Monday, December 22, 2014

The art of the social media apology

   So, it's come to this: even the gays are apologizing on social media. 
   Mind you, the apology from the New York City gay bar Boxers has nothing to do with sexuality.  It's for a purported hack of Boxers' Twitter account, which accused Mayor Bill de Blasio and civil rights leader Al Sharpton of inciting the execution-style murders of two New York police officers. 
   It's not entirely clear whether Boxers was apologizing for being hacked or for the content of the tweets, given that the reclaimed account stated that the company is not politically-driven except on gay rights issues.  So, while Boxers is sorry they got hacked, it's arguable that they still owe an apology to those who believe de Blasio and Sharpton are being scapegoated.  The problem with extending that apology is that it could be construed as being offensive to gay members of the NYPD, who number at least in their hundreds, according to most population ratio estimates.  Proceeding on the widely-accepted 21st century social premise that offending anyone in the LBGT community is unacceptable, Boxers would then be obliged to apologize for the apology without offending anyone to whom they originally apologized. 
   To summarize, social media is hard, and I apologize for using the word "hard" in a blog about a gay bar.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

No more cheap Cuban vacations? Blame Harper

   There are substantial political and social implications in the revival of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.    The end of 50 years of estrangement between the two countries could signal the beginning of a new era of mutual prosperity, although significant battles are still to be fought in the U.S. Congress over the full normalization of relations with what remains a repressive communist regime.
   For Canadians - savvy internationalists that we are - the overriding consideration in the historic rapprochement is "How will this affect our inexpensive Cuban vacations?"  A massive influx of American tourists into what's been a de facto exclusive Canadian tropical island playground would mean considerable price increases and the end of the low-cost Cuban vacation party as we know it.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that it'll probably be years before restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba are eased to any significant extent, so you can still get there while the getting is cheap. 
   Meanwhile, word that Canada's Conservative government was a key player in facilitating the behind the scenes talks that resulted in the diplomatic thaw is a tough pill to swallow for Liberal leader and noted communist sympathizer Justin Trudeau, whose late father was thick as thieves with Fidel Castro. Uncle Fidel even showed up at Pierre Trudeau's funeral, which Justin tried yesterday to spin as somehow having sown the seeds of what transpired  nearly15 years later.  Trudeau's disappointment that it was Stephen Harper and not him who sabotaged our cheap Cuban holidays was palpable.  
   If that's not delicious irony, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

You can't make this stuff up...or can you?

   If there's one thing the internet has taught us, it's that you should never do or say anything that might offend someone, including - and especially - the head of a nuclear-capable military dictatorship.
   The international crisis du jour has nothing to do with plummeting currency, stock market upheavel or national armies massed along each other's border.  It's about a movie - a comedy movie.
   The Interview is a Seth Rogen spoof about two journalists caught up in a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  If you're familiar with Rogen's work, it'll be funny, but The Interview is unlikely to stand as a stellar example of serious geopolitical commentary.  Still, the premise is enough to offend North Korea to the point where Kim threatened "merciless retaliation" against any country where the movie played.  Meanwhile, a shadowy group called Guardians of the Peace, who've claimed responsibility for a massive computer hack against the movie's distributor, Sony, are also hinting at violence if The Interview hits the big screen.  Whether the Guardians of the Peace are in league with North Korea or are just a handful of mischief-making techno-geeks, cages have been sufficiently rattled that Sony has cancelled the film's general release, which was scheduled for Christmas Day.
   One of three things is happening here: Kim Jong Un doesn't take a joke as well as his late father, who was hilariously lampooned in the 2004 movie Team America: World Police, Rogen and Sony have engineered an unprecedented backroom publicity stunt to draw attention to their movie, or there is a God, and She's got a terrific sense of humour.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The cost of ignoring the obvious

   It's been a tough week for the religion of peace, and it's only Tuesday.  
   On the heels of a deadly hostage-taking by a self-styled Muslim cleric in Sydney, Australia, the Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing more than 141 people - 132 of them children.  Narratives are already taking shape that the Australian gunman was a mentally-disturbed lone wolf and the Taliban are not truly representative of Islam, but only a fool or a liar fails to recognize that both incidents were religiously-motivated.  The fools and liars deliberately ignore the common thread that runs through the Taliban, Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the so-called lone wolves who murder in the name of Allah.  To point out the obvious is to be labelled "Islamophobic". That's worse than ignorant.  It's a free pass for the radical elements of the Muslim faith to continue spreading their message of hate, and grooming impressionable youth to be the jihadists of tomorrow.
   If Islam is truly the religion of peace, there's got to be breaking point where moderate Muslims find the courage to reclaim the faith from the murderous minority.  If the slaughter of more than 100 of their own innocent children isn't enough to mobilize the silent Muslim majority, I shudder to think what it will take.   
   

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vape 'em if you've got 'em

   Electronic cigarettes went from being a lark to being lethal over the weekend, when a one year old baby died from drinking liquid nicotine used for vaping - the pop culture term for e-cigarette consumption.  The child's tragic death underscores a safety issue but represents an isolated incident not relevant to a broader, emerging debate over the smokeless cigarette itself.  
   Government agencies have been slow to place controls on vaping, which technically remains legal in most public places.  Health and safety considerations aside, it puzzles me that the e-cigarette industry has gained any kind of traction in the first place.  I haven't met more than half a dozen people who use the things, although admittedly, I'm not an active boulevardier, and for all I know there could be trendy cafes on the Plateau packed to the rafters with hipsters sampling the latest flavors in liquid nicotine, from Dill Pickle to Gorilla Booze (I'm not making those up).  If that's the case, it marks an abrupt change in social attitudes.  Cigarette smokers are the social pariahs of the 21st century, and even though e-cigarettes are smokeless and odorless, the concept is close enough to the real deal that people are going to be offended by them.
   Lastly, there's this: as a stop smoking aid, vaping is - in the opinion of this ex-longtime smoker - a slippery slope.  The combination of the nicotine and the ceremony of "lighting up" at specific times or under specific circumstances only feeds the habit, and at some point, you're going to say "what the hell, if I'm doing this, I might as well smoke a cigarette."  Like the alcoholic trying to wean his way off booze by drinking non-alcoholic beer, it's a dead end - "dead" being the operative word.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sadness and joy

   The period of remembrance that concludes today with a national funeral for Jean Beliveau struck a perfect balance between mourning his death and celebrating his life. 
   Mr. Beliveau's passing is an enormous loss.  He was the greatest living embodiment of the class and dignity that defines the Montreal Canadiens.  The empty Bell Center seat draped with his jersey and the raw emotions of strong and seasoned men fortunate enough to count themselves among his friends are powerful testaments to the sadness of the occasion.  But so much of what we've witnessed over the past several days has been spiritual balm - the endless stories of Mr. Beliveau's personal touch with the common man, and his family's spirit of generosity in publicly sharing their private grief with great humility and grace.  The crowd's emotional embrace of Mrs. Beliveau at the Bell Center last night and her reaction to it resonates alongside the spontaneous tribute to the Rocket on closing night at the Forum and Saku Koivu's comeback from cancer as examples of how the Canadiens transcend hockey, and are an essential and enduring part of Montreal's soul.  
   The sense of occasion demonstrated by the franchise, the Beliveau family and the fans this week is in keeping with a tradition that exists in no small part because of the dignified example set by Jean Beliveau himself over more than six decades.  We have honored the man by emulating him. 
   He would be proud of us all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Having a wonderful time, wish you were dead

   As I watched the recently posted video of Ottawa-area ISIS convert John Maguire, I couldn't help but wonder about the "root causes" that inspired a seemingly normal Canadian kid to take up arms with the dark side of humanity.  To say the least, it's a dramatic leap from white Anglo-Saxon Ontario university student to fundamentalist foot soldier and vocal advocate for genocide against the culture he left behind.  
   Maguire didn't grow up in an ethnic community, so he had no apparent axe to grind against perceived racism.  According to his former friends, he was funny and popular, so that rules out the shunned loner angle.  He also did well in school and had no diagnosed mental illness, so we can't chalk up his conversion to crazy.   All things considered, about the only root causes I can come up with for a hockey-loving, guitar playing academic overachiever to join ISIS is that he wasn't happy with his ice time or he resented that his bandmates wouldn't let him sing lead vocals, and decided that killing infidels and apostates in the name of Allah would be an appropriate response to his grievances. 
   Of course, that's a ludicrous premise, but so is the entire notion of root causes.  Nothing or no one forced John Maguire and other western terror tourists to join in a campaign of slaughter, rape and slavery.  They are willing and enthusiastic volunteers whose choices have more to do with their own twisted psyches than they do with underlying socio-political considerations.  
   They need to be held to account, not mollycoddled with apologist psychobabble. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story

   An important test case emerged last week in the rapidly evolving debate over male privilege and sexual aggression.  Rolling Stone magazine recanted and publicly apologized for a story detailing the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student identified only as "Jackie", saying her story had discrepancies and that the publication's trust in her was misplaced.  It was the first high profile case of debunked rape allegations since Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby's reputations and careers were destroyed on hearsay alone - powerful hearsay, to be sure, but hearsay nonetheless.
   The overwhelming response to the UVA story is that it's another tragedy for victims of sexual assault, because it supposedly represents another reason not to come forward.  One would-be journalist writing for the university's student newspaper said "to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake."  I understand what she's trying to say about taking on the broader issue of sexual aggression, but suppressing or ignoring the facts to define a narrative isn't journalism.  It's propaganda.  Meanwhile, the woman whose story fell apart is getting more public sympathy than the UVA fraternity whose members have been tarred by gang rape allegations that didn't stand up to scrutiny.  How's that for a "narrative"?  
   The story of Jackie is a timely reminder that examining each case on its own merits is a judicial cornerstone and a necessary starting point in any healing process.  There is no healing in hysterical generalizations about societal privilege and clamoring for summary justice, and those who pursue that agenda only exacerbate what already divides us.
   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

White privilege, my white ass

   I haven't killed a black person today, just as none of the black people I know has robbed a corner store, my Muslim acquaintances haven't blown themselves up in a crowded marketplace and my aboriginal friends are going about their daily lives as sober, responsible citizens of their community.
   It goes without saying that the stereotype of the black criminal, Muslim terrorist and drunken native are deeply offensive, but in the wake of two U.S. grand jury rulings clearing white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men, it's de rigueur among social activists to stereotype white people as privileged and uncaring about visible minorities.  There was even a #crimingwhilewhite hashtag on Twitter last night, inviting white people to recount stories about their run-ins with the police.  It was a surreal exercise in which self-loathing white progressives lamented how they were treated with deference and respect by law enforcement officers whom they're convinced would have brutalized and abused them had they been black.  Just for the record, my only experience with the cops was the time I punched a guy in the face for trespassing at my workplace, and I was charged and convicted of assault.  I guess white privilege had the day off that day.
   Based on the evidence, it's reasonable that Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death of Michael Brown, and an absolute outrage that New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who choked Eric Garner to death, was allowed to walk.  One has nothing to do with the other, and neither incident does anything to demonstrate blanket racism in the broader white community.  As for privilege, it's there for anyone who's willing to work for it.  Ask Barack Obama.  
   If it assuages your white liberal guilt to don a hair shirt and publicly self-flagellate to atone for your own racism, be my guest.  But speak for yourself.
   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Salut, Gros Bill

   Death can be everything that Jean Beliveau was not - cruel, cunning and unconscionable.  While we were preoccupied with Gordie Howe's courageous struggle against failing health, the darkness snuck in the back door and took Gentleman Jean at the age of 83. 
   At 9 years old, I was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan by default because the Leafs were my father's favorite team.  Then, one night in 1968, I saw Jean Beliveau score a hat trick in a Montreal Canadiens game broadcast on Radio Canada, and everything changed.  The Canadiens were my new team, and Beliveau was my favorite player for the remainder of his career. 
   I was privileged enough to meet him on a number of occasions - once as a kid at a peewee hockey banquet in Fredericton and a few more times at media events over the years - and it was always like meeting royalty, except that Beliveau wasn't trained in how to make it appear that he was genuinely interested in you.  Patience, empathy and goodwill were part of his nature.  His ambassadorial qualities transcended hockey to the point where he was routinely touted as a candidate for Governor-General - an honour he declined when it was officially offered because it would have taken away from time spent with his family. 
   It tells you everything you need to know about Jean Beliveau that he'll be remembered more for his regal bearing and unfailing grace than he will be for his Hall of Fame talent and accomplishments as a hockey player, which were beyond considerable.  
   He was in every way someone all of us should aspire to emulate. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Emotional support WHAT?!


   In a world gone mad where perpetrators are the victims, mob consensus is an acceptable substitute for due process and being first and loudest on social media equates to being right, it was refreshing to see common sense prevail last week at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, where a woman was booted off a US Airways flight after her pet pig shat in the aisle prior to take-off. 
   Mind you, this wasn't just any pig.  It was an "emotional support pig", and was allowed on board under a US Department of Transportation regulation stating "animals that assist persons with disabilities by providing emotional support" can accompany their owners in passenger cabins of commercial flights.  Why and how a grown woman would derive empathy and compassion from a snorting, shitting 80 pound pig remains unclear at this time. 
   You can't make this stuff up.  That the pig was allowed on the plane in the first place is a sad testament to the lengths that businesses go to to accommodate any self-pitying crackpot who thinks they have special needs, lest there be negative publicity or even legal action for causing undue trauma. The notion of placing an emotional support pig in the same category as a legitimate service animal like a seeing eye dog has got to be more than a little off-putting to people with genuine disabilities. 
   As I was saying just the other day to my meditation hyena, the whole world's gone nuts. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stick to football

   Five members of the NFL's St. Louis Rams picked the wrong time and place to take sides in the Michael Brown shooting.  They also picked the wrong side.
   When the five players came out of the tunnel before yesterday's game at the Edward Jones Dome in downtown St. Louis and struck the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" pose popularized by protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, they weren't just speaking for themselves.  Whether or not they were aware of it, they were representing the St. Louis Rams and the National Football League.  Neither the team nor the league were notified in advance about what the players had in mind, and common sense dictates that both organizations would have strongly discouraged the gesture, if not forbidden it outright.  Inciting fans to riot isn't part of the pro football public relations playbook. 
   Of course, there was no riot.  In fact, there was virtually no in-stadium reaction to the gesture, because the vast majority of right-thinking people have accepted a grand jury decision that favored painstaking examination of the evidence showing police officer Darren Wilson feared for his life when he shot and fatally wounded unarmed robbery and assault suspect Michael Brown.  
   Post-game interviews with the players suggested they were acting in good faith but are relatively clueless about the Brown case.  They didn't even think they were taking sides by making a gesture that the St. Louis Police Officers Association vigorously condemned as "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory".   As social activists, the Rams Five make great football players.  They should focus on football, and leave the policing to the police and the social activism to the rioters and looters.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where's the media circus for this guy?

   It has all the trappings of exactly the kind of sensational story that puts the modern media machine in overdrive: sex, power, profile, scandal and a defence lawyer who loves to cavort for the cameras.  Yet when the kiddie porn case against a one-time influential bureaucrat who had the ear of some of the country's most powerful Liberal politicians was back in court last week, the only media outlet that covered the story was Sun News - an organization that the self-proclaimed Canadian media elite like to dismiss as buffoonish and irrelevant.
   The day after every media outlet in Toronto turned Jian Ghomeshi's first court appearance into a spectacle, Sun was the only outfit that sent a reporter to cover a court hearing for Ben Levin, a former Ontario deputy minister of education and confidant of Premier Kathleen Wynne.  The charges against Levin are no less appalling than what Ghomeshi is accused of, and include making, distributing, accessing and possessing child pornography, counselling someone to commit sexual assault on a child, and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child.  Besides the charges themselves, the most unnerving element in the case is that Levin was reportedly one of the main architects of a revised sexual education curriculum that would have introduced sex ed in Ontario classrooms as early as Grade 1.  The proposed curriculum overhaul was rejected in the face of a public backlash.
   It's remarkable to me that a virtual army of media would turn out to cover the sex trial of a guy whose greatest claim to fame was bitch-slapping Billy Bob Thornton on national radio, yet on the very next day in the very same city, they take a pass on the case of a prominent academic and bureaucrat who advised the government on sex education and ended up charged with kiddie porn.  If nothing else, they could have at least counted on a good sound bite from Levin's lawyer, Clayton Ruby, whose conduct after Levin's initial court appearance last year was preposterously unprofessional.
   Little wonder Sun News coined the phrase "Media Party".  The Sun is rough around the edges, but it doesn't try to hide its conservative leanings behind a pathetic facade of impartiality.



   The lack of attention to the Levin case is conclusive proof that the remainder of the media are collectively incompetent or have an agenda of their own.  There is no other explanation.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Paparazzi goes mainstream

   It says a lot about the mindset of modern news media that Jian Ghomeshi was the only person who maintained a shred of dignity following his court appearance yesterday.
   While Ghomeshi kept his head down and his mouth shut, a swarm of journalists, cameramen and photographers comported themselves with the grace and decorum of a thousand seagulls at the scene of an overturned garbage truck, all in the relentless pursuit of the money shot or sound bite that would make their newspaper, website or network the Ghomeshi misery maker of the day. 
   As agents for the wider public, the media are only indulging the appetite of their audience.  There's always been a fascination with watching celebrity come undone or tragedy unfold, but piling on as a sport is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Social media doesn't wait for a story to play itself out before establishing a conclusive narrative that mainstream media feels duty-bound to follow.  The result is that supposedly reputable journalists are reduced to paparazzi-style reporting that caters to public sentiment at the expense of cornerstone journalistic ethics.
   Some people call it "social justice".  I consider irresponsible pandering to a crowd split between professional "victims" with a chip on their shoulder and closet sadists who delight in the ruination of others.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Evidence and due process trump outrage and mob rule in Ferguson

   When Missouri State Prosecutor Robert McCulloch mentioned social media and the 24 hour news cycle as contributing factors in the volatile aftermath of the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, a collective groan went up...across social media.  When McCulloch announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death, the online cynicism graduated to borderline hysteria, aided and abetted by media coverage that was tantamount to cheerleading for civil unrest.
   The sneering refrain that McCulloch was blaming Twitter and CNN for killing Michael Brown only served to prove his point.   Social media has taken short attention span and instant gratification to the next level.  The clamoring for "justice for Michael" began literally within minutes of the August 9th shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and was based on eyewitness accounts that have since been called into question, if not entirely discredited.  Once a theme is established on social media, it takes on a life of its own, and the Michael Brown shooting was and remains firmly established in the public consciousness as first and foremost a case of an unarmed black man being shot dead by a white police officer.  It matters not that Brown robbed a convenience store, roughed up the store owner and reportedly assaulted officer Wilson.  Those are pesky details to be ignored because they don't fit the racism narrative.
   Under the circumstances, indicting officer Wilson would have been the politically expedient thing to do.  Everyone - including members of the grand jury - knew what was going to happen last night if he wasn't charged.  Yet they decided that he acted legally and responsibly in his role as a law enforcement officer.  The only way to credibly dispute that decision is to weigh the same mountain of evidence the grand jury considered, and explain where they got it wrong.
   Have at it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Not criminally responsible" defence is crazy


 While we wait for Luka Magnotta's trial to play out to its conclusion, this is as good a time as any and a better time than  most to review the notion of "crazy" as an excuse for murder.  Greater psychiatric and legal minds than mine are required to fill in most of the blanks on the "not criminally responsible" defence, but I have a couple of common sense observations that I think are worth considering. 
   Guy Turcotte was a licensed cardiologist when he stabbed his two small children to death.  He was responsible enough to practice an advanced branch of medicine, but in the eyes of the law, he was too unhinged to appreciate the gravity of killing his 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter.  As a result, he was a free man fewer than four years after the murders, and remains free pending a new trial.

   Luka Magnotta isn't a doctor, but he functioned well enough in mainstream society, albeit as a fringe character with a record of petty crimes for which he was held accountable when he was caught.  It was only after he was arrested for murdering and dismembering Jun Lin that Magnotta and his lawyers decided he was mentally incompetent.
   Funny, that.  Not funny ha-ha, but funny-strange that people can function as normal - or, in Magnotta's case, relatively normal - members of society, but when they murder someone all of a sudden mental illness is the culprit.  That strikes me as blatant manipulation of a wishy-washy legal system, and a gross disservice and injustice to the victims and their families.  Worse than victim-blaming, the "not criminally responsible" defence excludes the victim(s) from the equation entirely, as if their existence was a moot point.
   I don't doubt for a second that Guy Turcotte and Luke Magnotta are mentally unwell.  You don't commit the kinds of crimes they committed otherwise.  But if crazy is a good enough excuse for not being held criminally responsible for murder, it's an even better reason to make sure the killer never walks among us again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winnie the hermaphrodite and every man for herself

   It is my unswerving belief that the best books and movies are based on true stories.  It's not unheard of for great writers and filmmakers to create epic works of fiction, but as an enduring producer of compelling content, the imagination is no match for reality.
   Winnie the Pooh's banishment from a Polish playground for being an "inappropriate hermaphrodite" probably won't be fodder for Hollywood or the major publishing houses, but it's definitely a story that no one could make up. Vigilant municipal councillers in Tuszyn, a small town in central Poland, have rejected Pooh as the face of a local play area on the basis of the animated bear's dubious sexuality and the fact that he's only semi-clad.  I've never given much thought to which way Winnie swings or why he's not wearing trou.  I've always been more puzzled about why he sounds like my great-grandmother.  
   Another fact-stranger-than-fiction story unfolded this week in Toronto, where a physical altercation broke out at a City Hall flag-raising ceremony for the transgender community.  And no, it wasn't transphobic violence.  The dust-up was between segments of the transgender community arguing over whether the ceremony was inclusive enough.  
   Rival transgender gangs - now there's a concept a good storyteller could run with.  
   Get me Kurt Sutter.  I think we've got a spinoff starring Venus from Sons of Anarchy.

   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If it looks like a duck and it prays like a duck and it rapes and murders like a duck...

   It's been a tough week for the religion of peace. 
   Defenders of the One Truth Faith took a significant hit with the release of a report citing religious extremism as the main cause of terrorism in the 21st century, and Muslim extremists as the main culprits.  As if to underscore the report, the Islamic State released its latest graphic execution video, showing several Syrian prisoners being beheaded and an ISIS member proudly displaying the severed head of American hostage Peter Kassig.  In Jerusalem, meanwhile, four rabbis and an Israeli police officer were murdered when two Palestineans armed with handguns, knives and meat cleavers stormed a synagogue during prayers.  In Britain, yet another gang of Asian men is under investigation for sexually exploiting teenaged girls, but woe betide anyone who points out that they're Muslim or mentions Islam's history of subjugating women.  White liberal self-loathing has become so entrenched in mainstream British society that a politician was arrested for hate speech because Muslims were offended that he quoted Winston Churchill.  Let me say that again: he was carted off by British police for quoting the greatest democratic statesman of the 20th century.  Who's got the phobia here? 
   Even if Muslim extremists are in the minority, the moderate majority is clearly too weak-willed to bring the fanatics to heel, but why bother when they've got apologists running interference for them, including the President of the United States, who famously and foolishly proclaimed that the Islamic State is not Islamic? Between that and the guy getting busted for quoting Churchill, it's like we're living a real-life Saturday Night Live skit, but like the last half hour of SNL, there's really nothing funny about it. 
   Of course, not all Muslims are rapists and murderers, but the ones who are represent the largest existential threat to harmony among peoples and nations since the Nazis, and that needs to be acknowledged before it can be properly addressed.  Crying Islamophobia whenever someone points out the obvious is worse than ignorant or intellectually dishonest.  It's morally complicit with blackhearted degenerates who would slice your children's throats without a second thought.
   As always, Pat Condell says it better than I ever could.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cosby the latest lynch mob casualty

   Bill Cosby probably didn't expect his legendary show business career to end in disgrace any more than Jian Ghomeshi anticipated being brought down in his prime.  Such are the trappings of celebrity that the power of fame and privilege are considered a mighty bulwark against any potential stain on one's reputation.
   Cosby, like Ghomeshi and in part because of Ghomeshi, is being undone by a steady parade of accusers who claim he sexually assaulted them.  The allegations against Cosby go back decades and aren't new to the public eye - he settled out of court in 2006 with a woman who claimed he drugged and raped her - but the activist campaign urging women who've lived in silence and shame to come forward in the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal is now catching up with Cosby.  
   That's a good thing if it exposes genuine predators and abusers, but who's the judge of that?  The court of public opinion served as judge, jury and executioner for Ghomeshi, and the Cosby case seems to be headed in the same direction.  Both men still have recourse to civil action for damage to their reputation, but realistically, the damage can never be undone - even by a favorable judicial ruling.
   Which brings us to this: what happens if someone is falsely accused and gets destroyed in the court of public opinion?  Do we revert to the time-honored legal code that better 100 men go free than one innocent suffer, or do we chalk up the suffering innocent to collateral damage in a wider and more important war on male sexual privilege?  Regardless of the optics of the Ghomeshi and Cosby cases, a climate is being created where unsubstantiated criminal allegations can bring someone down, and no amount of legal recourse will restore their reputation.  To think that someone with a grudge or something to gain won't manipulate that mob mentality to their advantage is dangerously naive.
   We're at a cultural crossroads, and we need to decide whether public vilification is a legitimate substitute for due process.  We can't have it both ways in a fair and just society.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Do you take this wrinkly old homicidal maniac...?"

   Charlie Manson's still got it.
   Forty-five years after charming a drug-fueled clan of impressionable young women into going on a mindless murder spree around Hollywood, the former cult leader has been granted a license to get married in prison.  He's 80.  She's 26.  I'm nauseous.  Mercifully for the rest of us, as a life prisoner with no parole date, Manson doesn't qualify for conjugal visits, so that unpleasant piece of theater of the mind need not be entertained. 
   Romantic fixation on notoriously violent criminals is not new.  In fact, it's disturbingly common.  Luka Magnotta, Paul Bernardo, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer (to name just a few) have or had devoted admirers who suffer from something psychologists call hybristophilia - sexual deviancy in the form of attraction to someone who's know to have committed an outrageous act like rape or murder.  I'll leave it to the mental health professionals to sort out the underlying motivations of the prison groupies.  All I know is that nothing says batshit crazy like professing your undying love for an unrepentant mass murderer who's 54 years your senior and has a swastika carved into his forehead.  
   Or maybe I'm over-analyzing it, too, and the whole thing is a ruse to sneak a file into prison in the wedding cake so Big Chuck can bust out.
   Somebody tell the warden.
     

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Speaking of bullies

   Scientists landed a rocket on a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth last week, and all anyone was talking about was a bowling shirt.
   Dr. Matt Taylor celebrated the European Space Agency's historic Rosetta mission achievement by wearing a shirt given to him as a birthday gift from a friend.  It wasn't typical laboratory garb, what with the garish colors and images of scantily clad women, but keep in mind that Dr. Taylor is a 21st century hipster astrophysicist with sleeve tattoos.  He's a lot more Sons of Anarchy than he is Son of Flubber.
   What followed was a feeding frenzy for the professional victim set.  Dr. Taylor was vilified on social media to the point of literally being reduced to tears in a subsequent broadcast apology.  The guy had just landed a rocket on a fucking comet, but that was secondary to the progressive lynch mob getting their pound of flesh because of an ill-advised wardrobe choice (and it was only ill-advised in the context of the present day climate of intolerant group think. Seventy years ago, pin-up girls helped inspire a generation to win a war against real bad guys with considerably more sinister motives than Dr. Taylor's). 
   Sometimes, feminists are their own worst enemy.  So intent are they on bringing men to heel that they react to perceived offence on a disproportionate scale that damages their credibility more than it advances their agenda.  Worse than that, they're guilty of the same kind of psychological bullying that they so piously protest.
   They need to take their own advice and check their privilege.

Friday, November 14, 2014

GI Joke

   It's a testament to the military's relentless attention to detail that a man can pass himself off as a woman easier than he can adopt the guise of a professional soldier.
   Construction worker and Canadian Forces wanna-be Franck Gervais was outed within seconds of appearing on CBC Television as part of the November 11th Remembrance Day coverage at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Numerous irregularities in Gervais's "uniform", including his personal grooming and accessories, triggered an instantaneous reaction on social media among serving CF members, veterans and civilians familiar with the military dress code.  Within 24 hours, Gervais was in headlong retreat and holed up in his Ottawa-area home.
   At first glance, Gervais is a pathetic and almost sympathetic character.  We all have fantasies, and his is to command the admiration and respect reserved for members of the military who've put their lives on the line in the service of their country.  Nobody was physically hurt by his deception, and he's the only one who came out of it looking like a complete fool.
   In military circles, however, impersonating a soldier is serious business, and not just from a legal standpoint.  There's a bond and a code among comrades-in-arms that's not found in any other interpersonal relationship - an intimacy that, while not sexual, is just as powerful.  When someone who hasn't paid their dues in duty, honour and sacrifice tries to claim membership in the fraternity (and sorority), it's a grievous offence against those who belong. Retired US Navy Seal Don Shipley has made it his mission to ferret out imposters, and You Tube is rife with videos of fake soldiers and phoney war heroes being exposed by genuine military personnel, the courts and the media.
   Franck Gervais got his 15 minutes of fame, but it cost him his reputation and his dignity, and it could yet cost him his job.  His notoriety will make it difficult to land another gig, but all is not lost.  With his penchant for disguise and the aforementioned lesser attention to detail in female impersonation, perhaps he has a future as La Belle Francine at Bar Cleopatra.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Radio is not dead - it's just suicidal

   A friend of mine from outside the radio industry sent me a blog post today lamenting the imminent demise of radio.  It was a typically simplistic take, based on the shopworn notion that local radio can't possibly compete with digital media's specialization and global reach.  Like most doomsday warnings of its kind, it misses the mark by a country mile.
   Local radio can still compete precisely because it's local.  The intimacy and immediacy of local, personality-driven radio still trumps all.  People aren't robots - at least, not yet.  We like to relate, and a well-crafted local radio program is infinitely more relatable than anything else out there.
   This point is lost on the author of the aforementioned blog because he's not a professional broadcaster.  Unfortunately, he has that in common with the people who run radio in the age of corporate media consolidation.  At the upper management level, decisions are made almost exclusively by executives with no understanding, respect or passion for the medium.  Their priorities are to add pennies to the share price and top up their own bonuses.  The easiest way to do that is to cut costs, and the easiest costs to cut are labor.  The upshot is that experienced, savvy broadcasters are being phased out in favor of cheap, disposable labor.  What's worse, there's no dedicated mentorship process in place, and even if there were, too many of the newer generation of broadcasters think they have nothing to learn from the old guard.  Hubris and mediocrity are a dangerous combination, especially at a time when management is always on the lookout for someone willing to work for less.
   I'll always be grateful that my 30 year run on commercial radio was in the employ of real broadcasters who understood and respected the medium, and valued and rewarded talent.  Those days don't have to be over.  Radio can not only survive - it can thrive, but it needs to play to its traditional strengths, rather than try to compete with new media on new media's terms.  Sadly, that requires vision and an appreciation for the craft - two things that no longer exist among the decision-makers.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sorry, Justin. Hope we can still be pals

   Let's review the week that was for the man whom the polls say is going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.
   Proving once again that his handlers should never, ever let him stray from the script, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau suggested to a crowd in Hinton, Alberta that instead of dropping bombs on Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, Canada could better serve terrified refugees fleeing for their lives by advising them on how to survive a cold winter.  He actually said that.  Send 'em a Tim Horton's gift card and some Hudson's Bay blankets and they'll be all set, eh?  The mind boggles.
   In a far more cynical move, Trudeau suspended two members of the Liberal caucus on the basis of anonymous complaints about "personal misconduct".   He refused to disclose the nature of the allegations and reportedly went public over the objections of the alleged victims in a blatant sop to the new social climate created by the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.  Seizing on the prevailing sentiment of the moment that due process is overrated, Trudeau pandered to the notion of giving accusers the benefit of the doubt over the accused, and he did it at the expense of two family men without specifying the charges or consulting the victims.  That's not a savvy politician as much as it is a shameless opportunist.
   Trudeau's numerous other blunders have been documented here and elsewhere so I won't revisit them.  It actually pains me somewhat to criticize him, because he's a good friend of a good friend, and there's something to be said for loyalty.  I've socialized with Trudeau on a number of occasions and I like the guy.  Compared to many others born into wealth and privilege, he's approachable and down to earth.  I'm acquainted with him to the point where if my dinky little blog caught his eye, he might feel a sense of betrayal at public criticism from someone with whom he's always been on friendly terms.  I know I would, but I'm not running for the highest office in the country.
   If we're shallow enough to elect someone as Prime Minister on the basis of a last name and the cut of his jib, we're going to get what we deserve.  A statesman needs to be many things that Justin Trudeau is not - experienced, measured, sage and sensitive.  Trudeau has demonstrated repeatedly in his words and actions that he's not qualified for the job.  The consequences have been minimal because his influence is limited by third party leader status, and the Liberal-friendly mainstream media downplay or flat-out ignore his mistakes (only Sun Media reported the "parkas over bombs" foolishness).     
   Trudeau's shortcomings would be magnified a hundredfold as Prime Minister. Canada's reputation and clout on the world stage would suffer accordingly, and domestically we'd be in the charge of the political equivalent of a cool babysitter.  He'd be great for a couple of hours, but before long, we'd start to wonder when the grownups are coming back. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Me, I Love My Tractor, Fuck (and other ethnic country music favorites)


   I won't bullshit you.  Country music might be the most listened to music radio format in North America, but it's still a tough sell in the big city - unless the big city happens to be Calgary or Dallas-Fort Worth.  
   For a mom and pop station like CKKI-89.9 KIC Country in a cosmopolitan city like Montreal, convincing radio listeners that there's broad appeal in the crossover evolution of country into the adult contemporary, rock and even hip hop genres remains difficult at best, especially in the absence of revenue for technical improvements and marketing and promotional campaigns.  But that's a story for another day and maybe another website like Kickstarter or indiegogo.
   In the meantime, we're turning to the power of the worldwide web through the KIC Country Global Outreach Program.  If we can't conquer Montreal, we'll conquer the world - one nation at a time.  What follows are some of our suggested song titles for country music in other countries and other cultures. We hope you enjoy them, and that you'll give us a listen sometime at 89.9FM and 899kic.com.
   Remember, you like country music.  You just don't know it yet.

ITALIAN COUNTRY
Corleone-ly the Lonely
Me, I Love My Tractor, Fuck
All My Goomars Live in Yonkers
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up
I Wanna Lay You Down and Bolonga

BRITISH COUNTRY
Big Bad Nigel
Never Everton Again
Sussex 'til I'm Fixin'
By the Time I Get to Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Sixteen Metric Tonnes

YIDDISH COUNTRY
Somethin' 'Bout a Schmuck
Nebbish at High Noon
Bupkes on My Mind
Pisher in the Pig Pen
I'm So Lonesome I Could Plotz

GERMAN COUNTRY 
Ich Bin Too Long
Helmut Kohl Miner's Daughter
Ring of Fuhrer
Structure and Discipline on the Range
Whose Bed has Das Boot Been Under?

RUSSIAN COUNTRY
Putin on My Boots
Too Hot to Trotsky
She Thinks My Sickle's Sexy
Vodka for My Men, Borscht for My Horses
If You're Kremlin, I'm Leavin'

JAPANESE COUNTRY
A Boy Named Sumo
All My Rowdy Friends Have Committed Hari-Kari
Drunk on a Plane That I'm About to Deliberately Crash Into an Aircraft Carrier
Sake-Bent and Banzai-Bound
Thank Godzilla I'm a Country Boy

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Twitter not in the RCAF arsenal, apparently



  So, let me get this straight.  Under the 21st century Canadian military code, it's okay to drop laser-guided smart bombs on the bad guys but you can't bitch slap them on Twitter.
   The commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, tweeted a picture Saturday from the funeral of Warrant Office Patrice Vincent in Longueuil with the message, "Dear ISIL, thinking of you.  Some of my colleagues are in your area.  Hopefully, they'll have a chance to drop by."  Defence Minister Rob Nicholson called the tweet "inappropriate" and ordered it deleted.
   Inappropriate in what way?  In that it suggested Canada's motive for bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria is based on revenge?  Sorry, but we committed to the mission before WO Vincent was run down and killed by a known Islamic jihadist.  Maybe it was deemed inappropriate because Lt.-Gen. Blondin tweeted from a funeral, but under the circumstances I can't think of a more appropriate time and place.  Or maybe the Department of Defence is like every other corporate and government body that has a shit hemorrhage* every time one of its employees tweets something that isn't puppies in a basket.
   Of course, the Islamic State doesn't resort to sarcastic digs on Twitter.  Their brand of social media warfare involves posting videos of summary mass executions of apostates or beheadings of foreign journalists and aid workers.  
   It's probably a good thing there wasn't Twitter during World War Two. Outspoken military leaders like Patton, Montgomery and Bomber Harris would have been too busy deleting "inappropriate" tweets to devise and conduct a successful campaign against an enemy that didn't let politically correct niceties get in the way of conquest and genocide.
   Wouldn't want to offend the Hun, you know.

*Copyright my uncle Charlie 1969 "Well, we'd  better get back to the house before your aunt Dorothy has a shit hemorrhage."


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

While we're at it, how about Pont Big Bird?

   With all due respect to the father of New France, I'm completely on board with the notion of re-naming the new Champlain Bridge after Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard.  
   The Rocket was more than a hockey star.  He was and remains a cultural icon.  An entire generation of put-upon Quebec francophones lived vicariously through Richard, whose athletic dominance and unbending will were celebrated as symbolic defiance against the English-Canadian establishment. The Richard Riot in 1955 was a seminal moment in Quebec history, and was as much a political uprising as it was a protest against Richard's suspension for punching a linesman.  Richard's profound impact reasserted itself 36 years after his retirement when he received an astonishingly sustained standing ovation before the final game at the Montreal Forum in 1996.
   None of this denigrates Samuel de Champlain's stature, and I can appreciate the sentiments of historians and other traditionalists who oppose changing the bridge name to honor a hockey player over a founding father.  I even understand PQ MNA and leadership hopeful Jean-Francois Lisée's argument that if any bridge should be renamed, it's the Victoria Bridge.  I'm with Lisée.  Enough with honoring a long-dead British monarch and symbol of English colonialism.  
   Pont Larry Robinson has a wonderful ring to it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gender cold war after Ghomeshi?

    If any good has come of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, it's that there's an open and frank discussion about why women who've been sexually assaulted or abused are afraid to come forward.  Numerous credible articles in mainstream and online media have detailed the difficulties and risks of pursuing sexual assault allegations.  The extensive public debate has spurred women who've suffered in silence to come forward with their own stories.  Ghomeshi's accusers have found strength in numbers to the point where two of them (so far) have put their names to the allegations against the disgraced CBC host, prompting Toronto police to open a criminal investigation.  Almost overnight, those of us untouched by or unschooled as experts in sexual exploitation have been given a far better understanding of the victim's plight.  
   That's the silver lining in this dark and horrible cloud.  One of the many downsides is that the story has been so widely reported and viscerally debated that it's building barricades between the genders.  Even the most ardent feminist knows that the vast majority of men are not sexual predators, but the ones who are don't wear it like a badge, and if a guy as glib and charming as Ghomeshi was able to fool his potential victims before the other shoe dropped, who can a woman really trust when she's deciding whether to take a relationship to the next level?  At the same time, how are men supposed to approach women if they're under the apprehension that every flirtatious comment or physical gesture could be construed as predatory?  And whether or not he deserved it, Ghomeshi's ugly undoing in the court of public opinion is a cautionary tale of how careers and lives can be summarily destroyed in the social media age.  
   Healthy relationships are built on trust, but trust will be hard-earned post-Ghomeshi.  The revelations and discourse of the past eight days can't help but plant seeds of doubt and suspicion between men and women, for very different but equally valid reasons.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Big Bad Buddhist

                           THE DAILY SPEW
              BRUINS SIGN DALAI LAMA

by Spew hockey writer Red Fishcakes

Boston - In a surprise move aimed at fostering global harmony and shoring up their injury-depleted blueline, the Boston Bruins have signed His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
   Sporting a Bruins hat during an introductory news conference at Boston's TD Garden, the Dalai Lama told reporters that joining the Bruins was a dream come true.
   "I was a huge Bruins fans when I was a kid growing up in the Himilayas," said the world-renowned spiritual leader.  "I used to wait for the latest scores to be delivered by pack mule.  When I learned in 1953 that the Bruins had won the Cup in '41, it was one of the happiest days of my life."
   Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn't sure when or where his newest roster addition would debut, but said he liked what he saw in the Dalai Lama's first practice.
   "Lammy's a quick study," said Julien, "and he moves pretty good for a 79 year old guy in a dress."
   Boston players were adopting more of a wait-and-see attitude.
   "I'm not sure there's such a thing as a big, bad Buddhist," said rugged winger Milan Lucic, adding  "I guess we'll find out soon enough."
   "Ugliest chick I've ever seen," mused Bruins superpest Brad Marchand.
   "But I'd fuck her."