Monday, July 23, 2007

Poor Sports

Ordinarily, I'd think being the commissioner of a professional sports league would be a pretty cool thing. You get to go to all the games, hang out with stars and make tons of money.

But, not last week, which might go down as the darkest moment in professional sports history, if you were to combine all the scandals from all the leagues that hit the papers.

Professional baseball: Bud Selig was forced to sit through a three game set in Milwaukee where Barry Bonds, the human steroid laboratory, could have broken Henry Aaron's all-time home run record in the city where Aaron was a long-time star and against the team that Selig once owned. But, Bud got off lucky, Bonds fell short.

Professional football: Roger Goodell, newly-appointed commissioner, now has to deal with the scandal of Michael Vick, once seen as one of the game's bright young stars - a black quarterback who could have been a role model for millions of kids. Ooops, turns out in his spare time, Vick was part of a dog-fighting ring that featured not only the inhumane "sport" of forcing dogs to fight against one another to the death but also an even more cruel side problem of people involved in the ring torturing and killing the dogs. PETA has been protesting, Vick has been indicted and Goodell has been forced to basically suspend him.

Professional golf: On the eve of the British Open, perhaps the most prestigious tournament in the world, Gary Player, one of the game's most respected elder statesmen, announces he knows that at least one player has taken steroids. WADA - the World Anti-Doping Agency headed by Canadian blowhard Dick Pound who would charge my 11-year-old is on steroids if he watched him play XBox - promptly wades into the fray. Think this is going to just go away? I doubt it.

Professional hockey: Gary Bettman, the rat who basketball sicked on hockey, is under fire because he apparently quashed a sale of the Nashville Predators to Canadian Ron Bellisle who wanted to move the team to Canada. God forbid the NHL allow teams to actually play in cities where they're wanted instead of the Deep South where they rate slightly lower than, well, dog fighting. But, this could be the end of Bettman. If he actually colluded to deny Bellisle the right to buy the team, he's in shit so deep even his ratness might drown in the sewers.

Amateur soccer but with professional players: At the World Under 20 tournament in Canada, the Chilean team gets in a fight with a bunch of Toronto cops wearing bicycle shorts. Chile promptly goes nuts, filing an offical complaint with the Canadian government. Okay, let's look at this logically: Canada has never had a soccer riot in its history because Canadians don't give a shit about soccer; the Chileans had just lost a semi-final match against South American rival Argentina that had turned vicious with 9 yellow cards handed out and something like 60+ fouls called. Who do you think was to blame? Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, soccer's world body, was forced to do some serious back-pedalling, especially since Canada had just set the record for the most tickets sold at the World Under 20 and had acted as a perfect host nation.

Professional cycling: the leader at the time of the Tour de France is forced to acknowledge he'd skipped as many as four urine tests due to an "administrative error" and been kicked off his national team. Where's Dick Pound when you need him?

And, the topper? NBA basketball, where David Stern is under serious heat after it was revealed a referee had been betting on games including ones he was reffing. Uh-oh...the whole league, long a disaster for its shoddy rule calling and on- and off- court antics, just took a black eye like it had been beaten by Mike Tyson. Frankly, even basketball fans probably can't take it seriously anymore.

I'm a big sports fan but the fact is there is now too much money, too many egos, too much TV involvement and a severe lack of respect for the games and the fans these days. Professional sports is heading for a fall and last week may have accelerated the descent.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No Fools Like Some Old Fools

According to my morning paper, Nelson Mandela, who turned 89 this past week, has gone completely senile.

Well, actually, the paper didn't say that but it's the only conclusion one can draw from the announcement that the former President of South Africa and the man who was a central figure in the fight to end Apartheid has compiled a "group of elders" who will come together on occasion to help solve the world's problems.

This, of course, sounds very nice. In many cultures, although not in the caucasian world, Elders are looked upon as people who, through their years have gained wisdom and insight and can guide younger people in times of difficulty. Clearly, however, this is not the case with the names Mandela has chosen to associate himself with.

Among the less obnoxious names are Richard Branson - billionaire businessman with a flair for innovation and good-humoured self-promotion. Okay, I don't mind Branson. There's also Peter Gabriel, the former frontman for the 70s arts band Genesis before embarking on a successful solo career. I liked Gabriel in both incarnations though I don't think he's even that old and he's certainly never done anything particularly wise or outstanding that I'm aware of. There's also Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. She, too, ain't that old and since she once served as UN Commissioner for Human Rights, she's obviously not that wise, either. There's also Muhammad Yunus, billionaire and Nobel Prize winner for his Green bBank which gave microloans to the poor. Don't have anything against him. Bishop Demond Tutu is also on the list, not the least one imagines, because he and Mandela go way back - I'm not particularly a fan of either because both have been highly critical of Israel while ignoring human rights violations by numerous other nations and, of course, the palestinians, showing a clear lack of objectivity.

Then there are several people I've never even heard of, or if I have heard of them, it was only in passing. They include Gro Harlem Bruntland, environmental envoy to the UN - whoopee! Also, Ela Bhatt, Indian women's rights activists. Well, East Indian women certainly do need a human rights champion, so she's probably okay.

Then, there are the downright insane. Li Zhaoxing, foreign minister of China, one of the world's most regressive nations and a major violator of human rights. He's right in there with Jimmy Carter, asshole extraordinaire and quite possibly the worst president the US has ever had, certainly the worst of the 20th century. And, topping them all: Kofi Annan, former UN head honcho, who oversaw numerous genocides while his family and cronies lined their pockets at the expense of the unfortunate and downtrodden.

This is no council of elders. This is a council of people who should exit stage left and stay exited. If anything, a few of them should be subjected to the Eskimo way of dealing with the elderly and infirm...that is, left to float away to the next world on an ice floe.

God forbid any members of younger generations look to this collection for guidance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sensibly Stoned

According to a recently released UN report, Canadians are the highest people in the industrialized world.

That's right: we smoke more pot than any other first world nation, placing fifth overall in the world behind a handful of third-world countries where, let's face it, there isn't much else to do.

As someone who has enjoyed a toke or two in his lifetime, (or maybe even more - I forget, man) it didn't really come as a surprise that one out of every six Canadians admits to firing up a doobie or that that number rises to as high as one in three if you're a high school student in Quebec. Marijuana fits in pretty nicely with the Canadian lifestyle - it goes great with a hockey game, beer and chicken wings, it gives you a nice buzz, usually a slight sense of euphoria, but nothing too outrageous and it grows like a weed - probably because it is a weed - in most regions of the country.

British Columbia, as any dope afficianado will tell you, is one of the world's great producers of pot. Often in the summertime, you can hear and see police helicopters as they search for crops - growing it between rows of corn is pretty common - or seek grow-ops which they can identify by the amount of infrared heat that's picked up. Other common ways of busting growers include targeting homes with a highly unusual consumption of water and electricity.

The silly thing about marijuana is that there are somehow still politicians and law enforcement officers who believe they can stamp it out and that it's worth any effort to do so. This, of course, flies in the face of all logic: prohibition of any material has never worked, pot is way too easy grow and move around and, lastly, there's no good reason to persecute it in a society where I can legally get wrecked on alcohol or over the counter medications that are far more dangerous to my health and the health of those around me and also far more addictive.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who just caught his teenage son high on the reefer because said son had doused himself in Axe to cover up the smell. "Did he admit it?" I asked "Yes," said dad. "Did you have to give him one of those stern talking tos?" "Yes", said dad, "I had to pretend I was really angry even though I wasn't." "Did you feel like a bit of a hypocrite?" "Yes."

And, therein lies the great Canadian conundrum with weed. Even in only one-sixth of us admit smoking it - which makes me believe a lot of people were lying - almost no one I know really cares.

The best thing we can do with pot is legalize it, sell it in liquor stores with all the appropriate regulations about providing it to the young, take it out of the hands of organized crimes and use the tax revenues to subsidize the cost of Cheesies. Or maybe to help people get off really serious drugs or other addictions. Or build roads. Or whatever.

One thing is for sure: just because it is illegal doesn't mean anyone's going to stop smoking it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Canada Has the Palis Figured Out

If Condolleezza Rice and the rest of the current American administration ever want some help figuring out how to deal with the palestinians and Mahmoud Abbas, all they have to do is pick up the phone and call Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I can hear the laughing now. Canada, after all, is the socialist welfare state, home of the porous border that probably harbours terrorists. Hell, even Michael Moore likes Canada so obviously, we suck. But, for any of its other faults, our current Conservative government certainly has the palis figured out.

Canada was the first country to cut off funding to the palis after they foolishly elected hamas, saving taxpayers about $30 million a year in wasted cash. This week, Jordan's king was in Canada promoting MidEast peace and probably other fictitious things like unicorns, too.

Anyway, among the king's requests: that Canada reinstate the funding to help prop up Abbas.

Harper, thankfully, declined. He suggested Canada would reinstate funding when Abbas began cracking down on the corruption that is endemic to Fatah. After all, Harper noted, even palis who weren't terrorist lovers voted for hamas because they were tired of the lousy style of governing practised by Fatah. Canada, he added, wasn't about to prop up a dictator just because he had less blood on his hands than the hamassholes.

This approach is far different than that being practised by the Americans, Israel, the EU and others who have fallen all over themselves singing the praises of Abbas "the moderate".

Canada's tactic is the only one that has any chance of helping the palestinians. Lack of money is not the problem; the palestinians are the largest recipients of foreign aid per capita of any group in the world that I know of. They have been mollycoddled for decades while the cash has gone into a great sewer of corruption and the private bank accounts of their so-called "leaders".

The only way to change this is to tie the money to reform. And, if nothing else, at least we won't be throwing away our tax dollars on the palis anymore. It can be used for much better causes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The UN - Number One For My Vote of the World's 7 Greatest Blunders

Finally! The United Nations has found an issue it can really get behind, issuing strong statements and declarations.

Yup, that's right: the world body is all ticked off at a private initiative to choose 7 modern Wonders of the World. According to newspaper reports, UNESCO - some gobbledygook alphabet of an acronym which no doubt translates to "abject failure" - is not the least bit pleased. Christian Manhard, UNESCO's press officer, went so far as to say it sends out "a negative message to countries whose sites have not been retained". Other officials also criticized the online effort sponsored by a private Swiss foundation that reportedly gathered close to 100 million votes on 21 chosen sites.

I guess the UN must be worried that the sites that didn't win will suffer from a drop in self-esteem. That seems to be all the rage these days. And, just like my kids are sometimes subjected to games where no one is allowed to win so that no one else will lose, I think it's massive bullshit.

The 7 winning sites were the Great Wall of China, the Taj Majahl, the ruins of Petra in Jordan, the Colosseum in Rome, the statue of Christ that towers above Rio De Janeiro ("it's like a Jesus on the dashboard of the whole city", said Homer Simpson in the episode where the Simpsons go to Brazil), the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru, and the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico. I haven't seen any of them so I don't know how spectacular they are or aren't.

It wasn't only the UN that was upset with the whole competition. Egypt complained about it and claimed only the Pyramids at Giza - one of the seven original Wonders of the World and the only one still in place - were truly worthy of the honour.

One thing I did notice was that none of the historical sites was in Israel or built by Jews. Which is a good thing. Because if any had been, you can bet the UN Human Rights Commission would be meeting right now to condemn the contest as a zionist plot and the internet would be humming with neo-nazi morons and their arabist lapdogs claiming that it was just a Jewish attempt to take over architecture.

Anyway, it's nice to see the UN fired up for once and taking a stance. If only we could elicit that kind of response out of them when it comes to Iran or Sudan or China or Zimbabwe, etc.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lost Life Regrettable; Ignoring the Reason, Reprehensible

Canada has now lost 66 soldiers in Afghanistan. According to a Canadian Press-Decima poll, two-thirds of those Canadians asked believed that was an "unacceptable number.

The percentage peaked at more than 75 per cent in Quebec where the largely-French population has traditionally had a far higher rejection of the concept of Canada being at war. But, then they are French, after all.

The anti-involvement crowd also envelops three of the four major parties - the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. But, the Liberals committed Canada to serving in a combat capacity and the Conservatives are adamant they will not prematurely end that commmitment. Currently, Canada is slated to have soldiers in that role until 2009.

I think it's sad that such a high proportion of Canadians are unwilling to have our soldiers defending a people whose country has been torn apart by internal and external strife for decades. Certainly, those serving in Afghanistan have not adopted such a stance. They, when asked, seem almost uniformly to believe in what they are doing.

And, what they are doing is giving Afghanis something to build on. This was a country, that under the Taliban, had massive ignorance, terrible health conditions, an average annual income of less than a $1,000 Canadian and a misogynistic, regressive, disgusting "government" that harboured the hardest of the world's hardcore terrorists.

Now the Afghanis have the beginnings of a credible regime, crucial infrastucture being built, wells being dug, girls being educated, women returning to the workforce (even to the halls of government) other words, some hope and something concrete to hang it on.

In World War II, Canada lost not 66 soldiers but 66 THOUSAND soldiers. That was out of a population much smaller than today's. It was done in aiding European nations to defeating Hitler. I don't think there's any question we're at much greater risk for an attack on our soil today (from the same type of jihadists our forces are engaging in Afghanistan) than Canada was in 1939. Canada, itself, was in no immediate danger from the Nazis but Canadians chose to support the idea of fighting for the cause of freedom.

Every lost life is regrettable. The Canadian soldiers who have died were mostly young. They had dreams for their future. Some were married with small children. They sacrificed those futures for a greater good and a belief they were making a difference.

We should honour their memory by picking up their cause. Calling it quits on them would be reprehensible.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cindy Sheehan, the Rabid Moonbat

When Cindy Sheehan announced a couple of months ago that she was packing in her crusade of left-wing lunacy, I thought it was a positive. After all, the last thing American soldiers needed is some shrill, insane bitch whining about their role in Iraq while hobnobbing with scuzzballs like Hugo Chavez and actively rooting for America to lose.

But, now Cindy is back and this time, she's become a comedian; a veritable one woman laugh-riot.

According to news reports, Cindy is threatening to run against none other than Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the next election. Now, ol' Nance is no stranger to shrillness herself, often sounding like Chicken Little running around screaming that the sky is falling. In fact, if the two do face off, they should call it the "Shrilla of the Hilla".

Cindy, speaking for all Democrats, because after all, she's their elected representative and knows exactly what each and every Democrat voter is thinking at any given time is disappointed that Pelosi and her buddy Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, haven't gotten around to trying to impeach George W. Bush yet.

"Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership. We hired them to bring an end to the war," Sheehan told AP. She then gave Pelosi until July 23 to begin impeachment proceedings against the President; impeachment proceedings that would, of course, end up being nothing but a further costly burden to the American taxpayer with absolutely no hope of success because Bush has broken no laws.

Her reasons are as follows:

1) she believes he misled the public about the reasons for going to war - no, he acted on the intelligence he was given at the time

2) he violated the Geneva Convention by torturing detainees - Bush didn't torture anyone and I don't believe there's any evidence to suggest he knew people were being tortured if in fact they were being tortured (depends what your definition of torture is, I suppose).

3) he crossed the line by commuting the prison sentence of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby - no, again. Presidents are allowed to issue pardons as Bill Clinton did for all kinds of people before leaving office.

She said other grounds for impeachment are the domestic spying program (I doubt it)and the "inadequate and tragic" response to Hurricane Katrina (hardly, FEMA fucked up but people were warned to get out of New Orleans and surrounding areas in plenty of time).

Now, I'm no fan of Bush and I'll be glad when his term is up but let's try and live in reality for a second. He's made unpopular decisions but that doesn't make them illegal decisions.

This has got to be one of the most amusing American political stories in years. Pelosi is a twit but Cindy is flat out, certifiably, squirrels in the attic nuts as can be. She is an Insane Clown Posse all by herself. And, now her moonbat madness has become a kind of Democrat rabies as she bites back at the very same people who coddled her while she was making crazy in Crawford, Texas.

The Republicans must be laughing their heads off at this. It's the first decent break they've had in months.

Cindy, at the end of it all, is a self-absorbed fruitcake who has become far more interested in her own self-promotion than in any kind of justice or resolution. Take away the soundbytes, and she's just another person pushing a grocery cart full of rags on the street while mumbling incoherently to herself. But, before that happens, let's see her and Pelosi go a few rounds, just for the laugh value.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Doctors of Destruction

Okay, I have to admit that I was wrong when I projected that the homicidal wannabes who tried to blow up cars outside crowded nightclubs and an airport would be homegrown. In my defence, though, it does appear as though they hatched the plot while employed as medical professionals in Britain so the bombing attempts, themselves, were more or less homegrown.

Anyway, I hope that this will dispel that oft-repeated, and just as often disproved, fallacy that terrorists are the poor and the desperate. Not only were these assholes mostly doctors, certainly a profession that in western countries does not leave one destitute, but they were in a position to fully enjoy the benefits of western life.

The idea that terrorists rise out of the slums to attack westerners thousands of miles away is ridiculous. There is no basis to support such a theory. Yet, it pops up repeatedly and in otherwise very reputable publications. One of my earliest blog entries was about an article in the Economist that cited a lack of economic means as a reason for terrorist attacks.

It is true that movements arise internally in nations based on a number of factors which may include economic disparities between the ruling class and the downtrodden. But, these movements usually have many other factors including thuggish behaviour by those in government, persecution of one or more minority groups, corruption, etc. They are rarely, if ever, motivated solely by monetary considerations. Even more rarely are they exported beyond their own borders although one could make the argument that palestinian anger aimed at Israel should really be aimed at their own government which has left them, literally and figuratively, stranded in a desert of despair.

At any rate, the islamic jihadi movement that the various Dr. Mohammadeds etc. belong to, come not from a lack of funding or access to the best that life has to offer but, rather, from an intense desire to destroy it and force the world into submitting to their warped view of religion. Money has nothing to do with it, never has and never will. In fact, many of those involved in such activities are independently wealthy or, at least, well off.

Britain has reacted with some backbone to this latest attempt with the government immediately ordering a cutback on the number of foreign medical practitioners allowed into the country. The US also comes out looking good as it now appears at least two of those involved had attempted to gain entry to work there and, for whatever reason, were denied. And, the Australians were also on the ball; rounding up a suspect who it seems quite possible will lead them to some more jihad monkeys.

All in all, score one for the West. Let's hope it's the start of a long streak.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rock Gods of Conspicuous Consumption

On Saturday, rock and roll hypocrites from across the globe will gather in seven cities to perform for free in another of those ridiculous homages to their own egos disguised as social responsibility.

This time, the issue is the environment and the money they raise will, not inconveniently, be forwarded to an organization headed by Al Gore, the ex-US vice-president turned maybe-should've-been president turned enviroguru whose voracious appetite, if his bloating into a Jabba the Hutt type character is anything to go by, may be the single greatest threat to Earth's future. Well, okay, maybe global warming is a little more serious but still Al's giving Michael Moore a run for most obese propaganda artist out there.

Anyway, a few rock and rollers have been honest, refusing to play and stating that their opinions are no more valid than anyone else's. Plus, they point out, the jetsetting rock and roll lifestyle, complete with energy consuming stadium shows and conspicous consumption in all areas leaves them unable to preach to anyone else.

Sirius satellite radio will be carrying the concerts on its stations. I know this because I recently bought a new vehicle that came complete with satellite radio and a six month subscription. I must admit I'm not impressed with Sirius but that's beside the point.

What kind of vehicle did I buy? A Ford Escape hybrid. Why? Well because the environment is important but mostly because I like to protect my own pocketbook and because every cent of gas money I can save means, among other things, that another cent doesn't find its way into the pockets of rapacious oil companies and arab dictators. I don't need Al Gore or rock stars to convince me that buying a hybrid was smart; simply the fact that the federal and provincial governments in Canada offer enough tax breaks to bring the price down to that of a standard gas engine along with the future savings in gas consumption was enough all by itself.

And, therein lies the message of this post: people will help the environment when it benefits them directly. I've composted and recycled for years because that could reduce taxes on garbage collection and it offers me money for certain returnable products such as bottles and cans. What I can't return for money, I'm happy to throw in a box rather than a bag because it's just as easy.

The first great rock concert effort was, of course, Bob Geldof's inspired Live Aid that collected hundreds of millions for starvation relief in Africa. Geldof, former frontman for the Boomtown Rats (whose album the Fine Art of Surfacing I still love) was spurred on by the famine in Ethiopia. I was about 19 at the time and vaguely remember watching the concerts in London and Philadelphia (I think) all day while drinking beer and smoking pot. Sadly, much of what Geldof raised ended up going nowhere. The money was spent but a lot of the food ended up rotting on docks or on the black market and never did a damn thing to reduce starvation.

But, at least Geldof's heart was in the right place. Unlike his effort, I view Saturday's concerts as a cynical attempt for recognition while Al Gore's ego gets to grow as big as the rest of him. And, also unlike Geldof's attempt, this time I won't be watching.