Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The “mass hysterical lunacy” theory didn’t go over well with my left-leaning relatives out West. According to one of my many aunts, the Americans don’t starve for lunacy themselves, having invaded a “sovereign country” for no good reason, with the foolish notion that they would be greeted with “open arms”. I don’t relish getting into a pissing match with loved ones, so I’ll just post my brief response here and leave it at that.

Actually, the Americans have been largely greeted as liberators in Iraq. The risk to US soldiers now comes not from average Iraqis, but rather from foreign insurgents in the form of Al-Qaeda cells and a gaggle of radical Islamo-fascist terror groups looking to de-stabilize the transition to democracy. Iraqis readily acknowledge a sense of ambivalence towards the US presence there and the Americans respect that; Iraqis, by and large, are grateful for the efforts of American soldiers to keep the peace and insure stability, but they are anxious to take over their own affairs. That’s a perfectly understandable sentiment given the circumstances.

Looking back at all the pre-war hand-wringing by the liberal "Blame America First" crowd in North America, none of them augured the overwhelmingly positive developments in Iraq. The Vietnam quagmire they foresaw/hoped for never materialized. Instead, we see 90%+ of the country stable, the tyrant Saddam Hussein in a jail cell awaiting trial for crimes against humanity, a successful transfer of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an Iraqi transitional government just 15 months after the start of the invasion, and free elections due within the next year. I don't know about you, but I would call that a pretty successful "quagmire".

Then again, maybe we shouldn't have gone over there after all. Saddam Hussein was only torturing and killing droves of his own people. It was really none of our business, was it?

My earlier assertion was correct: Canadians do have an insatiable appetite for governments rife with graft and corruption. How else does one explain Monday night’s election results? For the first time in 11 years, Canadians were presented with a viable conservative alternative to the federal Liberal Party’s electoral juggernaut. So, what did they do? They ignored the tidal wave of scandals that have dogged the Liberals of late, and moved themselves even more leftward on the political spectrum. In a fit of “mass hysterical lunacy”, the voters rewarded the Liberals and the socialist NDP with enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government.

Actually, the real story of the night was how the combined PC/Alliance vote didn't materialize in the Maritimes or Ontario. The Maritimes proved last night, once and for all, that they are hopelessly addicted to social welfare spending. All the Tory talk of tax cuts and fostering a more amenable business environment fell on deaf ears. Maritimers salivate over big government make-work projects and free money for nothing. It's like crack to them now. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I thought at least a hint of that fabled Maritime common sense would have shown through last night, especially in the old Tory stomping grounds of Southern New Brunswick and Central Nova Scotia. Alas, my Maritime brethren are in desperate need of handout rehab.

By all accounts, the newly united Conservative Party of Canada should have dominated in the key Liberal stronghold of Ontario. In the past few elections, the plurality of votes for the former PC and Reform/Alliance parties dwarfed the Liberals’ totals in a large number of Ontario’s ridings. Carrying that math forward into Monday night should have translated into a bonanza for the Conservatives. In fact, the opposite was true. Across the province, there was a profound “reverse synergy” effect, wherein 2 + 2 equalled less than 4, leaving the Liberals with 70% of the seats. It seems voters just couldn't overcome their fear of the "Scary Prairie People". If there was a platform tailor-made to keep Ontario rich and happy as the economic engine of Canada, the Tory platform was it. But, no. Voters across Eastern and Southern Ontario decided to put regional bigotry over their personal well-being. "Oh, we can't have that Harper in power. He's from...gasp...Alberta!"

Hyperbole aside, how does one explain this blatant act of lunacy? One could say the Conservatives ran a poor campaign, which would simply be an incorrect assessment. One could say the income tax cut pledge didn’t play well in Ontario. This would seem counterintuitive, given the backlash the provincial Liberal government is currently facing over their latest tax hikes. One could say the Liberals’ characterization of the Conservatives as rabid, fundamentalist, prairie racists really did turn voters against them. Maybe, but the fact that Ontarians are sharply divided on social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, weakens the potency of that argument, as well. One could say Ontarians are now irrevocably liberal in their beliefs, leaving the Conservatives in the proverbial electoral hinterland for eternity. If that is true, how come the Mike Harris Tory machine is still a potent political force in the province?

So, once again, how does one explain the Conservatives’ inability to capitalize on their core strengths in vote-rich Ontario? I haven’t come to a firm conclusion yet. However, my friend Mark, an astute political observer, fed me this little tidbit, which I believe sheds some light on the odd machinations that occupy the minds of the typical Ontario voter; Mark was flabbergasted that a campaign issue that was getting decent play in Ontario was the Tory promise to remove the legislative mandate forcing Air Canada to provide bilingual service throughout its organization.

Excuse me, but last I checked Air Canada was a private corporation. Why is there legislation forcing a private entity to provide bilingual service in the first place? Mark also informed me that the law, known as the Air Canada Public Participation Act, also forces the company to maintain its headquarters in Montreal, as well as operate full maintenance hubs in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg. No wonder the airline, despite a near monopoly on Canadian domestic air travel, is perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy.

Anyway, Mark’s broader point on this whole issue was why would Ontarians, the vast majority of whom aren’t even bilingual, care whether or not Air Canada provided bilingual service in, say, Kamloops, British Columbia? Furthermore, wouldn’t Ontario stand to benefit if Air Canada opted to move its HQ from stagnant Montreal to dynamic Toronto, the most likely destination if such a move wasn’t deemed illegal by Ottawa? Do Ontarians not understand that if closing the Winnipeg maintenance hub means helping the airline stave off full-scale bankruptcy, they would be dodging a potentially crippling economic bullet? Apparently, not. As long as everyone’s able to ask an Air Canada flight attendant for an extra bag of mixed nuts in both official languages, things are just peachy-keen for the good people of Ontario.

That’s a little peek into the sort of reasoning that kept the Conservatives from forming a government this time around. For the country’s sake, Canadians had better hope the Tories learn how to quell the “mass hysterical lunacy” phenomenon before the next writ is dropped.

(Note: whoever thought they were being funny by signing me up to receive the NDP’s email spam, you’re on my shit list. Permanently.)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Twenty years ago I was living in my Mom’s double-wide mobile home in South Tetagouche, New Brunswick. I remember the place well because that’s where I became aware of the broader world that existed outside of my immediate bucolic surroundings. A lot was going on back then; the commie-free ‘84 Olympics were in LA, Canada was on the verge of ushering in a post-Trudeau era, and the US was smack-dab in the middle of a Presidential election campaign.

One day that summer I woke up and had one of those light bulb epiphany moments you see in cartoons. I found myself in the midst of a profound process of discovery, learning everything I could about sports, politics, economics, and a whole host of other topics that were once Greek to me. As I soaked up whatever I could find in the local newspapers and Bathurst’s miniscule public library, certain archetypes were etched in my head. To this day, when I think of the Olympics, Carl Lewis comes to mind. Say another Bond film is hitting the theatres, and I wonder how old Roger Moore is these days. When talk turns to Canadian politics, Brian Mulroney pops up in my head. And whenever I read about the President of the United States, the image indelibly burned in my memory is of Ronald Reagan.

I’ve been saying for years that I’d like to see the spectacle of a State Funeral in Washington, DC. This Friday, I’ll finally get my wish. Nixon, of course, had no such procession, so I had to wait until another POTUS kicked the bucket. True, it’s sad that a great conservative icon like Reagan had to go, but it would be such a waste if my first State Funeral was for a lightweight like Gerald Ford or a pinko like Jimmy Carter.

Having watched lots of cable news over the weekend, I can safely say the coverage of Reagan’s death has been very fair. The liberal CNN and the schizophrenic MSNBC have muted their normally rabid criticism of all things right-wing, and have instead opted for more traditional biographical tributes, free of the usual lefty aspersions that the old man was a heartless dolt. Thankfully, none of the coverage I witnessed delved into the weepy, overwrought Princess Diana territory of several years ago. I suspect they’re saving that for Carter.

Others, however, have deemed this the perfect time to resurrect old grudges, replete with venom. Christopher Hitchens penned a meandering screed in today’s edition of Slate, calling Reagan a “cruel and stupid lizard”. Not to be outdone, Cuban state radio opined that he “never should have been born”. I suspect these prime examples of bile are mild in comparison to what will be offered before the week is out. It is only Monday afternoon, after all.

Friday, June 04, 2004

What? It's Employment Report time again? Already?!

Here's the ticker tape rundown: 248,000 new jobs created in May...April figure revised upward by 58,000...March bumped up another 16,000...1,144,000 new jobs in 2004 so far.

Man, this place is on fire!