Friday, January 30, 2015

The real bullies

   The first-hand accounts of this week's mass layoffs of Tim Hortons administrative employees were sickening and all-too-familiar for anyone who's been a victim of corporate downsizing.  And I don't use the term "victim" lightly, because what happened to the 350 people summarily stripped of their livelihoods by Tim Hortons parent company was predatory and psychopathic.
   I speak from experience.  When I was given the bum's rush by Bell Media in 2013, we got the obligatory speech about "redundancies and inefficiencies" used to justify widespread job cuts after a corporate merger.  In my case, there was also a personal element, because an old boss became the new boss and was all too happy to settle a grudge dating back to when I publicly called him a "corporate errand boy" after voluntarily leaving his employ in 2010.  I burned the bridge and paid the price and that's on me, but how they went about "replacing" me speaks volumes about the modern corporate mindset.  My job as a morning show co-host was given to someone who was already working full-time at another radio station across the hall.  He now spends his mornings running back and forth between two radio stations, doing the work of two people and getting paid for one.  I can't speak for other industries, but it's standard practice in broadcasting today for one person to be filling roles that used to be handled by multiple people.  The quality of the product is compromised, but mediocrity is acceptable if it means maximizing the profit margin.  
   Who benefits?  That's easy: every dollar saved by cutting payroll means higher bonuses for the corporate executives who oversee the cost-cutting.  Shareholders benefit from higher share prices, and considering that shares are a standard feature of executive compensation packages, the suits cash in twice on the misery of others.
   I get that it's capitalism and free enterprise, but at some point doesn't humanity count for something?  I worked for some tough people when family dynasties ran radio, but they at least understood the concepts of honor, loyalty and compassion.  The corporate mentality takes none of those things into account.  It's about numbers, not people, and it's a driving force behind the steady erosion of the middle class and a future bereft of opportunity.     

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It ain't paintball, folks

   Not that it comes as a surprise, but some of Canada's political and media elites are demonstrating breathtaking cluelessness on the fundamentals of military affairs.  The fretting by the opposition parties and their journalist allies about "mission creep" in Canada's contribution to the anti-ISIS coalition betrays a profound ignorance about what goes on in a war zone.
   The Canadian special forces on the ground in Iraq are there to train local troops in counter insurgency and the use of laser technology to call in air strikes.  It was not the government's stated intention to have Canadian troops involved in a combat role, but a in a fluid battlefield scenario, you don't get to call time out if you find yourself under fire.  You shoot back, which is what Canadian troops have reportedly done on at least three occasions. 
   Canada is part of a just and necessary mission in Iraq, and the  elite Canadian troops on the ground undoubtedly embrace the opportunity to put their training to the test in combat.  NDP leader Tom Mulcair is smart enough to realize all of that but it hasn't stopped him from trying to score political points by accusing the government of deliberately misleading Canadians about nature of the mission.  Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his media groupies, who are considerably less savvy than Mulcair, still think we can beat ISIS by sending blankets to refugees and hugging it out with the terrorists.
   Meanwhile, the real work - the difficult and deadly work - continues to be done by those best trained and equipped to respond to a rapidly evolving combat situation.  Empty suits and keyboard warriors half a world away should leave them to it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Never again? We'll see...

  The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is as good a time as any and a better time than most to consider the unsettling resurgence of global anti-Semitism.
   It seems unthinkable that within the lifetime of some Holocaust survivors, Jews are once again under siege on the same continent where they were targeted for highly-organized and systematic genocide.  Modern day anti-Semitism is not unique to Europe, but that the beast has reawakened where it took its deadliest toll is disquieting, with gusts up to ominous.   
   Much 21st century anti-Semitism is thinly disguised as anti-Zionism.  You can be against Israel, the logic goes, without being against Jews.  It's faulty logic, considering that Israel is by definition a Jewish state, but far be it from the champions of Palestine to let semantics get in the way of Jew-bashing.  It's curious that in a world rife with minority persecution on every continent, Israel gets a disproportionate share of the attention for its supposed mistreatment of Palestineans.  It's actually fashionable among the professional activist set to embrace the Palestinean cause.  At least, I assume it's de rigueur, because otherwise there wouldn't be a logical explanation for how much time and attention is spent on condemning Israel - unless it were fueled by anti-Semitism.
   Most puzzling to me are the self-loathing Jews who take white liberal guilt to the next level by piling on whenever they perceive some wrongdoing on Israel's part.  So-called "journalists" like Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen would have made fine "kapos" in the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps, where subservience as a sort of police functionary for the German authorities earned a few extra bread rations until it was the kapos' turn to die in the gas chambers.  Activists like Blumenthal and Cohen (and note to both: you can't be a journalist and an activist - you're one or the other) either didn't grow up at the knee of a Holocaust survivor or they're shameless attention seekers more interested in their own public profile than they are in the legacy of Jewish suffering.
   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn't have been more clear or more correct when he said "If the Arabs were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war.  If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel."  In the face of direct and lethal physical threats to the Jewish state and the sinister reawakening of widespread anti-Semitism, "never again" is much more than a platitude.  It's a call to action for Jews and non-Jews alike who remember the not-so-distant past.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Al Jolson lives

  I can't speak for the black community because I'm not a member, but I suspect it's bemusing to watch white people argue over what constitutes racism.
   Duelling columns in the Globe and Mail this week tackled the relative cultural merits of a prominent Quebec theatre company's use of blackface in a portrayal of Canadiens defenceman PK Subban.  On the one hand, you have the earnestly progressive Toronto commentator tut-tutting about how the shameful history of blackface renders it inappropriate in any modern scenario.  On the other hand, there's the defiant Quebec scribe defending the skit as entirely acceptable within the francophone cultural context.  Interestingly, that I'm aware of no one has asked PK Subban what he thinks, and he's probably happy they haven't, because he's got enough on his plate without being drawn into a controversy over racism.
   On the heels of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the consensus on free speech standards has - temporarily, at least - broadened to the point where offensive expression falls under the banner of free expression.  That's not to say there can't be consequences, but that's part of the risk of bring provocative, and in a free society the right to offend is a superior alternative to arbitrary censorship.  Better that we make our own judgments than have them made for us by smug progressives or backwards apologists.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Leafs go next level ludicrous

   It doesn't rank up there with killing someone over a cartoon, but fining disgruntled hockey fans for throwing the home team's jersey on the ice smacks of the same kind of fundamentalist intolerance.
   Three Toronto Maple Leafs fans were escorted from the Air Canada Center and banned from the building for a year after throwing Leafs jerseys onto the ice during a 4-1 loss to Carolina.  Ejection from the game and a ban from the building are reasonable consequences, but the malefactors were additionally charged with "engaging in prohibited activity" under an Ontario law called the Trespass to Property Act - an offence that carries a fine in the neighborhood of 125 dollars.
   Really, Toronto?  Arresting people for mocking the hapless outfit that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment trots out there under the guise of professional athletics?  Taking into account that you're probably paying minimum 200 dollars a seat to be close enough to throw a jersey on the ice and that replica Leafs jerseys start at 170 dollars before tax and shipping on, the perpetrators were probably already out of pocket to the tune of at least 400 dollars before they got ticketed for being a public nuisance.  Is that not punishment enough?
   If it's about respecting the brand, it's too late.  The Leafs brand is in tatters, thanks to decades of mismanagement.  And spare me the argument that throwing a jersey on the ice creates a dangerous situation for the players.  Even a Leaf can skate around a stationary object.
   Can't he?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

To market, to market to buy a fat goat (and other halal nursery rhymes)

   There's a surprising amount of misconception over a major publishing company's directive discouraging authors of children's books from writing about pigs or pork consumption to avoid offending Muslims or Jews.  The knee-jerk reaction in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre has been to accuse Oxford University Press of kowtowing to religious hardliners at the expense of free speech.
   Kowtowing they are, but it's got nothing to do with free speech.  As Oxford has patiently tried to explain over the hysterical din, they export books to nearly 200 countries, and if the material isn't culturally acceptable, the books won't sell.  What's important to understand - and it's something I failed to adequately explain in the original version of this post - is that Oxford is being sensitive about books it exports to Muslim countries.  The no-pigs-or-pork directive doesn't apply to books sold in countries where it's not an issue.  That's just smart business on Oxford's part.  In the same way that Muslims consider the prophet Mohammed infallible, western corporate interests worship the almighty dollar, and anything that infringes on profit margins or compromises the share price is tantamount to blasphemy.  It's just business.
   Of course, while religious sensitivities are assuaged and capitalist interests are served, millions of children lose because they're stuck with cheap imitation literature like the Three Little Goats, Pearls Before Bovine and This Little Mole Rat Went to Market.  And the day they come up with a pig-free version of  George Orwell's classic Animal Farm is the day camels fly.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

You've Got a Nerve, Friend

   It was like a bad Saturday Night live skit, and symbolized everything that's wrong with the hapless left wing political establishment at a critical time in human history.
   With head-chopping, women-stoning, cartoonist-murdering Islamic jihadists representing the greatest threat to global security since the end of the Cold War, the most powerful nation on Earth trotted out an aging folk singer to reassure the civilized world that they've got our back.    
   To be fair, most Americans are probably mortified by the spectacle that unfolded on their behalf yesterday in Paris, where US Secretary of State John Kerry had James Taylor perform "You've Got a Friend" in symbolic apology for the American leadership's conspicuous absence at the unity rally in Paris last Sunday.  It probably seemed like a good idea at the time  - if the time was 1972.  But the feel-good, peacenik sentiment from a former military dissenter and an old hippie warbler in a city still reeling from a bloody, multi-pronged terrorist attack was absurdly inappropriate.  What's next?  Dispatching Dick van Dyke to Nigeria to sing "Put on a Happy Face" for Boko Haram victims?  
   All is not lost, however.  There's an opportunity here to take out the combined leadership of ISIS and Al Qaeda in one fell swoop.  All the CIA needs to do is lure the bad guys to a joint screening of the Kerry and Taylor show, and let nature take its course as the terrorist leaders die laughing.