Stephen Harper’s Hair Problem

The election issue on top of your head

• 816 words


Hair is in the election-season air. I didn’t put it there—those attack ads on Justin Trudeau introduced the subject, with “Nice hair, Justin”—but now that the hairball has been coughed up, so to speak, let’s consider it.

Hair is a big deal. People spend a lot of time worrying about their hair and a lot of money altering it. Some sculpt it, some dye it, some shave it off. Some hide it under scarves and hats because God, in his or her many forms, has taken a serious interest in hair—telling people to grow it, conceal it, cut it, refrain from cutting it, wear a wig in place of it, not let Delilah hack it off, and so on. Some are born with hair, some achieve hair, and some have hair thrust upon them through laws and customs. Some hair goes missing, leaving either a Mr. Clean macho look or a bowling-ball one, as with Mike Duffy. Some hair is curly, some is straight. Luck of the draw.

Fashion can be a cruel taskmistress, hair-wise. Many are the photos of us with odd hair from former times that we presently seek to conceal. (Ducktails? Beatles bangs? Flowing hippy locks?) My own hair can be interpreted as “Pre-Raphaelite” or “frizzy” depending on the hostility level of the interviewer. I’ve lived through those ’50s smoothening adventures with a product called Dippity Do, as well as the nightmare straight-hair Twiggy years of the late ’60s, which involved other failed processes. After that I gave up.

But back to the hair-strewn attack ads of the Conservatives. What’s the point? Women will recognize “Nice hair” as a pickup line, so I suppose addressing it to a political opponent is a way of girlifying him: the Conservative ad-writers would see girlification as inherently demeaning, their view of girls and women being what it is. But “Nice hair” makes them sound a bit envious, too: no one has ever accused Mr. Harper of having “nice hair.” It also makes them sound trivial. Hair, an election issue? Really?

But let’s suppose that hair is indeed crucial to the question of your vote. Is hair the measure of a man, or woman? Is character destiny, and is hair a clue to character?

Let’s try this hair quiz:

  • Of the three national male leaders, which one travels with a personal grooming assistant—lavishly paid for in whole or in part by you, gentle taxpayer—so that none of his hairs will ever be out of place, supposing they are indeed his and not a wig, as some have supposed? (Hint: Initials are S.H.)
  • Which leader, on the other hand, doesn’t need such an assistant because his hair is “nice” enough already? (Hint: Initials are J.T.)
  • And which one wouldn’t know what a personal grooming assistant was if he fell over one? (Hint: Initials are T.M.)

Yes! You got it right! Smart you!

Next: Why should the taxpayer foot the bill for the micromanagement of Harper’s hair? Is his hair in the public interest? Is it crucial infrastructure? A matter of national security? Or is the pampering just a matter of narcissistic vanity?

Maybe it wasn’t altogether wise for the Conservatives to bring up hair: it focused the hair spotlight. Start with one candidate’s hair and we can’t help thinking about the topside garnishments of the others—not only what they might signify, but also what they might be costing us.

Will the Conservatives now lay off on the personal-appearance attack stuff? Doubtful: they’ve got a thing for it. Jean Chrétien’s paralyzed face, laugh a minute! Trudeau’s hair, woo-woo! Who’s next? “Nice tits, Elizabeth? ”

Wait! I can see it coming! Mulcair’s beard! The Conservatives will have trouble with a straight-out character attack on Mulcair because they regarded the guy so highly they tried to hire him themselves, so they’ll have to fall back on the beard: “Thomas Mulcair. What’s he hiding behind that beard? ”

Don’t go there, Cons! Because then we’ll all start thinking about “hiding.” Why is Harper hiding his campaign events from the public? Is he running for Prime Minister of the whole population—those whose taxes pay, in whole or in part, for him and his hair—and if so, why isn’t he talking to all of us? In his earlier quoted comment, “I don’t care what they say,” who are they? Aren’t you agog to know if you’re on Harper’s hidden “enemy stakeholders list”?

Is he hiding what he knew about the Duffy cover-up, and when he knew it? He’s given four mutually exclusive answers about the subject so far. Is there a hidden real answer?

And if he’s hiding all this, what else is he hiding?

Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. She won the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize for her writing and political activism.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/09339240378461524433 NoDogInTheFight

    Nicely done.

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    Whichever senior goon at the National Post ordered the original taken down doesn’t understand how Disqus comments work. The original thread, 926 comments strong (but perhaps to be belatedly deleted): https://disqus.com/home/discussion/npdigital/margaret_atwood_stephen_harpers_bad_hair_days/

    • http://www.ohcanadian.com/ OhCanadian

      The secret “nameless one” the contributed 2 million dollars to Harper’s campaign.

    • robinottawa

      Coyne is in charge.

      • Socrates

        . . . likely Shaw Media the western media group who owns the National Post.

  • Pat Anderson

    I love you more and more, Ms. Atwood.

    • Socrates

      . . . and the journalistic leadership shown by the Walrus.

  • Gordon Edmund Whitehead

    I usually refer to Stephen Harper as “Helmet Head” because there’s something very unnatural about that immovable, metallic-looking covering atop his head, isn’t there? Is it hair? I strongly suspect it’s not. It looks like pewter to me. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it originated as some Medieval peasant’s trencher before being beaten into a rough head shape by a blacksmith in some obscure backwoods forge. Laureen may well have found it when rummaging through cast-off headgear in search of something to wear when riding her Harley-Davidson. In any event, I don’t believe the person Harper drags around with him is a hairdresser. I think the guy is a pewter polisher. They’re hard to find these days and you have to pay them top dollar.

    • Carolyn H

      I alway thought it resembled Play-doh, but I really like this interpretation as well.

      • Elmo Tickled

        I’m always reminded of the Lego hair that came with kids toys from McDonalds. I’m certain he has a little indentation in the top of his skull and the hair just clicks into place.

    • dawnnevills

      .(couldn’t help myself…I just can’t pick on someone who wants to look like Casey – without Finnegan……..wink.)

    • David Day

      Nice hair piece! Where do we get the “Nice Hair, Stevie” campaign buttons?

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  • DASHIE12

    This is brilliant Ms. Atwood! Absolutely wonderful and ironically filled with the truth!
    It’s often apparent that many of those Harper Stepford Wives have never met a hairdresser

    they trust.
    No need to name names, but their unkempt skanks of hair are something out of the fifties.
    And this whole silly (and insulting nonsense) about Trudeau’s appearance is demeaning frankly to every passionate Canadian.
    There was a day when Canada’s leading pollster sported an earring and waist length locks!
    Trudeau, whether one supports him or not, looks the part. In fact, he mirrors a picture of health and vitality.
    The degree to which karma is literally coming full circle to the Harper regime is indeed fully at play. Their karma, to a man and woman, is juvenile, unkind, dishonest and chilling.

    It’s not going to abate until we free ourselves of these fools.

    They deserve every scrutiny imaginable.
    And, in true Canadian fashion, great satirical comedy will be ours for years to come!
    Thanks again, Ms. Atwood. This needed to be written!

  • pragmatic Jim

    Cut from the original in the Post online, after it was pulled, and then reposted
    “Why is Harper still coyly hiding the two-million-dollar donors to his
    party leadership race? Don’t we have a right to know who put him in
    there? Who’s he working for, them or us?”
    Censorship? I think so.

    • Northern PoV

      Pulling the article magnified its reach. Then cutting this stuff, adding other points – just helps point to the pithy bits. Well done NP!

  • Doc Jeremic

    thanks for publishing the un-censored version the National Post is a sad pathetic joke being played on the Canadian people

  • Mudhooks

    If the intent of Harper is to annoy the Canadian public so much with the “He’s just not ready. Nice hair, though…” ads so that we vote for Harper, he miscalculated.

    By the time October rolls around, he’ll be lucky if we don’t want Harper tarred and feathered (along with the entire cast of the ads AND the company that MADE the ads) for annoying the crap out if us at EVERY Goddamned commercial break.

    • Robert L. Thomas

      All to be reimbursed for by the taxpayers of Canada…Ironic, lower taxes and higher spending for this crap.

  • DoreenKM

    >or a bowling-ball one, as with Mike Duffy.<… You're just being kind… Mike Duffy's head, looks like a penis, w/ a face, (especially, when he's dressed in a suit/tie… ) Harper's hair is the last thing on my list, that irritates me about Harper

    • doar

      How about his intense lack of ethics and morals?those are two traits that seem to be aprerequisite s for being a C.R.A.P member and governmental leader!

    • Kate Ackerman

      I think the whole point of the article is that one’s looks has nothing to do with their character – where-as insulting someone based on their looks, IS a reflection of your own character.
      We left this type of bullying behind on the grade school playground. Where it never should have been in the first place.

      • Robert L. Thomas

        Bullies are afraid of being called on for what they are. Abusers, Or to coin a PC phrase…Pieces of Sh**” , they will know full well once they are put back into their holes..

  • doar

    “Let’s eat very clear here” that Dear Leader has another topper for his chrome dome and that “it’s good to go ” for topper # 1 to be sent out for a rug shampoo or two! Opinions!?

  • Willie Baneham

    Thoroughly enjoyable.

  • Carolyn Macdonald

    Great article. M. Mulcair has a much more youthful appearance of late which is very noticeable.
    I’m sure they do that anyway, pre-election…

    • Socrates

      Angry Tom is frumpy and he looks like a grisly bear. Does not look young and still thinks like a Conservative wannabe. Sorry. He’s no Jack Layton who was attractive with a smile that radiated.

  • Keith P.

    Unfortunately Ms. Atwood has not provided any proof of her statement. Being an ardent supporter of the left, one can only presume she is not being factual in order to attack Harper, the left’s national pastime. The Post was right to pull this.

    • Murray Charters

      Proof of WHAT statement, Keith P.? That these commercials exist? That Trudeau has nice hair? That Mulcair has a beard? Not everything is a conspiracy. Harper does make mistakes. Life is real.

    • Tim Bryson

      Good god man, its satire. Get a life and loosen up your underwear.

    • HarpersMafia

      You’re stüpid… there’s lots of proof of that.

    • CLF973

      Keith is entirely right. These commercials don’t exist and Harper doesn’t have hair.

    • Fulbert Bainto

      The issue here is censorship. Support Charlie Hebdo for insulting Islam and the muslims all over the world but censor Margaret Atwood for making a comment about the “hair comment on Trudeau” in Cons’ political ad?

      • Jacques Orleans ON

        On Harper : “Nice gut”. Gimme nice hair anytime.

        • puskwakau

          No attacking Stevie’s bulgey belly. You can’t expect him to ‘never’ loosen his girdle.

    • Socrates

      Unfortunately you are like Harper. “I am not a crook”, “eh? I did not know anything about the arrangements for Duffy”, “i will no longer answer questions”, “I don’t believe in debates or open forums there may be terrorists that come in while I speak”, “There is no evidence we have a deficit or are in a recession – I don’t care about the Economist they must have a communist editor”. Indeed, Shaw media did provide a large donation to the Harper team. Do some homework. Check it out and get back to us.

  • whateverusay

    Harper’s hair looks better than Atwood’s hair.

    • R. Mack

      whateverusay–If you are focused on a comparison of Harper”s HAIR and Atwood’s HAIR, you should probably not even be reading, let alone commenting on, this page, The article deals at a level which (unfortunately) flies way over the HEADS AND HAIR of the population which doesn’t comprehend subtle satire.

      • whateverusay

        You mean Canadian satire.

  • http://clarkepeter.ca Peter Clarke

    MARGARET ATWOOD has a narcissistic vanity greater than any man, woman or transgender alive today on this planet, IMHO.

    • http://denimdelinquent.net Jim Parrett

      That is, next to Stephen Harper.

      • http://clarkepeter.ca Peter Clarke

        No Attwoods narcissistic vanity is next to only herself!

        • paul walmark

          IMHO, your HO is nothing more than trolling for that asshole Harper! This was a funny, satirical piece. If you Conservative jerks can’t stand a little fun being poked, stay off the comments page. That would be My Humble Opinion!!

          • http://clarkepeter.ca Peter Clarke

            The only trolling asshole here as you stated IMHO is YOURSELF!

          • paul walmark

            Actually, Peter, if you’ll check, you’ll see I didn’t call you a trolling asshole. I reserved that adjective for Harper. But now that you mention it yourself IYHO, well, what can I say?

          • http://clarkepeter.ca Peter Clarke

            I stand corrected. However you did refer to me personally as a jerk in your troll.

    • Scrimbro 2 – Electric Boogaloo

      Even if true, it’s completely irrelevant to the fact that she has just mercilessly taken down Harper where it hurts the most: the man has no sense of humor and is obviously envious of anyone who has something he doesn’t have, even something as trivial as a good head of hair.

      Because that’s what really burns people who still prop up this failing, morally bankrupt regime: they can take anger, they can take outrage, they can take just about anything thrown at them… except laughter. That HATE that. Mostly because they take themselves way too seriously. Which is why I’m inclined to laugh along with Ms. Atwood and anyone else who sees Harper for the naked potentate he really is.

      • http://clarkepeter.ca Peter Clarke

        From photos I would suggest that Harper based his age has a far better head of hair than, Atwood , Trudeau and Mulcair.

        As for a failing, morally bankrupt regime, that has only laughter to offer up to angry and outraged citizen taxpayers, that distinction rest squarely and solely with the Liberal party of Ontario, its leader K. Wynne and its members, IMHO.

  • Tim Bryson

    Had I read the Atwood piece prior to it being removed by the NP, I’d have chuckled and moved, much like I would from other bits of satire.

    Now, a piece on hair becomes an example of censorship and a lack of a sense of humour on the parts of the CPC and it’s corporate backers. This, is in the same week as the “angry old guy” called a CBC reporter a “lying piece of sh1t”.

    • Keith P.

      Except it could all be false. Atwood has not supplied any evidence. She is a master propagandist for the anti-Harper troops. This is classic “do you still beat your wife” stuff. She should be ashamed.

      • Tim Bryson

        Except that it was satire…and it was removed by a paper with very strong CPC leanings. Heck, she mocked TM’s obvious lack of any personal grooming assistance.

        • Keith P.

          Nowhere does it claim to be satire. She makes statements she purports to be facts, like Harper traveling with a lavishly paid personal grooming assistant – which many commenters are taking at face value. So much for calling it satire. It is just more anti-Conservative propaganda from the likes of Atwood and her friends in the lefty media.

      • Socrates

        “Once upon a time there was a little boy called Stevie. He was not very bright but he was a cunning fellow. He actually became the Prime Minister of Canada by destroying the Conservative Party with the help of Peter MacKay. Ask David Orchard. Stevie now runs the Christian Alliance Tea Party of Canada. He bullies people, runs slur campaigns and attack ads, dismisses those who have a different opinion than he does, fires scientists, hates feminists, environmentalists, the working poor. He refuses to debate. Refuses to answer questions from journalists. Is in denial of facts about Mike Duffy affair, the deficit or the economic recession we are now in. He has changed his CV so many times and says he is an economist but it is really nothing more than a hobby for him. No economist in Canada associates with him – especially the professional accredited body of economists of Canada. In fact The Economist has little good to say about him. Then one day even his partner, wife decides to live without him in Ottawa in a fancy place called the Chateau Laurier. People now refer to that little boy as the Monster Steve, or Bully Steve or Sneaky Steve” Sorry for making any of this up and not providing evidence. And??

        • dawnnevills

          I’m not sure he’s met any feminists, yet….Margaret, has he met any actual feminists yet? I understand that “Hair Helmet Life Coach” also means automatically warding off any female that looks like Jumping Judy. (I’m staying with the puppet theme, y’all…..smile. “No punching”.) I have to tell you, though….as far as exuding fatherly stability, nothing goes further than a little flexing of the molson Muscle amongst the Tweed set. The new Dack’s outlet (unfortunately only available online now, but at least not so ashamed of existing that they arrive delivered in covered brown paper, like Hustler) went wild, I understand…two photos escaped, somehow , showing beads of sweat – we’ll call them near visual selfcontainment swoons for the “I love the smell set” – on……(quick intake of breath, here) the UPPER LIP. wEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. They’re getting wilder. by God.

  • http://www.ohcanadian.com/ OhCanadian

    Finally finally, Harper took my advice to hire “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”

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  • stellsbells

    Dear Walrus: THANK YOU for snagging this and publishing it in its original form!! *YOU* show us what journalism is all about <3

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  • horseshoe7

    i agree that Harper’s hair was instinctually enough to warrant some deep skepticism. Somehow I think that now, making issues of hair pale in comparison to the mess that is our government, no matter which party you vote for. We need reform at a level that goes beyond parties, because to be honest, to like or vote for any of these parties is an admission to complete and utter stupidity. And yet we must. Please vote NDP, not because that odd smile of Mulcair is appealing, but because his party stands for instituting a proportional representation system of voting, which will make your vote actually count, and maybe Canadian politics might matter again to the otherwise apathetic people of Canada. Feeling defensive now? Get politically active and prove me wrong.

  • Colossusus!

    I always thought Harper’s hair looked like it came out of an over-sized Lego set, he just snaps it on every morning. Regardless of his hair, his creepy eyes and inability to smile are as creepy as hell so he just looks like a parasite to me.

    Funny article, one of the few humorous political articles I’ve read in a while.

  • David J

    My feeling is that “Nice hair, though” line was their way of the group of executives simply finding something positive to say after ripping Justin’s résumé to shreds. As a campaign tactic, I feel it was in much the same vein: point out to people that he has no real experience and an unrealistic plan for the county, but if you want a reason to vote for him, then he does have superficial good looks.

    • Socrates

      The type of attack ads are tantamount to bullying. Filled with lies for one thing. Very Trumpish and not at all what or how our Canadian values during an election get expressed. Usually ads during an election are to sell yourself not attack the anatomy of your opponents. As for Trudeau’s experience he has more experience than John F. Kennedy did and the same age as when Kennedy became the US President. No point in attacking Atwood, NP (Shaw Media) pulling her work. She took the lead from Harper himself and the salient topic of hair and body grooming. I like Justin Trudeau’s body the best. He is good looking, has natural hair, and does not need a groomer to help him. His body is fit and like his mind is ready.

    • puskwakau

      You must have came to that conclusion because you are such a deep thinker.
      Or, more than likely, not.

  • Kathleen McCarthy

    For God’s sake get a life people!!

  • Aleem S-k

    Down with Harper and Harperism! Harper H8’s Muslims even Moderate Muslims.

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  • Han O’Hornby

    Harper is Canada’s very own Donald Trump…..in soooo many ways. His hair is truly an Ass Hat!

  • Starfire

    Oh Man what a hair you weave…. You practice to deceive.

  • msea

    Margaret Atwood, I appreciate your opinion and all, but I hate to say, that I don’t believe this type of response is positive for our society and gender equality.

    I really could care less about Justin Trudeaux, Stephen Harper, or Tom Mulcair’s hair. And the fact of the matter is, being concerned about your appearance is NOT a feminine quality as many people would like to strongly enforce; as such in your article.

    This may be the message you took from the Conservative’s video- but I took it as an immature attach against a political competitor, and for myself, I had a small laugh (I am a fan of Justin Trudeaux). Actually, on the other side of the coin I thought it was amusing that they brought to light how men also care about their appearance. If only everyone could stay open to believe the world can work this way…

  • Hope Ludlow Aldridge

    This is not the original version, this is the edited version.
    Cut from the original in the Post online, after it was pulled, and then reposted
    “Why is Harper still coyly hiding the two-million-dollar donors to his
    party leadership race? Don’t we have a right to know who put him in there? Who’s he working for, them or us?”

  • Janet MacIntosh

    right off the bat I couldn’t believe the Cons brought up “hair” in the attack ad. I thought it almost a compliment because Harper’s hair is so bad. what joke… that backfired! luv you Margaret

  • Michael Katz

    I find it disgusting that an Enbridge ad is helping to pay for this post. Wake up The Walrus!

    • puskwakau

      That is the epitome of irony, actually. Not your post so much as the Atwood article itself. Your disgust was my delight.

  • Gazeebahoffin

    Harper’s constant companion is a handsome young man who was rooming in his garage at Stornaway. What is he hiding, indeed?

  • GeneJockey

    Wonderful piece and great take-down.

    That said, what it misses, I think, is that the “hair” preoccupation is not really about the hair, but about making Trudeau seem far less mature (old) than he is. That’s why, in my opinion, they do not call him “Trudeau” or “Mr. Trudeau” but call him “Justin”. I think this is all part of the Cons’ strategy to make Trudeau seem like he is a kid just out of school. Hence the “job interview” motif, the “Justin” and the “nice hair” – all part of the same attack messaging.

    I think that is why, in the Macleans Debate, Trudeau was very clear in his closing remarks to reference his age (43) and his kids. You may argue whether he is ready of the PM job (fair question IMO) but it isn’t because he is a kid.

  • http://jacksononthemoon.com sharonjackson

    I strongly suspect Dippity Do and hair spray. Also, makeup. I note #themiddlekid was totally unimpressed yesterday. His body language was a scream.

  • Fulbert Bainto

    The issue here is censorship. Support Charlie Hebdo for insulting Islam and the muslims all over the world but censor Margaret Atwood for making a comment about the “hair comment on Trudeau” in Cons’ political ad? Double standard, isn’t it.

  • brent1023

    Perhaps readers can help me here. One sentence in the article mystifies me: In his earlier quoted comment, “I don’t care what they say,” who are they?
    This sentence refers to an earlier quoted comment, but I cannot find any earlier quoted comment.

    It appears to be an important part of the article, but the reference escapes me.
    Any ideas?

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  • Horseman Bree

    Actually the “metallic-looking covering on the top of his head” is a tinfoil helmet, protecting him from receiving any non-approved piece of information. Even the aliens can’t penetrate that metallic mop.

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  • Paul

    The NP wanted to cut out the lines about how Harper has a personal stylist? Seriously? FFS. Thank you for this, Ms. Atwood – and thank you to The Walrus for reprinting this letter in its entirety.

  • Moonbeam

    The one difference between Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair, is that Harper is the only one that gets his make-up done with Duffy… That’s what real pals do!

  • Dimitrios Otis

    The closing section is not the finest example of journalistic segue—the NP perhaps thought the hair stuff was just an excuse to rip into Harper in the denouement?

  • Socrates

    Sneaky Stevie’s hair is like him – stiff. He uses too much hairspray, eyes shifty, and has no brain underneath that hair. He also has a pot belly. Angry Tom is kind of frumpy and looks like a grisly bear, not sure about his brain, he keeps on changing his mind all the time. He has temper tantrums and will only play if Stevie plays so forget about a debate on women’s issues. Justin Trudeau’s hair is natural, there’s a brain underneath it, and underneath that a body that is fit and ready to govern. Women like Justin, and want a selfie with him. They want to touch him. He frightens both Mulcair and Harper who avoid debating him at all costs. The hair issue started by Bully Harper’s attack ads regrettably ascribed physical attributes to personality attributes. Who did that in history? Scary. Costly too. Don’t vote for someone who can’t keep their body in shape with a pot belly and creates too much of a carbon footprint with hairspray use, nor vote for the frumpy looking grisly bear who if he gets any angrier will scare all of us.

  • Joel Tatelman

    Prime Minister Helmet Head indeed! Ms. Atwood has again demonstrated that her “national treasure” status extends beyond her rich literary contributions. And, as for that poster who “didn’t get” the satirical tone of the article—more evidence that the Canadian branch of the Tea Party would be intellectually and morally challenged by your average high school student.

  • fhaedra

    Well, I’ve taken note of the Cons’ apparent hair obsession from the beginning. Thing is, I like hair. I like lots of hair, and have plenty of my own. I didn’t ask for it or buy it; it arrived through genetic spill. Dang hairy parents.

    I appreciate natural, thick, good hair. Men, women, children with hair…you know, we get what we get, but, yeah…I consider good, natural hair a definite asset for anyone.

    Do I measure a person’s intelligence or ability by their ‘hair’ though? Uh, that would be no. Because that’s shallow and moronic and kind of irrelevant. Hair doesn’t speak. Your mouth does, on cue from brain, often motivated by what’s lurking or has developed deep inside over time. Hair? Let it flow. If you’ve got some, that is. In politics, I’m listening for substance, not stupidity.

    Thanks, Margaret Atwood.

  • Barry Growe

    The hair issue will peak next February when the Tea Party places Harper in the running for the Republican presidential nomination in New Hampshire. Does Harper have the coif to challenge Donald Trump’s? Up-to-date, breaking news at stephenharperforpresident.com

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  • jurisprudence

    What a stupid post.

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