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Ghosts of Columns Past

Web posted on July 20, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

It looks like the real world has caught up to some of my columns.

Let's start with "O Canada." Back in June I wrote about the way some people sing our national anthem at sporting events. I never expected what happened at the Major League Baseball All Star game in San Diego. The group (I refuse to use their name and give them more publicity) singing "O Canada" made it sound like some funeral dirge. Then one member went rogue and inserted his own lyrics (as I said in my original column, only Roger Ducet could get away with that, and he was never political) and made a rather contentious political statement, by holding up a sign. They also did not use the recently changed politically correct gender neutral lyrics. Wow a trifecta. The artist singing the American anthem sounded almost reasonable in comparison. How do these high profile events pick the performers? Are there actual auditions, or do they just pick people at random?

In some countries there might be some official action taken. In North Korea it is quite likely that they would have been hunted down and executed (in a rather gruesome manner) along with their families. While I am not in favour of the more extreme penalties for desecrating the anthem, I do feel that there should be some sort of law on what is acceptable when performing the anthem. As far as I am concerned when it comes to performing the anthems, there is absolutely no room for artistic interpretation. What they did was disrespectful to all concerned. They can apologize all they want, but it will be out there to see forever. Even though they appear to have parted ways with the member in question, their reputation has been badly damaged and will take a long time to recover. It takes years to establish a reputation, and it can be erased in a moment of stupidity. You have got to feel for the remaining members.

As I said in my original column people wanting screw around with any national anthem should stick to singing in the shower, or put it You Tube.

Back in February I wrote about the poor condition of our CF-18s. All of the information I had came from researching on the net. It's wasn't that long ago that the government acknowledged that the aircraft were in much worse shape than they, and more importantly their predecessors previously let on. They said that we were not able to fulfill our NATO and NORAD commitments, and about half the fleet was unavailable at any given time. We were in the same situation when we picked the CF-18 to replace the CF-101 Voodoo (NORAD), the CF-104 Starfighter (NATO, based in Germany with a training squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta. With the end of the Cold War, it was decided not base aircraft in Germany), and the CF-5 Freedom Fighter (lead in fighter training and close air support). The Starfighters were dropping like flies in Germany, and the Voodoos were in about the same condition as our CF-18s. The CF-5s were refurbished at great expense, then sold off at a loss, after the government of the day decided to cut the budget. We now pay outside contractors to do the same combat training.

Just to put things into perspective, we bought 128 CF-18s of which 77 are still flying to replace a total of 67 Voodoos, 200 Starfighters and 123 CF-5s. Of the aircraft in the competition at the time, the CF-18 was the best choice. In light of the current situation, perhaps we should have bought more CF-18s.

The previous government was looking at buying 66 F-35s. We keep buying fewer and fewer aircraft with each generation. Canada has not gotten smaller since the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Union may be gone, but Russia remains unpredictable at best. There is the war against terror in the Middle East. The world is probably less safe today than it was at the end of the Cold War, yet we keep wanting to buy fewer aircraft. While each new generation of aircraft on both sides is more capable than the previous, there still needs to be sufficient aircraft to do meet all our commitments. We should be buying at least as many of any new aircraft as we bought CF-18s.

The news that we could not meet our obligations cause quite the stir. At one point a news report indicated we were thinking about sole sourcing some Super Hornets to fill the capability gap similar to what Australia needed to do when the retired their F-111s. This would be a logical but expensive choice if another type were selected at a later date. All of a sudden that option appeared to be taken off the table. There is some talk about further extending the life of the CF-18s until 2025. This is not a viable option either. It looks like we are going to go through a long selection process (just to make things look good), and pick the wrong aircraft and not buy enough. Once again, the more they talk, the less they say.

Last week I mentioned Bastille Day at the end of my column as a last minute addition. It was posted on Thursday, and as I was writing this column a few hours later news broke about the terrorist attack in Nice, France. After a quick chat with my editor it was decided to leave the paragraph in place. Obviously there was no disrespect intended. After the previous terror attacks of last year, I thought that something honouring the day but light hearted might be appropriate. Once again, condolences to the people of Nice and France.

The odds of what I mentioned in my original CF-18 column making the news were pretty good considering that all the information was out there. The government admitting it was not expected. Then came the Debacle in San Diego with "O Canada." This was bound to happen sooner or later, but I did not expect it this soon. Oops, I almost forgot about my column about our local politicians needing adult supervision, followed a few days later by Young Trudeau's "incident" in the House of Commons. At that point I thought that things were getting a little weird.

When news of the attack in Nice broke, I thought I was having a "Twilight Zone" moment and half expected the ghost of Rod Serling to materialize and start into one of his famous opening monologues....

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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