Quebec's Hidden Entrepreneurial Spirit

I have a theory about Quebec.

After spending six months examining and studying the Quebec private health care landscape for a business enterprise, it only served to confirm this theory that has been swirling around my head.

My theory? At the heart of it, the Quebecois are an individualistic culture. Littered across this province exist many an artisan making wine and furniture. For some reason, I keep thinking that Quebec's entrepreneurial landscape is somewhat comparable to the one found in Italy - a nation of medium-sized family owned businesses that excel at a chosen specialty. Dynastic entrepreneurs are at the heart of the complex Italian economy.

However, this aspect of the Quebecois personality is not one immediately thinks of. Quebecers have been conditioned to accept the notion of socialism and government-as-employer concept. Nationalization is the game here. Everything revolves around the public sector and very little energy is spent encouraging and nurturing the creative and productive minds that exist on the private side. In Quebec, it all begins and ends with the state. As it stands, unions have more power and influence than jeunes promateurs.

We're one of those businesses. Recently, we decided a grant could go a long way in helping us reach our goals and objectives. How we view ourselves is not necessarily how lenders see things.

Guess what? That's true. There is no money. Nothing. Not at the provincial or federal levels. They give money to stable companies in stable industries or for expansion and capital equipment but not for innovators and pioneers. It took some research but we finally found a place that is willing to listen - of course, it's for a small amount but we'll take it if they are willing to give it.

And you can forget about the banks. The Royal Bank laughably boasts about building relationships one customer at a time and that they help businesses grow and survive. I can guarantee you they would not lend us capital no matter how good our idea is. If they would, they would ask for collateral equal to the money requested which makes the point moot. If I had the money I would not be going to the banks in the first place, right? This ain't It's a Wonderful Life where everyone is as enlightened and spiritual as George Bailey.

When I called the federal government asking about possible grants offered by the government, the customer service agent - after he settled down from laughing so hard - confided to me that it was not politcally expedient to do so. However, there was an option. The government apparently has agreements in place with the banks whereby they encourage banks to lend to small businesses and start-ups. The beauty of the agreement is that the feds would cover up to 85% of the loan.

Given my financial background, I put in some calls to a banker friend. After he stopped laughing as if he was Friar Tuck biting into a piece of chicken, he conferred with his colleagues. There is no agreement in place that they are aware of. So, someone doesn't have their facts straight.

Back to my theory and our business. We soon realized that the private health revolution is being led by two provinces - Quebec and British Columbia. The Quebec case is interesting. Here we are, a supposed collectivist province yet we act as if we have a capitalist libertarian gene. It's not a mistake or coincidence that private health care is evolving here in Quebec at a fast pace.

Possibly more than any province, Quebec has the natural inclination and potential to wrestle Canada from its chosen path of accepted mediocrity. Unleash the province, drop the baby boomer politics and let the true will of its young people reign.

A word on seperation. Quebec in it present construct is not a self-reliant province. The negative consequences to Quebec for leaving the Confederation would possibly run deep and offset any short term positve effects. The idea that a province with high unemployment and other economic weaknesses would able to run off on its own is an unrealistic myth perpetuated by a group revolutionary romantics. A nation without an entrepreneurial base that is capable of creating true wealth (which gives a chance at innovation) is not a nation that can stand on its own two feet. The irony of course, is that once you have your citizens working for themselves their interests and needs will change. I don't see how this would align itself with separation.

I do not make a plea for us to change to benefit separation. I posit the notion of making Quebec truly relevant and stronger not based on race but one that is contigent on the collective spirit and talent of its entire citizenry.

It's time we begin to shift our priorities towards the private sector. They deserve a chance.


We Debate Michael Moore for all the Wrong Reasons

My remedial detective skills have led me to detect a peculiar line of reasoning among reviewers of Michael Moore's recent film Sicko. Many open with the intriguing proclamation "it's (the film) one-sided but it's sure to make you think." As if all that follows is to be excused.

If only it's that easy. If it were, the world would be flooded with half-assed philosophers and suspect scholars.

Michael Moore is a predictable bore.

I've heard people defend Moore on the premise that he is just a film maker; that the criticism hurled upon him are unjust if not plain unreasonable. After all, we're missing, according to this testimony, the point. Still, some have found the courage to take dead aim at Moore.

Perhaps. However, Moore paints himself as more than just a film maker. He willingly enters the public foray and political arena. As such, he's fair game.

Welcome to Rome. And when in Rome....

What Moore's films have led me to wonder is what good is an intellectual debate if the root of its tenets are deliberately flawed, manipulated and mutilated?

With any powerful medium, there is such a thing as intellectual honesty and discipline.

As for his ridiculous Cuban escapade and flaunting of the Canadian health care system as some sort of paradise, I can assure you that all he has done is present the best of our system with the worst of the American one. There is no integrity or truth to be discovered.

How can there be? Moore stole that from the viewer.

Image from Mackay Editorial Cartoons.


Ethics and Civility should be taught in elementary schools

I was watching Al Gore the other day and suddenly a thought entered my mind. We have it all wrong here in North America.

Asking people - notably adults - to change their habits is an impossible task. Whenever a society is met with a problem - legitimate or otherwise - activists who want to fix it mobilize and take their message out. The more effective ones will make it to the top of the public advertising list. A campaign of awareness and education (and in some cases scare tactics) follows. From there, they will attempt to convince government to legislate and force people to change.

The results are often miserable. Why?

We employ a top-down approach to matters of concern. In other words, rather than educate at the elementary level we aim to convince those too far into their lives to sway. Changing values and belief systems and breaking habits makes the top-down approach futile - and in some cases irritating.

In North America, we tend to be a reactionary society when it comes to issues and problems. We are not properly educated to see things from an organic state using vision. Very few of us have ever heard of the universal principal when, for example, we drive in traffic. If people would be patient, observe certain rules of conduct and etiquette, they would find that traffic would flow better. I noticed this in Europe. From what I have observed, there is a certain common courtesy on the roads that exists, that no one is willing to compromise.

We also see this problem in matters of finance and economics. It is no longer comical but frightening to listen and read not only civilians but also even journalists awkwardly discusses economics. The basic tenets and laws of economics are shockingly ignored.

So whenever we are asked to make a change, although we are capable of understanding the problem, we are incapable or unwilling to make the necessary adjustments because we were caught too late in life, and were not taught that in a civil society we all have to play our role to ensure the advancement of our communities.

Have you ever held a door open for someone and that person did not think to thank you? In today's world, and I hear this a lot with young people, the justification for not thanking a person who thoughtfully holds the door for you is that "no one asked you." These are the same people who demand respect while giving very little themselves.

Among my favorite courses in College were the collective courses of Humanities. Dismissed as an elective nuisance for extra credit, these courses were crucial in the development of a well-rounded intellectual mind. On average, students hated them. The most fervent among them were those from engineering and business departments. They saw no use in them.

Today, people are becoming more and more disengaged. Call it moral relativism in a postmodern society or whatever. We have been taught that individual thought begins and ends with the self. There is no need to think of the society any longer. Challenge any existing ethos; as long as you come up with it no one can tell you it is wrong. This leads us to exhibits A and B - celebrities such as Paris Hilton and some modern athletes who seem incapable of evolving as upstanding members of the community at large despite their vast wealth. Wealth accords you privileges. To squander it for immediate self-gratification is to fail as a human being.

Intellectual merit has become relative - life has become relative.

As it stands, building a civil society is left in the hands of parents (who seem to be more and more disinterested in taking up the responsibility) and individual teachers. If you were lucky enough to have a great teacher, then you were likely to have received some instruction on how to live. If you weren't so lucky...

This is why I strongly advocate teaching ethics and civil philosophy at an early age. The younger the better. Implant the rules of civility into our kids. Without being exposed to it how can we expect them to be enlightened citizens of the world? By extension, I also believe we need special academic schools for our civil service. Civil servants are supposed to not only reflect the personality of a nation but they can also serve to enlighten citizens.

An ethics and civil course for young citizens would cover all the little things that multiply in a society. After all, it's thelittle things thatmatter. It would teach good manners and it would guide people, among other things, to understand that compromise is not a sign or weakness.

This is not a means to making us smarter. The dimwitted and careless who live among us and who lack curiosity will always exist. It is rather a way to simply remind us all that when we leave our homes we enter a society. And how our society functions is determined by how we behave. If our lowest common denominator is the majority then it is incumbent on us to rectify it.


Scotland is not Scrap

Some time ago I watched a Scottish film called Trainspotting. It was an interesting movie but one line in particular stuck with me for some reason. One in which that described Scotland as the" black sheep" of Europe. Of course, in the Irish film The Commitments, one of the characters said the same thing only difference was that movie was bases in Ireland.

All this reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch with Michael Myers playing the role of an abrasive Scottish nationalist screaming, “if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.” And then there’s Grounds keeper Willy.

I digress.

Pound for pound the enchanting nations of Scotland and Ireland have made significant contributions to modern Western culture. To anyone who is reasonably well-read that much is obvious. Take this post as a refresher.

When I was studying history in University, the influences of the Scots was inescapable but this fact has remained largely unknown to many. When one studies European history the quadruple alliance of France, England, Italy and Germany take a large chunk of the attention – jointly and justifiably regarded as the most brilliant and influential of European cultures.

Scotland? Really? It is one of those odd facts of history. Scotland was generally poor and backwards for most of its history relative to England and most of Europe. That it would produce so many great minds is indeed astounding. Not only was Scotland brilliant, Scots also influenced the North American experience on a massive scale.

James Watt, David Hume and Adam Smith are among the most important names ever to grace mankind. Robert Louis Stevenson, David Livingstone and even Jackie Stewart (who is a revered legend in auto racing mad Italy) are but a few precious famous Scottish figures. Even in the category of the villainous and infamous Scotland has its say with Captain Kidd.

These weren’t just names; they were household names. Of course, firing off a list would be too great. For Canadians, the Scottish imprint on the land be sufficiently evident. Our first Prime Minster – Sir John A. Mac Donald was of Scottish heritage. One of this country's Nobel prize winners was Sir Alexander Fleming who was– you guessed it – a Scot.

Montreal in particular is a preserved museum of famous Scots. It seems every second street is named after a Scottish philanthropist or industrialist.

Our Commonwealth brethren Australia have Scottish blood in them so to speak as Lachlan Macquarrie is regarded as the “Father of Australia.” Here's an interesting fact involving the United States: nine of the first 13 governors were of Scottish heritage.

Whether it was during the Enlightenment, athletics, education, economic, scientific and political thought or inventions, Scotland – tiny, insignificant Scotland as one of my Professors (who was Scottish) once said – was not just about a bunch of savage Picts - it had its say in the advancement and development of Occidental culture.


More Thoughts


Why do former communist turned democracy countries always seem to make most sense? Is it becuase they know what's at stake and don't take for granted democracy and a free society like we do? Spoils do go to the ones who scream the loudest and use the best doomsday tactics.

Which brings me to another somewhat unrelated story. Immigrants sure do bring with them some wisdom at times. Among the many reasons why level headed Quebecers never wanted the province to split from Canada was the feeling among immigrants who went through enough hardship in their lives.

European immigrants escaped monarchies, demagogues and violence for the peace, prosperity and enlightenment of the New World. Suddenly, Quebec leaders in the 1970s and onwards began to sound an awful lot like the leaders who ran Europe into the ground and immigrants here saw right through the double-speak employed by Quebec nationalists. Immigrants and their offsprings spotted their game and rhetoric a mile away. We in Canada have it good compared to the hell zones elsewhere on earth and they want to jeopardize it? For what?

Keep everything in moderation and perspective people. And don't forget to contextualize!

Iran and the United States

Remember the scene in Excalibur when Morgana's evil son Mordred tells King Arthur "let us embrace" before they die in each other's arms?

Love that movie.

With Iran wreaking clandestine spoiler havoc in Iraq - and in the Middle East in general for the past 25 years - one has to possibly conclude at some point that the United States and Iran are heading on a collision course. Dealing with Iran and Syria - the two biggest trouble makers in the region - properly years ago could have avoided all this.

Iran is Mordred. The United States is King Arthur. Hey, that's my perception and I'm sticking to it. The question is if they can avoid Arthur's fate. Can America really take on Iran while mired in Iraq and Afghanistan? If this was a conventional war the answer would almost surely be yes given their superiour military capabilities- air power in particular. Alas, there is nothing conventional about the tactics used in the Middle East anymore. While diplomacy is only effective with engaged rational players. There are too many spoilers - both rational and irrational - in the region now. Normalizing relations with Iran will take great skill and patience.

It's strange how the two main combatants - Iran and Iraq - in the 1980s ended up facing the United States.

These next few months will be challenging to say the least for the Bush administration.


Article of Interest: Hamas in Gaza



The Commentator Gives Free Information

The next world boom: Africa.

Leaving Afghanistan Makes Little Sense

Prime Minister Harper is taking his licks in the media for his stance on Afghanistan. Too bad the media wasn't as hard on a former PM Jean Chretien and the Liberals.

Whenever I read the case for and against being in Afghanistan, both sides offer valid points. However, those who make the case against it tend to sometimes take a far too negative angle. From where we sit it's easy to dismiss the mission and demand we bring the boys home. Indeed, cynicism seems to be what drives this thinking. "It can't be won" is one of the more popular slogans.Then again, is it really our business to be there?

One person's realism is another person's cynicism. It's better to have a healthy skepticism provided it does not get in the way of objective reasoning. Imposing our world view and experiences on what is happening in the region with little thought to how the Afghan and Arab mind functions presents only half of the truth.

Afghanistan is a failed state but we're there so moving it to the next level is paramount. You can only rebuild one step at a time. And boy has this been a slow, painful process which is why many Canadians are justifiably wondering about the mission at this point. However, do not mistake this for lack of effort among its people.

Furthermore and more importantly, Afghanistan is the hub for terrorist activity. It has to succeed. In this light, cutting and running should not be recommended. Not now anyway. We're not at the 'leave weapons and food' behind point. While I look on with a dose of skepticism I also recognize the rationale behind the Afghan mission.

A series of small victories can lead to an ultimate big triumph. But some reports in the media seem to be all too willing to dismiss the small (even moral) victories. Canada is not just there to win hearts and minds. Afghans want Canadians there to help them build a civil society. Reporting back about daily deaths and some mistakes is not a reason to leave and only skews our judgment.

Susan Riley of the Ottawa Citizen is a case in point. At every turn, she does exactly that. When Foreign Affairs minister Peter McKay said that a human rights shop had been established she wondered if cooking classes would be next. How is this helpful to the mission?

Another part of her recent column that befuddled me was the part where McKay described the pride police officers felt when they were handed their uniforms. She concluded, with much cynicism, that in a country with 50% unemployment the pride was mistaken for the fact that they needed a pay check. Perhaps. But notice that she's dismissing every small battle won. It further presupposes that Afghan's are incapable of pride for accomplishing something. Just like how Iraqi's can't be taught democracy.

On the side of sticking around cautious experts point to schools where millions can now attend (thanks in part to Canadian money) have been rebuilt, the Taliban are increasingly challenged (as a national police force and army slowly begin to take root) as they are reduced to acts of cowardly and sporadic suicide bombings, woman's rights are now on the table and three-quarters of Afghanistan has achieved security with the South being the main sore spot. A market economy is coming back though the opium trade continues to be a problem.

The Taliban exert murderous pressure on poppy farmers because they depend on the heroin trade for sources of income. Curbing the opium trade is a war onto itself and may take a long time - decades - to destroy. Besides, the West does not help with its appetite for heroin which only drives demand up.

Therein lies the root of the issue. Most of the demands for non-involvement from the West revolves around the fact that they are an impossible people to train. That their history and hardened experiences would preclude them from becoming stable democracies and joining the table of civilized nations. It's Rousseau's noble savage in reverse.

The reality is that we are there and that the march to progress will be a long, long journey. Most of the West's experiences with this sort of stuff failed because we abandoned them as our will to see them through diminished at the most critical junctions. There remains many serious issues and problems to overcome but to leave Afghanistan at this critical junction would have far more negative implications than if we stay.

With the Taliban deliberately slowing progress, what we need is a reinvigorated effort by all nations. Thinking otherwise only demeans Canada's efforts (when was the last time Canada actually pulled its military weight?) up to this point and does a massive disservice to Afghan's. Remember, this not only Harper's war. It was the Liberals who correctly decided to send troops into Afghanistan. Even they understood the importance of the region.

I don't know if Afghanistan can prevail. We're not at the stage where we have tried everything and it's time to throw the towel in.

Let's try and finish the job (or at least fill our 2011 mandate) and do it right.


De la Concorde Quietly Opens

St-Jean Baptiste day is around the corner in Quebec. The national holiday of this province excites Quebecers (though I do not include myself in the equation for reasons best not explored here) like nothing else. Quebec flags will be flying high come June 24.

In the meantime, Transport Quebec has reopened the de la Concorde overpass. Let us rejoice on the blood of others. The whole sad episode has left me bewildered and jaded.

Among the many times I have visited France and Italy I walked, drove and crossed Roman engineering marvels. The brilliance of Rome never ceased to amaze me. Many of the infrastructures left behind remain structurally sound and functional. When was the Roman Empire exactly?

Fast forward 2 000 years and the New World with all its advantages permitted itself to fail on building something as fundamentally crucial to transportation as a bridge. It's not like the blueprint is a secret. Granted, negligence and corruption played a role. Nevertheless, if you are a crooked pig, it should not preclude you from at least ensuring a bridge is built properly.

Now the province scrambles to make sure its bridges are safe. Quebecers drive with one eye fixed on every overpass.

Quebec should always hang its head in shame for de la Concorde.

Since this post was written, a civil engineer from McGill University graded a few more of Quebec's overpasses. The news is frightening. Asked to grade them on a scale of 1 to 10 three got a 6.5 mark and one received a 3.5. The four overpasses considered were: Angrignon Blvd. Overpass on Highway 20, Ville Marie Expressway near Green Ave. (this is the one with the 3.5 mark), Nun's Island overpass, Highway 40 (Trans-Canada) at Decarie.

Unreal, unbelievable and unsafe.

Articles of Interest: Politics, Business and Education


I won't comment further on the above. It's the exact same conclusion I came to years ago and something that should be glaringly obvious to anyone who is an entrepreneur - an endangered species in Canada. That this may come as a surprise to many Canadians only points further to the reality that the private sector in Canada needs to be reinvented and reinvigorated. That may prove tough. Egalitarian Canadians and the keepers of mediocrity are strangely suspicious of success and generally like to tear down anyone who reaches a level of success that is too high.

I wonder what kind of impact the recent decision by the government to allow private clinics to continue to operate (with possibly more services to be added) will have on the future of how Canadians view business culture. The government played an iffy game when they sold public health as a core value of the Canadian identity.

Now Canadians will have to shift their values from of one of health being universal paid for by taxpayers to one where they may have to begin to budget for in their personal finances.

Either way it's welcomed refreshing turn of events.


This is what I expect of my institutions of higher learning. This is a thoughtful and enlightened idea that should be defended vigorously. Witness how difficult it is to get things of this sort done here. Recall how much I have written about everything is politicized in this province. Well, here's another example of this. College Edouard-Montpetit has 7 000 students. The class they are proposing to offer would hold 35 English-speaking students. What is the limit to nationalism and how relevant is it anymore? At what point does it become counter-productive? This article gives an indication.


We'll always have Paris

Up until now, I have resisted much in my life. I have avoided drug addiction, bad credit and crime. I have always avoided needless fights (choosing to protect my teeth instead) and altercations with police. I never got arrested for DUI. I often eluded bad defenses in soccer preying upon their exposed weaknesses and striking fear into opposing goal keepers. I have defied many a bad television program and never asked for the autograph of a celebrity. I have worked in places I hated and I always aim to offer what I can to society - Even if it means bestowing upon all my brethren this blog. This...this thing.

For this, I am conservative. And for that, I am grateful.

Several hundred blog posts and never a mention of Paris Hilton. Until this sweet marvel of a warm night. The streak is over. Cry not for me dear readers and fellow thinkers. I have cracked. If anything, take joy in my human-ness. In my vulnerabilities. I am but one mere mortal of mediocre capabilities in an inelegant verbose sea.

I could no longer escape the Hilton trash pop culture machine. So, I beg of your forgiveness that I must profess a certain need to express these thoughts and words.

I do not know much about her. Nor can I recall the last time I was in a Hilton Hotel. I digress. All I have gathered from her is what I have read in the headlines which are so terribly hard to miss. As you know, the are usually splashed across our so-called print mediums of higher information with such a ferocious force, you can be excused for taking it as real news. Much more I can not speak of. How can one learn more about such a person if there is nothing to ponder? Just a vast, empty space. I'd rather stare at Homer Simpson's brain.

I have met, dined and attended school with many Paris Hilton's - perhaps not as obscenely rich and popular but stupendously rich nonetheless. They are all the same. They are - and I do generalize - one boring mass and gigantic quilt of pointlessnesss. All the money the world can provide they attract but very little else.

She is not the only one. We know of other trivial celebrities with little accomplishments. They often get their own reality shows. Yet, why do we feel compelled to report and consume their existence and indiscretions? If we know they are insignificant, why then read about them? Or is that people are hypocrites and don't know better?

Nah. I do not blame just these broads. They are a mess and evidently could have used some wise guidance that seems utterly lacking in their lives. Heaven knows I am not defending them; they willingly chose to play a fine game with fame and they sometimes take slap in the face for it. Just trying to pretend - ah forget the verbosity. They're stupid people. Rich white trash or hick white trash; what's the bloody difference?

But editors love them. It's one thing for American newspapers to be enthralled by them, but what's the Canadian excuse? Why are our newspaper joining in on the fun? How can we not conclude that they are one step above tabloids if all they want is to sell papers? And why are they reporitng it on the front pages anyway? The social disturbance many speak of does not only come by way of the Paris Hilton's of this world. It's a two-way street. It takes two to tango in Argentina my love and the media is an all too willing participant. We as spectators pay top dollars for the crap.

The joke is not on Hilton being whisked away in tears - though it was quite amusing and disturbing at the same time. Amusing because, well, she made her bed and chose her path. Disturbing because she was completely oblivious to the ideas of accountability for her actions.

Nope. The joke, dear friends and readers, is on us. On me. I have fallen (falling?) for the bait. Cry along with me. We all take pleasure in this spectacle and that is the sad truth of our persistent decadence. It's always been this way and it will always be.

I wonder who the next Paris Hilton will be once this batch of socialite brownies burn themselves out.


The Church of Christ that Cries

Attended my niece's First Communion today. For you heathens out there (and you know who you are) it's a Roman Catholic ceremony where a person receives their first sacrament of the Eucharist. It's all very ritualistic (nihilistic to the whacked out) for a nine-year old.

It was hot. Very humid too. Church's rarely invest in central air systems to cool the place down. Gosh, I hope it's not because they want to prep us for how hot hell can get if we heinously fail in our duties as Christians. Nah. It's surely a matter of economics. Anyhow, it made for a very uncomfortable 82 minutes. More so that we had to entertain a two-year during the mass. I swear the sweat was streaming down my slender face like a guilty Cincinnati Bengals player under oath.

On this day of utmost Jesus importance, what captured my attention was not the Lord nailed to the cross hanging above us all (a standard in most Catholic churches) but the Priest and his introduction. He began asserting his clerical power by laying down some house rules. At one point, my brother-in-laws brother's wife (got all that?) looked at me and said, "I know he has to do this but he's pushing it." It did reach a certain irritating boiling point. He was the Priest Nazi - as opposed to the soup variation made famous on a certain sitcom based in New York.

"Don't do this. Don't do that. Turn your cell phones off. Do not leave the piuse to take pictures." And so on. Etc., etc.

All I could remember muttering was, "is this what it's come to?" Have we become that indifferent to certain ethical standards and social etiquette's to have to be told - heck, scolded - on how to live? We've all heard about how the loss of deference is plaguing society; that moral relativism is on a collision course with the cult of the self-entitled. There has been an erosion of basic civil manners and the Priests' forceful words may simply reflect this fact. Can't say that I blame him.

Too often I see people treat Church as just another meeting place or as a fashion catwalk. The Church has become a box filled with religious ornaments with little significance to people - A place where the sounds of chewing gum and endless gossiping whispers. An Institution of believers who do not believe enough to muster enough decency to even remove their hats. So hell -er, heaven - yeah I totally get the Priest's angle. He's trying to maintain some semblance of authority and common sense. He knows the walls of Jersusalem are cracking.

That's why people squirmed. They know better but choose to ignore their better senses. All the signals transmitted to us tell us we are free to act as we see fit. Say what we feel without proper accreditation. Feel and say what you want, dammit! There does seem to exist an aura of irresponsibility surrounding us. The universal principle has no meaning anymore.

Of course, this led to a discussion later. Some felt he was to harsh. Perhaps. I argued that if people (notably parents) can't even attempt - or pretend - to behave properly in Church imagine how they act in the secular world? Established rules of discipline have to be followed. It used to be that the home, school and Church were the best places to ensure that proper cultural socialization was maintained on a continuum. All three have lost their privileged place and status. For this we should lament.

Talk to any educator and they can tell you the pulse of our children. The picture is not as healthy as it should be.


The Overpass

They've reopened an overpass near my house. This in itself means little until one recalls the de la Concorde bridge collapse. Following the murderous collapse, Transport Quebec ordered bridges around the province to be inspected. The de la Concorde tragedy was not the first time the city of Laval witnessed in horror the third-world status of our infrastructure. A few years back the Boul. Souvenir overpass - a few kilometers from the de la Concorde - collapsed and killed I believe it was three people.

The de Blois overpass that just reopened did not collapse but it was shut down for repairs soon after de la Concorde. Clearly, there were structural problems. Count them, that's three overpasses the city of Laval and Transport Quebec failed to build properly. One can only surmise the level of corruption - still very much a part of our culture - that existed back then.

I took my daughter for a bike ride and ended up crossing the overpass. I could only shake my head in disappointment and disgust. Disappointment because I am part of a society incapable of building sound bridges. We talk of pride and other bull shit but we can't even get the basic engineering of a bridge right. They let greed get the better of them. Take the bribe for the love of a God ensure the safety of your work. Have some pride. Disgusted because people paid with their lives and there is no sense of outrage.

Then again, this is Canada - a people felled by laryngitis except but a few meaningless hockey games. Quebecers get more enraged about equalization payments, fiscal imbalances and language than they do about this sort of stuff.

The overpass was a link to my old soccer park. For a good number of years my team mates and I used the overpass to get to the park. A long time friend lived nearby. Heaven knows how many times we crossed it through the years. Easily hundreds. Perhaps thousands. It could have been any of us the racketeering could have killed.

It's amazing. We cheated death all those years?

Denmark Done in by Two Dummies

Here's the skinny: with the Viking titans of Sweden and Denmark locked in soccer trench-fare during a recent Euro qualifying match, the Danes needed a win badly.

How bad? As badly as Paris Hilton needs her mommy. They fell behind 3-0 only to fight back and tie the match at 3-3.

Then, in the 89th minute Christian Poulsen pulled one of the most non-sensical acts since Zinadine Zidane: he punched a player in the stomach in the penalty area. Sweden was awarded the penalty and seemed on their way to victory. That's when a marauding Dane jumped on the field and took a swing at the German referee. Despite being pushed back by Danish players he managed to clip the ref's neck. The game was subsequently called and the ref was more than happy to let UEFA sort this sucker out.

Of course, the temptation to make a Steve Bartman out of the drunken interloper is sinfully tempting. Indeed, everyone seems to be pointing this out. Well, not everyone. Someone is now pressing charges against Christian Poulsen - and it's not Marcus Rosenberg; the player he punched. Look for it on the People's Court.

What's going on with the Danes, eh? First, those cartoons and now this! Who said Scandinavians are without a pulse?

Jesting aside, personally, I put the blame squarely on Poulsen. Without his antics the fink does not jump on the field. Frankly, it's about time this little demented Dane gets his lick. Poulsen is Dennis Rodman, Ken Linseman and Claude Lemieux (so I exaggerate a little. Sue me) rolled into one. A player AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti once called a "coward." Poulsen is an effective and talented player but has had disciplinary problems in the past.

UEFA did make a decision and handed Sweden a 3-0 victory along with the crucial three points. For his thuggish behaviour, Poulsen has been suspended for three international matches. The Danish soccer federation should kick in a couple of their own. Maybe they can send him to the Cincinnati Bengals for disciplinarian courses?

One last thing. In 2004, Italian player Francesco Totti was suspended for duration of the Euro tournament for spitting at a player. He was lambasted in Italy for his actions and issued an immediate apology though he claimed he was provoked. At the time, no one cared. That sort of behaviour is not to be condoned. The player at the center of the controversy? Christian Poulsen.

In light of what we've seen from him since then, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility to conclude Poulsen may have provoked Totti. Nonetheless, Totti was rightly dismissed. He apologized for the embarrassment he presented Italians and served his time.

To his credit, Poulsen apologized for his recent actions. Too bad, Zidane was never able to take responsibility for his actions choosing instead to demonize - along with the French public - Marco Materazzi. Hey, Zeeenaadeen, you can take your head out of the sand (or your ass), it's safe now. The soccer world has a new bad boy.

The sad thing about all this is that Denmark is an exciting team and their presence will be missed at Euro 2008. Ironically, Poulsen's sucker punch knocked out Denmark. He and that interloper acted like a couple of, well, Danishes.


Thoughts on English Soccer; Anaheim Ducks

"Of all the dramatic things I've ever seen, Roger Clemens standing right in George Steinbrenner's box announcing he is back!" explained New York Yankees broadcaster Susyn Waldman with exaggerated exaltation once upon a time in galaxy far, far, away.

Not to be out gunned another Yankees announcer - I, spank me silly, forget his name - who claimed that Alex Rodriguez was having the " greatest month in his or anybody else's life!"

Quite presumptuous this old chap, eh? Though sometimes hilarious, it's easy to hate hyperbole.

Alas, it exists and we need to roll with it sometimes. So, that being said, I was lying on the carpet next to my mad monkey and came across another one of those slightly demented exaggerations. This one came courtesy of Jim Lang from Sportsnet - Homer Station of England Soccer.

During those between commercials sports updates (you know, the one where the relaxed sports caster rolls up his sleeves and reads from a copy book), Lang recapped England's 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifying victory over those plucky but scoreless Estonians. David Beckham - who is playing wonderful soccer- helped set up two goals with two brilliant cross passes. In Lang's mind, they were (especially the second one) the greatest passes ever. Greatest...passes....ever.

Look, it was Estonia. No disrespect to Estonia but they ain't exactly a world class defensive corps. Who writes the script anyway?

My lord. What is the matter with these people? Have they ever left their homes? In the case of Lang's comments he's not the only one. Some broadcasters or journalists talk or write as if they literally don't watch soccer. Or if they do, they only watch English soccer. Now, I realize that Sportsnet carries Premiership games - led by the fantastic Gerry Dobson/Craig Forrest duo - and that their allegiance lies somewhat with the league but the comment struck me as a tad excessive.

Since the Canadian media is having a hard time facing some cold hard facts and harsh realities of the state of English football let me help them. Listen up: It pains me to write this but England is not a first-rate soccer nation no matter what the tabloids or auto-biographies tell you. England may have a top flight league but its national side remains a basket case. Why this is so is not the point here.

England is not in the same league - technically speaking - as Italy, France, Germany, Spain (those other under achievers), Portugal, Brazil, Argentina or the Netherlands. Great individual players with decent skill but collectively there's a reason why they flop tournament after tournament despite the ridiculous and unreasonable expectations. They are a "quarter-finals" team as former England manager Terry Venables put it. Venables, incidentally, was arguably England's best manager in recent memory.

I hope to see England win a World Cup (or Euro) one day. However, they seem preoccupied with all sorts of things (like not basing their goals on results and proper elite training) that detract them from producing elite players. Until they get their act together, I suppose we should get used to people praising English victories over weaker sides. I suspect they will need far more than a couple of accurate Beckham passes to carry them through against the power sides of the world.


-Is their anything more enthralling in sports than the ceremonial ritual of presenting and hoisting the Stanley Cup?

The angelic city of Los Angeles Anaheim - whatever they're called - is now officially a championship city. With a World Series under their belt they now add another trophy to their case: the Stanley Cup. The Anaheim Ducks won their first Stanley Cup last night after defeating the impressive Ottawa Senators in five games. I picked them (see honey, it's not only my nose) to reach the finals (against Buffalo. I was half right) at the onset of the season and watched a few of their games all year - for the straightforward reason that I have Ryan Getzlaf in my keeper pool. Simply stated: they were by far among the two or three the best regular season teams and the single most consistent squad in the NHL playoffs.

They were a bruising team that wore down and ultimately slaying their opponents with pragmatic skill. With that sort of deadly combination it's enough to beat any side in any sport on any day. They were like the James Bond of hockey: calm, cool, collected and merciless. Yet, all year I kept hearing about how they were a paper tiger and each time I heard it I thought it to be odd. It's all moot now. That's Anaheim's second Stanley Cup appearance in four years and something tells me with the young core of talented players on their roster they may be a legitimate contender for the next few years - assuming of course they can keep the team together in this era of mad free agency and communistic salary caps.

Hockey fans may be bracing for a duo dynasty in the making with the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins.


Link of Interest: Military Matters


In a country like Canada where the military ranks low on the collective conscience of its citizens, sites such as these should be supported.


Link of interest: Contratimes Blog discusses Cindy Sheehan

Interesting post over at Contratimes regarding the public pain of Cindy Sheehan. Leave it to Contratimes to express it with humanistic elegance and eloquence.


Rex Murphy is the Best; Harper gets passing grade

-The Canadian Public Corporation (CBC) is often under attack for media bias. Regardless, CBC programming is actually solid as a whole. One show that deserves mention is Rex Murphy's Cross Country Checkup. Every Sunday it is easy to spend two hours listening to his radio show which covers all sorts of international and domestic issues that face Canada.

Murphy is a superb interviewer and exhibits a certain genuine interest and patience that is lacking on talk radio. More importantly, I have no idea where on the ideological scale he lies - and this is important when steering a political show. His callers are well-informed and articulate. To compliment this, they are rightfully accorded generous time to express their opinions. He engages and treats people with intellectual respect. This makes for a thoroughly enriching radio experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rex Murphy I do encourage you to take the time to learn about him.

-As a Parliament winds down why not offer a grade on the Harper minority government? In a nutshell, he gets a passing grade. He gets a scented strawberry sticker on his scrap book from me.

Far from perfect, Harper has led with competence and conviction. One may disagree with his positions but very few can argue with his leadership qualities and abilities. He has made Canada respectable again - which means countries actually listen to us politely as opposed to outright ignoring us.

With the media hard on him from the onset combined with a Conservative minority status, one has to conclude he's done a fair job. As for the Liberals, the rhetoric (all baby boomer based)coming out of the red camp remains the same and resonates little with younger generations. Mr. Dion is clearly more scholar than politician (and that's a good thing in some ways). His fellow Liberal Michael Ignatieff also comes from an academic background but he strikes me as someone fully capable to step up and act political. As for the others, NDP, Green...oh, my garlic is about to burn. Gotta go.

However, cynicism persists and Parliament continues to be pestered with plain partisanship. This, truth be told, deprives the nation of ideas and legislation that benefits the entire country.

I guess they missed the episode about "cooperation" on Sesame Street.

Current Affairs: Who gets to be God of Freedom? Certainly not the Quebec Press Council

May freedom fall at the feet of the fool. I'm not sure I know what that means but I sure like the alliteration.

It is absurd to contemplate that an organization like the QPC would exist in an apparent free society. I reject its existence on all levels. If it isn't going to play with just intentions than we must ignore it. A society that claims to be free but tolerates the Quebec Free Press is not a free society. Dare I further say it is a society that does not deserve liberty. Indeed, all the QPC does is pander to the parts of Quebec intellectualism that continues to stumble about, slave to its own peculiar stagnant ideas.

It was quite a leap of perplexing logic for the QPC to decide to single out National Post columnist Barbara Kay for an opinion she expressed. Follow the links to get what the fuss is about.




In regards to the third link - nice piece of suave sophistry. In other words, they get to staunchly defend high journalistic standards - nice job if you can get it. Who gets to set the parameters? I wonder what they think about the anti-democratic harassment antics of L'Office de la Langue Francaise?' What about the poor, second-rate journalism displayed in the Shane Doan affair?

Barbara Kay broke no journalistic laws or ethics. She stated an opinion. Imagine if te QPC had power? Think of it.

One man's protection of culture is justified racism to another. Tellingly, outfits like the QPC help to instill a form of frenzied intellectual genocide with citizens. In this place we practice Quebocracy - Quebec's interpretation of freedom and democracy.

It all wreaks of totalitarianism to me. It is, to those who truly care and are honest with history, quite clear that Quebec is not a place where true democratic ideals are born.

In fact, the above article screams despotism and the scary reality is that its author hasn't a clue. The bottom line is that Duceppe, Coderre and Boisclair exhibited horrible and classless judgment in attending the rally. Whether Barbara Kay was correct in her judgment is irrelevant to the extent that an attempt was made to muzzle her freedom to express an opinion.

For a society that claims "to remember" history it is very good at ignoring the less flattering parts. There have been ugly moments in the history of this province and it makes us feel uncomfortable when others call us out on it. Our initial reaction is to always attack and denounce rather than engage - sure signs of an immature society and one that fears the market of free ideas.

Let's return to Kay vs. the QPC. Here's the their decision on the matter:

"The Council noted throughout the chronicle of Mrs. Kay a lack of rigour in the presentation of the context surrounding the walk for peace of August 2006, which tends to encourage the reader to lend intentions to public personalities without providing concrete facts to support these intentions. On several occasions in the chronicle, the journalist deformed facts, to present only a part of the situation, aiming only at supporting her point of view that the leaders of independent Quebec would withdraw the Hezbollah of the list of the terrorist movements and that this new country would become a harbour for them. The Council points out that, if the chroniclers can denounce with strength the ideas and the actions which they reject and carry judgments with complete freedom, nothing however authorizes them to deteriorate facts to justify interpretation that they draw. Deontology of the Council Press clearly established that the media and the professionals of information must avoid cultivating or to maintain the prejudices. They must imperatively avoid using, at the place of the people or the groups, the representations or the terms which tend to raise the contempt, to run up against the dignity of a person or a category of people because of a discriminatory reason. The Council estimated that the remarks of the journalist were equivalent to an undue provocation, in addition to establishing generalizations suitable to perpetuate the prejudices rather than to dissipate them."

Er, yeah. Whatever.

Gibberish notwithstanding, I decided to check out the Quebec Press Council and read a few of their pieces. One of the first ones I stumbled across jumped out at me:


Incredible. Aside from the distasteful reasoning employed in the piece, I must profess that the QPC is well within its rights to express itself. I wish they would return the favour. In the case of Homolka, I'm all for forgiveness, compassion and second chances - when warranted. I don't think Homolka fits this at all. It's got nothing to do with damn language or about being from one province or another. It's about a heinous crime by which the offender WAS NOT repentant. I must ask, where are we Quebecers getting our news? Should outfits like the QPC be our voice, juror and conscience?

In case they've forgotten, here's what Homolka and Bernardo committed:


All told, I must side with Barbara Kay. It's a stance for freedom. We complain that the media doesn't report the real stories and we whine about how columnists rarely offer independent thought. Yet, we want to censor opinions when we disagree with it? The question of whether there are limits on free speech is fair. To debate this, however, a free, open society must lay its cards on the table. Quebec is simply not ready to partake in such a debate.

The QPC, for those interested, has William Tetley and Josee Legault on their side - not exactly pillars of liberty despite what they recite to themselves in the mirror in the morning. Not surprisingly, they have never been cited by the QPC for their own intellectual indiscretions. In the end, the QPC -and I am judging it on the the Kay issue - stands for empty, haughty intellectual hubris and they do not - hallelujah - speak for me.

If they don't like, well, let the sons of bitches come after this blog. Let freedom reign.