Thursday, May 27

CONSPIRACY THIS!

Just because the JFK murder is still highly suspect, and questions remain in the killings of RFK and Dr. King, it does not mean that all that follows from Princess Di to 9/11 is a further manifestation of an invisible, over-arching control lashing out.

Conspiracy freaks believe that all can be explained by an elite group--a focused, organized cabal of either Bilderbergers, Jews, Freemasons, the Royal Houses of Europe ... or all of them working in concert forming a "shadow government".

The questions--unformed--that come from the inarticulate masses here are: "What is the nature of historical process?", "What are the underlying forces that influence historical events?" and maybe "What is the role of the individual and the poorer classes in the shaping of society?"

Some people, already politically cynical, seem to have an enhanced sense of disenfranchisement from power centres due to the fact that more wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

To some extent, conspiracy freaks are railing against this displacement, expressing disdain at some mysterious incohate external--an external that seems to shut them out and marginalize their voice.

Conspiracy freaks trust nothing. They say it's all a lie. They point out that Watergate showed us how manipulative government can be.

I point out that Watergate was the high watermark of a free society uncovering the moral Machiavellian rot.

For the freaks, though--many whom have just not done enough good, old, fashioned book learnin'--ignorance is bliss.

There's nothing to learn, they say. It's simple. Those that ignore it are stupid, or part of the problem.

For my money, the takeover myth by unseen forces is really anti-Semitic code. And to soften the Jew-bashing, conspiracy buffs add WASP groups like the Freemasons and the Skull & Bones society to soften the blow. Oh, and let's not forget the Royal Houses Of Europe.

Ask one conspiracy freak about the year 1789 and you'll get a blank stare.

What bothers me is that the more I read, the more people I interview, the more Professors I consult, the more I know I need to know more.

I find that ignorant, uneducated, intellectually lazy or completely vacant types, people who don't even know history, international relations, or the right questions to ask, who have never set foot in a lecture hall in their lives, know better--indeed, they know it all.

Theirs is an all-encompassing theory of control by elites that explains everything. Where there are no accidents, no revolutionary convulsions, no lack of certainty, it's all predictable. Where everything has order and is ordered. Pre-ordained, even.

It is comforting to them that there is never chaos, that they are excused by events for which they have no relationship or influence; that everything has a direct source, an organized explanation; that the world unfolds like a movie, and all they have to do is watch.

For the conspiracy freaks, the world is not them.

Please excuse me now while I find my Masonic Temple ring and go see some Jews for a meeting.

Monday, May 24

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

For what exactly is this election about? Is there one theme, or agenda, that demonstrates the concept of "vision"?

The neo-Tories (a/k/a the Northern Alliance) want a U.S.-style system: Lower taxes, two-tier health care, smaller government, increased continentalization, etc. etc. etc.

But if that's what voters desire, then what is the real point of difference between us and Americans? You thought we had an identity crisis before Stephen Harper became a contender? Just you wait.

I'm not above voting for the Northern Alliance. Hey, after freeing Kabul, they just might prove to be the ideal Ottawa enema.

As for the New Democratic Party--predictable. Jack Layton, the great Confederate general in the Tilley Hat, cuts a fine pose for the cameras, with his exotic (and churlish) wife, Olivia Chow, in tow.

But, other than Layton, what does the NDP have to offer? Social conscience? Perhaps. Bench strength? Maybe not.

Just think of Jack and Olivia as the poor man's Bill and Hillary.

Then there's our old pal Paul Martin. The steamy steamship kingpin. He's like Shrek, only dressed in corporate whiteface. Martin will, without a doubt, get elected in some form. But why?

If the word vision were incumbent upon any politician, or any political party, it's this man.

Yet, after the visionless--and generally inarticulate--decade-long reign of Jean Chretien, we have another technocrat in charge. PM's only saving grace is that we can at least understand him when he speaks.

The thing is, he has nothing whatsoever to say. Just listen. There's the EFFECT of vision, but nothing legit.

No sense of who we are, or where we are going. No risk. No candor. No purpose.

What is the meaning of Canada? What is our role in the world? In the 21st century, it's simply not enough just to not be an American.

If you want to know what being Canadian is all about, given how the 60th anniversary of D-Day is rapidly approaching, maybe you should ask the World War II veterans while you still have the opportunity.

While their vision was that of the Colonial and the Monarchist, the vets had a clear focus--a focus that has gone without being updated.

Now the veterans, like Canada's self-concept and raison d'etre, are withering away.

And Paul Martin's corporate steamships will never storm a beach.

Thursday, May 20

GUNS OR BUTTER?

Ken Dryden was asked by a listener this week if he would vote to ban all gun sales if he wins a Liberal seat in the House of Commons.

The listener clearly wanted it. Dryden paused ... then, with quiet deliberation, expressed concern for the ease with which a gun can be used in a dispute.

"We've all been pushed too far at some point," said the great goaltender. "We've all snapped. If a gun was there, the temptation might be there too."

Fair enough. The availability of guns in the U.S. logically contributes to more gun use. There are many people brandishing guns in America who wouldn't be fit to walk the streets here.

But what would banning gun sales in Canada really accomplish?

There is no problem with firearms here. Not from collectors. Not from legal owners and hunters. In fact, very few guns on the streets of Toronto originated from legal hands.

The guns come from Buffalo and across the border from the native reserve in Cornwall, and from Windsor via Detroit, and from Boston to Vermont and into Montreal. These guns are duct-taped to mufflers, among other sneaky tactics.

So, why pick on gun retailers and gun owners and collectors? The illusion of maintaining law and order? Or are they just easy targets?

The reason appears to be a concern for the development of a U.S.-style gun culture in Canada. For it is that proliferation of firearms that would spark an American-style crisis.

Guns are a part of our neighbors to the south to such an ingrained degree that the gun is the single biggest totem of power in the culture. More than money even. The gun is also the great equalizer. It's the "Peacemaker". Guns serve as the arbiter of all dramatic resolution in the biggest medium of narrative fiction, the movies.

The gun is loved with the violence of a Hindu God. A deity that inspired the Manhattan Project's Robert J. Oppenheimer to intone the Bhagavad-Gita while standing in the shadow of a mushroom cloud: "I am become death: the destroyer of worlds."

The consumer-driven secularity of America really only approaches spirituality through the oblique representation of death. Death inherent in the gun.

Next to the funeral industry, the gun is the spiritual representation of American consumerism. The only conscious and declarative psychological discussion of death is the image and the thing.

Guns: Sexy. Cold. Final.

Clint Eastwood says in Unforgiven: "When you kill a man, you take away everything a man has, and everything he's ever gonna have."

Clint himself is the personification of the gun: assertive individuality, restoration of order, and, through death, transcendence. Justice. The immortality of the spirit.

The aggressive American, the American gun and the American gun owner are concepts as foreign to Canadians as "The Star-Spangled Banner". We may know some of the words, but we don't sing it. We watch others singing.

Canadians who own guns apply the same passion and care that they display for expensive fishing rods. There's no swagger with gun ownership. Just a fear of being labeled ... or scaring a neighbour. The open discussion of gun ownership here is about as popular as herpes. Such is our Canadian gun pathology, a reverse cultural attraction.

We may devour Hollywood action movies, but the context for the gun here is decidedly un-American.

Ken Dryden won't need to be awoken in the middle of the night to be warned, because there will always be fewer people owning guns in Canada; those that do, statistically, will look after them.

So, let Clint Eastwood squint under the rocket's red glare. And the mushroom cloud. Not to mention the cold, sexy steel. And let us pray.

Now, please. Kindly leave the gun owners alone.

You heard me. Fuck off. DON'T MAKE ME LOSE IT!

Friday, May 14

REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT

Stand-up comedian Ralph Klein, with his vein-popping red-nose leading the way, maintains his performance art impression of W.C. Fields while still posing as Premier of Alberta.

It seems that they like him just fine ... even in the province of gentility and upright pillar-of the-community types such as Joe Clark--a geezer even as a young adult--and the Prairie preacher echoes of Preston Manning.

How does Alberta reconcile these two sides of itself?

Do these guys represent the two faces of Alberta? Feisty, boozed-up at night, and in church first thing Sunday morning?

Which side wins out now that Clark is retiring? Will there be another "Joe Who?" to replace him? Or will we be left with the grumpy, sonofabitch bellow of Klein?



King Ralph is a hero in Alberta because he's thought be an Eastern bastard-fighting, no-compromise, man-of-action. A version of which, with smoother edges, exists in Quebec. We folks in Ontario are the problem.

Was Joe Clark effective? He leaves us with many regrets and missed political opportunities. But he came from Alberta and cared about the whole country. In the end, so did Manning.

Klein will leave with no regrets--except for his personal life.

Is Stephen Harper the heir apparent, despite being rejected by Joe Clark? I don't think so. There is something unelectable about Harper. A bland corporate salesman. With him, there is no sense of a political calling. No spirit of purpose.

Paul Martin is no better as the corporate conservative. Just experienced with more expressed intelligence and Canadian flair. (And, in Canada, flair usually doesn't mean much politically.)

Pierre Trudeau might've been an arrogant prick, but what softened his assault was the heat from the friction of his intelligence. From his writings on Federalism and the French Canadians to his literary quips and committed purpose. He beat the separatists.

Clark did, too. In the end he recognized Trudeau's political conscience and added a Western tilt to it.

Joe Clark's shadow is the last one standing.

Thursday, May 13

THE CARPET BAGGER GOES TO BAGDHAD

Today's dust storm in Iraq was nothing but the rotor blades of Donald Rumsfeld's chopper.

Squinting, he spoke of "lining up to come to America". Translation: "Don't complain, or say anything negative about Uncle Sam."

The prospect of people lining up to land in America is not the point. It never was. No one was condemning America.

Defeating absolutist condemnation that never existed in the first place, in terms of public discourse, does not defeat the justifiable criticism of people and policy.

No one said America wasn't a great place. They said the military policing of Iraq, and the prosecution of the post-war establishment, is what's fucked. There is much on-the-ground disdain toward the very people America were supposed to be "freeing".

How about some true altruism? If you want to really blow up the argument that they're in Iraq for the sake of democracy, just ask yourself how much better the Iraqis would be if each one had direct investment by the U.S. instead of paying for the war?

That'd mean five million dollars for each Iraqi, instead of having to deal with scowling, armed overlords kicking their doors in. Just imagine what that money could do.

But it won't happen because it's all about control, not a better life for Iraqis.

In the comments to the post below, some dummy said that I was just being "biased".

Well, I don't care much for born-again Christians in politics. Nor do I care much for bogus wars, and blown budgets.

But is that great gay-loving progressive Pat Buchanan just a liberal too?

That's right, a conservative flag-licker like Buchanan agrees with me on the Iraq issue.

Why?

Who's biased here? When divergent political perspectives converge on a point, it must mean something.

(Buchanan will be on Krystal@6 next Wednesday, May 19. Check out his column, A time for truth.)

Wednesday, May 12

LOSING OUR HEADS OVER IRAQ

The beheading of the hapless American contractor, Nick Berg, by masked Al-Qaeda operatives--purported retaliation for American Human Rights abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison--ratchets up the imagery of violence and the racist undertones of the entire "domesticating" process.

It is now public knowledge that the American abuses reported on for the past year went ignored. That's all part of a larger system of approaching the Arabs as subhumans, and unworthy of respect.

Hang on, say the Judeo-Christian white guys. Look at the beheading video online. Doesn't that prove that Arabs are antagonistic animals that need to be put down?

Of course. This is exactly the kind of anti-antipodal, polarized, environment that Osama Bin Laden wished for when he launched his P.R. stunt suicide attacks on 9/11.

The problem stems from the ideologues on both sides. For one, Osama is ideological. That is, he sees the world through the prism of a belief system and a set of political and religious doctrines. A rigid, ordered value system and certain assumptions about how the world works.

Similarly, Bush and his war cabinet--or, as author James Mann terms them: "vulcans" (his book is called The Rise of The Vulcans)--are equally ideological and rigid.

Moreover, a racist attitude about Arabs, and a triumphalist attitude about "ordering" the Middle East, lay behind many of the writings of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, and Wolfowitz.

The term they use, very coded, is "democracy".

Well, democracy itself is really a form of political process, with something called constitutional liberalism as the goal. That isn't always democratic. One such example is the executive branch of the U.S. government forcing through civil rights against the "democratic" wishes of Southern states.

A different example is transpiring in Iraq. A place where a democratic process, by itself, will be used to institute a tribal despot or a religious theocracy to negate itself.

What do we mean by "democratizing" the Middle East? If you ask the so-called Arab Street, they will tell you.

To them, this is an updated version of the "White Man's Burden" mindset of the 19th Century a/k/a "The Age Of Empires".

A time when the black beasts of Africa needed to be shown a thing or two. Native North Americans were "moved" onto "reserves". Just butchered, really.

They were savages though. They must have been asking for it.

Now here they are in Iraq. What to make of it? What to do? Never mind that there is little democracy in Russia under Putin. Nor is there a history of Western liberal democracy in very many places. Nor is there democracy with many Western allies.

The one democracy in the region, Israel, is a P.R. disaster. Many Arabs seeing the ghettoized Palestinians relative to the undemocratic impostion of the Israeli state--a Western military puppet with a militarily integrated economy with America--as yet another "invasion".

There's nothing "democratic"--let alone logical--about the prosecution of the war in Iraq. Homes have been systematically attacked by American soldiers rounding up mainly innocent Iraqi males and sending them off, stripped of clothing, for abuse.

Since day one, America has launched a bullying intimidation campaign against the Iraqi population, and has made more insurgents as a result; where Iraq has become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of dehumanization.

The beheading of the American contractor is done to shock, intimidate and awe. Where have we heard this before?

Osama smiles. Arabs are uniting.

And in the Oval Office Bush exhales, with a determined cast to his face, the muscles in his forehead pulled to a frown.

For them, God is great. God is good. God is with them.

God wasn't a democrat either.

Monday, May 10

The trophy pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners is nothing less than a P.R. Pearl Harbor. Not even the Nazis gloated like this in the death camps.

The current military culture, an accident waiting to happen, presents us with the fuck-up du jour for the Bush administration. All this comes courtesy of our man of the hour, Kaiser Rumsfeld.

This is the same man who brought the world, without even the pretense of anguish over human rights, Guantanamo Bay. Or, what Michael Ignatieff calls "the lesser of two evils". The entire Iraq war, really. We know that Rumsfeld planned this all along.

Rumsfeld's military culture said no to United Nations processes. He said no to the International Criminal Court. No to NATO involvement in Afghanistan. No to the State Department's post-war plan. No. No. No.

Well, well, Mr. "My Way"--it is time for the highway.

The troops in Iraq, without enough of them for the job, have no clear sense of mission. They don't know how long they'll be there. They're being told one thing by their higher-ups, and another thing on the ground.

Rumsfeld's culture is the same one that brought you the torture of Afghani prisoners by military intelligence officers, Egyptian intelligence, and Pakistani torture specialists.

Torture was conducted by these same foreigners (overseen by military intelligence). But, as time went on, the U.S. took over the whole role.

The real problem though is the big picture: Iraqis are not 9/11 terrorists.

I have no problem torturing Al-Qaeda if it'll help. But insurgents, resisting a white occupier, are not terrorists. They can be won over.

Indeed, that's the goal in Iraq. Providing your heart is in the right place and the rhetoric from above hasn't distorted your notion of why.

"Why are we there?," ask the Americans.

Freedom? Even soldiers don't buy the idea you fly to the Middle East and initiate an occupation in order to "free" people.

American soldiers are angry, scared, bored and powerless. So, the shit rolls downhill to prisoners and civilians.

But it comes from the top.

Thursday, May 6

For George Bush, all isn't always fair in love and war. And war means never having to say you're sorry.

A sorry President spoke to Arab television yesterday, proclaiming his abhorence for the American torture of helpless Iraqi prisoners.

Deliverance-inspired occupation, however, is par for the course in any war. It's an American specialty--especially when the goal is muddled ... and frustrating.

But this wasn't supposed to happen. The parellels to muddled Vietnam were not intended to be: An amorphous, changing enemy, the inability to convince the populace of your goal, a strategic plan that doesn't hold and tactics that simply don't work.

Let's look at the strategy.

The thinking in Vietnam was America had to fight Communism somewhere. And if South Vietnam fell, there'd be a "domino" effect.

That proved false, as Vietnamese nationalism trumped Communist ideology. The Vietnamese simply wanted to break the shackles of white colonialism, and Communism was a convenient means to an end.

In Vietnam, there was also a problem with the wishes of the locals, who saw the Americans, accurately, as inheritors of French European colonialism. Not as liberators.

The same is now true with Iraq.

The strategy in Iraq was also negative: Weapons of Mass Destruction were really dangerous in the hands of an enemy. But ... no weapons. OK. No problem. Now the Iraqis are being "freed". The incidental effect was now sold as a primary reason for invasion.

But, instead of flowers, the American "liberators" were greeted with deep mistrust and anger.

The average American trooper in Iraq is now confused and angry: "Why are they not grateful that we've freed them?" U.S. troops become impatient. Who can blame them?

Some troops then ask, "If they don't want us, why are we here?"

The tactics employed now in Iraq are also an echo of Vietnam: Counter-insurgency. Can you distinguish the sympathizers from the guerillas?

The real fact is, you cannot change anyone's heart at the point of a gun. You can kill him, sure. But you can't change him. Saddam was a popular Sunni tribal leader and the devil they knew. Shiite nationalism was always a lingering American worry.

It's enough to want to make you rub Iraq's nose in it. And take a few pictures.

Monday, May 3

Muammar Gaddafi, the Lybian dictator, is now coming in from the cold.

After fifteen long, lonely years as an admitted state sponsor of terror--his most sinister effort being Lockerbie--Gaddafi returned to the European summit in Brussels the other week, replete with a wan, tent-weary smile, undeveloped oil reserves ... and quite the nice pair of gun-toting female bodyguards.

So, what is the nature of his reformation, or at least the mailing address of the Dictator's Reform School?

Well, you know the answer: It's less about him and more about us.

George Orwell's dystopia of 1984 depicted a dictionary that lost words every year to reduce uncontrolled thought. History books were constantly being re-written in order to accommodate shifting alliances.

The notion being that, when things go bad, Mr. Dictator (insert name here) was always thus. And when things turn around, he always had it in him to be of help, or vice-versa.

You may recall the U-turns on Noriega, Saddam, Marcos, Stalin, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran ... and even Hitler, embraced by Churchill in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935. (German dogs were supposed to take a bite of the Bolshevik buttocks first, you see.)

So, why did the Libyan dictator (or, if he's a good guy, we instead call him the Libyan leader) come in from the cold? Was he again cowed by a display of U.S. military might like when America bombed his home in 1986? Or has he just seen God a/k/a McDonald's, Madonna and Michael Eisner?

More likely, it's the combo of economic sanctions and the heat from regional fundamenalists who hate--in the same way that they hated Saddam--rich and secular dictators who worship their own power and privilege. Money and protection are what the West provides.

But why now? Certainly, the undeveloped oil reserves are of interest. And so is the theatre of displaying half-baked Libyan weapons programs. The party line: "We attacked Iraq--and that scared wacky Gaddafi into quitting."

Wrong. It is just that time. That time portrayed in the final words of 1984, where Winston Smith, after resisting, finally looks up and exclaims, "I love Big Brother!"

According to the new history books, Big Brother was loved all along.

It appears that President Bush is camera shy.

For starters, he doesn't like to see photos of flag-draped coffins.

He also doesn't like to see trophy shots of Iraqi prisoners taken by leering, victory-intoxicated, compassionless American victors.

The prisoner shots, along with the Marines faux pas of running the Star and Stripes off Baghdad high places, dispels any notion of American altruism. It is what it is--however you wish to culturally repress it--a dirty war.

A dirty little imperialist war.

If you disagree with me, simply examine the Cheney-led lobby groups in the early-to-mid-'90s that promoted such a war as a means to approaching the region.

Iraq was a trumped-up occupation, fought in the acquiescent shadow of 9/11, to secure and project American influence in the region militarily. Period. Don't listen to any other bullshit.

If I hear one more clown use the rhetoric of "terrorism" in connection with Iraq, I'll scream.

There was no operational link with Al-Qaeda ... ever. Saddam wouldn't risk it. He's fixed, they are mercurial. Just think of a hippo and a cockroach.

Besides, Saddam was a sworn enemy of fundamentalists--just like our new friend, whom we didn't invade, and who WAS a state sponsor of terror, Muammar Gaddafi (more on him tomorrow).

Ah, you say, Saddam was sending cheques to the Al-Aqsa brigade of Yasser Arafat. Well, yessir, he was. And what Arab is not? The game is called "power balancing". They all play it. America also funds terror whenever it suits them to destabilize an adversary.

So, getting back to Bush and his chronic camera-shyness, what of the other pictures? Not the footage that reveals America's broad Freudian invasion slip, but the images of U.S. coffins coming home?

It's called war. It's something Bush personally knows nothing about. He wants that to remain his little secret.

Last summer, in response to the question of insurgency, Bush outrageously said: "Bring it on."

They did. And they are.

It's OK, as long as those who have to pay--the Iraqis and the U.S. troops--keep their photo albums hid.