Is Michael Ignatieff As Good As His Word?

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 7:21 PM 0 comments
Ignatieff pledges not to reciprocate personal attacks

If there's any one word that could be used to sum up the recent Conservative ads regarding Michael Ignatieff, it's personal.

Rarely have Canadian politicians taken it upon themselves to attack a political opponent on such personal grounds, but the Conservatives have done this. It's absolutely undeniable.

Speaking on the matter today, however, the Liberal leader has pledged not to attack Stephen Harper on personal grounds -- at least not overtly.

"Let's be clear how we carry the attack, because I will not attack Mr Harper's patriotism," Ignatieff promised. "I will not attack his character. I will not attack his family. I will attack his record, and God knows, there's enough to work on."

"There's enough on the record that we can attack: record unemployment, record bankruptcies, record deficit," Ignatieff announced. "That should give us enough to be getting along with."

And while Ignatieff knows full well that the economic stimulus package -- the stimulus package that he and his fellow members of the opposition demanded -- is responsible for Canada's current deficit, and knows full well that economic mismanagement south of the border is responsible for Canada's current economic condition, it's encouraging to hear Ignatieff pledge to restrict his campaigning against Stephen Harper to substantive matters of policy.

And while it would be both encouraging and wise for the Liberal party to try to brand itself as the party of the high road -- thereby counter-branding the Conservative party as perveyours of low-road politics -- one also has to remember that this would be counter-characteristic of the Liberal party.

After all, it was the Liberal party that dressed Stephen Harper up in fictional policy. It was the Liberal party who insinuated that Harper would summarily declare martial law if elected to office.

Michael Ignatieff may personally be able to scrape together enough credibility to temporarily change the public image of his party. But Canadians will remember the disgusting and shameful lows the Liberals sank to in order to attack Stephen Harper. They'll remember that as disgusting and irresponsible as the Conservatives' current batch of political ads are, previous Liberal ads were even more disgusting and even more irresponsible.

Canadians may also be intrigued to be introduced, once more, to the "tough guy" personae, wherein he indulges himself in blue-collar tough talk, replete with calculatingly devolved language.

"If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I'm done," Ignatieff pronounced.

It's a bold statement, but one has to hope that Ignatieff is as good as his word. Even though the Liberal party has never succeeded electorally against Stephen Harper without resorting to personal -- and often fictionalized -- attacks, one has to hope that at least someone in Canada has the courage to rise above the personal mudslinging that has passed for political campaigning in this country for too long.

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Fighting the Cold War Over a Chessboard

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 2:14 AM 0 comments
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the western bloc countries never tested each other in a shooting war. They did, however, often contest their differences over sporting events.

One of those was the Bobby Fischer vs Boris Spassky world chess championship match played in 1972 -- the same year that Canada confronted the Soviet Union in the famed Summit Series.

In the Soviet Union, the Bolshevik party embraced chess as a matter of public policy.

As with most forms of competition -- athletic, intellectual or otherwise -- the Soviet Union sought to mobilize dominance at chess for maximum propaganda value. But chess had particular appeal.

With its overwhelming focus on strategy and not-so-subtle overtones of militarism, dominance at a game like chess could offer comfort to any members of the Soviet populace who worried about open warfare between the USA and the USSR.

Likewise, Americans who were worried about a military conflict between the USA and USSR -- and who wouldn't have been, considering that such a conflict would inevitably involve nuclear weapons -- must have been very distressed by Soviet dominance of the sport of chess. At one point, the Americans had only one Grand Master. The Soviets had numerous, a benefit of their Chess school.

Canadians were distressed by Soviet dominance of hockey during the 1960s and 1970s, but Canadians didn't have to worry about having to directly play nuclear hockey with the Soviets from across the globe.

It was against this fearful cold war backdrop that Bobby Fischer, considered to be the great American hope, failed to show up at the appointed time for his world championship match. Of all things, Fischer was repeatedly holding out for more money.

Fischer was anything but patriotic in his motives. He remarked that he intended to play a chess match against a lesser opponent every month. Instead, his handlers wanted a system for the fair selection of contenders for the world chess championship.

After significant political wranglings -- not surprising considering the environment surrounding sport at the time -- the match finally got underway.

Once the match began, Fischer very nearly quit. He lost the first game, then forfeit the second. But eventually personal pride prompted him to continue the matches under better conditions -- he insisted that television cameras were too loud, and had been distracting him.

Fischer would game three, and go on to dominate the match. The Soviets would claim that Fischer was using some sort of mind control device against Spassky -- an ironic claim considering that it was the Soviets themselves who were experimenting with techniques such as remote viewing.

Eventually, Spassky was so overwhelmed he had little choice but to concede defeat.

But Fischer would refuse to defend his championship. By 1975, Fischer was forced to forfeit the world championship to Anatoli Karpov, Spassky's Kremlin-chosen successor. Spassky would eventually be exiled from the country.

Defeat was something that Soviet sporting officials never tolerated. Just as the American Olympic hockey victory over the Soviets at the 1980 Lake Placid games led to the political disfavour of phenomenal Soviet goalie Vladimir Tretiak, and the Soviet loss in the 1988 Canada Cup eventually led to the Soviet Union turning its best players loose for the professional game, Spassky's defeat prompted an effective exile to Paris.

Just as the days when Canadian hockey players grinded out international ideological conflicts against their Soviet counterparts will likely never return, nor will chess ever see another contest as ideologically contested as the 72 Spassky-Fischer match.