MLAs in Alberta jumped to the reigning Progressive Conservative Party. You might remember Smith from the infamous bus picture video when she ran for premier back in 2013.

Though more than ½ of the party jumped, the Wildrose Party is still the opposition party in Alberta. Heather Forsyth is the interim party leader. Smith had been the Wildrose Party leader since 2009.

Jim Prentice is the relatively new premier and his presence made the move easier for Smith and the other MLAs. Prentice has made hints that a provincial election could be called in 2015; he was named the new party leader following the departure of Alison Redford. Calling an election is an act that newly appointed premiers often do.

Manitoba should be the loudest province when 2015 is over. Premier Greg Selinger had several NDP cabinet members leave the cabinet in protest in part over a provincial sales tax increase. Selinger will be defending his leader role against Theresa Oswald and Steve Ashton in March.

Current polls have the PC Party far ahead in Manitoba.

Manitoba might call for an earlier election, depending on how the NDP Party leadership race goes.

Of the 57 seats in the Manitoba legislature, the reigning NDP has 35 seats. The PC Party, as the opposition, has 19 seats. The Liberal Party has 1 seat.

Manitoba — along with Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories — all have provincial elections scheduled for the fall of 2015. Since the federal election will also be in the fall, the provinces and territory are making plans to postpone their elections to not coincide with the federal election.

The Newfoundland and Labrador election is scheduled for no later than September 26, but there isn’t a contingency right now to move the election to spring 2016.

The province had 3 premiers in 2014, starting with Kathy Dunderdale followed by Tom Marshall and finally Paul Davis. This doesn’t even count Frank Coleman, who would have won (as the only candidate) the PC leadership if he had not withdrawn due to a “significant and challenging family matter.”

The PCs have 29 seats versus 16 for the Liberals and 3 for the NDP. Unlike other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador has an even number of seats. The Liberals are leading strongly in the polls.

Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are not in danger of flipping. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall of the Saskatchewan Party has 49 of the 61 seats. The NDP Party is the opposition party with 9 seats. In Prince Edward Island, Premier Robert Ghiz of the Liberal Party has 23 of the 27 seats. The PC Party is the opposition party with 3 seats.

The quiet provinces in 2015, barring unexpected news, will be Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia. The first 3 provinces on that list had 2014 elections while the last 2 had 2013 elections.

Speaking of quiet, we’ll have a lot less Rob Ford coverage in 2015. A lot less.

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