Texas of the North

Hey, Republicans: Feeling like outcasts after Obama's re-election? Come on up to Canada!

So Obama won himself another election, eh? Another four years of that guy and his warm and fuzzy rhetoric -- it's enough to throw any honest-to-goodness flag-waving patriot into a fit of dry heaves. I mean, what is a person who loves God and corporation supposed to do for the next one thousand four hundred and sixty days?

The panic among Republicans -- or as I like to call them, Real Americans -- is palpable. People with traditional values are worried -- legalized pot on the horizon, gay marriage, death panels. It's like Cuba. The NRA is up in arms -- so to speak -- over the Second Amendment, tweeting its concern about what a second Obama term might mean for gun owners (so cute). Gun sales are soaring.

Truthfully, I hate to see my American cousins so fearful. The prospect of losing one's traditional power is a scary one. A "coalition of minorities" is enough to keep anyone up at night. Despite the fact that, to me, the key difference between Democrats and Republicans is the PR, I don't misunderestimate the sheer wild-eyed terror the Nobama crowd feels.

But fret not. As a Canadian, I feel it's my duty to help. OK, because I'm Canadian, I feel it's my duty to help. We're just like that. And I have a solution: Republicans, come to the Great White North.

Now, I know there's a stereotype about Canada that our southern neighbors have bought into -- that our strong banking regulations and universal health care and small military make Canada a socialist wonderland. But I'm here to say that Canada has much to offer fleeing Repub -- er, Real Americans.

There's a lot here that would be familiar to an American looking to relocate. We have the northern version of a variety of American institutions. For starters, we have Hollywood North, which is just like your Hollywood except it's smaller, colder, more polite, and not on the west coast. OK, Toronto is nothing like Hollywood but a lot of your movies are made here -- Toronto has led a double life as both New York and Chicago. Heck, it's even been cast as the City With No Name -- standing in for the never-named cities in great American cinema (Bride of Chucky, anyone?).

We also have Harvard North. It doesn't really matter that the University of Toronto is not much like Harvard but, you know, it makes it easier to help our American friends understand that we have some pretty good book learnin' up here too. Harvard North is much cheaper to attend than Real Harvard, and it has a great faculty lounge. And, oh, not to brag too much, but when Americans want to film at Harvard South or MIT but can't get permission (or can't afford it), then guess who comes to the rescue? That's right. You're welcome.

We even used to have a Guantánamo North up here. It would have been a nice reminder of home for tough-on-terror Republicans-on-the-run, but it was quietly shut down last winter. Sorry. But on the bright side, it wasn't so much that Canada was ashamed of the profound disregard for individual civil liberties that led to the shutdown, it was just too darned costly to run. Fiscal restraint FTW!

And for the more reproductively conservative, don't worry, we have something for you too! Sure, abortion's been legal in this country for decades, and there's been a general not-minding-that-women-have-control-of their-own-bodies, but Canada now too has its very own burgeoning Let's Get Into Women's Uteruses movement! With attempts to reopen the discussion in Parliament despite our prime minister (he's like a king but with slightly more accountability) saying "no way, eh," there's hope that women could lose some basic control over their reproductive plans. Republicans, it's just like back home.

Oh, and just for good measure, our government also hates Iran.

But just where in this Republican haven should fleeing Americans settle? Toronto is, of course, a world-class city -- it's not fake New York for nothin' -- but there are a lot of gay people here going around getting married and living their lives, running for public office, and just generally being human. So that might be a problem.

Montreal is nice, but it's in Quebec and, you know, The French. Vancouver has its own Real Housewives franchise and I'm told there's nothing a Republican likes better than a housewife, but all that rain will remind you of Seattle. And who wants to be reminded of Seattle?

But there is one place a person running from the specter of Obama's socialism could go: Alberta! You probably didn't know it, but Canada has a Texas North too! Alberta's got oil! It's got the Calgary Stampede, replete with cowboy hats and chuckwagon races and chaps! Alberta's got a booming economy with oil and gas developers having a disproportionate say in what happens! And it's the epicenter of Canada's conservative politics, with its outer extremes of Zionist evangelicals and teeny, tiny government libertarians.

OK, sure, the mayor of Calgary is a Muslim and the mayor of the second-largest city, Edmonton, is Jewish, and the premier of the province is a woman, but don't let that fool you. When an Albertan speaks, apparently it's with a Texas twang.

In fact, Alberta is so beloved by our current Conservative administration that our very own Stephen Harper, in the days before he became our prime minister, advocated building a protective "firewall" around Alberta to keep big government out. That's so Texas.

And, if at the end of the day, even Alberta's conservatism proves to be not enough, one can simply go to the province's northernmost point. It's not far from Alaska. Maybe you can spot Sarah Palin from your house.

For more information about Canada, check out our citizenship and immigration website. Or just look at the FAQ at



Shaken, Not Stirred by CIA 'Values'

Why do the CIA director's peccadilloes rile us more than his policies?

James Bond is clearly a sociopath. He disposes of human life and property with abandon. He consumes women like they were snack foods. Of course, he does all this in the service of Queen and country, so we forgive him his disregard for most of the values we hold dear. And because he does it with a certain élan, impeccably tailored suits, and a well-turned quip to go with every kill shot, for 50 years he has been one of those iconic characters men wanted to be and women wanted to be with.

Even in the latest installment in the Bond saga, Skyfall, which opened in the United States last week, Daniel Craig, whose Bond is the best and most nuanced of all the incarnations of Ian Fleming's super-spy, shows his human side not so much by revealing conscience or qualms about what he does but rather by appearing wearied by all the mayhem he has had to stir up and endure. Which is apparently fine by all of us -- Skyfall has already grossed more than half a billion dollars worldwide and is setting box-office records for the series.

The real question is: Do we love Bond because of his yacht and fast-car propelled globe-trotting lifestyle (he seems to be the only one who can dependably find casinos that are glamorous rather than being full of fat old losers playing the slots), or because he is actually able to get away with blowing so much stuff up without having to pay for it?

It all seems like an escapist ideal, a parallel universe in which all morality has been suspended except for the bits that don't get in the way of fun and a good story. In fact, ennobling patriotism is fine because it seems to provide the free pass that in the end is Bond's license to kill, love ‘em and leave ‘em, and tear open passenger trains with a back-hoe. It is preposterous. Fiction. And so of course, the only thing more preposterous is real life.

That was made clear when, in a tour de force of movie marketing that surpassed even this summer's stunt of having Bond and the Queen seemingly enter the Olympic stadium via parachute, America's real-life spy chief commanded the headlines with his own Bond-like behavior. David Petraeus, one of the most heralded American generals of the post-World War II period, was brought down as head of the CIA because, as everyone now knows, he had an affair with his glamorous biographer. (Glamour is relative. But the bar set by most biographers is fairly low and, Petraeus's lover, Paula Broadwell had extremely well-toned upper arms according to the assessments of every woman I have spoken with on the subject.) Citing his principles, Petraeus stepped down from his post rather than bring any further dishonor upon it.

Now, many people I know and respect greatly consider Petraeus to be an extremely admirable, capable, and intelligent guy. But the notion that the violation of anyone's "principles" led to his resignation is laughable. Further, the idea that an affair involving the CIA director would trigger a national scandal when the daily activities of the agency do not is ludicrous bordering on offensive.

What was at stake here was priggishness, not values. As others have pointed out, many of Petraeus's predecessors have had affairs as have many of their bosses and colleagues in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or elsewhere in public life. That periodically, as in the case of Petraeus or, before that Bill Clinton, some such private peccadilloes trigger scandal and many others do not, is one sign that something other than consistent application of national values is at work here. But the fact that recently the parade of public figures who have seen their careers brought to an end because of sexual misconduct has been so long -- stretching from John Edwards to an airport men's room stall in the Upper Midwest -- is a source of bewilderment and ridicule in other nations worldwide, where they hold the quaint notion that private behavior of public officials that does not affect the way they do their jobs should remain private.

It is not news that America has long been willing to chart a course quite different from that of other nations. We've always had a bit of a puritanical streak, which we have spun in our own minds into a sign of national character. But it is a different dimension of American exceptionalism that makes this whole Petraeus dust-up truly gross rather than merely ridiculous.

The real scandal here is that when the head of the CIA sleeps with someone who is not his wife, it causes a national scandal, but when the agency manages a drone program that serially violates the sovereignty of nations worldwide, that it helps formulate and then execute "kill lists" that make James Bond's most egregious sprees of violence look a kindergarten birthday party, it does not.

Our values are, it seems, even more twisted than Bond's. At least he is not so grotesquely hypocritical. It has long riled some among us that Congress thought it appropriate to impeach Bill Clinton over trivialities associated with his personal missteps, while never once challenging George W. Bush for the far greater misdeeds and very likely crimes associated with America's invasion of Iraq. We seem to be a nation that can tolerate the violation of the law, the deaths of innocents, and the gross misallocation of national assets without blinking an eye -- provided that the architects of such egregious wrongs keep their flies zipped.

Who says it's Hollywood that's screwing up America's values? We seem to be outdoing the world's finest screenwriters on that front -- and doing so without any of the charm or crisp one-liners that allow us to forgive movie wantons like James Bond.