Designated Driver of North America

Boring is good

You know that little blurb on the “About” section in the corner of my blog page? Where it says the following?

“Canada is the Designated Driver of North America. The U.S. runs around excitedly blowing things up, while we follow behind with the car keys, shaking our heads.”

I’m really not kidding about it. Canada tends to be the kind of reserved relative with the thick glasses, who watches the highly caffeinated United States bouncing around the kitchen, before we roll our eyes and shake out our newspaper and bury our noses in it, trying to drown out the enthusiastic commotion across the breakfast table as we eat our bran flakes. Then the U.S. goes out to the garage and either cranks up the rock music or cranks out some new flashy gadget on the work table, while we put on our jacket and go to our accounting job.

Thing is…it’s paid off.

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

The legendary editor of The New Republic, Michael Kinsley, once held a “Boring Headline Contest” and decided that the winner was “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” Twenty-two years later, the magazine was rescued from its economic troubles by a Canadian media company, which should have taught us Americans to be a bit more humble. Now there is even more striking evidence of Canada’s virtues. Guess which country, alone in the industrialized world, has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention in the financial or mortgage sectors. Yup, it’s Canada. In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system the healthiest in the world. America’s ranked 40th, Britain’s 44th.

As it turns out, according to Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, Canada’s banks are standing up rather nicely in the current economic crisis, while those of the U.S., Great Britain, and well, everywhere else, are collapsing or pretty close to it.

And that wild, loose mortgage scheme devised by the flashy American risk-taking capitalist crowd, that scheme that brought the whole world down? The rationale for it was that it was supposed to help average Americans own their own homes. Yet Canadian banks, plodding along in their steady way, created a slightly better percentage of homeowners in this country — without that risk and flash.

(I would add a note that I bet some of the credit for this might go to Paul Martin. Remember when several Canadian banks wanted permission to amalgamate, so they could play finance with the big boys in the rest of the world? I bet they’re glad they weren’t allowed now.)

I might beg to differ with Mr. Zakaria on one thing. There may be some immigrants benefitting from a Canadian welcome, in places like that Microsoft research centre he mentions near the end of his article. But it’s a well-known phenomenon that after we let all those immigrants with degrees into Canada, based on the points system, we find ourselves with the most highly-educated cab drivers and convenience store operators in the world.

So some parts of the story may not be quite as rosy as Mr. Zakaria paints them. But on the whole, he’s right: Canada’s reserve and scepticism about the get-rich-quick schemes of the Americans is exactly the right attitude. In the long run, it’s what is going to save us while the U.S. at least partly goes down in flames.

And yes — the United States of America would do well, for once, to listen and learn from someone else. A little humility never hurt anyone. And boring is good.


February 21, 2009 Posted by | * Canadian good things, * Capitalist paradise | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

If I can’t have my toys, nobody can (or, it’s not the religion, it’s the MEN)

Yet another case of a man who is affronted that his property — pardon me, his wife — wants a divorce and will no longer be in what he perceives as his control.

So naturally, he kills her.

Same scenario played out countless times in North America, by men who are such whiny babies that if someone they perceive as “theirs” doesn’t want to be with them any more, they are unable to be grownup and accept the valid choice of their equal, adult partner, but must throw a violent tantrum. The equivalent of stomping all over their toys to make sure that if the toys are being taken away from them, nobody else can own them or enjoy them — ever.

Men who grew to be five years old, and stayed there. Stupid, stupid little immature, whiny babies.

There’s one difference in this story, though: the man and woman had started Bridges TV, a television station “with the message of developing understanding between North America and the Middle East and South Asia.”

That means that all Muslims, even moderate ones, are going to get tarred with the same brush as this guy. So he’s destroyed a whole roomful of everyone else’s toys, not just his own. He must feel real powerful now, that hollow little shell of a man.

Nancy Sanders, a former employee of Bridges TV, says in the article that she doesn’t believe this was an “honour killing,” but that it was just the conclusion of a streak of domestic violence that had been going on in the family for a while.

She may be right, in theory. But the fact is that these men always find an excuse in their beliefs. It is not a coincidence that this man beheaded his wife. There’s your “honour killing” tradition just staring you in the face. It was there, perfectly at hand for this man, when he wanted it.

Fundamentalist belief systems give these men exactly what they’re looking for when they want to wreck their toys. It doesn’t even matter how “moderate” they are. That goes for all fundamentalisms — Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu — they all have the weapons just waiting for their men to use against the women they regard as their property. Same song, always, in perpetuity — just a different tune occasionally.

And frankly, it’s when your philosophy meets a real test that you discover whether or not you truly believe it. This guy’s “moderation” only lasted while it was convenient and he didn’t have to work to live up to it. First big test his philosophy meets? BLAM.

Small, whiny little immature bug of a tantrum-throwing baby. So much for your principles, pig.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | * Religious violence, * War against women | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bill O’Reilly has blood on his hands

And so do all the other right-wing public hate-talkers. They wanted people to take their hatred to heart, to take action?

Well, they got their wish.

As reported on the Orcinus blog, the man** who shot up a Universalist Unitarian Church in Knoxville, TN last July did it because he was inflamed by a right-wing anti-progressive writer. (**who I refuse to name and give him the publicity; he deserves to have his name utterly forgotten)

The Orcinus blog tells us:

Many of us intuited at the time that [name extracted]’s rampage was exactly the kind of rancid fruit that would inevitably take root in an American countryside thickly composted with two decades of hate radio bullshit, freshly turned and watered with growing middle-class frustration over the failing economy. That suspicion that [sic] was verified in the days that followed, when police searched [name extracted]’s apartment and found it filled with books and newsletters  penned by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing hate talkers.

And then the man’s “manifesto,” released as he was justly sentenced to life in prison for murder, was released. And we read this:

Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them…

This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn’t get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It’s the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.

I thought I’d do something good for this Country Kill [sic] Democrats til the cops kill me…Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each [sic] little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them on the streets. Kill them where they gather. I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life aint worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. do [sic] something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.

God damn you, Bill O’Reilly. God damn you, Rush Limbaugh. God damn you, Sean Hannity. God damn you, Bernard Goldberg. God damn you for creating the first of what could be many mass murderers.

And God especially damn you, Ann Coulter, you who proclaimed loudly to your stupid, gullible, hate-filled sheeplike followers, that all progressive liberals should be regarded as traitors, rounded up, and executed.

No European fascist could have done better.

Behold the fruit of your labours, you evil vultures with slavering, cannibalistic jaws and blood dripping from your hands.

February 14, 2009 Posted by | * Anti-democracy, * Anti-every-family-but-theirs, * Neo-Con Stupidity, * Neo-Con violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

So what colour star will they have to wear, d’you suppose?

The new extreme right-wing rising star of Israeli politics, Avigdor Lieberman, has some interesting proposals for Israeli citizens.

Check out this article in the Guardian:

He would insist that every Israeli swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state: anyone who loses will lose his citizenship.

Israel Beytenu denies this is racist, insisting that every Israeli will have to swear the oath, Jewish or Arab. It is true that plenty of ultra-orthodox Jews who don’t accept the authority of a godless secular state may also refuse. But the target is clearly Israel’s 1.45 million Arabs. If they will not swear their allegiance, explains Lieberman deputy Uzi Landau, “They will have residency rights but no right to vote or be in the Knesset.”

It is a truly shocking idea. I asked several Israel Beytenu luminaries if they could name a single democracy anywhere that had removed citizenship from those who already had it. I asked what they would make of demanding that, say, British Jews, swear an oath of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country on pain of losing their right to vote. I got no good answers.***[Emphasis mine]

So now I’m wondering. Since even people who were born and raised in Israel and were born citizens can have their citizenship stripped from them if, like the ultra-orthodox, they are not allowed to swear allegience to an earthly power or if — like any balanced, rational, democratic individual on the planet, they believe that this is an atrocity and refuse to swear — what happens then?

Will they have to wear a yellow star, to show everyone they’re suddenly non-citizens? Or will Lieberman let them pick the colour?

(*** Perhaps there was no answer because these people were following the American Republican line: it’s horrible when it’s done TO US. But jolly fine when we do it to EVERYONE ELSE. ‘Cause we’re, you know, the good guys and stuff. Just ask us. To hell with human rights and equality.)

February 11, 2009 Posted by | * Anti-democracy, * Neo-Con Stupidity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment