Paul Watson, premiers and presidents

Brian
Brian Jones
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A popular present under our tree this Christmas was a .177-calibre pellet gun.

Once the wrapping was off and the safety regulations read, we headed up the hillside behind our neighbourhood, far into the woods to a clearing that was apparently used as a vegetable garden in past years. Portions of rock wall still run alongside it.

Older Boy had searched the Internet for a picture of anti-seal hunt propagandist Paul Watson. Suitable to the occasion, he found a cartoon likeness of Watson from his starring role in a "South Park" episode, printed it and taped it to a board.

A popular present under our tree this Christmas was a .177-calibre pellet gun.

Once the wrapping was off and the safety regulations read, we headed up the hillside behind our neighbourhood, far into the woods to a clearing that was apparently used as a vegetable garden in past years. Portions of rock wall still run alongside it.

Older Boy had searched the Internet for a picture of anti-seal hunt propagandist Paul Watson. Suitable to the occasion, he found a cartoon likeness of Watson from his starring role in a "South Park" episode, printed it and taped it to a board.

We propped it on a tree's branches. Shooting from 30 paces away proved too easy, so we retreated to 50. A hit was accompanied by a satisfying "thwack." By the time we were done, poor old Paul's face was pockmarked with pellets.

Hiking down the long, winding trail through the trees, I commented, "We're kind of like hunters coming out of the woods."

"No," Older Boy replied, "hunters respect their prey. I don't respect Paul Watson."

Presidential ponderings

Books are common gifts at our house. Two of my favourites over the years have been reference books: "The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations" and the "Cambridge Biographical Dictionary."

Flipping through the former a few mornings after Christmas, I came across some fascinating quotes from John Adams, the second president of the U.S., that make you wonder if - though removed by two centuries and hundreds of miles - he could have been referring to the 43 seats out of 48 in the Newfoundland House of Assembly that are occupied by members of one party.

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1815, Adams wrote, "The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratic council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor."

Popular, but ...

Premier Danny Williams' approval rating of almost 80 per cent may be applauded by some people - well, by more than some, obviously - but the secretive, one-man style of governing that goes along with it is troublesome, even if it isn't new or unique.

Adams wrote this in 1765: "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right ... and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers."

To his supporters, Williams' 80 per cent approval rating is merely a reflection of his competence, leadership and good governance. But in another sense, it does not reflect well on the Newfoundland electorate.

Here's something Adams said in 1772: "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

Living large

There are 19,000 entries in the 1,604 pages of the "Cambridge Biographical Dictionary." It is humbling to ponder the fact that even a great life - one of immense accomplishment, success, fame, fortune and adventure - can be summarized in a mere 200 words.

Pierre Trudeau, arguably the most notable Canadian politician ever, warrants 23 lines. (Lester Pearson gets 11 lines; John A. Macdonald gets 12.)

Some Newfoundland personalities - if not Newfoundlanders - are included.

Leif the Lucky, who was in charge in Vinland circa 1000, has 18 lines.

Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor who flew a kite on Signal Hill in 1901 and let fly a new communications era, gets 20 lines, the last of which is, "In the 1930s he was a strong supporter of the Fascist leader Mussolini."

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Telegram

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland, Vinland Signal Hill

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Recent comments

  • S
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Is he responsible for his popularity or not? If he's not responsible for it then who is?

    is it all just due to fortunate economic circumstance which has nothing to do with anything he's done after all? Just the guy sitting in the seat at the right time when oil prices hit stratospheric levels due to no fault of his own?

    Just asking.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    So,S, it's the premier's fault that he is popular? Just imagine if Yvonne Jones was in power with a majoity, and 80% popularity...yikes!

  • S
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    The point of that section, Taxpayer II, is that popularity corrupts and absolute popularity corrupts absolutely.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    So what's the point of this article? A jab at the Premier? The tele keeps referring to secrecy, yet this Gov. has been more open than any other, as can be seen in the spending scandal, the Breast cancer screening, the returning of the auditor general. I mean let's have a look at Brian Tobin's term in office if you want to see secrecy, nepotisim, and skull duggery.

  • S
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Is he responsible for his popularity or not? If he's not responsible for it then who is?

    is it all just due to fortunate economic circumstance which has nothing to do with anything he's done after all? Just the guy sitting in the seat at the right time when oil prices hit stratospheric levels due to no fault of his own?

    Just asking.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    So,S, it's the premier's fault that he is popular? Just imagine if Yvonne Jones was in power with a majoity, and 80% popularity...yikes!

  • S
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    The point of that section, Taxpayer II, is that popularity corrupts and absolute popularity corrupts absolutely.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    So what's the point of this article? A jab at the Premier? The tele keeps referring to secrecy, yet this Gov. has been more open than any other, as can be seen in the spending scandal, the Breast cancer screening, the returning of the auditor general. I mean let's have a look at Brian Tobin's term in office if you want to see secrecy, nepotisim, and skull duggery.