Monthly Archives: December 2006

Badness Comes in Threes


There seems to be a universal truth that badness comes in threes.  The first was James Brown passing away.  Then Gerry Ford.  Now Saddam Hussein and his suspended sentence. 

James Brown we’ve already written about.  That leaves Gerry Ford and Saddam Hussein by my count, so let’s start with the lesser of two evils, Gerry Ford.

Ford was a journeyman Congressman from Grand Rapids, Michigan who was well-respected.  He got his first big call in 1963 when he was asked to sit on the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The charitable comment was that Ford didn’t take too many donuts from the meeting room during deliberations.

During the Viet Nam war, Ford was one of the many Republicans giving Lyndon Johnson a nightly beating about the war.  This caused the immortal LBJ quote "That Gerry Ford.  He can’t fart and chew gum at the same time."

Fast-forward to 1968, Nixon’s landslide Republican victory and the beginning of the End of Nixon.  Nixon’s VP, Spiro Agnew was charged with a few hundred counts of tax evasion and money laundering from his days as Governor of Maryland.  Eventually, pleading no contest, Agnew resigned in 1973.  Nixon and Al Haig went to the Congress to see who they could get to fill the chair.  Gerry Ford! Come on down!

When the rats started jumping off the Ship of Nixon and it looked like the Supreme Court was going to sign a "no-knock" search warrant to get at the Nixon tapes, things got all back-room dealish.  Nixon knew he was screwed but if he were impeached, Nixon would lose his pension of nearly $400,000 a year as an ex-President.  Nixon knew that the tapes were the smoking gun and if they ever got out, Nixon would wind up in a shallow grave in San Clemente.  So the deal came down, to resign, then get a pardon.

Rumor has it while Ford was still Vice-President, Alexander Haig, Nixon’s chief fixer (Liddy and Colson were in jail) presented Gerry Ford with three choices:  1:  A resignation followed by a full and free pardon, with Nixon keeping the tapes.  2: No resignation, no pardon and a years-long Senate investigation of Campaign Finances that would gut both parties and destroy the American Political System.   3: Two rounds in the base of the skull from the Secret Service with Nelson Rockefeller taking over as President.

On August 9th, 1974 Nixon resigned:  Ford took over the Big Chair.  By September 8th, Gerry Ford had pardoned Nixon and given Nixon all rights to the actual tapes.  Needless to say, the public has what could be best described as a collective shit fit.  Everyone knew that the Watergate tapes would have not just convicted Nixon of high crimes, but would have exposed the entire inner workings of the biggest shakedown job of America since Cheney asked the Oil Companies to write US Energy Policy. 

Fortunately the US Economy fell into the toilet at the same time and the price of oil went through the roof.  Ford’s reaction:  Wear a button with the words WIN:  Whip Inflation Now.  Gerry brought in some bench strength.  Henry Kissinger was given the Sec of State job to finally get the US out of Viet Nam.  A little known Texas monster called George H.W. Bush was called up to be the White House liaison to the People’s Republic of China, then to head up the CIA in 1975. 

Two other troglodytes were brought in.  Donald Rumsfeld was Ford’s transition chairman and chief of staff.  Rumsfeld was also the youngest Secretary of Defense ever appointed.  The other punk was a young Wyoming pol called Richard Cheney who took over from Rumsfeld as Ford’s Chief of Staff and later managed the 1976 Ford Presidential campaign.  Cheney was so good at managing political campaigns that he went immediately to Haliburton after Ford got his ass kicked by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 elections. 

In the final summary, Ford was a do-nothing President who brought Regan-era pimps into the power circles of Washington and kept the meanest of Nixon’s remaining fixers around long after they should have been sent to jail. 

Saddam Hussein, was a barely-literate hitman in the Ba’ath party in 1958 when he was involved in trying to overthrow the government of Iraq, backed by some CIA friends.  By 1963 the Ba’ath party succeeded and with their CIA backing (must stop Communism of course) set off on a course of religious intolerance and personal graft. 

By 1976 he was the top General in the Iraqi Army and was feared as the meanest man around.  Talks were underway to work out an alliance between Syria and Iraq, the presidents Hassan al-Bakir of Iraq and Hafez al-Assad of Syria would have cut Saddam Hussein out of the loop.  Fortunately Saddam was able to get al-Bakir to resign for health reasons on July 16th 1979, appointing Saddam as President. 

On July 22, 1979 Saddam Hussein rolled into a televised assembly of the Ba’ath party and reeled off the names of 68 enemies of the state who were wanted for high crimes.  Many of them were in the room and were taken into custody.  The rest were complimented on their wise choice of leader and their loyalty.

As an example of how open dialogue was encouraged in Iraq, during a meeting of the Iraq cabinet in 1982, Saddam asked for candid suggestions of how to end the war with Iran.  One cabinet minister, Health Minister Riyadh Ibrahim, suggested that Saddam temporarily step down to promote peace negotiations:  Ibrahim’s chopped up body was delivered to his wife the next day. 

After getting into a long term war with Iran, Hussein started playing the Soviet-American dance card.  Playing kissy-face with the Soviets meant the US would pour millions of dollars of aid into Baghdad.  One visitor was Donald Rumsfeld, special envoy of Ronald Regan, in 1983. 

There were other atrocities, like gassing Kurds in 1988 and the removal of entire villages from the face of the planet for such minor slights as not providing the proper welcome to the Presidential Party.  Of course, Tikrit, the hometown of the President, did just fine. 

Then came Gulf War I, where George H.W. Bush went to defend Kuwait and their oil from Saddam Hussein.  After a left-handed victory, whereby Saddam was not disarmed or ousted, George H. W. Bush gave it up and decided to lose to Bill Clinton.  Clinton had more sense than a box of hair and knew that Saddam would be around later.  Meanwhile, the Republicans went on the warpath regarding a consensual blow job from an intern, spending years analyzing dress stains, instead of actually trying to make government work.  I offer Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr and Tom Delay as evidence.

A few years later, mostly because the Republicans were still chasing blowjobs, a group of terrorists struck at the US.  Most of the security apparatus in the US were caught unawares and oblivious.  Rather than pin the blame where it belonged (interservice fratricide between the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and the DIA over political turf and Republican revenge) Dubya decided that Weapons of Mass Destruction and all kinds of Evidence were needed to tie al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.  About the only ‘evidence’ not presented were Valentine’s Day cards from Sammy to Osama. 

Since Osama was invisible, in a cave in Afghanistan, Saddam was left as the obvious target.  Like all money-grubbing Republicans, Dubya cut a sponsorship deal, leading to Gulf War II, Brought to you by Haliburton and Raytheon, Sponsored by Exxon and Lockheed. Don’t forget John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act as example of open and responsible governance at home to set a shining beacon of democracy for the newly freed peoples of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein was deposed and captured.  His two sons Biday and Qusay were killed.  Saddam went on trial, in what could best be described as a Lance Ito job, but with significantly more violence.  Guilty?  Most certainly. 

This morning the Iraq Government (Dick Cheney Prop.) hung him and, like all good media-savy political organizations, allowed a camera crew to tape it.  This actually makes sense, as real footage of Saddam Hussein being executed is likely to be believed.  A simple news report that he was executed would never be trusted.   

Globally, what does all this mean?  Gerry Ford was an idiot caretaker who couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a roadmap, who brought pimps like Cheney and Rumsfeld into power.  Worst of all, Ford pardoned that fascist thug Nixon, who should have been tried, convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac mass murdering dictator, propped up at various times by the CIA who got to be Dubya’s bumboy to get Dubya out of some deep shit at home.

James Brown was the Godfather of Soul.

One of these three people gave the world much happiness.  I’m still voting for James.

 

 

 

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The Godfather is Dead


James Joseph Brown from Barnwell, South Carolina, died yesterday.  He was 73.  You probably never knew James Joseph Brown, or even know where Barnwell South Carolina is located. 

But you most emphatically have heard of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.  You couldn’t miss him.  A high, shiny pompadour conk, over a sweat-drenched face contorted with the effort of wringing every last drop of emotion out of lyrics strained through a gravel pit of a throat.  Then those blurred hips and legs, never stopping, always moving, usually in different directions, but always to the pounding beats of his band, The Famous Flames. 

Even with slow numbers, like It’s a Man’s World the sweat and emotions poured from his pores.

Every urban music artist should sit back today and say a word of thanks to the mother-source of funk.

Soul Brother Number One, Mister Dynamite, Minister of the New Super Heavy Funk. Mister Please, Please, Please, The Godfather of Soul, The Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness

Mister…Jaaaames…Brrrownnnn!

 

 

E.Coli Salad


For the past several months we’ve been seeing all kinds of E. Coli outbreaks in food that we buy in the supermarket or have served to us in restaurants.  This week, Taco Bell closed a bunch of outlets when it was found that the green onions supplied to the restaurants were tainted with E. Coli bacteria. 

The Escherichia Coliform bacteria is an intestinal flora that normally occurs and shows up in mammalian feces.  As humans are mammals and we shit, guess what?  This is why your Mom, the School Nurse and a bunch of other people have been saying "Wash you hands" after using the bathroom.  Simple washing with soap and water removes much of the bacteria from your hands.  The usual symptoms of E.Coli infection are vomiting, diarrhea, fever and on through septicemia and death, depending on the initial health and age of the patient. 

You can kill E. Coli by heating it, or by washing, or flushing it with various anti-bacterial solutions.  Alcohol, Betadine and even vinegar will work.  This is why the Food Safety folks strongly recommend cooking meat to medium or well done.  Heat or cold kills Salmonella too, a happy coincidence there.  However, for food eaten raw, like spinach, green onions, carrots or lettuce, heating is not an option. 

So why are people getting sick with E. Coli?  Here’s the problem:  We rely on the farmer or packer or wholesaler to ensure the food is well-washed and protected from contamination until it gets to the restaurant or supermarket.  We expect the produce clerk to have basic hygiene when they load the lettuces into the display at Loblaws.  We expect the person who prepares out spinach salad to have at least a lick of sense in the back of the restaurant.  It would seem that we were wrong. 

Like some problems in our society, this one has an economic root.  The root is deep and you have to understand how things you eat get in front of your face, so you can eat them.  This will take a moment, as our modern life is complicated.

The company growing the spinach or green onions makes very little money growing or harvesting the product.  Therefore every fraction of a cent saved in producing a pound of food, times a few thousand pounds, means a few dollars extra profit for the grower at the end of the day, perhaps squeezing an extra $10 out of $10,000. 

To squeeze out that $10, hiring off-the-books labour at less than minimum wage is common in the agricultural business.  Paying piecework wages means the picker is not interested in anything that detracts from picking 10 pounds of whatever, as fast as possible to earn that 41 cents they might get paid for picking 10 pounds of green onions. 

The grower looks at production.  Washing the product costs money for the water and the equipment to thoroughly wash it, as well as the people to do it.  Confronted with a wholesaler who dictates the price paid, the grower has to cut enough corners to make a whole extra square. 

The wholesaler knows that the middleman or broker demands delivery at a certain price.  Produce shippers have to move the goods rapidly by truck, so the trucker has to work extra hours, on razor thin profit margins, to deliver to the terminal.   

The food prep company or central commissary hires at as low a wage as they can get away with, to chop the green onions and bag them up for shipment to the restaurant.  The restaurant hires as cheaply as possible to have someone open the bag of chopped green onions and put it in the salad bar or in the prep area.

At each step, from field to the top of your taco, someone is making a little bit of money (sometime a very little bit of money) each step trusting the other one that they have done their job properly.  With that kind of economic pressure, the rewards of cutting corners are too great everywhere along the line.

So, to eke out another cent or two the grower doesn’t wash the produce with clean water.  He uses field water from a well and a fire hose.  The wholesaler demands the grower deliver at a certain date and time or risk never getting another order.  The wholesaler also bitches about the amount of water in the boxes, as water has weight, so he cuts the price per pound he pays the grower to account for excess water.

The wholesaler leans on the shipper to shave a nickel off the price per pound of shipping, so the shipper has to use a cheaper, less reliable company that doesn’t always do the maintenance on their rigs and routinely makes their people drive overtime.  The driver is getting paid by the mile, so he avoids the weigh stations and routinely runs faster than the speed limit, dodging the cops. 

The dock master at the terminal gets a kickback from each trucker so his truck gets unloaded earlier, rather than waiting around, not earning mile money.  The dock master has to get the boxes off a truck and onto another one faster, as the terminal owner has promised the green onions will be fresh and still refrigerated when they get to the food prep company. 

However the wholesaler shipped less than perfect produce last time, so the food prep company is going to lean on the terminal manager to deliver faster and better quality, to make up for it, or get their next four shipments refused for quality reasons.  The terminal manager will lose money, which means those boxes of green onions move fast across that loading dock.

Naturally the contract from the food prep company to the restaurant chain is based on supplying 350 restaurants at a skinny margin per bag.  They hire cheap labour to chop and bag the green onions as fast as possible.  As long as they make their delivery and there are no fingers or thumbs in the green onions, they get paid. 

The restaurant is set up for just in time delivery.  The bag of green onions has to be delivered by 9 am to be ready to be out for 11 am.  The restaurant doesn’t have room for a big fridge to store a couple of days’ supplies in the kitchen.  The whole store has been designed for maximum revenue per square foot:  A bigger fridge does not generate revenue.  The franchisee has been promised a certain revenue can be made as long as they buy their supplies from the central prep company, under contract to the company.

The restaurant doesn’t actually have chefs and cooks.  They hire assemblers for less than a chef would cost.  Everything is prepared in advance, off site, so all that is really done is ladling out the components in the right order.  As long as the truck shows up in time and someone can figure out how to open the plastic bag, it all comes together as a meat-related taco with green onions on top.

Cost to you for that half-teaspoon of diced green onion on the top of your lunch?  Perhaps 2 cents at the most.

This chain of supply is based on literally hundreds of interdependent contractors and companies all along the line, each trying to cut costs to improve profitability.  There is nothing wrong with a company making a buck.  Try telling that to someone who has just spent the last three days on the toilet spewing from both ends because they got sick.

One thought is for all of us to pay a little more for a safer food supply.  Let’s say, using our green onions at 99 cents for three bunches (Dominion store at Mississauga Valley Drive, today’s price) that we, as consumers, all agree we’ll pay an extra dime for the green onions so we can feel confident they’re not contaminated. 

Of that dime per half-pound of product, how much do you think would actually get back to the grower?  If you said nothing, you would be right.  It might even cost the grower money.  The wholesaler would have to certify the grower, which costs the wholesaler money, so they can’t pay as much, which means they have to mark up the price to the shipper. 

The shipper won’t absorb the cost, so their cost to the terminal goes up but the prep company is on a fixed price contract for two years, so they have to either lean on the terminal, or get another source of supply, or lay off a half-dozen people or pay even less per hour, which means hiring off-the-books labour. 

Meanwhile the restaurant franchisee is looking at increased costs for green onions from the head office, as the head office sets the price and you don’t have a choice.  That cuts into profits and means the franchisee isn’t making enough to keep up on his financing obligations.  He has to lay off two "cooks" as he can’t change the prices, as that is controlled by head office.  Or cut breaks for his now short staff to keep up with demand, which means leaving out one cleaning shift per week and not telling the company he’s doing it.   

Odds are the paperwork alone to certify the green onions are safe would consume the entire dime we’d willingly pay for some kind of guarantee we’re not eating bacteria-laden food.

What it comes down to, truly, is everyone wants to make more money.  Nobody can afford to do what is right.

 

 

 

 

 

Iraq in "Grave Situation"


The Baker Iraq Study Group has released their thoughts on the war in Iraq to the sound of much sucking in Washington.  The Cole’s Notes (Cliff’s Notes for the Americans) are that the US should move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.  There should be benchmarks and use of funding to reward good behavior.  Golly.  It took how many high-priced brains to figure this one out?

To quote James Baker just now, they do not recommend a "Stay the Course" solution.  President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy will have to swallow a few hundred thousand sound-bites.  I suggest he invite over Tony Snow, the White House fartcatcher to help eat his words.  Perhaps a buffet with Rove and Cheney eating their share of Kung Pow Cut and Run.

Baker is recommending a new consensus be built at home and abroad to deal with Iraq, as they can’t pull out and they can’t stay.  Since it took nearly nine months for Baker and Company to figure this one out, odds are it will take double that for some kind of consensus to be sifted out nationally, then another nine to get the Coalition of Willing to buy into it. 

That’s just over two years, which will put it right in the fat spot of the Presidential Election cycle.  President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy won’t be running, of course, but John McCain will be forced to carry that can of manure.  So will whoever the Democrats prop up, be it Hillary, Barak Obama or John Edwards.  Both parties will be sprayed by this report, the Iraq war and Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s lack of motion one way or the other to fix Iraq. 

The result of the Baker Iraq Study Group is to saddle anyone considering running for the Big Chair with the War in all its aspects.  No candidate, from either party, can escape it. 

Pro-war?  You’re an insane baby-killer raping Iraq for Oil. 

Anti-War?  You’re a disloyal American and might as well be Osama Bin Laden’s boyfriend.  

Diplomacy with other countries in the Middle East?  You’re an Anti-Semite and hate Israel if you dare talk to Syria or Iran. 

UN diplomacy?  You’re Jimmy Carter in a new suit.   

Benign Neglect?  You’re a war criminal who wants to see the various religious groups slaughter each other and you hate all Islam.

Appeasement?  Don’t make me laugh.  My gums hurt. 

What has really happened is that Daddy Bush has bought and paid for his son’s Get Out Of Iraq ticket, just like he bought and paid for his Get Out Of Viet Nam card.  For the next two years expect Bush to become the "Consensus President" trying to obtain "Peace With Honor" while being "obstructed at every turn by partisan politics". 

Incidentally, it took Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon about two years to obtain "Peace With Honor" in Viet Nam, so the historical math works in Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s favor.  He won’t have to deal with Iraq any more. 

The Decider has no more decisions to make. 

 

 

 

Polonium Poisoning


It reads like a bad first draft of a John LeCarre potboiler, but the the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning in London is becoming more of a puzzle every day.  The murder of a nosy journalist, the radioactive poisoning of an ex-KGB agent and a former Russian Prime Minister, radiation all over a bunch of commercial aircraft, an emigre Russian billionaire, Chechen rebel leaders and a couple of self-styled security consultants, all combine in a plot that demands you take notes just to keep up. 

Here’s the short form:  Vladimir Putin the President of Russia is an ex-KGB head.  He likes the old school Soviet managed economy and society as a way to bring back some of the prestige and power, while trying to put a lid back on the Russian Mafia, who gutted the former Soviet Union when the wall came down and Gorbachev tossed the keys over the wall of the Kremlin.  In order to work a new-style-old-school Soviet deal, human rights have to go.  Journalists asking pointed questions, have to go.  Cutting out western power players has to be done.  It is being done. 

Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who was crapping all over the government for human rights abuses in Chechnya.  There are many:  Russian troops use rape, torture and civilian attacks against the Chechyn rebels.  The Chechyn rebels use kidnapping, torture and routinely target the civilian government, as well as the Russian troops.  Chechnya is the Russian equivalent of Iraq, except the Russian troop are kicking out the jams when it comes to dealing with insurgents.  The Chechyn government is just as bad.  People disappear and are eventually found in mass graves.

Politkovskaya was going to work on October 7th when someone pumped four rounds into her:  One round through the head made sure she wouldn’t get to the office.  This is the equivalent of Karl Rove ordering the CIA to off Nick Robertson of CNN for breaking the Abu Ghraib story.  There was much outrage in Russia.

Enter Alexander Litvinenko, ex KGB spook.  He knew how the system worked and reportedly either had the goods or something close to the goods on the role of the Russian Security Bureau’s involvement in the killing of Anna Politkovskaya.  Enter Mario Scaramella an Italian self-styled security consultant.  Litvinenko and Scaramella had dinner at a London sushi joint November 1st,  the night before Litvinenko came down ill. 

By November 16th, Litvinenko is so sick, he’s in Emergency, going bald and disintegrating before the doctors’ eyes.  On November 23rd, he dies, after doctors determine that he was poisoned with Polonium-210 and basically dies from the inside out at his body collapses.  In a deathbed letter and through his media representatives, Litvinenko places the blame on Vladimir Putin and the Russian Security Service.  Russia denies any involvement. 

On November 27th, as in less than a week ago, traces of Polonium-210 are found on British Airways aircraft that Litvinenko and others had traveled on, specifically from Moscow to London.  Inside the sushi joint and at two other locations, more of the radio isotope are found.  Even the doctors doing the post-mortem on Litvinenko have to be careful, working under strict exposure guidelines. At the same time, Yegor Gaidar, former Russian Prime Minister and general pain-in-the-ass to Putin turned up with a low-level exposure to Polonium.  Gaidar is ill, but is expected to recover.

On Thursday British Home Secretary John Reid announces that traces of radioactivity have been found in a dozen locations around London and four aircraft from British Airways are grounded for potential contamination.  By Friday, tests had confirmed that Litvinenko’s wife and a hotel in Sussex had also tested positive for Polonium-210.

Note:  Polonium is a naturally occurring element found in Uranium, first discovered by Marie Curie in 1898.  Found isn’t quite the right word, as it doesn’t stick out.  There are 100 micrograms of Polonium per metric ton of Uranium. 

Polonium has 25 known isotopes, all radioactive and chemically poisonous.  Polonium-210 was used as a heat source, as it generates heat via alpha particle emission.  One recent use for Polonium-210 (or to be accurate in notation 210-Po) has been as a heat and power source for space satellites and was used in the Soviet Lunokhod rovers on the surface of the Moon. 

Outside the body, Polonium-210 is dangerous, but the skin will repel much of the alpha wave radiation.  If Polonium-210 is ingested or inhaled, it is deadly, killing bone marrow, destroying the liver and spleen and jacking up the white blood cell count.  Essentially it collapses the immune system from the inside out. 

You don’t pick this stuff up at the local Home Depot and if you find a two-pound box of Polonium-210 under the front steps, you have enough to kill everyone in North America a couple of times over.  In simple terms, government nuclear science labs might have some, the quantity measured in micrograms.  It isn’t commonly available, like rat poison or gasoline.

So who poisoned Alexander Litvinenko?  The stinky finger points at the Russian Secret Service, now called the FSB, or more formally, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti.  The FSB is tasked with counterintelligence, anti-terrorism, protection of the government and fighting organized crime.  Like the CIA under the Patriot Act, they can do whatever the hell they want to any citizen at any time any where on the planet, as long as they don’t get caught at it.

What’s the fallout, pun intended?  None.  Putin doesn’t care, as long as people stay in line.  His definition of Human Rights, based on how things go down in Chechnya, are "You ain’t got none, if you piss me off"

The question then is implied, what does a resurgent Soviet-style secret police mean for the rest of us?  Some indication might come from Hungary, which is wrestling with a resurgent Soviet-style government under the Magyar Szocialista Párt, the MSZP.  The MSZP took over from the original Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (or MSZMP) that ran the joint from 1956 to 1989.  (As soon as it is called the Socialist Workers Party, it’s the Communist Party, but it ain’t wearing a red dress this time.) 

Ferenc Gyurcsány, the current PM has openly admitted he is a fan of Lenin and wants to centrally control just about every aspect of the economy and life of the citizens.  Rumor has it that wiretapping is back in favour in Budapest.  Is Ferenc Gyurcsány a low-rent Putin wanna-be?  According to some, Ferenc Gyurcsány is just Putin without the honesty, charm, charisma and subtlety. 

Hungary is part of the European Union and NATO, but despite that Western pipeline, the economy has fallen into the toilet to the point that they Ministry of Health is closing 37 entire hospitals:  It can’t afford to keep the lights on.  Some professions have seen their government wages cut in half, as in you work 90 minutes, but get paid for 60.  Taxation has increased 25 percent in 2006 alone.  Which explains why there are protests in the street every day and an increase in the activities of the state security forces.

Realistically, the death of Alexander Litvinenko means a return to old school Russian isolationism and fear led by Vladimir Putin.  This is not a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Quebec Nation


Last week, our esteemed Prime Minister and his party passed a motion in the House O’Commons that recognized Quebec as a nation within Canada.  Don’t worry, dear American Readers, I’ll translate later.

What Stephen "Steve" Harper has done is pointed out the obvious:  Quebec is a nation within Canada.  At the same time, just as the Liberals are going into a convention, Harper has pulled the rug out from under all the Liberal candidates by taking away half the talking points they were going to jaw about for the rest of the weekend.

Historically what we call the Canada part of North America has been inhabited, archeologically, by First Nations for an estimated 26,500 years.  Parts of Ontario have been dated as habited for 9,500 years.    The first Euro-weenies arrived here around 1000 AD.  They were Vikings and sailed to Newfoundland about 492 years before Chris Columbus botched his navigation to Asia and found a Sandals resort in San Salvador.  The Vikings were looking for fish and trying to find someone at "867-5309 – Jenny" who had left a message for Eric the Red in Oslo. 

There were other visitors:  John Cabot in 1497 was one of the earlier ones who actually found the mainland.  Martin Frobisher stopped by in 1576, then Samuel de Champlain in 1603. 

When Jacques Cartier landed near Quebec City in 1534 our First Nations folks, who had never seen pasty-ass whiteboys, pointed at a settlement called Stadacona and said "Kanata".  Kanata roughly translates as "village’ or "settlement" and Cartier, being none too bright, figured the name of the whole country was Canada.  The handle stuck.

There have always been English and French explorers walking around, claiming this river or that hill for the King or Queen of England or France.  Short form?  Our Canadian roots are both English and French with equal importance.

The broad generalization of Quebec being mostly French speaking and the rest of Canada mostly English speaking does apply.  With any generalization, there are exceptions:  English is met with a blank stare on Dundas Street in Toronto, perhaps Cantonese or Viet would work better.  Hindi or Punjabi are the conversational coins of the realm in New Westminster, BC.  A weird mix of Icelandic, Ukrainian and English works in Gimli, Manitoba.  You can practice your Finnish in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Canada is a mutt when it comes to linguistic purity. 

Over the years various governments, federal, provincial and European in our colonial days, have tried to codify the cultural and linguistic duality of Canada.  They all failed. 

Canadians, however, recognize it.  Quebec is a different part of Canada.  Just like Seattle is different from Hartford, or Philly is different from New York City, Quebec is different from Ontario.  Canadians tend not to give a rat’s ass about it most of the time, unless the politicians start stirring up nonsense, which they do roughly every ten years.

Where the difficulty comes in is the definition of what is a Quebecer?  Harper didn’t bother to define it when the motion was put up the tree and has left it hanging over the heads of the rest of the country like loose stools in a mesh bag:  We’re all going to get covered by it eventually.

Depending on what translation you use, the motion recognizes Quebcois or Quebecers.  Quebecers are the people of Quebec, in the English version.  Not Francophones, just the people who reside in the province.  In the French version the Quebecois are recognized as a nation.  Other politicians have claimed that the term means "Pur Laine Quebecois’, the literal translation meaning Pure Wool Quebecers, who trace their lineage back hundreds of years in Quebec, in a francophone linguistic and cultural context that pointedly ignores those who are not. 

I have no gripe with Quebec being recognized as a nation within Canada, until you try to define who is member of that nation.  That is the danger area. 

Theoretically, I can claim membership because I speak enough French to get by, have eaten poutine, been to a cabane a sucre and know the words A Ton a Tour.  I also claim membership because I’ve been to Jarry Park to watch Le Grand Orange play, love Schwartz’ smoked meat and have been to the Maple Leaf Bar in Rimouski.  Hell, I’ve even seen Jean Beliveau play for the Montreal Canadiens in the Forum and have bought beer at a Dep at an ungodly hour, while drunk.  Does that make me a Quebecois? 

I fondly remember Steinbergs, Ogilvy’s and Pascal.  I’ve seen Gilles Vigneault and played Ginette Reno music on the radio.  I thought Rene Simard was a freak along with Patsy Gallant and Corey Hart.  Andy Kim was OK and I can give you a very concise plot of Balconville.  I can cuss in both official languages, lusted after Madeline Kronby on the beloved Chez Helene and smoked duMaurier as my brand for quite a while.  I’ll admit to drinking Bras D’Or when it was 12 percent alcohol and have enjoyed Maudite! from Unibroue, both in a legitimate brasserie and a taverne, not a bar.  I’ve been to Club SuperSexe, eaten brochettes and prayed at Marie, Reine de la Monde.  

I know how to make proper feves au lard, boulets and enjoy cretonnes Chez Cora.  I have done Reveillon.  If browsing Allo Police! at the Provi-Soir checkout is a condition of membership, then I’m applying.  If eating a Jos. Louis is it, I’m in, but I prefer the Mae West.  I even know what you mean by Je Me Souviens and have walked on what is left of the Plains of Abraham. 

Am I a pur laine Quebecois?  I happen to be Canadian thank you.  This means I can exist outside of arbitrary definitions of who is or who is not a member of any group by being able to accept and appreciate all the groups that make up Canada. 

The only people who are pur laine anything are the First Nations who greeted the various explorers, pointed out that little village over there and called it Kanata.  

American Translation:  Texas is being recognized by Washington as a separate, distinct society in the US.  There are no powers associated with it, just the recognition that Texas and Texans are different from the rest of the US.  The rest of the US are going "and I’m supposed to give a shit why?"  Texans are trying to define themselves as the only people who can use "Y’all" as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction and gerund, while driving a pickup truck with a "Don’t Mess With Texas" bumper sticker.