2007-04-29

Canadian (and American) Snippets

-Public Health Verbal Diarrhea: These are the sort of the debates that go on up here. We've clearly politicized health. Obviously this is, well, unhealthy. Is not time for a national standard that all provinces must adhere to? Do I really care if Jack Layton went to a private clinic? Are we really this far up our tiny little asses? Freedom of choice is what Canadians need not communist rhetoric.

Public health has been touted as a core value in this country. The price for our misguided pride? Months (not weeks) of wait times for many surgeries in all provinces. Granted, in some cases the numbers have come off recently but they remain unacceptably high. We've traded our personal health for public health as a "core value" to enhance our collective identity. The sad thing is that while politicians and the wealthy are aware of private clinics, the less fortunate are hoodwinked into believing that free Medicare - which is really not free - is the only moral thing to do. It's sad when a person suffering pain refuses to go to a private clinic - which means outside the public health system - won't do so because they bought the government bit about it not being "Canadian." We're doing more harm than good by clinging on to a dead experiment. All we're advocating is an adjustment to it. No one wants to dismantle it as some in the media claim.

In any event, public health is not even a Canadian idea. It's a European one and they even have adjusted with the times. Two-tier medical plans exist there. Europeans are not naive like we are here when it comes to health. Guess who pays for the bureaucratic nightmare and subsequent and endless "conferences" on health? You and me.

Here's a trick I learned. The minute a politician writes a letter to the editor criticizing health and promising to work harder to fix the decrepit health care system always remember one thing: it's on your dime and with your health they play with. If they are faced with an emergency trust me. They ain't sticking around. They will bolt.

-Each a Turn Now: It's time for the Liberal party (at both the Provincial and Federal level) to be decimated (like the Conservatives were in the 1990s) to get the message. They are clearly too stupid and arrogant to "get it."

-Some Justice: $65 million smackeroos - wasted.

- Note to Quebec nationalist dreamers: I declare that separatism is dead. I thought this in 1995 and think this now. It's all for the better. Trust me.

-Overpass catastrophe continued: Well, well, well. The Johnson Commission looking into the disgraceful and criminal overpass that collapsed here in Laval resulting in several deaths has slowly been discovering that the people involved. .

Question: If the men behind all this knew they were not experts why did they not say so?

And by the way, this not an exception. Just a few years back an overpass on Blvd. Souvenir not too far away from de la Concorde collapsed also resulting in deaths. A small overpass nearby my place remains closed. Not only is there a rotten fish amongst us but fins with lots of blood on their hands.

-That ray of light you see is God's - er, Al Gore's - light. After calling the environmental platform by the Conservative party a fraud designed to "mislead Canadians" Gore added he has "no right to interfere in your decisions." Um, I think you just did, sir. You may as well hand the baton over to David Suzuki.

-40th anniversary of a dream I never saw: Expo 67 introduced Montreal to the world and it was all down hill from there. It's nice to read about it but it seems here in Montreal that's all we do. We always hark back to 1967.

Doesn't constantly harking back imply we feel the future is bleak? Ah, those were the days. Those days are gone and the Montreal Gazette sports pages need to let it go. Every piece on the subject just repeats the same old stuff. It's tiresome. We're really running out of things to say and write.

-Two wrongs don't make a right in Iraq: As I have said before, the negative consequences of a total pull out of Iraq will be high. One may have issues with the invasion and how it was conveyed and managed but the idea that a withdrawal is the only solution is the wrong one. Ironically, the "Domino Theory" that so concerned American leaders and strategists during the Cold War, may prove correct in the Middle East. Sure, history repeats itself but not for partisan reasons. Starting a war leads to unintended consequences but so does a premature exit.

In any event, once in power - should they get there - Democrats will sober up and settle into the geopolitical realities of the region. This ain't Vietnam so perhaps it's time to stop citing it.

For Democrats in Iraq, two wrongs do make a right.

2007-04-25

My World and the Other One

I went to an awards ceremony the other day. I hate those things. I loathe networking. I simply don't feel comfortable and rarely do my true colours ever come out naturally. I'm not a "hiya doin'?" kinda guy. I much prefer to attend gatherings with someone who already knows the circuit and the people in them.

This one was not so bad in the sense that it was a mini-banquet for writers. Networking in the financial services is far worse. So many one-dimensional people to deal with. Middle-management at the banks is one gigantic wasteland of minds.

What I don't get at any of these "Happy hour" functions is the need for bloody name tags. Those cheesey stickers that are meant to identify and label you. "Oh, hi. Here's your name tag. You know, so people know who you are."

Really? By knowing my name they know who I am? Gosh, if there is such a person send them over because I could use some insights. An ice breaker you say? Gee, I thought we were all adults and would be able to do so without the aid of a name tag. Name tags annoy me. It's fine for the sixth grade but professionals?

The only person's name tag I bothered to read was the idiot who left three tooth picks on my table. Just what I want to see at such a function; remnants of beef mango and vegetarian sushi. "Hi, Susan. Yeah, nice to meet you. You write for Maclean's good for you. Um, do you mind showing a little more class next time? In fact, ask your editor for a copy on how to use a trash can."

Maybe I'm just bitter. Some call it being anti-social which in turn now is interpreted to mean autistic. Whatever it is I'm in a bind. The things I want to do and accomplish entail my attending the functions. How does one navigate around this?

I'm far more comfortable one on one. In fact, I thrive in such a circumstance. For years I struggled in school and no one could ever figure out why. If I was a bumper sticker it would read "he's intelligent, if only he could focus more...." They call it ADHD now. Not that I have been diagnosed with it but I have my suspicions.

Do you want to know when I found out I could write? In prep school - when I was in my 20s and there were five people per class. It calmed me down a little. Well, that plus the fact that my parents were dishing out a shit load of cash to straighten me out. So there was a bit of a "I owe" them that much guilt on my part.

Despite this, I was all over the map and could not figure out what I wanted to do with myself. Sure, since I was in high school I was told to become a writer. Suggestion after suggestion, advice after advice went over my head. Besides, I didn't want to be a writer. After all, what was I going to write about? It was one thing to have ideas but what would make me better than the next guy or gal? Maybe I lacked confidence. Maybe I pretended and deferred any decisions by partying. Where was I going to get a job? Journalism did not interest me as I did not have the character to be a reporter - plus I've met local journalists and they did not fill me with enough enticement to join their ranks. It's a scummy world. I always saw myself more as an entrepreneur.

So I wandered and ended up in financial services. Sure, I learnt about stocks and how to read economic reports but something was lacking. The world was way too grey and putting up with dead weight bosses was too much for me to accept. I discovered I could and did not want to play the corporate game.

Now all I hear are the voices of past History and English professors, journalists and professional writers who told me I needed to build a career in writing. I took the chance. One problem: to build a career from the outside is damn near impossible. No matter how good you may be they don't know that and quite frankly it's not easy to show this.

This is where luck now needs to play a role. I got lucky with one editor who spotted me. Now I need to keep it going but for how much longer? If I was earning a living and had to time to master my craft I'd offer quite a bit but it's a catch-22 thing.

Now I'm trying to combine my experiences, talent and entrepreneurial spirit into writing. Oh well, if that doesn't work there's always porn.

Tangents, tangents. So anyway, I hate networking. The end.

2007-04-24

The Return of the Mustache

I recently watched a hockey playoff report on the Anaheim Ducks that mentioned one of its players George Parros (pictured left). That got me thinking. Whatever happened to the pop culture mustache? Will it revive itself?



2007-04-18

Ability Online: An exceptional website that both parents and kids can agree on

Exceptional Family Magazine-Vol. 2 No. 3 Spring 2007

by Alessandro Nicolo

From instant information-sharing to resources and relationships, the Internet offers users a world of experiences and possibilities. Unfortunately, not all of what is presented is in the best interest of children. This can make parents jobs of safeguarding their kids against dangerous sites and sexual predators all the more difficult - particularly parents of children with cognitive challenges, who may have more difficulty with the concept of boundaries. Enter Ability Online, a free web-based skill and development network for exceptional youth that is not only monitored 24-hours-a-day, but one that many parents may actually want to encourage their children to join.

Managing director Elizabeth O'Neil describes Ability Online as "a protected online community where children and teenagers with special health challenges can develop personal connections with people who can make a meaningful difference in their lives." Founded in 1991 by child psychologist Dr. Arlette Lefebvre (aka Dr. Froggie by her young patients) of Toronto, the site aims to encourage youth with disabilities to interact on an equal playing field, in an empowering, non-judgmental environment. With its limited advertising budget, members are typically referred to the site by therapists or social workers. But forming partnerships with over one hundred acute-care and pediatric hospitals as well as rehabilitation centres across Canada, Ability Online enables youth to seek peer support not only while undergoing treatment in an institutional setting, but once they return home too.

Fifteen years after it became incorporated, Ability Online continues to offer emotional support and skill development within a monitored environment to 3, 330 exceptional young members ages 11-24 who have physical and/or intellectual disabilities or chronic illnesses. "What differentiates Ability Online from other websites is that ours is so comprehensive," says O'Neil. "We help our members develop the emotional, social and communication skills required to better integrate into their own communities, whether that means greater engagement in school through our Homework Guide program or special job-search coaching through our Job Readiness program or simply by providing the comfort that comes from knowing someone else out there is going through similar challenges."

Ability Online has a dedicated staff of volunteer hosts and hostesses who monitor all discussions forums. They help to ensure that content is appropriate and strive to uphold the values of kindness and support that comprise the organization's foundation. While participants are not required to disclose their disabilities or illnesses when registering, all new members must provide their real names, birth dates and mailing addresses. According to O'Neil, "We ask for (this information) because we are dealing with a fairly vulnerable population and simply cannot jeopardize their safety and security. We verify member identity as a safety precaution. If a member is under 18, we also request approval from a parent or guardian. We then manually verify the information provided and subsequently mail out a unique access code to the prospective member. When the member receives the code, he or she is able to log on to Ability Online to gain access to our programs." Special care is also accorded to ensure that adolescents' privacy is respected through a teen-only area. According to O'Neil, this is done to provide adolescents a space to be themselves and "open up in a monitored environment where parents aren't reading their messages."

Besides Ability Online's Core Program where members can participate in topical discussion threads and utilize chat facilities to cultivate online friendships, the website also offers games and activities designed to deemphasize participants' disabilities and foster inclusion. Ability Online is so inclusive, in fact, that O'Neil notes that occasionally "kids join (our site) who have not been diagnosed with a disability or illness, per se, but they just have trouble fitting in and making friends. Our nurturing and supportive environment is a great benefit to these kids who may not otherwise have the chance to feel a sense of belonging."

Ability Online's other services include an Ask Anything Homework Guide to help school-age members succeed in school by connecting them to volunteer e-tutors who may answer their online questions on such subjects as science, math and English. Members also have access to worksheets commonly used in special ed classrooms, study tips and other related materials. Additionally, a Job Readiness program offers a simplified and guided journey through the job-search process, with the aim of facilitating the transition from youth to adulthood. Job Readiness also offers self-assessment worksheets which enable members to home in on potential career options and "career chats" with corporate volunteers from around the country with elaborate upon their professions. Finally, 14 human resource professionals provide confidential expert advice to members seeking employment and even assist them to revise and improve their resumes.

For member's parents, Ability Online is in the process of forming a Parents Advisory Committee. In the meantime, the website offers age-restricted threads where adults can communicate with each other. One such parent who benefits from the website is Dr. Jane Salter, who was first introduced to Ability Online in 2003 when her daughter Aisling became a member during a lengthy hospital stay. Aisling, 16, has lupus, a condition that often interrupts one's school and social life for unpredictable periods of time. "Ability Online helps its members achieve potential that may be hidden to others and perhaps even themselves," says Salter. "We have witnessed this awakening within our daughter. When Aisling first experienced the isolation that can come with a life-changing illness, Ability Online offered a place of refuge and relief from her isolation, as well as a place to have fun, share stories and learn from peers. When family, friends and doctors were unable to understand (her feelings), there was always someone (on the website) who could listen without judgment, someone who had 'been' there' and had some insight to share."

Aisling agrees. "Ability Online helped me to stay connected when I was pretty isolated. I made new friends and almost five years later I am still in touch with many of the people I met through Ability. I love Ability and am so thankful for it. It has made a huge difference in my life."

For more information or to become a member of Ability Online visit http://www.ablelink.org/public/new/index.html or call 1-866-650-6207.

2007-04-16

Sports and Identity: Montreal Canadiens and Athletic Bilbao

It’s soul-searching time in Montreal. Nos Glorieux are out of the playoffs this year and to many this has become too much of a comfortable habit.

Many fans and journalists on the French-language side of the equation openly talk about needing more local content – specifically French-Canadian talent – on the Montreal Canadiens. Their English-speaking counterparts simply want the best available players to represent the club. The merit principle should prevail.

Such a conundrum. French Quebec does usually tend to romanticize and politicize about its hockey club. They hark back to a more pristine time when native sons entered the realm of Quebecois folklore for their dominance of the hockey universe.

From a marketing standpoint this only makes sense. From a hockey operations perspective it can make things a little sticky. There is a legitimate argument to be made to bring in more French players but at what cost? The Montreal Canadiens drafting machine that once allowed them free reign in the province through the territorial draft is gone. More importantly, other clubs in the NHL have been more successful at getting their hands on Quebec’s best talent.

Simply put, too many factors conspire against turning the Canadiens into mini-Team Quebec a reality.

This idea of mixing culture, politics and sports is nothing new in sports. It happens in soccer all the time.

Haling from the autonomous Basque region, Athletic Bilbao is a soccer team in Spain’s top soccer league La Liga and offer interesting parallels to what Habs fans are debating.

Basques have a strange place in Spanish soccer. It has on one side contributed many great players to Spanish soccer but it has also had to share its resources with France. (there is a French section on the Western side of the Pyrenees).

It is also a place with divided loyalties. While many Basques will openly say they want Spain to lose they are too invested in the success of the country - After all, their own wear the colors of Spain at international tournaments.

Quebec nationalists will also, though to smaller degrees, speak like they don’t care about Team Canada choosing instead to support the Quebec players within the team. In the end, they realize that Canadian victory is a victory for Quebec as well. After all, as I said above, their sons wear the colors of Canada. It would make little sense to do otherwise.

I suppose Basques and Quebecers could create their own teams and perform well but this is all hypothetical now is it?

Athletic Bilbao has become the face of an intensely proud region with a strong sense of identity, Like the Montreal Canadiens that once dominated hockey with Quebec talent, Bilbao for the most part stays loyal to its own kind. As far as I can tell 25 of the 28 players on the squad hail from the Basque region.

I know what some of you are thinking. How successful are they? Actually, Bilbao’s record is stellar. As one of the original founders of Spanish organized soccer they have won more games than any other team except for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Historically, Athletic Bilbao has won eight Spanish titles. This is good for fourth all-time (one behind third place Athletico Madrid). Once more, only Real Madrid and Barcelona have won more. It also reached the finals of the 1977 UEFA cup succumbing to Italian powerhouse Juventus. However, since its back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984, the squad has struggled to rise above middle-table soccer in Spain rarely place in the top five.

Nevertheless, despite many years of hardships, it’s a conscious choice they have made. Are Montrealers prepared to make the same type of sacrifice?

There is something to be said about the maturity level of each. Basque nationalism and identity is far more deep and sophisticated – and once upon a time deadly – than the Quebecois variation. Quebecers tend to talk with the heart but act with the mind.

Are Quebecers willing to accept mediocrity in the name of identity? The answer is probably no. We often hear about how we Montrealers do not tolerate losing seasons.

Which makes all this talk is rather irrelevant. Montreal is a cosmopolitan city in the province of Quebec. Secure in its identity it operates within the dominion of Canada.

How has this served us?

Look up at the rafters in the Bell Centre. You’ll see 24 examples.

2007-04-15

Promises, Promises

Democrats Obama and Hilary are in a money bags battle for power. I think it's 26 million to 25 in favor of the Hilary corporation. Republican candidate Romney is at 23 million. To name a couple.

Question: How do you keep 25 million promises?

American Jacobins

"...this is the place I told you to expect. Here you shall pass among the fallen people, souls who have lost the good of the intellect." Dante The Inferno
Canto III Vestibule of Hell: The Opportunists.

Part I

These are sick times. The furor around Don Imus tells me that much. An ignorant comment used as a leitmotif for race politics has carried the day. In the process, it is no longer the issue as better judgment fails to prevail. The reaction was just as unfortunate of the original utterances.

I do not know why but it got me thinking about the 18th century. During the French revolution, the Jacobins were a group that believed that only they could save the Republic. In the early stages they did just that; then came Maximilien Robespierre. His attempt to create a Republic of Virtue (where men would behave with justice and enlightenment toward one another) soon became a Reign of Terror.

The unholy dynamic duo of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson serve us all on a silver platter just how deep hypocrisy can run. They are, in a distant way, the modern Jacobins. The heightened level of hypocrisy on all sides is so high it's disheartening. The levels that have been reached is beyond any man of virtue should accept.

Men of God? Absolutely not. They are polarizing, self-preserving opportunists. Exploiting the history of black heritage for profits, they have become mercenaries disloyal to what many Americans are ultimately trying to achieve. They may preach the word of the Lord but they do not live by the teachings of Christ. It is hard to see how they behave is positive or progressive.

"...And all the other souls that bleed and mourn along this ditch were sowers of scandal and schism: as they tore others apart, so they are torn." Canto XXVIII, Circle Eight Bolgia Nine: The Sowers of Discord.

Yes, it is fair to consider these two gentlemen a tad scarier than Imus (not aesthetically of course). They have more power and influence to ruin lives without consequence. America must stop the madness. Oprah must stay clear lest she becomes part of the problem.

It's a very, very sick media and society that this had the legs it had. Then again, this is the same media that allowed itself to be swindled by Sharpton and Jackson in the past as the Duke Lacrosse case revealed. This is a frightening thought. One day you are living your life and the next it can be taken away. Media -if it has to - will numb your minds with what they determine to be news as is the case with Anna Nicole Smith and her decadent and tragic life.

Sick.

"...O Weary Mantle for eternity! We turned to the left again along their course, listening to their moans of misery..." Canto XXIII; Circle Eight, Bolgia Six: The Hypocrites.


Part II

Quebec has much to learn from this incident. In both the games waged by nationalists and race figures like Shaprton, innocents are caught in the cross-fire. Quite Machiavellian of them.

Quebec's intellectual classes have abandoned fair reasoning. Allowing past injustices to impede our forward progress towards a just society is an intellectual (if not a moral) crime. Hard-line nationalists presently make us pay for past injustices hurled upon them; as such we're the collateral damage. When do legitimate concerns of survival and racism cease to be acceptable in the realm of social interaction? At what point does serving the wounded cease to be productive and actually starts an unwitting regressive pattern?

Hypocrisy is big business. Special interest is big business. Everyone economically benefits in this sort of "controversy" except the people.

Sharpton and Jackson wish to make contemporary people pay for what blacks went through. If innocents get caught in the cross-fire so be it. Two wrongs make a right in their eyes.

In Quebec, modern intellectuals have created a neat comfort zone of justified racism. Identity and ethnic politics in Quebec takes a familiar (if not perverted) route among these "thinkers." No matter how much you try to rationalize the archaic, anti-democratic nature of parts of Quebec's cultural and political construct it all boils down to one thing: it runs contrary to the principles of freedom. They can try and negotiate all they want about balancing Quebecois culture and "les autres" and pass them off as "moderate and progressive" but it really isn't.

If Quebec were a nation (i.e. free of existing within the protective belly of the Canadian confederacy) this place would have degraded into ethnic war a long time ago. It has indeed flirted with violence in the past.

All this does is pander to the lowers rungs of our intellectual capabilities. Quebec once again, if it does not watch itself, will find itself suddenly needing to catch up to the rest of society if it insist to build a house with cards.

Quebec nationalists and American Jacobins are losers. They are a one-way ticket to a cul-de-sac. In the near-term they may seem attractive if not necessary and logical. In reality they are bankrupt. Play politics, lose and then blame others for your losses.

It's the mentality of a loser and neither blacks nor Quebecers are being well-served.

"Now filthy traitor, say no more!..for to your shame, be sure I shall bear back a true report of you..."

Canto XXXII; Circle Nine, Round Two: The Treacherous to Country.

2007-04-09

Five Questions: Historian Christopher Moore

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another installment of Five Questions. Our guest for this week is writer/historian Christopher Moore.

Writing in a lucid and entertaining manner, Mr. Moore has a refreshing interpretation on the pulse of this nation. He graciously took the time to be part of FQ to discuss his career, writing as well as offer insights about Canadian history and politics. Our sincere thanks goes to him for allowing us to get to know his splendid body of work. Canadians need to support Canadians!

1) On your website you say you are sometimes drawn into cultural politics. What do you mean exactly and could you give us an example of what constitutes cultural politics in Canada?


Recently I wrote a profile of the Alberta writer James Gray for The Beaver where I’ve been a columnist for years. Thirty years ago, Gray said, “I’m a successful writer. Why can’t successful writers make a living in this country?” So he worked for better contract terms, for copyright licensing, for lending rights, for public support for writing and the arts. Writers like me owe something to people like him.

So just giving something back to my profession: that’s where I started with “cultural politics.” I have been active in The Writers’ Union, served on various boards, delivered briefs to Parliament, lobbied the Canada Council, and worked with fellow creators on issues that should matter to us. (e.g., www.creatorscopyright.ca) Hey, it gets me out of the house and away from the keyboard now and again.

But it’s not just professional artists and writers who should take an interest in cultural policy. This is a big country, wide open to all the culture of the world – as it should be. If we don’t build public policies that sustain the conditions in which independent artists and writers and performers can flourish, no one else will do it for us.

2) You’re a writer and historian. Connecting the two takes a special skill. With history being deemed “boring” by the media and students alike how conscious are you of this when you write about history? How can we make - assuming this assertion is true - history interesting again?

“Deemed” “boring”? Without looking too far, you could probably find a hundred pieces that start, “Everyone says history is boring, but this [biography, narrative, novel, movie, play, exhibit, historic site, music CD, whatever…] is fascinating!” How many exceptions have to whack us over the head before we reassess the stupid rule itself? Every year the bestselling books in Canada are about Canadian history. History is what all our novelists write about. Every six months some huge debate erupts about the treatment of history in the latest TV movie or that controversial new museum exhibition or whether the government should make reparations for some historical evil. What was the boring part again?

I never try to make history interesting. I’m interested. I think I have a serious grownup interest in history, and I think an appreciation of history is like an appreciation of music or architecture or whatever, just one of the signs of a reasonably cultured adult. Fortunately, enough Canadians share that interest that I have been able to work as a freelance writer on historical things all these years. Ramming history down the throats of uninterested Canadians is not a mission I’ve ever been inclined to sign up for.

I used to say that among historians I called myself a writer and among writers I called myself a historian. I think I’ve resolved that a bit now, but I do take the writing seriously. Trying to write well is endlessly stimulating and challenging. History provides the material, but the writing is important as well.


3) Discuss some of your books and where your interests in history lie.

I’m an immigrant, came here as an infant, so it’s not as if it’s “roots” that engages me, and my interests are not bound by Canada. But as a writer I have focussed on Canada. Not that our history is better than anyone else’s, but it’s ours, and here is where the sources are and the audience is. I’ve never run out of challenging topics, and usually enough Canadians have taken an interest.

As a freelance writer I range quite widely around Canadian history – never been a specialist. (www.christophermoore.ca/books.htm) Initially I was engaged with social history, daily lives, the extraordinary histories of ordinary people. You can see that in my first book Louisbourg Portraits: Life in an Eighteenth Century Garrison Town. I seem to have moved on toward political subjects, national history – not the usual direction these days. I’m currently trying to write a book about the year 1885 – the last spike, the M├ętis uprising, much else. It’s remarkable, to me at least, how all the great themes and struggles of Canadian national life were already at issue then.

I’ve always been a historian for hire (not for my views, but my services!), and a lot of interesting work has come to me that way. Most of my writing for children began that way, notably The Story of Canada, chosen some years as one of the ten best Canadian children’s books of the century. I was drawn into writing about legal history some years ago, and now I maintain a sort of sideline in that field (www.christophermoore.ca/legalhistory.htm). Lawyers have always got a finger on almost everything, so I have learned all kinds of things about Canadian history through that prism. And lawyers make good clients; if they are interested, they can afford to pay!


4) The failure of leadership is an oft-discussed issue these days. Andrew Cohen discusses in While Canada Slept the erosion and ultimate loss of Canadian leadership. You have written about the state of leadership in this country too. Please talk about this.

Failure of leadership? We have leadership coming out our ears. We have toxic levels of leadership. Think of all the people who vote-buy their way through a leadership convention, squeak out 35% in an election, and instantly become heroes and legends in their own mind, free to do as they please for four or five years. We need to encourage accountability, representation, government by discussion. Work on those, and leadership supplies itself.

Writing 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal (www.christophermoore.ca/books.htm), I discovered a key reason why the constitution-makers of the 1860s succeeded while the Meech and Charlottetown boys failed: back then they booked a big room. They brought in representatives of opposition parties as well as governments, and they gave them time to work out a sturdy consensus able to stand up to hard scrutiny. That kind of politics could still work, and not just for constitutions.

4) "Farewell the Peaceable Kingdom" by Joe Armstrong alludes to a process of social re-engineering that runs contrary to Canadian history; the Montreal Economic Institute Has published various letters about Canada’s capitalist past - Topics that seem taboo today. On the other hand, Mel Hurtig seems to posit that the Fraser Institute and CD Howe have misguided and misrepresented Canadians with all sorts of “right-wing nonsense” as he puts it.

So you’re now in caucus and you’ve been transported back in time and given the task of shaping the national identity. What would you do?

Sorry, I don’t know most of these references very well. And I’m just a historian. “Re-engineering the national identity” sounds too much like “making history interesting” – the kind of suicide mission I avoid.

But since you mention “caucus,” let me float the idea that the vital unit in Canadian politics should be the caucus of elected members. I admire people who run for political office. I think they are courageous and mostly pretty smart. But in office MPs rarely look courageous or smart. MPs always seem to do whatever the boss tells them to, no matter what the good of the country or their own constituents might demand.

They do that, I fear, because we keep telling them to.

Journalists, commentators, political scientists, and consultants all obsess about “leadership.” God forbid our leaders should seem “weak” (that is, accountable). People yearn for some kind of direct communion with leadership, and they are impatient with mere representative government. They advocate for proportional representation as if they believe it would be a good thing to have legislatures filled with hacks and flunkies tied even more firmly to the party apparatchiks.

Sadly, our MPs already mostly act as if they were appointed hacks and flunkies. Then we can’t understand why our leaders are out of control. I won’t go on; I’ve written more about this at www.christophermoore.ca/state-of-the-nation.htm


Bonus Question!

- Does the arrival of Mario Dumont in Quebec and revival of conservative impulses in Canada with Prime Minister Harper signify anything in your opinion?

Sure. We are supposed to say Quebec politics is unique and distinct, but young Mario reminds me a lot of Danny Williams of Newfoundland or Bill Vander Zalm of British Columbia. Or even John Diefenbaker, though that kind of demagogic one-man-show thrives best in provincial politics. They usually build their power by presenting themselves as the tribune of the little guy, fighting against some demonized establishment. For Mario Dumont, the obvious enemy is going to be Ottawa and Canada. I don’t respect him much, but I think he’ll be trouble until he burns out his welcome. Toxic leadership!

2007-04-07

Vimy Ridge: Under the Grace of God


Only the winds and the soil and sky of Northern France know the names of the unknown soldiers. Its sky caresses for eternity the spirit of our dead forever enjoining two nations. The Great War knew only carnage as the killing machines of Europe descended into hell. On April, 1917 Canada changed forever. In claiming the eight kilometre long and 100 metres high fortified hill 3 598 lay dead, 7 000 others injured. the rivers of blood spilled in the name of freedom. Victory belonged to the Allies. This is Vimy Ridge.

This blog celebrates and honours the 90th anniversary the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

2007-04-05

Nancy Pelosi's Starring Role in the Caine Mutiny

I remain ever more perplexed and skeptical of Nancy Pelosi's tour of the Middle East.

There was something discomforting in watching Pelosi stand next to leaders I fear would take this chick pea and turn her into hummus. This is all a show. A sham. A dress rehearsal to show people at home who feel paralyzed by Bush and the people around the world who distrust him that help is on the way.

Is this the best American democracy has to offer?

If Bush was clueless, I think Pelosi is even further off the mark. At least Bush was correct on the disease in a post 9/11 world. Ms. Pelosi has never once shown any originality in her ruminations about war, Iraq and the Arab mind. Forget Dubya for a second. Democrats have been falling all over themselves silly trying to desperately come up with solutions and alternatives regarding the Middle East. One after another they step forward with plans and resolutions that change four quarters for a dollar. For the enemy, this sort of entertainment is priceless; one giant SNL skit.

Pelosi is using Dubya's unpopularity to push herself in a position to set the tone for a new and improved America on the foreign policy front. She's off to a terrible start.

She walked into a lion's den and she's the defenseless Christian. Many Americans may feel their leader is a coward and incompetent but actually indirectly challenging the Commander-in-Chief - I doubt she's there to support him - takes some nerve. Was this the right call to make? Her "Fret not friends. I am here" demeanor is a modern reenactment of "E Tu, Brute?"

Pelosi and Bush, are enemies at home. They should be allies abroad. Her actions are political opportunism at its worst. Politicians are good at claiming the moral high ground - until they get into power. After that it's all bets are off.

What did Pelosi hope to accomplish exactly? Already, early reports indicate that she sounds like a naive teenager. "I told him that if he doesn't stop cheating it will be over. You'll see. I'm not like the other girls." Er, yeah right. What ever happened to standing behind your leader? What if you're wrong? What if in the long term Iraq takes shape? Why in the world would you want to attempt to send a second signal on foreign policy in an already fragile situation? Ironically, this only further damages American credibility in the eyes of Arab leaders.

Bush may have willingly entered the military trapped set my Al-Queda but Pelosi is committing her own massive errors in judgment in diplomacy. She'll be schooled by Arab thugs.

Syrian leader: "Murder? What murder? You Americans watch too many movies."

Pelosi: "Yeah, maybe you're right. You know, these guys are not so bad after all. they taught me how to make tabouleh!"

No wonder Americans are looked upon as childish some times. They are persistently portrayed as teenagers in the eyes of a much more seasoned - albeit cynical and tired - world. They are a tad too ready to air their dirty laundry for self-serving gains. Over to you Jane Fonda.

So. Is it any wonder Americans appear weak and divided in a region that sees life through a different prism from our own.? When Arab leaders - who lead a fragmented, fragile existence - say talk they mean fight. Or scream. When they say fight they mean run. Or walk. You get the picture. They keep you guessing. It takes a certain skilled individual seasoned in the art of Middle-East history and governance to navigate through this heavy, volatile, profound maze.

What a mess. It makes sense now. They say good manners and morals begin at home. It should be no different in foreign policy. Strong American public relations starts at home.

2007-04-04

Easter Still Matters

Bart: "Come on Chalmy! You fired Skinner for less than this!"
Chalmers: "Yeah but Skinner really bugged me!"
Flanders: "Hey everyone let's thank the lord for a glorious afternoon!"
Chalmers: "Thank the lord? That sounded like a prayer. A PRAYER IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL! God has no place within these walls. SIMPSON! You get your wish! Flanders is HISTORY!"
Flanders: "May the lord protect you for all eternity!"
Chalmers: "Yeah take it outside God Boy!"
Flanders: "Oakily Dokily!"

It's Easter soon. The day Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. It's a pretty powerful, beautiful and mystical thing this Easter. (This link will bring you to a lengthy but thoroughly engaging piece on First Things) In these days where faith is under severe strain, I pay homage to Jesus.

I was raised with religious studies in school. It was no big deal. No one felt it was improper. We didn't like it - what, with all those morals and all - but we did not question it. Not because we were brain dead but rather because we knew it meant good. Looking back, I actually appreciate it now - even though I never really did well and it did a poor (albeit valiant) job of conveying Catholic mysticism to us.

Then again, I'm not the most religious of people. My knowledge of theology and religion is not where it should be. I keep trying to find time to try and tackle such a deep subject matter but it remains elusive. The other day my sister was talking about the parable of Lazarus. I vaguely remember the plot and all I could respond was "good for him."

Such ignorance on my part. However, I am not prepared to dismiss religion just because I don't practice or study it. I won't let secularism dictate what I should feel about it for the sake of it.

That said, it's more about faith than anything. Funny thing about this word. When I was in New York to attend a cousin's wedding the Priest told the story of a wild, Irish party enthusiast who argued that "faith"should be a verb. I faith through life and I am faithing to be exact. Interesting.

For it's part, religion is just a straw man. A bridge. An attempt from man to try and reach God. Religion is a human activity thus leaving it vulnerable to all man's flaws and vices. It is not above human law. It helps to make faith blind.

It can be political and it can be violent. But the core message of religion is far more profound. When we celebrate various religious observances it's not the politicized version we hold close to us. It's the inexplicable miracles of Jesus Christ. His message. The preachings of Christ were astounding. Pure. Peaceful. Revolutionary. This link will bring you to Contratimes interesting comments on Jesus.

That's why I'm not sure why I lament public schools slowly killing off Jesus. My wife is an educator and she was preparing all sorts of Easter games and candy packages recently. "They still allow this at your school?" I asked. "Yes,"she replied. "Good for you guys. I wonder how long before someone complains." "What's to be offended by?"she answered almost naively. "Yeah, wait until you start talking about the real meaning of Easter...some kid will wonder, What? Easter is not about Bunnies?"

Something inside me says it's plain wrong. Superintendent Chalmers' fears reveal much about the state of our lives. Our faith.

We'll be hearing shortly stories about how stores and other public spaces will be asking people to not wish customers Happy Easter. It's come to this. So let me just close by saying:

HAPPY EASTER.

first image from jesus.com

2007-04-03

Phoenix Coyotes Shane Doan Goes Ahead with Lawsuit Against Liberal MP

Good for Shane Doan.

Denis Coderre is a Liberal MP who needs to grow up. If this is what our politicians waste their time on then the state of the Liberal party is worse than I first thought. I can't believe that he went that far.

The thing that irritates me is that he's going on second hand information. He has zero proof. Hmm. Sounds pretty much like how La Presse went after Alex Kovalev for remarks he allegedly made to a murky Russian sports paper.

In any other part of the normal world this is libel.

Maybe this is how it is in Quebec but in the real professional world it's called yellow journalism. I have always lamented how politicized this place has become. It's so bad that I've heard sportscasters justify it on air - on English radio! Hello Claude Maillot and Roger Brulotte. You can't have a discussion on anything here without it being spun into some political angle. Even gardening and cooking is political here.

That's why people leave. Not because they hate Quebec, the people, the culture or the language. They leave because of the politicization of our lives. It has ripped the city of Montreal to bits.

Now CKAC, a French language radio station, is moving to an all-sports format. This I gotta see. Something tells me I may waste some time writing about these guys.

Back to Shane Doan. The fact that he is moving forward with this says a lot. It's about time someone takes a lousy Liberal to court. Coderre had a chance to retract and apologize and he refused. Such arrogance. Make him pay.

Coming Soon: The Commentator's Clone Corner

I've been cloned. The only problem is that it did not go so well (damn Romanians. They can't follow instructions) and now I have a blow hard, know-nothing as my double.

Needless to say, I had to come up with something quick to occupy his time or else I will end up killing myself.

It just so happens my 30-minute in-house market study shows that there's a demand for shrieking commentators. We see it every day in print and broadcasting so why not in the blog world - where hot air commentaries reign?

Will it work? I really don't know or care. I didn't pay for the study and it solves my problem with the clone in the short term.

In the mean time you must all pay the price. Enjoy.

The Commentator's Clone Corner: First Edition....Of Hijabs, Soccer and the New York Times: Part Deux



Selena Roberts, New York Times, 3/28/07


A soccer team of Canadian girls recently applied sandbox mores when they decided that the report-card virtue of ''plays well with others'' was meant to include everyone -- including those in Muslim head scarves.

The red hijab worn by Asmahan Mansour, an 11-year-old player for the Nepean Hotspurs near Ottawa, had never hurt anyone in the games she played before the Canadian indoor championships last month in Quebec. But as Mansour trotted onto the field for a shift change, about to mix it up with players in prescription glasses and elastic headbands, a referee ejected her when she wouldn't remove her headscarf.

Safety violation, the ref cited.

R U kidding? Mansour's teammates thought.

With preteens, thought bubbles are always in text-message form, so their next step was C U later. The girls triggered a tense national debate on multiculturalism -- was the hijab a safety issue or religious discrimination? -- when they instinctively turned and walked off the field in support of Mansour. The Hotspurs withdrew from the tournament.

"They said, 'We're proud of you, Asmahan,'" Mansour told Canada's CTV last month, adding, "And I was very proud of my teammates for having my back."

Team boundaries should be safe havens. It may take the wisdom of children to amplify it, but inside a locker room or clubhouse, there is an expected refuge from the outside bias and ridicule that exists more than ever as sports become ethnically, religiously and racially diverse. . .

The lessons of open-minded acceptance aren't that difficult. Even 11-year-olds on a soccer field in Canada understand how to react to the new culture wars in sports: take a stand by walking out together.

"What Asmahan's team did was really amazing," said Sarah Elgazzar, an executive with the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It's a very hopeful sign. They know who Asmahan is. She loves to play soccer. She is just like them."

The Hotspurs supported their own, turning their sandbox into a safe haven. What a team concept.

I haven't seen this much drool since I went through teething a couple of weeks ago.

Where to begin? Open-minded acceptance? What the fu...? Did I just make love to Alice in Coo-Coo land? Her open-ended romantic notion presupposes that the rules were set by close-minded barbarians.

Listen, I've sat on soccer boards: the purpose is to ensure safety first. We were not effen (yeah, I'm too nice to write fucken) racists. For the record, I'm racist against idiots and know-nothing mavens. You know the type. Always offering advice you never asked for. Anyway, if we don't come down on the side of caution, guess what? It's parents like this writer who sip their fancy water that will come down hard on the association if we
didn't think of every possible scenario for protecting there kids. So, the rule is simple: nothing that comes remotely close to being dangerous will be allowed. Oh, a hijab is not different you say? Think twice, all it takes is one scheming little kid to stick their grimy fingers in an opening to drag her down. I'll let you move from that point on. Exaggeration on my part? Yes. But never dare say never.

As for life lessons kids are stupid. Naive. Pink in the head. They are also annoying. While they may be blessed with pure thoughts, there's a reason why we don't create laws around their inexperienced world views. This isn't an ABC After school special - hey, whatever happened to those pathetic fables? "Oh no, Peter we can't do drugs. The ABC after school special said it's bad for morale..."

The headscarf is a cultural attire. It is not a religious one. It seems to me some reasonable common sense should have prevailed with everyone involved. Notably her parents and coach. She ain't no Joan of Arc. Everyone makes it sound like she was about to be burned as a heretic by the local depanneur (convenient store in Quebec slang, dumbasses).

The rules in Quebec are clear. The referee (who ironically was Muslim) applied the rule. End of story. The Ontario team was out of line for leaving. Then again they are square headed Ontarians where politics of correctness finds new friends everyday. Like any good coach should have done (and this was the case when I played) you inform yourself of the rules and laws of the jurisdiction you go to. Like you know, what happens if you accidentally sneeze on a terrorist in Saudi Arabia? Do they chop your nose off? We don't live in a la-la world where we can change rules willy-nilly because some group of outraged teenagers are angry. Bend me over and insert.....


Yes, it was honorable that the team rallied and closed ranks around their team mate. Shed me a tear and pass me the popcorn. I cried during Hossiers but I sure in hell ain't gonna cry over a piece of garment. "I love you guys..." Fucking brilliant.

This article turns a Hijabian incident into some ridiculous notion of tolerance. People cut their spaghetti in front of me all the time. This offends me as an Italian. Do you see me going to the Charter?

I've played with Muslim players all my life. At least I think I did. I'm not sure. They never dared to pray East during a game. Ah, good times. Anyway, none of this crap ever happened. We all understood ANY ITEM (Yeah, I'm shouting. my mother hates it when I yell at the screen) deemed dangerous (religious or otherwise - including my cross) was disallowed. Guess what? We all get along just fricken fine. Some of them could play damn well too.


It seems to me there's a new breed of people who are not living a life of compromise.

I'm The Commentator's Clone join me in the Corner next time.

2007-04-02

Is You Tube in Need of Some Standards?

The Internet: the highway with no end. How would the Catholic Church and Gallileo have dealt with it? And where is Cola di Rienzi anyway?

Rhetoric aside, the Internet is both a blessing and not. It puts everyone, the talented and those without it, on an equal playing field - up to a point. It gives people who would never be given a shot in the mainstream a shot at success. The proverbial "to be heard" mantra if you will.

In terms of writing, sites like Blogcritics are a godsend. Why should writing be restricted to an elitist, tight group? Provided that the abilitiy is there, everyone deserves a chance. I do not advocate allowing mediocrity reign nor am I an egalitarian but as it stands it doesn't sound or look as though people are getting a fair shake. Usually, the cream does rise and I trust that this is usually the case. If you are wallowing around in failure and are looking to pit blame on someone else perhaps it's time to look at what you are doing wrong.

Ok, let's bring You Tube into this. You Tube is the latest evolution of humans given the platform to express themselves - to "Broadcast Yourself" as the clever tag describes. You Tube is like the invention of printing press in that it spreads information (more like images) like wildfire.

Yet, I found myself leaving YouTube. Interestingly, they threaten that if you leave you can never come back again. Good riddance I say.

I grew tired and weary of the narcissistic junk people post. Of the senseless intellectual debauchery on the site. Of the claims and snake oil approaches posted by people who have no accountability provisions. There are many fabulous videos on the site by people who take their craft seriously. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it is purposeless.

You Tube demonstrates that there's a new lineage of people developing who act independently of the established "mainstream" world. Not that this is anything new. They've always been there; it's just that society and history never listened. Now, with You Tube, they are being forced to heed attention. But are they saying anything?

I'm not sure. Much that passes as knowledge really isn't. It seems like we've heard all this before.

In any event, this is not my issue. In the end, if I had to choose sides I would pick the Internet and You Tube. At least we can see how brilliant or stupid we can be out on the open. Once uon a time societies had all sorts of ways to keep the dumb out of the realms of influence and power. The Internet changed this.

However, I do contend it is time for it to become responsible. It would not be a bad idea to exhibit some maturity and to take the initiative. The people who run You Tube have a powerful tool in their hands; it's like a weapon - A massive knowledge and information based weapon. By this virtue alone it is incumbent that they take this seriously.

The only thing I would suggest to You Tube is that they introduce standards. I understand that they can't discriminate; that the Internet is open to all and that people will find other means to show their stuff. But You Tube operates in a different universe now. It wouldn't hurt to have some loose idea of what content they deem appropriate.

Until that happens You Tube will cintribute nothing of value to society. It's merely a place where people go to see the latest cool slam dunk or music video. In terms of making any true, profound contribution to the post modern, post industrial age it may be limited.