"See, I told you so" Won't Cut it

The latest argument du jour on Iraq is about its Constitution. Specifically, the Sunni minority obstacle to ratifying the Constitution drafted by Iraqi leaders.

On the surface the temptation to claim that this is yet more proof about Dubya's incompetence is too great to ignore. However, as is usually the case, beneath the surface lies some practical reasons for this. First, what did people expect? The left will rationalize this by musing that this was an obvious stumbling block. But this was obvious to anybody who understands Iraqi politics and history.

The Sunni's, as a minority, formed the power base in Iraq under a heinous Hussein regime. Their resistance to the Constitution has more to do with survival and preservation of power (which they have none in disproportionate numbers as before). In any event, the way the anti-Bushites have been debating all along, we were not even supposed to be at this stage according to them anyhow. So why should we even bother to engage them?

At its most basic level, the Sunni's are bargaining. This is not surprising. What we need to recognize is that the Sunni's, as well as the Shia's and Kurds, will have to learn to compromise. That's what the premise of Federalism rests upon. Garibaldi, for example, had to give up Piemonte and Savoia in exchange for French help in the unification of Italy.

We all know seeking unanimous agreements in life are rare. To prey upon what is a normal impasse on the path to laying roots of responsible governance for short sighted petty politics is not only misguided but a wanton disregard of our own rocky path to democracy in Western culture. Democracy only found its true voice after TWO major World Wars. Between the periods of 1648 (when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed) and 1914 when the arrival of the First World Way effectively destroyed balance of power politics (AKA realpolitik), the West was anything but free and democratic.

Once the Revolutions in the United States and France* came around the idea of liberty as a practical function enshrined in a document began to take root. This found its ultimate expression in one of the most enlightened documents in world history - The U.S. Constitution. Drafted by men of remarkable fortitude and insight - not to mention genius - the early framers were far from united in their visions. It took a series of debates and compromises to arrive at the final print. Even then, it was not unanimous.

The same can be said for Canada. Though less romantic and earth shattering, the Canadian BNA Act was also written by learned men who had to compromise. In fact, Canada is one gigantic compromise.

The Constitution in itself was not enough. The institutions that supported such daring notions of equality and freedom were not strong enough. Piracy and illegal activity were still the norm. Eventually, society came into its own and accepted the principle of rule of law to which democracy rests.

The odds against Iraq are greater in that it took a foreign power, still uncomfortable in its empire role, to topple its dictator in an ancient and fragmented land. This was made worse by the public relations nightmare, for this gamble was enormously unpopular not only among some Arabs, but among the traditional allies and democracies of the West. As if this was not enough, it was magnified by a vocal anti-war and anti-Bush movement, in their own version of fanaticism, that when all is said and done, are damaging Iraqi's more than they are George W. Bush.

Though daunting, it's far from impossible, too. Iraq was, much like Afghanistan, an advanced, literate and functioning Arab country prior to Saddam Hussein. It has been at the forefront, along with Egypt, of Arab culture and civilization. It is not a hopeless case nor is this a Vietnam scenario. The dynamics are completely different and should not even be a point of debate. Adopting dubious, complex and confusing angles about the opium trade, oil pipelines and other issues in an effort to try and solidify anti-Americanism and attack Bush is irrelevant to the larger picture.

We should not underestimate the will of Iraqis and Afghanis, as they seek to take advantage of an opportunity - no matter how it came about - accorded to them. We should, after all, be reminded that the path to a civil society was not all that different for us.

*There is an irony to be found here. Conservatives disapproved of both the American and French revolutions. Yet, it is a branch of conservatism (neo-conservatism) that is launching a revolution abroad. Conservatives are supposed to be for small government; not bigger government. Right?


Israels's Gaza Pull Out

The Gaza Pull out will not lead to the desired, if there is one, result. Nor is it, as many must be concluding, a first step in the right direction. We consistently fail to understand in its proper form and context the pathology of terrorism. We view it through the lenses of our own narrow scope and perceptions. While most Israeli's favor it, they are correct in their assessment that this will only embolden terrorists. Indeed, we have been rewarding terrorism for years - Arafat, for his troubles and efforts, was perversely given the Nobel Peace prize for peace.

The bottom line is that while Israel has not helped its own cause at times, it remains a democracy in a sea of hostility. One can gloss over this however they choose - Mystical Jewish invisible hands are making me say this? It will not detract from this reality. The world has decided to usurp thousands of years of accepted norms and parameters in rules of engagement when it comes to Israel - and of course the United States. The oddity is that these two countries are held to a higher standard than the rest, yet remain immensely unpopular among intellectuals and leftist/socialists.

The 'Occupation' is the supreme point of contention. Land lost by a rabid band of unprepared marauders who wanted to throw another society 'into the sea' fair and square. Perhaps they should have thought a little harder before attacking. 1948 was a difficult and controversial year but with a lack of leadership in a fragmented world, the hospitable Arabs were doomed to sink further into irrelevance. The leaders of each Arab country had failed its people in guiding them through rough waters.

The ultimate insult thrust upon the legacy of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians and Phoenicians. In 1993, peace and independence was at hand, yet was refuted for no good reason. A campaign of senseless murdering and 'martrydom' ensued.

The perpetual war machine has always been part of human nature but it finds higher expression in the halls of modern militant Islam that uses the Palestinians as pawns, than it does in the democratic pluralist states of the West and Israel.

A free Palestine? Yes, but not under these conditions.


Sports Scores Ticker

In MLB, Montreal Expos lead the Brooklyn Dodgers 5-4 in the 7th, Philadelphia A's 3 Cuba All-Stars 1 in the 3rd and the Milford Yankees and New York Yankees are all knotted up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth. One final to report it was the Boston Braves 9 Atlanta Braves 1.

In the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets 7 Detroit Falcons 4 and Montreal Maroons 6 California Golden Seals 0. Both are finals. Other finals include the New Jersey Devils beat the Colorado Rockies 1-0 in a fierce sibling rivalry, the Montreal Canadiens 4 Central Red Army 2 and Toronto St. Pats 4 New York Americans 3.

In the NFL the Cleveland Browns are ahead of the Chicago Staleys 17-7 in the 3rd Quarter, while Green Bay Packers steam rolled the Providence Steam Rollers 34-10.

In the CFL, it was the Ottawa Rough Riders 54 Hamilton Tigers 14. Tied in the 3rd quarter, Edmonton Eskimos 24 Toronto Argonauts 24.

The NBA has two finals to report and one game in progress. Finals, the Baltimore Bullets 109 St.Louis Hawks 100. Chicago Bulls 115 Minneapolis Lakers 102. In progress, Boston Celtics 56 Fort Wayne Pistons 50 at the half.

In tennis, Rod Laver defeated Roger Federer at Frewimusaus in five-sets 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 7-6, 6-1, 7-6 (11-9). In F1, Juan Fangio led Maserati to victory ahead of Ferrari's Jim Clark and Michael Schumacher in a McLaren-Lotus. Tazio Nuvolari spun out in his Dodge 426 Max Wedge.

In international soccer, the Azzurri defeated the Austrian Wunderkids 2-1. The Magnificent Magyars from Hungary defeated West Germany 4-1 and Holland '74 upset England at Old Tafford 2-1. Brazil drew rival Argentina 2-2.

In a special international friendly, Busby Manchester United and Torino '49 played to a 1-1 draw.

* For all the great sports towns and clubs that have come and gone. An ode to sports and its legacy.


Moonlight in Vermont

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon in Montreal. For this, we decided to go to Vermont. With just a two hour drive (165km) the Green Mountain state is a popular excursion for Montrealers and vice versa. It's a great place to kick back and let the gentle flow of life pass you by. Ben and Jerry's, Stowe and Church St. are some of the many attractions. No, we never took in a Vermont Expos game.

Some observations struck me about the bird seed state. First among them, the bilingual sign for the Vermont Tourist office after passing customs. Good luck getting this in Quebec. Vermont, incidentally, was named by early French explorers who called the state Verts Montagne (Green Mountain) - Hence, Ver-Mont. Heaven forbid the thin-skinned Quebec government respect the Americans.

Next, does anybody in Vermont own a suit? Better yet, anything other than sandals or winter boots? If Texas is considered too right wing for some, Vermont leans way, way to the left.

The state is home to one Howard Dean. I used to watch him on 'The Editors' which was a very good show about North American affairs moderated by NBC correspondent the Canadian-born Keith Morrison on PBS. Dean announced on that show he would run for the Presidency, which surprised me at the time. I didn't think he had a chance in hell. To his credit he made the Democrats move their asses a little. Then, he let out that growl and the Dems pinned their hope on a loser - John Kerry and that dingbat freak wife of his. They didn't do the 69 in the Kerry household; they did the 57!

Another thought came to me and that was do any conservatives exist in Vermont? This is a place, as far as I can tell and I'm probably wrong, whose political compass revolves around Bernie Sanders (to whom a giant bronze statue has been erected that is seen as far back as St.Albans) and Bill Lee.

It was a remarkably magnificent day on Church St. we ate at one of the restaurants as the attire challenged people passed us by. There were a few lesbian couples holding hands. It was all so 'progressive'.

Then I wondered, while we in the West head the complete other way in our secularism (less so in the U.S.), barbarians are at the gates of Western civilization knocking and entering and they are not so understanding and tolerant of a tiny gem like Vermont.

Islam and Vermont are as diametrically opposed in every possible way as the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are - or as I am with Quebec politics. Vermonters, in a hypothetical scenario, would be in for a major shock if they were to ever be demographically over run by Muslim society. Just ask France and other parts of Europe who are on their knees incapable of solving a major powder keg that will one day possibly explode. That is why you need states like Texas in the union.

Personally, I plan to head back for some cross-country skiing in the winter. Nothing like moonlighting in Vermont in the snow.


Max: Is Back and Unemployed

I went to Wal-Mart for the first time in ages today. Crowded places already annoy me. Not surprisingly, it was a mad house in there. It was not a pleasurable experience in the least.

Look, get off my hairless back, I needed some hangers and other mundane items and Wal-Mart is the Mundane Palace. Besides, I was in a neighbourhood that had one and I was too lazy to head to my favorite place Canadian Tire.

Let's begin with irony. The Wal-Mart I went to was in the East end of the city.There is something curiously ironic in seeing all the burqua's and Muslim Arabs (Pakistani etc.) shop like consuming materialist in one of the icons of American capitalism. Sort of like when they wave pictures of dead suicide bombers. So much for 'thous shall not worship false idols'. Wonder what Francis Bacon would have thought about this. These are probably the same people who privately cheered on 9/11. Hey, it's my segment. If that quack 'The Commentator' can spew his crud'n crap, I could do so freely for my own bit.

Next, the god dang rudeness of the people in general. People are zooming around excessively with their carriages nearly bumping into one another just to get to the section they need to. It's so mad, it's funny.

In the U.S., customer service with a smile is paramount. Again, I speak loosely and generally, Americans tend to be more accomodating than the Quebec chapter of Wal-Mart where the workers tend to feel they are doing you a favor. Then again, this is the place where it tried to bully Wal-mart into unionizing workers even before the building had been built. 20% unemployment and they were dictating to Wal-Mart? Yeesh and Sheesh.

Last, the mind-numbing conversations you have to endure during th elong wait in line to pay. "Oh wos, those are gummy bears. Great gummie bears, eh? Look at the all the colors! Get the assorted falvors. No wait, the blue ones! My, Jean you sure know your gummie bears. You're the Queen of the Gummie's!Look at the TV Guide. Oh, look at how the chocolates are displayed. I forgot to buy garbage bags. Run to the aisle and pick one up. Run! Did you see Roberta? She has a bunyan on her foot. And on and on. Makes you want to scream "If you're not going to shut your f-in traps I'm going to glue shut your mouths and asses with those gummy bears."

Wal-Mart, like soccer and driver's in traffic, is a place to study the state of modernity. What I saw was not very encouraging.


Cuba as a Cubist Painting

Cuba is a popular destination for Canadians; especially Quebecers.

And why not? Cuba's beaches are among the most pristine in the world and the people have a certain aura to them that can be described as generous and friendly. Considering the wretchedness regime they live under that keeps them poor, Cubans maintain a high spirit. It's a place with culture and history.

Havana once upon a time was home to one of the most magnificent cities in the world. It remains a symbol of the revolution in its sad decadence and Cuba's turbulent history in the 20th century. Its musical heritage and legacy was reintroduced to the world when the great innovator and experimenter Ry Cooder, one by one, plucked and rediscovered all the great Cuban musicians of a long lost and forgotten era. He called them the Buena Vista Social Club. Of course, who can forget the stream of stunning baseball player's and boxers that ooze out from the island?

I wonder, however, if our affection for Cuba would be different if Canadians lived under a Communist regime. In my best estimation, from talking to people about Cuba, it's clear that people who visit Cuba do not appreciate the severity of the regime. They say they love the people but that is easy to say when you know you are leaving.

If we care so much about people we would with hold our tourist dollars that help to feed Fidel Castro. Alas, we do not. As usual, we pick and choose where we want to be noble. Anti-war and other peaceniks don't care about Iraqi's per se in as much as they hate George W. Bush. Likewise, tourists to Cuba tolerate the regime because it's a) inexpensive to go to Cuba in neat travel packages and b) the beaches. The Caribbean is littered with beautiful islands.

It's a form of ideological hypocrisy. I was guilty of this also when I visited Cuba. Unlike most people, I zeroed in on the conditions and felt I had done a disservice to the legacy of Cuba. I was part of a anti-freedom machine that prevented Cubans from going onto the beaches with other tourists as if they were animals. Grocery store shelves were thinly stocked as were pharmacies with little or no medicine. 100% health care services exist in Cuba but it is a system that lacks the proper equipment and knowledge to sufficiently diagnose and cure people.

It has, as defenders and apologists of Castro are fond to point out, 100% literacy. It is true that Cubans are well educated but it is an educational system that rings hollow. What good is being an engineer trained in Russia if you are handing out towels in a local hotel to pampered tourists? How valid is a society when its own people have to look over their shoulders to speak in quiet tones to avoid possible spies around them? The irony is not lost on Cubans. To their credit, Cubans refuse to place blame, unlike Arabs for example, on anybody for their trials and tribulations.

I bring this up because Fidel Castro recently spoke about the 'Revolution' that once included Che Guevera - the hero to leftists and spoiled, disaffected and romantic Westeners. He said that the 'revolution' is not complete and that history will make communism prevail or something like that. Whatever the reasons for Castro deciding to pimp out his society to such an impractical and failed ideology is not the point.

The point is, what if communism did prevail in the 20th century? How would we view Cuba? In a larger sense, the United States?


The Invasion of Canada

Gus enters the room timidly - "Sir, I mean Mr. Prime Minister, um, well..."

Prime Minister reading the papers - "Speak up, Giles for cripe sakes. You're Deputy Prime Minister now."

Gus (scratches forehead)- "Ok, er, it seems we are being invaded."

PM - "We as in me and you?"

Gus giggling - "No silly goose, I mean Canada."

PM - "I figured that much."

PM to himself - "I'm surrounded by mediocrity."

Military Commander enters.

Commander - "Sir!"

PM - "Yes?"

Commander - "We stand on guard for thee!"

PM - "Where's the army at this moment?"

Commander - "Outside, sir."

PM - "Outside?"

He looks out the window and he sees a standing private army of about 60 men.

PM - "Has this country lost its mind? Where's the army?"

Gus - "Cutbacks, sir. We followed the polls. It's what the people wanted."

PM slaps his hands to forehead. "Who exactly were these boneheads? "

PM continues - "Who exactly is invading us?"

Gus - "Details are sketchy but it seems a recently invented country calling itself Werpipia has declared Canada an enemy state."

PM - "40 years of do-gooding mythology and this is what we get?"

Meanwhile,at a local park kids are playing and meet with the enemy.

Foreigner - "I am Guncha and I am the leader of Werpipia. We have come to annex your great land.

Ty - "Wo, man."

Kyle - "Oh my God, pass that joint."

Trevor - "I'm so like so worried."

Ty - "What for? Those stupid Yanks will come and defend us."

A recently married gay couple is passing by and wonder about the commotion.

Gay man - "Who are you?"

Gunhca - "I am your new leader."

Gay man - "As long as you do not affect MY rights you could do what you want."

They walk away. The leaders of Werpipia contact Canadian leaders.

Guncha stroking a lemur with red eyes and fangs - "Do you know why you have been selected?"

PM pound his fist on the table - "We are Canadian, eh and we demand to know, eh?"

Guncha - "Calm down. We all know your bark is louder than your bite. We are a new country and in order to gain legitimacy it needs to acquire land and lots of it. We have a small army so we calculated and assessed which country with a generous landmass was sufficiently weak and naive enough to invade. We posed the question to our guru and Canada came up."

PM - "Like, this is wrong eh. We should, eh, talk about eh?"

Guncha - "Now, now sir. You do not have any leverage."

PM to Gus - "Get the Americans on the phone."

President - "Hello? Who? Canada?"

Secretary of State and Defense are playing cards. President tells them of Canada's request for help.

SOD - "Fuck 'em."

SOS - "Yeah, let them sweat it out. See if they think we're bastards now."

President to Gus - "Er, sorry, Gus is it? I'm washing my hair, no wait, my dog today and I just can't find time. Here's the number to Michael Moore's swank condo see if he'll help. Bye."

Gus: "Sir, the Americans have turned us down."

PM - "Dammit. Can't blame them. That stupid bitch."

Gus - "Sir! She was exercising her right..."

PM - "Can it Gus. We have problems. What about the Inuit, Cree?"

Gus - "They turned in their spears and canoes when we failed to back them up when Denmark took over Hans Island."

PM - "They did?"

Phone rings.

Gus - "Sir, it's Quebec."

PM - "Hello?"

Quebecer - "Parle moi en Francais tabernak! Maudits, Americains. Donne moi l'argent. Le Quebec libre! On veut..."


PM - "First, I'm going to take care of Werpipia and then I'm ging to whip that place into shape."

PM - "Gus, come here. Here's what we are going to do. We will strengthen our defenses and...."

Gus - "Sir, the people will not stand for it!"

PM grabs Gus by the collar "The people are so full of shit and lost that they would not be able to defend against a pack of chips. We have to LEAD Gus. That's what LEADERSHIP means."

Gus - "Leadership, eh?"

PM - "Once we are strong enough we will fight them like wolverines and to the death. We will defend Canada and we will show the Americans we can stand on our own two feet."

The next day newspaper headlines across the land read:

'Canada Mobilizing for War! Are we mad?' and 'War, what is it good for?'

Anti-war citizens begin to march. Slogans include:

"We will not die for oil,man!" "Save the seal first!" "As long as gay marriage stays!" "Liar, liar! Who are these 'invaders'?" "Send your own son to fight for our freedom!"

PM looking out the window - "These people are getting dumber, lazier and more absurd by the minute. Oh well. Canada must be defended. I will address them tonight."

PM rolls up his sleeves. He rallied his troops and Cabinet. They move with a sense of purpose. They privately regard themselves as modern patriots. They will forge a new Canada. A Canada with a strong sense of purpose. A picture of Canadian pioneers hangs above them.

PM - "People. Let us start....let's kick some ass...."


The Truth about the Truth - Not Really.

There is something bizarre whenever I read or listen to people, talk (gibberish to others) about how their rights are being trampled upon. More bemusing (and perplexing) is how the rest of us, according to them, are too stupid to realize or question this.

They say critical thinking is dead. That tends to happen when people read the same circle of authors; read the same type of websites and so on.

These people are magicians and I want to go to the school they went to. Where can I sign up? All of them want the 'truth' to be known. The 'truth' about Iraq. The 'truth' about Dubya. The 'truth' about America. Michael Moore, I hear, has a bag of them.

Still, to others, Marx, Che Guevera and Fidel Castro represent the 'truth'. Realities of their obvious shortcomings notwithstanding. Hey, maybe Reagan was closer to it. Margaret Thatcher? Who knows? Who is closer to the truth? America or terrorists? They are the same will shout the post modern relativists. And what is the fine line between enlightened opinion and plain stupidity anyway? Anyone can offer an opinion. It doesn't make that opinion valid. There are, believe it or not, opinions that need to be ignored - it's called being opinionated.

There are too many examples of 'truths' that are not 'truths' at all but have become the prevailing view. There are many examples of this but let us focus on Iraq. People are convinced they were lied to. That America went into Iraq for oil and revenge. Of course, it's much, much more complex than this.

Either way, we can't expect people to consider the enormous amount of data and events that led to this decision. People are not historically inclined but rather snapshot inclined. They are blasted with so much information by an armada of people with their own interests it's almost impossible to make sense of the 'truth.' To disentangle it is long and arduous and to be frank many people who have an opinion have not.

The war in Iraq, are many things to many people. It can be whatever one wants it to be. If they want to believe it's the actions of a rogue nation all the while ignoring the potential benefits so be it. It's their right.

Many people who are out to sell the 'truth' think they are in the minority. They feel sorry for people that don't get the 'truth'. Poor souls. All are mysteriously censored - despite the convenient reality that we hear them all to often and loudly. Yet, when one reads their 'truth' it becomes apparent, ironically, how mainstream it really is.

Socrates, Dante and other great minds in history, grappled with what 'truth' is. Never did they arrive, not surprisingly, at a satisfactory conclusion or answer. However, they did treat the 'truth' with respect whenever they saw it. I'm not so sure we do today. Too many people have axes to grind to be sound and clear enough to see the 'truth'. Too many people select which causes they want to push for their version of the 'truth.' Too many eschew history to comprehend the 'truth'. They are more than happy to select bits and pieces of history to match contemporary sensibilities. Too many choose a point of origin that suits their version of perception to define the 'truth'.

Often, the truth stares right back at you. And that my friends is, well, the truth.


Current Affairs: Society: English language, CBC, Afghanistan

As I sit around waiting for reruns of 'Different Strokes' , a couple of things came to mind.

-I was watching a children's network the other day and was aghast at what I saw. Rather what I heard. The English language is sinking hard and fast. None of those kid hosts were able to string a sentence or phrase without resorting to 'yeah', 'you know', 'whatever' and the classic 'um'. "Hey,, they're just kids!" someone will say. That's my point. These kids will end up on the radio one day reading our news. In fact, I hear this on television and radio all the time with adults. I don't know about the person reading this but people who are introduced as experts only to start a sentence with 'um' loses credibility with me.

-The other day the 'Nature of Things' was on the CBC. It was about a wildlife biologist and environmentalist who followed the caribou across frozen tundra.

At one point, one of them said 'we should not be here. This is sacred ground.' So go home, I thought. It's fricken caribou. Sacred my ass. This is not what shocked me though. It was a scene when one of the weirdos attempted to show some humour and make a political statement (who isn't these days?) by flaunting a Dubya doll. As his doll was sticking out of the tent the moron said "here's one place you can't police.' Or something to that effect. I immediately changed the channel. It really how amazing how politics creeps into every facet of our lives because droopy liberals hate Bush. I'll say it here and I'll say it over and over. The only ones who end up with eggs on their face are the ones who act this way. They reveal more about themselves then about Bush. They should really consider not eating caribou brains.

-It did remind me of an article I had just read moments earlier in the 'National Interest' which reminds me of how selective people in the aforementioned can be when it comes to politics. They have chosen to hate a person based on perceptions and rationalize from that point forward.

Take Afghanistan. Not one positive is ever mentioned about Afghanistan. How the country is moving forward and how it is committed to joining the world of nations. Further, the Afghan experience, if successful, will be America's first success at nation building in a volatile part of the world. They said it could not be done - though I firmly thought is could. Especially considering Afghanistan's standing in steady progress in the pot-world era until the Soviets made a mess of things.

Western pundits did the mistake of, and I argued this from the onset, of applying the Soviet experience on the any potential American involvement. As we move to Iraq, people are fixated on three alleged things -the lie, oil and revenge factor of the war. As America and Iraq press forward during a delicate and violent phase, anti-war junkies become increasingly irrelevant.

Worse, they serve to go against the interests of Iraqi's. If they truly cared they would use a 'We did not agree with Bush but we have to ensure Iraq succeeds' ethos. They, not surprisingly, are not. They are, as I have said, anti-Bush and this is what drives their platforms which permeates right up until the Democratic party. Hence, they lose elections. Their reckless disregard with history (by this I mean their revisionism) only serves to work against their own troops and civilian Iraqi's. In Iraq, they were quick to use the Vietnam analogy. Of course, military historians were amused by such attempts at finding parallels in history.

In the end, even if both Iraq and Afghanistan become success stories, I doubt very much the media (both mainstream and alternative) ad the anti-Bush/War self-serving quacks will ever give credit to Dubya. They'll find other reasons to attribute the success.

Last but not least. Did Michael Corleone have to kill 'Fredo?


Confused Anti-Americanism

Most of the rhetoric spewed by anti-Americans can easily be refuted. In the realm of public discourse, there's a huge difference between critically assessing America and being anti-American. It's carefully respecting this line that can help to lead us to some objective and intelligent conclusions. Scholars and academics need to be responsible as should powerful modes of mediums like Hollywood.

It is my contention that world opinion of America is a product of our reliance on snap shot sound bites. The world right now dislike or even hate America based on Iraq. I suspect that a course in American history would somewhat simmer this.

An argument can be made that the older societies who harbour suspicion of American power and might are the ones, ironically, who feel America does not act like an empire enough. Sure, they fear and talk negatively about it but somewhere in the subconscious people are upset because America is confused in their role. If this assessment is mildly acceptable it would be vindicated in that America is indeed confused.

If American foreign would acknowledge that it is an empire and move on, can it alleviate some of the negative public relation perceptions swirling around the U.S.?

America can turn its back and theoretically opt for an isolationist policy. This is impractical but not out of the realm of possibility. Let us suppose they close the doors. What could happen?

One of the biggest complaints nations have against the U.S. is how they meddle in the affairs of others. That, for example, they push democracy upon them only to not honor the results. That's because those populations haven't figured out how to choose the "right" person. Populations who have no clue how democracy works simply vote with the devil they know - usually the strongman they are familiar with. People want stability and democracy in its early stages does not bring stability. Hence, they are caught between short and long term interests. This is unfortunate and unfair to them.

Back to our hypothetical case. Given what I just mentioned it's very possible that all societies where democracy never took root would simply revert back to former forms of governance - fragmented or otherwise - that humans were accustomed to over the last 5 000 years. In other words, in most of the world, they would be free of American rhetoric and chart themselves a path to a pre-1776 world. Either this or they would truly give democracy a go.

This scenario is highly unlikely. Once America turns its back, the school children will throw paper planes. Let us not over estimate European affinity for democracy either. Their form of democracy is being redefined with Brussels. Either way, even if democracy is firmly rooted (which it is in Western Europe) the underbelly of unsettled scores that nationalism seeks revenge for still runs wide and deep. Europe, in other words, has problems. So do China and India.

Assuming countries opt for any past system, that leaves the United States of America as the last bastion of reason and democracy on earth. Challenge the notion of American reason? Put up the Constitution anywhere on earth and for the most part most of it (if not all) would resonate on some level to people. Jefferson and Madison were more astute and smarter, it turns out, than Marx.

The choice is clear. Most people internally know this to be true but have taken to blurting out an entirely different ethos. In my estimation, when push comes to shove, America is the choice.


A strange political incident in a Montreal restaurant

"....it's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win."
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 'Thunder Road' 1975.

Quebec isn't much of a place when it comes to worldly affairs these days. It's just another 'geographic expression' that has sprung up in the post-war era. It is perfectly happy and comfortable in its lethargic pace. A land where intellectual pygmy's can find a home and live well. A place that observes the fault lines of others without much care to rethink itself. A society that revels in faux sophistication and rhetorical political impracticalities. A region that has no qualms about politicizing all facets of its existence. A large land mass where reactionary anti-Americanism comes to lay and rest.

The myth of the happy-go-lucky Quebecois was once upon a time a reality. Instead, jealous parochialism has created an underbelly of suspicious commoners and pseudo-intellects with tiresome demands. That Quebec's political class would even entertain in their thoughts to liken themselves to true oppressed peoples is outrageous and morally repugnant. We mistake thoughtful critical thinking with teenage temper tantrums. It's a world that wants to go off on its own - as long as Canada pays the rent. Its own leaders, in a final climatic fit of absurd contradiction, earn Federal pensions paid by all Canadians.

Its population enjoys all the benefits that come with living next to the United States, though one must never ever say so publicly or in print, as any region on the continent. Its own poverty, failures and ignorance are largely of their own designs. How serious and mature is this society? Really.

Quebecers can at will make disparaging remarks about America. However, if an American does the same, watch out. The howls from sensitive nationalists would be merciless.

So, please allow me to do the same in trying to make a point in this piece.

Our cultural and economic hub (both misnomers) is Montreal. Itself a city-state within an unproductive province that has paid dearly and possibly eternally for the haphazard stupidity of a small group of elites who have a pathetic little dream.

Montreal is a mere shell these days. A deliciously sinful town where lust, sexiness and hipness conspire to create a murky and steamy world. City Unique indeed. On the surface, it looks first-rate. Montreal has the feel of a city that was built on marble and gold. Scratch and dig further and we see a second-rate town made out of logs. Beavers would capitalize better on the potential of this city. Montreal should break free and run for the hills if it wants to preserve any sanity.

Today, lunch was being served at a local Montreal eatery on a trendy French-Canadian street once inhabited by working class Jews. The cast included my apolitical wife, myself, our daughter, our 'caught in the middle' waiter and the antagonist - an ignorant and misguided tip seeking busboy.

The comment was surreal enough to prevent us from forming any response. Upon reflection we recognized that our freedom to live as we choose was questioned and in some way attacked. Poor gal, it was an innocuous t-shirt that happened to have an American flag on it. It was a jean company from New York. He, perfectly comfortable in his grasp (which was obviously not much) of American society, politics and existence, asked if my wife "was not embarrassed for wearing such a t-shirt during this political climate." Stunned, as I said.

It was a shockingly ignorant comment for several reasons. First, what's it to him? It's a place of business where we as paying customers had every right to a peaceful meal free of any political assertions. Second, how does his conscience allow him to pass judgment on us? Third, what if we were American tourists? A population that spends millions in the Quebec economy. Is this a way to treat people? Fourth, would he rather we wear the provincial colors? A flag that tolerates bandits like the Language Police who roam the streets, protected by government, like union thugs and bums harassing law-abiding and productive citizens? In the end, we expressed our disappointment to our sympathetic waiter and we left it at that. Thus taking comfort in the fact that there still exists some level of civil normality.

His comment was telling of a society that has become rather impolite since 1976. It's one thing to think such things but quite another to express it at the most inappropriate moments. What did he want to achieve by doing this? This was not an act of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech demands that we respect one another in a civil society.

This was the act of an inconsiderate know-nothing. A product of his own province's already degraded intellectual ethos. There is no doubt that, in his mind, he had every right to express himself. Furthermore, in his eyes, the flag represented something evil and un-pure. The deaths on 9/11 meant little to him nor, do I suspect, do the people of Iraq. He was merely concerned with his own personal world view. That's his opinion.

In a civil society, a true civil society, people do not cross this line. At the very least, he should have considered a couple of realities. One, what if we had a relative that was killed or barely escaped death as we did on 9/11? Two, actually consider that as we approach the anniversary of 9/11, some people may be moved to wear the flag in honor of the dead. That's their choice.

It is clear to men like him that Americans are to be blamed (indeed everything) for the deaths of 3 000 people.

In all my years of traveling in America I have never witnessed such a distasteful act in that country. In fact, whatever Canadian symbols I happened to be wearing was usually met with friendly gestures. Those who thought little of it had the decency to keep it to themselves. It speaks volumes of their maturity and cherished values of freedom and progress. The gentleman at the restaurant spoke volumes for an immature society. A society that has yet to truly grasp what freedom means.

Sheesh, imagine if I wore my 'I Love New York' pin?


Galateo is no Longer

Absurd Al regally sat at a table in one of those trendy nouveau Italian restaurants that claimed to be authentic. He was reading 'The Book of the Courtier' by Castiglione. He was not fooled by all the faux sophistication par excellence that hovered and swirled all around him like an erratic tornado. Such establishments are home to much frivolous talk.

It may as well, since these people who sink capital from unknown destinations, think little of providing quality service and food.

Everywhere he looked he met a wall of omnipotent mediocrity. There was no sense in sulking and ratifying his anger.

The waitress breaks in and interrupts his pondering moment. "What can I get you?" she indifferently asks.

"I'll have the risotto. Can I have fresh basil sprinkled on it please?"

Al noticed the waitress's eyes turn white as she answered, "Huh? I'll have to ask the manager."

He could oversee the team discussing the matter. The manager, in his manifested ugly cocky arrogance, came over.

"We only have dried basil." he proclaimed firmly. As if to say, I have no idea what basil is and nor should you.

"I thought you were an authentic trattoria. How can you call yourself authentic Italian and not have FRESH BASIL?"

"Whatever sir, this is how it is."

"Maybe I should leave." he thought to himself.

Before he could make haste, he overheard a conversation that captured his sensitive hearing.

"Since I did not eat the whole pizza, I would like to pay for the portion I actually ate." Absurd Al never quite heard such an assertion and demand. He looked over and saw the skank of all skanks. The spoiled tramps of all vulgar whores. The underground Queen of obscene opulence, sister of Madonna - crooked knees Paris Hilton.

"My, her make up is terrible." he thought to himself. She continued.

"Listen stupid little 'I have to work to survive guy' I want to pay for 3/4ths and two bites and nothing more."

The fight was on. How the establishment was going to fight this he didn't know but surely fight they must! Right?

The stumpy brained manager, dead thoughts on one hand and image conscious narcissism on the other, came forward and told Paris that the meal was on the house.

Absurd Al was not accorded a sympathetic campari for the basil fiasco but a pointless collection of bacteria and cells was given a free meal?

"Oh well," he muttered and chuckled. He asked for an espresso. It came back in an allonge cup and a regular sized spoon. "What am I a barbarian?"

"Look sir, this is just a job for me. Take it to the manager," the waitress defiantly quipped.

He thought about Paris Hilton. He decided to not make an issue of it. It is, what it is. It's a world for impostors and AA had no meeting to go to.


Question of the Week End

A spiritual guider I know told me that there was a shift in the universe whereby it will become 10 times harder to do good on earth and 10 times easier for the forces of bad will. Which led me to think whether the future of the human species will be close to the world depcited in Mad Max or one governed by pristine and utopian ideals seen in some Star Trek episodes. Things are so contradictory that I'm not sure. As a self-professed optimist my gut tells me Mad Max.


The Wop and The Zen

Tiberio was a high strung person. An insomniac and a neurotic absurdist. Try and imagine living with that. Tibs, as his pals call him, decided to try a local Zen Wellness Center to solve his sleeping problems. He tried everything. Eating bananas, drinking port before bed, listening to Tom Snyder and popping natural sleeping pills that only made him feel like he smoked a joint. So he was up for something different.

"I gotta bust outta of this funk."

He felt awkward going into this place. He doesn't know why but all he could think about was espresso.

At the center, everyone talked in hush tones and walked around barefoot. Tibs was not much into feet. He immediately compared this cult age feeling with Doug Henning. "Everyone is so bloody calm. How do they live?"

He waited a few minutes and a lady walked towards him. "Please don't make it be here. Pl..."



"Sorry. Ready for your massage?"

"Why else would I be here?" he thought to himself.

"I am sure am," he said.

He was disappointed that she didn't look more like Ingrid from Sveden.

"Where's my Black Pagoda?" he asked. She smiled almost unapprovingly at the dead-pan jest.

Once the massage started Tibs tensed up. Just enough for her not to feel it. He became a master of masquerading his neurosis. He's what some call a faux-calm. On the exteriour he looks together but on the inside he's, well, an ambiguous mess.

He kept thinking about the various chores he had to do around the house. He also thought about his creative brilliance that he felt was being squandered. He pondered the cold-cut sandwich he was going to make at home. Ah, yes nothing like a prosciutto sandwich. He went on and on until he wanted to jump off the table and just walk out. In fact, he did that once.

"How do you feel?" she asked at the end of the session. Staring at the Buddha statue he responded, "Like I was born again." He didn't have the heart to tell the truth. He felt the same as he always had: confused.

"Great. I'm glad to hear it. You'll be so smooth and relaxed for the next couple of days. Get some sleep and relax."

Tibs thanked her and left. He looked at his watch unconvinced that his $65 was well spent.

"I think I'll go for that espresso."

He walks. He knows...it's time to give melatonin pills a shot.