Cabinet is the weakest link in Liberal government

By David Krayden

With all those romantic harvest moons on the autumn horizon, sick check what a pity to see the love affair between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and much of the national media begin to cool along with those nippy fall evenings.  Well, no honeymoon endures forever; though this one has probably set a political record of sorts, lasting for the first 11 months of Trudeau being prime minster and at least that length of time when he languished in opposition.

What are the signs of growing discontent?  It begins with a few unhappy murmurs from some nationally syndicated columnists who ordinarily trumpet their ecstatic concurrence with the Trudeau government. Why there was even a suggestion this week that Trudeau has been rather vague about his agenda for the next three years.  Besides declaring war on climate change, promising to legalize recreational marijuana use and ensuring that he will never embarrass Canadian sensibilities in the fashion magazines, Trudeau has been decidedly short of legislative goals.

Mind you, ever-loyal CBC has been reluctant to join the chorus. Even after Trudeau’s somewhat enigmatic speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, in which the anxiety-obsessed PM sounded more like a marriage counselor than a world leader, the state broadcaster suggested he brought a “Canadian moment” to the world stage.  Perhaps they would also classify the perennial scene in a slapstick movie, when the protagonist slips on a banana peel and falls on his behind, as another Canadian moment.

But I am going to surprise you all and suggest that the weakest in the Liberal government is not Trudeau but the rickety team that surrounds him.  Though it is politically incorrect to call it a quota cabinet, that is exactly what it is:  a government body that was selected by a rigorous adherence to gender politics.

It is not just that this collection of faces is composed of the good, the bad and the indifferent.  It is the growing sense that there is little substance and precarious frailty in this conglomeration of “talent.” There is a growing portent in the political naïveté of some ministers, most notably Ottawa’s own environment czar, McKenna, who demonstrated such raw political ineptitude when she procured glamour photography at taxpayer expense. The latest admission, that Maryam Monsef, the minister for democratic institutions, somehow didn’t know that was born in Iran and not Afghanistan is an error to be made (and perhaps overlooked) by a sorority applicant, not a member of a government cabinet.

Quite frankly, even an experienced minister like Stephane Dion in foreign affairs appears as indecisive and ill-equipped for the task as he did when the Conservative Party propaganda machine was working overtime to characterize him as wimp incarnate.  He has managed to appear as minster-without-principles for his efforts to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and his buddy-buddy diplomacy with China.

Harjit Sajjan, who should know his file from personal experience, increasingly appears to be treading water at national defence because he is receiving little or no direction from Trudeau aside from a broad policy suggestion to promote peacekeeping, ignore major capital acquisition projects and talk diversity: unfortunately it’s do-nothing, get-nowhere agenda is one that is perfectly in tune with Trudeau’s contempt for, and ignorance of, defence issues.

But back to McKenna.  As the minister responsible for the looming carbon tax, she is perhaps the cabinet member closest to Trudeau’s heart in fighting the purported climate change war that this government is earnestly committed to “winning,” as if that objective is anything but a ludicrous legal fiction.

Her enthusiasm, on behalf of a government that is committed to penalizing Canadians for using the only viable sources of energy available to them for heating their homes and running their cars, might well continue to drag economic growth and usher in a recession fueled (excuse the pun) by environmental taxes.

 The fall session should prove to be both contentious and inspiring for the official opposition Conservatives, if they can decide what their party is there to oppose.

©2016

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Don’t mess with the Chateau Laurier

By David Krayden

So the Chateau Laurier wants to expand – or is that transmute – its horizons?  The notion of pasting two boxes to the East and West wings of this historic landmark represents both an architectural and historical travesty.  What’s next, approved a little bit of Bauhaus simplicity attached to the Gothic complexity of the House of Commons?

Long before this resplendent downtown Ottawa was owned by multinational Fairmont, it was the national centerpiece of the Canadian National and then the Canadian Pacific Railway’s chain of luxury accommodation.  The hotels followed the national rail all the way to the western port of Vancouver and even jumped the Juan de Fuca straight to Victoria, B.C., where the opulent Empress Hotel still sits on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Named after the prime minister who declared the “twentieth century belongs to Canada,” the Chateau Laurier was literally across the street from the old Ottawa train station (today the Ottawa Congress Centre) when people possessed the sagacity to put such things downtown and not in the suburbs.  You can actually view this close proximity in the Second World War film Captains of the Clouds, a James Cagney-starring vehicle about the Royal Canadian Air Force that was filmed, at least in part, here in Ottawa.

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett lived there while he ran a Conservative government during the depths of the Great Depression.  Each day he would take the short jaunt from the hotel to Parliament Hill.  In a story that may not be as apocryphal as some have suggested, Bennett was said to be frequently seen talking to himself while walking to and fro and some quipped that it was just the prime minister in the midst of a cabinet meeting.

Famed photographer Yousuf Karsh also resided there and took one of his more celebrated photos in the lobby – the one that magically captures a joyous moment of a mildly annoyed Winston Churchill.  Karsh had just removed the great man’s cigar before taking the picture and the British prime minister is registering his saturnine disapproval.

Yes, the Chateau Laurier is not just a hotel; it is a portal to history.  Walk through its dimly hit stone hallways and you are, for a brief and exhilarating moment, experiencing the past.

Do we really want to sully that experience by tarnishing the building’s appearance – by insisting that a shining example of yesterday’s good taste be compromised by ill-conceived expansion?  The owners may well think they are padding their bottom line by increasing their first-class capacity, but they may well be shrinking the overall value of their product.

There is a larger lesson here and it is the current infatuation with modernity swallowing up the past.  We may not always agree with our history, the policies and prejudices that defined it or the manners and etiquette that ennobled it – but it is a reality nonetheless that the people, the ideas and yes, the structures, did exist and were as real to their time as the reality that we experience in the present.

By diminishing the aesthetic appeal of the Chateau Laurier we are not merely devaluing a highly prized architectural triumph – though that is a grave enough consequence – we are, in a very real way, denigrating our history and repudiating the possibility that our ancestors might teach anything to this supercilious and dismissive generation of the present.

Ottawa, which is both a citadel of democratic freedom and temple of Canadian heritage, can and should do much better.

©2016

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14 September 2016

MacKay’s exit means a wide-open race

By David Krayden

With his announcement this week that he will not contest the leadership of the Conservative Party, veteran cabinet minister Peter MacKay has blown the race wide open and reconfigured the political odds on who will replace interim leader Rona Ambrose.

I got to know MacKay through the House of Commons justice committee, where, as a justice critic, he represented the fifth party Progressive Conservatives at the time.  I was a researcher for the Canadian Alliance and our Members sat next to the lone PC MP, MacKay.  I struck up a conversation with MacKay one morning about the divided political right and told him that his conservatism resembled more the Reform Party grassroots than the effete Red Tory mumblings of his leader Joe Clark.  MacKay gave me a half-smile, nodded and said, “Well, I’ll think we’ll all be on the same team very soon.”

And we were.  Maybe not the following week but within a couple of years MacKay had replaced Clark and swiftly moved the party towards merger with the Canadian Alliance.

During Stephen Harper’s stranglehold on the new Conservative Party, through opposition and government, MacKay was unfailingly loyal.  He was a good foreign affairs minister, but arguably, a great defence minister.  The rank and file loved him because he spent time with the troops, talked to them, asked them what their concerns were.  Did he ever use military aircraft for personal business?  I know he never made a habit out of it.  But whenever you get a minister on board with the Air Force, seeing their equipment in action and watching military personnel do their jobs, it’s good for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Throughout these years, there was always a MacKay contingent of loyalists, patiently biding their time, earnestly convinced that their man was the better leader and dead certain that the dream would be fulfilled when Harper gracefully stepped down and passed the torch to MacKay.

But this week he declined it.   That leaves the party without a clear front-runner.  Former minister fix-it, Jason Kenney, could have been estimating his margin of victory right now if he had not made the colossal and grievous error of heading to Alberta politics, where neither of the conservative parties want him or are in any way moved by his insistence that he has been anointed to unite the provincial right.

That leaves a wide open federal leadership field that could soon resemble the 16-member committee that recently vied for the Republican Party presidential nomination in the U.S., until Donald Trump upended his opponents and eventually steamrolled over Ted Cruz.

It also means that Kellie Leitch – of Canadian values fame – is now in first place, as a new poll has her in second place, after the presumed candidacy of MacKay.

You could look at this current line-up with a sense of remorse and good measure of cynicism.  You might suggest that we have a leadership contest composed of also-rans bringing no particular distinction to the race.  You might further observe that the presumptive heirs don’t care to battle for the leadership prize because the Conservatives are in opposition and could well be there for – God forbid – two terms of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But for a conservative for whom the glass if always half-full, I think this might be an opportunity, as this leadership race unfolds, for the party grassroots to actually reclaim their party and insist that the leadership reflect an ideology that is at least nominally conservative.  To Hades and back with the political pundits who claim Kellie Leitch is splitting the party with her admirable pursuit of both defining and cherishing our Canadian values.  Every leadership race splits a party to some degree – and every new leader must bring it back together again.

As much as I lament the departure of MacKay, let’s make the most of this opportunity.

@DavidKrayden

©2016

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What would Bill Buckley do?

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By David Krayden

What would Bill Buckley do?

I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.

William F. Buckley, Jr.

William F. Buckley, Jr., dean of American conservatism, was so rightfully distrustful of the nattering nitwits of academia that he often sounded like a populist, as the above quotation testifies.  So is Buckley’s most visible legacy — National Review — accurately reflecting his often complex approach to the conservative bottom line?  Presumptive Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has lived in the magazine’s cross-hairs since the iconic conservative magazine decided that the New York billionaire was a dangerous populist and unworthy of leading the GOP.  They have mounted an assiduous attack on Trump’s words, personality, policy inconsistencies, political caprices and core followers.  When Trump won the Indiana primary this week and that much-vaunted Republican establishment began to hesitantly fall into qualified support for his candidacy, the true believers at National Review quickly mounted a defiant campaign of non-capitulation, declaring the end of the Republican Party as we know it and the beginning of a terrible new political order led by angry racists, half-wits and disgruntled factory workers.

So what would the National Review’s fabled founder think of all this?

I have to make one thing absolutely certain at this point.  I absolutely adored Buckley.  As a Canadian conservative growing up in a country that was stridently committed to the welfare state and the seeming unalterable status quo of the government interfering in our lives, Buckley provided my intellectual foundation for opposing the hegemonic liberal discourse; for becoming a thinking conservative.  I never missed Firing Line, was a National Review subscriber at 13 and read everything — non-fiction and fiction — that Buckley wrote.  I even had the book on sailing.  I relished watching Buckley tie a liberal in knots through the sheer intelligence of his arguments and effulgence of his words.  Yet I also admired the way that he could conduct a civilized discourse with an opponent, creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding while actually educating the viewer on salient policy issues of the day.

He would be shocked to see how far our current political discourse — or lack of it — has degenerated into another hackneyed reality show.

But I think that is why he would support Donald Trump.  Our political system has become so overborne by talking points and nonsense and American society itself so stuffed full of entitlements and so perilously close to careening off the fiscal cliff –for good this time — that only someone with the bull-headed determination to make America work again will do right now.

It’s true that Trump is not strictly conservative on trade but what is “conservative” on trade these days when the U.S. doesn’t so much exchange goods anymore as piling up trade deficits.  (I would remind you, as a friend to the North, that free trade between Canada and the U.S. has been a truly reciprocal and mutually-beneficial agreement).  You would be right to say that Trump’s America First foreign policy has not been one that conservatives have adopted since Dwight Eisenhower defeated the isolationist Sen. Robert Taft for the Republican nomination in 1952, but it was a conservative position prior to the Second World War and, in the real world of 2016, it could well be one again.

And Buckley was always able to see beyond the ideological curves on the road of history.  That’s why he was virtually alone among conservative intellectuals to appreciate Ronald Reagan.  Buckley did not view Reagan as “that actor” as most of the Republican intelligentsia did; nor did he dismiss the two-term California governor as too shallow, too opportunistic or too prone to attract crackpots.  Buckley saw the transcendent greatness in Reagan before the man in the street even identified it.  Buckley recognized a singular talent to distill broad philosophical positions into comprehensible lessons from life and to say these things with a style and sense of history that went way beyond acting or performing.  Reagan was always believable because he always believed what he was saying.

So I don’t think we have the time to find a perfect conservative right now.  The Republican Party is dangerously closes to becoming irrelevant as the Democrats have spiked their own voter base with friendly immigration and more home-grown Americans simply refuse to work and hold out their hands for the freebie entitlements that Obama has secured for them.  Trump has actually been building the Republican Party not shrinking it.  And he has been doing this by telling blue-color workers that he understands their unemployment pain.  He is probably the first politician in half a century who has not either pandered to or had a visceral dread of the national media.  He challenges, interrupts and ignores reporters who are accustomed to running over politicians.

But I’ll tell you where Trump got me and what would have impressed Buckley as well.  After he won a string of primaries on the East Coast, Trump railed against Obama for placing a higher priority on the “war on climate change” than the war on ISIS.  “Give me a break,” he said, as I shouted “Amen!”

So if only National Review could also give us all a break from its toxic fear-mongering.

It has only become a surrogate for a Hillary Clinton presidency and that my friends would be a phenomenon that would not give any of us a break.

© 2016

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29 April 2016

Trump it or lump it

By David Krayden

It’s Donald Trump.  Can Ted Cruz please stop pretending that he’s the Republican presidential candidate with just under 1000 delegates instead of the one with barely 500?

His stunt this week with naming a vice-presidential candidate has got be the the nadir of a primary season already replete with moments of absurdity, long pauses of the bizarre and constant stabs of madness.  Here is Cruz, perhaps the most unpopular senator of his generation, desperately trying to feign some level of likability.  So he tags Carly Fiorina, supposedly another principled conservative just like Cruz — who used to be known as a RINO from California, sort of a Ariana Huffington in reverse.

I agree with just about everything Cruz says, policy-wise, but I am already weary of hearing his wooden delivery, laden with pregnant pauses and faux dramatic moments.  He talks like an actor doing a parody of Ted Cruz or some sort of latter-day Foghorn Leghorn.  He can’t even get his partnership alliance with John Kasich worked out:  one day it’s the grand alliance and the next Kasich can’t even remember making a deal.  I’ve got to say one thing for him:  he’s a first-rate communications spinner as he continues to fantasize about wining the nomination, reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s propaganda minister “Baghdad Bob,” who was still insisting Iraqi victory was just around the corner even as U.S. tanks took the capital.  “Donald’s not going to get to 1,237 (delegates); I’m not going to get to 1,237…”  Yeah, you got that last half right anyway, Ted.

When  former House Speaker John Boehner called Cruz the embodiment of Lucifer and a “miserable SOB” Cruz claimed he barely knew Boehner and might have shared 50 words with him.  Accurate or not, that’s quite an admission that Cruz was not exactly liaising with the Republican leadership.

So when Cruz loses Indiana, will he pick his cabinet?  Why not; he’s already waste-high in the sea of absurdity.  Of course his sometimes ally Kasich is still insistent that he’s going to win this nomination too, even though he hasn’t won a state since his own Ohio and he didn’t win anything leading up to that.  He keeps citing polls that have him “beating Hillary” but you have to wonder if the people responding to the pollster even knows who in Hades this John Kasich is.  Mind you if polls taken in April before a November election mean anything, Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale would have beaten Ronald Reagan.

So it’s Trump it or lump it.  He’s going to win and he deserves to.  He’s grown the Republican Party.  He’s talked to American’s truly disenfranchised:  not the spoiled brats looking for free tuition but the working stiffs who feel like they never get ahead.  Trump has dared to be different and God knows the same old same old just isn’t working anymore.  Whether you’re talking the last eight years of the Obamanation or a Republican Congress that stared as debt skyrocketed, the status quo simply isn’t relevant, clearly won’t suffice, obviously isn’t an option.

As I watch the protests in Burlingame, CA, where the anti-Trump crew behaves with brutal and disgraceful behaviour, I wonder what has happened to America.  These kids really don’t know what they are protesting, except that they don’t want to have jobs and lead normal lives so they have to pass the time in some manner, so they do this.

America needs a purpose again and perhaps Trump can remind its citizens that their nation’s greatness never flowed from government but from the glorious achievements of the individual.

 

©2016

29 March 2016

History Channel does it again!

By David Krayden

Do the folks managing the History Channel have any intention of producing or broadcasting material that relates to real history or have they lost all memory or any comprehension of their mandate to do so?  When not pretending that reality shows are a good substitute for a legitimate historical narrative, the History Channel is replete with outrageous conspiracy shows that entertain outlandish and completely unsubstantiated notions and sometimes defy not just logic but the imagination.  These productions showcase half-baked theories that are insecurely based on speculation, shallowly rooted in conjecture and hanging by a thread of suspicion.  So much is hanging on what “could be,” or who “may have” that the argument is stretched like a piece of Silly Putty that merely snaps due to its inherent weakness.

If Hunting Hitler did not sufficiently heighten one’s sense of disdain for what passes for history these days, Pirate Treasure of the Knight’s Templar will positively have you shaking your head in complete disbelief that so many ill-digested conclusions could be jammed into one exercise like this.  I don’t know how many times the narrator tells us that the case is going to be “blown wide open” when a familiar Masonic symbol is discovered on a tombstone or that history will be “rewritten” because some shipwreck is discovered but I lost count.  The story of some alleged connection between Masons, pirates and Knights Templar takes six episodes to tell but they probably could have done it in one — there is so much repetition of the story line at the start of installment.  I won’t get into too much detail but one of the show’s greatest discoveries is allegedly a 50 kg silver bar that is purported a part of the illusive yet ubiquitous treasure of Captain Kidd — that UNESCO investigators revealed to be a chunk of lead used as ballast.  I could go on but blogger Jason Calavito has already produced an excellent critique that really says it all:  http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-pirate-treasure-of-the-knights-templar-s01e01-and-s01e02.  (Jason, I don’t know you and have never before run across your internet site, but great job!  While my wife Janet and I were watching Pirate Treasure over the Easter weekend, I kept saying, “What rubbish!” or words to that affect, but she wouldn’t believe me until she saw your site.)

Television has always run television shows like this – that offer conspiracy theories of history or delve into the unexplained mysteries that might have been rendered by unseen forces or unfamiliar personalities.  One remembers In Search of, for instance, which one week would examine the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and the following the arcane figures of Easter Island.  However, this kind of programming was the exception to the rule and did not define historical programming.  But for the History Channel today, it is what they broadcast as serious history.  The other options are the endless documentaries on Adolf Hitler that are the modern equivalent of Victorian yellow journalism exposes on prostitution (pandering to our fascination with vice and sin) or the incredibly cheap to produce “reality” shows about people buying junk at garage sales or selling high-priced memorabilia at pawnshops.

I recently finished the wonderful historical study, Jerusalem, by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  When I was reading the last quarter of the book especially, I wondered why we aren’t seeing more documentaries on the Middle East – especially since the conflict there continues to dominate world news and the religious extremism born, nurtured and thriving in that region of the world constitutes the greatest danger to world peace.

I always say I can watch literally hundreds of satellite stations on my television receiver but I do watch only about five.  The History Channel is rapidly losing its status as one of those five.

©2016

Secrets in Lace Nylon Stockings

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4 March 2016

When politics becomes stand-up comedy

By David Krayden

All of us on the Right:  forget for a moment whom we are supporting for the Republican nomination; whether we think Trump is sufficiently conservative or brazenly opportunistic or if we consider Mitt Romney’s intervention into the campaign to be the courageous act of a statesman or the feeble gesture of an Establishment clown.  Did you watch the debate on Fox News last night?  Did you see what passes for a debate in 2016?  Reality TV — surely the nadir of broadcasting — now defines how the American viewer defines and discovers their presidential candidates.

You say that televised debates have always been a form of reality TV, since these events are supposed to depict real people debating real issues for the benefit of real voters?  Yes, but reality TV has redefined reality; it isn’t about reality at all.  Reality TV is no more concerned with what is real than an episode of Happy Days was a documentary of American life in the 1950s.  The ’70s sitcom probably edged closer to the truth than any segment of My Big Fat Fabulous Life .  Reality TV merely displays people playing caricatures of themselves in staged versions of their homes and workplaces.  We are still watching people who are performing for a camera that records a visual product that is then edited and reprocessed.

The primary debates have become the ultimate reality TV.  Performers pretending to be real people.  The brawl in Detroit was two hours of grandstanding where at least three of the contenders traded insults and vied for a clarifying soundbite that might be judged as the best one-liner of the night.  It looked and sounded at times like those domestic disputes between close family members that are the most bitter, edgy and hurtful forms of unadorned argument — the kind you never want to see recorded for posterity or played on national television.

The journalists on hand as moderators couldn’t quite decide if they were present to stoke the fires of candidate rivalry or referee the back and forth verbal sparring that constantly overflowed from the podiums.  Their queries, especially to Donald Trump, were the Parliamentary sort, with a long preamble of accusations followed by a loaded question that was more or less a fact check of the candidate’s platform.

The most fascinating participant in this process — love him or hate him — is Trump.  Whether debating, holding forth to supporters or conducting an interview, the Donald never adjusts his personality in the slightest.  He is either always “on” or merely has one operational speed.  He went directly from the debate to an on-stage interview with Fox News icon Bill O’Reilly, whose relatively gentle approach earned a strong remonstrance from Trump, who declared the journalist “too negative” and spent most of his time expressing his disdain for the media for not getting it right.

But O’Reilly more than got it right when he described Trump as someone not running as a Republican or a Democrat but as a populist.  Whether he has declared so or not, Trump really has created a third party within an existing party.  It’s  as if, in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt decided to run as a Progressive because he disapproved of Republican President Taft’s record, Roosevelt had stayed within the GOP and insisted the party change to suit his tastes.  Trump is advocating a lot of policies, especially in the area of international trade, that are more than vaguely reminiscent of another third-party candidate, namely Ross Perot, who though he ran as a independent, was really representing — like Trump — the unofficial populist party.

If Trump is successful in securing the nomination will the anger recede from the campaign or just be directed against the Democrat nominee?  Well, Trump will find Hillary Clinton an irresistible target but what about Bernie Sanders — another populist, but one from the left?  A Trump-Sanders pairing might just be an phenomenal political paring.

Mitt Romney cited the 1964 election campaign and Ronald Reagan’s call to decision as justification for Romney’s interference in the 2016 nomination.  As usual, Romney (Trump’s “Choke Artist”) misappropriated history.  In 1964 the Republican establishment was also at war with the conservative grassroots who were wildly enthusiastic about Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.  The Rockefeller wing of the party warned that Goldwater was too much of a hard-line (or principled) conservative to win an election against Democrat Lyndon Johnson.  The problem for Romney is that Reagan was a Goldwater supporter — he introduced him with one of his best remembered speeches — and not part of the centrist GOP insiders.  Reagan’s call for Republicans to make an historic decision was a rebuke to those insiders.  So the allusion was still-born.

Still Goldwater did lose in 1964 just as, arguably, Trump could lose to Hillary Clinton, who might actually appear to be a safe and moderate choice to voters.  But what if Clinton is subsumed by the e-mail scandal and what if the very popular, very well-financed and very populist Sanders takes the nomination?

Now that would be a race unlike any other in American history and the campaign would be the most fascinating episode of reality TV ever to be broadcast.

Stay tuned.

©2016

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18 February 2016

By David Krayden

Watching the Thames television production of The World at War, I am always impressed that the producers got it right.  There is no high-tech computer animation; computers still occupied a room, not your desktop.  There are no re-enactments of historical events blended into the period film footage; that would have been considered mildly mendacious and just plain bad form.  There is no constant barrage of the usual suspect historians reading the same talking points; but there are actual eye-witnesses to the war.

The last point is what makes this British documentary, over 40 years after it was first aired, such worthwhile viewing.  They researchers interviewed a veritable Who’s Who list of the Second World War leadership and also scores of average folks who either fought the war as combatants or survived the war in some other form.  German Armaments Minister and Hitler’s architect Albert Speer speaks extensively about his public role and private life; Former British Prime Minister Anthony Eden adds considerable interest; even Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart is there — not as celebrated actor but as a bomber pilot.  The list goes on.

Of course these people are all dead today and current documentaries are loathe to use any interview footage that doesn’t appear new.  Instead, we are offered historians, some with impressive academic credentials and others who are little more than best-selling authors of Third Reich pulp.  What is amazing is that war documentaries today often begin a point using one talking head and mid-way through a paragraph switch to a second talking head who completes the thought seamlessly.  It is almost as if they rehearsed it but of course it is entirely due to the talking point history that we must endure.

Sometimes those talking points are completely erroneous.  The Nazis:  Evolution of Evil has been broadcast repeatedly on American Heroes Channel.  The episode dealing with the German military leadership in the immediate pre-war period refers to a homosexual scandal being unearthed to force the Army chief of staff to resign.  Not only is there no mention that the story was entirely fictitious and was proven to be so, but Hitler is described as being outraged over the accusations because he was so “homophobic.”   Never mind that this epithet has ceased no have any meaning but the suggestion that Hitler was anti-homosexual is absolutely ridiculous.  Not only was the SA — the Nazi brown shirted storm troopers — rife with homosexuality but Hitler’s closest friend of the struggle for power era was none other than Ernest Rohm, a brazen homosexual.  It is strange how Hitler’s tolerance of SA homosexuality was seen as further evidence of his depravity when same-sex relations were out of favour with society but now, in the age of “marriage equality,” Hitler must be construed as anti-gay.

But I digress.  Why watch The World at War?  If only for the theme music, which is sheer perfection, you have reason enough.  But for the serious historian or student of history, this 1970s documentary, for all its creaky graphics, represents primary research of the best sort and not the secondary and tertiary research that we see in today’s cookie-cutter docudramas.  The World at War doesn’t tell you what to think but let’s the historical players tell their story and allow you to judge their actions.  Sometimes, that can be utterly chilling, as when one German officer offers regret for the Holocaust because the consequence was bad for public relations, or when SS General Karl Wolff describes witnessing a mass shooting with SS chief Heinrich Himmler and, while plainly relishing the telling of Himmler getting sick to his stomach, unwittingly portrays himself as wiling accomplice to mass murder.

We watch, we marvel, we learn.  All by ourselves.

Copyright 2016

 

2 February 2016

By David Krayden

You know the Grammy Awards have reached the cultural nadir when Paul McCartney can’t get into a post-ceremony party because he’s not hip enough for the rapper who’s hosting the shindig.  Really?  And who will really know who any of these oh so cool performers are two weeks from now, let alone two decades from now?  There are so many Grammy categories these days that virtually everybody in the music industry wins an award.  And most of the product is just garbage that competes for shock value and noise level.

I come to Paul’s defence (and I’m sure he had a good laugh over the whole matter) because he recorded an album of standards with the clever title Kisses on the Bottom (a reference to a line in “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”) that included one of my favourite obscure compositions:  “Home.”   Not to be outdone, Eric Clapton can be heard doing another Tin Pan Alley chestnut entitled, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”  It’s a difficult song to sing, with some very complex chord structures and quite a range.  Both McCartney and Clapton offer interpretations that are quite laudable.  McCartney’s album was first-class all the way with some very special musical guests.  Give it a listen.

McCartney and Clapton are not alone in their generation of rockers.  I listen to satellite radio on a regular basis and it is usually tuned to Seriously Sinatra at 075.  In addition to playing everything in the extensive Sinatra song catalog, the programmers select some contemporary takes on the Great American Song Book.  So you will hear a lot of artists not known for their appreciation of Gershwin and Porter doing their best — and some of it is entirely worthwhile because, in the aggregate, they try to understand the music and conform their style to it and not the other way around.

I’ve been listening to Frank’s music since I was a kid and it wasn’t fashionable to do so then.  I’ve been performing it since high school and there is probably nothing I in this life I enjoy doing more.  I’m not surprised that so many of those who tenuously belonged to something once called the counter-culture and probably thought their parent’s music was either a quaint relic from the past or irrelevant to the future have embraced these graceful and timeless tunes.

We’ll still be listening when rap is a distant echo in the hallway.

Copyright 2016

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12 February 2016

By David Krayden

You can watch the old 1960s sitcom Green Acres repeatedly before realizing that there is more here than meets the eye. This is not just a pleasant – and sometimes annoying – sitcom about city dwellers trying to adjust to farm life. It is more than rustic humour and rural jokes. This is an exercise is the surreal, sales where the absurdity surrounding character Oliver Wendell Holmes is so pronounced, so widespread and so raging that he sometimes doubts his own sanity.

We live in a green age of insanity today, where environmental consciousness is so pervasive and so intrusive that we doubt our own right to resist the totalitarian consensus that human beings are changing the climate and that we have to wage war on that change. We cannot think that climate change is both historical and inevitable. We cannot point out that even if we stop producing any greenhouse gasses, the countries in this world that are producing more than we are will not join us in the war.

You want a plastic bag for your groceries? You’ll have to buy one and they’ll reluctantly sell you one. It’s not good for environment you know. Do you want to really feel empowered? Let’s have a carbon tax to we allow the state to squeeze some more revenue out of us with the ridiculous claim that more expensive fossil fuels means less consumption and not just more poverty.

George Orwell had it right after all. In 1984, of course, he envisioned a world of competing empires that were in interminable conflict with each other. In 2016 we are always at war – with climate change. It keeps the masses focused, worried, occupied and entranced – the better that they don’t regard the state accretions that continually find new ways to invade our privacy and diminish our liberty.

Our own Justin Trudeau, as he prepares to end Canada’s participation in the airstrikes against ISIS, is a convicted climate change warrior. He has chosen the climate change war over the war on terror. He’ll take the fantasy and ignore the reality. It’s a lot more fun to talk environment in Paris and Bali than taking care of business in Iraq and Syria.

Copyright 2016

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