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Befuddled Haitians subjected to Harper's domestic political prattle

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2010 (4555 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Befuddled Haitians subjected to Harper’s domestic political prattle

THERE is, apparently, no tragedy too heart-rending, no political situation too fraught with danger, that you can’t find a politician eager to exploit it for political advantage.

In Haiti this week for what seemed like little more than a prolonged and expensive photo-op, Prime Minister Stephen Harper regaled the Haitian army and the Haitian people with heart-warming tales of how his Conservative government had rebuilt the Canadian Armed Forces from a rag-tag embarrassment under former Liberal regimes into a slim-trim, fighting-fit military machine.

As an example of improvements that have been made, he cited the purchase of Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft, giant transport planes that can carry tons of aid into the Haitian disaster zone as easily as they carry tanks into Afghanistan. The tanks, although of not much use in Haiti or any other civil disaster zone, are also part of the Tories’ military buildup.

That buildup is a good thing, and Canadians should be grateful that, as Harper put it, Canada’s military policy has switched from the "soft power" of the Liberals to the "hard power" of today. "To do soft power, you need hard power," as the multi-purpose C-17s are proving in Haiti and Afghanistan today, the prime minister told a befuddled Haitian audience that had probably hoped to hear more about what kind of hard help Canada was going to offer.

Meanwhile, back on the home-front, junior foreign affairs minister Peter Kent was telling a Jewish magazine that any attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada and elicit an appropriate response, calling up shades of the mutual defence provisions of the NATO treaty. Canada has no such treaty with Israel, and the threat of waging war against Iran in its defence — while noble in intent — hardly puts Canada in the big league of negotiators it aspires to and that Iranians might listen to.

There was nothing untrue or dishonest — usual political exceptions being allowed for — in what the two Conservatives said. But both comments were unnecessary, untimely and unhelpful. Kent used defence policy to play to the Jewish vote; Harper played to the domestic audience rather than the Haitian one that had come to hear a message that hit closer to home. That’s political, but it’s not politic.

 

Intoxication ingenuity

knows no bounds

 

Years ago I was invited by a friend to what might be called a cocktail party in a rooming house on Spence Street. When we got there, the hosts and the other guests were in various degrees of intoxication, ranging from extreme to dead drunk.

Somebody gave me a beer, which I drank, but then the beer ran out. One of the more enterprising guests then brought out a bottle of rubbing alcohol which he mixed with water and passed around. I took a taste — just out of curiosity — and it was pretty well the most horrible hooch I’ve ever tasted. As the rest of guests started nodding off all around us, my friend and I took our leave, picked up a case of beer and went home. I’ve never been invited back.

But if I were, the drinks being served would still be illegal, but of far greater variety. In the intervening years, the number of cocktails that don’t appear on the shelves of the monopoly Manitoba Liquor Commission has grown exponentially. Where rubbing alcohol was once the drink of choice — actually, it was the choice of necessity, being pretty much the only unlicensed booze around — tipplers who avoid or are shunned by the MLC can now find a large liquor cabinet in any grocery store or gas station.

Want some Lysol to go with your dumpster dinner? No problem; the liquor menu is as long as the list of household cleaners and such that people who can’t afford to get as drunk as they would like by paying MLC prices have, with considerable ingenuity, discovered ways to turn them into potable, if still probably poisonous, intoxicants.

The latest on the list is hand-sanitizer. Apparently, by using table salt and the cleanser in some alchemic way, one can brew a potent alcoholic beverage. It may kill you, but at least you’ll die drunk. The problem has become so widespread the Health Sciences Centre has decided to padlock many of its sanitizer dispensers to stop theft.

All of this self-destructive imagination arose out of necessity in the 1970s when the blue-noses and bright lights at the liquor commission banned the sale of fortified wines to reduce alcoholism. These were wines that had high alcohol content, but could be afforded by indigent drunks. Instead, the drunks have had to turn to poisonous household products.

The sensible solution to this problem is to bring back fortified wines. In the meantime, lock up your sanitizer, but don’t expect that to solve the problem — the ingenuity of the thirsty streets appears to know no limits.

 

Ugly, really ugly, feet

may be best warning against incest

 

There is a show that is popular on daytime TV called The Doctors. I saw it for the first and perhaps only time on Louis Riel Day, which gives you an idea of how exciting statutory holidays are in our house. It featured, in honour of no one in particular, except perhaps the hunky — according to my wife — doctor who is the star, embarrassing sexual questions and remarkably ugly feet. Perhaps there is a theme there, but that is best left for you to decide. What did you do for Louis Riel Day?

Some of the sexual questions were embarrassing — they were about s-e-x after all — but the part about ugly feet was interesting. The doctors set out to find the ugliest pair of feet in the United States and found quite a few that you might not really want to wake up with in the morning. The ugliest two feet got a makeover, and they did look a little better after that, but even at their ugliest, they couldn’t hold a toad to the feet of King Tutankhamun, which this newspaper thoughtfully displayed for its readers this week.

Even allowing for the fact that the Boy King, as Tut is commonly known, has been dead for 3,300 years and that he and his feet were mummified before they were entombed by the ancient Egyptians, these plates of meat are as ugly as any you ever will see.

Ugly feet, however, were among the least of the worries of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh — he might, in truth, also have been its most inconsequential pharaoh if it had not been for the magnificence of his tomb. He had a club foot, a cleft palate and suffered from a disease that inhibits blood flow to the feet.

He had scoliosis, curvature of the spine, could walk only on canes and apparently died of a genetic disposition to malarial infection brought on by a broken leg.

All of these ailments were the result of incest. His father and mother were brother and sister — this was common practice among the pharaohs, who were too god-like to marry outside the family. Cleopatra married her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy, although she was no cougar as we understand the term today; this was simply Egyptian royal custom.

The custom of powerful families breeding with themselves because no one else is good enough to preserve the line is not unique to the Egyptians, although it is not always done quite so openly. It is always done out of a kind of delusional narcissism, however, what you might call getting above yourself. If you feel that happening, do what King Tut’s parents should have done — don’t look at a family member; take a look at those loafers you stand on. It’s not a pretty sight.

 

 

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