The Dipsy Doodling of Canadian Freedom: Bill 101 and Kazemi

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of upholding Bill 101 today. Bill 101 is a law that is meant to protect French culture but it has increasingly coming under scrutiny for its relevance.

The story surrounds Francophone families who want the option of sending their children (or at the very least have access to English language education) to English schools. They feel that Bill 101 ironically discriminates against them.

Indeed it does. If Canada has low self-esteem and is beguiled by an under siege mentality, imagine Quebec. Once upon a time citizens of Quebec were constantly held back by either the Church or English exclusionary attitudes. Later, immigrants, mostly Italians, Irish, Jewish and Chinese (and a host of others) quickly surpassed the French in upward social mobility thanks to their trilingual and hard working abilities.

Eventually, Francophones 'woke up' during the Quiet Revolution and asserted their rights as a majority in the province. It was here where nationalism reached its apex through a series of elections and laws that sought to basically minimize the English fact (dominance) and increase the French culture.

Bill 22 and Bill 101 remain the hallmarks of this reality. This time around, it's not the oppression of a perceived enemy that is keeping Quebecers back again. They are their worst enemy now.

Benoit Pelletier, an Education Minister within the Liberal Party, was pleased with the result. Imagine that. While politicians all have their children go to school to private schools and American universities, they choose to keep back their own citizens for political reasons. Like the monopoly of the health care system, education in Quebec is a monster that tramples of freedom.

Bill 22 and Bill 101, parochial theoretical thoughts aside, runs contrary to the principles of democracy. If the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the families, the Charest government had the option of invoking the barbaric 'notwithstanding clause' to over rule the highest court in the land. Chances are he would have used it.

Quebecers are evolving at a faster pace than their intellectually depraved political and academic masters. Quebec has much to offer to the North American experience and they are prepared to do so. If Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Chinese, Ukranians and other great minorities were able to thrive by teaching strong family and cultural values at home why shouldn't Quebecers be able to stand on their own two feet?

For those who are popping champagne corks, think twice. This was a major setback in the natural progress of a society and a clear reminder that democracy in Canada remains only as long as opt-out clauses are not used. Good luck to the families. They have shown courage and they represent the true will (a term so popular among narrow minded politicians bent on their own interests) of a modern and confident people. As usual, Canada fails when it counts most. If the Bill 101 does not violate the ultimate Charter of the land then it is time to rethink its validity.

Would this happen in the greatest documents of freedom of them all born in 1776?

The thing is that laws are meant, in part, to reflect the values and judgments of its citizenry. Here was a case of citizens expressing their democratic rights and were told that the laws were not in their favour. The laws do nothing for anybody anymore except assuage the minds of our masters who belong in '1984'.

An Iranian doctor has fled Iran to reveal the truth about the death of Canadian photographer Kazemi. Her son made headlines two years ago as he challenged the stupidity and naivete of the Canadian political establishment. He was right all along.

The doctor confirmed that she was tortured, rape and murdered. While Canadians swam in diplomatic illusions the Iranians made a mockery of Canadian diplomacy. Still to this day Canada has little options because it is a country that has no teeth. Such is the price we pay for our apathy towards making hard decisions. Iran never took Canada seriously because they knew Canada could do nothing with its soft power meanderings. Sanctions against Iran is useless if spearheaded by Canada. Besides, it is unlikely the international community would do so. Iran further knew Canada is a land of wimps with no military to back up any hard talk.

Canada failed to come to the defense of one of its own even when one of its own citizens asked them to.

- Quick word on the student strike. While I sympathize with them, I do not support them. Canadian post-secondary education remains among the lowest in the Western world (and some argue in some universities you get what you pay for). The reality is that while elementary and high school education is a right, post-secondary education is a privilege. By keeping post-secondary education tuition fees low, it only weakens the quality, it can be argued, of the education. I'm not saying that Canadian education is terrible but it's not great either. After all, it's a direct product of the the 'middle-way' we mediocre Canadians strive for. Take a look at Europe and the United States, maybe then the students will think twice before pissing off people by blocking main traffic arteries at rush hour.


The Weekly Standard Meets The Commentator

The Weekly Standard is a respected conservative magazine in the United States. Recently, one of its writers, Matt Labash, made Canada the subject of his most recent article.

If this writer did not have such a strong sense of humour and was, instead, a thin- skinned Canadian nationalist, I would be irritated.

Over the last few weeks, if not months, Canada has made headlines, for all the wrong reasons it turns out, in the United States. In addition to The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have also opined, with less humour, about Canadian-American relations. The relationship, for those who are completely oblivious, is not exactly tight these days. In this cycle of our diplomatic relations, it is, not surprisingly, downplayed by Canadians (almost to delusional levels). Some academics scoff at a 'permanent damage' notion as they feel the Americans will come off their excitement and return to their senses. Canada never needs to come, observations behold, their senses in their eyes.

Are the Americans justified in their thoughts about Canada? Yes and no. Americans are in no mood for the anti-American rhetoric filtering out of this country. For an ultra-sensitive society aware of how they are portrayed in the U.S., Canadians show a remarkable lack of judgment and inability to help their own cause. However, the American press is picking and choosing once again what to hold Canada accountable for.

True, Canada's behavior on the international stage before the cameras leaves much to be desired. Canada often comes up short in matching the rhetoric with action. It is, on the other hand, unfair to claim that Canada is not doing what it can, for example, in the War on Terror. The government, behind closed doors, are quietly taking measures to ensure that security is improved as they cooperate with the Americans.

The main difference this time around is that the Americans are forcing Canada to grow up. They are, wittingly or otherwise, waking Canada from its protected slumbers. If Canadians have an issue with Americans, anti-American buffoonery will not be sufficient, it is time they act like statesmen reflecting confidently the values and aspirations of an advanced intelligent and civilized society. Americans are no longer willing to humour Canadians.

It is not surprising then, that American commentators, thinkers and writers alike are beginning to take notice. What did Canadians think? That by engaging in provocative (some say isolated*) anti-Americanism was legitimate? Canada, to be sure, is not guilty of anything illegal. They are exercising their right to free speech in a democracy.

Up until 2001, Canada could get away with ruffling feathers for political expediency, but post 9/11 has ushered in a new global system that Canadians have been slow to adjust to. There are no feathers left to ruffle.

What is interesting is that it is not just conservatives (whether they are classical, paleo or neo in their orientation) who are critically assessing Canada. Liberals too are also pontificating. As mentioned earlier, NYT did so recently in listing an inordinate amount of disagreements for two staunch allies and WSJ opined about the free ride gets living off the protection of the United States. Which brings me to the latest article by Matt Labash in the Weekly Standard.

His article was typical in its use of American cliches. Except this time it was not the RCMP and igloos but hockey goons and Nickleback. While his article could be interpreted as tongue in cheek, it does reveal how disinterested Americans can be regarding all things Canadiana. Canadians are partly, if not mostly, for this.

Americans do not appreciate how difficult it is for Canadians to live independently next to the most powerful entity the world has ever known. It has made navigating through domestic politics hell for Canadian leaders. Canada has always had to operated betwixt two great powers. No wonder Canada sometimes exhibits bi-polar symptoms. As one 19th century Mexican revolutionary once said "Poor Mexico, so far from God yet so close to the United States." Indeed, one can easily replace Mexico with Canada.

Labash uses our exports as metaphors as to somehow reveal that we lack substance. Of course, two can play this game. Americans have been exporting pop-culture trash via J-Lo and Jessica Simpson for decades. Americans exports, they should be made aware, have not always been beneficial to Canada. As some Canadians libertarians have pointed out, much to the horror of The Weekly Standard, that the socialism Americans are wary of was itself imported from the United States. In a sense, we import each other's garbage leaving the good stuff behind.

It is understandable that Americans are annoyed with Canada. Approaching this, however, by attacking Canadian integrity is counter productive. Just like how futile it is for Canadians to do the same. America is the big brother with major responsibilities and Canada is the younger rebellious brother who does not fully appreciate this.

Interestingly, some good can come of this. America is indirectly saying that Canada can contribute much. If only Canada could once and for all shed its insecurities and join the table of great nations with a strong sense of itself.

The Weekly Standard article, despite its cliches, should force Canadians to ponder more about how they are perceived in America. Both countries need to work harder in understanding one another in a post 9/11 world. Doing otherwise is a direct ticket to Nowheresville.

Note*I have wondered about this. Indeed, historian Jack Granatstein says that anti-Americanism is and has been a 'state-religion' in this country. However, with 87% of our exports disproportionately going to one country this should in theory, convert into millions of Canadians who have a clear stake in having healthy bi-lateral relations. The business community is most definitely realistic and concerned about the behaviour of Canadian politicians. On the other hand, humans are funny and it would not surprise me that this reality flies right over the heads of many.

Anti-Religion in the 21st Cenutry

"More people have died under the ageis of religious piety than under any other circumstance" read one letter to the editor of a national newspaper. Another letter in response quoted one of my favourite quotes, quite appropriately, by Benjamin Franklin who asked Thomas Paine "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it?"

Much has been written about the religion of the men of genius behind the American Constitution - one of mankind's greatest and most enlightened documents. Whatever their religious stripes, Franklin's quote reveals the wisdom they possessed.

Much has been written about religion. Most of it stems strictly from a secular post-modern ethos. In this manner, the attacks heaped on religion, specifically Christianity in the West, has been unfair if not outright misunderstood. Religion of any kind in the world is a force of good. Its principle tenets are meant to ensure that humans stay clear of their vices as maintaining virtue is a much more difficult path to follow. Morality is not a product of religion but a child of evolution. Humans built their moral and ethical codes thousands of years before organized religion. What religion did, as an institution, was codify these ethical and moral codes.

With the arrival of the secular* humanist outlook and subsequent philosophical movements (some hostile to religion) most notably The Enlightenment, meant that the Church was no longer the single institution that bound European Christendom together. The separation of church and state is regarded as a major achievement in Western culture. The modern anti-religion position is borne out of secularism.

The Church has indeed engaged in many dubious actions. It has been corrupted, engaged in war and sought to preserve its power through the centuries with torture and murder.

Does this mean organized religion is inherently irrelevant? Worse, the true root of all evil? The answer is a resounding no, minority self-interest notwithstanding.

The reality is that humans have been killing each other for thousands of years before and after religion under different circumstances. The assertion that more people have died under the auspices of religion is not only unfair but inaccurate. What to make of all those killed by successive ancient Empires be it under Alexander the Great, the Egyptians or Romans? During middle ages, pagan Germanic tribes and Vikings raped and pillaged their way through Europe. During the Renaissance, Italian republics were in a constant state of war. So much so that it produced one of world literature's darkest Prince, Macchiavelli and his brilliant works. It does not stop there.

What to make of Eastern empires? Genghis and Kublai Khan were not religious. Neither was Tamerlane. Napoleon did not act in the interest of the Catholic church. More recently, right here in the 20th century, we have witnessed some of the most remarkable cruel madmen in world history and all were either anti-religious or secular. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Big Daddy Amin, Hussein, Trujillo, Duvalier and Mugabe but to name a precious few were hardly religious.

Add up how many people these ethnic racists, thugs and dictators killed. Religion pales in numbers in comparison to the murders committed by human nature driven by a lust for power and in the name of ideology. In this light, religion is a misguided scapegoat. Humans go to war for many reasons including honor, fear and greed.

At its core, when one reads the texts of major religions, the message is inherently good. How we interpret it says more about contemporary societies who interpret them than the books themselves. The books do not have any subliminal messages for us except but to do good and serve God. Yes, many have claimed to serve God in their justification for murder (see terrorists), but they are the exception to the rule. True, there are extremists in all religions but what to make of the majority of people who pray in peace? Any reasonable person who listens to mass or a sermon can derive the good in its message. Personally, I can see how people find hope and guidance through religion.

My point here without getting into the deep complexities of religion regarding its etymology, structure, sources of authority, its approaches and practices, its political stances, among others, was to show that once again we tend to distort history to satisfy our preconceived notions. There has been much evil heaped on mankind and we would like nothing more than to find a neat explanation for this. Unfortunately, there isn't one and using organized religion as a scapegoat will do little to assuage the fact that humanity holds a thin dark line within it.

Religion has helped to keep the line lit with a beacon of light.

*Loosely, a process of understanding the universe through rational means rather than supernatural concepts.


Concert review: The Eagles

The Eagles found their way into Montreal for one night at the Bell Centre. Once upon a time it was routine to add 'In the mecca of hockey the Montreal Forum' but no longer. In any event, the performance was outstanding.

On stage was a seasoned and experienced rock band. The Eagles have certainly aged better than most groups from their era. I wondered about going to this concert as I am wary of bands who are past their prime. I thought to myself how great it would have been to see them when they were still relevant on the music scene. The again, ironically, it is at this stage in their careers where they may sound better than ever. And this was the case here.

The decision was made to go since I never saw them live and have always considered them to be in the upper echelon of great legendary rock bands. Not to mention that for a music enthusiast, the California band was a must see. To be honest, I did not go in with any expectations and rolled in laid back resolved to take it as it came. They did not disappoint one bit.

To begin, they played 27 songs in their set for over 2 1/2 hours. They showcased their incredible versatile musicianship and catalog. Their individual distinct voices and styles lent a special vibe to the night. Don Henley, Glen Frey, Joe Walsh all played hits from their solo careers and Timothy B. Schmidt once again revealed his soft and eloquent abilities in his vocals.

Joe Walsh was allowed to display his personality, sense of humour and awesome guitar work. In sum, Joe Walsh was all about rock'n roll tonight. Don Henley hit his peak with an energetic version of 'Dirty Laundry' and Glen Frey performed for me his best song in 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling.' The Henley, Frey duo, the backbone of The Eagles,sang the bulk of the cornerstone pieces of The Eagles repertoire including 'Desperado', 'Hotel California' and 'Take it Easy'. It was a night of fantastic music from a legendary band who obviously can still play.

Some songs that caught my attention were 'Tequila Sunrise' and New Kid in Town'. Every great band or singer has a signature sound. The Eagle tone is the California sound and with those two songs you can imagine yourself driving on a highway with a convertible in San Diego (or anywhere in the Southwest for that matter) during sunset. Walsh's 'Life's Been Good' was simply the high-light of the night.

Typically and what has become all too familiar with the arts community, Henley offered a brief political comment. I have noticed that over the years the Montreal fan has become somewhat rude and inconsiderate whenever a musician attempts to speak. Lately, they have been, as if it matters, determined to make sure they let their displeasure be known about contemporary American politics. Henley attempted to place into context his song 'Hole in the Ground' but was drowned out by a couple of somewhat isolated boos and woos. Boos and woos from a society that isn't exactly perfect itself these days.

I observed that even Henley was not impressed by the lack of respect shown by the crowd regarding the mere mention of 9/11. While you can feel the tension of stupidity among the political, Henley mentioned to the effect that his leaders deserved a hole of some sort. That, needless to say, got a roaring cheer of approval. What it showed me is that people are not interested in listening to the big picture on any issues. They just want to hear what they want to hear.

As for Henley's comments a couple of things. First, he should consider a post-rock job in government since, like his many contemporaries, he has an apparent obvious deep knowledge of foreign affairs. After all, the politically astute audience had a grand time listening to him degrade his leaders. So he's a shoe in. Mind you, at least Americans do so in public. Do Canadians ever do that? Does Shania Twain ever go on stage and protest the Nowheremen in the Liberal Party? I can just picture her getting on stage and kicking the mike screaming "Fuck you, Martin!"

Second, I guess the conservatives, what little of them they seemed, in the crowd and their money meant little to him. Business people who earn their money from the public are political atheists. They keep their political stripes hidden. They understand that they can't afford to alienate their customers. Why can't artists simply do the same?

Then again, I'm too anal for such things.

Despite this, and right now you are fair to tell me to loosen up though I think I make a fair point, The Eagles provided fans a night of impeccable and superb music here in Montreal.


Italia - A brief interpretative history

Some friends and I were discussing great cultures and the philosophical traditions each may have had. When we came around to Italy we found that Italy is not a place that invests too much time in philosophy. That is not to say it did not do so in the past. Italy has produced many great thinkers -Italy is home, after all, to the Renaissance and Ancient Rome.

No, Italy had a different path to follow. After the fall of Rome, around 476 ad, Italy's history is filled with nothing but war, invasions, disease, rape, pillaging and occupation. It was the prize possession of all invading armies from Germanic tribes like the Lombards and Ostrogoths to Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne, to Napoleon and finally the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Not to mention, to name a precious few, everything in between from the Spanish, Normans, Celts and Moors. Italy was constantly in the middle of foreign affairs and was key in helping to maintain various balance of power designs among the great powers of Europe. This sad reality is truly remarkable for such a glorious country. It, without a doubt, scarred the Italian psyche probably until this day.

It is important to point out that Italy was not the Italy of today. From the Roman Empire until 1871, Italy was organized into republican city-states run by autocratic aristocratic families (Sforza's in Milan and De Medici's in Florence etc.). The cities, Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Florence and so on were in a constant flux of war with one another. Ironically, without the benefit of consolidating into a nation-state, Italy became the world's single most influential society in many fields from art to exploration. Whatever Europe was up to, you were sure to find an Italian hand in the cookie jar. They were the mover and shakers behind the scenes.

In the "what-if?" category of history, it would be interesting to see what history may have been like if Italy was unified. Given its role (technology and funding) during the age of exploration, would Italian, for example, be the language of the America's?

In contemporary times, Italy is renowned for its perfection of 'la dolce vita.' So subtle in its mastery of it that it is often dismissed as over rated or simplistic. Therein lies, of course, the beauty of the secret.

However, there is another side of the Italian character. Behind all the smiles and sunshine exist a people with profound sorrow. There's a feeling among them that the world does not truly appreciate Italy. That the angels of misfortune seem to have chosen Italy as their destination. This is hard to take for a people that pour their blood, sweat and tears in their creations. They still find it perplexing, in all their parochialism, that many in the world do not learn their language often cited, both subjectively and objectively, as the most beautiful and romantic of all God's languages.

In the music of the nationalist Verdi, the patriots, lead by Garibaldi, of the Risorgimento found inspiration. A highly artistic yet conservative people were about to finally be freed and have a unified Italy. There was a Mazzinian sense that things were finally going to be all right from now on. Roughly after 2 500 years of splendid history, Italy was finally born in 1871. It was long overdue. Its fate was similar to Germany's as they were, ironically (since they were the foundations of modern Western Europe), the last of the great societies to consolidate. The monarchies of France, England and Spain (by that time almost inconsequential) all had a massive head start and benefited financially and prestigiously (with shame to some) in the age of exploration.

If Germany quickly proved to be a success story by asserting itself in world affairs thus becoming an immediate power, Italy, in all its ambiguities, was finding it most difficult to glue the country together. For such a relatively small country, Italy was fragmented (high-lighted by the Mezzogiorno dividing the wealthy and industrious north and the poor and agricultural south) almost to the point of shame. It has been a hard journey ever since then.

So life goes on. The practical Italians meet this unfulfilled experiment with pragmatism. They fully recognize that their institutions are not as efficient as those found in Northern Europe. They understand their place among European nations.

Part of Italy's charm is its chaotic yet surprisingly efficient way of life. It is filled with many contradictions just like human nature. They present to the world brilliant liberal art but remain parochial and conservative. They may seem to accept the bureaucratic mess and government corruption around them but deep down they yearn for honesty and organization. Despite the failures it still manages to be part of the G7. They always seem to come through when it counts most. No one can quite grasp the Italian mind sometimes. It's as if it is simultaneously Norman, Byzantine, Arab, Greek, German and all the other cultures that passed through its beautiful terrain.

Yet, yet through it all the country found time to progress and modernize like no ancient culture has done. Italy is a proud industrial (not to mention post-industrial) and artistic society trying to survive. They are filled with inner philosophies.

Perhaps this is what draws people to Italy. By some accounts, Italy has been the most visited nation in the world since the 14th century. Italy is a stage where all of humanities flaws, virtues and vices are the actors. Maybe Italy offers pieces of it tailor made for every visitor who comes.

Maybe this is why they keep coming- Italy is a mirror to everyone.


America is not popular. So what?

As the President himself said "It's not a popularity contest."

Why is America so unpopular these days? Is it just because of George W. Bush? Is it because every country on earth are constitutional pagans? Is America wrong and everybody else right? Or is it a case of the underdog trying to convince a cynical and non-receptive audience? Did they not laugh Wilsonian principles off the map? What exactly is it that drives people so nuts about Bush?

Part of the problem is the public perception of the President and the larger issue of how this fits into the public relations nightmare the U.S. finds itself in. This problem was further exacerbated by America's invasion of Iraq. The explanations may be more straightforward than we think. We're so busy making things so complicated that sometimes the answer is obvious.

Everyone is out to knock out #1. Even some its own citizens want America to fall to its knees or at the very least slip up in the thinking that it would 'humble' them. That it would prevent them from being at the 'root cause' of everything that is malignant in the world. This simple approach assumes that a 'humble' America would translate into a more reflective,caring and compassionate America hence preventing a 9/11 type disaster.

Human nature, in all its drama, is just not that simple.

I remember in the 80s and 90s when University professors were advising their students to learn Japanese since it was the prevailing belief in academia that Japan was going to overtake America as the next great super power. Hence, Japanese was going to replace English as the language of business. Of course, they were wrong. To maybe 8 or 9 of us in the auditorium filled with activist students, it all struck us as rather infantile and premature. It was the 'thing' to discuss - the imminent and inevitable fall of the United States.

Even ideologues were in on the game. Communism, Marxism-Leninism, socialism, nationalism and other failed off-shoots of liberalism were all slated to overtake capitalism. They too were wrong.

Now all the rage is China. The whispers are loud enough to hear in the halls of the elite. The Chinese, apparently, are ready to challenge and replace American power. It's written in the Eastern skies just like it was for Japan and the communist manifesto. Just like the purveyor's of gloom and grey clouds failed to appreciate Japan's short-comings that naturally prevented this from happening, they are doing the same with China.

On the surface, China looks primed and ready like delicious angus beef. Explore deeper within and you see it's still very rare. The Dragon has real problems to contend with before they are going to mount any real attack. Its environmental issues are extremely daunting and it will take careful planning and extraordinary energies to solve their problems. Without their resource and environment base in order they could never hope to tackle an already stable American society. And they know it. It remains a horror on human rights abuses and its economic figures can't be trusted. Why? Communism, in all its secret and hollow glory, is not exactly a visionary system.

Many bit on the dragon, bear, samurai and communist assumptions. For its part, the tiger (India) may yet prove to have a strong bite but has much to learn and grow. Through it all, however, America remains standing. Perhaps not as powerful and gripped by true problems, but I will place my bet in Vegas on the eagle any day.

My feeling is that the reason they are so unpopular is because people misunderstand the U.S. They know little of its history proper. Their perception is how can such an obviously violent, decadent,troublesome and ignorant society (reinforced by television, parts of the media and pop culture in general) be so strong? That's my point. Maybe they are not as bad as everybody seems to think.

Yes, America must do a little more to ensure they are a friend and not an enemy. There is no doubt there are some things they should consider in order to improve their standing in the eyes of the world. Up to a point. They need not compromise their values, interests and beliefs (in a time when security is a key issue) to improve the polls.

They are successful for a reason. No? Maybe people should examine what makes them tick and perhaps they will learn something.


Toronto Blue Jays Want to be Canada's Team on Montreal Radio

The Blue Jays are pursuing a possible radio deal on a local radio station, the Team 990, to gain a foothold in the Montreal market.

Besides the sickening concept of Canada's second team taking advantage of the demise of the Expos, what makes this attempt all the more shocking is that the Blue Jays, owned by Rogers Communication, voted inexplicably in favor to contract the Expos a couple of years back! The utter arrogance and shame in this is immeasurable. That's the Canadian way. Never defend each other's interests. Never rise and take a stand.

I did not mind when the Jays won back-to-back World Series in the 90s. I would have preferred that the Expos did it but it was nice to see the World Series internationalize a little. It is unfortunate, to sway a little off topic, that baseball never had an international tournament pitting the best from Japan, Cuba, Dominican Republic, the United States and Canada. In this respect, hockey has a richer tradition of international competition closer to soccer and basketball.

In any event, to get back on the Blue Jays, will their attempts work? Personally, I won't listen out of principle. I doubt many French-Canadian ball fans will either. There's a limit to accepting bad luck and Montreal baseball fans have had to endure one too many. Toronto is looking to seize and capitalize on someone else's misfortune. I understand the business angle and what they are doing is logical. They just should have sided with the Expos shoulder to shoulder. That is just too much to digest.

We'll probably hear some Jays games on the radio. Life goes on. But the ghosts of Nos Amours will haunt the Jays as their conscience will get the better of them just like a haunting Edgar Allan Poe short story. We have our own history and don't wish for a back up backstory.

Max: Me Unemployed, You Not

I should start looking for work. At some point there's going to be an epiphany where I'm going to realize that I will have forfeited my right to call others losers. This is getting ridiculous. Besides, I think the government is going to turn me down for benefits. Imagine that, you put into it for years and some putz civil servant will turn you down. You have to free the money up for pampered rich kids, criminals and immigrants who have no intentions of working I guess. Shlepps like me, meaning law abiding, pay the price.

Another sleepless night. I blasted 'Personality Crisis' as I ran around the apartment in an utter plea to get myself tired. It failed and so I descended into the night and onto the streets. My park of unmitigating circumstances and unforeseen adventures is a place where the godless gods watch over me with indifference.

My blood tests showed that I have high cholesterol. Now, I have to take pills to help lower it since its hereditary. I am now unemployed and a hypocondriac. What was the point of having a healthy diet and exercising all this time? I'm going on a sex and alcohol binge since my DNA is obviously determining my destiny. I want any of Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen to write a song about me when I'm done. I recognize that I'm a utilitarian classical progressive conserative with a sprinkle of classical liberalism but hey. I'm a mess.

I wonder if Cocoa Puff Daddy is still politically active. Yo, bitch. Come to think of it, I wonder if Ben Affleck is still a model of democracy. Probably not.

Speaking of deceptions, Mark McGwire et al are so big and strong that legend has it, they went to the plate with their arm acting as a bat and hit towering 500-footers. Except against spitters.

I went for a haircut today. Jeebies took me to some guy called Pinky. I mean, really. Pinky is not a barber. He's a hairstylist. He's a coiffure artiste and let me have it when I made the mistake of calling him a hairdresser. He went off about hair as art or something. Interestingly, despite his flaming gay attributes I was told that he was straight. After he chewed into me, I told him I just wanted a brush cut. His reaction was worth the $25.

Still can't get Simone out of my head. But I would not want to let her see me during this tumultuous period.


Random Rant Observations of Canada The Red Patched Beaver

If I have to hear one more person drool about the supposed superiority of Canadian society I'm going to make a doughnut. Here are some examples of the awe that is Canada:

- While the intellectually delusional pimps over at the CBC babble about American the short-comings of American society, we hosers have, for example, persisting poverty. How can one explain the inordinate amount of homeless people sleeping in our subways and dancing on our street corners for money? I thought socialism and taxes was supposed to lick the problem.

- Wal-Mart comes into a place with 20% unemployment and we Canadians answer back like rebellious teenagers by trying to organize a union? I was glad to see Wal-Mart close up shop in Quebec after the geniuses here thought they were going to tell the Americans what to do with their money. No wonder we have high unemployment rates. Sorry Quebec, Wal-Mart does not succeed with subsidies and corporate hand-outs.

There is little, if any, use for unions in a modern, technologically advanced economy. Doesn't a former terrorist convicted of murder head one of Quebec's many unions? Canada remains a resource based mercantlist bitch. It sends raw materials to the other real deserved members of the G7 and buys back the finished products at higher prices. Why? Canada does not have a strong and diversified manufacturing base. Sure, there are sprinkles here and there and we do have a decent bio-tech industry but nothing to sustain the country. Canada is an economy that operates on margin. The leverage effect of prospering when the Americans do is great.

In sum, this economy, on a superficial level functions as if it's a power but at the core and center of it, it's nothing but an uninhibited frontier town yet to be discovered and developed. Canada has 9% unemployment in a population base of 30 million. America is 5% out of 300 million. Growth and job creation is superficial here. It's real down there. That's the dirty little secret no one talks about. Scratch our dollar and you see Andrew Jackson.

- Canada is a land where all former mental cases and murderers can retire to. Which brings me to the American army putz who feared was going to be 'persecuted' in America for deserting the U.S army due to his opposition of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

So, guys like him come up here, with a straight face, to seek refuge. Canada should do the right thing and send them back to the U.S. where, contrary to popular belief, he will be dealt with in a transparent and democratic manner. Even if this wasn't the case it's not our problem. He freely joined the U.S. army, got paid and received an education. His government called upon him. It's not his decision to make. If people like him are allowed to behave in this manner, to its logical end, the army as an institution, will be decimated. Soldiers are not paid to think and question moral epitaphs. They are soldiers. We have enough of these guys here. That's all we need, more of them working for the CBC. *

Canada uses the 'out of sight out of mind' philosophy perfectly. The only difference between our system and the American system is that we give money to a bureaucracy to make social decisions for us. Oooo, real smart.

Is there any ideology more cynical than socialism? They are basically saying humans can't guard themselves because we are inherently uncaring and stupid. It's almost as if socialism is the cousin of cynicism.Talk about under-estimating the human spirit. Socialism is just another way of one group of humans to gain access to billions of dollars created by other other people. It's a facade and it's a power grab. The genius of this 'compassionate' mirage is that they play on your conscience to legitimize their actions.

The problem is that the system does not solve anything. On the surface we look better but scratch a little and its nothing but an ineffective mess. All we do is sweep our mess under a rug. For all the rhetoric and money spent on building a utopian state, Canada has come up short big time. In Canada, we simply wallow in mediocrity. Everything from our entrepreneurial spirit to our civic pride to our dull stagnant political discourse reeks of incestuous ramblings. Can you hear the banjo playing? That's the plain truth.

And no, I do not feel better.

*Note: Canada did determine that Jeremy Hinzman did not have a 'well-founded" fear of prosecution and is not a person "in need of protection" if deported to the United States. In the end, his offense is serious and Canada made the right decision.


Spring Will Never Be the Same Again

Spring is supposed to be a purifying and therapeutic bridge in ushering in the summer months. It's supposed to wash off the winter salt and spray on the sweet rays of the sun. With spring training right around the corner, Expos fans will need special counseling to get them through the ugliness of watching the Washington Nationals. There is much nastiness I could say about this whole sad saga but that would be pointless. Spring will be anything but therapeutic this year.

My goal was to go through spring training, and by extension, the baseball season trying to pretend the Expos never existed. Like someone who tries to forget a loved one, I planned to place myself in a catatonic state of denial. Alas, I realized that was going to impossible as Montrealers were going to be inevitably exposed to the multi-armed and ubiquitous machinery of American sports media. From ESPN to CNN and Sports Illustrated to NBC and Fox Montrealers will be faced with two scenarios of which both will enrage them.

The first, will be the coverage of the Washington Nationals. Recently, I can't recall which issue, Sports Ilustrated dedicated 4 pages to the Nationals. The Montreal Expos, even during the great years, rarely, if ever, got such exposure. Montreal was just another fur trading outpost to mainstream Americana. Inconsequential though we may have been on their radar screens, we had a wonderful thing going on up here. Montreal was a unique baseball town that went right over the heads of MLB.

There was still, if you can imagine, room to up the ante in making Nos Amours an even more attractive ball club. Americans never embraced the special bond the Expos were to this community because they were never exposed to it in any fair manner.

The second will be the realization by some in the American media who will begin to question how badly treated the Expos and their fans were. Everything conspired to work against it. No one came to bat for the Montreal Expos and this is the biggest travesty. There was no enlightened leadership anywhere to be found. Where were they when we would have needed them to expose the rot stewing?

It really is a sad ending to a special epic journey that lasted a little over three decades. We should have silenced all the people who spoke ill of this baseball town. Little justice was accorded to a town with a baseball heritage that stretched back over 100 years. We should have been more protective and industrious with our baseball heritage. Maybe, just maybe it would have been helpful.

For some of us, watching the Expos and their history die unceremoniously without a fight was just plain sad. To have them pass on to another city, who twice lost a franchise, like a cheap rag was an indecent act.

I wish I could wish the Nationals all the best but I can't. I won't. We deserved better.

The Fatigued Barry Bonds

It really is hard to identify and sympathize with most athletes today. They are so far out of the realm of everyday life that it disconnects them from the rest of us. Today's athlete are fabulously wealthy, pampered and famous. They have access to anything they desire and have become equals in pop culture in their fame with other entertainers.

Athletes, some of them anyway, think themselves as 'entertainers' and seek to be compensated as such. Once upon a time, the disparity between a worker and an athlete was narrow. Obviously, it has widened in the modern era. An athlete was not seen as an entertainer but a representative of your community and the team to which you pledged allegiance to. There was a direct correlation between the sense of pride found in a community. In other words, it was easier to identify with an athlete of the past because they were just another link in a community. This made fan player relations healthy and hence the sense of awe some athletes commanded. Indeed, some of them, like Ruth and The Rocket, transcended sports and became cultural icons.

Today, because of the celebrity status attached and the obscene salaries very few, if any, athletes will ever transcend anything. They simply operate in a different fish bowl today. Athletes are mini-marketing empires now.

The media is key to building a niche-empire. A well taught athlete schooled in the art of good PR talk make for terribly bland interviews. The emotional, lazy, cantankerous or indifferent athlete make for better printing and ratings.

Which brings me to Barry Bonds. Bonds will no doubt go down as one of the all-time greats. He will be a well-deserved automatic inductee into the hallowed baseball Hall of Fame. Regardless of the steroid situation, Bonds was a famer. The Hall is filled with drug addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, racists, womanizers and adulterers, so there should be no debate about his nomination.

Barry Bonds and his alter ego "Love me" recently went on television in what seemed a carefully planned presentation to announce that he may miss the upcoming baseball season. He craftily turned the press conference into a showcase of self-pity. In this pathetic display, he said that he was tired and that the media had 'won' in that they finally 'beat' him. It was an incredible attempt to appeal to our sympathies. He even had his son stand by Love Me during the announcement.

What does all this reveal? It exposed Barry Bonds for who he really is - a jerk. He always was suspicious and confrontational of the media. The point is no longer about "finding" Barry Bonds. The point is that he never grew as a person in front of the cameras. Who knows what Bonds has had to put up with (and we should always keep this in mind) but given his wealth and fame he was not graceful in dealing with issues that confronted him. He came off as arrogant, condescending and classless - and increasingly filled with 'roid rage.

There is no reason to think of the usage of his son as nothing more than a publicity stunt. The writing was on the wall (Balco, tell-all books etc.) for Bonds. Things don't look so good on the horizon and he tried to pin all of it on the media. The media didn't make the decisions he made for himself. He freely made his choices. He chose to use steroids, he chose to be a difficult person, he chose to use the race card when it suited him, he chose to place himself above his team mates.

I kept listening to his sob story and it all came down to the following: here's a millionaire athlete who made life difficult for himself playing a sport he loved. Where does he come off saying he's tired? Can he face a cancer patient with such a comment? An aid worker who contributes and volunteers time to the benefit of society? Who made this a 'war'? Can it be he threw the first punch? Why is it only him that is in this situation? Could you imagine a young reporter, flushed with the love of the game, trying to earn a living having a hard dose of reality poured all over them by Barry Bonds? Imagine all the people he's made tired!

Baseball writers are known to be incredibly ignorant in their bias. Some are just plain mean-spirited and if you cross them wrong, will forever hold you accountable. As such, I was willing to give Bonds a free ride. But his last stunt was over the top. Barry Bonds is the ultimate example of an athlete that has spent his last cent of integrity. He lost not because they broke him. He came in already broken and refused to fix himself.

He made his accomplishments anti-climatic. He did not want to share his achievements with an adoring public. Baseball fans would not have minded a new player passing Ruth and Aaron. But he made the journey so distasteful he probably single handily increased the frequency of prayer's to the baseball gods to not let it happen.

Barry Bonds may be fatigued, but there is something that is more fatigued by his tiresome antics: the game of baseball.

Will anybody ever write a song for Barry Bonds?


Layman reflections of American Power

"Everyone is a socialist in North America.... until it's time to get paid. In their hearts and minds they are socialists, in plain action they yearn and demand to be capitalists. Hence, the affluent romantic in a Che t-shirt." The Commentator, 2005.

"Let's point out the blemishes and turn the mirror away. The finger points anywhere but here." The Commentator, 2005.

"No one likes us, I don't know why. We may not be perfect but heaven knows we try. All around us even our old friends put us down. Let's drop the big one and see what happens..." Randy Newman, 'Politcal Science', 1972.

During the height of the Roman Empire, the Greeks were having a hard time accepting those debutants of Roman power. Wise contemporary Greek and Roman commentators and historians advised Greeks to be practical and to accept the reality of Roman power.

To do otherwise would be counter-productive on many levels. Those words are wise enough to apply to modern anti-Americans that lurk about all around us.

Besides, if we are prepared to call them on all their errors, real or perceived, then it stands to reason that they should get some of the credit when they get things right - real or perceived. It's when things get one-sided I begin to question the people who do all of the attacking.

From where I sit, it always intrigued me on how leftist modern liberals speak as if the Republicans are all pure evil. They may be misguided but evil? Let me see if I get this straight. They hate when Bush and some paleo and neo-conservatives use the good vs. evil rhetoric but it is ok for them to invoke it when they speak of Republicans in this way? Of course, to them conservatism is one monolithic ideology. How, well, unsophisticated of them.

These same people, and it is somewhat tiresome and mundane now, are fond of degrading the Southern states as some incredibly socially backward and awkward regressive area. Which in some respects, and in moderation, it is.

Mind you, I'm surprised the backwoods of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine has not produced the Northeast version of 'Deliverance'. Stephen King - chop, chop.

Speaking of New England freaks. Why does Ted Kennedy, indeed any Kennedy (what's left of them), insist on taking the moral high ground when it comes to attacking Bush? Is he kidding me? If Dante were alive to publish a revised edition of 'The Inferno' there would be a circle in hell dedicated to the Kennedy's. Camelot my ass.

Ever notice how West and East coast pseudo-social progressives, you know, the type to insult anything in their path that disagrees with their world view, constantly question America's morality, are part of the problem? Specifically, most of the crud we see on tv, in our papers, in film and music- in other words trash art, stems from the liberal parts of the country. While they are busy putting up websites apologizing for the election of Dubya to the world, they fail to see the utter decadence of their own existence. They too are smug in their self-righteousness. They are just as narrow in their scope as the people they charge (the usual suspects are Condi, Dicky, Donny, Pauly and Georgey) as being ignorant.

Ironically, it is the West's philosophical heritage that protects and allows such 'progressives' to do so. I've always found it obscure, and somewhat contradictory, that people who are worried about the rogue state AmeriKa, live in the country that enshrines their right to the principles of freedom of speech and individual security. Why can't they just move to China or Cuba or something and see how far they go in those places and leaves us alone? They think they are bettering our society.

They say the American empire will fall soon and China will take over. Maybe they're right. I doubt it though. Sit back and relax because that will not happen in our lifetime or the next. Or probably the one after that. Many societies have lasted for much longer with much less at their hands. Rome lasted for a thousand years. The United States has much more in its arsenal than any other culture or society in world history, (in terms of knowledge and technology etc), to sustain its existence of dominance for a 1000 years too.

America is not, despite its sometimes hedonistic extravagance is not going away anytime soon so get comfortable anti-Americans. For guys like me, I welcome it. Anyway, even if we are to choose an unscientific rough average of how long societies and empires last (let us choose 500. This figure takes into consideration, plus ou moin, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Ottoman, Austrian-Hungarian, Mongolian, various Chinese, Indian, African and Polynesian dynasties, France and Britain) one will notice America is but a mere 229 years old. Using simple layman's logic, America has a way to go before it implodes given its unmatched power .

Sleep tight. Americans are in no danger of becoming 'American Idiots' That's just the screams of people afraid to be made fools of. The best way to defend against it is to be cynical....the easiest of all philosophies. Springsteen once wrote "...it's so hard to be a saint in the city..." Let me amend that to "it's so easy to be a cynic in the city these days..."

"...we'll save Australia. Don't want to hurt no kangaroo. We'll build an all-around amusement park there. They got surfin' too...." Randy Newman, 'Political Science', 1972.


Two-tiered Cultural System

Much has been said, justifiably, about the state of music and film in pop culture in North America. You can't go anywhere without being met with an armada of magazines and cd's that pander to the lowest ebbs of humanity. From the Simpson sisters to other trash art, we are bludgeoned to death to the point of not recognizing what is good music or respectable film anymore. If you are the type to soak all this in, take it in stride and know where to get your deep fill of true artistic talent then good on you.

It takes too much time and effort to find where all the good stuff is.

Make no mistake about it. There's a lot of interesting things going on. There's an underground backlash to all the crud around. People with real talent are tired of watching half-ass talents get all the glory and the money. I suppose this is why movements like Indie rock and Sundance exist. It's to give a chance to have real creativity, free of all the blueprint mafia, to express itself.

There's a two-tiered cultural system out there. Like everything else in life, it takes an acquired taste to appreciate the finer things in life. Many people still adhere to the mantra ' if I haven't heard about it in the mainstream than it's not worth my time'. Sadly, they are the mass market. And it's all the nerdy morons in upper management who run the marketing show that bring you all this bad programming and music. To be fair, some things of note do filter through into the mainstream (due, in part, to some people in power who have some vision and guts.)

In the end, we should respect what is coming out of the underground these days. It's telling us that art is alive and kicking and is shouting to be heard behind all the mass hysteria that is of the Jessica Simpson mold. Some eventually find their way into the mainstream conscience and help to purify the pretenders in their way.

You know what else? The pop sell-outs may be raking in all the cash and getting all the fame but it's the music of the true artist that will have a kid somewhere draw inspiration from for posterity.

This in itself is immeasurable in its value.

Max: The Unemployed Superhero

I'm beginning to get worried. My efforts to launch a business are stalling and my savings are slowly dwindling. What if my venture fails? Whatever will I do if I can't collect porn? I'm looking for a Ginger Lynn 'special'. If you know where I can find one call me at 555-Love. Cartman's mother starred in the one I'm looking for.

I was conceived in the 70s but was born in the 80s. One thing about that decade in its defense. It wasn't the worse decade musically in history as some may claim. THere was a lot of crap but it was diverse in both its good things and bad things. Every decade had its crap. Although the 20s right up until the 60s seem to have a lot less of it. It sure feels, pound for pound, there was beeter music (or film for that matter during these decades). The 80s did produce U2, The Police and John Cougar Mellencamp (though all got their start in the 70s but you get my point. They defined the 80s.). It had a nice line-up of punk/New wave/alternative groups and singers like Morrissey, The Cult, Husker Du, The Replacements, and The Minutemen but to name a few. It also had Duran Duran, Culture Club, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Level 42 etc. It was a mish mash of things. Even its film genres were diverse but I'll stop here. TV programming that scarred me (in a good way) were Cheers, Miami Vice, Magnum PI and The A-Team (this show was terrible but I loved it). I'll even throw in WKRP and Taxi since they were still playing in the early 80s. When I look back it's amazing to note that the things I found crap back then I still hate and the stuff I loved, well, I still enjoy. Weird. Uusally it's the other way around. People hate the contemporary things around them but cme to appreciate them later on in life.

Today I saw a postal worker, if you can believe this, this is a true image, slouched inside one of those grey buisness mail boxes on one of the busiest streets on the island of Montreal. She was reading a book! I looked around to see if people were astonished by this display of stupidity and I could tell people were just as shocked. Our tax dollars hard at work for just another unionized worker that will take to the streets on strike in a couple of months for 'better' working conditions based on 'principles' and 'respect.' Next time these clowns go on strike I'll remember this chick. If you're on break go into a cafe for cripe sakes to read your little book. Don't mock us.

One car had a bumber sticker that read "Don't STEAL. Government hates competition." Ditto.

Michael Moore has managed to convince blue-chip documentarians that some of his work is considered to be among the greatest doc in history. It does not matter how you arrive at your vision and opinions. If you can put it on film and sell it than your work gets all the accolades. You can use every deception in the book and you'll be called an editing 'genius'. One bozo wnet as far as to consider him a satirist. He's got some major reading to do. If Moore is a satirist than Marx is a humorist. What do you expect from a society that cosniders the DaVinci Code as a refreshing take on history? One clergyman said it was a book that helped people search for spitituality? The Big Church of Deception is winning people. I have no problem with issues being brought to the table but please, at the very least, use integrity and honesty. Taking snippets of facts here and there and pasting them together to solve a mystery is not 'fact' nor is it proff there is a cover-up conspiracy. Jack-asses. We're going around trying to solve problems that either aren't that serious are real at all. Our spinal chords connecting to our brains need re-adjusting.


Canada and Peacekeeping

The Greeks and the Romans had a culture of mythology that was fertile and imaginative. Who would have thought Canada does also? Speaking strictly in a modern context, we worship different gods in this country. Much less impressive than the ancient ones, but mythology nonetheless.

Maybe I am being a little harsh in arguing that the gods of peacekeeping in this country is mostly a myth. Our belief in it greatly exceeds our actual commitment. Canada has indeed taken part in many peacekeeping missions globally. Upon further scrutiny, however, the glaring reality of our military neglect becomes obvious. Since 1948, the number varies anywhere from 40 to 90 UN and non-UN missions.

Once upon a time Canada was considered a peacekeeping leader. A middle-power that spoke for all the rest. Spearheaded by Lester B. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1957, Canada was one of the first countries in the world to make it an official part of their defense policy to be committed to peace. Since then, many urban legends sprouted with statements like 'Canada has been part of every peacekeeping mission' and 'Canadians do not fight wars but keep the peace.'

Closer to reality, something that is often used as an example of a Canadian 'value' at work, Canada's role and actual commitment to it is not very impressive. According to a UN report in 2001, Canada ranked 38th in the world in actual civilian and military commitments. In 2004, the Conference of Defense Association in their scathing review of the state of the military, had Canada ranked 25th. Despite this, clearly Canada is no peacekeeping leader. So let us end the illusion now.

At present, Canada has roughly 4 500 Canadians forces and Reserves scattered across 18 major global conflicts. This number is expected to dwindle further as the Bercuson Report to the Minister of Defense recommends that Canada, among other things, cut drastically on peacekeeping commitments and design the Canadian military to be a small and flexible army ready to fight a limited conventional war with its allies. In other words, put an end to the peacekeeping misery. Indeed, when one examines the facts, Canada's present record on peacekeeping is embarrassing. Consider:

-Since 1948, Canada has rarely sent more than 1 000 troops anywhere.

-This figure went as low as 315 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Compared to the
6 000 sent by Bangladesh, 2 800 by India, 2 600 by Ghana and 1 100 by Nepal!

-On a per capita level, the Scandinavian countries, among others, are vastly superiour in their commitment to peacekeeping.

-Our military budget, when compared to the NATO average, suggests that Canada, as a G7 country (in name only), is not pulling its weight. NATO allies spend $589 US per person or 2.2% on the military. Canada spends $265 US or 1.1%.

-Even if we factor in the size of the military relative to a population base, Canada (while among the highest in the America's) is clearly among the lowest in the world.

There is a typical Canadian logic at play when we discuss peacekeeping. Peacekeeping, for all intents and purposes, is part of the military domain. As such, its existence and effectiveness hinges on government support and funding as well as public support. Canadians, however, want nothing to do with the military but expect Canada to be a world leader in peacekeeping.

Since the Second World War, Canada has allowed its proud military to dwindle into obscurity. Not that any Canadians will ever overtly admit (some do not even realize it) but this hypocritical behaviour is a result of knowing the United States will defend us. It is the same with our semi-diversified branch plant economy. Increasingly, the United States is putting pressure on Canada to stop acting like a teenager. Of course, this stokes the anti-American fire that still persists in the halls of Parliament. A parent, in the end, must do what it needs to do, and the U.S. is no longer in any mood to humour Canadian teenaged angst.

Another possible reason for this inexplicable decision is the cold hard fact that Canada does not like to make hard decisions when it comes to war. We do not spend on the military not because we are so peace loving (though we are more civil and passive than most nations) but because it has caused us so much heart aches in the past.

In Canada, everything is measured by the vote. Politicians skillfully make decisions on what will get them elected here. Within this context, Quebec has always been key. By virtue of its history and circumstances, Quebec is rarely on the same footing with the rest of Canada. As a result, it has always been a balancing act for leaders to please all parts of the country. In the end, ironically given Quebec's romantic and dubious (practically speaking) aspirations, the federal government usually sides with Quebec on major issues with the notable exception of the Conscription crisis during the second world war which was anything but a crisis. It was so in the minds who hated the very logic of it. Thanks to Mackenzie King's political dancing (which came at a price as world leaders simply came to ignore Canada by not returning our calls....sound familiar?), he was spared of making the decision when it could have truly been a cultural disaster.

In any event, since 1899, Canada has been caught in the middle of two powerful entities, one an imperialistic one and another an empire light , when it came to the military. During the Boer War, it was understood, much to the amazement of French-Canada, that Canada must side with British Empire and send its sons into battle.

It was the same thing during the First World War where shameless acts of incompetence at the leadership (with the exception of a few) level (both politically and militarily) were masked by the sheer brilliance and bravery of Canadian soldiers that won them admiration from the enemy. When the second war rolled around, Canada was hopelessly ill-prepared. While appeasement gripped all major players, Canada was in a state of self-denial. They shuttered at the very thought of having to make a military decision. Once again, Canadians knew that this war had nothing to do with them, but the light of the Empire was calling. Rationally speaking, we did not belong there. Emotionally and subjectively, the tides of history deemed it that we did the right thing. Canada went, very much like the First World War, its ineptness was staggering but its soldiers, once again, saved Canadian honor.

The Cold War traded Britain for the United States. Whether the Americans were paranoid players is not the point (though recent declassified Soviet documents seem to suggest the Amercians were closer to the truth than most give them credit for). This time, its ally was on its borders and whatever decisions Canada made had much more immediate consequences. It has always been hard for Canada to operate independently betwixt two great powers but this is where leadership evolves into statesmanship and too often Canada, knowing better, tried to sweep things under a rug when it came to massive decisions whenever it involved the Americans. Always mindful of the potential wrath of the Quebec vote. Not only were they trapped internationally but internally as well!

Canada sent a small force into Korea. Even after the government neglected the military, it still made the decision to send soldiers who were yet to be battled hardened. Their foolhardy actions were reminiscent of World War Two. Once again, against all odds, Canadians soldiers distinguished themselves.

In the Second World War, Canada had some of the best fighter pilots on earth. In the First World War, the allies marveled at Canadian resilience. In the Second World War, it was the turn of the Germans to be in awe. In Korea, skirmishes with the Chinese made them realize their own admiration for Canadian toughness. All this in spite of our dithering and poor ability to prepare for war. It was a travesty and a disservice to our soldiers. For this, all Canadians should be ashamed. Our soldiers did more for the Canadian identity than most Canadian exports.

By the time the 60's came around, Canada finally made a decision and did not take part officially. The 60s, we all know about the 60s - part fact part myth. For Canada it was a coming of age of sorts. Canada was country in full control of itself finally. Its diplomats were skillful and its leaders talented. Canada punched above its weight during this decade and well into the 70s. Peacekeeping was to be a symbol and a gift from Canada to the world of our commitment to freedom and peace. Idealism never looked so good and it never stank so bad for posterity.

Our proud talk of peacekeeping does not match our commitment to it in cold hard cash. According to a CGD report - Commitment to Development Index- published by Foreign Affairs Magazine Canada ranked 17th out of 21 industrialized nations in financial and personnel terms. Canada is easily outstripped by the likes of India and Greece. My problem with this is that Canadians use this as a symbol of Canadian values yet there is nothing instinctively Canadian in it. All countries are committed to such a noble endeavour.

We can throw figures all we want and indeed they can be interpreted in any way. There is, however, a clear pattern here. Canada is not living up to its rhetoric.

In the end, we do not even lead by example hence the myth. Conclusion: Canada is not committed to war nor to peace.


Canada's Health Care System: What is Going On?

The following is purely the observation of the health care system from a citizens point of view. As a patient I have seen first hand the good and the bad the system provides. Even as a visitor certain drawbacks of the system become apparent.

To start, Canadians are proud of their universal health care system. In theory, it has all the components of an advanced, compassionate and egalitarian society. Like all social monopolies, in practice it is sometimes a bureaucratic a nightmare. It is neither compassionate in its waiting periods and neither egalitarian as privileged citizens gain quick and easy access. Nor, above all, is it free. It costs a lot. Too much when you measure against what we get in return.

It's to the point I wonder is misplaced pride. Especially when we use it to compare against the U.S. system. Far from being an expert on the American health system, I read and speak enough to Americans (friends and family) to understand its basic function and structure. Besides, one does not need to know the inner workings of either system. What for? The blemishes to the Canadian system is appallingly apparent from the minute you submit your medicare card. It is there for all to see. The plain reality is that, within all the paradoxes of our system (we can pay for a breast implant but are prevented from increasing treatment for breast cancer to cite one), our lives are not being dealt with in any dignified manner.

Canadians spend millions and millions of tax dollars on a system that turns around and throws something like 75% of the funds at payroll and staff. It does not take a genius to figure basic financial math, assuming these figures are correct (and by all accounts it is an average number from various sources from doctors, newspapers and health care officials) that any business that chews up three-quarters of its revenues (or in the case of public institutions tax dollars) to labour costs simply is not going to make it in the long run if those revenues do not expand over time.

It is worse when it comes to public finance as our tax base is not growing enough to offset any shortfalls. Hence, taxes increase. Why? So far, the only answer, after endless summits and conferences about health (where typical power struggles between the federal and provincial governments bicker to the point of paralysis) is to throw money at the system without functional safeguards (those currently in place do not seem to be working) ensuring the funds are properly managed.

At this point, it is only right and fair to point out that the problem does not reside with the doctors and nurses and other care workers of the public health system. Personally, I have come to acknowledge that Canada has a strong health care system when it comes to care....once you get it. If you are an American and find yourself sick in a Canadian hospital I am confident you will be in good hands. The fact remains, however, that Americans have better access to care and technology (the overall quality is higher in the U.S.) than do Canadians but Canada is not third world by any stretch of the imagination.

Please allow me to use simple human logic and experiences during a typical day in the Canadian health care system. This is where the waiting time becomes third world in its length. The system is Byzantium to average users. We must cut through many layers of gunk to get to the core of who we need to speak and see once we are in the vortex. Key public officials, like politicians and their families, do not wait in line. They do not have to sit and stew in anger waiting a whole day for simple procedures. Politicians talk about the fact they understand the need to reduce waiting times but have yet to introduce feasible solutions. The system is overwhelmed, understaffed and mismanaged. It will have to take miraculous enlightened leadership to solve the problem.

In case you have not noticed, the Liberal party of Canada has not been a bastion of quality leadership.

Case 1: A husband takes his wife who is pregnant and considered to be high risk to the emergency ward of a reputable hospital. The hospital itself is old and not well kept. One person, is laying on a bed in the hall way, obviously fighting a bad fever. In fact, a few people are in this state as the emergency ward does not resemble a first-rate medical system in any way. So, she waits there for 3 hours before she passes. The husband and his wife wait 30 minutes to see a nurse. They wait 3 hours to see a doctor and an additional 3 hours for the results of blood tests. One person was on staff to process the blood results. The doctors blame cut backs. They move on utterly exhausted. They get home at 2 am. Unacceptable.

Case 2: It is not uncommon for people to lose a full day of work, hence wages, to prepare for the drudgery of sitting around in the health care lounge. Someone should consider an impact study on wages lost to people wasting precious productivity time needlessly in the stressful realm of the public health system.

Case 3: On a personal level, I once had to wait a whopping 3 hours with my shoulder dislocated before any doctor had the presence of mind to pop it back in. They insisted on taking me, in pain, to the x-ray room. The nurse could not seem to comprehend my range of motion was limited due to the pain. There I was, like a shlepp, forced to take the x-rays. It was not a bone problem. Every minute my shoulder stayed that way meant the more the ligament stretched thus reducing my chances of strengthening it in rehab. Thank you Canadian health system. As a note, I have always had shoulder problems. One time, when I popped it playing a sport. a doctor was on hand to pop it back in. No x-ray was necessary.

Case 4: A father needed an aortic surgery fast according to doctors. They told him he must not go anywhere. They set a date for the surgery. The system, over flowing as it is, rescheduled a life-threatening condition, not once, not twice but three times. Would athletes wait? A politician? Accessibility has become almost impossible in a time friendly manner. Canadians do indeed have access - when they give their card. After that, good luck. The surgeon, for his part, was both brilliant and caring. The nurses did their best to deal with cocky and rude ICU doctors and grieving friends and relatives and were nothing short of remarkable in their professionalism. Still, unacceptable. It was Russian roulette with a man's life. Is this how we define 'compassion' in Canada?

Case 5: Unsuspecting gentleman leaves for his annual check up with a family doctor. During the session, the doctor decides to send him for some x-rays. The wait? 3 hours.

Case 6: Canada, for all the taxes poured into the system, has among the longest waiting lines in the Western world. Many Canadians are finding it more human and practical to head to the U.S. for certain treatments. Canada also lags behind in the number of bed and MRI units available.

The provinces, no doubt, will blame the federal government for such nightmarish waiting periods but that is not the point. The point is that amidst all the political games, the health care system has whithered away to the point that it is no longer viable and acceptable to an advanced society like Canada.

The howls you hear in the background are from the ghost of Tommy Douglas and his supporters. They should be ignored. It is time for a massive and intelligent overhaul of the public health system. If we do not, politicians, every single one of them from every parts of this land, should be made to answer for its failures. They will have to account for blood on their hands for deaths that could have and should have been prevented with some bold changes.

Canadians are losing faith. We should demand for more. Many are willing to pay for peace of mind and I do not blame them. However, such notions are met with horror from health care zealots. At his point, we should explore all options and avenues (including a two-tired private system. Private clinics exist in Canada) to make the system more responsive. Throwing money at it will not solve the system. Nor should we be indifferent to it. We should be forceful in knowing what is going on with the public health system. After all, it is our money; our lives.


Max: Unemployed and Annoyed

Every time I go to a comedy show it seems every comedian regardless of their act has to have an 'Italian' segment. Once upon a time it was cool I guess when black, Irish and Jewish comedians did it when it was still relevant. Now it seems like everyone is on the act. Cripes, Greeks and Lebanese acts are getting cheap laughs off the backs of the dago and wop. As far as I'm concerned, the following nationalities or ethnic tribes should be banned from doing so: Pashtun, Albanian, Berber, Arab, Georgian, Andorran, Ovimbundu, Mestizo, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Belarusian, Creole, Mayan, Bariba, Nepalese, Aymara, Serb, Croat, Shona, Turkish, Bulgarian, Malay, Mande, Tutsi, Hutu, Vietnamese, Khmer, Russian, Fulani, Luba, Teke, Moravian, Estonian, Fijian, Punu, Fang, Wolof, Akan, Susu, Pepel, Haitian, Icelandic, Bengali, Javanese, Persian, Kurd, Rastafarian, Kazak, Kamba, Lao-Tai,Latvian, Palestinian, Zulu, Lithuanian, Macedonia, Maravi, Trukese, Moldovan, Tsonga, Burman, Ovambo, Igbo, Hausa, Tagalog, Saudi, Babylonian, Assyrian, Vandal, Carthaginian, Vandal, Lombard, Avar, Angle, Jute, Mongol, Viking, Yemeni, Limba, Spanish, Galician, Catalan, Dinka, Tajik, Uzbek, Polynesian, Iranian, Algerian, Belgian, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chilean, Costa Rican,Cuban, Egyptian, Moroccan, Pakistani, Indian, Philipino, Peruvian and Romanian. If you fall under any of these tribes and are thinking of becoming a comedian with an Italian bit in your act you are banned.

My friend Massimo came by today. He's one successful individual. He's got a beautiful family and a sweet car. He has it all- integrity, sense of humour, good looks and luck. He was also a pro tennis player. Mind you, I represented my country for soccer. I think I have strong morals and dignity too. My sense of humour is off the charts and, well, I have been known to make the ladies swoon too! Anyway, Mass and I were talking about an episode during our University days when we tried and balanced getting an undergraduate degree with partying with chicks from remote and exotic parts of the city. Mass and I are from the suburbs and we tend to be a little too grounded which prevented (saved?) us from doing anything way too stupid or excessive. We blended well with any group from punks to ballerinas. Hamas could have had an association and we would have been able to fraternize with the bastards like chameleons.

University was a bit of a piss shit experience at times. First, it's much to easy to earn a degree in Canada. I went through school with one lousy binder and came out with a B+ or something. The diploma is piece of rag. Like our passport. Second, half of the school was filled with go-getting assholes and the other with people who have no business being there. Every floor, on my campus, was a ghetto protected and preserved by mercernaries and private militia armies. The Arabs, Greeks, Palestinians, Israeli's etc. All wasting their stupid time spending precious human energy on tribal ethnic nationalism. Heck, the Arabs have it down to a science as they manage to censor and prevent guest speakers they don't like from coming by, surprise, using criminal acts of viloence. Apparently, being a victm gives them the UN right to act like animals.

Anyway, they tell me that University is a place where great minds come to exercise their thoughts in a free intellectual environment. With a disclaimer - you have to be politcally correct. If you are not anti-American, pro-gay marriage and abortion and anti-Israeli you ain't good enough. Ever hear of the adage don't judge a book by its cover? Yeah well, apparently not in University. How many times did people, gays included, judge me because I dressed and looked a certain way. One gay guy couldn't believe I scored higher than he did on a consistent basis "You, got an A+?! With the hardest professor in the province?!" Shock!

Massimo recalled a time when we went to a party on Clark St. in the Mile-End district of Montreal. The buildings were old and dorty. The apartment was a 4 1/2 but it was like a 2 1/2 . t was so small people went up on the roof. Oh lord the freaks that were in there. But we were there to meet some gals we met in class. While we waited around we stuck out like a couple of Nazis in Israel. This was a 1968 time warp. One guy brought his guitar and began playing as everyone listened to typical anti-establishment songs in Spanish dialect. It was all so lame. I wanted to yell "oh will you idiots go find yourself some real jobs and dress properly?!" I'm no fan of jeans, torn clothes and tatooes in class. Call me a tight ass. I call it being serious when needing to be.I wonder what ever happened to those losers. They're probably CEO's today.

I have to go stare at myself in the mirror.

Time for Soccer to Modernize

The game of soccer should shed its Luddite tendencies and embrace technology. I just watched a soccer game where a team scored a clear goal and it was refused. Now, aside from the fact that it is already difficult to score a goal in soccer, this was an unfortunate situation in particular.

The team who benefited from the call are in a battle for first place with another team who had won earlier. Is this fair?

Why not have a system of replay to determine if it was a goal? Why not use replay to judge if a penalty is deserved within the 18 metre box? Was it a hand ball? Offside? Did a player dive? Did he call someone a terrorist whore who wears construction boots? Let technology help out.

I'm not saying to do this with every play. A fair and reasonable way can be achieved so that only crucial moments that determine an outcome will come under review.

One tournament that still sticks out is the 2002 World Cup. It showcased a poor display of officiating where FIFA clearly needed the help. Too many games were and are lost based on human error. Far from advocating the removal of the referee, I'm merely suggesting the ref gets some help. That came out wrong. Though after some intense games maybe a couch is something they can use.

Another aspect of the game that needs refining is time-keeping. There should be a clock for all to see. Time should not be in the hands of one dictator on the field.

Thankfully, FIFA is planning to implement some measures to help reduce the amount of human errors. Though I advocate replay I realize it would interrupt the flow of the game as soccer is a continuous game without official stoppages or time-outs.

One of FIFA's ideas is to place a microchip in the ball to determine if a ball crosses a line. To its credit, soccer realizes that this is beneficial for the integrity of the game. Pragmatically, perhaps some form of replay, on a trial basis, whereby a coach can challenge a call should be considered. If he is wrong you can charge him with a free kick to the opposing team, lose a sub whatever. Similar to how a coach is charged a time-out in the NFL. Soccer can only gain by exploring these options.

A common sensed approach can help improve the game and make it more enticing to North Americans. The fact is that soccer is perceived to be a boring sport where players complain at the slightest foul and fall way too easily (apparently it's called being smart and outwitting the ref) all over the place. Above all, North Americans do not like the lack of recourse in terms of technology teams may have.

The howls from traditionalists should be muzzled. Remember how baseball purists complained about the wild-card? I don't think anyone would ever deny that this was a success. Soccer, if we recall, embraced the controversial concept of shoot-outs in the 1970s and it is considered high drama (not to mention a disgrace) for fans the world over.

We can find a way to improve soccer without jeopardizing its traditions and respecting its history and heritage. The beautiful game deserves it. It may never be able to conquer North America but it can go a long way in improving its standing in many parts of this continent.


The Shoot Lock-Out Affair.

Oh dear. Canada's greatest obsession (no not public health) is about to explode into national debate again - hockey. The issue: Should hockey enact shoot-outs to determine a game? Aside from the bizarre fact that hockey finds itself in a frivolous mess with the lock-out, the shoot-out is a compelling idea but a misguided one in my opinion.

The shoot-out is akin to Jessica Simpson being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It's all about selling out to a mass audience. We pander to the lowest common denominator now. To be fair, there are many legitimate hockey finds and experts who like the idea. On a business level, not that any hockey analyst or expert no much about the intricacies of business despite their sometimes subtle condescending tone, the shoot-out is a no-brainer. It'll sell. But at what cost, on a subjective level, to the game?

Some call it progress. As if this idea is a sealed mark of progress. Instead, this debate arises because hockey, on a fundamental level, is not doing so well. It needs tinkering. Because, like human nature, we take so long to make the necessary changes for whatever reasons, we find ourselves scrambling to regain any fans lost to the lock-out and the state of the game in terms of entertainment value. The shoot-out idea is a band-aid answer in a contemporary framework. Ten years from now it will cease to be relevant for which it was intended. The shoot-out is a pretty lame way to decide a team oriented sport.

Soccer provides some insights as to what hockey can expect down the road. Legendary player's and great games will be determined, hence scarred, by the fact they were part of a shoot-out. Soccer's history since 1976 has not always seen the best team win as a result of the shoot-out.

As for the individual athlete, it will be a shame to watch a stellar career be wiped out in an instance. The text book example of this is the case of Roberto Baggio. One of the greatest player's ever thanks to his sublime skills, Baggio will only be remembered for this 'miss' in 1994 against Brazil. Is this fair?

People will argue that everyone remembers Nagano. True enough, but for the wrong reasons. Nagano is many things to many people including the failure to have Wayne Gretzky take a shot at the net. People have short attention spans and short historical memories. The memory of Nagano is infamy an this is not a good thing.

Rather than cosmetically tinker with the game, the NHL would be rise to work on the 60 minutes designated to entertain us. Heck, why not just go straight to a shoot-out? Why bother with a team oriented game based on strength and endurance to have it determined by flashes of skill? If they fail to entertain (and they have), to a fan like myself, I couldn't care less about the shoot-out. It's all so, well, cheap. Like drooling babbling baboons the shoot-out is designed to pique the interest of the casual fan and not the purist.

Like anything in life, history tries to balance tradition with modernity, the shoot-out is not a modern solution to a traditional game. Just a marketing answer to a problem largely created by a poorly designed business structure.

In the end, the proponents of the shoot-out will be right. In the end, the owners pockets will deepen as a result but hockey, without debate, will lose a piece of its spirit much like soccer has.

I began with comparing the shoot-out with Rolling Stone magazine. Once upon a time, Rolling Stone was the raison d'etre in rock'n roll journalism. Like any business that enters a low revenue cycle, it needed to sell more magazines. In order to do so, they had to go outside the box. That meant entering the dark side of mainstream appetites.

They made a sound business decision but what was the intangible and immeasurable cost?

Still Perplexed

War always brings with the notion of unintended consequences. During the Second World War, deemed enemy aliens in Canada were interned in various camps in selected areas such as Petawawa and New Brunswick. These included Ukranians, Germans, Italians and of course Japanese whether they were citizens or not. This happened, by the way, in the United States, Australia and the UK.

It was an ugly period but such is war. Perhaps the government over reacted, especially considering it was not our war. Many families and businesses were ruined as a result. To be sure and fair, there were, for example, various Italian fascist organizations operating in Canada to which the Mussolini government was sending funds to create and maintain.

What perplexes me is that only the Japanese are consistently mentioned as being interned during this period. Many media outlets, as well as historians, are guilty in their deliberate omission of the Italian community. Why, I can not ascertain. Part of the problem, I imagine, is the community's timidity in dealing with this period. The CBC has only recently begun to make mere mention of it through some movies they aired but rarely (if ever) have they mentioned it on a political show. Bizarre for a media monopoly that clearly hangs left in its views and supposedly annointed itself as the transmitter of compassionate Canadian multi-cultural values.

Pierre Berton is considered one of Canada's greatest historians. I tend to agree with this. I am presently reading his 'Marching as to War' and he devotes a few pages to the Japanese. Nothing on the Italians. It was disappointing to have this revealed to me. So far, the only historian, that I have come across, of any esteem who has mentioned it, has been J.L Granatstein in his 'Who Killed Canadian History'. I'm sure, I hope, there are others.


In the Mind of an Imaginative Military Sniper

The proponents of war are often as justified as those who oppose it. Both sides play politics. Even if they don't realize it.

Ortona, 1943.

These Red Patches are everywhere. They are most brave despite incompetent command. My duty is to shoot the enemy down. They are, to me, but mere cardboard figurines. They run from post to post. Shattered house to shattered tank. My job is to shoot them down.

It is indeed a game. As I speak, I have just hit one. I hear his screams. I have become callous to such cries. The necessity of my survival dictates this to be so. War is mad and natural. I see that he is in pain. His comrade moves to save him. Should I gun them both down? I am a soldier. I do what I must. This tender moment will be met with fate.

And so it has. Both lay in their arms. I do not like that all of a sudden my emotions have shaken my nerves. Am I going soft? What will my superiours do to me if they find out? Could they find out? The fatherland must be protected - indeed expanded. No? This is what they tell me.

Why am I in a land so beautiful to complete this task? As I stare at my dead enemies, I wonder who their friends were. Who they loved and who loved them. What sports did they play? What did they do for work? How would my family feel if I were to be mowed down?

In an instant, I realize for what? Was it my people that started this madness? I'm on foreign soil shooting people and their allies for doing nothing more than to protect it. The mortar shelling is beginning to affect my senses.

All of a sudden I am overwhelmed. I am no longer looking at cardboard boxes but human beings. I see the rest of the platoon make an escape. I see their fears. All they want to do is go home. They have seen enough depravity.

I can not and will not shoot. I deliberately miss. Sudden pause and silence. I am confronted by the enemy right before me! How!? Behind him I can see the soul of the dead rising. Can they forgive me? His eyes! It has the simultaneous look of a ravaged wolf and scared child! Green as pure arctic water. How does he see me? Does he see the emptiness of my soul? Or my new found love of the human spirit? What will he do to me?

The Daily Show and DaVinci Code Phenomena

"....there's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear..." So begins Buffalo Springfield's counter-culture song 'For What it's Worth' - one of the most poignant protest songs to come out of the Vietnam era. Of course, this was a political anthem during a baby boomer period of rebellion against authority. Those lines, however, also have merit in other facets of the pop culture arena.

Mainstream media (and academia) is under fire for many good reasons. To a liberal, it's under the control of 'right-wing' media moguls. To conservatives, the 'left wing' bias is blatantly clear for anyone who cares to see or admit.

Regardless of who is getting the perceived shaft, what we have on the air is pagan socialism. What I mean by pagan is that journalists don't have a preference or a clue on what side of the political spectrum they lie. This can be a good thing as it implies a certain level of objectivity. Their jobs are to report the facts, but they have allowed their perceptions to cloud their craft.

Then again, some claim too much objectivity is not good either - please see Gonzo journalism.

It has also been charged that within the walls of academia true intellectual discourse has been watered down to politically correct norms. On both fronts, they are, in sum, anti-intellectual. A strong case can be made that liberalism remains on top within both academic circles and the media.

There are some people; however, who are not interested in what is going on in the mainstream (however you choose to define 'mainstream'). They are seeking other sources of information. Not sure of who and what to believe, they navigate through the network of blogs and alternative (the term alternative is also confusing now) sources in search of something, anything. If they can't get it on the local news then they'll get it somewhere. The fight between the ideological philosophies is so fierce and ferocious people have simply tuned out to both sides and looked for another alternative.

Enter Jon Stewart -The modern Roman political satirist. It comes to no surprise that many young adults now use The Daily Show as a source. The Daily Show is witty and comedic in its orientation and is a reflection, like all solid satire, of human nature in general. The existence of satire proves that a society is free to examine itself without fear of persecution. This is healthy.

The Da Vinci Code, for its part, by Dan Brown is a best selling book that is basically an off-shoot of other books about unlocking the truth about Jesus and the existence of secret societies. One of, if not the first, book of this genre was The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. To their credit, these men did not try and pass their book as historical fact. Instead, they positioned it as investigative journalism. To be read at a leisurely distance but not to be taken as an academic work of art. This is not what's happening with The Da Vinci Code.

There is, however, an underlying dark lining to all this. It comes as no coincidence that these two genres are colliding and intertwining when it comes to people discussing contemporary issues. Both fill a void for people searching for answers to what seems to be fantastic issues. They are many things to many people who look for something they want to believe.

People are mistakenly taking these works for serious history. It's not uncommon for people to take The DaVinci Code as absolute fact. The Daily Show, for its part, is not real journalism. To accept it as such is dangerous and reveals how distorted we have become in prioritizing who we trust to filter information to us. Jon Stewart is no more a journalist than anybody who keeps a blog is. He is. Like all comedians before him, a social commentator. He chooses comedy to interpret what he sees. As long as we do not cross this line it will not harm us intellectually.

It's the same scenario, to cite another example, with the editing witchcraft of Michael Moore. Remarkably, Moore has managed to invent a 'I have the truth' market in such a way that it easily fits into various genres- documentary, satire, comedy etc. In the end, this is the genius of his work. Of course, he's none of these. It's just fiction. He takes some truths and reinvents them for contemporary consumption for a contemporary mindset - what I call irresponsible revisionism.

He reveals nothing of supreme value (once one truly ponders upon it) except to have us deal with issues that have been placed on steroids by his trompe d'oeil. To be clear, I do not classify Jon Stewart in with Michael Moore. There's a world of subtle differences between the two. But this is not the topic of discussion here.

Historian Martin Kemp wrote in 'Leonardo' a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, in commenting Brown's 'Code'; (my italics) '....in the service of fiction, such unfounded 'facts' are fine, as history they perpetuate nonsense. The problem with Brown's 'Code' is not its invention of 'truth' (much like Moore); but that it has been taken seriously by those who cannot recognize fiction as fiction.'

I'll close with Francis Bacon from Novum Organum. In his work, he identified four perceived obstacles to scientific progress. One of them was Idols of the Market Place. It can also be called Idols of the Media, according to author Martin Seymour-Smith: Bacon declares "People are led, through "daily intercourse and association," into "numberless empty controversies and idle fancies." This, as I have personally stressed time and again, includes the abnormal fascination we hold for celebrities and their lives and opinions. Not to mention the interest in 'how-to' books. Very few people know how to distinguish between a great film as art and a good film as a product. With all the sensationalism, it's no wonder we hardly see any great scripts or writing anymore. By extension, we can also include the phenomena known as 'Oprah' and 'Dr.Phil'.

All this serves to distract us from the realities of our lives and remove from us the ability to exercise our minds properly. Shows like Oprah simply exist to tell us of what we already know but refuse to submit to. We have become so removed from the 'good stuff' in life that we need Dr. Phil and Oprah or other pop culture 'saviours' to set us back 'straight'. In this light, all are part of a vicious cycle.

As a true satirist, Karl Kraus once said "To know nothing and be able to express it!" Imagine, Bacon wrote his dictum in the 17th century and still found relevance in Kraus' words.