Wednesday Night #1280

13 September 2006
As we began to write this week’s invitation we could not help a slight tremor – what would the fifth anniversary of 9/11 bring? As it turned out, -nothing-, but our collective psyche has been damaged as the dreaded, unidentified threat remains, and our foreboding increased by the Time europe’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party of France
aljazeera’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>Coca-Cola has opened a $25m bottling plant in Kabul
a’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>Hewlett Packard and its Chair are in trouble over its investigation of leaks of corporate information’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>Japan’s economic prospects appear to be improving , doubtless attributable to the birth of the male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne.

The Report

Conspiracy Theories
Elvis Presley has not been reported to have been spotted for some time; even as the autumn harvest proceeds, there have not been reports of crop circles or sightings of space ships hovering over the earth and the aliens travelling therein holding earthlings for examination and then releasing them. Did the United States deliberately hold back advance knowledge of the Pearl Harbour attack in order to justify joining the allies in World War II? Did the 9/11 attacks actually occur or were the destruction of the World Trade Centre, the attack on the Pentagon and the foiled attack on Congress staged by government for some nefarious purpose? Why are many people inclined to believe conspiracy theories over more rational, documented reporting?
Certainly there has been some evidence of government cover-ups in some instances, and the rivalry between F.B.I. agents, many of whom have been the successful offspring of Irish immigrant policemen and the elite Eastern Seaboard Ivy League class-distinctive members of the C.I.A., have led to large gaps in communication not only in the Kennedy era, but most recently in the months leading up to 9/11. Still, this does not explain the irrational hypotheses presented and accepted by so many otherwise reasonable people.

[Editor’s note: perhaps as the public becomes more aware of the dubious information on which the Iraq was launched and has been waged, there is some sympathy for the readiness of many to believe the conspiracy theories?]

Gun control and shootings at Dawson College
We in Québec and more particularly in Montreal, take great pride in the civility of our population and in contrast to large U.S. cities, walk around at night in our downtown area or in the seedy St-Laurent – Ste. Catherine sector without fear of threat or assault. It is this warranted image of personal security and friendliness that attracts so many tourists to our city and is a justified source of comfort to Montrealers, which may possibly explain the strong support for gun control by Quebeckers and their shock at the recent events at Dawson College.
Of all the instruments of homicide, only guns are designed with the sole purpose of killing. It is physically and psychologically much more difficult to kill a person while touching them or standing close to them than to fire at them from a few feet or from a distance. While in the U.S. the federal Constitution accords the right of citizens to own guns, gun registration is the domain of the individual state and there are as many guns owned by individuals in the United States as there are residents of that country. Some suggest that Canada’s major problem lies less in gun registration than in the need to prevent smuggling of guns across the Canada – U.S. border. In this province the memory of the killing at l’École Polytechnique is very vivid, and there does seem to be some evidence that deaths among women have declined since that incident. Policemen are generally in favour of gun control legislation. But this all begs the question of how to deal with the (now) obviously unstable perpetrator of the Dawson shootings, who apparently had no trouble legally purchasing all three semi-automatic weapons within the framework of the gun registry. And for what purpose would anyone private citizen need semi-automatic weapons?

The political outlook in Canada
Inexplicably, many in this province who supported Stephen Harper because they believed that his pre-election statements represented the direction that he would take the country, now appeared astonished that once in office, he has brought us closer to the U.S. in keeping with his pre-election agenda. This has lost him much support in Québec, critical for his possible re-election to head a majority government.

[A further complication arises from the Dawson shootings: Jean Charest wants to focus the debate on the national gun registry, a program that Harper and the Conservatives have long resisted, and that Charest has now vowed to defend].

This makes the Liberal leadership race all the more interesting. Three credible candidates remain in the contest for leadership, namely Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion, each with strengths and weaknesses.

At first glance, Stéphane Dion should be the most viable candidate, brilliant, charismatic, fluent in both languages, and experienced in the politics of holding a cabinet post. However, he has become extremely unpopular in his own province, which currently holds the balance of power in any federal election.
Bob Rae has had the political experience, but in addition to being a recent reborn (or perhaps born for the first time) Liberal, he brings with him the additional baggage of a less-than-heroic record of fiscal management in Ontario.
By all measures Michael Ignatieff should logically be the front-runner. Extremely articulate, intelligent, frank, open and intelligent, his only real problem is his lack of experience in government. Government, especially at the provincial and federal level, is a business of humungous size and complexity. Without having served an apprenticeship, the unwritten rules and subtle human interdependencies risk transcending intelligent thinking or honest goodwill. Not having served that apprenticeship and learned from it, one is especially dependent on rivals, advisors and civil servants whose own ambitions are to be the major actors in running the government to the detriment of unsuspecting elected officials whom they feign to help. It is believed that it was this culture that led to the downfall of Paul Martin. If Mr. Ignatieff is to succeed he must learn to distinguish between what is true and what is politic.

Bilingual if necessary but not necessarily bilingualism?
Common wisdom has it that the only credible candidates for national leadership must be fluently bilingual. But, some ask if linguistic ability is the criterion by which we should select a national leader? Are there not more important criteria?
On the surface, it would appear that Canadians could be deprived of the contributions of many talented unilingual potential candidates with much to offer. However others share the view of one Wednesday Nighter who commented, “the essence of leadership is not to dictate but to inspire. To inspire people in Canada you have to speak two languages, especially on television. You need [a leader] who is brilliant but who is able to inspire people with that brilliance”.
Certainly, simultaneous translation has been used extensively, but the ability to express oneself and the ability to communicate may be virtually unrelated. Ronald Reagan’s reputation as the Great Communicator was not universally believed to translate into the Great Legislator.

3 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1280"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson July 21, 2007 at 10:52 am ·

    Journalistic integrity not what it used to be; reality is not interesting enough so media have to dress it up to make it entertaining.

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson July 21, 2007 at 10:54 am ·

    Most killings are between people who know each other and at a distance rather than close up. Therefore, a lot of support for gun control was for hand gun control because they can be secreted and can kill at a distance. That is the seduction of guns.

  3. Diana Thébaud Nicholson July 21, 2007 at 10:55 am ·

    Political reality tells us that if there were not the threat of separation, fluency in both official languages would not be an issue.

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