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An away game in the Bush league

11/29/2004 7:00 AM
Mark Hammer
An away game in the Bush league
The Prez comes to my town tomorrow (Ottawa, Tuesday) for the first time. Naturally, this has served as a magnet for protests and that implies that the downtown core will be sealed off in a variety of ways. Hopefully, I'll get into work early enough that my bus will arrive on time. While I suppose the "Iraq thing" will be dragged out by protesters, key issues this visit are the arm-twisting for Canada to join in the missile-defense plan, softwood lumber, and opening the borders to Canadian beef.  
Both factions - those organizing the visit, and protesters - have been rather guarded in their plans, so there is a general anxiety amongst both storeowners and people who work downtown regarding the impact of the visit on them. People don't know that the visit/protests will NOT pass their way.  
It seems that when it comes to bush, Canada can't keep its fingers off the stove. First we have the litigation between the former 70's Toronto band named Bush and the British band of the same name that originally was called Bush X but decided it wanted to be just Bush. Then of course we have the assorted provincial decisions regarding women who wanted to be married but keep bush in their lives. And now this.  
I'm on the 21st floor of a downtown government tower, so I can see a lot from where I am (including some of Parliament Hill). I'll give you a status report tomorrow once the mélée starts.
11/29/2004 10:32 AM
Mark Hammer
It gets even more interesting
Fifteen minutes ago I find out I have to actually GO to Parliament to take notes for someone at some committee hearing, so I get the untold pleasure of having to go through all the security checkpoints on what will probably be a day of the tightest security they've had in Parliament in many years. As Stimpson Cat would say: "Joy!". Official notices indicate that regular employees on Parliament Hill will be subject to a sort of shifting exclusion zone security perimeter) that will follow Bush and effectively buffer him from contact with the outside world.  
I contrast this with a behind-the-scenes visit to Parliament in June 2001, when a photographer buddy who worked there had a word with the security guard and took me for a tour into the PM's office and took some pix of me sitting at the PM's desk with the White House hotline a few feet away. Boy times change, don't they?  
I take it I should leave the Rage Against The Machine and Ché Guevara T-shirts, floppy Rastaman hats, etc, at home tomorrow. Also probably not the day to bring a non-functioning perfboard project on the bus in a coat pocket to check for bad solder joints and missing ground connections. How do you explain THAT one to the security guard with the metal detecting wand? :D
11/30/2004 6:33 AM
Dave H

"Official notices indicate that regular employees on Parliament Hill will be subject to a sort of shifting exclusion zone security perimeter) that will follow Bush and effectively buffer him from contact with the outside world."
Some would say he never should have had any contact with the outside world in the first place :D
11/30/2004 11:16 AM
Mark Hammer

Back from Parliament Hill, and everything seems pretty bland, though the place is absolutely crawling with police and the helicopters are circling overhead. For the most part, folks are just milling around on the hill and the adjacent streets, with the odd group of kids happily schlepping their placards down the street. Reminds me of when I lived in Montreal during the October Crisis in 1970 when the military had the city pretty much under lockdown...with the exception of people feeling free to express their opinions. We'll see what happens when the busloads arrive froom universities in other cities.
11/30/2004 1:00 PM
Mark Hammer

Well, the marchers have come and gone. They passed down our street, and on to Parliament Hill. I haven't listened to the news, but it would seem to have been without incident. Of course that didn't stop the McDonald's near Parliament Hill from covering their windows with plywood, "just in case". Never watched a march that big from so high up before. There were a couple of block's worth of what seemed to be mostly students. I estimate about 2000-2500. No riot cops, just regular police behind them.
11/30/2004 9:48 PM

Thanks for the reporting, Mark.  
It's been awhile since a president of the US has universaly been held in such regards. I suppose we'll have to get used to it.  
Being right isn't easy. It's hard work.
12/1/2004 1:06 PM
Mark Hammer
Well it would seem GW gets a little help state-side.  
Folks here had been waiting 3 years for a little thankyou re:9-11. So, after a pretty brief meeting yesterday (and it is hard to imagine that much of substance took place in the time frame allotted), he scoots off to Halifax today to give the only public speech of the trip.  
CBC Newsworld and CTV covered it, and so did CNN. None of the other American networks broadcast it. On CBC, they broadcast the whole thing from beginning to end. On CNN they put it on only AFTER Prime Minister Martin had talked and Bush was up to the plate. On CBC/CTV there was a polite little inset at the bottom that remained throughout, indicating the date, location and visit. On CNN, the banner news headings ran constantly in several places on the screen.  
GWB tried to start with some jokes that his speechwriters had dug up and likely had to explain to him. It was basically on the order of the Spinal Tap episode of the Simpsons where one of them says "Hello..." flips the guitar over to read the notes "...Springfield". I was waiting for "Canadian audiences are the greatest!" or some similar Vegas phrase.  
One of the quips concerned our mutual anxiety about the resumption of the hockey season. Mmmm-hmmm, NHL hockey is a REALLY big thing in the oval office. A second joke is about having eaten Alberta beef at a reception the night before ...."And I'm still standing". You go, "Shecky" Bush!! What next, an HBO special with Chris Rock?  
Another quip concerned wanting to have met Jean Poutine. Okay, that one needs some explaining. One of the premier political satirists on TV is a fellow named Rick Mercer. In the grand tradition of Newfoundland satirists, he takes no prisoners. One of his segments that always plays well here is something called "Talking to Americans", in which he poses, almost Ali G style, as a Canadian interviewer seeking American public opinion about pressing social issues in Canada. All of the questions contain erroneous information, (such as queries about the Saskatchewan seal hunt), and are usually asked in places held in high esteem, such as the quad at Harvard or in Washington.  
In 2000, Mercer managed to meet up with Bush on the campaign trail and inquire about "Prime Minister Jean Poutine", which Bush fielded sincerely and I think even used the name in his reply. For the wholly uninitiated, poutine is an indigenous Quebecois fast food, developed within the last 30-40 years, consisting of french fries with cheese curds sprinkled on top, and gravy on top of that. It has found its way into Canadian culture enough that even frozen potato giant McCain foods has been test marketing frozen poutine.  
So, here we have a Bush naive enough to be unfamiliar with a cultural symbol of a neighbour that it would be a bit like asking our PM what he thought about Texas governor Taco Bell, or Mexican president Vincente Burrito. Of course, we got a chuckle out of it.  
Three years later, one of his speechwriters digs up the reference, and they stick it in the speech as if to say "Yeah, you got me good that time, but there won't be a second time".  
When Bush's speech was over, one of the CNN co-anchors notes the "Jean poutine" remark, and explains to the viewers that "poutine is something you eat" and is sort of like "fries and gravy".  
And people wonder why it takes a lot for the USA to win the hearts and minds of Canadians.
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