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Maxed Out

News from a galaxy far, far away

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By G.D. Maxwell

Where’s Canada?

No, that’s not a question people in the southwest USofA ask me very often, though at least one person has inquired what the drive from Columbia was like and what arrangements had to be made to get a car across the Panama Canal.

It is, however, a question I find myself asking whenever I remember to think about it.

The answer is simple. Canada’s off the mental radar screen. It’s somewhere up north, a large, amorphous landmass populated by, not surprisingly, Canadians, themselves some variant of Eskimo if memory serves.

In an ironic twist, virtually the only easily accessible international news ‘round these parts is news of the Middle East, a large, amorphous landmass populated by insane Arabs, Islamic extremists – a pairing as automatic and inviolable as Columbian drug lord to newsreaders – puppet heads of state and Israelis. Ironic because prior to the Oil Wars, the only time the Middle East made the U.S. news was when a bomb went off in a Tel Aviv pizzeria or OPEC jacked up the price of oil.

But Canada? While my news-watching has been just slightly more frequent than snowflakes in Phoenix, the only mention I’ve heard of shivering Canucks was a 15 second piece on the loony left PBS Newshour informing me Little Pauly Martin’s government has survived a non-confidence budget vote. This was read with a combination of wonder – imagine that, Canadians have budgets? – and disbelief, the latter being attributed to the fact any government would care whether its opposition had confidence in it.

Not to worry though, living in the Age of Information, curiosity is just a fleeting state of mind, a minor itch the Internet will scratch until it bleeds buckets. All things Canadian are surely just a few clicks away.

So the day after the day after the B.C. election, having finally remembered there was an election, I logged onto the Globe and Mail’s website. No mention of a B.C. election but an editorial whose headline suggested the obvious, that Slash Gordon’s Illiberals won. Click on the editorial… oops, you have to subscribe to read that. And here I am with no Canadian dollars to plug into the computer.

It wasn’t much better at Canada.com, home of all the other papers in Canada. Even the Province and Sun – which online appear to be the same paper – want payment for information. Besides, I thought they were having me on with a story about Belittle Stronach getting pissed off at Stephen Hapless, walking over to the federal Liberals, cutting a deal with Little Pauly to become an instant Liberal, breaking Peter the Weasel’s heart and winding up Minister of Manicures or something like that. C’mon. Where do rumours like that get started? Guess I’ll just have to wait until I get back to find out what’s really going on north of the border.

Down here, the news is ever so much meatier. The U.S. Senate – possibly the world’s best argument against an elected senate – brought the nation to the brink of nuclear option. In California, the state legislators were bandying about their own nuclear threats over Gov Ahrnie’s budget power grab.

Now, I’m as fond of hyperbole as the next guy. And having grown up in the state that gave birth to the nuclear bomb, I’ve frequented my fair share of bars and restaurants whose names invoked atomic this, nuclear that and whose signs were shaped like mushroom clouds.

But this new fixation on using nuclear as an adjective has me wondering. The most benign explanation is that it’s a not-so-subtle attempt to use the word more frequently in public discourse. The hope, I imagine, is that if George Bush hears it said enough he’ll finally realize it’s not pronounced "nuculer", something even his wife has taken to joking about.

The part of me prone to scanning the skies for black helicopters ponders a more sinister motive. Used often enough and in the wrong context, any word tends to lose its impact and meaning. The spectre of things nuclear is diminished if the word can be used to describe such mundane things as changes to procedural rules.

Having been branded co-partners in the Axis of Evil, Iran and North Korea watched, in some relief, as the U.S. invaded the only member of the Evil Empire who, it turns out, didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. So they both ramped up their efforts to produce atomic weapons, a step I’m sure seemed to make sense to the bizarre collection of Mullahs and dictators-for-life running those countries.

The U.S., on the other hand, has come to realize even the most powerful army in the universe is relatively ineffective against loosely organized terrorists. Iraq’s looking like the opening chapter in another Hundred Years War and the volunteer army is beginning to look less voluntary. What to do if the pursuit of homeland security means opening one or two more fronts? Oh hell, just roll out the nuclear option. How bad can it be? The Senate survived.

But as fascinating – and infuriating – as all this posturing is, the real news in America, the burning question on the left and right AM talk radio no news none of the time, is this: Is the evil Sith lord really a thinly-disguised George Bush? Or is Darth Vader, originally inspired by Dick "I’m not a crook" Nixon, actually supposed to represent him?

The answer, depending on who you listen to, is yes. No. Maybe. Both. Neither, idiot; it’s just a movie.

Conservatives for Benign Movies Like Hollywood Used to Make Before It Was Taken Over By Card-Carrying ACLU Liberals, CBMLHUMBTOBCCAL for short, has thrown its vote behind Darth Vader and has urged all conservatives of conscience to boycott the movie, its commercial products and its fast food promotions, threatening at least half the American diet.

Their evidence that George Lucas unnecessarily politicized the final Star Wars movie rests not on the fact that young Anakin Skywalker, hormonally imbalanced and dazzled by his own powers, makes REALLY BAD decisions that plunge the entire federation into an unnecessary war, but by his use of the line, "You’re either with me or you’re my enemy." They say the line is a lift from Bush’s State of the Union speech when he told the entire world they were either with him and his war on terrorists or they were on the side of terrorists.

They may have something there. Certainly the line sounded just as dumb in the movie as it did in the State of the Union speech and it backfired just as badly. And there are any number of thoughtful people who believe the President is more the sorcerer’s apprentice than the sorcerer himself.

But personally, I’ve always thought he bore a closer resemblance to Yoda. And let’s face it, they share any number of common speech patterns too.

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