Via the always terrific Mock, Paper, Scissors we read of a health clinic in California that took the high road to helping the poor this Christmas. Christmas in that neck of the woods just got a lot merrier.
Hurrah for Pierre Karl Peladeau! Kinda reminds me of the last time Saddam Hussien was elected president of Iraq with 103 per cent of the vote
In other news, I'm sure you will be as shocked as I was to learn that the feds are looking into criminal charges against failed Senate candidate and attention whore Christine O'Donnell for using some of the more than $7 million in campaign funds she raised for personal spending, such as $20,000 she spent to pay rent on her Delaware town house. How long before she complains the whole thing is a witch hunt?
"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Via the always terrific Mock, Paper, Scissors we read of a health clinic in California that took the high road to helping the poor this Christmas. Christmas in that neck of the woods just got a lot merrier.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I know it is only Wednesday, but this is going to be tough to beat for the stupidest thing I'm going to hear all week.
"The armies of other nations...could allow homosexuals to serve in their military because we didn't allow them to serve in ours...We will no longer able to bail out these other emasculated armies because ours will now be feminized and neutered beyond repair, and there is no one left to bail us out."
This started out as a comment on the post below and, as happens with some of these sorts of things, kind of got away from me.
When I started in the community newspaper business mumblty'leven years ago, most small towns didn't have food banks. Even in the big cities, they were a fairly new thing. Now, they are everywhere. I get a call at least once a week to cover a story about people collecting food for the food bank all year long -- at Christmas, I get ten calls like that a week.
I grew up in a middle sized industrial city, moved to the suburbs of a larger industrial city in high school and went to university in another middle-sized industrial town. Maybe I led a very sheltered life as a kid, but I don't remember ever seeing a homeless person when I was a kid and I spent a fair amount of time riding the buses downtown and hanging out on the main street. "Hobos" "bums" and "tramps" were something out of old movies that you dressed up as for Halloween. I didn't really see any homeless people until the early 80's and even then, it was only the occasional drunk. By the early 90's I was seeing homeless people living on the streets of small towns in Ontario. Now, they seem omnipresent and the working poor and people on welfare that are trapped in poverty seem legion. It used to be that every generation expected to do a little better than their parents. Now, most people my age have given up on that and seem willing to settle for a permanent, full time job that covers the rent.
I think it is terrific that people who have the means to do so are willing to contribute to the food drives and the winter coat drives and the blanket and sleeping bag drives for the homeless drives and give money to the Good Shepherd shelters and Mission Services and do all the other myriad things people do to try to mitigate the disease of poverty in our community, but I often wonder if anyone is doing anything about the root causes.
I think most would agree that improving access to education is a big part of fixing the problem as is the need for the school systems to teach life skills like money management. But I think there are some larger issues that people forget about, such as infrastructure and poor public transport.
For example, it is very expensive to be poor but much cheaper to be middle class or wealthy. Middle class folks can drive to the supermarket and load up on whatever is on sale that week, or even go and buy the giganto-enormo-family pack size at Costco or Sam's Club or whatever warehouse store you favor and store the excess in the basement or fill the freezer. Poor people can't shop there. The warehouse store are usually members-only, and people on welfare or without credit cards don't usually qualify. And they don't have the cars to haul the stuff home or the basement or the freezer to store the stuff in if they did.
There aren't even proper supermarkets in a lot of poor neighborhoods, so people wind up paying more for the bread and milk and other necessities they can get at the neighborhood corner store and have much more limited access to good, cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Maybe they could take a bus from their home out to the suburban supermarket and haul the bags of groceries home on public transit once a week, but that takes hours they don't have if they are working and money for bus fare they don't have if they aren't. And that assumes you can even get a bus from where they live to where the big suburban stores are.
Those that are really struggling may live somewhere like a boarding house or a shelter where they can't
cook or at least can't store any significant amount of groceries.
As to the effect that poverty has on children, well, let me leave you with this, some responses from Grade 4 & 5 students in North Bay, Ontario, quoted in "Our Neighbours’ Voices: Will We Listen?" published by The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, 1998, James Lorimer & Co. Ltd. Toronto
Poverty Is...I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty for enjoying what they have this Christmas, but I do hope that those of us with the means to do so are contributing more than just the tax dollars the government takes. Just remember that most middle class folks in North America are one or two paycheques from away from losing their comfortable lives and slipping down the ladder into poverty. And every year it gets harder and harder to break out of the poverty trap. So keep collecting those canned goods, rice and pasta. Keep giving money to all the homeless shelters and keep volunteering. In a more just and equitable society, none of that would be necessary, but we don't live in that society right now. And we keep electing people who make it worse, but that's a post for another time.
Not being able to go to McDonald’s
Getting a basket from the Santa Fund
Feeling ashamed when my dad can’t get a job
Not buying books at the book fair
Not getting to go to birthday parties
Hearing my mom and dad fight over money
Not ever getting a pet because it costs too much
Wishing you had a nice house
Not being able to go camping
Not getting a hot dog on hot dog day
Not getting pizza on pizza day
Not being able to have your friends sleep over
Pretending that you forgot your lunch
Being afraid to tell your mom that you need gym shoes
Not having breakfast sometimes
Not being able to play hockey
Sometimes really hard because my mom gets scared and she cries
Not being able to go to Cubs or play soccer
Not being able to take swimming lessons
Not being able to afford a holiday
Not having pretty barrettes for your hair
Not having your own private backyard
Being teased for the way you are dressed
Not getting to go on school trips.
For now, keep fighting the good fight and Merry Christmas.
Monday, December 20, 2010
“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land. (Deut. 15:11).”
I'm taking a lot of pictures for the newspaper this month this month of people donating to the local food bank, which is called on to feed entirely too many people. I don't remember there even being food banks in most communities when I was growing up, though I'm sure there were people in need at that time too. There just seem to be a lot more of them now and the food banks seem to have gone from being an emergency response to the recession of the 80s, to a fixture in virtually every town.
It is difficult to know at this time just what percentage of people in the Golden Horseshoe are living in poverty. Different agencies use different yardsticks to measure poverty and many who live in poverty are not counted, but ask anyone who works with the poor and the homeless and they all agree on one thing: there are a lot more people relying on food banks and other non-governmental charities for daily necessities than there were a few years ago, and a lot fewer donations coming in. Most recent estimates I've seen for the Hamilton area say between 15% and 20% live below the poverty line.
Charles Dickens was right.
``Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,'' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, ``but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw!''
``It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,'' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. ``Look here.''
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
``Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!'' exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
``Spirit! are they yours?'' Scrooge could say no more.
``They are Man's,'' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ``And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!'' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ``Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!''
``Have they no refuge or resource?'' cried Scrooge.
``Are there no prisons?'' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ``Are there no workhouses?''
Thursday, December 16, 2010
and wakes up with a headache hours later in dumpster without its wallet, watch, cell phone or pants.
People wonder why reporters have a reputation for becoming cynical drunks...I wonder why more of us don't end up pouring scotch on our corn flakes every morning. Hell, even the New York Times isn't what it used to be.
A tip of the hat to lensman clzoomer for pointing us to this.
Monday, December 13, 2010
here's one for you to watch and practice the next time yer down at the rink. The great Jack Todd, the Montreal Gazette's best sports writer and heir-apparent to the crown worn by Red Fisher, takes Don Cherry into the corner and puts him halfway through the boards. Bravo Jack Todd. Cherry is an ignorant blowhard whose greatest claim to fame in the NHL was his inability to count past five.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
I...uh...holy sh...I mean...WHAT?!?!
If my life were an old cartoon (and it often seems that way) this is the part where I would reach into my pocket, pull out an oversize bottle marked with several Xs and throw it over my shoulder.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I had kind of an odd experience today at work and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I work for a newspaper (it's not a very big one and unless you live in my area you've probably never heard of it and at any rate, its name and location are irrelevant). To a certain extent, we are the media of record in our little corner of the world, keeping track of the local events and milestones that mark the passage of time. I got a call today from someone who grew up in the area and achieved a certain level of fame for her accomplishments here in her youth, who's gone on to be a great success in the wider world. She is well-educated, intellectually on the ball, accomplished and energetic. She now works in the TV news media and is an up-and-coming young journalist who has worked on national and international stories. You've probably seen her on television.
So why is she calling me? I mean, aside from my spa
sticrkling conversation, startling sterling l ack of character and stunn eding looks?
Why does anyone call the editor of a local newspaper? She wanted a favour.
Now that she is out in the wider world pursuing the career that she trained and studied so hard for, she is finding out a few simple truths that many of us have known for a while.
First, most real journalists aren't that impressed by a pretty face, in fact they tend to be a bit suspicious of people who are better looking than them. Believe it or not, this is true even in television news. I'm not talking about the on-camera talent - they are blessed and cursed with beauty. Their looks might get them in the door and even get them a job in front of the bright lights reading a script with that killer smile and perfect hair, but even the pretty people get old. If they don't have the talent, skills, brains and training needed to do the actually work of journalism, they don't last long. Eye candy has a very short shelf life if there isn't some nutritional value attached. No, I'm talking about the people who run TV news, the cynical, jaded old producers that hire and fire. They might be willing to hire a hot 20-something to read the entertainment news off a cue card and fire that person when the next cutie comes along, but most of them are not going to assign Ken or Barbie to do hard news.
Second, most people, especially the aforementioned cynical, jaded old producers of hard news programs, - rightly or wrongly - see pageants as a shallow excercise in sexist objectification, in other words, a T&A show. We don't call them beauty contests for nothing. Yes, the young women who succeed in these competitions are often smart, well-informed, ambitious and talented -- but that is tough to tell from the evening gown or bathing suit portions of the competitions. Many people buy the stereotypes of the dumb blonde and the brainy nerd, the idea that you can be smart or beautiful, but that you can't be both.
Third, that employers these days, especially the previously discussed cynical, jaded old newmen who work in an industry where credibility is everything, know how to use Google -- something that some people really should keep in mind.
Perhaps you see where this is going?
This accomplished, intelligent and able young woman that called me is also very attractive, in fact she won the Miss Whatever contest locally and went on to compete in the national Whatchamacallit Queen pageant. Half a dozen years ago when she was a beauty queen, the newspaper had naturally done what community newspapers do and published a few stories about her becoming a pageant winner and later a judge and emcee of pageants. In all those stories, she stressed her intellectual accomplishments, but the bottom line is that the stories were about her winning or competing in "Miss Something-or-other" contests.
Now, she is finding that her past has come back to haunt her - not in the sense that she is being teased by the other folks in the newsroom or called Corky Sherwood behind her back, but in the sense that she is pretty sure it has kept people from hiring her for some jobs. All of which is very unfortunate.
Which, to make a short story much longer, brings me to the odd part.
The favour she wanted was for the newspaper to delete the stories about her pageant days that we have archived on our website, or at least to delete her name from the stories.
Now, if someone who had been convicted of some sort of misdeed - something serious like murder or a crime of blatant stupidity like impaired driving - or even some unfortunate youthful shenanigan that cast them in a bad light - had called and asked me to delete stories about them that had been in paper years ago because the stories were embarassing or had cost them a job, I'd have told them "we all have to take responsibility for our actions" and that "there are consequences to the things we do" or even "you should have thought of that before you decided to commit a crime -- Karma's a bitch, ain't it?" -- the same thing I would tell anyone who wanted me to suppress a story about some nefarious deed or leave an important, relevant name out of an article about something unfortunate that happened this week -- in essence, that they can go piss up a rope and that I would publish and be damned.
But to have someone ask you to conceal their accomplishments? This was new territory.
Imagine a former jr. hockey star asking the newspaper to delete references to him winning an MVP award or an author begging us not to promote his new book. Will I someday have an entrepreneur come in to my office and beg me not write about the successful business he started a few years ago?
"Hello, is this the editor? I just won a major award - it's very prestigious and a great honour, so please, don't tell anyone!"
So what did I do?
I did what anyone with kids to feed and bills to pay would do if they were four weeks into a six-month contract.
I gave her the extension number for my boss and went back to figuring out what to put on next week's front page.
Me, Winston Smith and Pontius Pilate - birds of a feather, I tell ya, birds of a goddamn feather.
- Because they saw a story that improperly used "who" instead of "whom" - twice! - and "don't you people have any standards?"
- Because they've been eating paint chips all morning and need someone to talk to other than the voices in their head.
- Two words: Damn & politicians
- Because the communists are putting fluoride in the drinking water and polluting our precious bodily fluids
- Because the precious fruit of their loins has just done something exceptional that has never been done before, like put on a really cute Halloween costume.
- Because those damn kids won't stay off their lawn
- Because those "politically correct types" at the other newspaper are "censoring" them because they wouldn't print their letter to the editor about how "the jews and the blacks are conspiring with women's libbers and homos and immigrants to destroy this great country"
- Two words: Free & advertising
- Because their uncle/cousin/neighbour/some guy they met down at the legion last Tuesday is brilliant and we should give him a regular column
- Because we should interview them about their passionate interest in a vital issue that concerns the entire community: their exhibitionist narcassistic personality disorder.
- Two words: Insufficient & medication
- Just saw the "first robin of spring" in mid-February or mid-June
- Because "their as MAD as HELL!!!!!!! and there NOT going to take it ANY MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" --- oh, wait a sec, wrong list. That one is from the "reasons people write letters to the 'Editur' list.
- Two words: Shut & In
- "Why don't you people ever write about anything good happening?"
- "Did you guys hear about whatsisname? You know, that guy. You should do a story about him. I think he won some kind of award or contest or did something, I forget what, but it was really something!"
- "You didn't hear it from me and I don't want name any names, but I'm pretty sure that guy across the street is up to something"
- And the #1 answer on the list: Two words: Church & bazaar
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I came across this video recently - it was made for a United Church service and inspired by the reminiscences of a man who navigated bombers in Europe in World War Two. The song is by Roland Marleau.
Monday, November 08, 2010
To be honest, I don't want Philip 'Flip' Benham. He is not wanted. I do NOT want anyone to lay a finger on this guy. What I really want is for him to stop acting like a douchebag before he gets someone, like one of my neighbors, killed. Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to threaten people or the freedom to urge others to do harm to people who are engaged in a lawful activity.
Benham is fortunate that the kind of people who read this blog and support abortion rights don't have the same kind of history of violence that exists within the antiabortion movement. Admittedly, a few people have lost their cool when provoked outside clinics and punched a few assholes out. Such violence is regettable, but at the same time, those who favor abortion rights don't bomb the offices of anti-abortion organizations or murder prominent people in the anti-abortion movement.
(h/t to April Reign at Birth Pangs/Bread&Roses)
After all, that is what the wealthy and their minions call it when we complain.
I am absolutely disgusted by this, but I can't say I'm surprised.
fellow Chief inkstained wretch and once and future podcast guest Boris Dave @ The Galloping Beaver, who wrote the same post, but did so hours before me )
Friday, November 05, 2010
Like many posts, this started as a comment and metastasized. For the post to which I was reacting, go here. It's a shortish post by Jeff "BCer in Toronto" Jedras about how the Rob Ford campaign brain trust are now openly bragging about the various dirty tricks they pulled during the election, something Jeff predicts will come back to bite them on the ass. And it will.
Like all asshole conservatives ( Note: I don't think all conservatives are assholes, I just think it is a legitimate subset, like fiscal conservatives or social conservatives) these proudly ignorant bully-boy frat types can't do anything that is remotely successful without a lot of hooting, high-fiving, belly-bumping and chugging Jaegermeister shots.
People tire very, very quickly of smug, smirking bullies. Especially ones who endless slap each other on the back and boast about how they "fixed those damn hippies/socialists/homo/(insert offensive characterization of marginalized social, economic or ethnic group here) and good, blarharharharhar!"
We've all seen it. From the barely literate fag-bashing jocks who peaked in high school to the failed-jock hockey dads who scream obscenities at minor hockey referees and urge their kids to play dirty to the salesmen who idolize Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glennross to the person on every reality show who at some point declares "I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win!"
An undercurrent of it seems to run through conservatism like a vein of fools' gold, occasionally becoming an El Dorado of self-congratulating wankerism like FOX NEWS or the Blogging Tories. Rush Limbaugh has made a career of it.
It's the same mentality that led to the outing of Valerie Plame, the outrages of Abu Ghraib and the smearing of Sean Bruyea. It's the attitude that "the rules are for other people," that only winning matters, that silver medals are for losers, that "third prize is you're fired."
It is an attitude of entitlement - nevermind that most of them were born on second base and think they hit a triple - they think that because they have some level of success, they must have earned it and that they deserve it - and that those who haven't achieved what they consider success (and usually that means money or power of some kind) don't deserve it and are somehow morally weak/lazy/evil/gay/drug addicts/eggheads/commies/beatniks/etc etc, "losers" who deserve only scorn.
As long as they have someone to look down on, they consider themselves successful.
To such people empathy is a sign of weakness. Showing sympathy is for losers.
They are terrified of being one of "those people" and the easiest way to make sure that no one will ever think they are, is to attack "those people."
That fear of being branded one of the Loser class will make them do almost anything to achieve whatever they consider success. It is that need for validation that makes them incapable of doing anything without breaking an arm patting themselves on the back that will eventually sink them. They can't resist the temptation to dance in the end zone, to rub someone's nose in their defeat, to shit downhill just because they can.
That is what eventually does such people in. Other people - sane people - get tired of the bragging and chest pounding. You can only pour shit downhill for so long before you find yourself standing on a pile of shit. And people who like to brag about how dirty they played and how low they stooped will eventually find that the only people impressed are other shitheels and grifters - and ambitious prosecutors who are waiting for an admission of something legally actionable.
Time and Karma will not be kind to Rob Ford and his campaign team and hubris will eventually prove their undoing. Nobody likes a sore loser, but most of us hate a bad winner just as much.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Anyone surprised by this hasn't been paying attention.
But don't lets accuse the Tea Party or the right-wingers or the Republicans or the conservatives of acting like a bunch of Brownshirts, because that would be impolite. How many "bad apples" do we need to see before we can say the whole bunch is rotten?
And the first person who tells me "both sides do it" wins a free copy of "False Dichotomies for Dummies."
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Mound of Sound had the best headline on the topic I've seen and my fellow inkstained wretch and once and future podcast guest Boris had the most poetic post about it that I've seen so far, but since I live in the neighbourhood now, I suppose I must address the election of Rob Ford.
Seriously Toronto? Rob Ford?
I get that you're all angry. Angry that the city government hasn't been run very well in recent memory and that taxes are kinda high. And you keep being told you are angry by the Toronto Sun and National Post and the U.S. cable news channels with all that coverage of the Tea Party down south about how voters are angry at politicians and angry about taxes and angry about political correctness and angry at all those snooty elites and angry at those damn kids who won't get off your lawn and angry about all the anger. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired you're as mad as hell and you're not gonna take it any more. Just like you are every four years, when almost half of you bother to pay enough attention to actually vote. Sorry if that sounds a little snarky, but if - as we keep being told - everyone is so pissed off and disgusted at the terrible things their local council is doing, then why is the voter turnout so poor for municipal elections?
So Rob Ford feels he has a mandate, and so does every headline writer in the country. He got about 47% of the votes cast, which means more people voted for other people than for him. Ditto in Hamilton, where I keep hearing about Bob Bratina's decisive win in which he got 37 % of the vote compared to his nearest rivals who got 28% and 27%.
"But wait Rev.Paperboy," you say. "The voter turnout was near record levels in Toronto! And more people voted in the election in Hamilton this time than voted in the last very serious Hamilton municipal election! This a victory for democracy! The people have spoken! Hurrah!" you say.
"Bah, humbug" says I. The "near record" voter turnout in Toronto was a little over 52% of registered voters. In Hamilton, it was up from 36% to about 39%. So Ford's "mandate" consists of about a quarter of the registered voters in Toronto, and Bratina has the support of fewer than than that. Even if you cut them all the slack the numbers allow and round every number in their favor, fewer than three in ten registered votes back these two new mayors with enough passion to actually go cast a ballot. I'll save my rant for how many people living in big cities aren't even registered to vote and who those people might be for another time, but suffice to say I don't really buy this "mandate" stuff.
But I digress.
Rob Ford won the election for mayor of Toronto.
I guess this is the two steps back, but I don't remember the steps forward that preceded it.
I know George Smitherman isn't everyone's cup of chai, but at least he walks upright and can do simple math. Rob Ford is going to make Mel Lastman look like a humble, digified genius. He claims he can slash the budget and reduce taxes without cutting services or firing anyone. I remember another guy who claimed he could do that and it didn't turn out so well. And he's going to put the budget in order and curb spending while at the same time building a $3 billion subway system. It just isn't going to happen.
Ford is well known in for taking good care of his constituents and spending a lot of time listening to their concerns, and that is all well and good, but there is a little more to running Canada's largest city than that.
Putting aside for the moment his anti-immigrant comments and the accusations of wife-beating, the conviction for drunk driving and the bizarre drug story, his general record of behavior as a classless yahoo, my real complaint about Ford is that he one of two things: A bald-faced cynical liar or an absolute fool who wears his ignorance like a badge of honor.
He cannot do the things he has promised to do and still get the results he has promised any more than you can subtract two from five and get six . If he has any brains at all, he knows this and has been lying to manipulate Toronto voters. If he doesn't know it after three terms on Toronto council, then he's a fool.
Monday, October 25, 2010
In October 1958, a pre-fame Hunter S. Thompson applied for a job at the Vancouver Sun. The Ottawa Citizen recently published the quintessentially-Hunter cover letter, which also appeared in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1). Here it is:
Vancouver Sun TO JACK SCOTT, VANCOUVER SUN
October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City
I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I'd also like to offer my services.
Since I haven't seen a copy of the "new" Sun yet, I'll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn't know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I'm not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.
By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.
I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)
Nothing beats having good references.
Of course if you asked some of the other people I've worked for, you'd get a different set of answers. If you're interested enough to answer this letter, I'll be glad to furnish you with a list of references -- including the lad I work for now.
The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It's a year old, however, and I've changed a bit since it was written. I've taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you're trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I'd like to work for you.
Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.
I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don't give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.
I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.
It's a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I'd enjoy the trip.
If you think you can use me, drop me a line.
If not, good luck anyway.
Hunter S. ThompsonThe Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I am finally gainfully employed once again. And once again, it's with a community newspaper. I looked around for work outside the newspaper industry. No really, I did - I even thought seriously about working the other side of the street and going to work for one of the political parties. I looked for gigs in corporate communications and advertising and public relations and technical writing. I still might end up teaching English to foreign students by this time next year, since this is only a six-month contract gig. And its almost the exact same job I left behind nearly 14 years ago when I departed Canada for Japan and I really didn't want to go back to the 60-hours-a-week-for-all-newsprint-you-can-eat world of the community newspaper business ever again, not after all those years of working to daily deadlines and the luxury of having a deep bench of co-workers to cover days off for each other and take up the slack when you're having a tough week.
But it has been six months since I left the newspaper in Japan and I'm seriously jonesing to be writing for living again. Simply put, in the end I'd rather be overworked and underpaid to cover local politics, the police beat and write stories about the interesting people in my community than "payment due" letters and direct mail brochures about the latest and greatest offer that you can't afford to pass up on crap you neither need nor want.
And no, I won't tell you where I work, nor will I blog about my workplace as that way lays unemployment.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
If "Officer Bubbles" really wants to put an end to the shame and embarrassment he suffered as a result of his idiotic actions at the G20 being widely publicized, he might want to chose a different tack. After all, is getting yourself saddled with the nickname "Constable Crybaby" really going to make things better? I'm sure this will make the other guys and gals in the squad room stop teasing him.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
We take you now live to the United Nations for a Press Conference with Stephen Harper, his
hand puppet foreign minister Laurence Cannon, spokesman Dimitri Soudas and various other members of the government
(with only a small apology to Matt Stone and Trey Parker)
Stephen Harper: Times have changed
Our kids are getting worse
They won't obey their parents
They just want to fart and curse!
Dimitri Soudas: Should we blame the government?
Laurence Cannon: Or blame society?
John Baird: Or should we blame the images on TV?
Harper: No, blame
CPC caucus: Blame
Harper: With his beady little eyes
And pointy head so full of lies
Caucus: Blame Ignatieff!
Harper: We need to form a full assault
Caucus: It's Ignatieff's fault!
Baird: Don't blame me
I beg you pleasethey don't think that we're all goonsThey just love the Portugese!
Harper: And the President once
Had my picture on his shelf
But this new guy, he tells me to fuck myself!
Cannon: Well, blame Ignatieff
Caucus: Blame Canada
Harper: It seems that everything's gone wrong
Since Ignatieff came along
Caucus: Blame Ignatieff
Soudas: He's not even a real Canadian anyway
Peter McKay: I could've been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true,
Instead my reps burned up like a piggy on the barbecue
Caucus: Should we blame the matches?
Should we blame the fire?
Or universal health care, which we hope will soon expire?
Harper: heck no!
Caucus: Blame Ignatieff
Harper: With all his summer barbecues
Baird: And the elitists love him too
Caucus: Blame Ignatieff
Shame on Ignatieff
The coalition we must stop
The left we must bash
The Liberals and the NDP
and anyone else that we can seeWe must blame them and cause a fuss
Before somebody thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!
Monday, October 11, 2010
From the Windsor Star we glean another good reason to hope my inlaws don't get sick. Not just because I love them and wish them well, but because going back to care for them could become a major problem.
(snippity, snip, snip)
Wiebe said the officer at the embassy wasn't convinced that, if Cortes' sponsorship application was rejected in Canada, she would return to her home country.
Now, I don't know all the exact details of the case, but one would expect that given the couple have been married for a few years already, approval of the application for permanent residence should be a foregone conclusion, assuming the woman doesn't have an extensive criminal record as a drug mule or something. Apparently, this is not the case. My wife is in the process of applying to become a permanent resident right now and we were told the six month visitor's visa could be renewed repeatedly while the application is being considered (a process that can take longer than a year), so you can see how this story might make me a bit apprehensive to say the very least.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Dear wealthy denizens of Western society,
Stop bitching on your smart phone about how the valet scratched your Lincoln Navigator while parking it at the restaurant. Quit complaining over tumblers of iced Grey Goose in the clubhouse about how the caddy fees are climbing. Stop whinging in your letters to the editor that the government wants to take another 2% of your seven-figure income to provide basic medical care to poor children in your backyard or food for starving people overseas. Just shut the fuck up and take your snout out of the trough for a few minutes and enjoy this beautiful day and be glad you won the birth lottery. Be thankful you aren't any of the millions of people around the world who make your spoiled lifestyle possible.
(and yes Americans, it is Thanksgiving tomorrow. We had ours first, in 1578, without those dowdy Puritan Pilgrim outfits)
Friday, October 08, 2010
Seriously, because if we don't have right to have a non-police witness of some kind present at our interrogation by the police, then in practice the cops pretty much have carte blanche to do whatever they want to people. Without a right to a lawyer during interrogation, who knows how many people will "fall down the stairs" while in custody.
I just moved back to Canada from Japan and while I love the Japanese culture and people and all my friends there, civil liberties in Japan are something of a bad joke. The court system has a conviction rate of nearly 100% for a couple of reasons. First, many criminals turn themselves in due to the shame-based nature of the social contract in Japanese culture. Second, there is no real presumption of innocence in the legal system. Third, the police can arrest and hold people without charge for days and the people being held have no right to a lawyer during interrogation.
In theory, this allows the police to avoid those cases where some crook gets off on a "technicality" because he wasn't read his rights or because he lawyered up and was told to act in his own best interest instead of the best interest of the state. In practice it means that when a crime is committed and the culprit isn't giftwrapped and waiting for them, the police in Japan can pick up anyone they consider undesirable, hold them incommunicado for a couple of days pending charges and give them the phone-book-and-rubber-hose treatment until they decide to confess. Usually, it doesn't even take any physical abuse. Three or four days without sleep, a complete ignorance of the rules the game is being played by and constant browbeating is usually enough to get the average homeless person or teen slacker to confess to whatever petty crime the police want them to in Japan. For more serious cases, the police can hold someone for a few weeks. After a couple of weeks, most people would be willing to confess to the McKinley assasination. And any accusations of mistreatment invariably boil down to "who are you going to believe - us, the sworn officers of the law who protect you while you sleep, or this whining criminal scumbag?"
The supreme court ruling sends us down the path to exactly that reality.
I'm not sure I'm the guy to take this on and as usual these days I'm busy juggling flaming chainsaws on the job search and family fronts (ain't transPacific relocation a hoot!), but I have to say I'm getting a bit tired of all the letters to the editor I'm seeing about how the high command and "the system" has failed Capt. Semrau and how he deserves a medal.
I don't for a moment think the guy is some kind of bloodthirsty scofflaw, but rules are rules and exist for a very good reason. Do we want soldiers on the battlefield deciding which among the wounded may or may not be successfully treated and simply shooting the ones they think won't make it at their own discretion? Would those who want to pin a medal on Capt. Semrau like to see Canadian soldiers treated by such a standard?
I think the military judge showed the wisdom of Solomon and exercised considerable leniency in dismissing the captain from the military without giving him a dishonorable discharge or a prison sentence. He may well have acted from the highest motives - or the lowest, there really isn't any way of reading his mind - but he acted in clear violation of all the rules of the Canadian Forces and the Geneva Convention, so obviously - at the very least - he had to be punished as an example.
Semrau has been portrayed as an exemplary soldier and commander and he probably was until he stepped over this important line. His men defended his actions and his defence has been that what he did was a mercy killing.
That may be, but it was still an unlawful killing. What he did was withhold medical treatment from a wounded prisoner and then murder that prisoner. Whatever the motive, whether he acted out of brazen cruelty, a secret desire for revenge, or (most likely) compassion for someone in pain he didn't think would survive, what he did was still a war crime and has to be treated as such. His motives and intentions, noble though they may be, don't really matter in the end. Whether international law needs to be revisited to allow for such actions is an entirely separate minefield and one I don't suggest we should enter.
Semrau must be punished not only for his concrete actions, but for what they represent - a commissioned officer willfully and knowingly violating the rules of war, the regulations of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Geneva Convention. Such conduct, no matter the reason, must carry consequences, otherwise military discipline is seriously undermined. Let us not forget that while the Canadian military defends our democracy and all those other egalitarian principles we hold dear, it is not and cannot be a democracy itself. Structure, chain-of-command and top-down leadership are all essential to the military functioning properly. Soldiers must follow orders and regulations or they are nothing more than a well-armed mob. I'm sorry that Semrau has sacrificed his military career, but his actions cannot be ignored - he is fortunate not to be in prison.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
She's had an eventful summer and autumn: Moving from Japan to Canada, turning 8 years old, mastering the two-wheeler, learning to do more than dogpaddle, starting at a new school and now she's become an award-winning artist.
Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye....
Monday, September 27, 2010
This bit of film was produced in 1947 by that notorious gang of liberal pinkos, the United States War Department. Does any of it sound familiar?
Let me be perfectly clear -- this is exactly where wedge issue politics leads. It is all part of a divide-and-conquer strategy to make sure we are too occupied with fighting our fellow citizens and neighbours to notice that the wealthy and powerful are bleeding us dry and making the lives of millions more difficult so that they can enrich themselves. The income gap between the top and bottom of the economic ladder is larger than it has ever been in North America and poverty is at an all time high in the United States as the middle class is being systematically eroded by debt and economic mobility is being stifled by the high cost of health care and education. But any suggestion that the rich are mercilessly exploiting the poor is greeted with pearl-clutching about "class war" and accusations of socialism by the people controlling public discourse.
We are treated to the latest tawdry escapades of people like Paris Hilton and reassured that the system works and is fair when she gets arrested for possession of cocaine, but ask yourself whether a 30-year-old hispanic hotel chambermaid with a couple of prior convictions would have gotten off as lightly in the era of zero tolerance? And while we are fed scapegoats ranging from Muslims to Mexicans, from "Cadillac-driving welfare queens" and "secular liberals who want to take your guns" to "ivory tower intellectuals" and "crooked unions" --we very rarely hear about the new robber barons like the Koch brothers, and when we do, the pushback in the media is massive and immediate.
We are being played for suckers.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I'm so glad I moved back to Canada in time to vote against these jerks. I said when they passed this law that it was bad idea and poorly thought out. Now that I'm dealing with the realities of applying for confirmation of citizenship for my two kids born in Tokyo and applying for permanent resident status for my wife, I think it was an even worse idea that was not thought through at all. But I suppose the Conservatives consider anyone who has been further away from home than spending a weekend shopping at the outlet malls near Plattsburgh or a golf holiday in Florida to be an "elite." Remember, getting too much of that fancy egghead book-learning just makes you want to live in a big city with other elites or - god forbid - among foreigners. The only Real Canadians (tm) are those who stay on the farm, clinging to their bibles, guns and Conservative Party of Canada membership cards. Maybe Stephen can figure out a way to revoke citizenship for those that leave the country -- he certainly seems to be working on it.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
...and btw, has anyone managed to get a comment from loud and proud anti-elitist populist John "Foghorn of the People" Baird on Stephen Harper's appointment of a Harvard-educated Bay Street banker and former Mulroney aide as the head of the PMO?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Today's headdesk moment comes to us courtesy of The General, who recently came to the attention of some genius at CounterPunch, who apparently is just as conversant with the broader world of the internet and all its conventions as Prince Shannon. I love The General, though strictly in a gruff, manly, biblically-approved, hetrosexual way - don't believe a word of what that drunken lying preevert Cletus says!
Oh, and in case you missed it -- Sadly No presents last week's headdesk moment.
Monday, September 20, 2010
For starters, they are much bigger crybabies. Michael O'Hare delivers the initial scolding and Brad Delong administers the much needed spanking with the paddle of factual reality. This is exactly the kind of thing that Paul Krugman is talking about in this week's column.