December 20th 2002
Last week at the NATO Conference in Prague a minor storm blew up over the latest foot-in-mouth comment amongst the many that are becoming frighteningly commonplace with members of the Canadian Government!
Françoise Ducros, who is the Prime Ministers Director of Communications, decided, during one of the “off the record” briefings, to call George Bush a Moron!
This was overheard by other reporters in the room and subsequently splashed all over the daily news.
And then television.
And then it became a minor diplomatic storm.
Personally I think the description fits old Dubya to a T, but when you happen to be a Government spokesman, sorry, spokespeople, this is not only a breach of protocol but bloody stupid as well. One of the first things you are taught in diplomatic circles is to be just that. Diplomatic!
Calling Bush a Moron in an open forum when you are representing a supposed allied nation is going beyond a mistake. It is plain stupidity. Actually it is more like plain arrogance. This comes from a member of a governing party that has become more arrogant in its attitude over the last few years. For some reason various members of the Liberal Party are extremely anti-American and make no bones about showing it.
Astonishingly, what may even have been turned into a simple faux pas, was allowed to fester and then Chretien strode to the mike and compounded the insult.
“Bush is my friend. He is not a moron” states the Head of the Canadian Government!
Lesson number two in diplomatic circles is that if you are going to screw up verbally, don't, repeat, DON'T say the same thing again!
The minute that he changed feet, the news media, who had been lukewarm up until that moment, suddenly sensed a story and went for it.
In fact Chretien did two things that, while par for the course for him, made the media even more curious.
First he refused to accept Ducros' resignation. She had put in her resignation once she realised that a firestorm was brewing. Which was in fact the correct and diplomatic thing to do.
Chretien is not one for accepting resignations from anyone around him. Especially if they are tainted by scandal. The only resignations he willingly accepts appears to be those from people who pose a threat to him.
Then he made some facetious comment about it only being a joke and that she even called him a moron.
That only confirms my contention that Ducros at least had a working knowledge of what a moron is and was speaking from experience when she made the comment.
As is his normal manner Chretien gets very tetchy if his word is not taken as gospel. This led to some interesting sessions. It also meant that the word went out to the Liberal media to begin the spin doctoring process.
Unfortunately too late.
CNN got its teeth into the story. As did a whole horde of right wing political commentators and nutbars in the United States.
The froth on the lips was evident!
Unfortunately for Chretien, Ducros and the last few blinded liberals, even the tame media asked a few questions. When The Star calls Chretien's defence of Ducros “so convoluted it invites only derision” you know the days are numbered.
Even worse was the fact that the Opposition started asking questions as well. Pointed questions.
But what probably sunk Duros the most was her own attitude.
Not over the moron question, but over the many years that she was the director of communications. Our Lady Ducros had managed to split the media into two camps. Those in her good books and those not! Those not in the good books were badmouthed, had access denied and missed out on the selectively leaked stories she dispensed.
Not too much of a problem but Lady Ducros also acted much like her Lord and Master Chretien in using and abusing people on her way up. And discarding them when there. For many former employees this was payback time.
And they relished in it!
As the uproar grew Chretien at last acted and accepted her resignation. Seven days too late but accepted it nevertheless.
Probably, and finally, because the Iraqi Government began to use the comments and the whole uproar as part of its propaganda effort. Even Chretien can see the light when it is thrust right up his nostril! Of course you may have to convince him to sit down first.
Or at least keep his own feet firmly in his mouth.
December 17th 2002
During the week we receive a free copy of the local “knock and Drop” newspaper “The Oakville Beaver”.
This comes out every Thursday and, of course, gets thicker and thicker as the end of the year gets closer and closer to Christmas. I'm not sure how many rain forests get slaughtered to supply all the flyers and catalogues that North Americans have foistered on them during the festive season but it is probably enough to have all the tree huggers frothing at their collective mouth.
Not to mention the increase in hernias among all the local school kids that have to hoist these tomes into the mailboxes.
I know that it is Christmas coming up but I still wonder sometimes what it is that make these shopkeepers think that, having ignored me and my money, for the most part of the year, I am supposedly going to rush out imbued with the Christmas Spirit and throw it all away in their stores?
Perhaps they think that the spirit I will be operating under is from the LCBO at $15 a bottle! See this weeks flyer: “Entertaining Ostentatiously Over The Festive Season - No. 6” etc.
The most insulting part of many of these flyers is the sudden addition of a “sales” tag to the price line, which tries to convince me that the same price that has been advertised for the last ten months is suddenly a “Christmas Special”!
That aside, and I really didn't want to start a rant, one of the inserts this week was for a company called “AfriKanada”.
Just by looking at the comments on the flyer I could see that this was a South African enterprise.
After all how often do get comment about “Giraffe carvings”?
Those of you who have left South Africa fairly recently will remember those damn seven foot tall wooden giraffe carvings that mysteriously sprang up overnight on every street corner hawkers beat from Cape Town to Johannesburg and every point in between.
They didn't fir into cars at the best of times and I still wonder to this day how all those tourists strolling around clutching their giraffes ever managed to get them onto the airplane and back home.
It's not that I am against them.
In fact I quite like the idea of having the odd giraffe gracing the homestead. Much better than a stiffed moose head over the fireplace anyway!
It is just that I have always stopped short of actually buying one because of the logistics involved in moving them from place to place.
Having once acted as chaperone to an overseas principal for a company that I worked for at the time, who decided that an eight foot giraffe and, oddly enough, soapstone hippopotamus, would look “neat” in his Scandinavian abode, I am aware first hand of how hard it is to wrap, box and freight these souvenirs.
The damn stone hippo was roughly the size of a baby hippo anyway and probably cost as to airfreight as the real thing would have. Mind you, we picked up the tab on that one so I guess he could go a bit wild.
Anyway my Daughter decided that that it would be a good idea to travel the highways and byways of rural Ontario to track down this company and have a look at what was on offer.
As the address was on Concession Road 6E out in Flamborough which is out nearby Guelph, talking about rural is quite accurate by the way.
The only problem we could see was that the only time my Daughter was off work was Sunday and, judging by the flyer, this was when our intended quarry also took a break.
Not deterred by this we convinced ourselves that it would be a decent outing anyway and set off for the drive.
Besides we had a side bet going that the “carved Eagle” mentioned in the flyer would turn out to be an American Bald Eagle rather than the Lammergeyer it should be. Such cynics that we are!
The nicest part of the trip was the scenery. I can only imagine what it must look like in autumn. As this area is up and over the Niagara Escarpment you enter into a more forested part of Ontario with only the small town here and there to break the hold that farmlands have on the scenery.
I am fascinated with all the old style barns in various states of disrepair that seem to be such a part of every rural area around here. Why are they left to get so run down? More importantly, where are the replacement barns? I rarely see new barns on these farms. Unless they are now placed out of site. Most probably though the miracle of modern technology has meant the ability to get the crop to the local mill son the same day has cut down on the need for a place to store the full harvest. And cut down on farmer's daughter's jokes as well I suppose.
Anyway after a pleasant meander we suddenly arrived at a prefabricated complex. One of those buildings that houses ten or twenty small businesses so beloved of Canadian town planners. A sort of strip mall for small business.
Out front was the giraffe stall. It will forever be known as this due to the flyers reference and the fact that the first “object d' art Afrique” that I saw on looking through the window was a seven foot Giraffe statue! In all it's splendour! And as my eyes became accustomed to the gloomy interior…all it's immediate family, extended family and presumably most of the nearby herds as well!
In fact Giraffes for Africa!
Amongst other things I must admit. Including, in one dark corner, a huge eagle, which I couldn't really identify, but which looked as if it would not allow either my Daughter or I to win the bet until we can get in to do a full identification. I claimed that due to the woods colour it was a Lammergeyer but the Jury is still out on that one.
Then we noticed something interesting. While the flyer hadn't mentioned any South African roots and we had merely assumed them, on the smaller carved items set on a ledge in the door was a price. In Rands!
How odd to look at a price sticker in Rands again. How sad to look at a price sticker in Rands again! Talk about inflation!
I know how much things cost back in South Africa but every so often you need a reminder.
So we popped a card for the South Africans in Ontario website under the door and drove off home down a different set of country roads with the same farms.
Arguing all the while about when and how we would be able to take another drive to see inside the store.
December 2nd 2002
So last week Canada was at last forced to face the reality of the whole terrorist war taking place out in the rest of the world.
Despite the oft-repeated statement that Canada is the peacekeeper of the world it just seems that Old Osama and his minions wouldn't listen. As a result Canada was added to the list of countries adding and abetting the Great Satan to the south of us.
Well according to the transcript of the video message broadcast on Al Jaheera Radio that is.
Mind you, and not to put too fine a point on it, I have this nagging suspicion about the neat timing of the whole affair. Rather auspicious that this video suddenly appears around about the time that Dubya is about to don his white Cowboy hat and ride off into Iraq! Not to mention his strong desire to have backing from allies and erstwhile colleagues.
Oh and Canada too!
Anyway aside from strenuous denials that this was a fake the US Intelligence community has also put out a list of targets that it feels would be open to attack if old Sammy Bin Liner decided that Canada needed to be drawn into the sphere of operations. Which he does! Strews Bob!
Before we have a good laugh at some of them let's look at that comment again.
The US intelligence community has issued a list of potential targets in Canada. This is the same group who couldn't even foresee the initial 911 attacks OK?
The same guys who are supposedly keeping an eye on things like Bali and other areas of terrorist activity! The same guys who need to hire interpreters to tell them what is on the damn Al Jaheera tape as none of their operatives apparently speaks Arabic!
Ah yes. The fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism has certainly seen a downward spiral in the whole spy game.
Which is probably why the targets chosen by the US spooks appear to have been culled from a travel agents brochure, or, more likely, an online website dedicated to Canadian attractions.
I'm actually not to sure whether some Canadian in the Tourist Bureau wasn't asked for a list of Canada's best attractions which were duly used by the agents to the south of us.
I mean, The Calgary Stampede???
I can hardly see terrorists wanting to use the stampede as a staging ground for some earth shattering action.
PETA maybe. Who no doubt would be out in force to protest the rather disgusting habit of consuming prairie oysters. Besides I think that the people most likely to take exception to the Calgary Stampede would be the Hindus who as far as I can remember haven't indulged in acts of terror yet.
Of course the most interesting part of the list is that more than half of the targets are in Ontario. Now we all know that the majority of immigrants and refugee claimants wind up living in Ontario. OK. Living in Toronto actually. So I wonder whether this wasn't in the back of the mind of the person drawing up the list?
“So all those undesirable immigrants live in the GTA? Then they will definitely attack targets in Ontario”
Which is at least a different approach to the one that Canada harbours these criminals and only allows them to commit their foul deeds in America.
Whoever had a hand in this list likes large gatherings of people in confined spaces. Not only is the Calgary Stampede in the list but the local CNE as well. The Canadian National Exhibition is a sort of Rand Easter Show on steroids. There are plenty of people around who would not only applaud its destruction but quite happily lend a hand. The main problem behind this event being a target is that Toronto has huge immigrant groups from Muslim countries most of whom appear to man the stands at the CNE. Those that aren't, appear to be acting as one extended family reunion outside around the food stalls instead! I somehow get the impression that killing the local Muslims wouldn't get quite the intended reception.
In the light of targeting areas where people gather, and where many Canadians would be more than happy to lend a hand we then have the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. My suspicion about this one is that it was added to the list because that is the one target the Americans would love to have a go at bombing! Given the strident anti-Americanism that flows from the Liberal Party it doesn't surprise this was on the list. I bet whoever drew up the list made big marks against the Parliament Buildings and then sent it off to Sammy with the helpful notation that this was “the' target! Unfortunately a vast majority of the Canadians agree and so once again the effect would be nullified.
Of course the CN Tower, Toronto's phallic symbol is on the list. But we put that down to the classic American penis envy that is invoked whenever they discover that they aren't the biggest, best, or in this case, tallest in the world.
Included in the Toronto list were the Toronto Island Ferry and the Royal Ontario Museum. I think that the ferry is on the list because of all the people who use it to get out to Hanlon's Point to use the nudist beach there. Can't have the perverts being left out of the lesson learning. But what the heck the ROM is on the list for baffles me.
Not content with looking at Canadian events and buildings where large percentages of the local population gather the list also includes the Peace Bridge in Niagara. Probably the only target that does make a bit of sense from both the name and visibility effect. Considering the millions of Japanese tourists who clutter up the place at the best of times at least you could be sure of a million instant camera's poised to record the event for posterity.
Personally if I wanted to create havoc in Canada I would take out one of the hockey stadiums. When the scores are tied and one side is in a scoring position! That would have an effect all right. Mind you probably an extremely negative one. It might actually make the Canadians annoyed for a change.
The most telling point of this whole affair though was reaction of the Government on learning about the Al Qaida threats.
As in there was none. Our highly esteemed Prime Oink was on holiday in Florida again. His Deputy told Canadians not to worry. This from a person with RCMP security!
You know Ottawa is starting to look like a very good option as a target!