Is The American Empire In Decline?

I suppose people who think (or hope) that it is will find ways to manipulate facts to prove this position. Conversely, people who believe (and hope) that it isn't will base their arguments similarly.

All I can say here is:

Be careful what you wish for.

Personally, I do not wish to see America falter.

I think people are failing to see the big picture. There seems to be a hint of belief that if America falls then the world will magically heal and get better. Its premise is based on the notion that the world is in bad shape because of American power.

If this is what is indeed believed, then I fear people are myopic and senseless.

Companies Must Cultivate Creative Talent with Care

First appeared on Blogcritics and Associated Content.

The communications department is no longer considered just another bullpen of flaky slackers. Companies now see value-added dollar signs in them. Writers are in huge demand these days and a Golden Age may be upon us. It’s no exaggeration to assert that writers drive the progress of civilization. Without our skills, how can ideas be communicated?

But let’s not celebrate yet. Writers may be invaluable but they are also misunderstood.

As writers are added to a company’s rank and file, a problematic arises: how do you integrate writers with the rest of the staff. Writers are not an easy fit in corporate culture.

“Islands in the Stream / That is what we are” ... “And we rely on each other ah-ha” ... “And we can ride it together, ah-ha.” Remember that giant Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton hit? Sorry if the song is stuck in your head now, but we can see the corporation/writer relationship in it. Though instead of “love,” we have something like a “win-win” situation—no one can afford to be too misty-eyed here.

Progressive companies with enlightened management understand the care, handling, and retention of writers. There are five steps to enlightenment.

1. To get results, separate writers from the hum. Ideally, and whenever possible, a writing team’s office should be set apart from the rest of the company on another floor, or even in a different building. Invite them to the odd meeting, let them circulate among the rest of the staff as needed, but let them twirl their hair by themselves. No one needs to see this.

As writers acquire knowledge, they can exercise a powerful, and sometimes peculiar or even vulgar, sense of humour that may tend toward bitter at times. It’s best if they don’t fraternize too much with others. They need to think, ponder, and imagine.
Sadly, not all writers are courteous or professional. Some are temperamental and others are just long-winded, pompous asses. Some may not even be good. Alas, there are even a few ingrates among us. But, more often than not, we pull through for a fine finish.

2. Let writers out of the stable. A loyal, trustworthy writer who can sit at a desk for hours upon end is a great find. But even the most steadfast of the breed eventually succumbs to the roaming instinct. Let them wander and they will return to their desks for the deadline.

Every single thing in their lives is scrutinized with a ruthless sense of purpose. Ideas may come just by going to a public washroom. Good managers can tell when a writer is on his or her game. So they make the executive decision! They let the writer take off for a couple of hours.

3. Provide autonomy; it is required for creativity. And creativity is what you need most from your writers. If you must have your writers stay in-house, then try to make them feel unrestricted.

Anything can disturb the delicate ecosystem that is their mind. If asked to be just another cog in the wheel don’t count on them to think straight. When writers feel the environment is poisoned or toxic, they lose almost all motivation to be creative. They’re only there to pay their bills. The loss for the manager in this is dramatic. Writers become so preoccupied, they forget all about your SWOT analysis and your need for added value. Stop leaning on them and watch as they create beauty and draw profitability toward you.

The moment managers utter the words “Tough luck, this is how it is here,” they have spiritually lost the writer forever. To keep your writer¬—and remember you have invested a lot in this employee—never issue any kind of ultimatum. It will fill the writer with indignation and pride and, since these are enemies of creativity, the writer must leave at the first opportunity.

Despite a revolution in the work force, where employees value independence more than ever before, you still need to attend to the needs of a writer with special care. Treat them like entrepreneurs. Work out a fair and equitable contract, spell out all needs, and you and your writers will be happy.

4. Let writers be the eyes and ears of your company as you become truly global. Writers read—a lot. It’s how they acquire their wisdom. And, yes, shocking as it may seem, sometimes they do it on company time. But your scribe is not slacking! Please, no lashes!

Haven’t they suffered enough over the ages?

Writers are driven by curiosity. They’re never satisfied or comfortable with what they know. Often, they’re filled with doubts—self-doubt and other kinds. This keeps them reading and reading ... and reading.

And in their research, they find out stuff. This is a huge asset for the writer and for the forward-thinking company that realizes it can’t buy that sort of knowledge just anywhere—unless they abduct a librarian or hire a marketing company whose wisdom and writers come at a higher price.

So when office staff scoff at writers or report their behaviours, companies should dismiss the tattletales: “This is why we have given the writers their own space. And how come you have time to spy on them?” But colleagues who like to stir the pot should watch it. They may end up being mocked in the next office sitcom.

5. Tell writers that their text has been read. They’d like to know. Better yet, when something they have written hits the mark, it’s wise to acknowledge this success with some form of praise. Often, a simple “Thank you for the superb effort” will suffice. But in some instances, a detailed discussion of what worked and why will encourage similar or greater efforts in the future.

Of course, bonus cheques (or cash) will never be refused; client satisfaction certificates and gifts of watches are not necessary.

Now, go give your writer a hug.

With special contribution from Christine Hastie.


Now That's What I Call Taking Control

Had a Baci chocolate today. As some of you may know, Baci imparts words of romantic wisdom within each sensuous Italian wrapping. Here's what mine said:

"Abbiamo parlato a lungo all'amore. Ora proviamo ad ascoltarlo, vuoi?"

"We've spoken a lot about love. Now let's try to listen to it, shall we?"


Take that Bazooka Joe!

Ugh. Not Another List!

Yes! Another bleeping Canadian "Make Me Feel Better" poll courtesy of the CBC.

Is it me or are this ridiculous lists becoming a sad spectacle? How many times do we have to go over this?

The last time we were treated to a national survey, Tommy Douglas won. I know. Crazy.

Now? He's 7th. How did he lose six spots? Can it be because the health care debate has subsided? This was a perfect scenario for Trudeau to make his move be #1. One comment about Trudeau was: "Trudeau created debt, Mulroney paid the the bill." And boy is he not popular out West. Still, he's apparently a national icon. Go figure.

Celine Dion is in the Top 10 - the gal who once turned down a Juno for not being an 'anglophone" singer. But she has no problem being one internationally.

And where's Tim Hortons anyway? I'm surprised no one has linked the doughnut chain to some enchanting Canadian value or belief system. What about Dudley-do-Right? Ike from South Park?


But the part that had me scratching my head was under the "Accomplishment" section. Freedom is #9 on that list. This makes no sense. How is this a Canadian value?

Poll person: So what do you like about being Canadian?

Canadian: "Um, I dunno. I kinda like hockey and North of 60. But I also like being free. So I think I'll go with freedom. Canada rocks! Woo!"

Anyway, try telling Mark Steyn this. Does "freedom" include La Loi 101 and the OLF? Why don't we add other generalized words like "Peacefulness" and "Intellectualism" and "Friendliness" to the list? Why not? Alexander Graham Bell at #5 can be disputed. Bell is also claimed by the United States; to say nothing of his country of birth Scotland.

Not sure how the Avro Arrow Project got in there. In the 1980s I did a class project on it and no one, and I mean no one, ever heard of it. Suddenly, Dan Ackroyd makes a movie and everyone is slapping the Maple Leaf on their arms about it. Last I checked, despite its brilliance, it was scrapped. Doesn't matter! Slap it in on the list!

I have no idea how you can rationalize the accomplishments and achievements of a nation through national polls. They have no merit to me.

Not only that. If one looks at the post below about Zenn and Dynasty it should occur to us all that Canadians are clueless as to what we're up to presently. Then again, in a country that looks to the government for everything, our own government doesn't seem to care so why should the people?


RIP: Rose Iannone-Marciano

...101 years of life.

So frail, yet so towering.

Zenn And Dynasty Versus The Canadian Government

I'm sure there's more to this story.

However, it does lend some insights as to why Canada is not an economic power with an indigenous car manufacturing base. Its citizens continue to try and be innovative but the government rarely supports them. And now you know why it's not always America's fault.

It's crazy how these Canadian manufacturers (Zenn from Quebec and Dynasty from BC) of electric cars are welcomed in the U.S. and Mexico but not here. What, are they not greasing Transport Canada enough?


Dusting Off My F-601 Nikon

A few days ago I pulled out my Nikon F-601 camera. I caressed her fondly. Once upon a time she was my baby.

This in itself means little to anyone except that it reminded me about my recent magazine post. Unfortunately, I don't use my camera much anymore. Case in point: It still had three exposures left. Too bad. I was pretty good at it.

So, it was three clicks of a house plant and a couple of useless objects, pulled out the Kodak film (always bought Kodak) and off it went to get developed.

Some of the pictures in there were from a few months back. Heck, I didn't even recognize some of the kids in the pictures. They grow up so fast. Sniff.

I own both a film (Nikon) and digital (Canon) camera. While there is no doubt that digital cameras have major advantages (no film, easily transferable to your computer to share, to name a couple), nothing beats the quality of film.

I'm not a professional photographer (I used to be an enthusiastic amateur) but this is something I've noticed developing both. Today, the ease of use and quick turn around makes digitals extremely popular and practical. In my house, both prevail. What about yours?

Does this make me a Luddite? That is, resistant to change?
Shop at Kodak.com

Article Of Interest: Emerging Technologies

Every once in a while I like to spread my wings. I'm not afraid to say that I'm scientifically deficient but that doesn't stop me from reading. Here are ten emerging technologies from Technology Review including Invisible Revolution and Nanocharging Solar.


Montreal's Ambitious Public Bike System

It certainly is interesting.

From Gizmag:

"Public bike systems are an environmentally friendly and practical urban transport solution, and in theory they benefit everyone in town, but sadly, most programs quickly fold when the bikesare routinely stolen or smashed by vandals. Montreal's Public Bike System plans to use clever design, RFID and a membership system to see if they can keep a public fleet of bikes on the road. We wish them the very best of luck!

You have to feel for the people that run community bicycle programs - clearly, the ability to grab a public bike from somewhere around town, ride it to your destination and leave it for somebody else to use is of great benefit not only to everyone in the town, but to the environment as well, as the bikes replace other, polluting forms of transport for a given number of journeys."

George Carlin Dead At 71

One of the all-time great comedians indeed.

I was lucky enough to see him here in Montreal at Place des Arts. Didn't agree with his politics but he was funny.


Article Of Interest: Obamacons Here We Come

Here's an interesting read from The New Republic titled "Mr. Right" by Bruce Bartlett discussing the phenomenon of conservatives concerned with the direction of the Republican party are rallying around Barak Obama.

I myself have gone back and forth with him. Sometimes some of his "fresh ideas" are just old ones repackaged. On the other hand, if he were to be elected it would certainly do wonders for America's image abroad.

Is The Professional And Courteous Waiter Dead?

Dunno 'bout you but I've noticed a marker downward spiral when it comes to service in a restaurant. Too often waiters act as though they are doing you a favor or are inattentive to your needs as a customer.

It's so consistent and prevalent now that whenever we dine out and are given excellent service it's like an anomaly in our lives. We're not sure how to handle it. Indeed, if society doesn't be careful we'll forget what constitutes good service and leading us to accept the lesser version.

A restaurant can serve the best food in town. But if the service is sub-par is it fair to argue that it reflects the values and professional ethic of the establishment?

This problem is further compounded by the fact that many people go into the business not knowing anything about it. It’s painful to watch owners sit at the bar barely finding the energy or courage to talk to patrons and ensure that everything is alright.

Why is this happening? Is it temporary? Are they a minority? Is it a reflection of the general impolite malaise in society as a whole? Are waiter merely reflecting this? Are owners the problem? Are there economic factors for this?

One thing is for sure, for those restaurant's and cafe's who fail on this front, my wallet isn’t going to wait around for the answer.

The Presidential Candidates And Total Funds Amassed

Obama: $ 265 million.
McCain: $97 miilion.

This can be interpreted in many ways. One being it is ironic that the Democrats can win an election on mostly private money.


"Hockey Night In Canada" Just A Tune?

We all know music can become part of the cultural fabric of a society. Whether it's classical pieces from Mozart, Wagner or Verdi or the music of Woodie Guthrie and just about all bluegrass ballads, they all form the essence of a people. Pop culture too has produced unforgettable songs and tunes that will remain. These come in the form of standards in jazz or musicals of another era. Even television has added to this richness with, 'All in the Family, Cheers and Hill Street Blues' to cite some quick examples.

After a while, works of music don't necessarily have a monetary value to it. They pass on from being ratings and rankings tools to becoming an accepted part of a culture.

In other words, music has no price tag.

Tell that to the CBC.

The CBC badly messed up when they lost the rights of the famous hockey song to CTV. What made this incompetent move more incomprehensible is the spin and explanation for why they decided to "make a change."

CBC's 'Hockey Nigh in Canada' is indeed need of a makeover but it baffles why they would tinker with the song. Seems to me this was the last of their concerns.

It does seem the CBC constantly misindentifies problems. Who decided that the song had its time? I certainly don't feel this way. It's a rite of passage to watching a hockey game for an entire nation.

The brains over at the CBC felt that the money demanded for the song could not be justified because the song did not "pull in any viewers."

Talk about looking at things from inside the box with a blinders on.

They further went on a "we're responsible with taxpayers money" to try and explain their decision. Gee, thanks. I guess.

It's all rubbish of course. They messed up and tried to spin it using the fiscally responsible angle to save face. It's in fact ridiculous to hear them speak as though they're a private network like NBC. They completely overlooked the intangible and intrisic value worth of the song. That to me is GOLD and they lost it.

I don't think ANY Canadian would have minded if the CBC spent a little more to keep the song. It seems Canadians understand and value the worth of a piece of Canadiana more than the people who run the CBC do.

Alas, someone at CTV wasn't so myopic. CBC's loss is CTV's gain.

Multiculturalism: Canada's Value Under Duress?

An article titled Pluralism and Multiculturalism by George Crowder (Flinders University, Australia) , discusses a subject that should be of interest to Canadians. While the article explores other considerations that goes beyond the scope of this post, I will content myself to one small part of the article where the author desrcibes two types of multiculturalism.

The first considers extreme "cultural relativism" that "demands respect for all cultures regardless of content." It is here, I suppose, we find all the prevailing romantic views about premodern societies and that industrialized nations are not anymore advanced than primitive tribes. You can only judge a society against itself and nothing else. One can add moral relativism to the mix.

The second is one in which a moderate form of MC within liberal universalism asks for "the idea that membership of a flourishing culture is universally a component of individual well-being and that consequentially one'sown culture ought to be accorded some level of public respect and support by a just political system."

He goes on to mention that "the degree of respect and support" sought must be justified and further adds, "Cultural practices will not be accommodated if they violate basic rights or undermine personal autonomy."

Which of these fits into the Canadian model? Was the intention the first or the second? Do we we have a hybrid of both now? Perhaps the original intent was the second version but given the modern relativist ethos that prevails perhaps it is headed towards the first definition?

I have recently tended to take a hard stance on multicultualism not for what it intrisically aims to achieve but of its practical unintended consequences. In other words, it seems to me it is heading into the first definition. Canada seems to be a disjointed collection of provinces and communities all seeking to preserve its own "identity." The price to be paid by the state we call Canada. Is Canada merely a warehouse for communities and cultures?

Of course, now the conversation shifts to relativism and the laws of a nation-state. How far can communities go to be treated fairly? When does it graduate into favoring one side over another?

An Unfortunate Tragedy

No parent should have to have their child die in a school. There is no doubt there are some teachers who can't cope with students with special needs. My nephew is one and it's certainly been a rough ride. Some teachers are "naturals" at dealing with children. You see it in their eyes. For others, teaching is a job. The added stress of integrating children with autism and other disorders is simply too much for them.

An excerpt from the article:

"The government needs to protect vulnerable children like Gabriel, said Jean-Pierre Ménard, the lawyer for the boy's parents.

"We're asking (Education) Minister (Michelle) Courchesne to implement a legal framework to regulate how these children are handled."


In the meantine, parents with special needs kids must keep a special watchful eye and be vigilant when their children head to shcool and integrate into the mainstream.


Articles of Interest: Taxes and Oil

On one side of the coin the Saudi's suggest the West lowers taxes on oil consumption, others say a say the so-called gas tax would actually force people to be responsible with how they manage oil and gas. The latter being posited at The Oil Drum in this article titled "The Speech I'd Like to Hear from a Presidential Candidate on Energy and Climate Change" by Eugene Linden

Here are some excerpts of what the Saudi's argue in the article from The Independent:

"Next month, the Saudis will be pumping an extra half-a-million barrels of oil a day compared to last month, bringing total Saudi production to 9.7 million barrels a day, their highest ever level. But the world's biggest oil exporters are coupling the increase with an appeal to western Europe to cut fuel taxes to lower the price of petrol to consumers."


"But the Saudis argue that although the barrel has jumped as high as $140 recently, they are earning less in real terms owing to the decline in the value of the dollar. Until now they have hesitated to announce a large increase over a sustained period, sticking to the Opec line which blames Western speculators for the increase."


"The Saudi monarch shared his concern that the oil price was "abnormally high" although he blamed "national policies" in the West, Mr Ban told The Independent yesterday. "He was also suggesting that consumers should play their own role..."

And pragmatically:

"But it appears the Saudis are just as worried that record prices – on Friday oil was being priced at just under $135 a barrel – could dampen growth in the industrialised West and lower demand, which would in turn hurt the kingdom."


I'm Still A Fan Of Magazines

I'm a big fan of magazines. Print media is not dead for me. If you're like me, you just can't get used to reading text online often resorting to printing an article. - a process that wastes your ink cartridges and time. It can even be stressful if you're doing it at work and don't want to get caught printing the latest Star, PC or Consumer Reports piece. Recently, I've been looking to sign up with a few magazines. Yeah, I'm one of those guys who carries around a rolled up magazine either in my hand or back pocket. Although you can't really do that with booklet-style magazines like The American Scholar.

The only reason I haven't committed to one is because in addition to being indecisive, I want to subscribe to over nine publications and I just can't justify this. It especially becomes harder using Magazine City. Magazine City offers cheap magazines at various discounts. If you're in the market for a magazine subscription check the link below. I'm not responsible for anything else that happens - like several subscriptions not cleared by the house accountant - i.e. your wife.


Of Me, Natural Medicine and Contemporary Culture

A few months back my father was sent to an herbalist doctor (alternative healing) to help him with, well, a lot of things related to his health.

He had grown frustrated with his "conventional" doctors and wanted to "see" what was "out there."

Been there, done that. In 1990, I had surgery to repair my ACL. It was a vicious time for me. I was (is) a sports junkie but could no longer play them at full throttle (I tore my other ACL in 2003 and had surgery for this, too). Between the original surgery in 1990 and the mid-90s I was sustaining all sorts of ligament/joint related injuries. I was, naturally, fed up.

My specific strength conditioning regime and diet did not seem to help me any. So, I did what any good, pampered, anti-Western conspiracist would do: I went alternative medicine. Everyone wants to be "alternative." I think they call it "Indie" now in the arts.

Lucky for me, I knew someone that studied holistic medicine - aka Chinese medicine - and decided to give her a try. I never doubted the knowledge and the good intentions of Naturopaths- just the premise to which their whole philosophy is based on. More on this in a minute.

Anyway, I was soon jacked up on all sorts of mineral supplements, syrups and Bio-K. I adhered to the regime faithfully like anything I undertook in my life, carefully marking off my daily intake.

For the record, now I shoot back a good espresso in the morning. I can't live a regimented life.

Unfortunately, the result was negligible. "I don't believe people need to be cut up," I remember her telling me. So, I asked what was I supposed to do with a torn ACL that could not heal itself? She could not answer.

Years later, I knew someone who tried this path for severe allergies. The naturopath was honest and said nothing could be done but that didn't stop them from selling $100 worth of products that needed to be re-bought every month.

This reminded me of those on-line get-rich-quick marketing scams that lure people with promises and hope of making money only to swindle people into paying monthly charges. I'm not suggesting that what these people are selling is pure garbage. It's just not what it's cracked up to be. Besides, most of the stuff given in a $97 ebook is readily available. Not only that, many on-line marketers are easily accessible. For example, Jeff at Buzz My Blog is an absolute gentleman.

I get the same "marketing" feeling with the holistic herbalist industry.

So when I heard my father was giving alternative medicine a crack I kept my cynical thoughts to myself. Better to let him (and my mother) find out on his own. Sure enough, everything he was promised did not happen.

I'm of the opinion that if some ancient formula existed, modern medicine would absorb it. I don't believe that there's some evil master plan concocted by doctors to keep "secrets" away in order to keep us all sick and the medical community rich. Or is there?

So why the obsession and belief in alternative medicine?

Ever notice the marketing packaging. Slap a picture of a Native American and presto! Instant credibility. The "noble savage" was once overrun but his secrets live on! Don't let the modern white man keep you ignorant! Could you imagine pasting a picture of your family doctor on some medicinal weed. You'd immediately question its legitimacy. But a long-dead shaman? No problem! Hit me!

It's all so Rousseau-esque.

The same with anything that is connected to Ancient China.

Ah, therein lies the truth! We always look back on the past as an honorable age. That somehow contemporary society has lost its way. We forget all the bad that marked the past and only remember the good. The romanticizing of the past is something that always intrigued me. I'm all for nostalgia but once it becomes a literal blueprint for modern social constructs - well, then I would submit we have a problem.

Native Indians weren't as "noble" as they were painted to be. Know why? They're human. As such, they were vulnerable to all the same universal themes everyone else faces: power, greed, war, love, etc. Same with China, which was united by force and blood.

If one was transported back to a time they personally love (14th century King Arthur's court, 18th century farm, etc.) the first thing they'd say is, "Ew."

The next would be, "This is not how I envisioned it at all." Followed by, "Hollywood really distorts things, huh?" This would then lead to, "I have to hunt my own, what?" and "I have to communicate on a wall?"

Ultimately and tragically winding up with a whiny, "Where's my latte!"

Back to the future we go.

It's natural for humans to hark back upon a better time. The Athenians did it, the empire-savvy Romans did it (they would look back on the Republic with fond memories), Italian humanists did it, the French philosophes did it, German philosophers did it and we do it today. Look at Hollywood stars as they gallop across the globe in search of, um, something -what, we do not know.

Accordingly, by this rationale, everyone is lying to us today. Doctors, politicians, lawyers, mechanics, your mother, etc. We trust no one. The next logical step is to react to this. We do it by employing some cultural relativism calculation. We look at some backward nation or continent, look at whatever tribes and subsequent sacrifices that may follow and proclaim, "How noble! How can we say this is backwards? Our culture is not better than this one!"

Yet,these places are squirming and screaming to modernize. Ironies, ironies.

I wish it were all that simple. Nonetheless, this explains in part the popularity of natural products and doctors.

The return to tribalism laced with romanticism is one messed-up recipe.

It trumps rational behaviour and reduced culture to an egalitarian state.

I'm not saying this is bad or good, right or wrong, but it does need some rethinking. People are not using this to make a principled point about our values as a species, but rather to denigrate one (the West) and promote another (anyone else). In their quest for egalitarian-culturalism they seek to shame the West.

Who knows what their motives, are but my instincts tell me it's all disjointed.

Note: Forgive me if this seems a little scattered but I think there's an overall message in there somewhere. Notably this: The New York Yankees and other great teams like them are hated not because they are the Yankees but because they dominate and win - at least historically. The West is dreaded because it succeeded. Therefore, it's time to question it. Turning to alternative things that don't have their roots in Western culture is considered credible now.


On Canada Day I Won't Be The Waving Flag

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire.


The court case against Mark Steyn has begun here in Canada without much fanfare. Actually, the silence is deafening.

Imagine that, the BC Human Rights Commission has the nerve to move forward on this. Make you wonder what the prevailing mindset is these days among our legal, political and intellectual masters. They certainly don't seem to speak for me.

How did all this nonsense begin? For years, it's been a curious thing having to watch Mohamed Elmasry, head of the Canadian Islamic Congress, scrurry around demanding action against people when his own track record is far from honorable. Can you say shit disturber?

As usual, Canadians are content to let the government take matters relating to freedom of expression into its own hands.

Personally, this whole episode leaves me disturbed and frightened like a little girl.

Steyn expressed an opinion in a book. We can disagree with its content indeed but to try him in court for it is an attack on freedom of speech. Nothing more, nothing less.

A couple of things to consider:

1) Blogs get away with far more offensive things. They are not held accountable for their words and actions. Do we now go after them? Or is it simply easier to go after an author paid to offer his or her opinions?

2) Food for thought: Mein Kempf is still available for all to see - as it should be.

3) Why should Elmasry get a free pass for how own distasteful comments, for example, about the West and homosexuals?

4) What about the attacks on Christianity that have become the norm on television in Canada?

5) Have you been on message boards? Not pretty, huh? Writing behind a computer with a pseudo-name emboldens people to write stuff far worse than Steyn. For instance, soccer forums are a cess pool of prejudicial (and racist) trash. Yet, comments are rarely deleted or censored. Should the Human Rights Commission tie its hands up with this given it is now engaged in thought control?

The ruling will determine if Canada has lost its mind or found its power to keep perspective. If it finds Steyn guilty, one has to ask: What are Canadian "values" (never clearly and properly defined - to me anyway) anymore?

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

"Wrong, Do it again!"
"If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?"
"You! Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)


Supreme Court Sides Against The President

This is an interesting ruling by the Supreme Court regarding Guantanamo Bay.

Essentially, detainees are now able to ask under what charge they are being held. Does this mean a terrorist can now go ahead and sue the United States government if he was arrested by unlawful means? Is this an issue of American sovereignty and its right to defend itself or a fundamental human rights issue? Or Both? Will this lead to Miranda Rights? Will they be able to post bail? What is the limit of tolerance? Would people want to have terrorists post bail?

Of course, each side on the debate will offer their thoughts. Both posit fair arguments.

Those who like the ruling claim the United States abandoned its moral and legal principles by detaining alleged terrorists - many of whom have not been given a fair trial for six years now. Furthermore, the suspension of habeas corpus is simply not acceptable in a democracy - especially considering innocents may have been arrested.

There is a 1943-feel (which is disturbing to many) that the United States would take such drastic measures regarding this issue. How to bring to justice despicable cretins without abandoning cherished values and principles? Principles so basic they stretch back to the Magna Carta.

Should they have been given a fair trial at the very least?

Most people who take this position, and I'm just guessing here, feel the terrorist threat is exaggerated; a propaganda tool to push a government agenda to make the elite rich.

On the other side of the coin, this is a decision that is treasonous. To them, the United States is argued to be in a state of war and extending such benefits to enemy combatants is plain wrong and irresponsible. It's all a matter of national security and America has a right to defend itself as it sees fit. Military tribunals are a just reaction to a violent actor like terrorist organizations.

What message does this ruling send to the enemy? Giving terrorists any rights is absurd. It's already tough enough to prove a case against criminals so why begin bureaucratic nonsense for killers?

For proponents of this, it's a simple black and white issue, there's no exaggeration to the war on terror since the enemy declared war on 9/11.

My personal view is that it's indeed hard to provide all the comforts of Western law to terrorists (and I use the word knowing full well there is not agreed definition of who and what constitutes "terrorism") who reject any international legal, moral or political construct set up. In other words, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to murderous thugs. It applies to civilized nation-states.

It's a tough decision for a democracy to make and whatever decisions taken is bound to elicit spirited debate.

Guantanamo is an evolving reaction to a murderous and malignant player on the world stage. It's a better safe than sorry calculation. Now whether this is a cynical ploy to reap profits I cannot say.

The U.S. will probably need to (and I imagine it will) adjust its methods moving forward when dealing with suspected terrorists.


Political Science

I never got this title.

How can politics be a science? There seems to be a trend in academics to try and reduce politics into neat equations and graphs.

What's next?

History Science?

RIP Brian Budd And Tim Russert

I used to watch soccer analyst Brian Budd on The Score. His enthusiasm (and knowledge) of the game oozed through the screen. Sad news. I didn't realize he had such an interesting athletic background.

Of course, this has been a bad week on this front. Journalist Tim Russert also suddenly passed away this week.

Judge The Action Not The Person

I've haven't been reading too much about L'affaire Couillard. Stories about ambitious whores preying on naive, weak minded politicians hardly interest me. Sure it makes for a great screenplay but this sort of stuff has been happening for centuries. Ancient Rome was just as (if not more) maliciously amoral with one added intrigue: murder.

That anyone would be shocked to hear this needs to get some dirt thrown into their mouth. Their pristine lips will get them into trouble some day.

However, I did notice something through all this.

If you recall, the way the story was treated when it first broke was "poor girl" who simply got caught up in some trouble and the the private lives of people is none of our business.

It turns out this was a simplistic way to rationalize her actions. It was known early she had ties to biker gangs. This alone should send flairs to people. Obviously, there was more "meat" to this chick. Her past did matter and it indicated that her story was a little more corrupt than first let on. It's rarely just about "sex." It's also about power and she had one intricate plan to get her cut.

So when it was discovered that there was indeed more to the story, it was met with a shrug of the shoulder from me (my left shoulder is sore).

We tend to victimize the culprit these days. It's a strange phenomena. That's because, in part and depending on the situation, we blame the environment for criminal activity. Somehow society is to blame so we automatically defend the victim. This logic was brought to its dizzying (and annoying) heights with the "root causers" following the 9/11 attacks.

It doesn't just happen in politics. We see this in sports too. Ever notice when an athlete commits a social crime or a violent act in the field of play how the chorus of "but he's a great guy and team mate" comes up?

No one disputes that some athletes are inherently good people to be around. Mobsters are the nicest people sometimes. It should not serve to distract from the crime. From Pac-Man Jones to Chris Pronger, we tend to look at the person rather than the act. In the case of Pronger, the logic that he's a captain, a champion and great defenseman somehow absolves him of his cheap shots?

Indeed, if a player has a solid, proven track record with a clean sheet and commits one malicious act then we can chalk it up to "one of those things." Character of the person should be considered and consulted. But the second, third, fourth etc. times? At what point do we draw the line?

Here's another example. Diego Maradona was the greatest soccer who ever lived - among the greatest anyway. I do tend to agree with this with all respect to Pele and Alfredo di Stefano. One day, his destiny was almost shattered when he met with Andoni Goikoetxea - the Butcher of Bilbao. Goikoetxea literally butchered Maradona with a violent tackle that ruptured his left ankle and fracture to his fibula.

The same "woe is me" logic was used as Goikoetxea's original 18 game suspension was reduced to seven leading the colorful Maradona to quip, "if this goes on, they'll be suspending me soon."

For NHL fans we see this ALL THE TIME.

When will we once and for all see the punishment fit the crime? When we stop victimizing the assailant.

Julie Couillard is/was benefiting from public sympathy. It's our first response to something corrupt because we don't want to believe it. There must be something more to the story. Sometimes there is. Sometimes we do nothing but chase shadows.

Treat her for what she is: an amoral, ambitious gal who uses amour to lure her victims into her carefully woven complex corruptive calculations.

Just like the word "Butcher" perfectly described Goikoetxea.

Nothing more, nothing less.


I'm A Black Sheep

During my University years it was often suggested to me that I consider some academic, research (or writing) path.

As you can see and tell, I didn't exactly heed the call.

I often wondered why I made certain decisions and in the case of the scholarly life it all came down to one thing: culture. The rest can be neatly put into a classic Steve Earle song: I ain't ever satisfied.

By culture I mean I would never fit in. Or at least, that's the perception I had. There were many reasons for this - one of which being I needed to explore the self-employment world and other more "pragmatic" avenues - but the one that stood out was ideological. Except for one of two professors, the majority of professors (and students) were leftists.

Not that I'm saying I'm the opposite. I'm not. I just want to hear and absorb ideas.

The vibrancy of the debates were weak and the premises of the arguments presented lame. Whenever someone dared question or challenge the stagnant prevailing and accepted ethos of the class, they were summarily dismissed. The term "right-wing" didn't hold the same vile image it does today so it was rarely - if ever - uttered.

It was these voices of dissent (very much a relative term) I enjoyed most. Personally, I rarely spoke in class except to side with such a person or when the level of stupidity was too much for me to digest. And I mean that literally - I liked to eat in class.

The best professors of course objectively TAUGHT. They did not clutter their lessons with their own personal views. Now whether teaching can be truly objective is another matter altogether. Is all teaching "political?"

Along the path of learning I guess a defense mechanism was built within me somewhere that determined I was not made for the gig of being a professor.

My friend made it to foreign affairs - after getting his Masters - and for a brief period was impossible to be around. Locked-jawed and all he would ruminate about the great ideas some of his (he was a TA) had "great" ideas.

The first thing that went through my head was, "Oh , shut up." The next thing was, "what life experiences did you have to know what constitutes being a "great" political science idea, and the third was, well, I forget what it was but I'm sure there was one. He was just annoying. All he was missing was a tweed jacket and a glass of brandy.

I don't know what got into him because he was conservative and a rare bird in academic circles. Whenever his faculty would meet to discuss possibly going on strike - which was, like, always - he'd be the only to vote "no." He was chastised for it and called "le riche" among his wanna-be Bolshevik colleagues. None of whom, I would assume, would ever fight for a socialist cause by laying their lives on the line.

Like I said, not for me. Besides, I can't grade papers. Nor would I be interested in reading poorly thought out and written papers. And to put up with some pain in the ass student filled with a sense of self-entitlement demanding a higher grade? Bah.

I've often heard the debate about whether the leaders in institutions of higher education were liberal or conservative. Only a fence-sitter or delusional person would deny that the former prevails. There have been too many surveys and studies (including examining religion in school) over the years that confirm this. Read one here.

It doesn't surprise me that professors would hunk down behind their desks allowing their own personal views to cloud objective teaching. The idea that the exchange of ideas at Colleges and Universities exists is naive. It doesn't. Just look at students like Gillary Massa and the power radical student bodies have.

It's obviously all a power game.

And if I'm going to fight I may as well do it outside the walls of academia. It would be too much for me to accept if I watched freedom of thought and ideas whither before my eyes.


Article of Interest: A Refreshing View From Germany

Here's an interesting article about George W. Bush from a German perspective. He makes a few salient points. Notable among them, because Bush "squandered" his "Get of jail free card" on Iraq, the world has decided that anything he has to say about Iran is to be ignored. Of course, this is dangerous logic to employ in politics.

As he points out, Bush didn't "invent" the terrorist threat. I might add, it's been there festering for decades.

Another point he asserts, is the notion that Germans use Bush as a way to exert their "superiority" over the Americans. This is something I discussed on my blog about Canada. Canada has gone stir crazy in its smug smack about the allegedly stupid Americans. It's as if the world looks at the States and say, "Phew, thank God we're not those stupid Americans." Meanwhile, we overlooked our own major issues.

Last, and this is so true, is the fact that many comedians do use Bush for cheap laughs. It's become tiresome to sit in a comedy cellar and hear some lame ass comedian try his Lenny Bruce shtick by getting a few "woo's" from the audience. The problem is that the big comedians do it too.


This article is refreshing because it does restore some perspective on the Bush as the devil issue. Nor is he the starting point of the reduction of freedom Americans are complaining about.

I don't know why but during the Iraq debate my perception of Germany (once a staunch ally of the U.S.) was that of Spike and Chester (guess who was Spike) when it came to its alliance with the crafty French.


Excuse My Interruption

When did I become a pop culture blog again?

Anyway, there's a show called Intervention. Never watched it. The closest thing I came to viewing one on TV was when an intervention was held on Seinfeld.

That won't stop me from offering an idea for a new show. How about Interruption?

One hour of people interrupting each another.

Hey, they show annoying, pampered, narcissistic rich ladies giving birthday parties - I still can't believe Party Mama's is on TV. And Sex and the City and Porn Valley and, well, you get the picture. There's a lot of crap out there - so why not this?

I can just see a TV exec now. "Sure why not? We're plump out of ideas. Jenny, send in the lawyers."

Who Tamed Spike TV?

Flipping through channels the remote control took me and my mindlessness to Spike TV. There, I uncovered a Steven Seagal (why isn't his name pronounced Sea-Gal? Why Suh-gaul?) movie fest. I don't know what Spike's motto is but it's clearly mandated to entertain men. And they do that with a mixture of violent films, Ultimate Fighting, action shows and girls - the skankier the better.

Spike's website is one step away from being a TMZ knock off with all sorts of "who gets around more" questions. It's all, well, so boring. Do I really care if Jessica Simpson is a, um, well, um...you fill in the blanks.

I sure couldn't care less.

What I'm trying to say is that Spike is not a station for kids. Yet, why are Seagal movies censored for bad language? And they don't even bother subbing and dubbing bad words like "fuck" for "fudge" either. Instead opting for the blank dub so all you hear is the word mother followed with dead silence. As in "You mother..." Nothing. Not even a beep. I see more dangerous language on Family Guy - and I know many kids are watching that.

I admit it. I don't get it. Spike is an adult station. Kids of a certain age shouldn't be watching it and if they are, their parents aren't doing their jobs. So why is Spike doing the work for them? I imagine there's some "think about the children" law that they must adhere to. We all know the law wants to clean up TV and absolve parents of having to engage in any real, well, parenting.

Father: "Son..."

Son: "Get outta here, Dad! I hate you!"

Father: "Ok, Dylan-Jacob. There's Jello-O in the fridge if you want.

Son: "Eat shit."

Father: "I love..."


Speaking of doing things for the children, for you Simpsons buffs, Maude Flanders (shown being killed off in the image) was a character that often asked her community to "think about the children." When the show wiped her off for good, how many kids watched that? Was there a "spike" in murders in sports stands across North America? I doubt kids weren't watching this episode.

It reminds me of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Some over-zealous parent/religious organization probably claimed the cartoons were too violent and a source for the corruption of little minds everywhere. In the process, they managed to get the networks to calm Yosemite Sam down. If they could give him calming pills they would.

Only the little minds corrupted don't happen to be children; they're adults.

Put the swear words back for the good of immature and depraved nut jobs like me and make sure the kids are in bed or watching what they're supposed to. Be parents will ya?

Now, I'm off to eat a fucking hamburger. Is that alright? Are we still allowed to do that?



Where Is The Best Espresso In Italy?

If you're an espresso drinker here's an interesting post by Man of Roma.

I too have been frustrated in the past when North American writers (sometimes well-meaning or not) generalize or use hyperbole (for positive or negative ends) when talking about Italy.


-I have always felt that there's a special attraction between Germans and Italians. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's a connection between the two. I suppose the limes has something to do with it. Again, Man of Rome explores this aspect in a conversation with a German couple by the Colosseum in Rome.

Is it a case of opposites attract?

Time Waits For No One

I'm feeling nostalgic.

No clue what that means.

I was watching a documentary about great musicals from the Great Depression to the 1950s called Hollywood Singing and Dancing. Such programs always leave me looking back fondly on a period long gone.

We sat there and just imagined. In 1988, when I was a teenager, The Beatles had been gone from the musical landscape 18 years. Now, it's been 38 years. Time doesn't contract now does it? Yet, while the image of the band in the flesh may have faded, the impact and legacy remains. The Beatles are now classical music. Not classic - classical.

The same thought came to me while watching those musicals. I'm not a big musical fan. I've been to Broadway and enjoy those shows but as a whole it's not my thing. Probably because they're from another time before me. Had I grown up in the 30s or 40s, my taste and sensibilities would inevitably be different than today.

Singin' in the Rain is a notable exception. Man, when I watched that movie it left an impression. Especially the famous Gene Kelly scene - posted below.

The past is weird. Looking back objects fade. But the memories are powerful. Staying honest with the past is a devilish thing to handle.

Ageless, Timeless, Cool

So cool.


U.S. Elections Set For November

It's Principle Skinner versus Obamarama Express: The Little Choo-Choo Train That Could.


Dean Steacey: Model Of Intellectual Brilliance; Defender Of All Things Human

We often hear about the police state that apparently exists down South. But what about Canada? Hate to break it to us Canadians, but we clearly have one too. Some guy - let's call him Richard Warman - wants to ban websites that Canadians shouldn't be viewing.

Excuse me, um, Richard. But who the heck are you and how dare you anyway?

It reminded me of a quote I heard not so long ago that left me perplexed.

I shamelessly copy/paste from wiki:

"In an exchange during the Marc Lemire case, Canadian Human Rights Commission (HRC) investigator Dean Steacy was asked "What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?" Dean responded: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to "freedom of expression" whereas the U.S. Constitution refers to "freedom of speech."

Tomato, tomahto?

Very well, so what's Canada's angle on freedom then Dean ma'boy?

That was a useless response if there ever was one. It's right up there with between period interviews in hockey or sideline reporters questioning football coaches before they head to the locker room.

God help us all. Canada, the United States, everyone. For people who speak unintelligible languages now hold great positions in places that hold power.

Where do we find these people?

I got it!

I finally know who Horatio on CSI Miami reminds me of. The Count of Monte Cristo!

The cold, calculating manner in which he speaks, his inner-motivations, sense of personal vengeance and all that. Only he does not seem to believe in God's Providence like the good Count did.

The main difference is that The Count was less irritating and instilled fear. Horatio's not foolin' anyone with that red hair.


The Greatest Man Alive

How anyone could believe The Simpsons is not bigger than, um (don't say Jesus, don't say Jesus), Ed Wood, is beyond this tiny little head to comtemplate.

Here's a link to Homer's 19 Points to Success.

Personal favorites:

"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.

"Trying is the first step towards failure."

And a link to the celebrated cartoon and its ability to comprehend math and science at a high level.

Whatever You Do...

Don't go here. If you do, I'm not responsible for any failed marriages or lost jobs.

Here's a satellite image of what is known as "Badlands Guardian" in Alberta (near Medicine Hat).

Join Me In My Fight

We have banned cell phone users thanks to the many inconsiderate people. There's talk to now ban smoking in cars where kids are invloved.

People. They have entered your car. A private space. What's the next step? Your home? Is this a stretch?

Why not fine people for picking their noses in the car? Have you noticed how involved some of them are? Surely this is a menace on our roads, no?

Hillary Who?

Well, we all know what the world wants. But is it right for America? Frankly, that's all that matters. I fear that if McCain wins, this will upset people - which it shouldn't.

There's a discrepancy (how much I can't say though my Spidey senses says enough) between what Obama represents as an abstract political being and what his actual policies are - what little he has said has proven to be anything but intriguing; Black Ideology notwithstanding.

Does he really represent a new way in American politics? Like anything else, his image will eventually (naturally) dissipate and his policies will concretely define him. That is, if he gets elected which I'm not sure he will be. It's not a stretch to believe McCain can win.

Nonetheless, no one can deny the symbol his nomination represents - no matter how ho-hum his profound thought may be at this junction.

For me, I await a leader who will put an end to the intellectual madness that swirls around us. A leader that will suspend "self-proclaimed purifiers" and defend freedom from impostors who impose their insipid dysfunctional ideals upon good people of sound spiritual and intellectual faith. The patients run the asylum now.

Oh, be assured, there's a witch hunt. Salem is more alive than we think...

Question: Since Obama suggested it, what is the best way to deal with terrorists? To engage them or fight? Think about this long and hard.

They know how to use perceived American weaknesses to their advantage. Americans have to figure out a way to reverse this. They made minced-meat out of Carter, Pelosi and that foreign policy expert Penn and they can do it to Obama. Does he have the guts to look them in the eye and tell them, "Then fight we must" if and when he realizes that they may not be the rational players he thinks they are?

I know my answer - I think.


A Nice Explanation of Social Networking

Monk Mojo's 1000 Cuts has this humorous (and accurate) diagram titled "Shit Me!" of how social networking works.

Shit. Did I just network this shitty blog?


Rock' N Roll Loses Part Of Its Soul

RIP Bo Diddley.

A member of rock's Holy Trinity alongside Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Bo Diddley was a true original. He has now past on to the big guitar in the sky.

And a forgotten one for a long time until the late 1980s and early 1990s when Nike ingeniously put Bo Jackson and Bo Diddley together for a commercial. All of a sudden, everyone knew who "Daddy" was - a term coined by Tom Petty I believe.

Imagine. One of the true architects of rock'n roll and it took a shoe company to revive him. Like everyone from that time, some dubious record exec of questionable character made millions of his talent and back.

That's in the past and now Bo has passed on to another world. His music remains for us mere mortals.

"Bo, you don't know Diddley!"

A June Confession

I like to usher in a new month with a light or entertaining post. Why not one about me?

I loath starting a new roll of something.

If you have paper towels or toliet paper, you don't want me around to get the fun started. I don't possess the acumen or patience to unravel the first sheet. I always end up shredding it.

Go ahead. Call me an environmental nightmare. I don't care.

They should have a little tip that people can pull on to make things easier.