Contemplating America and War

War and insecurity have been a consistent theme in world affairs. Humans have engaged in wars long before national governments or other forms of governance appeared. From tribes to monarchies, from Sparta to the Apache and Comanche, it is a real part of our species before and after the creation of the modern nation-state. In this light, the United States is hardly a rogue state and George W. Bush is but a mere hiccup in the grand scheme of history.

Thinkers are philosophically thoroughly disgusted with war. Unlike the Futurist art movement early in the 20th century, they do not embrace it. However, they would much rather ignore its history - at their own peril. Today certain elements in academia, operate on a selective revisionist platform. They bent on righting perceived wrongs by the hands of Western culture. America is its favorite target. This intellectual lashing and gutting of Western history is a fad gone awry. The shhhing of one part of a population to assuage another is an action of historical engineering that is bound to fail. The price is clear: people can't tell fact from fiction any more.

In contemporary times, specifically within the American Empire, the backlash against George W. Bush has been vociferous. While questioning America's growing romanticism with the military is legitimate, attempting to zero in on his actions and motives is a seductive game that break an idealist's heart.

Short-term considerations only serve to obscure the big picture - it's foolish to do so in the markets and it is foolish to do it in politics. The buy high and sell low of intellectualism.

A mild glance at history will reveal that there is nothing new in what Bush is doing. Alexander Hamilton, for example, would probably have agreed with the notion of a nation and its responsibility to itself. Its detractors follow an idealist version of Jefferson's yeoman characterization of the American republic. More importantly, people today seem obsessed with Jefferson's call for vigilance against the executive - even to the point of ignoring their enemies.

Bush's route of policy is very much in the lineage set forth by John Quincy Adams. Before Adams, Jefferson (like Clinton) was accorded the luxury of not having to design a security policy - until the Napoleonic Wars. This changed America's security views. It was left to Adams to devise one.

While Bush's policy of preemption is hardly an obscurity when history is consulted the reaction to it is. People have taken his actions, slightly out of context (is this not usually the case?) to be the work of an irresponsible person. Hardly a neo-conservative (or conservative for that matter. Classical conservatives want smaller government. In this light, they are very much similar to classical liberals and libertarians) Bush seems to march to his own beat. Single minded, he does not seem to fit any neat ideological definition. That's why everyone from all backgrounds had a shot at espousing their blue prints for a new global order after 9/11.

Great powers distrust instability abroad - especially in their own back yard. Instability within weaker states only invites greater and more aggressive powers to step in. In the case of America, this came in the ideological form of Nazism and Communism. Many nations tended to approach aggression by taking a defensive stance - through appeasement in the 20th century. This is not part of the American character. Americans have always risen to a challenge. This has left it vulnerable to post modern scrutiny - and the verdict is unpopular in the eyes of public opinion.

9/11 was no different than the Napoleonic Wars (or World War I for that matter) in the sense that prevailing international structures could not be relied upon to defend American security and interests abroad.

Iraq posed a legitimate concern of national security to Americans. It must be said that the Bush administration never said Hussein was behind 9/11 as some have asserted. Rather, based on intelligence at the time, the argument was that Hussein a) had links with Al-Queda and b) was quite capable of starting up his biological weapons program.

The leap from Islamo-fascism to Iraq was not a large one to make. It was a two-pronged attack in an effort to diffuse if not outright defeat terrorism. One is to subdue an advanced Arab society and introduce it to democracy and the other was to conduct a covert war in the massive mountains of Asia against terrorist networks.

Whether they succeed is way too soon to tell. In the short run, things always look bad. After surgery a flesh wound always makes the operation look worse than it is. Eventually it heals. It may never be perfect but it is strong and healthy.

Modern Muslim militants, derelicts among all things civil in the Arab world, represent a new security threat. America's threats are the world's threats. Its interests are very much aligned with most nations. Whether they are correct in their assessments is not the only point. It's that they believe it to be so. It's friends and allies should understand this.

There is no doubt this policy designed by Adams - and brought to its heights by Roosevelt - has sent mixed signals - thanks to, in part, an ambiguous foreign policy - to the world. Is American an empire? What are their motives? Why do they speak of peace but wage war? Simplistic as these questions may be they hold weight because people think them. Americans need to define their intentions in foreign policy with more coherence. They went from fighting terrorists to nation building all within two years of 9/11. Its swiftness caused many a cynical to raise their eyebrows.

The people and their thoughts are one thing. To watch many politicians and thinkers play hodge-podge with American history to satisfy their own goals has been a travesty of historical injustice. They can not possibly heave scorn upon Bush without doing the same to Adams, Roosevelt or Wilson. There are indeed many concerns to deal with within modern American culture and society. These issues must be brought up. However, I don't see relevant questions being raised - just petty attacks.

War is just a component of human affairs. Whether they are 'war pigs' of the nation-state or ancient tribes war is human. What is interesting to note, relative to its extraordinary power, America has not engaged in too many outright wars in the 20th century; preferring to abide by Truman's doctrine of containment.

From its flirtations with isolationism and its believe in exceptionalism, American political culture, filled with normal contradictions, is much more dynamic and impressive than we give it credit for. Bush is not the exception but the rule to this reality.

First For You

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Timeless Springsteenian Eloquence: Born To Run Still Mesmorizes 30 Years Later

"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines..." Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run 1975.

"I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Jon Landau, Rolling Stone Magazine 1974.

"Bad Scooter? Man, that's me." The Commentator 2005.

1975 saw many albums produced and released from legendary acts. It was the year, for example, that Bob Dylan released 'Blood on the Tracks', Patti Smith 'Horses', Alice Cooper 'Welcome to my Nightmare', Elton John 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy', The Eagles 'One of these Nights' and Led Zeppelin 'Physical Graffiti.' In fact, the list of artists releasing albums that year included; David Bowie, Abba, Earth Wind and Fire, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Barry Manilow, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkle, Bad Company, The Carpenters, Hall and Oates, Roberta Flack, Emylou Harris, Paul McCartney and Wings, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt, Rush, Roxy Music, Rod Stewart, T-Rex, Donna Summer, and Kraftwerk. While we're on it, Motorhead and Pere Ubu were formed that year.

Nice company to have when you pour your entire existence into a landmark album. The odds against Springsteen were great that year. There was probably a better chance of having the Broadstreet Bullies turning into figure skaters than Springsteen surviving his latest project. Yes, the external forces of know-nothings pushed him against a wall of seeming impossibility. Alas, Springsteen pushed back harder with this work. His two previous albums, though filled with melodic and harmonic imagery and memorable characters, did not capture enough attention. 'The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle' and 'Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.' were probably albums that were ahead of their time.

But he did survive and the album stands as a landmark album. Its emergence on the rock'n roll scene must have been met with a dose of refreshing hope. Hope that rock was finally back on the right track.

Defining or categorizing art is an impossible game. Looking back on the past and keeping things in their proper context is all the more challenging given how popular revisionism has become. With all we know now it really isn't all that difficult to rewrite history - and make things look better or worse than they really are or were.

Preserving the spirit and truth of history, well, that's another matter. Springsteen has been called many things and it's not my goal here to recite this. Instead, I'd rather offer my impression of this incredibly poetic album. What better way to treat history and this piece of art than with personal respect?

10, no hang on, I was probably 11 when I first listened to 'Born to Run'. That would make the year 1983. By then, the New Wave movement and its influence on music was in full stride and bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division were affecting a whole new generation of kids. A full 8 years after 'Born to Run' was released, on a visit to my grandparents' home, I raided my Uncle's albums and boldly removed the record from its jacket and awkwardly placed it on the turn table.

I was young and stupid when the needle hit the record and the first notes to 'Thunder Road' filled the room. 'The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays. Roy Orbison singing for the lonely. Hey, that's me and I want you only.' By the end, I was older and wiser after the operatic conclusion to the song. 'It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.' The song shocked me into becoming a music fan. Lord, it was my opera.

The song exercised my mind and thoughts like it never had before. Up until then, I lived and died by the local events of my time. I lost my intellectual virginity to that album. If someone was to ask me what I think 'Thunder Road' represents, I would not even know how to express it. The song has meant so many different things over the years. It depends in the context to which I'm listening to it. I've probably written a screenplay in my head for the amount of thoughts it has offered me.

Over the years, the album offered a dizzying account of imageries that still captivate me. It was an album that thoroughly explores so many themes and ideas it literally leaves you in a state of catatonic marvel each time you listen to it. Whether you are driving through a drive-thru or on your way to a funeral - the song connects in ways unimaginable.

30 years, and 'Born to Run' still lives and breathes in ways I'm sure Springsteen himself never imagined. It was the latest work in the evolution of rock'n roll. I am also sure a new Springsteen was born after its release. It was a redemption of sorts for him. I salute the album that brought us Mary, Bad Scooter and the Big Man, Eddie and Cherry, the Rangers, the Magic Rat and of course, Wendy.

We all imagine that we have a soundtrack to our lives. 'Thundercrack', certainly is one for me. However, if I was to pick a line - among the many memorable ones - it would be 'Tear drops on the city Bad Scooter searching for his groove.' We all are.

For those who love ironies. 1975 was the year Roy Orbison, one of Springsteen's greatest influences, released his own album - 'I'm Still in Love with you.'


Max: The Declaration of Unemployment

41cm. That's the official amount of snow the befell my city. Within a day, however, the streets were functional. It's amazing how quickly the city adjusted. Me? I just sat back and took it all in. It's not like I had to go sit in traffic and work. What a majestic spectacle though.

The guy who lives next to me; I guess he's a neighbour, is a specimen. He bothers me like tartaric acid or cottonseed oil. Mind you, I've never had them on their own but with a high cholesterol count, I shouldn't even consider eating food with this stuff. It's unfortunate since they are part of the ingredients that make up my favorite Peek Freans cookies. Back to the hydrogenated old hag. He's the owner of a piece of junk automobile I call 'The Car that doesn't Drive.' All it does is sit there 365 or 366 days a year soaking up the sun and parking spots of residents. He and this other fag are always working on it. It's an old white trash unit with rust stains everywhere. It's nowhere near a classic so I have no idea why he hangs on to it. Each time I see him I want to make him drink break fluid.

My insomnia is consuming me. I now get migraines and use 222's to alleviate the pain. Tylenol, Advil are candy next to 222. One characteristic of being an insomniac is on how we get fixated on sights and sounds. Once our minds lock in to something that's it. Picture yourself listening to the slow drips from a facet...for two hours. Every drip, every tick, every car that passes outside, you mentally document. 12 days and counting and no sleep. It's to the point I'm afraid to go to bed.

Jeebies is back from rope singing in Nunavut. He has some stories to tell about his adventure. He now speaks Iglatituk or whatever it is they speak up there. He plans to use it to pick up women. And knowing Jeebie he will.

That's it for now. Please go to my Max link on the side if you want more stories. The Commentator, whoever he is, was gracious enough to provide me with archive space. He's probably sensually caressing my wife behind my wet ears. I, Dale Gribble, he John Redcorn.


A Charlie Brown Christmas: A Commentary

40 years ago Charlie Brown wanted to find the true meaning of Christmas and in the process Charles M. Schultz created an animated Holiday classic that remained an integral part of Americana ever since. Like The Beatles, The Peanut Gang is timeless as they continue to connect to generations of North Americans.

The cartoon's plot is based on Charlie Brown's determination to not let commercialism ruin his Christmas. Snoopy, on the other hand, is not too concerned about such things as he entered a contest in an effort to win money for best decorated house, er, dog house. While the sprit of Christmas escapes everyone around him - including man's best friend Snoopy (who reminds me of Otto Von Bismarck with his ability to shift alliances in ever changing geo-political dynamics) - Charlie Brown knows there's something more to Christmas but can't quite put his finger on it. That is, until he turns to Linus who chimes in with the Oscar performance of a lifetime.

"And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and goodwill toward men,' " Linus says. "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

I know. We still choke up whenever we see this speech. The power and timelessness of the speech lies in the innocence of the messenger. A blue blanket carrying little boy who still sucks his thumb. Not to mention that it reminds us all of who Jesus Christ was. It's a beautiful, moving and meaningful speech that little Linus gave.

What is remarkable about this as I watched the cartoon again this year is that this episode still gets aired annually. With Christianity under sharp scrutiny in post modernity, I'm surprised Linus' speech has not drawn fire from politically correct circles. Perhaps it speaks volumes of its ability to resonate even among the most cynical, or that they have jusy not gotten around to censoring it.

If it ever comes to this, it would truly be a sad day for not only freedom and art in pop culture, but for religion as an important force in our lives as well.


Ok, so I did not want to ruin the moment but I just had to play 'Where are they Now' with some members of the Peanut Gang. In 1965, they were probably, on average, 8-10 years old. That would make them roughly 48-50 today. What did life have in store for our animated baby boomers?

Charlie Brown: Life can be brutal on kids wth low self-esteem. Charlie was a hopeful loser. It was tough watching his sandlot team lose match after match. An inferiority complex stays with you forever. Charlie, for all intensive purposes, should have probably been diagnosed with depression - evidently he wasn't. Now he sells mattresses hooked on anti-depressants in Montana still wondering what could have been with Lucy.

Lucy: She was one mean and assertive kid. It's no wonder she became a ruthless industrialist. During the height of the 70s drug and sex revolution, Lucy - at the tender age of 16 - is reputed to have had a hand in all the era's greatest clubs, including Studio 54. Part of her empire includes pharmaceuticals (that manufacture Charlie's anti-depressants), a professional football team which has no filed goal kickers, and Porn production in California and Paris. One of her workers happens to be a member of the Peanut Gang.

Sally: Sally was on skid row after Linus left her before she was found by one of Lucy's 'directors'. While she managed to avoid porn - too many values were instilled in her - she was a sultry Cabaret dancer in Paris. A chainsmoker, Sally dyed her hair red and is now known by her stage name Saleé La Saloppe. She is reported to be living with a 20 year-old German Dada expressionist. He had the same hair as Linus.

Linus: A junkie. He fell in with the wrong crowd at an early age and was never able to climb out of this. He sniffed glue with Inuits at Davis Inlet, hung out with Shaggy, took drugs with Lou Reed and Nico and even had a fling with Margaret Trudeau in the mid 70s. He and Sally were on and off but ultimately his original feelings of indifference towards her prevailed.

Schroder: I think the movie 'Shine' was loosely based on his life. He was afflicted with a horrible spinal condition as a result of being hunched over his Fisher-Price piano all those years. A chiropractor worsened it and he remains in a perpetual hunched state. However, out of all the Peanuts, he's proven to be the most successful as he tours various concert halls in South America - partly as an out of luck musical prodigy, and partly as a freak. He married Marcy and they have one child. He was diagnosed with a mild form of autism when he was 12. Ritalin is his happiness - like a warm gun.

Peppermint Patty: One of the later members. Is it any surprise she became an activist for a myriad of causes and organizations. She is the face of anti-globalization and the anti-Bush crowd. Her pinky toe was amputated when it was frostbitten after wearing sandals in sub-zero weather in Norway at a Lapplander Reindeer Sacrifice ritual. Obviously a lesbian, Patty was heartbroken when Marcy (whom she still feels is bi-sexual) married the Piano Man.

Pig Pen: Died in 1972 of a rare affliction. Already asthmatic, his lungs could not process the high volumes of dust and dirt inhalation. His pals tried to unsuccessfully Shop-Vac the dust out of him. He also caught a bizarre mutated strain of a tropical virus after he cut himself. He caught the virus when dirt set in o the open wound. There was no hope for P.P. and he was DOA.

Franklin: Whereabouts unknown.

Snoopy: Snoopy left for Madagascar. Once a smart-alec beagle, Snoopy could not stand watching Charlie whither away. He was eternally depressed by what happened to Sally. No one has heard from him ever since. Woodstock died in 1969. The idealism of the period died with him. He was the last of his species which is now extinct.

Come to think of it, this account is not all that different from the story of the Little Rascals. Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Dora, Spot etc....all had their issues.


Iraq Beauteous

"...He First, I second, without thought of rest
We climbed the dark until we reached the point
where a round opening brought in sight the blest
and the beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars.
And we walked out once more beneath the Stars."

So closes Dante's immortal work 'The Inferno.' With the Iraqi people bravely leaving their homes, I allow imagery rather than perception to lead my thoughts.

'Rivers of blood' were promised by various factions opposed to the election. Instead, we got rivers of might and water. Alas, after 30 years of brutality and inhumanity, the Iraqi's have had enough. They realize that there is an occupied force because of Hussein. They realize that terrorists represent a minority and do not speak for the majority. They have learned to ignore the shameful cries from skeptics abroad and to embrace an opportunity. As they leave their homes and look to the sky, they realize they have a country now. Even the Sunni's seem to have accepted the political process.

Will this work? Make no mistake - the road will be unpredictable, long and hard. Possibly bloody. Time will tell. The important thing is there is hope now. An outlet. With hope comes motivation, with motivation comes prosperity, with prosperity comes rebirth. As we approach this cross-road in world history, might we finally get to see a Middle-Eastern Renaissance?

They know that the killers among them have no legs. It's not just about Bush. Never has been. The Sunni's, the most reticent of the three major groups, realized that the Americans were not going to cut and run as some back home have irresponsibly demanded. Peace first, honorable discharge second. We are finally seeing some results. They know all this.

To those of us in the West who scream about the alleged illegal activities of the Americans (and to be fair, one still has to question the whole notion of WMD's as the basis of invading), who yell in horror about the deaths, torture and the supposed rampant neo-con project, they have forgotten something. Their own freedoms did not come in a bloodless coup. Citizens of the West had to fight and sacrifice their sons and daughters for liberty. It's no different for Iraq. The experiment is radical but achievable.

It falls into the realm of possibility because the Iraqi's want it to be so. While we wallow in pampered cynical rhetoric that considers only short-term implications, Iraq moves forward. They move ahead as Americans have always done, leaving behind the dust of people who choose to hang on to something obsolete. Shortly, we will here their reconfigurations about how things are not so 'cut and dry' if Bush claims credit. Iraqi's know better.

On this day, Iraqi's moved from the dark caves of the inner souls and into the beacon of freedom. They emerge to stake their claim among the nations of the world - as Iraq beautiful.


It's a Bubble Gum Life

Contemporary life is as mad as it is perplexing. Disjointed as it is neatly collected. Engaging and dynamic. Above it all lies the secret caves of ironies and ambiguities the modern world has in store for us. I know, I've seen the paintings in the caves. They are impossible to decode.

Most of it, however, can be remarkably frustrating. Recently, I recalled an episode of 'WKRP in Cincinnati' that lamented the death of the disc jockey. As the 80s rolled around, corporate cookie cutter program directors with play lists were beginning to take over. Dr. Johnny Fever and Andy Travis had become obsolete - with it went all the originality that once ruled radio. Good luck trying to hear Bo Diddley on the air. You'll hear Cher but not 'Diddley Daddley.'

There is no sense of adventure on mainstream radio airwaves anymore. Everything is watered down and safe. It panders to the least offended denominator. No one can bang on doors like they used to and speak directly to a major disc jockey or record producer and get their stuff played. Today, too many obstacles are in the way of the artist. Pig vomit types (coined by Howard Stern) abound.

It's the same if one tries their hand, for example, at food importing. Once upon a time you visited the numerous independent retail owners and you showed your product. If they liked it they bought it and you had yourself a business. Today, corporate know-nothings who wouldn't know good food if it was crammed down their numb throats make the decisions through a mechanical process known as procurement. It's where a product gets a lobotomy.

Another area is in media. If the bubble-gum stigma exists in music, it most certainly finds life in writing. Bubble-gum writing is all around us. It's in our movie scripts and it's in our newspapers. A newspaper usually has a handful of bona fide writers and the rest are just fillers talking or writing gibberish like you find in a bad contemporary rock album. Perhaps it's a function of people forgetting what the art of writing means or maybe we just want crap that satisfies our short-attention spans - or indeed, we just don't give a shit. In this light, art mirrors society.

Speaking of immediate self-gratification, the other day I was staring at a huge magazine section in a book store and was bombarded by the number of senseless idol talk. 'Why Brad and Angelina Adopted' littered the covers. At its core, these types of publications pollute our minds with clutter. Sex sells, the mind collects dust on the shelves. Pity the entertainer who must rely on flashing flesh to make a splash. Pity the person who only reads this sort of stuff. Give ad execs credit, they know what they're doing.

Same in sports. It's not about the team anymore. Rather, it's about the individual. The cult of the personality has infiltrated the sports world too. Once upon a time - it seems anyways - one lived and died by their team. A city's honour was tied to its professional sports franchise. We still see this in soccer and teams like the Yankees, Cowboys, Packers and Canadiens, who still maintain a certain cultural presence. But marketing is all directed at the people who care least for the game - witness the gimmickery of shoot-outs in soccer and hockey. It's all about convenience and entertainment now. Watching the Lions take on the Browns or Bears today, to cite one of many examples, is akin to watching a painting of a saber-tooth Tiger in all its majestic power.

I read articles, longer pieces and movie scripts from the 20s,30s, 40s and 50s and I am thoroughly astonished at the quality of the work. Once upon a time kids went to watch Chick Webb. Now they go watch 50 Cent. Something got lost in translation somewhere. A film from the 1930s, arguably Hollywood's Golden Age, has a certain writing brilliance not dared to be disclosed today on a mass level. This is strictly the domain of independents and renegades. Whenever a script that breaks the iron clad Hollywood mode of today, we automatically ordain it brilliant. Sort of like how Oprah calls her guests 'geniuses.' While it is true some contemporary music and programs offer sophisticated content (probably more so than at any point in pop culture history) on average mediocrity gets the reward. However, we should all realize, only masterpieces get the last say.

It's all around. Take a drive. We have more technology and better resources yet our architecture in urban centers is atrocious. The Renaissance spirit is dead. Yes, it is true some businessmen with means have been known to help renovate decaying arts of great cities, but new development lacks the panache we once revered. Outdoor shopping malls are like soulless mini city-states now. All have the same design; same stores. It is not uncommon to have a Wal-Mart open but a mere kilometre away from the last. Choice and originality is out, price is in. Consumers want it that way. I wish there was a balance.

Life is weird, random and unpredictable. This can, with proper confidence, channels and support, drive us to works of genius. Are we being shortchanged? Who are all these people who make important decisions for us? Many lack sense, others are afraid of their own shadows. Many can't lead. It's frightful in some ways.

Will we ever be able to decode the message in the caves?


Modern Industry Jargon is Bizarre.

A corporation seeks to unify its workers by cultivating a culture. By extension, an industry does the same, and like any culture, language is part of what defines it. Those in the medical, police, financial and other professions all have their unique language of terms.

However, at what point does the jargon go overboard? In a sense, when does it all become saturated? Some industries, like the financial industry, should publish their own dictionaries. Everyday new trendy terms and jargon enter our vernacular at a pace that is dizzying. Most of it is absolute hogwash. It is designed more to impress than insight. The more we want, the more complex our schemes become, the more the demand for big words to describe our big thoughts.

I witnessed this phenomena first hand in the financial industry. For example, one of the best places to witness new words in motion was in the boardroom. The piéce de resistance of a boardroom meeting is the presentation. Ah, the presentation; the act of showing others you are worth something; the practice by which we flaunt cuff links and assistants by our side. Like the art of networking, the presentation is a must in the corporate world. If one neglects to partake in any of these they can forget the long, smelly ride to the top. It is here that we can be sure to be introduced to a new way of expressing things.

The presentation is one of those over-rated exercises that have become the strict domain of imposters and slick salesmen. Today, our sales techniques are so advanced and sophisticated we don't even know we are being pitched. It is here - snap, snap - we learn new words invented by some loyal pit bull in upper management. 'Rick, yeah, um, go with loan loss provision to describe write-offs. It sounds, um, more professional." Sort of like the garbage man becoming the sanitizing officer.

Brokers or bankers who talk to their clients as though they are Certified Financial Analysts are Certified Fricken Anal-ysts. "Yeah, we're coming out of a trough and stocks will rally. Capital ratios are indicating that coincidental indicators are giving an indication that I am really not sure which stock to buy." Pause. "Oh, so profitability is threatened by the ever growing weight of our own bullshit?" Touché.

Whatever happened to keeping things simple? Lucid and clear? Why does everyone have to sound like they have been polished at a beauty salon? Where's the human element to it?

It's just not in my former industry. Even in academic circles certain words find their way into the mouths of people who never pronounced more than three syllables. Prior to 9/11, who the hell spoke of multi-lateralism? The truth is that uni-, multi- duo and other lateralisms were repackaged words from a different era. Except, heaven forbid we ever use terminology from four decades ago. Have we not progressed?

If finding new ways to describe the color blue is evident that I guess we are progressing. Cologne rarely relieves the bad odor. In the end, should we be worried? If hurling big words makes us all feel good about ourselves, then who am I to lower a person's self-esteem? Now, I have to go prepare my personal business plan. I would like to get a loan to expand my body and mind. My personal Quick Ratio is .51:1. What's yours?

Activists: Failing to Understand the Implications of their Own Actions

With the recent hostage taking of four members (which includes two Canadians) of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) by terrorists in Iraq, people are once again confronted with the bizarre madness of terrorists.

Terrorists have positioned themselves as freedom fighters or liberators. While most don't buy this, many do. When it comes to manipulating the Western media, terrorists have been quite resourceful - they took a crash course from Ho Chi Minh whose "How-To Fool the Naïve" CD set for $495; far and away on the bestseller lists among evildoers in waiting.

We should not have any problems with people going off to a far away land as peace activists. Activism is integral to a functional democracy. Activists, from the legitimate to the dubious, believe in what they are doing. If they understand what they are getting themselves into and accept the possible consequences of their actions, then all the power to them. Why should people be philosophically opposed to this?

Where there can be an issue with philosophical differences is when a problem arises or something goes awry. It seems as though, in activist lexicon, it's never the fault of the perpetuator but someone else; usually the Americans or the West in general. As such, they refuse to accept part of the blame as they willingly and freely chose to go into hostile places.

This is what leads some to conclude while watching the CPT and others who think in this mode. On the CPT website, they are clear where the fault lies; with the U.S. and UK with whom the blood of the victims is on their hands.

The one thing that has remained consistently evident throughout the Iraq war and subsequent rebuilding of that country, is how utterly incapable anti-war activists are of grasping the militant Arab mind. Either they don't realize they are 'useful idiots' or they do and just don't care. They see things through one set of lenses - their own.

One of the parents of the hostages was recently pleading to the terrorists on the CBC. She asked them to 'look into their hearts.' If this is not symbolic of how we fail to see the terrorist mind for what it is -murderous and mindless - what is? We, in the guilt ridden West, feel her pain. They, in the deranged and deprived circles of Middle-East terrorism, simply do not feel her pain.

If Dante were here, he would most certainly add a circle for not only these killers but also those who willingly accept to be fooled by them.


Andy Kim Hits All the Right Notes

The one thing that struck me during Andy Kim's Christmas Special, which took place at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto on Friday, December 2nd, 2005, was the sheer diversity of the guests who took part. And not just in style, but in age as well. Is this a renaissance of sorts for Andy Kim? You bet it is. How could it not be? Especially when we consider the fact that musicians who were not even born when Kim began to write music are self-professed Andy Kim fans.

Let me begin with a refresher in the school of Andy Kim. At the tender age of 16, with nothing but desire and raw talent in his pockets, Kim left his native Montreal for New York City in the late 60s in search of stardom. Many Canadians found themselves in the same predicament as Kim, as there was no Canadian music industry to which local acts could develop their craft. In this light, Andy Kim is a true Canadian rock trailblazer.

Along with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who and The Band, Andy Kim was part of a small but dynamic Canadian contingent that found fame in the United States. All have left an undeniable mark on the rock' n roll landscape. Not bad for Crazy Canucks, eh?

With 30 million records sold, countless tours in the United States and a rock anthem under his belt - 'Sugar, Sugar' was recently inducted into the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame - Andy Kim has returned.

While Toronto and New York have welcomed him back, his native Montreal has ironically remained cool to his comeback. Far from keeping Andy Kim down, he will force people to notice him as he did when Jeff Barry discovered in him over 35 years ago.

This brings us back to the concert. In a sleek black suit that gave off the impression of an elegant Renaissance elder statesmen, Kim kicked off the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Rock me Gently' - a song that brought him a Juno Award in 1974. From that point forward, the tone and mood of the night were set. If there were any among the 550 plus people in attendance who were skeptical, he quickly made them a believer.

This set the stage for an impressive list of Canadian artists to showcase their music. The group included Esthero, Hayden Neale of Jacksoul, Shaye, The Hidden Cameras, Andy Stochansky, Danny Michel, Blair Packham and Jully Black. Fans were also treated to a special guest appearance by Ron Sexsmith, who performed 'What Ever Happened to Christmas?', alongside Kim, a song he co-wrote with Kim.

There was nothing formulaic to the evening. As musicians moved on and off the stage with a flair of what I would call slight unprepared coolness. Whatever it was, when the music started, each of them brought with them a unique element to the concert.

It was a magical night that reminded us how Canadian music continues to thrive and evolve. Indeed, some -including myself as far back as the early 90s - have suggested that there is a Canadian Invasion. After last night, it would be hard to argue with this notion. All we need to do is market our brand of music more aggressively. This, however, is another matter.

Above all, for 2 1/2 hours, many of Canada's musicians, who were barely in existence when Andy Kim began writing music, had a chance to perform with a rock legend. It had to be gratifying for Andy Kim - who influenced so many musicians - as he watched people of another generation connect to his music.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and what better way to end the night than with 'Sugar, Sugar?' With everyone on stage performing it in a jam session, it was reminiscent of The Band's 'Last Waltz' or whenever great musicians congregate to perform a colleague's song. It was an awesome spectacle that was free of any tackiness that can dangerously make such things ghastly to watch.

As I listened, I observed a young punker pass by and look at the stage. She turned and walked away, though not before giving her opinion to no one in particular, 'This is so cool.' I thought two things to myself after hearing this. This is exactly how Tony Bennett revived his career when he connected to a crowd outside his genre. Indeed, Andy Kim had the aura of a rock'n roll crooner.

The second thing that came to mind, and probably more important in the larger scheme of things, is that Andy Kim belonged. He did not seem displaced artistically or technically with this group of outstanding musicians. This, in my mind, is the greatest accomplishment of the night. Well, that and the fact that proceeds went to charity.

'Sugar Sugar' was the perfect climax for an excellent show. Or was it? Not wanting to call it a night, the performers debated with which song they should continue? They settled on 'Rock me Gently', the song that began the whole affair.

This was, for those who pay attention to such things, symbolic of Andy Kim's career, which has come full circle as he connected with a whole new generation of musicians. If anything, he can watch with pride the vibrancy and brilliance of Canadian music he helped spawn.


Current Affairs: Christmas Trees Offend, Canadian politics, America and Iraq

-Ah, nothing like a good 'ole Christian holiday to stir up debate. The tradition of having a Christmas tree evolved from - where else?- pagan traditions among the Norse, Druids and various Germanic tribes. It began to take its more modern image during - like anything else - the Victorian age. It has come to symbolize the birth of Christ and not too many Christmas trees are decorated without a manger sheltering Mother Mary and baby Jesus along with the Three Wise Men - and some sheep. For years and years this was the tradition. It's a nice tradition.

Growing up it made me and others feel good. Yes we know, Jesus was not probably born in December (some historians have his birth in March). It's not the point. In fact, all this post-modern revisionism (on any subject matter now that I think about it) goes well beyond any point. The whole notion of Christmas is under attack for an assortment of reasons from many different groups and individuals. It seems that Christmas is a fraud. It's all about spiking consumer spending and is a symbol - mostly among leftists - of the a decadent guilt- ridden Christian religion - among other things. Don't give these people some lions and a coliseum.

Why this post? Every year the province of Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to the city of Boston for helping Halifax during the devastating 1917 explosion that killed over 4 000 people. The Boston Parks Department has now decided that the tree will be called a 'Holiday' tree so as to not offend anyone and to be more inclusive. Unreal. Absolutely and incredibly absurd and retarded.

Of course, as we speak, I am sure there are many people asking that we drop the term Christmas altogether. This is not progress. It's a sad reflection of what we have become. First, Christmas is not optional. It's a religious holiday. What religion on earth would question itself and subsequently degrade itself the way Christians do? None. They have managed to remove the crucifix in classes and censored Christmas carrols. Just eliminate and kill it already. This story is similar with the attack on smokers (who have no liberties or dignity left). We're at the point where special interest- who are taking care of all of us. God bless 'em- should just lobby to make smoking illegal. Have you heard about their latest crusade? To ban smoking in your own home? Anyway, on the way to killing Christmas, I hope the people who commit the murder bump into Dante and Virgil.

Far from a religious person, I have to admit all this is insane. Is it time to push back?

-Canadians will be going to the polls in January to elect a new government. Parliament confirmed a non-confidence vote and deemed the Liberals unfit to govern. Well, the Liberals are a bunch of depraved nitwits, so I hope they fall. Besides, if they would get around to it, they would eliminate Christmas because the 'polls' told them so. They lack leadership. So screw them. Where does that leave us? A Conservative party that is afraid to be Conservative and under direct attack from the Canadian media; two crappy pointless parties- the NDP and Bloc Québecois - who excel at cashing pay cheques and earning pensions while babbling like buffoons. Just like separatists and socialists. Jack Layton? Gilles Duceppe? Spare me. Canada needs an avenger to come and save us...fast. Where's Captain Canuck when you need him?

-Americans are debating whether they should set a time frame as to when they should leave Iraq. This is fine; if it is done for the right reasons. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case. Partisanship is forcing this and its recommendations will lead to, essentially, backstabbing and abandoning the Iraqi people. What's done is done. As I have said many times, Americans need to see this through. There is little wisdom in these actions. These are words from pathetic and petty-minded assholes who simply do not comprehend the logic of what they advocate, or what the consequences of 'cutting and running' will be. To many, Vietnam had many lessons. To me, one of them is never run from the enemy; ever.

We seem to rarely consider how our actions are viewed from the other side. Here's a possible example. Picture terrorists with a picture of Mr.Burns all saying "excellent." Useful idiots, all of you, for agreeing with this position, for real.

-Which brings me to yet another scene from The Simpsons. Long story short; Patty and Selma had just gleefully failed Homer from his driving test at the DMV. While he is talking to Marge, their superior passes by and notices two cigarettes in an ashtray at their wicket. She reprimands them and reminds them that smoking is grounds for dismissal. Marge looks at Homer to have him help them out. For Marge, he takes both cigarette's and shoves them in his mouth. Upon seeing this, the superiour apologizes to the girls and while slapping Homer tells him "You sir, are worse than Hitler."

It's one of those jokes that can easily blow by and sail right over your head. That one line says a lot about our reliance on hyperbole's to make a point in contemporary times about modern issues. And we don't have to look far. Think 'Bush is Hitler.' The litter box is filled with such history deficient reasoning.


Tookie and The Snoop

In cold blood I kill. My take is a few hundred dollars. Still, stark in my terror, I take four lives. The racist system has railroaded me onto death row. Eventually, people will come to my defense.

And so it is. Celebrities never turn down a moral crusade. Since they live in a world void of any morals but of moral equivalency, it is easy to join an unholy alliance with criminals. Ah-Nold, the Governor of California, has agreed to review the case of Tookie Williams who is scheduled to be executed December 13. And that's exactly what happened.

Enter the 'Free Tookie' crowd. He should be so lucky that he has a friend in Snoop Dogg (spelling a guess) who is no stranger to the courts. Dogg, of recent comedic fame and a hero to many, has faced charges himself on murder, weapons possession and dealing cocaine. Now that's a person with integrity one looks for. But this is modern pop culture and the 'badder' you are the more likely you'll find some fans. Unfortunately we forget. When we see Ellen joking with Snoop we think, "Wow, cool and funny!" It's similar to the Arafat syndrome. When this thug was presented the Nobel Prize (thus reducing this prize to nothing but dust in my eyes), people simply were not aware of the fact that he was not a freedom fighter but a cold, hard, calculating, murdering, tactical politician.

Tookie's supporters say that have new evidence that he did not commit the crimes and that he was railroaded during the trial. They also point out that he has redeemed himself; that he has written children's books and teaching children not to take his path. This is not the issue. It is to be noted that he has taken his time in prison to connect with his human side. He has contributed some good. This, however, is not enough to free a man for his original actions. At the time, he was an adult, and as such he must pay for his actions. For each action, there is a consequence. Poor or rich, this is what makes us human - knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Which brings me to the issue of capital punishment. This piece is not about whether this is just. Rather, it's about knowing and understanding the laws of your society. By extension, it's understanding the simple principle of accounting for your actions and facing the consequences of those actions. We seem to have removed this outright in contemporary society. The Arab world has excessively low crime rates because that society understands that if they commit a crime, they will face an extreme form of justice. They will face harsh realities for their crimes. Not in Western culture, where not only does the 'innocent until proven guilty' rule prevails - thus placing the burden on the prosecution to prove a person is guilty - but people have the option of blaming environmental reasons - like we see in Canada with its ridiculous youth laws - for a persons crimes. The bottom line is simple. In places like California, New York and Florida, if you are citizen in these states, the death penalty applies. Proceed at your own risk.

While some may be swayed with the notion of "well, if celebrities are defending him then he must be innocent and saved", we must always come back to perspective. He killed four people (including a family of three). He killed four people. Say it, he killed four people in cold blood.

Snoop and his ilk want us to conveniently ignore this. Celebrities want us to accept vices as natural human flaws. Once we do, we will never want to erase those vices. For now, the message is "If you kill, write a children's book, watch celebrities flock to your cause, as the guilt of society will set you free."

If the new evidence presented proves his innocence is accurate, then he must be freed. Here in Canada, Guy Morin and David Milgaard are legendary examples of men going to jail for crimes they did not commit. Stories like Hurricane Carter, while not uncommon, still remain the exception rather than the norm. I don't know if this is a similar case. In the end, the Terminator must make the right decision if Tookie fails to present the hard facts proving his innocence.

I write this piece in honour of the victims. As is usually the case, the victims are often forgotten. May their souls rest in peace.


In Search of Santa Claus: An Insane Journey.

I awoke with a conspicuously suspicious mind this morning. Who is Santa and what exactly does he gain for tirelessly cramming his ass down chimneys to leave gifts for duped children? Qui bono, dammit? No one is perfect and infallible in their altruism, right? Does altruism exist? Why do we do good deeds? But first I had to find out if he was real. I needed to find out.

I kissed my wife good-bye and left. "Don't bother coming back," she indifferently mentioned. I smiled and replied, "You crazy girl."

I started at a local school. No luck. The kids are way too deep in their absorption of Santa Claus propaganda. Worse, the teachers willingly feed this crud under the guise of selling the spirit of Christmas. Steal the spot light from my boy Jesus, eh? Wait until I get my hands on jolly St. Nick.

Next, it was the shopping mall. I found him sitting there alright; all cheap, fat, old and dirty. You can tell by the black rings along his red suit that he has not washed his clothes in some time. Pig. His beard was browning at the edges.

While I waited in line, rehearsing what I was going to ask him, I began to sweat. Which line should I open with? "Here Santa, a blood soaked suit for you. I killed the walrus myself!" Or I could simply make him bleed and stain his own clothes. I'm not sure.

Stage fright was about to hit! The fiendish looking elves were directing us along and when my turn came I felt a sudden kick, "Move, Mister!" I look back; it was some dumb nipper. I looked at his mother and simultaneously wanted to slap and fuck her. I wouldn't mind sticking my north pole in her ass. But before I could further embellish my thoughts, one of those awful looking elves - who were really midgets - yelled at me. They had whips. They spoke with Bismarckian authority. "Break you momma's back!" one yelled. They scared me.

I ran away like a Taliban mental case. I drove my car into the parking lot of another mall. Silently and with purpose, I entered. I wasn't sure what I was going to find. As I turned, my knees buckled. Sock puppets!

I ran away like a Commie hippie pinko left wing pothead. Another mall. This time no sock was going to distract me. This time, no one was going to push me. This time, what the hell? Is that Santa? B-but, I just saw him at the other mall! How many are there? Is he like the Wile E. Coyote? One or many? I asked him the question while sitting on his lap. I don't weigh all that much - 152lbs. He answered, "I am omnipotent. I live in your heart." "Oh" I said, "like God?"

"What do you want for Christmas?" he interjected curtly. "I want the truth" I told him. "You're kidding right? I mean, you're not serious?" he said. "No, no I'm dead fucking serious Santy. I want to know what union you work for and exactly how you profit. I want to see a break-even analysis. I want..." "Security!" They have sock puppets. I leap for my freedom.

Outside, I lean against a wall catching my breath and thoughts. I punch the calming air and tantalizing wind with my fist and demand, "Show yourself you coward. Damn you!"

I ran away. I was confused. I was not closer to the truth. Worse, I may have uncovered a racket. A consortium of diabolical Santas had entered our quiet little town. I'm sure the Jews are behind this. I hear and read that they are behind everything. Heck, Santa Clause may be a Jew. His real name may be Clauseberg or Clausevitch. His whole network may be nothing more than an Israeli plot to take over the Middle East and eventually the world!

I lit a cigarette and went home. My key didn't fit the lock. "Hmm, that's strange. 2B. This is my apartment alright." I look around. Neighbors look at me but say nothing. I plot my next move.

The Montreal Alouettes are the Atlanta Braves of the CFL

Since 1996, when the they returned to the CFL after a 10 year absence, the Montreal Alouettes have compiled a regular season record of 120 wins -59 losses - 1 tie. Or a .669 winning percentage. By far the best record in the nine team league. The only team to have kept pace with this record are the Edmonton Eskimos - the New York Yankees of the CFL - who compiled a 103-77 record or .572 percentage.

Yet, it is the Eskimos with 2 Grey Cup titles (after 5 finals appearances) after tonight's thrilling 38-35 OT win over the Als. Montreal, for all their regular season dominance, have only one Grey Cup to show for it. That was won in 2002 over the same Eskimos.

For their part, since the early 1990s the Atlanta Braves, after 14 division NL titles* and 4 Pennants, are 1-3 in the World Series; losing twice to the New York Yankees. Yes, this is still a great achievement, but I'm sure they feel a little unfulfilled; just like the Montreal Alouette fans and front office feel this evening. Indeed, this type of success may even affect attendance. It already has in Atlanta and Montreal fans are notorious for their fickle behavior. A 'call me when you win' attitude may set in.

The Als let this one slip away - as they usually do. Brain dead penalties and pourous defense in critical moments simply did them in. The Esks were there for the taking - as they were all year long but still found a way to win.

This was Edmonton's 13th Grey Cup (second only to the Toronto Argonaut's 15). While they trail the Argonauts, since 1954 - when the Grey Cup officially became property of the CFL - the Eskimos have been the league's most successful franchise marked with periods of dynasties in the 50s and 70s. Hence, the Yankees reference. The Als, have always been a solid regular season club but now have a well-deserved reputation for not being able to win the big one. Montreal has 5 Grey Cups to their name in 14 tries.

These are not great days for Montreal sports fans. The Expos left MLB with no honor, the Habs are a mere shadow of their once shining masterful dominance in the NHL and the Alouettes are second fiddle in perpetuity. As one of the greatest actors of our generation once said, "Boo-hoo-hoo, always the bridesmaid but never the bride."

*Out of possible laziness, it is not uncommon to hear sports reports, shows and papers annoyingly praise the 14 consecutive division titles won by the Braves. This is a little unfair to the now defunct Montreal Expos. In 1994, the Expos were 74-40 when the players went on strike; in what turned out to be the death and fate-sealing moment for the Expo franchise. At the time, they were 6 games ahead of the Braves.


George Best: Soccer Loses a Master

George Best passed away yesterday. Born in Northern Ireland, Best went on to become Great Britain's first true global football superstar. A slick, weaving and clever hard-tacking forward, Best was incredibly skillful and a masterful deceiving menace to opposing defenders.

Best arrived on the British football scene in 1963 with West Bromwich - five years after the Busby tragedy. In 1965, he inspired Manchester United to the Premiership title and the semi-finals in the European Cup. He led them to another title in 1967. In 1968, his performance in a 4-1 masterful defeat of Benfica in the Champions' Cup finals - Man-U's first - earned him the nickname "O'Beatle" by the Portuguese press. Manchester United did not win another Champions League Cup until 1999.

When all was said and done, the "Fifth Beatle" scored 136 goals in 361 appearances for Man-U. He was voted World and European Footballer of the Year in 1968. Unfortunately, because Best was born in Northern Ireland, the football world never had the chance to watch him showcase his skills on the biggest stage; the World Cup.

His on-field prowess was matched by his off-field antics. Addicted to women and alcohol, Best was washed up by the age of 28; usually the peak years for any athlete. Indeed, he was another great tragic figure among sports legends. God knows there have been a few in North American professional sports.

The tributes have been gracefully and furiously coming in fast. So, where does George Best fit among the all-time greats?

There is no doubt he is among the greatest footballers of the century. Where he fits is a little more difficult to assess. As mentioned, he did not play in the World Cup - though this should have no weight except for popularity considerations - and his career was cut short.

Soccer - and sports in general - is highly subjective. Nor is soccer a sport that relies too much on statistics like we relish in North America. Still, there should be some parameters to follow. One writer from the London Daily Graph ranked him behind Pele and Maradona. Another had him just behind those two and Johan Cruyff. Nice sentiments but a little misguided.

I won't even attempt to rank him. What I will do is point out where some prestigious and important soccer publications placed him. Placar, Brazil's soccer magazine, ranked him 27th in a list of top 100 - a list dominated by 25 Brazilians and 11 Italians. Italy's Venerdi Magazine published their 100 top players (100 Magnifici) in no particular order which included George Best. Another Italian magazine, Guerin Sportivo, compiled a list of the world's top 50 players in the century. Interestingly, Best was left off the list. France's Planéte Football, did include him in their top 50 list; A list which included 6 Brazilians and 6 Italians. France Footballer ranked him 12th. Last, World Soccer magazine mentions Best in their top 100.

In all these lists and others I examined, along with fan threads I read, we can arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to where George Best fit among the all-time greats. In each of these, he was firmly and staunchly behind the geniuses of the game. They include, Pelé, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Alfredo DiStefano, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas, Giuseppe Meazza, Michel Platini and Garrincha. For those of you who are wondering where Beckenbauer and Baresi are, not to mention goalkeepers, I kept it to midfielders and forwards. Heck, I'm sure there are many a Briton who would debate who was greatest among Matthews, Charlton, Moore or Best. Such is sports.

On this day, however, it doesn't really matter. George Best does sit comfortably along side these majestic players. Soccer has lost one of its true giants.


Commentary: This 'Tator Needs a Defibrillator: Football, Quebec, Terrorism, Maureen Dowd, CSI: Las Vegas and history

-You are what you eat. You consume a lobster then you are a lobster.Sports leagues are a reflection of the state of a nation's business culture in some ways. There are no better examples than the NFL and CFL.

We all know about the NFL. Its origins and history plays like a typical American handbook on how to succeed. The CFL on the other hand has more lives than Fritz the Cat. It's a league that if a movie were to be made about it 'Night of the Living Dead' would be the perfect parody. From how it operates all the way to how it projects and markets itself the CFL is quintessentially Canadian; and that's not a good thing when it comes to making profits. 9 teams and 95 years of history and the league still can't figure out how to make money. One century later and they still don't sell out every single game - though attendance has been improving. Sounds suspiciously like the country itself. Canada has 10 provinces that conveniently forget they are in a Confederation. Each province acts like it's an independent entity (think inter-provincial barriers) out to suck the Federal system dry. There is no unity or cohesiveness as to how Canada functions. It's a dysfunctional collection of leaderless and spoiled disaffected morons. Can't wait for the Grey Cup though.

-Speaking of provinces, Quebec deserves credit. I have been merciless in the past regarding the political situation in this place. The intellectualism here is claustrophobic and weak. But that's for another post. When looking at Canada as a whole, Quebec by far has the most thriving grass roots football programs and indigenous movie industry. Slowly we are beginning to see world-class French-Canadian football players emerge and there has been a marked improvement in the quality of Quebecois films. Quirky, well-written and now sophisticated, Quebec-based films are even marketable to Americans. In a larger North American context, this is welcomed. While Canadians have been introduced to the many facets of American life, Americans have not been exposed to the different culture that lays North of them.

-Spanish police arrested a Moroccan with plans to attack subways. One of the cities initially thought to be targeted was Montréal. Well, I'm not going to rehash anything here. One of the first things I argued was that we were not immune after 9/11. Canadians, however, unfortunately seemed perfectly content to dive further into a deep and dark realm of denial. Canadians have taken to easily to the disease of anti-Americanism that masquerades as Canadian nationalism. I have strenuously argued that this country is not only unprepared logistically but psychologically as well.

-Speaking of absurdities. Maureen Dowd is one pompous chick. I caught two or three minutes of her interview with Charlie Rose and could not watch one more wretched nano-second. Her demeanor and locked-jaw was awful. Now that's megalomania at its height. Seriously, I have no idea what the fascination is with her. I have read maybe three of her articles and found them to be superficial, childish and arrogant. They offered nothing in insight that would help to improve my knowledge. From what I hear, she's acclaimed and littered with awards. Which leads me to wonder - what are these awards worth? They did, recall we must, give Arafat a Nobel Peace prize.

-Speaking of history, I watched CSI: Las Vegas - as a prelude to FOX Sports World who had my UEFA Cup soccer updates at 10pm - Ever notice how, and CSI is not the only one guilty of this, whenever a character goes off and explains an interesting historical event or fact how the person he or she is speaking to reacts? Usually with rolled eyes or complete disinterest. Tells a lot about the state of history in pop culture - to me anyway.

Clear! That's the sound of the defibrillator....


Irrefutably Demented Megalomaniacs: A Preliminary Examination of my Hockey Pool


The act of exchanging $1 in the hope of earning $10 through the futile art of sports gambling is foolhardy. Not only that, - gambling is not a calculated risk - but the low art of believing, through the dark prism of half-developed minds and egos, that you're better than the next half-broiled ham with pineapples - is technically immoral and therefore a sin. Hence, the billion dollar industry it has spawned.

Anything that gives way to the possible attachment and addiction of a vice should be banned. Anyone caught betting should be stripped and chased by a hungry and angry pack of soused, sex starved Eskimo lesbians. Think about it.

Legislate against a vice? Bah.

As a covert sociological study for a government that shall remain nameless -ok, so it's for the Saskatchewan Wheat and Gaming Boards - I joined a hockey pool a few years to analyze what motivates normal and responsible individuals with high positions and seemingly stable families to engage in an utterly depraved and valueless activity. They spend hundreds of dollars that could otherwise be used to dress and take the kids out. They consume hundreds of hours researching, strenuously debating and pontificating about people they know little of. Why?

What I have learned so far:

The objective of the exercise is to pick players, through a draft in a poorly ventilated restaurant that serves suspect food for several hours, and subsequently hope and pray the players you chose bring you in barely one months rent or mortgage payment. Worse, the servers are rarely sexy women with big tatonka's. They are usually French speaking males who obviously want to take part rather than take orders.

All the while, an inordinate amount of time is wasted, as mentioned earlier, emailing nonsense, swearing, making terrible Muslim terrorist references, researching and begging someone to take one of your players in a barter system known as a trade. The goal of the trade is to sodomize your opponent. To rape and make him to feel like he is unfit to be part of an association of pool sluts. If he goes home in a depressed state and his wife questions his manhood then mission accomplished. "Dad, why is Sergei Gonchar a puke and a vomit that stinks like pig shit and eats dead ants?" "I do not know son. DAMMIT, Timmy I just...don't... know. Leave me alone!"

My first essay was titled "A most deprived and depraved group of mental cases that need to have more sex outside of marriage." While on the surface we are witnessing what seems to be a normal and functioning society of market oriented poolsters, deep within its layers we find a darker more sinister reality.

In this city of vice, there lay several internal factions struggling to gain recognition and power. Tribalism and decadent ritualistic practices have been detected; though I have yet to substantiate. I need to gain their trust first to be included inside their inner sanctum. One of their initiations, it is alleged by one source known only as Lennie, is to jerk off in a coffin while a monkey awaits to clean up.

What follows is a sample of some of the subjects:

One poolster, is a giggling mad fool who paints the walls of his house with the names of the players he is following. He is Exhibit A and I call him Frolov. Another, a doctor of some sort, though I have my suspicions that he is really a sorcerer, is plotting to inject vaccinations ladened with a strand of a viral infection into his enemies. He is also known to employ thugs to beat fellow poolsters should they turn down any deals. I call him Ninimaa. A draftsman from Kirgizstan concludes my first round of observations. He is Teemu. His intimidation abilities include employing an innocent smile while sonically sending wicked waves of dolphin squeals to his enemy. He insists he learned the trick from Arthur Curry - otherwise known as Aquaman.

Preliminary conclusion:

And so my experiment continues. My result will not be published for another year. But when I do, it promises to be of incredible social value of grand proportions. Legislators will clamor to my feet begging for guidance on how to eliminate and eradicate the pond scum that seems to constantly rise in our society. Only then will I be able to help those who have succumbed to madness. Now, if you don't mind, I have a call to make...to a poolster....about a...trade.


Max: Self-Unemployed

I know I haven't written much recently but I swear I will be back with more stories and pointless adventures real soon. Insert banjo player from 'Deliverance' here.

For those of you wondering where Jeebies has gone, he is learning how to rope sing in Nunavut. He also sent me a lovely pair of gloves made of caribou fur. His last message said "Me and Igalikuk are busting this joint up like Bad Scooter and the Big Man."

As for me, I've been busy searching for love and legal advice. For purpose and existence. For rare hockey tickets and Charles Lindbergh. For an original Al Jolson recording and honor. For laughter and sorrow. For the Falcon and the Snowman. For a sparrow and a black bird. For Jenna and cold hard cash. For King Arthur and a leader for my country. For lies and for spare change. For truth and dust. For integrity and optimism.

I can feel it somehwere now.


Article of Interest: Politics: Foreign Affairs: Melvin R. Laird

Here's an article in Foreign Affairs by former Secretary of Defense (1969-1973) Melvin R. Laird. It is informative, insightful, sober, balanced and introspective.



A Remembrance Day Incident

A few months ago I wrote a piece about an ignorant busboy (caught up in the anti-Bush hysteria) who felt compelled to comment on my wife's t-shirt of a jeans company that happened to have an American flag on it. The politically challenging remark - in a place where we paying customers - stunned us and left us wondering about the state of freedom in our country.

Fast forward to today. It never fails. Every year Canadians are encouraged to wear Poppy in honor of fallen soldiers. It's not meant to be political but as a somber reminder of a different time when a whole generation were not as lucky as we are in our leisurely ways. I have two poppies. The one I wore today had a Canadian flag pin holding it down on my sweater.

Normally, I just use a regular pin but it would not have held well on a leather coat. So, I opted for the one I never wear but keep on my desk. I just wanted to make sure I was carrying one.

As each passing year goes by, so does a person who forgets or the one who conveniently chooses to politicize the event. The province of Quebec is one of those places. Quebec sent many of its sons and daughters to fight but the issue of Canada mobilizing for war was highly controversial here and it eventually led to a dithering Mackenzie King to enact a conscription law. A double whammy against the wishes of Quebec who felt, not without entire reason, that it was not Canada's war but a war for Britain. In this light, they were similar to American isolationists. English-Canada responded that we were a part of the Empire and as such were compelled to fight alongside the Commonwealth.

Both sides had a point. In the end, the right decision was made. The allies needed Canada it turned out.

Granted, Canada made some horrible decisions - like sending our soldiers with outdated Ross Rifles in the Great War and going ahead with a highly dubious Dieppe campaign during the Second War- but the country matured fast during this time. Our foreign policy had yet to come of age and we were caught between wanting outright Canadian independence and the reality of existing in the bosom of the British Empire. Lest we forget Canada became a country in 1867. Today, Canada behaves very much like they are country in search of itself.

Off we went to war. And the rest is history. Now, we remember. However, many have taken the years that have healed all wounds to engage in revisionism or to rehash old stories. Quebec remains rooted in a 1950s mentality that simply does not resonate well with contemporary times. They often talk of English Canada as one monolithic block - which of course it isn't.

Someone, after examining my pin, told me today that they would never hold the flag. Not that I asked. I found this comment curious for a couple of reasons. One, never mind that Canada's present flag was invented in 1968. We fought under the British flag during the Great Wars. Second, what was the point of saying this on such a month? Again, politics always overwhelms our better judgment. This was not a matter of free speech but someone questioning my rights. Today, people can be ignorant and feel emboldened to showcase it. I responded carefully and measured since many people were around.

Above all, this is not what offended me. What saddened me was the fact that all these people, from French and English Canada and of all nationalities and barely past their 18th birthdays, died for us. It really isn't about the politics but the human side of it. It went right through the empty mind of one individual today.


A Look at the North American Sports Fabric with Hockey and Football

Hockey rules Canada and football the United States. The facts, of course, help to support this reality. Which sport has a bigger impact on its country though? I would submit hockey captivates and occupies the Canadian sports fan more than football does an American. At the same time, it is also interesting to note how football had a common thread between the two countries. The origin of football is a shared sports story between Canada and the United States.

The first documented football game in Canada was played in Toronto in 1861. It was first played in 1868 in Quebec. By 1909, the Grey Cup was introduced as a reward to the champion of the Rugby Football Championship. The Grey Cup has been a Canadian tradition ever since and its awarded to the CFL (Canadian Football League) Champion. In 1874, a football team from McGill University visited Harvard to play two exhibition games. The key result of this match up was the fact that McGill played a hybrid game of soccer and rugby while Harvard played a form of soccer. Harvard won the first game 3-0 playing Harvard rules and the second game was 0-0 playing McGill rules. Characteristics such as running with the ball and tackling which became the hallmarks of football were spread by an enthusiastic Harvard squad to other Ivy League schools.

Interestingly, football in Canada preceded hockey which played its first organized game in 1875. In 1888, Lord Stanley of Preston donated a trophy to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. By 1917, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the champion of the National Hockey League and is widely considered to be the most recognized trophy, in addition to being the oldest, in pro sports. The Grey Cup happens to be the second oldest. In any event, it was hockey that was to capture the attention, hearts and minds of Canadians.

By contrast, the first inter-collegiate football game in the U.S. was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton and the first professional game in 1875. American pro football went through many changes and began with the American Professional Football Association in 1920. The APFA changed its name to the National Football league in 1922. The NFL withstood many viable rival leagues early on. The first was the All-America football conference from 1946 to 1949. Later, and more significantly, the AFL was created in 1960 and soon merged with the NFL later in the decade. The NFL, at the height of its popularity, had to battle yet another well orchestrated league in the USFL but this too was defeated by the NFL. Today, the NFL rules the football world.

Baseball, for its part, up until the 1960s transcended American sports. First played in 1865, baseball organized its first league - National League in 1876. The World Series was first played in 1903 between the winner of the NL and the American League (AL) founded in 1901.

With this, it is time for some observations. First, one may wonder why Canada had an early impact on all of North America's pro sports (including basketball). The reason is simple. Britain still had a major influence on Canadian society during this time. British Majors and Generals stationed in Canada were always developing or on the look out for new games. Athletics was considered an important element in creating a soldier and a gentleman. Much of what was played was at the amateur level.

Second, football had to take on hockey in Canada and baseball in the U.S. This is where the two countries go their separate ways. While football is a popular game in Canada, it could never seriously rival hockey. In the beginning, this was the case with the U.S also only baseball ruled. Things took a sudden change by the time the 1960s rolled around. While key championship games in the 1950s had laid the foundation, football began to run wild in the 60s. Ever since then, even with baseball's push in the mid-70s, football has become America's game while baseball remained a pass time. A different America with different dynamics shrugged off baseball and moved on.

Third, football is indeed the most popular game in the U.S.and it has found a resurgence in Canada since the 1990's. However, no sport means so much to a country like hockey does to Canada (not mention scores of soccer nations. England, Brazil and Italy in particular take it to another level). Hockey has come to represent the achievements and failures of a rustic society. Hockey affects the Canadian psyche that football and baseball only wished it could. America, after all, still has the NBA and NASCAR - so their attention is divided.

More importantly, baseball and football do not have international tournaments that pit nations against other nations. Football remains, despite being played in Mexico and Japan now, a two country sport. Baseball never mobilized itself to create a meaningful tournament that brought Cuba, Japan, Canada and other relevant countries. Hockey did. This is what made the sport so important. Especially during the Cold War. There are four major international tournaments and all have Canadians riveted.

There you have it. A somewhat long look at two countries and 2 sports. The point of the argument was that football managed to wrestle the American sports fan away from baseball to become its most dominant sport in a highly competitive market. Not so with the Canadian fan where hockey continues to wield a magnetic power on an entire nation.


Remembrance Day, November 11. Honor Thy Sons.

As November 11 approaches, it is only fitting to pay homage to Canada's proud military past. In recent years, our government has neglected our military and has turned a once proud heritage into a curious farce. This in itself is cause for shame and is just another poignant example of the loss leadership that absorbs this rudderless country. With this, this piece will remain on this post for the month of November. We begin with a poem written by a Canadian.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

It is not surprising that many have forgotten about Canada's contribution during the Two Great Wars. Whether we had any direct interests or not in participating the facts of history secure that we nonetheless were present. Every year our Veteran's, a dying breed and treated with scant respect, color our shopping malls ready to pin a Poppy on grateful citizens.

Unfortunately, there have been some shocking disrespectful actions of ingratitude among some. In Quebec, nationalist politicians will at times side with classless musings in an effort to reminds people that Quebec was not interested in fighting and that it was a British Empire affair. Perhaps, but bringing this up during the one month where we all gather to respect those who did go - including many French-Canadians - is disappointing.

Indeed, Canada is a nation that has lost all sense of purpose - choosing instead to direct their pride into things of scant importance. A couple of years ago, the CIBC bank - one of the largest banks in this country - chose to not allow Veteran's to set up there tiny tables in their branches. This from a bank that boasts of its contribution to Canadian history in its commercials. I vowed, in whatever capacity, to always bring this up. The CIBC, IKEA and other companies like them should always be made to account for their poor actions.

Canada is a tough little nation. Many of the battles this young nation fought have often been overlooked by the Great Powers but were it not for their many victories - often victories that the Great Powers themselves could not achieve - the Germans would have had much more momentum. Here are some of the key battles:

Battle of Ypres - Belgium, 1915. Attacked under a cloud of chlorine gas from three sides by numerically superior German forces, the Canadian 1st Division, abandoned by their French allies, held on to the post until the Germans retreated at the cost of 6 000 Canadian casualties.

Battle of Mount Sorrel, 1916. Hand to hand combat of brutal nature marked this battle which included the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Princess Patricia Light Infantry, the 5th Battery. Canadians, when over ran, fought to the last man but with their revolvers in their hands. The Canadians halted the advance.

Battle of Vimy Ridge - France, 1917. The Canadian Corps met all objectives by capturing this important 135 metre high ridge, key to the Hindenburg Line, defended at all costs by the Germans.

Passchendaele, Belgium 1917. Relieving New Zealand and Australian units, Canadians put an end to this battle at the cost of 8 000 casualties and pushed back a fierce German counter-attack.

Battle of Hill 70, Lens, France 1917. Using various original methods, the Canadian Corps took this chalk called Hill 70. The capture, at the cost of 1 055 killed and over 2 400 wounded, gave allies a clear view of Germans positions in Lens. By this point, Canada was showing the world it could take and hold points of importance.

Belcourt, France 1918. 100 000 Canadians stormed the Hindenburg Line. Four Canadian divisions met 9 full German divisions. A German officer was quoted as saying this was the 'blackest day' as Germany "buried all hopes of victory." In fact, Canadian fighting abilities had become stuff of legend among the Germans.

While what was happening on the ground was nothing short of remarkable for Canada - still a subject of the British Empire, Canadian airmen distinguished themselves with the likes of legends like Billy Bishop. All allied nations took notice. The British thought so highly of Canadian pilots - it is thought a Canadian (Roy Brown) shot down the notorious Red Baron - that they set p a recruiting and training program, which included Americans coming up to be trained, at Camp Borden in Beamsville.

Dieppe, France 1942. Canada's unnecessary raid of the beach resort becomes a disaster. Of the 4 900 of whom only 3 900 reached the beach, 983 were killed and 1 874 were taken prisoner.

Pachino, Italy 1943. Canada spearheads the Sicilian campaign with its 1st division. The campaign was also in Reggio Calabria where the West Nova Scotia Regiment, the Carleton and York Regiments took part. Later that year, the 1st Division was to also take a German stronghold in Ortona.

Normandy, France - June 6, 1944. The biggest amphibious operation im military history. 175 000 American, British and Canadian soldiers landed in Normandy. The Canadian 1st Parachute Battalion along with other divisions such as the 3rd Canadian Infantry, the RCN minesweepers and RCAF, made the deepest penetration of all Allied forces. 359 Canadians were killed.

And so it went on. Soldiers from a Nordic society seeking recognition and independence liberated Dieppe, Antwerp and Holland. During the Post-War era, Canada was a key member in establishing the United Nations. Canadians were to take help their American friends in Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War with Iraq and the War on Terror in Afghanistan. In a symbolic moment of the Golden Age of Canadian identity, Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games. Canada's eminence and their place in the world was limitless.

Alas, there was a limit. A price ceiling if you will. Contemporary Canadian leaders exhibit an inability to fully grasp this country's true spirit. Once a rugged and individualist nation with limited government that understood its role in the world, Canada is now a rudderless, misguided collection of 'follow the polls' politicians. Canada is now a nation that demands government handouts in the form of equalization payments for its provinces and subsidies for its industries. It is a nanny state in comparison to what it once was.

Canadians no longer stand on their own two feet. The must be propped up with a cane. Canadians seem unaware or disinterested in returning to a time when we really mattered. In a larger sense, some citizens in the West have taken to mocking our liberties. They forget that liberty is a precious commodity that is sought after by wicked people. They forget, in their rebellious questioning, that once upon a time freedom was threatened and fought for. It is no womder why some downplay what we face today. Propaganda perhaps. It's a good kind though. Peace at all costs has a downside. We must seek it but not in compromise. We have been fed a whole wagon of leftist special interest jargon. In the process of our well-intentioned and vain social engineering, we have forgotten who we are. The first casualty was our military.

A first gesture to recovering a sense of ourselves is to make sure we take a moment to reflect and recall the sacrifices made by a generation on Rememberance Day, November 11.


Hockey is Tailor-Made for the American Sports Fan

For years I have always wondered and tried to intellectually rationalize why hockey isn't more popular across the United States in terms of media and television exposure. Furthermore, it barely registers on the publics imagination. Then again, since the rise of football in the 1960s, even baseball has lost its grip on the American sports fan. Sports mad America has two passions in different regions and demographics now: College and NFL football & NASCAR.

That doesn't mean hockey isn't popular in certain parts of the country. Minnesota is a hockey-crazed hotbed at both the Collegiate and amateur ranks. The state consistently produces world-class players. In Detroit and Philadelphia, the Red Wings and Flyers outdraw the Pistons and 76ers respectively. Massachusetts has a long and proud hockey culture, as Bruins hockey reveals.

Chicago and New York, two of the country's biggest markets, have devoted pockets of Blackhawks, Sabres, Islander and Ranger fans. I think the Devils, despite their successes, are only followed by Bruce Springsteen.

The first real stage of the NHL's attempt to make inroads with the average American sports fan was presented when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. The impact on California's hockey inscriptions was immediate. Since then, its growth and development has been impressive. It is not uncommon to see California teams come up to Canada to play in major tournaments, and excel. In some cases, they even win. The thinking is that most southern states do not connect to hockey for several reasons.

Weather is often cited as one. The myth and allure of hockey in northern climates is that kids play the sport outdoors and thus create an immediate love for the game. This kind of grassroots 9make that iceroots) connection can never be underestimated. In Canada, the ritual in this country was playing hockey on Saturday and then getting home to watch Hockey Night in Canada. The sport has achieved a level of passion that only soccer fans can rival.

Another is that the sport is a foreign one and has little relevance to the American experience. To me, this one is less plausible. Football is not a purely American sport. Canadians had a hand in how the sport evolved from rugby in the late 19th century. Eventually, both countries developed their own styles and rules. Basketball, while invented in the U.S., was an idea from a Canadian. Americans will latch onto a sport regardless of origin. If they love it they will support it. I think anyway. The truth is that if there is any holes in my argument it's that basketball and football are not viewed to be foreign at its roots.

Yet another misconception is that Americans simply don't understand the game. While on some level this is true, especially if we're talking about places that are just being introduced to it, in a larger sense this can be dismissed. The American sports fan is sophisticated and knowledgeable enough to grasp the intricacies of the game.

Ironically, while the sport is a favorite whipping boy among ESPN personalities and often dismissed as a fringe activity, USA hockey has quietly built a superb hockey program that rivals the traditional powers. American hockey is clearly on par with Canada, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say, given the enormous population base in the U.S., that one day American born players will come to dominate the NHL. We may very well see the United States win on a regular basis at the World Juniors, World Cup, World Championships and Olympics.

The same contradiction can be seen with soccer - another sport Americans seem to love at the grass roots level but have little interest at the pro level. While hockey is a sport with limited appeal on a global scale - save North America, Europe and parts of China and Japan - soccer is truly the world's game - except in the U.S. Yet to soccer fans, the U.S. has once again quietly found itself in the upper echelons of soccer nations, cracking the top 10 in the FIFA rankings. It is a ranking system with dubious methods, but a recognized one nonetheless. In fact, America is so committed to developing its soccer program through its huge reservoir of talent, I have predicted that we may not only see an American squad reach the finals one day but go all the way and win it.

This brings me to my point. When the U.S. juniors won the gold medal a couple of years ago over Canada, this achievement went unnoticed in the U.S. Moreover, Canada and the U.S. have created an intense rivalry on levels from junior to professional, and from amateur ranks to the women's game. While Canadians feel this is one of the most intriguing battles in sports, Americans seem to be oblivious to this exciting fact.

Many of us remain perplexed. Hockey offers everything Americans cherish and adore in a sport - if not in life. It has power and agility, violence and elegance, high level of skill and speed. It is an intense sport with deep and traditional history. It's a game that embodies all the qualities Americans have come to appreciate in their culture. So why is hockey consistently pushed aside by mainstream sports media and fans?


La France Moderne: Le Miroir est Brisé

I once heard, as most people have, a saying that proclaimed 'it doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they are talking about you.' Or "there is no such thing as bad publicity." This may very well attach itself to France.

By design, France is a suave and sophisticated nation that has contributed much to the world. At different points in time, and often at the same time throughout history.

From the ashes of the Merovingians and Carolingians, the Frankish Kingdom of Gaul rose to become a great country. Of course, all things must come to an end. Modern France is in serious trouble and it's really not hard to figure out why.

The writings of Niccolo Macchiavelli, to cite a peculiar starting point, were a response and reaction to the perpetual state of war Italian city-states were in during the Renaissance were mired in. Macchiavellian politics, while a standard in Italy, was really practiced by all nations and peoples.

France has always thumped its chest and waxed theory on everything possible in pompous grandeur. From their huge and skilled civil service to their large diplomatic corps. At times, their artistic ego sometimes got the better of them.

Not so long ago, I witnessed one one of Chirac's close political colleagues, while visiting Quebec, berate an anglophone journalist for not speaking French. He belittled, before the media, this person for not speaking the language of 'intellectualism and high culture'. Of course, one can interpret this action as being, ironically, rather unsophisticated.

France - like England and Spain - consolidated under the monarchy system centuries before Italy or Germany for that matter. Thus, it was in a much better position to employ Macchiavelli's theories of power into practical use. Indeed, France became a European, and later, world power early on in its existence. From Martel to Charlemagne to a long succession of Monarchs and Generals, France was always in the middle of European and world affairs.

These days, under its present leader Jacques Chirac, France maintains the belief that they are still relevant. They employ an 18th century mentality in current affairs - A world structure that is changing before their eyes. While they were a key player in the design of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 - a treaty that ushered a new world order - they find themselves, largely due to their own choice, on the outside looking in as the United States and Great Britain (present during the Treaty) redesign geopolitical rules.

When examining the quarrelsome French in the 20th century, one can't help but wonder about its odd and what can be perceived as hypocritical behaviour. While American contradictions can be attributed to a nation that has yet to plan a sound foreign policy conducive to its sensibilities, France's actions seem to be deliberate in that it seeks to undermine American power to enhance its own image. This may turn out to not only be damaging to France but a dangerous game to play period.

Nowhere is this more stark than with its alliance with not just Arab states and leaders but with terrorist organizations and dictators. France, once upon a time, was an ally of Israel but soon shifted alliance under Charles de Gaulle in an effort to increase visibility in an oil soaked region dominated by a demographically dominant Arab population. It was a pure Macchiavellian power play. However, one must wonder if this was a deal with the devil.

After 40 years of such tactical foreign policy balancing, there is no evidence that Chirac's repugnant cozying up with Arafat, Hezbollaz and Saddam Hussein has had any positive affect. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. French military personnel and civilians have all been targeted by terrorist throughout the last three decades. France's own Muslim population is growing and is expected to reach 25% of the population as soon as 2025. True, the Arab world looks at France in a better light than the U.S.

However, many of France's Muslims who were born in France are sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden and France has not been immune to the trivial chants of 'death to France' on its own soil. Yet, French intellectual circles - and not just in France but across Europe - continue to use socialist and other questionable left-wing rhetoric as a sign of vibrant intellectualism.

What bed have they made? Possibly, if we agree with these points, a messy one. While it may be too soon to tell, a pattern can be noted. France's political machinations may ultimately nip them in the arse. Needless to say, there posturing has led to the rise of anti-semitism - pogroms are nothing new in Europe dating back centuries- and it has not been restricted to the streets but has found itself creeping into the halls of power. Recently, a French ambassador to the UK was quoted as saying about Israel "...that shitty little country..."

It is remarkably ironic how a democracy with a questionable 20th century track record would eschew an imperfect democracy like Israel in a sea of irrational thought.

France are the purveyors of Macchiavellian thought in Occidental politics. They do what they have to do to remain on top. In this light, they are like any kingdom or nation in world history. However, in this instance, France is not even on top and this makes it all the more disturbing not only for world affairs but France itself.

The French should concern themselves less with the diet of the world and the alleged evils of the United States and more with their own pending social and economic demise. It's time to start talking about France for all the right reasons.