Don't get me wrong. I was a big fan of Bob Costas back in the days when he actually worked for a living, back when he did baseball play by play with the great Tony Kubek as his color man, back when he actually had to ad lib rather than read from a teleprompter, back when he was covering live events rather than shilling for pre-recorded pablum, back when he interviewed important people rather than bantering with sports wannabes like Ryan Seacrest, back when his back account was tens of millions of dollars less stuffed.
Rep Steve Vaillancourt
Apparently the spring protests, which picked up again this week in Montreal, were more widespread than I had previously imagined, even quite violent.
They were so bad that Jean Charest`s Liberal government rushed through Bill 78 which limits protests and poses a dilemma for civil libertarians (and that would include me were I a citizen here).
Bill 78 requires that any protest involving more than 50 people file notice of its intended marching route at least eight hours in advance with police.
Now that an election has been called for September 4, some fear the bill will be used to quiet political speech. The Montreal Gazette weighed in with an editorial pooh poohing such fears today, but the spectre of cracking down on free speech is always troubling, something we in New Hampshire learned first-hand this year with the heavy-handed tactics of House Speaker Bill O`Brien.
At last check at least, the Charest government had not banned any media from his press conferences like O`Brien did to the Concord Monitor. However, there`s word in the Gazette today that Charest is beefing up security at his campaign stops, perhaps in an attempt to avoid having to answer tricky questions. As many as six of those men (we would call them Secret Service) were seen around him at a stop yesterday as Charest once again warned Quebecers that there are two ways to get a separatist referndum, either vote for his opponent Pauline Marois of the PQ or stay home in protest of his own government`s corrpution.
In other words, Charest appears to be saying--hold your nose and vote for me.
Such is the state of Quebec politics.
As for Bill 78, the Gazette says it is needed to allow police to plan for the proper response to protest marches. It was propmted by a May riot in Victoriaville when, according to the paper, "hard-core troublemakers arrived from out of town with genuine violent intentions."
It`s always a tough line to draw between the right to protest and the need to preserve a peaceful society. I suspect most of my Libertarian friends would come down against Bill 78; I suspect I would as well were I a Quebecer, but then in the closest analogy I can think of, I voted in favor of Speaker O`Brien shutting down the gallery in the House when protests broke out during the budget debate.
Disrupting a legislative body cannot be tolerated. Whether or not an eight hour notice when 51 people plan to get together is needed or not...well, you decide.
I only ran across a smattering of the pots and pans protesters last night, not as many as 50, but protests are continuing. Student leaders are ina quandary; they fear that should violence break out, there will be a reaction in favor of the Charest government the students are trying to defeat.
From the Grand Bibliotheque in Montreal
The weather isn`t the only thing heating up in Quebec. Just as I arrived last night, I heard word that Quebec Premier Jean Charest has called a provincial election, and unlike American election which seem to take forever, this one will be held September 5.
Charest`s government is riddled by scandal, and voters haven`t kept the same in party power for more than nine years since 1960, and this is Charest`s ninth year. However his Liberals are only two points (33-31) behind the separatist Party Quebecois in the latest polls. A third party polls 21 percent, and a fourth party (described as Marxist by the Gazette which is already providing excellent election coverage) comes in at seven percent.
That Marxist party could prove to be Charest`s salvation since it also favors Quebec leaving Canada.
Charest`s Liberals trail by 15 points among French speakers, but they get nearly all the votes from English speaking Quebecers, and the Premier is warning the English today that if they don`t get out to vote (for his party), they can expect another separtist vote.
Interesting, the national parties are staying completely out of this Quebec. Steve Harper`s Conservatives would probably prefer the Liberals to win (there is no Conservative option in Quebec; the ultra Liberal NDP swept the province in the most recent national elections).
Politics is even more fun in Quebec than back in the U.S.
For example, PQ leader Pauline Marois (Quebec has never elected a woman premier) notes that Canada`s first four medals in the Olympics were all won by Quebecers, yet another reason for Quebec becoming its own country.
I don`t follow the logic, but then I`m not a Quebecer.
Charest is counting on what he calls a silent majority to return him to power. The streets are hardly quiet here. Ten were arrested as riot police were called out just last night as college students resumed what is known as a pots and pans protest. They`ve been taking to the streets for more than 100 days protesting an $1800 rise in college tuition. At the border, I menitoned the "riot" to the woman who was checking my papers. "Oh yes, they`ve been doing that since March," she responded as if it was no big deal.
The PQ is siding with the students; Charest hopes voters will go against them.
As in England, elections are not set in stone in Canada. Charest has until Decmeber of 2013 to call one, but apparently he`s afraid a probe into scandals will worsen his position in coming months.
There will be three debates on Quebec TV in August, a round robin with the three major candidates squaring off in a a series of one-on-one encounters.
The fourth candidate, the Marxist (apparently) Amir Khadir is his his party`s only member of the legislature. He was recently arrested for blocking traffic during a protest.
That sounds like a rather minor offense compared to charges against Manchester politicians like Mike Garrity and Russ Ouellette.
I brought a camera with me and hope to get some good riot footage tonight.
Wish me well.
The Gazette, by the way, is available at montrealgazette.com. It`s far superior to any New Hampshire paper, and I dare say, to any American paper anywhere. "BATTLE WILL BE FIERCE" was today`s headline with a subhead "Quebecers are in a dark mood and analysts say the elction is too close, too volatile to call." It reports that Charest starts with 30 seats (from English areas) but getting the majority (there are 125 seats in the legislature here) is no done deal.
Prior to nine years of Liberal rule, the PQ was in power for nine years. My guess is that even if the PQ wins, separatism will not happen.
By the way, the Gazette featured nearly a half page obituary of Gore Vidal including the tidbit (from his memoir) that he had sex with more than 1000 people, presumably men. The paper doesn`t say he was gay but it notes he was never married and lived with a long-time companion in Italy. He also didn`t believe in the afterlife. "There is nothing else. This is it," he said.
From The Grand Bibliotheque in the Latin Quarter in Montreal.
In honor of the late great Johnny Carson, the royal we feature an occasional bit on our TV show called Vaillancarnak in which, having never before seen the questions, I divine answers in a rather mystical manner.
The turban is firmly in place.
The envelopes please.
Having never before seen the question, Vaillancarnak divines the answer to be--
"Open a Chick-Fil-A in Mt. Vernon."
This is where an Ed McMahon lookalike would repeat the answer.
"Open a Chick-Fil-A in Mt. Vernon" and I would proceed to rip open the evelope.
The question, of course, is, "What is Bill O`Brien planning to do with his spare time after voters toss him out this fall?"
You say one is not nearly enough...
The envelope please...
The answer is, "In the mirror."
The question, of course is, "Where should Bill O`Brien look if he really wants to find nepotism in state government?"
If you have to explain `em, any good comedian will tell you that you shouldn`t do `em, but then I`ve never claimed to be a good comedian.
The mirror reference is in regard to O`Brien`s refusal to comment on his $45,000 a year staffer Shannon Bettencourt, wife of the disgraced Republican majority leader. O`Brien couldn`t find nepotism in executive departments which are beyond his control, but he could find it right under his nose if he really wanted to root in out.
Check the mirror, Mr. Speaker.
I for one just can`t wait to to to that Chick-Fil-A in Mt. Vernon. I`ll be right in line behind Ray and Kathy.
The Chick-Fil-A controversy was all over the radio as I drove to Montreal last night (it`s rather difficult locating keys like the apostrope on this French computer--after all they have to make room for the accent marks).
This one is a no brainer. No matter what you think of the owner`s homophobic remarks, he certainly has a right to run his business. Chicago and Boson mayors have no right trying to block him from locating hin their fair cities. If you don`t like what he says, don`t patronize the establishmen. I`d never heard of the pace before, and now I just can`t wait to chow down on the first Chicken burger when it opens in Mt. Vernon.
The fact that Vaillancarnak has resurfaced does NOT mean that I`m smoking any of the funny stuff up here, although dealer are quite active right at the metro stop just outside the library...hmmm...
Maybe the jokes would be better if I tried, but that would be wrong...not to mention illegal.
The House clerk informs me that due to a great amount of interst, attendance scores for all 400 State Reps will soon be posted on the House web site. I had posted some of them here last week, but they were not available electronically leading some to wonder why not.
Give it a few days and you should be able to find scores for all 400 on the state site. The number of perfect 100 scores is currently at 100. I got a 99. Soon, I'll be posting a composite of attendance/HRA/Liberty scores for all Manchester Reps and selected House "leaders". In other words, there's a maximum of 300 points. I'm not listing just the highest scoring, but the highest scorer I could find was Carol McGuire of Epsom,
This is the kind of information that will be available only here. The attendance scores, however, will be posted on the House site.
It's a bit confusing because the attendance percentages for 2011 and 2012 are noted separately. The Liberty Alliance scores are separate for each of the two years, but the House Republican Alliance has combined the two years into one score.
If you know of an other ratings, including those from more liberal groups, let me know.