Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The captaincy: there was no right or wrong choice

   The Canadiens couldn't win when they named their new captain.  They also couldn't lose.
   While I share the opinion of widely-read columnists and bloggers on both sides of the language divide that PK Subban was best candidate for the "C", there's no credibility in attempting to diminish the elevation of Max Pacioretty to the most coveted and respected leadership position in professional hockey - if not in all of pro sports.  
   Unlike the boisterous and engaging Subban, Pacioretty is a quiet, leadership-by-example type whose near-miraculous recovery powers in the wake of a string of serious injuries have imbued him with an aura of indestructibility.  Most tellingly, he was awarded the captaincy after a vote among the players.  As much as it's a stretch and a trivialization of professional soldiering to say that athletes "go to war" together, there is a sort of military mentality in team sports, where - as in combat - the biggest responsibility is to the guys next to you, and the greatest fear is letting them down.  In those circumstances, leadership is paramount, and there are no better judges of leadership qualities than those being led.  If the guys who live check by jowl in circumstances of shared challenges and adversity decided collectively that Pacioretty was the best choice for a leader, that should be good enough for anyone.
   It's also not as if Subban lost the lottery here.   He's still in a leadership position as an alternate captain and the heir apparent whenever Pacioretty has to miss a week or two with a femoral shaft fracture or collapsed lung.  He's the unquestioned face of the franchise, which is saying something when one of his teammates won the lion's share of the hardware at the NHL Awards.  Along with being the Canadiens best player who's not Carey Price, Subban's stock in the community soared last week with his unprecedented generosity to the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation.  For cynics who think it was public relations posturing for the captaincy, there are much cheaper ways of grandstanding that making a 10 million dollar commitment to charity.  Haterz gonna hate, as the kids today are wont to say. 
   Subban would have made a great captain.  He still might someday.  In the meantime, he'll be a dependable lieutenant to a guy who's every bit as qualified for the captaincy, in different ways.  Whatever else the Canadiens shortcomings might be entering the 2015-2016 season, quality leadership is not one of them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

RIP responsible journalism

   It would be one thing if the mainstream Canadian news media merely ignored partisan attempts to cast Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a Frankenstein hybrid of Charles Manson, Al Capone and (your favorite 20th century criminal dictator here).  The fact that the self-proclaimed media "elite" actually promote that nonsense is a bleak commentary on the disturbing state of what now passes for professional journalism in Canada.
   Some background on the relationship between Harper and the media is useful in explaining what is accurately described as "Harper Derangement Syndrome".  His refusal to kowtow to the Ottawa press gallery's every whim has put the PM squarely in the media establishment's crosshairs.  While pissing and moaning like spoiled children about a perceived lack of accountability technically falls under the professional journalistic mandate, deliberately manipulating the news to cast their tormentor in the worst possible light is flat-out propagandist.  The very journalists who tacitly endorse comparisons of Harper to Hitler are themselves practicing their "craft" in the finest traditions of Dr. Goebbels.
   The most telling example of anti-Harper media bias was this week's debacle involving the drowning death of three year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose photographed corpse on a Turkish beach became a worldwide sensation.  Canada's national news media dutifully tucked into a plateful of bullshit served up by New Democratic Party MP Fin Donnelly, who falsely claimed that he hand-delivered a refugee claim from the boy's family to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and that the claim was rejected.  The narrative immediately became that Alexander and Harper had blood on their hands and were responsible for the boy's death.  Even if Donnelly's claims were true, that narrative would have been a stretch, but when they were shown to be factually incorrect, the opposition and their hack journalist allies doubled down.  There were no apologies for getting the story wrong, and rather than seek out Donnelly for an explanation, the overwhelming majority of journalists continued to attempt to discredit Alexander and Harper while ignoring the actual facts of the case.  In the most ghoulish display of partisanship, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's chief adviser, Gerald Butts, actually used the dead child as a prop for fundraising and wasn't called out by media, which tells you everything you need to know about bias in Canadian journalism.

   As distasteful and unprofessional as the Kurdi affair is, none of it comes as a surprise to anyone who has followed the evolution of Canadian journalism.  A generation ago, the trade was still about reporting the facts, and the idea of compromising one's professional integrity by pushing an agenda was anathema. Today, journalism schools are overrun by naive idealists who learn at the knee of loopy leftists like Heather Mallick, Tony Burman and Terry Glavin that twisting the facts to fit a pre-conceived narrative is more important than getting the story right.  That's all well and good if you're writing fiction, but the news isn't fiction,
   At least, it didn't used to be.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson

   As social trailblazing goes, any comparison between Michael Sam and Jackie Robinson is tenuous at best, and at worst an insult to Robinson's legacy.
   Gay rights had already gone mainstream when Sam came out as pro football's first openly gay player last year. There was no establishment backlash like Robinson faced when he broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947.  To the contrary, in 2015, anyone who publicly disparages the notion of a gay player in a pro sports locker room is fair game for mob shaming on social media and summary dismissal from their job.  
   Sam received overwhelming support from the football establishment, the media and the public through his journey from the US college ranks to NFL training camp to the CFL.  When he walked away from the Alouettes this week for the second (and probably last) time, it was because he couldn't handle the "pressure".  The pressure of what, exactly?  Of near-unanimous support from a gushing media and adoring public?  Of a two year contract worth a reported $100,000 per season when he still hasn't proven anything at the professional level?  Of the preferential treatment the Alouettes afforded Sam while he tried to sort out his personal problems?  The worst thing to happen to Michael Sam since joining the Alouettes - and it fits the timeline in the subsequent chain of events - was that his fiancĂ©e broke up with him.

   Jackie Robinson should have faced such adversity. Institutionalized racism in the form of official segregation was part of the American social fabric for two decades after Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson endured open hostility from fans and players - including his own teammates - but he never quit.  His remarkable athletic skills were exceeded only by his character and resolve.
   I hope Michael Sam finds peace with whatever troubles him, but I'm not on board for the pity party.  He positioned himself as a social trailblazer and happily accepted the accolades, but he wasn't ready for the responsibility.  
   Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson.  Hell, he's not even Caitlyn Jenner.

(Please note: anonymous comments will not be posted.  If you don't have the courage of your convictions to sign your name to them, you're in the wrong place.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Necessary Evil

   Every August 6th and 9th, the thoroughly discredited notion that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary in hastening the end of World War Two is trotted out by the usual suspects in the revisionist history and peace activist communities. It's frustrating for serious students of military history and insulting to the generation that had to face down and vanquish a brutal foe, but part of what was preserved by their sacrifice was the right to express even the most cockamamie opinion.
   The most important thing to remember in any historical analysis is that everything that happens, happens in the context of its time.  By August of 1945, the butcher's bill for a world at war was in the neighborhood of 50 million souls.  Japan was the lone holdout among the Axis powers.  A negotiated peace was out of the question.  The Allies were unflinching on unconditional surrender and rightly so, because international standards for justice demanded that Japan be held to account for aggression and war crimes that pre-dated World War Two by a decade.  
    Despite the inevitability of defeat and in contrast to the half-hearted opposition and wholesale surrender of entire German armies in the waning days of the war in Europe, fanatical Japanese troops continued to fight virtually to the last man.  The ancient Bushido code of "death before dishonor" was reflected in wave after wave of kamikaze attacks at sea and suicidal banzai charges on land in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in early 1945, and it was a code that extended to the civilian population in a highly militarized society.  With that in mind, Allied invasion planners whose only remaining target was the Japanese mainland envisioned upwards of a million more deaths if the home islands were to be taken by conventional force to finally bring Japan to its knees.  The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as horrible as they were, averted a prolonged bloodbath and reduced the estimated death toll by at least 80 percent.
   No serious debate about the morality of using the atomic bomb can be entertained without considering what would have happened without the bomb.  To approach it any other way is either intellectually dishonest or naive, which - not coincidentally - are the respective hallmarks of revisionist historians and peace activists.  
   As Don Rickles (of all people) once said "We all want peace; sometimes we just can't make a deal for it."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Big game, big egos

  Let's be clear about where I stand on the food chain, which is at the top with the rest of humanity.  As the most evolved species on the planet, we have the run of the place, and the other species serve at our whim - and often as our dinner.  Depending on their physical makeup and skill set, animals feed us, clothe us, work for us and provide us with companionship.
   That said, I'm as appalled as any herbivore by the wanton killing of animals by so-called sportsmen like Dr. Walter Palmer - the Minnesota dentist who became the world's most reviled person overnight by killing Zimbabwe's beloved celebrity lion, Cecil.  Even if there's an element of credibility to claims that recreational hunters perform a necessary function by "thinning the herd" and preventing certain species of wildlife from propagating beyond the resources required to sustain them, the argument comes off as a lame rationalization for bloodlust.  It rings especially hollow when a big game hunting hobbyist like Sabrina Corgatelli speaks about a "connection with the animal", as if  being hunted to their death is some kind of uplifting spiritual experience for her prey, as opposed to a cruel and violent end to their existence.  Rock star/crossbow enthusiast Ted Nugent is only marginally more convincing in his defence of hunting because he actually makes practical use of some of his kills, but at the end of the day, the Nuge's legacy would probably be better-served as the musical force behind the iconic rock ballad "Stranglehold" than it is as the nut job who shot several hundred hogs from a helicopter with a machine gun.  
   Big game hunters like Corgatelli and Nugent undoubtedly believe they're fighting the good fight by publicly flaunting their trophies, but they're doing themselves a disservice.  They'll never prevail in the internet age.  Their own sadism pales in comparison to the bloodlust of the social media mob who can enjoy a good shaming in complete anonymity without putting on pants or leaving their parents' basement, never mind spending 50 thousand dollars on an African safari.  If they can resist the temptation to post their kills online, hobby hunters can go about their bloody business with relative impunity.  The question is whether their egos could handle the obscurity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Narratives are hard

   In these times of an ever-shifting cultural landscape and breathtaking hypocrisy at both ends of the socio-political spectrum (but let's be honest - mostly on the left), narratives are hard.
   As a criminally-privileged cisgender white middle aged male, I'm completely flummoxed over whether I'm supposed feign outrage that GQ is objectifying Amy Schumer in a sexually-themed Star Wars cover/photo spread, or shower her with insincere and self-serving plaudits for sticking it to the Hollywood patriarchy. 
   Similarly, I find myself at a moral impasse over the confrontation between transgender reporter Zoey Tur and right wing commentator Ben Shapiro, whom Tur threatened to send home in an ambulance after Shapiro referred to Tur as "sir" during a debate moderated by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  Is it enough to smugly conclude that Shapiro invited the threat of violence by disrepecting Tur, or should I further rationalize that Shapiro's refusal to embrace transgender culture is itself a form of hostility?
   Truth be told, I really don't care either way on either issue, but woe betide the social media enthusiast who ventures an "incorrect" opinion. Been there, done that, had the t-shirt applied as a gag.  From now on, I want to get it right - convictions, logic and common sense be damned.
   Help me, social justice warriors.  You're my only hope.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Haters gonna hate, beheaders gonna behead

   There wasn't much to choose from between the two sides in the motley assembly of demonstrators and counter-protestors who faced off outside a mosque in Phoenix Friday.  Mom, apple pie and semi-automatic stopping power were represented by bikers and other self-styled patriots who wanted to serve notice that ain't no A-rab or nobody else gonna tell Jethro what cartoons he can or can't draw in 'Murca.  On the other side of the police line were the usual suspects who never met a social justice cause they wouldn't hashtag to check their white privilege.   Happily, the prophet's avengers apparently got stuck in traffic en route, so the only shots fired were verbal. 
   Arguing over whether drawing pictures of Muhammad is a legitimate exercise in free speech or a calculated attempt to provoke a violent Muslim backlash misses the point.  Muhammad cartoon contests are themselves a backlash to violence already being perpetrated ad nauseam in the name of Islam.  Showing up with a variety of (legal) firearms was definitely white trash overkill on the part of the bikers and their allies, but I'll say this for that side of the debate: they're clear about where they stand. They believe in the liberal values that underpin western democracy and won't abide any attempt to undermine those values, especially from an ideology with a bloody track record of violently rejecting freedom and equality.
   The pro-Islam crowd, meanwhile, are hopelessly mired in their own contradictions.  The fundamental failing of white liberal apologists who like to play the "Islamophobe" card is that they're the same crowd who yammer endlessly about misogyny and homophobia, knowing full well that both are well-entrenched in the Islamic faith.  I have yet to hear anyone adequately reconcile Islamist apologia with the institutionalized subjugation of women or routine summary executions of homosexuals.  In fact, I haven't even heard them try - either because they know it would be a futile exercise, or they're too busy haranguing a Christian baker for balking at making a cake for a same sex wedding while gay Muslims are being thrown off rooftops or hanged from construction cranes. 
   It's fine - admirable, even - to promote racial and religious harmony and trumpet equal rights for all, but if you're not consistent in your convictions, you'll lose the credibility battle every time - even to gun-toting rednecks.