Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bush In Canada

The following is the Yahoo! News description of President Bush's visit to Canada.


OTTAWA (CP) - Two days of friendly banter couldn't bridge the chasm separating George W. Bush and Paul Martin in style, substance and worldview. The personal rapport between the folksy, conservative Texan president and the blue-stocking, Liberal prime minister failed to erase obvious differences - notably on the war in Iraq. They used their own distinctive people skills to thaw out the chill between the Canadian and American administrations from the invasion of Iraq. And it might have worked, to a point.

"Paul Martin is a leader who is asserting Canada's good influence in the world," Bush said in a Halifax speech in one salvo of the charm offensive he unleashed this week. "As I prepare for a second term in office I look forward to a successful working partnership between our two countries." Martin was far more stingy in heaping praise, and that may speak volumes about the challenge he faces.

With his Liberal minority government on guard for an election at any moment, Martin is seeking an improved relationship with the U.S. without being seen as too cozy with a president none too popular with Canadians. The U.S. missile-defence shield is a perfect example of an initiative Martin might eagerly endorse - he has expressed support for it in the past - were it not for domestic political fears. His cautious feelings toward Bush's policies were evident Wednesday at a gathering of Halifax's business, legal, and political elite.

The warm standing ovation that greeted Bush on his way into what had been billed as a feel-good event turned to stony silence once the president began talking about actual policy. Bush exhorted Canada to fan out with him in the fight against terror, exporting it abroad and punishing terrorist-friendly states, blocking regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction while also joining his missile shield.

He paused for emphasis while delivering a handful of lines scheduled to draw applause, but quickly moved on when most landed with a thud. "There's only one way to deal with enemies who plot in secret and set out to murder the innocent and the unsuspecting: we must take the fight to them," he said, pausing. "We must be relentless and we must be steadfast in our duty to protect our people. Both of our countries have learned this lesson."

That lesson was the Second World War, and Bush lauded former prime minister Mackenzie King for sending Canadian troops even though Canada hadn't been attacked. If that carefully crafted message was designed to draw Canada deeper militarily into initiatives like Iraq, Martin wasn't buying it and he said as much. The prime minister twice pointed out during a news conference that the enemy King feared - European fascists - were nothing like the terrorists of today. "Terrorism is a global threat that's very, very different from the situation we were facing in the Second World War - which is what Mackenzie King was referring to," Martin said.

He also brushed aside Bush's references to military escalation and argued that both agreed Canada's role in the war on terror should be building democracy in failing states. "Essentially what we're talking about is the spread of democracy - and the spread of democracy takes places through elections," he said. "Which is why taking the battle outside of our borders really is the election in the Middle East, it is the election in Iraq and it is the election in Ukraine."

Friendly rapport between Bush and Martin will also go only so far in solving the longstanding trade disputes between their countries. Both agreed their officials should search for an improved dispute-resolution mechanism under NAFTA that avoids the endless string of litigation and negotiation that have hammered the Canadian cattle and lumber industries. Bush reiterated his hope that the border would open soon to Canadian cattle, but his administration was far less committal about Congress-imposed tariffs on softwood lumber. "The softwood lumber issue is one of these eternal issues in the U.S.-Canada relationship," said one White House official.

Canadians and Americans have been growing apart for years now. The issues that we disagree about seem to edge wider year by year. Note the issues that were not even discussed by Bush and Martin publicly. Prescription drugs, and the increasing practice of Americans buying them in Canada because they are cheaper. Marijuana, which Canada has been contemplating decrimalizing or even making legal. The death penalty, Canada is like most of the free world and doesn't have it while America is among the rare countries in the world that does allow it. The Kyoto Treaty, Canada signed on, America refuses.

The difference between the countries is that Canada is willing to advance on issues as most of the free world does and America tends to "go it alone" and essentially defy the world on so many issues. Canada wants to "get along" and be an equal partner in the free world. America wants to dominate the world. Candians have come to dislike American imperialism and self-absorption as much as most countries in the world.

Not to mention that Bush is just flatly wrong in how he sees things and this reflects on all us Americans. As Paul Martin can clearly distinguish but apparently Bush can't, terrorism is not World War II. Bush has done this before trying to equate the two and Martin clearly explains WWII was about stopping fascism. Someday maybe Americans will understand that there is a touch of fascism in the Bush gang. Just as fascist leaders made their people fear enemies to hold and gain power and to wage war, the Bushies have been using the fear card as well.

Although we might not know the true reason why Canada didn't support the Iraq War (as so many nations didn't support) but I wonder if they saw a bit of fascism or imperialism in the Bush ideology.

Blogger Writing Block

It seems lately I've been suffering from an affliction that anyone that puts pen to paper, fingers to keyboard can suffer from on occassion, writers block.

It's not that I can't think of something to say, I just don't feel very inspired to say it. There are always subjects out there to comment about, but sometimes it doesn't feel as if those subjects are all that important. Writers block must have something to do with the connection of emotion to rational thinking.

In my case it may be affected by my daily grind of my occupation. We all at times get wrapped up in our own destiny, this is natural as the world doesn't cease to revolve while we focus on what is vital to our own personal existence. Most of the time I can seperate my daily grind from the turning of the world, but lately I have been ignoring the world's revolution knowing in the back of my mind that it will continue.

Part of this personal shift in focus has to do with the recent Thanksgiving and the time off from the job that came with it. A few days of relaxation shifts my attention away from the job and then the subsequent return to work can seem a bit depressing. If only I was rich, I could concentrate on leisure or causes that have more of a emotional return.

Another part of the shift of focus is knowing that Christmas is approaching fast. I've long had this strange relationship with the end of the year holiday season. I've never been able to accurately describe my wishy-washy Christmas cheer. Part of it is the fact I'm both anti-traditionalist and traditionalist. I at times want to upset the tradition applecart but at other times find comfort in some traditions. For instance, outdoor Christmas lights I would basically be in favor of banning them, an indoor fake Christmas tree seems after all these years a relieving requirement. There is no real logic to this, just my strange feelings.

The Christmas season has increasingly over the years become over-commercialized and this aspect has increasingly affected me toward this season. I know for instance that American society has come to rely on that commercialism, many businesses depend on the sales at this time of year to even exist. How many of us work for companies that have a big stake in the 12 sales of Christmas? Whether we work for a retailing company at the end point of sales or a wholesale industry in the middle point or a manufactoring/supply business at the beginning point, it all points to Christmas. To paraphrase, if we build a capitalist Christmas, they will come shop. And that is what we've done here in America, and the true meaning of Christmas is shop till you drop.

In the Detroit area we have a radio station that plays Christmas music 24/7 starting before Thanksgiving. I know that deep down they do this for the bottom line rather than any sense of joy to the world. They broadcast with no DJ (and no DJ salaries), it's all on DVD including the commercials. It's Christmas mall music or elevator music for the Christmas soul, but I start feeling hypnotized by the station like some subliminal message is being broadcast, "go buy something, spend money, go to a store, shop, shop, shop..." You can bet I don't listen to this station voluntarily.

I could offer many more examples of this strange exploitation of Jesus in America at this time of year, but suffice to say that it hardly feels like something to look forward to. Oh, I enjoy the actual day of Christmas and a family get-together and a song or two will lift my spirits, but the onslaught of commercials pressuring me into shopping at this point makes me feel more like running screaming into the night. In other words, it's not Christmas depression I suffer from, but the Christmas commercialization blues that gets to me.

Oh, I've got to go to a store, (da, DA, da, duh)
That's what the ads tell me to do, (da, DA, da, duh)
keep buying and buy some more, (da, DA, da, duh)
'cause I've got those Christmas shoppin' blues.

And apparently I've worked through my blogger writing block, at least for now.