My Private Encounter with History

In my early 20s, my sales job at the time took me into the homes of my clients. I wasn't crazy about it - you see, I don't like social settings all that much - but I was told I needed to take such jobs to 'normalize.' This in itself is a story to recount; however that's for another time.

Anyone who worked on commission knows what I'm talking about. One of my leads brought me into the home of a Christian Lebanese family. As I sat, I was offered various Middle-Eastern biscuits and Lebanese coffee (a thicker version of Italian espresso). Being of Mediterranean heritage myself, I was well aware of the importance of hospitality and conversation before talking any business. So I sat and fielded questions waiting to earn my commission.

One man, not part of the family, looked at me and asked, "Do you know Phoenician history?" An odd question to ask straight up. In a more profound way, a complex query to ask a Canadian. How to explain to a recent immigrant that history plays a small role in Canadian culture?

I answered his question by saying that we did learn a little about Phoenicia - its contribution to the modern alphabet and its maritime exploits to name a couple. I also reminded him that Lebanon and the Middle East was not part of the elementary or high school curriculum. In any event, these are countries that demand far longer amount of time to study. We barely have time to learn about Canada.

It was soon my turn to ask the questions. After all, we were in Canada. I had home field advantage! I looked at him and said, "Do you know Canadian history?" His answer has stayed with me forever. He smirked and said, "What history?"

Ahh. In those two innocuous but telling words the state of Canadian history and how people perceive it was clearer than ever.

Many times I have submitted that Canada has failed to convey in any coherent fashion its mission statement. Sure, we talk an awful lot but the fact is that most of the popular attitudes and beliefs that grip the public imagination have little to do with Canadian history. It has more to do with the politicization of Canadian history. Put another way, the knowledge we have ourselves is now drawn along political lines. To say nothing of the lack of branding power we have created. Sales (as in cultural marketing) isn't our strong point.

Another problem is to be found in the irritating reality that education falls under provincial jurisdiction. In Canada, there is no standard historical outlook to bind the country together. That doesn't mean we haven't tried. Valiant attempts have been made. Why it has not succeeded is a separate issue altogether.

What we have then are ten different perspectives and visions of Canada. Each a weapon of sorts used by provinces to leverage its own dreams, perceptions and demands on the Federal government.

Immigrants do not come here and swear an oath or allegiance to Canada. They land, take a test, get a stamp and disappear into the comforts of the culture they adhere to. In Canada, it's very possible immigrants go to various cultural schools without ever learning Canadian history. Our multicultural policy encourages this unfortunate situation.

Judging from the man's response, it is clear where Canadian history stands. Canadians don't care about Canadian history because we don't ask them to ponder it. Canadians in turn, given our own pathetic impulses to history remain naive, if not oblivious to how important history really is. How can a country critically assess itself if it has no knowledge of its past?

They say a people with no history is a happy one. Is it? If we are infallible then this logic applies. We are not. This is why Canadians remain rather thin-skinned. There is no Athenian or American style debating in Canada because apparently we don't need to.

Added together, this is not an impressive recipe, nationalist rhetoric notwithstanding, for Canada. No wonder there is a crisis in the idea and experiment known as Canada.

I did not close the sale that evening. Never got a chance. The man of the household was called away. I never returned. In a way, neither has Canada.


The New Way of Words

It sometimes is hard to really grasp just how deeply political correctness has entrenched itself into society. There's a very deliberate and specific agenda to ensure that words once considered to be acceptable be removed from our lexicon.

I am becoming aware of it myself with an assignment I'm working on for a special needs magazine. During my meeting with the editor (a fine person. She gave me a shot at a cover story on the strength of a piece I wrote about autism I had submitted. She judged me on content and character. If all works out, this will be one of those 'I'm eternally grateful' and 'she gave me my first break' stories. We all look for such chances from enlightened minds), she presented me with a government brochure asking me to be careful with any adjectives or words I use to describe a person.

You know, retard is out and person with a disability is in. In these times where every word is abbreviated it is ironic that we increased the clunkiness of our vernacular. How long before someone cuts it short to "Hi, I'm a PD"?

How hard can it be, right? It turns out pretty hard. The brochure has an 'instead of' 'please use' section. For example, did you know it's no longer PC to refer to someone as a 'patient' and 'invalid'? That's right. The correct terminology is 'person with a disability.' 'Instead of insane, psycho, maniac or neurotic please say 'persons with a mental health disability.' Even 'idiot' is off limits being morphed into 'person with an intellectual disability.'

I wonder what Dostoevsky would have done if he had an editor asking him to change the title of 'The Idiot.' Somehow 'The person with an intellectual disability' would not have the same impact I suspect.

What about classrooms in schools? Those cesspools of misguided humour.

One of the more popular ones among us sports jocks was, 'What are your crippled?' Today, it's what are you 'a person with a mobility impairment?' Another famous one was spastic as in 'are you a spas?' in gutter slang. Today? If you are the class clown make sure to use 'person who has spasms.'

Of course, one can ask, what happens when we all adjust (especially kids) to the PC regime? In other words, who is to say we won't use the PC terms in the same spirit of the words originally used? Will we review and change the PC term into a new PC word? Who is to say the word 'disability' won't carry a negative connotation one day? In fact, I thought 'physically challenged' was PC. Alas, it no longer is. The correct way to express it is 'person with a disability.' So, it does seem we have revisited some words.

I'll be sure to respect this new reality in contemporary times. I'm not sure how it will turn out. When my buddies and wife heard about this they all had a hard laugh considering my non-PC existence.

Nonetheless, I'm hip to it. Here's my word engineering contribution to the culture of PC.

Instead of IMMIGRANT; please use 'Physically displaced. Physically misplaced may also be acceptable. 'My kid was is a proud and hard working physically displaced Canadian!'

Sigh, I think I'm going to pick up a Mad Magazine.


Bill Clinton's Zidane Meltdown

The Wallace/Clinton affair has another angle to it upon further pondering. To me, Clinton's reaction was the political version of a Zidane headbutt. It also made me realize one other thing. Bush is just as (if not far more) attacked and reviled by Clinton. Yet, he never seems to be affected by it. Clinton on the other hand has had every possible benefit of doubt excuses given to him and yet he can't even handle a 'perceived right-wing' threat?

I got to see the interview. As a Canadian, am I not in the corroded foray of American 'divisionism.' All I can say is that Wallace was not out of line. Not even close. If that's an 'ambush' then journalism as an institution is in profound trouble.

There has not been a President in history that has been fair game for lame attacks like Bush. There is a gigantic discrepancy between American history, Bush's record and the reactions to it. As I alluded to earlier, he has never cracked in an interview. Look, do you think he doesn't know he is being ridiculed - even by interviewers? Yet, carefully examine how navigates through it. It's a lesson in public speaking. He has the last laugh. And you know why he's effective? Because know one realizes it.

Clinton was a star but he was loved. It was easy for him in an interview. The roses were hurled his way. Any hack can perform under those circumstances. Bush on the other hand has the world against him. People no doubt will justify Clinton's loss of composure as 'fighting back.'

I'm not so sure. I would submit it amounts to a Zidane headbutt. He messed up. End of story.


Welcome Back, Baumann

I never quite understood how Alex Baumann was allowed to leave Canada. Whenever you are lucky enough to have world class athletes at your disposal - especially where few exist - you just may want to consider holding on to them.

Not Canada. Alex Baumann along with the late Victor Davis were this country's most accomplished international swimmers. They kept Canada on the swimming map while the two superpowers Australia and the USA dominated. It was like watching fish versus dog paddlers whenever Canada went up against the big two. Under the Baumann-Davis leadership, Canada held its head up high with a quarter of the support and resources. They were winners. More importantly, they hated to lose. Alas, this was Baumann's undoing.

You see, Canada was not interested in a zero-sum winner take all game. They wanted to develop more integrated athletes. Philosopher-kings if you will. That's fine as long as it doesn't come at the expense of winning. Athletism is indeed about character building but it is also about performance and excellence. We were not giving our athletes all the necessary tools to compete with the world's best.

I suspect that it was this philosophical discrepancy that allowed Baumann to leave for Australia. Swim Canada was in dire straits and their performance at the 2004 Olympic games in Sydney was an abysmal humiliation*. A failure in the philosopher-king project. It was the final straw for even the most mild-mannered Canadian. By extension, the same thing happened with the Men's ski team. How can a winter country like Canada allow itself to present the world with a 2nd rate ski program?

Baumann represents everything that Canadians resent. We tend to dismiss if not demonize excellence. We're uncomfortable with success. In a society that has become a tad exaggerated in its socialist ideology, anyone running ahead of the egalitarian curve is to be held back. No wonder athletes leave Canada for more mature nations with serious intentions. Baumann is everything Canadians strive to be but are afraid to aim for. Heck, in some journalist circles even Wayne Gretzky is attacked.

Now Baumann is back after a stint in Australia. He should never have been allowed to leave to begin with. Thanks to probable parochialism and ineptness, he did. With his return expect a culture shock. He will bring back a sense of pride back not just for swimming but for sports in general.

I hope we never have to watch our athletes go off on their own without their coaches because of lack of funding ever again. This is not how a supposed proud nation should behave.

With Alex Baumann, 2nd rate will hopeful become a forgotten term.

Now if we can just do something with the Canadian Soccer Association.

*To its credit, Swim Canada got its act together and performed well at the 2006 World Aquatic Championships. Baumann can only improve on this positive result.

Meet Canada's possible future Liberal leader

Perhaps the title is a stretch but Canada has possibly found its own answer to Hilary Clinton: Belinda Stronach.

Move over intellectually accomplished Michael Ignatieff. Ken Dryden may be a lawyer with a sense of history who happens to be getting his jersey retired with the Montreal Canadiens but he's got nothing on Stronach.

While it is not exactly morally advisable to let your sexual prowess out pace your political (or general) accomplishments, in today's short-sighted and superficial culture it's a recipe for success. With nepotism still running high in Canada, Belinda will do alright.

Poor Belinda. Well, actually that's not accurate. She's very rich. Anyway, former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi's wife has blown the whistle on the alleged affair between Tie and Belinda. Crossing the floor, evidently, is not the only thing she is good at.

Tie Domi? The guy looks like The Rhino. Just more proof that it's not necessarily the look that matters nor the personality per se. It's the pay check that accompanies it.

Civil Servant: "Ms. Stronach. Here's your new Cabinet portfolio. Mr. McKay sends a wink and his regards."

Ms. Stronach (giggling): "Er, what's a portfolio?"

CS (scratches head): "Um, not sure."

Male Voter: "I have no idea what she stands for but she's hot and willing!"

Female Voter: "She's so smart. She has to be good; she's Liberal."

Internet Killed the Print Star?

Just asking. We're not there. But...


The 'So-Called War on Terror'

I saw glimpses of former President Bill Clinton's loss of verve and nerve with one Chris Wallace of Fox News on television last night.

No doubt, one can surmise and imagine the divisive partisan drivel that followed this tense encounter. Regardless, Clinton took issue with the interviewer's line of questioning (or insinuation) about his failure to capture (or kill) Osama Bin Laden. My apolitical wife, in all her fondness for all things political, looked at me and said "is this true what the journalist is saying?"

The answer is of course far more complex. The reality is that successive President's turned a blind eye (or swept under the rug) to terrorism that had been growing in power and stature since the the early 1970s. In expansive form, the Western world at large did not want to confront a violent form of political tactics choosing instead to appease it for multiple reasons.

From an American perspective, foreign policy directives and policies were designed and implemented within a Cold War context. Everything was about the Soviet Union and its own designs on the world. Both used proxy wars to indirectly fight one another. Once pawns in a larger game, nouveau terrorists slowly began to exercise their new found effectiveness of spoiling big power politics. They were no longer pawns but rooks and knights.

Collectively, the West allowed this to happen. Even if we recognized it we would have possibly been unwilling to take the necessary steps to fight it. I'll allow myself some leeway here in discussing liberals regarding terrorism.

In a time where intellectual indiscretions are permitted (just look at Hollywood whenever it deals with historical figures and events), liberals have a love-hate relationship with facts and history.

Terrorism is the perfect subject. Unwilling to fully accept that terrorism is a social and religious phenomena which is capable of acting independently of foreign policy initiatives, they would much rather treat the problem as a product of American political spinning or past abuses. We insist on applying our secular lenses when rationalizing the degree of threat terrorism actually and potentially represents. This is why, it can be argued, many letters to the editors insert the 'so-called war on terror' clause.

There's a problem with this outlook. What happens if (and possibly when) this comfortable notion becomes impractical?

Engaging liberals will consult history. Maybe some may even do the unthinkable and look to religion and theology as a source of comfort.

When push comes to shove liberals will 'consult' history on their terms. 9/11 was a shove. They have erroneously concluded that the United States never 'dealt' with the terrorist problem. Worse, they realize that America, if anything, contributed to it. This logic, taken to its worse end, invites the notion of America being a rogue state.

Liberals operate in a sophist-type circular logical scheme that is short-circuiting. Not content to deal with something in the present they come back to the past with cynical furor to predict the future. Conservatives, for their part, are usually more at ease with history for some reason. When it comes to thoughtful and engaging pieces about society in general, conservative magazines and writers have the clear upper-hand.

I tend to read both sides but few liberal publications present a good read these days. Partly because they not only believe they are in the right but that they are suddenly cultural and political victims. A sense of paranoia fills their rhetorical positions.

To me, Bill Clinton was less an effective political leader in the classical sense and more of a cultural persona. He spoke with a clever eloquence that blended well with the social climate which existed during his tenure. Some call it being superficial or trendy. One can not discount his intellect, what they can dismiss is his substance.

The jury is out on George Bush. For now, he is Clinton's Lex Luthor. If history were to judge Bush now, it would claim him to be a President that did not deviate too much from established American foreign policy directives and doctrines.

To some, and not without validity, he gains points for identifying a problem, taking the initiative (however questionable or dubious its design and execution) to combat it and ignoring the prevailing contemporary political paralysis that gripped world leaders and intellectuals. In other words, he took a stand.

How Iraq and Afghanistan turn out will determine if he enters the pantheon of great Presidents.

The bigger picture is this: Is the West prepared to drop the 'so-called' moniker?


Hamin Karzai Speaks to Parliament

Evidently, Prime Minister Harper needed a hand to convince Canadians of their mission in Afghanistan. Karzai was willing to extend one.

Afghanistan asked for Canada's help - in whatever limited form. They appreciate the blood and sacrifices spilled in their name. They are also asking Canadians to remain vigilant and strong. They want us to stand side by side with them. This is not an interventionist mission or project. In many ways it's a human one. We are not there are salespeople but as friends.

With the Taliban re-surging and the country still in a precarious state, perhaps Karzai's words can at least push the Bloc and NDP back in their cold wooden seats. Frankly, we shouldn't have needed him to explain what is at stake.

There are some who cling to the notion that fighting terrorism is a smokescreen for a multitude of unspecified reasons. I think it's more simple than this position implies.

We apply a post modern world view on an issue that does not comprehend it. When we talk and debate among ourselves this sort of world view makes sense. But what happens when they are used in a different setting? They become incompatible and collide with an existing world outlook far behind that's what. Hence, we are unable to comprehend that terrorism is real. So, we go around with the comfortable notation that this is a 'so-called war on terror.' Rather than a real one.

No. It's real. Time to exit and adjust our perceptions to hard realities before it's too late. We can always revert back.

Karzai and Iraq are real entities facing massive odds. They truly stand at the cross roads of world history. This is a region in the midst of radical changes and challenges. They need a hand. Forget WMD. Forget Bush. Forget conspiracy theories. Clinging to this only compounds our cynicism. Look forward. See the possibilities.

Canadians have a chance to help form a country with a possible new lease on life. They have a chance to have a real concrete say on how things develop there and by extension how we diffuse the powder kegs that light terrorism. Yes, the odds are against Afghanistan but we should not give up. Too often the West has turned their backs or a blind eye when they were needed most.

For our part, Canada has a chance to put our money where our mouths are. Harper is offering a chance to return to the table of great nations. He's at least considering the option of making Canada a leader among middle-powers. A status we lost some time ago.

The question is do we want it back? Or do we want bounce around the insular provincial halls of Parliament forever?

Yearning for Saturday Mornings of Yesterday

As I lay the finishing touches of a business venture (one can only hope it works out. If not I'll be asking people if they want hot chocolate with their maple walnut doughnut at some point in the not too distant future), I had some time to spend with my daughter.

Lauren-Alessandra is 16 months and watches, surprise, cartoons. So I sat and watched 'Treehouse' with her. Bonding with my gal. While my brain was put to the test with 'Dora the Explorer' and 'Blues Clues' I immediately, I confess, yearned for Snagglepuss or Mutley.

Times have indeed changed. The cult of the Saturday morning cartoon is all but gone now. No more uncensored Bugs Bunny and questionable, albeit hilarious, stereotypes. No more Speed Buggy. No more Dungeons and Dragons. No more Captain Caveman. No more Flintstones. No more Rocky and Bullwinkle. No more Superfriends. No more nothing. I used to spend a good three hours eating sugar and watching shows early in the morning before beginning my long day in the outdoors semi-unsupervised.

Now it's education this and eat healthy nut bars that. I saw the development of this revolution unfold before my eyes well before Lauren was born. If you recall, it was the 'sitcom with a message' program genre like 'Saved by the Bell' (started by 'Degrassi Jr. High') that littered Saturday mornings with their tired trash cliches. Anyone who needed moral lessons from Screech had deeper issues to contend with.

Since hanging around with the little tyke, I pretty much know how to speak Spanish and roll a cigar* - though I argue Speedy Gonzalez was far more effective - and get to grandma's house using a sundial.

I'm not going to say the aforementioned cartoons were better than anything on today. Probably not. However, the great cartoons of today - Futurama, The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, King of the Hill and not so long ago Spawn (to name a few) are adult in nature and find their slots in the evening. Rather, I'm talking about injesting an abnormal amount of cartoons - good or bad - in a tight compact time span.

Somehow all these new animation shows seem so...so....hollow. Yeah, the quality is great - Baby Einstein is teaching about classical music now - but how I miss tawny Saturday cartoons that spoke nothing to me! In fact, it seems to me some shows and video games are extremely intelligent and challenging. I'm all for it.

But gosh, Saturday mornings were great no? Once upon a time there was a nice balance between fun TV, educational TV and going to learn about life outside as we burned off the sugar.

Is it me? Nah. Right?

*It's a joke.

I have seen the Devil


Not so long ago I wrote a piece called 'You've Gotta Read This..." It was about emails sent under the guise of being important. Once opened, you reach for Mr. Clean to disinfect the germs left behind.

The problem with these 'discoveries' is that it can be applied to any leader in world history. It's one thing to criticize Bush and his policies - preferably armed with a strong knowledge of American history. Laugh. But too many opinions are formed without it - and quite another to cross the line into judging him as a human being. They are so broad in their applications it begs for wonder what state of mind these doctors are in.

The anti-Bush rants have gone from mild bantering to abnormal rhetoric. Much of his policies are fair to be criticized or debated but what we are witnessing is not a real debate about America. It's about how we loathe one man. It has become less about him as President and more about the man himself.

In a way, this makes us hypocrites for we are judging a man with a faulty and smug moral apparatus. What brings the whole issue crashing is that most of the time we don't even have our facts straight.

It may as well be as such. Facts and history are the strict domain of the individual now. That is any individual. We strike at will and without prejudice because my word is equal to the next person no matter how absurd.

Which brings me to Crazy Chavez. Listening to him talk like a complete, well, idiot (Venezuelans should be proud. If Bush is a moron what to classify this piece of work?) at the UN two things came to mind. 1) What society would tolerate on their own soil such a verbal attack on their leader? It speaks volumes of the maturity of Americans who do not take to the streets like crazed lunatics. Though, sigh, some are not that far removed from reaching that point. Would China, Cuba or any other nation ignore him like Americans do? And 2) People actually agree with Chavez. This point makes me shutter. Add a third point here. Namely, I can't think of a period in American history where the U.S. has been more unpopular. What more it seems to be more pointed to one man in particular.

Alas, this may all be inconsequential. He speaks with a highly populist agenda and his remarks will find approval in the Third World.

To me, this article is just another example of how we've crossed the Rubicon and willfully challenged, if not broken, unwritten intellectual laws set forth by great minds of the past.


Recommended Article


Once upon a time while weaving in and out of aisles of a book store I undertook an adventurous journey into 'First Things.' The beauty of FT is that it reminds of how much depth there is to Christian theology - or just plain theology. Theology has been pushed back as a form of regressive philosophy during our contemporary Dark Ages. Nevertheless, it is a form of comfort that they still find a place on magazine shelves to offer a ray of light that is different from other publications. Far from a Church goer myself - and I do not say this with any boastfulness. Only modern pagans would be fools to do so - I do not dismiss or outright belittle its value.

In any event, I must profess that I do not read FT merely enough. I thank Contratimes for providing a pleasant reminder.

Today in the paper another letter to the editor trapped my senses. It seems, according to this particular gentleman, that the Pope 'doesn't get it.' As this article should reveal, it's actually the other way around. Indeed, what folly!

Typical isn't it? The Pope's edicts are alien to us because we continue to impose a secular mindset (in part to disassociate ourselves with religion given the misguided and historically inaccurate notion that religion is at the root of many if not all wars) to a question that is theological. How can this erroneous (but understandable given the context of contemporary society) application possibly arrive at any legitimate intellectual conclusion?

For it to be so, we need to remove ourselves from our secular stool and actually place our minds into another world view. Alas, that we seem incapable of doing so only comfirms the shallowness of our times.

*Article suggested is by Reynolds.


Article of Interest: Politics 9/11 poll


I will hopefully come back to this article and comment shortly. In the meantime, a few half-witted Canadians (Americans for that matter) and hilarious Hugo 'Huggies' Chavez have something in common: that the Americans are to blame for 9/11.


Bozo the Clown and History

Many times readers have been privy to my thoughts about the state of history in the public arena. It's scant and scarce. It hardly registers - or counts for that matter - on the grander scale of our lives.

The television stayed fixed on one channel for a while as we scurried around tidying the house. Eventually, a rest was earned and a Seinfeld rerun happened to be on. It was the episode where George ran from a fire as he pushed aside the elderly and children without prejudice. Funny stuff.

However, while the show was filled with hilarious moments (Kramer's saving a pinky toe story comes to mind), a humourous and innocuous conversation between George and a clown caught my attention.

"You're hung up on a clown from the 60s man!" was the clown's response to George's disbelief that the former had never heard of Bozo the Clown.

In that small interlude something very interesting was revealed. That it is not necessary to have a sense of connection to anything much less your job. A job is just that; a job. An accountant is not expected to know the history of double entry book-keeping when he is hired. He or she may have glossed over some historical aspects of Florentine or Dutch capitalism but not more than that.

Listening to a local sports show or reading a columnist it stuns to observe how ill-equipped some people are in talking about certain topics they are supposed to be experts at. Worse, they hardly feel history is important. If they were not present then who cares?

So, what we get are a collection of contemporary discussions that amount to very little. There's no depth or substance. No sense or feel of anything. And for those who do know their stuff, because of time constraints or the need to focus on immediate considerations, little of this knowledge is ever transferred to listeners. One should never have to be in a position where they feel they know more than the person with the mic. Alas, often this is the sad case.

Not so long ago a manager told me, "Hey, you really know history" after I offered some various marketing suggestions. All I did was convey some banking history to everyone that I felt was very relevant. Not that they ever figured out how to use the asset they had under their noses. Much of what I ever said was hardly ever considered. I was more of an outsider with the core inner banking sanctum.

I preferred it that way. Needless to say, I moved on to semi-greener pastures as I try to put my talents to practical (and financial) use.

Back to the clown. If there was a pride of labour (or labour of love) he would have known who Bozo was. We don't condition or teach our kids enough about the merits and incalculable benefits of acquiring knowledge. If there is no ends to the means then there is no point is the prevailing view and attitude.

This is a wrongheaded way to approach life. One should always be hungry (if not starving) and endowed with a healthy curiosity for information and knowledge.

Pope Should Not Have Apologized

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," Benedict quoted passage that dated back to the Middle-Ages.

This is the quote that started the latest and predictable outrage among some Muslims.

It also led to some letters to the Montreal Gazette from readers who condemn the reactions and feel that the Pope had nothing to apologize for. I tend to stand on this side of the debate. Others, however, had a different perspective.

One person wrote, "The isolated acts of vandalism against churches in the East Bank by a few hotheads are inexcusable, but they should not be used to diminish the legitimate outrage of Muslims over the use by the pope of a quote demonizing Islam. In spite of Vatican pleas that the words were taken out of context, just imagine the chorus of indignation by the Jewish community had the pop uncritically included a quote that called Judaism evil and inhuman."

Fair enough. But a tad unfair. It WAS taken out of context. Perhaps he should have considered it harder before saying it given the global context of the world. This, however, is not the point of this post. Rather, a couple of his assertions piqued this commentators precious dark brown eyes.

So he feels the burning of the Pope in effigy a justified reaction? Or how about Al-Queda's words, "We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen." Rome? Are you kidding me? Who talks about Rome like this? Is this a normal religious logic to live by? If anything, it proves that Islam simply has fallen prey to violent and irrational responses to any perceptions of threat. What kind of moral outlook is this? The fact remains that the reaction remains grossly disproportionate relative to the action. In fact, I am sure the great majority of Muslims - though possibly not agreeing with the Pope - simply do not share the views or stupid actions of the protestors.

Would the writer of this letter feel it was a justified had Muslims rampaged on his street? Of course, what's a debate without invoking the Jews? Last I checked, the Jews have been at the center of verbal and physical attacks for thousands of years. Yet, I have yet to see them rampage on streets vanadalizing Churches or Mosques. They're out earning a living or writing jokes.

Did the Pope issue a Christian version of a fatwa? Did he tell Christians to go and 'cut the throats' of his or her Muslim neighbour? Even if he did, our civilization is not sick enough to the point of listening to gibberish.

It's become a passtime for some Muslims to cast dispersions upon Western, Christian and Jewish culture. One need only to peruse the various academic sites such as MEMRI to observe that this sort of thing is not isolated but a daily occurrence. Should an apology be forthcoming to Christians?* How did things become so one-sided?

*Somehow I doubt it's even an issue for us Seculartarians. Hell, er, heaven knows how belittling Christianity is open game. Duck season! Rabbit season!


Momentous Middlings on Current Affairs: Muslim-Americans/law enforcement, Martyrdom, Family, Harper, iPods/Cds, MLB, Public tennis Courts, Cuisine


"Another reason is the informant network established within the Moslem-American community. For every suspected Islamic terrorist arrested in the United States, some ten Moslem-Americans have joined the military,FBI, CIA and similar organizations involved in the war on terror."

Now there's an interesting fact you don't hear every day.

-THE CULT OF THE MARTYR. Just a week after a man went on a murderous rampage at Dawson College police have had to respond to two disturbing calls. The first, a 15-year old boy threatened to do the same thing at a high school in Hudson. The chilling words were revealed on the same sit vampiresfreak.com where Kimveer Gill laid he's clues into his deteriorating state of mind who had access to several hunting rifles. The police are now investigating the boy's father. The second incidence was when a student at Centennial Academy high school (I went to the private college after one semester at Dawson) entered the school with pellet gun and pellet bullets.

Are parents sleeping at the switch? Is it an acceptable excuse, given the times we live in, for parents to say 'we were unaware'? Ignorance is not a defense in law. Why should it be in society? We've heard it a million times the various theories about how our society is falling apart from all sides of the political spectrum. Yet, we remain timid in getting to the direct source: THE FAMILY. The family structure is under increasing attack. That it must change and adjust to 'progress.' Family values, the bedrock to which that allows us to move forward as a civilized species, no longer are valid in these absurd times. Time to take a deep breath, roll our sleeves and teach our kids the basics of what constitutes a family unit. We have to be far more attentive and astute.

All the justifications seem to point to the fact that kids were bullied. True or not, it is up to the parent to take their kids aside and ensure that they have support to deal with any difficulties society has in store for them. Hoping that they grow out of things can prove fatal.

Our kids are being used as pawns in a world slowly losing its mind. There's isn't much to distinguish between a Muslim suicide bomber and a serial killer now. Both feel victimized by a world that allegedly shuns them. Time to face this sickness head on.

STEPHEN HARPER AND AFGHANISTAN. The Bloc Quebecois called for an emergency discussion in Parliament about a recent decision by the Conservative to deploy a Canadian detachment out of Quebec City to Afghanistan. Quebec is expected to be the key for a majority government for Harper and some are wondering if this latest decision will hurt the Cons. Pish-posh. If it's one thing I learned it's to run opposite to what is reported.

It has to be drilled into the minds of Canadians that sitting back and acting parochial is no longer an option. For too long we have been without leadership. We got used to the Chretien style of risk management in political leadership. Play it safe as it were.

Canadians have to learn we can't have our cake and eat it too. If we want to be respected - the real kind. Not the lip service gibberish we're accustomed to - we have to participate in global matters. Even in areas that seem to be alien to our sensibilities. Sometimes the best decisions are the toughest ones to take and face. That we are still asking what we are to gain in Afghanistan points to how poorly politicians are conveying the purpose of such a mission. Afghanis have directly asked for our help. Are we to ignore it?

-I POD NOTHING. The other day my brother-in-law, something like 6 years my junior, was stunned I still buy CDs. The question posed was in the form of why I don't just go on the Internet and download my music on an iPod. In these days of soulless art, it is no wonder the concept of the album is dead. Kids today don't have the time or patience for such things. Aside from not wanting to pay for a piece of technology that adds little to my life, I actually like going out and hunting for music for many reasons including keeping me au courant with the music scene. It obviously sounds crazy to the younger generation but that's how it is with me. I have no time to sit and 'download' my window into the artistic world. Read a book people. No wonder things are so screwed up and inverted.

-UNCOMPROMISING UMPIRING. Is it me or are MLB umpires just a tad too quick in throwing out players and managers? Thin-skinned some of them are no doubt. Sheesh. Can't argue like you used to it seems. Heck, you can't come 'up and in' anymore without a player equipped like he's ready for a joust charging the mound like a raging retard.

-GET OFF THE $$%$!%@% COURT! In the trivial section of this post I have to vent. Once long ago the nearby tennis courts were reserved for people who actually knew how to play. We all patiently waited our turns as we watched people respect the sport. Today it's different. Let's leave aside that for some reason there are no longer any monitors checking to see if anybody has a pass, courts are littered with listless people dressed in jeans that loiter around. One time, my buddy and I stood and stared at the stupidity of watching three people who could barely hold their rackets laugh as they 'played.' Take the threesome elsewhere if you get my drift. This may sound haughty or snobbish but it isn't. There's nothing worse than having to wait 30 minutes for a court for people who are wasting time. Worse, because they don't know how to play they hardly break a sweat. No wonder they play for two hours.

-OUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO WORLD CUISINE. Wendy's has a commercial pimping one of their Italian sandwiches. In the ad, a collage of assorted cold cuts and foods are artistically placed to cleverly form Italy. In the middle of the country was that classic Italian dairy product: Swiss cheese. I guess the marketers over at Wendy's chose to conveniently overlook that Swiss cheese is not exactly, well, Italian.

For an authentic Italian sandwich you would have to consider provolone, bocconccini and to a lesser extent mozzarella. It's like that advertisement for lasagne (I forget which company. Probably Kraft) boasting four cheeses. One of them being Emanthol.

As a culinary purist, it irritates me what we've done to Italian cuisine. I'd say that roughly half of what we think and sell is Italian actually is not. For example, parmesan is not Parmiggiano. Parmesan (Kraft) is a cheap knock-off (generic in pharma lingo) of the real version which is far more expensive. Parmesan upsets my stomach.

I think the French are behind this. They claim to be 'artists' and 'purists' but they no longer are. They sold their soul to the mass producing devil a long time ago. What the hell does 'zesty parmesan' mean anyway?


I Lose, Your Fault.

"We have understood how things go - it has all been decided. They have decided to give the world championship to Schumacher and that is what will be." So speaketh conspiracy expert Renault boss Flavio Briatore and his sexy tan on Italian television.

Whenever something like this arises it's always fun to consult history to help decipher a pattern and arrive at some form of truth. History leaves its footprints.

Throughout the 90s teams complained about the alleged abuses of Ferrari. In basketball, the Detroit Pistons thought the "league" was out to get them when paranoia set in their locker room. Argentina had similar thoughts during the1990 World Cup. I guess in some team work better at the sub-atomic psychological level. It helps them to play better under a 'us against them' scenario.

In the end, all this adds up to is strong suspicion. And you can't take suspicion to court right? Right.

In the case of Ferrari, the suspicion that gave way to conspiracy makes little sense. Especially considering McLaren had outright dominance for over a decade with Ayrton Senna prior to Ferrari taking over. Booms and bust. Booms and busts). Once the facts escape people who get their butts kicked the only thing they can fall back on is the 'unsportsmanlike' behaviour of their opponents.

Maybe Briatore's comments point to another reality.

In the 80s, my elite soccer team was very talented. Raw but not coached properly. We knew this. We would often lose to lesser teams that were far more physical and organized. We had every excuse in the book. Now that I look back in hindsight we had no one but ourselves to blame. One thing I learned is that no one has the monopoly on such an elusive concept as 'sportsmanship' in professional sports. We would often point out what the other guy was doing but turned a blind eye to our own indiscretions.

Watching millionaire cry babies behave like pampered sore losers is a lot to digest. Ferrari kicked their asses and there has to be some sinister plot to explain this. If I lose. it's gotta be your fault. It just has to. I'm waiting for Michael Moore or Oliver Stone to make a movie profiting from this.

Of course Mr. Briatore took back his foolish comments and claimed it was a 'joke.' Which it possibly was but in these days where conspiracy theories run rampant who knows anymore?

Renault's top driver and reigning world champion Fernando Alonso, for his part, felt he needed to speak out and told a Spanish sports paper that Michael Schumacher was "the most unsporting driver in the history of F1.' Slap me if I have heard this one before. Just a couple of weeks ago former world champion Jacques Villenueve claimed that history would not remember Schumacher.

An astonishing assertion to make. On the contrary, With 90 plus victories and a possible 8th world title along with his win at all cost attitude, Schumacher will, and I'll take a stab here, be remembered for the ages. It's ole Jack who will be pushed to the back pages of F1 history. Possibly even Alonso.

They speak of sportsmanship but their own comments cab be interpreted as unsportsmanlike.

The sports landscape is filled with die-hard winners from Vince Lombardi to Pete Rose. From Maurice Richard to Ty Cobb - to name a precious few. In F1, Ayrton Senna had the same desire and will to win as Schumacher yet people choose to forget this.

All this does point to a larger general malaise in modernity doesn't it? We've heard how accountability and responsibility are all but forgotten words waiting to be rediscovered. We have been conditioned to think that the best isn't really the best anymore. That the truth - or your version of it - is not the truth at all. That excellence is built on the backs of others. 'Society' is a convenient scapegoat these days. "They have all the money" is a popular excuse. Yet, how do you think Ferrari and by extension the New York Yankees and other great teams made money? By reaching the pinnacle of their respective sports that's how.

No. I am not daft to the point of naivete. Of course, corruption exists. Of course, it is possible that sports are rigged. The world is filled with questionable men of dubious distinctions. However, there is a fine line between a healthy skepticism and a outright paranoia.

Flavio and Fernando should give Dr. Phil a call.


Articles of Interest: Politics: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories versus science


If the attack happened under Bill Clinton would the conspiracy movement be as energetic? Will Steve Nash out T-Shirts if a Democrat of questionable character - cough, Hilary - and ability ever gets elected? Come to think of it, I didn't see Mr. Back-to-back MVP come up to his home and native land to do the same thing. Shucks. Will Sean 'Mr. Censor' Penn and Rosie O'Weirdo ask people to 'think' and 'question authority?' The problem is that in our excessive secular world we question a little too much. To the point of asking questions that have no merit or any rational logic.I'm not going to question anything for the sake of asking it or because The View told me to.

As for my link above, I read some comments about the Popular Mechanics book about 9/11. One person attacked the book and told us to 'smarten up' and read David Ray Griffin, Jim Hoffman and Steven Jones. You know, I don't know what drives incredibly intelligent people to such abstract possibilities that hinge on a cynical aspect of humanity. For once, it would be refreshing to hear conspiracy theories about the excessiveness of our goodness no? I have no idea what drives Noam Chomsky. Or what happened to Bobby Fischer. Who knows? Maybe they DO KNOW and the rest of us don't 'get it.' Remember Bart Simpson when he claimed that MLB was spying on him. No one believed him. It was true.

All I can rely on are my judgements and instincts - and research and readings. Much of it is defined and determined by my general outlook on life. To me, PM makes sense. To my engineering buddies it was a no-brainer. What else lurks beyond the finite composition and calculations of science?

I do know that the idea of a government who would inflict such a heinous self-inflicted wound is repulsive. For if it is true then we are all truly evil. Assuming you accept that our governance as set up are a direct culmination of our values and beliefs. Or you may simply feel that Congress (or in Canada Parliamental) is run by runaway bandits operating independently of the people.

Our caring celebrity educators and conspiracy theorists are upset that we don't see what they see. Poor them. Take it to Oprah's couch. All I can say is that either I am dimwitted or they are.

The TV tells me that I am. I think otherwise. Therefore I am 'thinking' and 'questioning authority' by choosing to ignore them. I am, by further extension, exercising my right to freedom. Alas, they do not want this. They want me to 'think' like them. Which makes them, well, dimwitted. I think.

Hey, I didn't say I was perfect.


The Vanishing Country: Vanishing Rhetoric. Part II

In this part of my four part review of Mel Hurtig's 'The Vanishing Country' I tackle his claims of Canada's vastly superior society. Most of his comments, while valid in some places, fall apart under scrutiny.

Succumbing to labeling people is a temptation that should be avoided when trying to convey an idea or point. Unfortunately, Hurtig does not avoid this. His over reliance on attacking everyone as a 'right-winger' and dismissing certain claims made by others as 'nonsense' was somewhat unfortunate.

Let's begin with a quote in his book from journalist Richard Gwyn who described Canada as being a "kinder, gentler' nation with a collectivist outlook that is committed to peacekeeping and promoters of global human security'."

What Western country isn't?

The main purpose of this book is to explain in nationalist language the sell out of Canada. Of course, what's a Canadian ho-down without dedicating an obscene amount of pages to comparing Canada with the United States?

The Americans are not the only ones apparently at fault. The Canadian government and the nouveau right-wing academic establishment are both singled out for their eagerness to integrate with America. The Canadian people are, surprise, given a free pass.

The radical right for their part are described as the following: "they have little or no precedence, they contradict long-standing Canadian values, and they advocate a far-reaching transformation of the character of our county. I would posit that the championing of small government and individualism is very much in line with Canadian history. He has the story inverted.

Even if it isn't, what is wrong with some of their ideas?

Our traditional values were not born in Canada. They were imported from other countries - specifically and ironically the United States - and found their highest expression in Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Canada became a 'compassionate' society on the Northern European model in the late 60s. It was Trudeau who engaged in social engineering - which can be looked upon as far left project. When we talk of Canadian values we're actually talking about Trudeau.

The myth persists as Bob Gustafson asserts, "…this social consciousness has been a foundational aspect of Canada…"

One part of the book that elicited attention was his long list of Canadian companies sold to the Americans. He laments that an American bought the legendary Montreal Canadiens. What he doesn't say is that no Canadian group stepped forward.

Nor does he point out that in most cases - leaving aside the fact that common shares have a right to vote - shareholder value is usually enhanced in any merger. He can dismiss this as 'right-wing drivel' but Canadian nationalism will only go as far as their pocket books tell them.

Throughout the book he mixes apples with oranges. For instance, he complains about CEO pay increases and wonders why social workers like teachers or nurses don't get the same pay raise. Maybe because they are public servants? How can we compare salaries between the private and public sectors?

In attacking the corrupt nature of American business, he takes an easy way in pointing out Enron and Worldcom. These are two mere examples in a country that has thousands upon thousands of companies listed. Most of the criminals have been brought to justice. This line of thinking is narrow in scope especially considering that this country too has had its share of criminal corporate excesses. Bre-X anyone?

This is irrelevant to Hurtig. "Hooray. Bring on more Enrons…" Was his response to the Investment Dealers Association (IDA) harmonizing rules for brokers with the U.S. To assume because the IDA worked with the Americans would imply weaker measures or protection has no foundations. The cold, hard fact is that investors in both countries will benefit by a joint effort in ensuring that future Enrons (and Bre-X's) are prevented.

The real scandal is that Canada does not have any national standards regarding investments. The IDA harmonizing with American partners is not only practical but prudent - especially considering that many Canadians invest in U.S. companies. It's better than nothing, no?

When he's not quoting from the Toronto Star, Hurtig at least attempts to back up his claims with figures. Let's stick with the financial services industry.

" Canada has consistently had a better return on capital than in the U.S. or any G7 country." And "from 1990-1998 the return on capital in Canada was better than in the U.S. for six years and better than the G7 or OECD AND the EU every single year."

A startling assertion considering that in this same period America experienced its greatest expansion of wealth in its history. To be honest, it is difficult to pinpoint where he got these figures. Canada is a resource driven economy and its stock market will move in lock step with this. To even suggest that Canada is somehow on par with the EU, parts of Asia and the most dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial of them all with the U.S brings into question the credibility of his economic knowledge.

Furthermore, if this is true, then the whole financial industry needs to be uprooted. There is no way a semi-diversified country like Canada with an extremely narrow stock exchange can offer a better investment option than any of the mature economies of the G7 - no matter what various rankings show.

Canada is a sound investment destination to be sure but its optimum potential in terms of returns usually depends in what business cycle we're in. If resources are in demand in world markets, then the Canadian economy will naturally react in an upward trend.

In presenting the case that Canada is a successful country under attack by a treacherous intellectual and political community, Mel Hurtig's mistake is that he falls into the same old bottomless pit of using America as a punching bag. As well as relying on a vision of Canada that is not all that Canadian in its roots.

No one disputes that Canada has many positive attributes, however, the book took too many rich leaps of logic to prove this point.


Axis of the Unhinged

I watched one Hugo Chavez, leader of Venezuela, speak the other day. You see, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba had a pow-wow recently. Dressed responsibly and with dignity, his speech revealed the facade.

The tenets of his words hypothesized that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Yawn. Much of what he spewed was pure nonsense and had long been disproved. In any event, most conspiracies are easy to refute. 9/11 was easier to explain than one might think.

Watching these boobs was like watching Saturday Night Live.

If one needed decisive proof to know at what stage our civilization stands you just needed to listen to the drooling drivel leaking out of Havana.

Question: We see so many Che T-shirts. Why don't we see more Fruits of the Looms dedicated to Castro (once Che's brother in arms), Chavez and the other guy?

Anastasia DeSouza: RIP


Tragedy at Dawson College

While reports remain uncomfirmed, a guman (possibly two) walked into Dawson College here in Montreal and opened fire on students. For Americans or readers outside Quebec in Canada, College is basically equivalent to Grade 12 and 13. The age group is 17 or 18 years of age on average.

As I write this, up to 16 people have been shot, 8 critically. French sources - who were first to provide coverage through RDI - were reporting that two (and not one) gunmen have been killed (one by police and the other by suicide). Unfortunately, they are also reporting that two students may also be dead. The figures will fluctuate in the coming hours no doubt.

It's a sick story. I attended Dawson College in the early 90s as did many of my friends. It's located in the heart of downtown Montreal in the district of Westmount - the wealthiest district in all of Quebec. Beneath the beautiful campus exists an extensive underground city that stretches eastward for several blocks (a few kilometers) that marks this fair city - and also an easy escape route as the subway is also attached to Dawson. I'm also often in the area as the Montreal Children's Hospital is nearby (for my autism foundation and my daughter). The story is obviously close to me.

This is the third tragedy to strike Montreal since 1989. In 1989, Marc Lépine entered the University of Montreal and shot dead 16 women from the engineering faculty. It was a defining moment in contemporary Montreal history as it was the first mass murder this city had ever witnessed on this scale. Lépine killed himself and now resides in the bowels of hell. In the mid 1990s an engineering professor named Valery Fabrikant opened fire on his colleagues killing I believe four people. He is currently in prison serving a life sentence. And now this.

It got me thinking about many things. The arm chair psychologist and sociologist for one thing. There will, as usual, be a lot of finger pointing (some may blame America I am sure) from gun imports to violence on TV. Heaven knows what stupidity the NDP will come up with. But it really points to a deeper malaise doesn't it? Canadians still live in a world where they think this sort of act of random violence is an anomaly. That we somewhow are immuned from this. It isn't anymore. We've had our share of violence. Our own list of serial killers is long and the fact is that mass killings are not restricted to America. Indeed, it transcends 'Canadian' or 'American' labelling. There is something going on that cuts right through nationality.

Now, without getting into a debate - this is clearly not the time. However, I will say that Montreal averages 90 murders a year for a population of 3 million. In terms of major cities, this is low but we do seem to be vulnerable to major incidences as seen today.

This eventually brought me to Michael Moore and his hysterical nonsense. Once and for all I no longer want to hear about how pristine Canada is. Yes, on average, there is far less gratuitous violence up here. However, we do have our own problems (robbery and rape remains high on a per capita basis. Not to mention a growing gang problem and outright violence in urban centers in all our major cities. Notably Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal). I wonder what fabricated spin Moore can come up with a-la Columbine in the aftermath of this tragedy.

The fact is that this was an isolated case from someone who suffered some form of psychological trauma in his life. It's important to at least understand the in order to begin the process of finding solutions to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again. As we have seen time and again across the continent, what may seem as spontaneous acts of evil often have been dormant inside the mind of a person. How do defend against this?

By extension, pressure is already mounting for Harper to not scrap the gun registry. The problem is that it's not just access to the guns. People with intentions to kill will find out ways to carry out their mission. The gun registry proved to be a disorganized collossal waste of money that only the lawful were observing. Besides, it seems to me we would be better off focusing on other aspects that lead to such events. Getting access to guns is probably the last step a person completes before going on a rampage. What about dealing with bullying once and for all first?

In any event, Montreal has a world class police force and from what I observed they lived up to this reputation. They were organized, brave and outstanding in their approach. As were Urgence Santé (our Paramedics). They were quick on the scene and as a result were able to kill the gunman. The sealed off the area and established a perimeter and were in control of a very difficult situation. Montrealers can take comfort that our government and police forces did learn from previous experiences.

Alas, this is neither here or there. Kids have been possibly killed. It was the first day of school for them. They were met with evil instead. I feel for them. The city feels for them. God Bless and God speed to the victims.

The NDP: Truly and Genuinely Sickening

If one thought the New Democratic Party - gotta love socialists who steal the term democracy - had gone into complete liquidation in the post 9/11 era, they have left many speechless with their most recent suggestion to the United States. Of course, Condi Rice was having none of it. She must have raised her hands in frustration and sighed loudly when she heard about this.

The NDP, it seems, in their search for (misguided) progressive solutions to regressive problems, want the Americans (and I would suspect Canadians) to negotiate with the Taliban. No, you read correctly. I don't know how to respond to this. I'm not sure I really want to. Sometimes you have to ignore idiocy in life. But when it filters in the political landscape of my country it must elicit some form of response.

It literally blows me away on many levels. They want us to talk to people who a) don't want to talk and b) who rape and murder at will? The sick and twisted logic they employ is psychotic. On the one hand they blast the Americans for being violent yet they want to negotiate with perhaps one of the most violent group of madmen on the planet? How do Aghanis feel about this request?
The hypocrisy of the NDP knows no limit. They have no shame. On the one hand, they fight for women's rights here but in Afghanistan they are willing to allow the raping of women in public spheres?

This recent advice by a collection of morally and spiritually deluded morons must be ignored outright. Jack Layton you're a fool. A buffoon. You and your party operate with little minds in a sea of big issues. History is way too big for your shoes.

The Commentator is generally a calm and collected writer and I don't normally attack or swear so please forgive my temporary vulgar artisitic integrity for one tiny line:

Have the NDP lost their fucking stupid minds?


Must See Junk

Just in case you missed it. I saw an intoxicating commercial attempting to seduce people into watching Tyra Banks interview Nicole Ritchie in a 'tell all' session. Does television get any more pointless?

Roger and Me: Redefining How We View Sports Dynasties

Roger and Me: Redefining the Sports Dynasty.

Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher got me thinking about dynasties.

I have mentioned on and off in various forms how I loathe parity. How I lament there are no true dominant sports franchises anymore. I'm not sure how sports were infiltrated with the notion of equality but it's clear it's a recipe for mediocrity.

I miss the days where at the beginning of the season you knew which teams were to beat. It took true talent to put together a squad that could dethrone a champion. Not anymore. Every year we start fresh thanks to salary caps and free agency. Loyalty to ones team is all but dead.

Today? We've rewarded inefficient teams and managers. It's all-superficial now. Rules to equalize sports are to please the casual fan that cares very little about sports. 'Why should I watch because such and such team always win' is the cop-out for the dumb-ass fan. It's all about marketing to the masses by lowering standards. Someone is better than you are? Ask big brother to penalize them. Anti-trust laws or salary caps - it's all the same.

We're now forced to take a second look at what constitutes a dynasty. The first pro team to confront this was the New England Patriots. Are they a sports dynasty? First, it's best to remember that each sport has its own reference point. For example, you were not likely to see a team win five in a row like you did in hockey or baseball. Generally, it's four in five or three in four and so on. Second, you have to consider the fact that reaching the finals is a feat in itself. That's why fans celebrate even a playoff round victory. They'll take their winds where they can take them. In the past winning was the only measure of excellence. Now reaching the semis in any sport is an accomplishment.

Which brings me back to Federer and Schumacher. Schumacher and Ferrari have dominated Formula racing for nearly a decade. Most of the crying came from the teams who were getting spanked and non-racing fans. F1 cracked and brought in measures to make the sport more 'equal' again. Yeah, among the big teams. The little teams still don't compete. What it did was put a leash on Ferrari. To their credit, Ferrari - the essence of racing - managed to stay on top.

Tennis is an even starker example. Tennis is one of the few sports (along with cycling. For you golf fans I grant you Tiger) where we celebrate a dominant player. Maybe it's because it's an individual sport. Roger Federer's accomplishments are the result of a private dynasty. We are in awe of such an athlete. Should we, say, take away his backhand to make the playing field more level? Of course not, so why do it in other sports?

Sports mirrors society in many ways. This sort of 'equalizing' the playing field is found in all aspects of society now. From business to our schools, we want to make sure no one is left behind. More importantly that no one has a monopoly on things.

Suffice to conclude that the modern set up of sports is not perfect. It pleases the failures and penalizes the successful.

Scrawler Jack Todd Strikes Out Again

Author/Illustrator Bio:
"Jack Todd is one of Canada's most gifted and successful journalists. He lives in Montreal."

I found this gem off the 'net.' Just how bad is sports writing in Canada for Jack Todd to earn such adulation?

Before I move forward, consider this ghastly gem from an award winning sports writer. He wrote this during the NHL 2005 hockey playoffs:

"We were wrong. Hockey doesn't belong in Carolina because the fans and the people who run the Hurricanes organization are a bunch of lobotomized basketball-loving cretins who wouldn't know an icing call from a spear to the ribs.

They don't deserve Eric Staal, they don't deserve Erik Cole, they don't deserve Rod Brind'Amour, they don't deserve Cam Ward - but they do deserve a shot of tobacco juice right in the eye.

Why? Because last night, the RBC Centre (may an earthquake swallow it up) became Carolina's version of hell on Earth. Why? Because the powers that be in their infinite stupidity decided to pass out Idiot Stix to the crowd."

Terrible. Just plain awful.

On to the post as intended. He writes:

"It is no secret that I have never been a partisan of either Schumacher or Ferrari. I suffer from a natural disinclination to root for overdogs, I am close enough to the Second World War generation to have difficulty warming to Germans in any guise (except the Greens) and in the first years of his success, I found Schumacher both cold and arrogant."

A friend pointed me to this article this morning. Once I got past the head scratching, the first thing I thought was 'what's the point?'' Compacted in this paragraph reveal that his column continues to suffer from intellectual sclerosis. It seems as though he lets his infantile and impetuous irrationality get the better of him each time - is this considered great journalism?

Let's dissect, for the plain fun of it, shall we? Now keep in mind this paragraph pales in comparison to more radically oriented pieces he has written in the past. If I would discuss Todd each time I would have to dedicate this blog to his work.

"I suffer a natural disinclination to root for over dogs." Fair enough. We don't all have to cheer for the Lakers, Cowboys or Yankees. But he does root for the Canadiens. While the Habs may not be an 'overdog' these days, I do consider them to be in the same category of the Yankees and Ferrari. So, in essence he picks and chooses which 'overdogs' he will cheer for. If his friend Clara Hughes becomes a dominant amateur athlete will he cease from cheering for her?

In terms of Ferrari, let's be reminded that there is no F1 without the mystique, majesty and aura of Ferrari. It is Enzo Ferrari and the golden age of Italian and British racing in the 1950s that made racing what it is today. Pick up any book or research on the Internet about its history. From its stunning design ethics to the origins of the Prancing Horse and you find a creative force no different than witnessed during the Renaissance. Sometimes 'overdogs' reach the pinnacle for a reason. Namely, because they are better than the rest.

"...I am close enough to the Second World War generation to have difficulty warming to Germans in any guise (except the Greens)..."

If I'm German this statement does not impress me. So, Germany is to suffer forever for its past no matter how much it makes amends? No wonder he has a fixated fascination with the negative aspects of America. All he has ever been capable of is fanatical anti-Bush rants about America being a 'rogue' state. Every culture has skeletons in its past. To hang on to this is typical of the zeitgeist of our times.

Again, he's being rather selective here. He may be 'close enough to a generation' but he is not of that generation. He's part of that narcissistic baby boomer clan who chose to rebel against the previous generation. I'm no fan of bringing this up but Todd is an American who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. I'm sure a day doesn't go by where he doesn't think about this decision. A decision that coincided with many of his friends and compatriots staying back and facing their fate. We shouldn't judge (even though he does an incredible amount of it himself) but one would think that he would know better. Neo-liberals - because they are not true liberals - of this sort are shocking in their interpretations of history - or lack thereof.

As for the Greens, as a writer who considers art and design part of the essence of humanity let it be known that environmentalists are part of the reason why the state of architecture and design is on its heels during modernity. Much of the positions of any Green party may seem noble but they suffer from the same hypocrisy as any party. Where they all meet (besides for lust for power) is that they all believe in junk science.

"...I found him to be cold and arrogant..."

Recall the passage about Carolina. He once attacked Schumi for racing on the weekend of his mother's passing. Is this not an example of arrogance? What business was it of Todd's to question Schumi's morality? Who knows what was said between mother and son? What does he know about Schumacher's family and upbringing?

They say wisdom comes with age. Now in his 60s, Jack Todd proves that this adage has its limits. Just more unfortunate utterances from an unworthy and useless sports writer.


September 11, 2001: An Unspeakable Act of Evil

"You're Gotta Read This..."

"There are no wrong opinions. Just those that are closer to the truth." Ancient Greece.

You've got mail. Ever get that email that shows some political nut spewing utter nonsense? Me too. What is humour for me passes as true information for others. One man's clown is another man's dissident.

Nothing beats when someone sends you trash under the guise of being an important document of facts. Of course, all to solidify the senders perceptions. "You actually believe the report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology about how the Twin Towers fell?" or "Nostradamus predicted this" or "It was the American government who did this!" and "Fuel can't melt steel!" are just some of the popular misconceptions in the public domain. Yes, it is easy to dismiss or refute but what concerns me is how this can have a lasting impact on a society.

There will always be gaps of evidence and information when studying history or piecing together a massive destruction of a structure. It's how we treat those gaps that is essential in keeping out integrity in line. We must not fall prey to a bunch of jackals who take advantage of these 'holes.' They tempt you with an apple under false pretenses and it's time to fight back. "You've gotta read or see this" really means "Wake up and see things my way."

What makes this point of exchange all the more surreal is that the sender usually encloses an attachment about a subject matter they know little of. It is my contention, after reading not hundreds but thousands of pieces of opinions about America that most people haven't a clue of what they are talking about.

The sly and industrious ones, like some blogs for example, carefully cut and paste all sorts of sources and bits of information to prove a one-sided point. And what's a messy debate without each side accusing the other of censorship or being unpatriotic?

Things are most certainly inverted. We don't know what passes for security and what passes for freedom. Sometimes people are just free to have innocuous dubious allegiances. For example, I was watching a documentary about the horror film industry in Canada. One of the speakers was wearing a Che 'Crazy Ernie' Guevera T-shirt. It made me think. Ok, what if Che got his wish? Would this guy be free to stand in front of us? Indeed, would he even be a filmmaker? Would the world be a better place under Che? It seems to me that Che would be a far more hands on censor sorcerer than Bush ever could.

Liberals - well, they're really not liberals. More like impostors - claim conservatives (who really aren't conservatives) control the world. Both sides have been invaded by a bunch of neo-fakers. However, an argument can be put forth that the most popular talking heads of pop culture is actually in the liberal camp.

See where I am going with this? Liberalism IS North America. It has an invisible romantic hold on everything. Oddly enough, it is the conservatives who seek to protect and uphold the traditions laid down by liberals over the last few hundred years. Follow?

In contemporary times, we are witnessing the conservative element hitting back. Which is a good thing in that it should in theory keep everyone on his or her toes. Alas, I'm not sure this is happening anywhere on the continent. Everyone has taken positions in their forts and has not come out.

The fact of the matter is that since 9/11 America's role in the world is bigger than most people's ability to process, dissect and rationalize. I don't expect Canadians to understand it - though they clearly should. America's political permutations are far more complicated and numerous than Canada's. Maybe this is why so many easily fall for the 'you've gotta read this' ploy.

I do not mean this in a pompous manner - I myself go to great lengths and pains in deciphering the layers upon layers of facts and myths - but I have grown tired of the interloping armchair historian/political pundit so prevalent around us.

It has become somewhat of a bore to have to listen to people try and one-up each other about who will come up with the 'wittier' attack on Bush. Or who will catch him in a 'lie.' I suppose that if we scrutinize anyone on earth we could find dirt on him or her. Maybe even the Dalai Lama.

I guess people are just better at arriving at a natural truth without expunging into searching it out.

It does seem as though people who don't read history claim to be 'in the know' somehow. That they can fill in the dearth of evidence better than anyone who studies it. That those who do read it are manipulated and duped. Such are our times. Facts are mere mirages. "I don't know you but you're type' mantra prevails. That's why it's so hard and frustrating to have any meaningful dialogue about America. Everyone already HAS the answer. There is no communication.

What do I do with "You gotta read this..."? Delete. Truth is an elusive sucker.


Iraq, United States: Jim Lahrer interviews General Peter Chiarelli:Jews and Quebec

Last night I caught Gen. Peter Chiarelli in an interview with Jim Lahrer. It was most engaging and wise in its discourse. It was also absent of any of the loud-mouth diatribes we so often see.

I've always been impressed with military commentators and historians. Whenever one is interviewed it is a must to sit and listen. Military leaders receive a classical type of education that encompasses all of the so-called major liberal arts from history to philosophy. Not only this, many are sufficiently intelligent enough to understand other disciplines like engineering and urban planning. As Gen. Chiarelli pointed out, there are many things he has had to learn on the fly. Only a cultured mind can cope with this.

They are more rooted in true intellectualism than pop culture journalists or talking heads. The latter marking their popularity through an ability to sell themselves with the gift of gab. I'm not suggesting they are all like this - there are some thoughtful thinkers out there. Nevertheless, a military mind can be an interesting thing.

George W Bush. It's been awhile since we last posted. You're quite the character. Your opponents paint you both as an infantile, inarticulate ignorant monkey yet they have you behind every major conspiracy that demands informed, intelligent insight. I'm confused. Which is it? I still haven't figured out how the Jews are simultaneously blamed for capitalism and communism.

Speaking of the Jews.* The recent bomb attack - no one was injured. Damages were slight - on a Jewish synagogue in Quebec City revealed something. Muslims attack synagogues here. I have yet to hear Jews attacking any Mosques. How long before Muslims feel sufficiently victimized and confident enough to turn their sights and attention on Church's in North America?

The government of Quebec - including Jean Charest and Bernard Landry - were appropriate in their response. They condemn this cowardly act as do the people of Quebec. In a province that has a history of anti-semitism, I was happy to see the strong response by public and academic officials. There's more at stake here than just one malcontent attacking a synagogue. I have yet to hear any word from the Muslim community - no doubt seen as a just 'retaliation' for Israel's attack on Lebanon. The reality is that it is the Muslim community attempting to create a turf war here for problems that come from elsewhere. Prove this perception otherwise. I'm listening.

Our own record of the treatment of Jews is spotty and unimpressive. Pogroms and Jewish witch hunts have littered the course of Occidental history. In fact, Muslims were far more enlightened in their commitment to plurality - whether it be under the Ottomans or Persians for example. Alas, something went awry along the long circular path of history.

*I just had a flashback to Seinfeld. The episode where George and Jerry go into a limo that was reserved for Nazi's. At one point George tries to call the police, but is interrupted by two people part of the Nazi group. As they come back into the car, you hear him say, "You know who are repsonsible for that. The Jews!" And he hangs up. Classic.


Iced Cappuccino Mania

Last year I went to an underground e-zine/comic exposition held in a Church (everything takes place in a place of worship it seems in this city) here in Montreal. If there's one thing Montreal has it's a vibrant underground community. Not much at the corprorate level but where there's no cash we rule.

One table had a string of people with more holes than the New York Jets because of the body piercing. The tattoos alone would have made an aboriginal tribe from New Zealand proud. At that same table, a person was selling a low-budget manuscript titled, 'I Hate People Who Drink Lattes' or 'Fuck People who Drink Lattes.' I can't remember exactly what the title was. But I shall assume you get the picture.

Back to the book that looked like it was pasted together by a second grader. Aside from its coy title - cough - it did speak about the superficial coffee culture that exists here in North America. Believe me when I say we don't know what we're talking about when it comes to espresso - lattes are made with espresso not Folgers. We're so backwards it's embarrassing. Nevertheless, I doubt I would have agreed with the book. I know. Don't judge a book by its cover but she scared me. All I got for this post are my perceptions.

Whatever the content was, nothing perplexes me more than under-aged kids drinking iced-caps from a local dough-nut shop or café with their parents. They gulp this stuff down like it's water. Only it's not water - it's coffee. It has caffeine. It makes you jittery (though it heightens my creative juices). It's not the sort of drink a 14 year-old should be drinking. Then again, what's the difference if they go home and drink a litre of Coke? No, no. Coffee is worse. It's an adult drink. Right? Am I confused? Am I wrong to think this? Am I some neo-Calvinist?

In any event, if they want a real iced cappuccino head to any neighborhood Italian bar where they make an espresso and add ice to it. That's it. At least you get the real taste of espresso not hiding behind six packs of sugar.

It reminds me of a conversation I overheard in a sandwich joint a while ago. Some ham tell his friend he regretted taking his five year-old to see Austin Powers. "She didn't get it. It was too adult for her." Sigh.

Weird, these days aren't they?


Sports Comments: Florida Marlins and the Salary Cap

-I've been too busy to think up and write any quasi-effective and presentable posts these past few days. That's why I'm focusing on sports in this one. It's a fun, easy exercise considering I'm a natural sports (like history) junkie. There. I said it. Happy, Jen? Not that you're reading this.

Today's subject are the Florida Marlins. Let aside that the club is actually in the hunt for a wild card for a sec. Here's a team with a $15 million pay roll and they are suddenly in the mix. Teams like the Marlins, A's and not so long ago the Expos are proof that merit, talent and a sound organization with competent people can put together competitive teams.

This is the silver lining isn't it? In a time where everyone deserves a trophy it's nice to see some of us roll up the sleeves. Even little Jimmy who finished behind every girl in track gets a ribbon for 'participating.' All in the name of enhancing self-esteem. Let's get this straight. We improve inner confidence by lowering standards? I digress.

It shows that you don't need a communist cap system. No matter how you dice it, caps (ceilings in politics) gives a bone to the incompetent. All caps do is dilute true greatness from top to bottom. Personally, I used to love watching teams try and figure out ways to beat an existing dynasty. Instead, these days we try interventionist regulations to curb the teams who succeed.

The most recent example was the attempt by F1 to 'slow' down Ferrari. All sorts of rules were invented to please the other teams who were getting the lunches handed to them. Yeah, the competition is back but it seems somewhat superficial. It's not like Renault, Williams and McLaren needed the help. They have the budgets to compete with Ferrari. All it did was increase competition among the big teams. The small ones remain innocuous and irrelevant.

Anyway, this wasn't the point of this post. I broke a cardinal rule in writing! Get to the point fast! Sue me.

The point was the heinous attendance figures that continue to grip the state of Florida. Not just in baseball but in hockey as well. The Panthers, Devil Rays and Marlins just ain't packin' 'em in. In the case of the Marlins in particular it strikes me as surprising considering the large Cuban population in Miami. There's a rumour circulating like a bag caught in a wind tunnel stipulating that the Marlins ownership are buying 10 000 $1 tickets to ensure that the attendance average remains around the 14 or 15 000 mark. All in an effort to get the local government to kick in a few mill to build a new stadium. Somehow you would figure that big brotha would find out sooner or later.

This got me thinking about Jeffrey Loria, his son Mini-Napoleon and the long-gone Montreal Expos. Specifically, was Loria better off ridding himself of those clowns in the consortium and making a serious attempt at succeeding in Montreal? Historically, Montreal attendance figures have always been in the median of MLB and often outperformed other clubs. So, again I ask. As a businessman, wouldn't it have made more sense to rekindle (or revive depending if you see the glass half full or empty) baseball in Montreal rather than have to deal with a complicated state like Florida?

These are the sort of questions that demand I take melatonin at night.

Materazzi Speaks

Are you ready for this? I said, aw, forget it. Two months after Zidane's shameless and indefensible violent action, Marco Materazzi revealed what was really said on the pitch yesterday.

After Zidane told Materazzi he could have his jersey after the game, Materazzi answered, "I'd rather have your sister." This was confirmed by FIFA.

That sound you hear is the sound a twig makes when it cracks. This is what Zidane's meltdown was all about? No wonder the French soccer federation and the famous political French PR machine went into action. It HAD to spin this.

For their part, Italian officials ordered Materazzi to remain silent - until yesterday. Italians are not too keen on getting into a shouting match with France. Who does?

Which brings me to the suspensions. That Materazzi got two games and a fine while Zidane - who RETIRED - got three plus a fine was bizarre. In the end, Zidane and France got off light for their embarrassing behaviour. They not only lied - claiming that Materazzi uttered a racial slur - but they tried to protect a liar.

Heading into today's match between France and Italy, the Azzurri are without Materazzi.

It has nothing to do with 'what was said' nor are we going to come up with impossible and draconian laws to stop trash talking as some alluded to. There are certain aspects of sports that are just not pretty and this is one of them. It was an exercise in rich hypocrisy when everyone sought to get to the bottom of what was said.

It's feels as though we pick and choose where we will seek justice. There was nothing to look for. Zidane chose to act like a thug and it will go down as the single greatest act of stupidity in sports history. That Zidane was called a 'hero' by its impotent leader Jacques "Black Jacques" Chirac proved how far they were willing to go to protect its fallen star.

Somehow I doubt that the French never engaged in trash talking themselves.

After Danielle DeRossi dangerously elbowed an American player, he immediately apologized and said he was a 'dickhead' for doing what he did. Touché. No one disagreed. He got suspended FOUR GAMES. Same with Francesco Totti in 2004 who was sent home for spitting on a player. No one cared to find out what the infamous troublesome Poulsen did to instigate him. No matter. Italians demanded he be sent home.

FIFA and its President Sepp Blatter sent the ultimate wrong message. Not only did he not show up for the presentation of the World Cup to Italy as it is customary, he slapped them with a final insult by keeping Materazzi out of an important Euro qualifier.


The Commentator Supports Jason Antebi

May the forces of freedom walk hand in hand with you.

Perhaps one day this thick blanket of soot will be removed and a strala, a ray of light will be allowed back in.

Hypocrisy is multi-faceted and beware those of fame who claim to protect it.

They serve no one but their own narcissism. Pirating profiteers walk and lurk among us waiting to pounce, pulvarize and rip us to shreds for their own prize. They must be stopped, defeated and fed to the lions.

Dance naked you may in the fires of the Inferno.

You know, the funny thing is that censorship and libel has crossed the line, the 'limes' and it ain't about what fucking fink pseudo-liberals (famous or otherwise) complain about. No. There's a darker force at work here.


Team USA Basketball and Team Canada Hockey: A Shared Journey

Note: A few hours after writing this piece Spain defeated Greece 70-47 to deservedly win its first World title.

Many a theories abound about why the Americans lost to Greece at the World Basketball Championships recently. In fact, the debate is wickedly similar to what Canadians faced with hockey at the World Championships in past years. Both Canada and the U.S. are often at a loss to describe their apparent and baffling underwhelming performances at their respective tournaments.

These debates always seem to come down to American athleticism versus international fundamentals in basketball and Canadian grit versus European style in hockey. Different interpretations and development of the game from different parts of the world if you will.

Europeans often assert that Canadian hockey is ugly and physical teetering on gratuitous violence. Hit, crash the net and score ugly goals. They also feel that American basketball is a game rooted in a one-man power show. Pass; gain the lane and dunk.

While this may be true, it's also a little one-sided. Aside from the reality that you do what you have to do to win, Canadians and Americans are fully capable of playing with skill and gamesmanship. Conversely, Canadians until recently felt that Europeans often play with no heart despite the evident talent. Subjectivity leads us to a dead-end in such discussions.

Concretely, it's all a matter of how you deploy and select your talent. Deal with those factors that you can control. There is some truth in the notion that North American squads are quickly pasted together and thus have less time to become as cohesive unit. It has brought us success for two reasons 1) the raw talent and ability of our players and 2) periods by which our dominance was undisputed. Think 1950s in hockey for Canada and the Olympics for Team USA in basketball. It has become much more difficult to do so now as the rest of the world is on par with North America in these two sports. Now it becomes a question of commitment, development and management.

Often, European national sides play together all-year round. It is less in hockey these days because Europeans play in the NHL. The NBA, will reach this point soon, still has this discrepancy to deal with. Once more star players come over, you will see Team USA get back on track - not that they are completely off it. European sides will face similar obstacles moving forward. That is, the Europeans will no longer have the luxury of keeping their talent together for long periods.

In hockey, it would take three or four games before the thoroughbreds began to understand one another and adjust to international rules. I suspect the same rust had to be worked off with American basketball players. Notice, that almost every time team - and this can be applied to many sides in several tournaments - say they played their best games towards the end of a particular tournament.

These are not excuses but legitimate points. It should show alarmists that the issue is more structural than anything else. The points I bring up is not hinged on taking away from any victory made by Europeans.* That Greece nevertheless beat a team of NBA stars is a remarkable accomplishment. Though none of us should be overly surprised since Greece has a strong domestic league - as do Spain and Italy for that matter.

Team Canada began to reassert itself in the 1990s. It has been reinvigorated with a development program that helped to put an end of the Soviet hockey monopoly.** It did so, it must be stressed, playing Canadian style hockey. Team Canada plays to their strengths and Team USA is advised to do the same. I'm not saying that some U.S. players don't need some additional free-throw shooting practices but their game has a strong athletic element to it that should remain. Dictate and impose your style as Team Canada does.

Whenever Canada used to lose, the hysterical media would lament 'what is wrong with Canadian hockey?' and 'that we should learn from the Europeans!' All shortsighted nonsense. Of course, we should learn from different styles but it should never come at the expense of compromising the athletic DNA *** of our athletes.

I suspect it's the exact same thing with American basketball.


*There can be little debate that Europeans have not only help to change hockey but enhance it. A point not lost on any true North American sports fan. The NHL is a better product and game because of the phenomenal contribution of European talent.

**The Soviets always sent their professional players to amateur tournaments whereas Canada was not allowed to do so by the IIHF. Canada often sent either senior amateur teams or pure amateur players. In periods where Canada dominated the results were in Canada's favour but as the game changed by the early 60s, it was not seen as fair. This was a sore spot for Canadian officials for decades. International hockey is finally on an even playing field. That is to say, it will never be perfect as we are dealing with different nations but hockey is much like soccer in this way - highly competitive. Albeit with far less countries.

*** Understanding your players limits and capabilities is a philosophical journey. Team Canada has reached that point. In soccer, Italy and Germany have always been there. Their coaching staffs know how to marriage their style with the personality and characters of their players better than anyone. By contrast, England has not figured this out. More often than not, their system has not been conducive to the English mindset as witnessed recently at the 2006 World Cup.

**** Just one of many positive comments he made about Quebec. Not that anyone bothers to point out. Ah, selective memory. What a tool! Anyway, he had become annoyed by the fact that Team Canada kept sending big, slow players on big international surfaces. Team Canada began to see results when they added more skill to the lineup and began to give a chance to small, speedy players. Maintaining the size advantage while mixing it with other factes of the game allows Team Canada to dictate the flow of a game - when things fall into place of course.