In Tuesday’s Sun: Scotland divided, plus bonus 007 reference

Scotland, heed the wise words of the guy who bites the heads off chickens.

You know, Alice Cooper. According to urban legend, the rock star once bit the head off of a chicken. Reportedly, Alice then went on to play golf with former Republican presidents. It’s true! (The golf part, not the chicken part.)

Quoth Alice: “To me, that’s treason. [Stars] should never be in bed with politics.”

And: “If you’re listening to a…star in order to get information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are.”

Alice’s sage advice comes to mind, this morn, as we reflect on the implications of Scottish independence. A vote is being taken on it at this very moment.

To referendum-weary Canadians, the arguments against are all too familiar. Shared history. Economic uncertainty. Constitutional gridlock. Blah, blah, blah. Canadians have heard it all before.

What makes the Scottish “yes” campaign truly unique, however, is the abundance of world-famous celebrities, stumping for independence. We Canadians don’t see that, so much.

There’s the Proclaimers, for example. Remember them? They had a single hit, several generations ago, and have lately become experts in the allocation of natural resource revenue. “Scotland has huge national resources, with its people, its wave power.” say the lads, who closely resemble former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, except with guitars. Are they right?

Scotland certainly has waves, but we’re not quite sure how “people” are properly classified as “resources.” If we harness the energy caused by tossing cabers and eating haggis, perhaps. Worth thinking about, over several cases of Glenfiddich.

Now, another star who has lifted the kilt on his politics, as it were, includes Sean Connery. Sean, as 007, got to make out once with Ursula Andress. That, alone, should give Sean a seat at the big kid’s table when and if Scotland goes it alone. And Sean says an independent Scotland will “revitalize culture and heritage.”

Is it true? Well, the last time Sean worked was to provide the lead voice in an obscure animated film called “Sir Billi.” Ever heard of it? Us, neither. Perhaps the thing that will be “revitalized” is Sean’s career. It needs it.

Annie Lennox has also weighed in. Rock star Annie, who usually energetically devotes herself to anti-Israel causes – she says that Israel engages in “slaughter and systematic murder” – is a Scottish separatist. Says Annie: “Scotland could have a new, ethical, visionary stance and could take on fresh ideas. That could be really amazing.”

We’re not quite sure what Annie is referring to, here, but if her gentle and nuanced approach to international affairs is any indication, she should not be considered for the post of Foreign Minister in the new Scottish state. She might, you know, start a war or two.

Actor Brian Cox has hit the hustings for the “yes” side, as well. Brian, who has played a villain in series of movies about a comic book, has also had “a prominent role” in important video games, such as “Killzone,” “Killzone 2,” and (who can forget?) “Killzone 3.”

Says Brian about Scottish independence: “It’s about equality [and] trying to get back to egalitarian principles.” What, exactly? Brian says the Scots have “a sense of inferiority,” but if you ever saw Sean Connery making out with Ursula Andress – or someone in a skirt tossing a caber and swilling Glenfiddich – you’d probably have doubts about that. We doubt the Scots feel “inferior” about pretty much anything.

About ripping apart a great country, the Scots should (hopefully) have doubts, too.

Take it from us Canucks, Scotland: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Also, go ask Alice: movie and music stars should stick to movies and music.

Not, you know, politics.

My take in this morning’s Hill Times

Can’t remember my password, so here’s the unedited version, filed with ’em last week:

“Political things tend to come in threes. This Parliament is likely to be no exception. Three things – three issues, three challenges – will define the coming session.

One, the war that isn’t a war. Stephen Harper’s insists that his decision to commit dozens of members of the Special Operations Regiment to the fight against the murderous, rampaging ISIS is nothing to worry about. It isn’t “war.” But he isn’t being truthful.

On its web site, the regiment describes itself as a “weapon” in the Canadian Armed Forces’ “arsenal” – that is, peacekeepers they are not. They are trained to fight, and equipped to fight. They are going to Iraq to wage war.

Harper may pretend that isn’t so, but few will be fooled. As is the case with our Western allies, we are commencing a post-9/11 type of war against an enemy unlike any we have ever encountered. How Canadians – and Parliamentarians – react to that remains to be seen.

Two, the fate of the New Disappearing Party. In British Columbia; in Nova Scotia; in Ontario; in New Brunswick; federally. The NDP is in deep trouble, provincially and federally, and the reasons are myriad.

Jack Layton is gone, and Tom Mulcair is no Jack Layton. Traditional sources of NDP support – particularly trade unions – are contracting, and no longer pledging fealty solely to New Democrat candidates. And the party seems uncertain about what to do about the resurgent Liberals, who are stealing soft NDP voters away, hand over fist.

The NDP is in trouble. To preserve its Parliamentary bench strength – almost wholly situated in Quebec – it may start mouthing sovereigntist rhetoric. But if it does that, it risks an angry backlash in the rest of Canada.

What will the New Demoracts do? No one knows – and New Democrats apparently don’t, either. The coming months are unlikely to be happy ones, for them.

Third, the people are sick of Harper’s Cons. They’ve been in power for nearly a decade, and it shows. The Tories look old and tired and fundamentally out of ideas. They’ll trumpet a budgetary surplus, to be sure, but that is never enough to win re-election.

Instead, the Conservatives need to re-capture a narrative, because they decidedly do not have one anymore. It isn’t enough to say “you’re better off with Harper.” That sounds like someone deciding to stay in loveless relationship because they have nowhere else to go.

Canadians have somewhere to go, and it is into Justin Trudeau’s waiting arms. Nearly every poll has shown him ahead, or far ahead, for nearly two years. And neither the Tories nor the Dippers have devised a strategy to change that.

A war no one understands. A New Democratic Party that no longer seems new. A Conservative Party that is adrift.

It all points in one direction, and in less than a year, too:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Now THIS is writing

I don’t agree with Strobel on politics, pretty much ever, but this column had Kirbie and I laughing our keesters off on the way back from Stiff Little Fingers last night.  Just great writing, here:

“Some folks are so sick of that temple to entitlement on Nathan Phillips Square, that social engineering academy, they’d vote for a wombat if it was named Ford.

They don’t see Rob or Doug as hillbilly bullies. They don’t hear banjos. No, they see a chubby avenging angel marching downtown to clean up that snakepit of excess, greed and civic sin.

By folks, I don’t mean my downtown neighbours, with purple hair, pink poodles, a tofu lunch in their bicycle basket and a city arts grant in their back pocket.

I mean my old neighbours in Scarborough, who still debate Beatles vs Stones, live three days from the nearest subway and want City Hall to leave them, their lives and their wallets alone, thank you very much.

So they roll their eyes when John Tory gripes, before Sunday’s debate at the Evergreen Brick Works:

“(Doug) is afterall the gentleman that was joined at the hip with this brother, who I hope gets better…”

Yes, hip-separation surgery must be a bitch, Johnny.”

From the bulging Shameless Hypocrite file: John Tory on Doug Ford

There is plenty of stuff like this lying around. And it’s why I broke with the guy: he enthusiastically supported – for years, without qualification – the very thing he now claims to loathe and oppose.

He’s not running because he opposes the Fords. He’s running because he’s the worst kind of opportunist, and he figured he could beat a crack-smoking “buffoon.”

Beat Rob Ford? Sure. But beat Doug, about whom he said stuff like this? We shall see.


In Friday’s Sun: the rough beast slouching towards Baghdad

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Baghdad to be born?

Theatrical, perhaps; a mangling of Yeats, to be sure. But watching U.S. President Barack Obama on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, did you experience a creeping sense of dread? Did Obama’s speech to the world – in which he executed a colossal about-face, pledging to wage war in Iraq, having been elected in 2008 to do the precise opposite – leave your blood cold?

ISIS, which doesn’t stand for Satan Made Flesh but should, sought war with the West. It now appears ISIS will get it. For months, it has been murdering, raping, kidnapping, amputating, torturing, enslaving, desecrating – and, as is well-established, beheading – innocents across Syria and Iraq.

An August United Nations report detailed just a fraction of ISIS’ campaign of genocide: “Women have been lashed for not abiding by ISIS’ dress code. In Raqqa, children as young as 10 are being recruited and trained at ISIS camps.”

And: “Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle. Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range…Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents.”

Its objective hasn’t been difficult to ascertain: it broadcasts all of its serial atrocities on social media, to ensure we can relive them in the comfort of our living rooms. This week, its Facebook and Twitter-adept monsters have switched their profile pictures to Osama bin Laden, to make certain we all get their point: we’re coming to kill you. (Oh, and al-Qaeda were wimps, in comparative terms.)

Watching Obama say what he, and we, never thought he would say was an disquieting experience. He can dress it up in whatever oratorical sophistry he likes, but the facts are the facts: we are going to war.

Canadians, too. This week, the federal government acknowledged that dozens of troops from the Special Operations Regiment are being deployed to Iraq. They won’t have a combat role, said the Prime Minister. But no one believes that.

The Special Operations Regiment, on its very own website, describes itself as “a robust and adaptable weapon in the [Canadian Special Operations Forces Command] operational arsenal.” Sound like they’re Mike Pearson-style diplomats to you? Us neither. They’re a “weapon” in the Canadian Armed Forces’ “arsenal.”

So Obama fully reverses himself, and Harper attempts to persuade us that war isn’t war. Are we doing what is right?

We are. In the span of about a year, ISIS – or ISIL, or whatever it is they call themselves this week – have transformed themselves into the most lethal terrorist threat confronting the civilized world.

In his speech, Obama called them “a cancer” and “evil,” which are the sort of words speechwriters always deploy to describe terrorists. The Jordanian U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights has said, more emotively, that their objective is to create a “house of blood.” All true.

But better, perhaps, is the matter-of-fact analysis of U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel: “(ISIS) is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group.” And they want to kill us all.

So, all our leaders are agreed: waging war against ISIS is the right thing to do. Inaction would be to be complicit in their pogroms. Of course.

But – and here is where the unease comes in – war is unmistakably what ISIS desires. ISIS has been plainly seeking it for months. It has been trying to goad the West into combat, and it has succeeded.

So, as the beast that is ISIS slouches towards Baghdad, and as we let slip the dogs of war, it is fair to ask:

Is this a war we can win?