Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Smaaaaaaht!

Greetings Friends,

Yesterday, Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman from Minnesota, announced her candidacy for President. Before I go any further, this isn't going to be a "Let's see Michele Bachmann square off against Sarah Palin in a mud pit with some canned corn thrown in for some extra fun" type of post. No, I want to be dignified. At least for a couple of paragraphs. 

When I heard that Ms. Bachmann formed the Tea Party Caucus within Congress, it immediately became impossible for me to take her seriously. It seems the grandest of all oxymorons to be anti-government yet make your living as a politician. That does not jive with the values of old-school Republicans. These Tea Party jokers are an aberration that are in the middle of their 15 minutes, and will hopefully go the way of Joe McCarthy and his followers.

I didn't really know who Ms. Bachmann was, other than the fact that she's fond of spewing extremist right-wing rhetoric while simultaneously manipulating the truth to suit her purposes. What I found out yesterday is that this is a woman with a post-doctoral degree in tax law who was a successful tax attorney before switching to politics. I was surprised to learn this. I have a bad habit of automatically assuming that everyone with an advanced education is smart. My bad. My really, really, REALLY bad.

Even though Ms. Bachmann has some impressive academic credentials, this doesn't mean she's smart. She has little knowledge of American history, and a blind spot when it comes to fact checking herself. Maybe she was so busy telling childish little white lies to her 5 biological children and 23 foster children that she forgot how to speak to adults. Or maybe, she's another one of those self-centred narcissists I'm so fond of, who tend to cut and paste the truth for their own self-serving purposes. I'm aware you have to have an outsize ego to want to run for president, but there's a difference between having the confidence to do the job and being delusional. And this is where she begins to resemble Sarah Palin.

Both Bachmann and Palin are nothing more than two "Look at Me!" people. They're like those sparklers I used to be so fond of on the Fourth of July: they crackle and light up the night with their pretty colours for a scant few minutes and then peter out to nothing. You light a few more, but then you eventually get tired of them and move on to something else. Palin insists on hanging on to the dregs of her notoriety, and I'm certain she's pea-green with envy over Bachmann's current momentum. Much as I don't want to make this into the sort of cat fight I mentioned at the beginning of this post (sans the mud and canned corn), that's exactly what it will turn into if Palin decides to throw her hat into the Presidential ring. No one, with the exception of the populations of Iowa and New Hampshire, is going to benefit by that. It's political theatre; nothing more.

Which brings me back to smarts. Fredo Corleone is the perfect analogy because he really wasn't smart. There's a type of smart that has nothing to do with education; it has to do with knowing who you are and where you come from. You can have a wall full of framed diplomas, but they don't mean shit if you're not a genuine person. Having common sense and being able to discern right from wrong is more valuable than a Masters degree, or even a postdoc in tax law. Being good with numbers is a valuable skill; knowing how to write is a valuable skill. But, these skills don't define who you are as a person. A sense of entitlement doesn't get you far in life.

Being genuinely smart often has nothing to do with where you went to school or what you studied. To be truly smart is an elusive quality. On paper, education can be quite impressive, but when the chips are down, it's often the buffoons of the world who teach us the most valuable lessons. I've been schooled by a few of them, so I know of what I speak.

Iowa and New Hampshire need to wise up.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Meanderings

Greetings Friends,

To make up for the fact that I haven't been posting much lately, I've decided to tackle a few topics that have been meandering through my mind; like the image of the Rio Cauto in Cuba. Cigar anyone? 

Aversion to Air Conditioning

Contrary to what some of you might be thinking, it can get pretty darn hot up here in the Great White North; not to mention humid. It's fixin' to be a scorcher of a summer here in T.O. and I find myself wondering how and/or why some Canadians manage to ignore the heat. On a particularly hot day a couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman in the subway station in the middle of the day still wearing her winter jacket. Mind you, I know mornings can be chilly, but a winter jacket (a ski jacket no less) in June? And why do some people just flat-out hate air conditioning? I've been told that's a European sensibility, but I'm sorry; this Eastern European cannot live without it. Some of my neighbours can't even be bothered to open their windows as the mercury makes its seasonal climb. What's with that? Crank up the A/C s'il vous plait - my preferred summer temperature is "meat locker". 

Farewell Big Man

Last Saturday, the music world lost a giant. Clarence Clemons, sax player in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band passed away at 69 from complications after suffering a stroke. He was literally a giant, standing 6'4", and wailing on his saxophone with such soul, it was a thing of beauty. I must admit that I've never been the hugest of Springsteen fans, but I did always appreciate his music. My level of fandom did increase after seeing Bruce and the E-Streeters live, twice; once at Madison Square Garden and once at the Meadowlands arena in their home state of New Jersey. I've seen many concerts in my day, and I can honestly say I haven't been blown away by too many of them. Those two were up there with some of the best I've seen. R.I.P. Big Man; the band in heaven just got even better.

The Cult of Righteousness

I have nothing against freedom of religion. Worship whatever and whomever you'd like, but please don't be a hypocrite. What's good for the goose must be good for the gander, even when it's inconvenient. Faith should never be used as a shield, and individuals should never be so self-righteous that they feel the need to espouse peace, love and harmony when not ascribing to those virtues themselves. People are not perfect; neither is faith. Imperfect people choose to practice imperfect faiths, yet they want the world to believe they, along with their faiths, are perfect. Sorry, not buying it. Never did; never will. 

From Atlanta to Winnipeg (with a stop in Vancouver)

I didn't pay much attention to hockey this past season, but I must admit I am thrilled to see an NHL team return to the city of Winnipeg. The former Atlanta Thrashers will once again be the Winnipeg Jets (according to what I've been reading at the time of this writing). It was a mistake to put another team in Atlanta, after the original Flames team scurried off to Calgary 30 years ago. Once should have been enough for the Nebbishy Little Hobbit from Queens, but apparently not. There are a few more American teams I'd like to see return to Canada. I won't name names at this point, but I will say that the Canadian economy is in a much better place than the American economy right now. And, we do love our hockey, even though there are those who would attempt to destroy a city in spite of it. There's a difference between loving something and being an asshole. Unfortunately, it's always the assholes who manage to screw it up for everyone. And I'm not just talking about hockey "fans". 

BlackBerry Rehab

Word came last week that the company responsible for the "CrackBerry", Research in Motion (RIM), is faltering in a big way. Profits are way down and sales of the once popular device are waning. Could it be that we've moved on to new smart phone drugs? I've certainly seen many more iPhones in my travels lately than BlackBerrys. Experts opine that the powers that be rested too long on their laurels and let technology pass them by. Anyone remember Betamax tapes? 

Have a glorious weekend.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Postest with the Mostest

Greetings Friends,

The title of today's post doesn't make much sense, just like the fact that Canada Post has been on strike/locked out for the past 2 weeks. 

I'm pretty ambivalent when it comes to unionized labour; I've never had any experience or exposure to it in my life. My dad owned his own business and I've spent the majority of my working career under the thumbs of corporate ne'er do wells who may as well have been dictators. I've never held a union job, nor do I ever intend to. But that doesn't mean I feel there is no place in society for unions. In most cases, anyway.

You can always count on Canadians for a good labour disruption every so often. Two years ago, sanitation workers here in Toronto went on strike and there was garbage everywhere for weeks. Coincidentally, the strike happened during the summer, the worst time of year for allowing garbage to wallow in its own stink. 

Now, we've got Canada Post workers locked out of their jobs, with no mail getting through save for government benefit cheques. As I write this, Parliament is attempting to legislate the union back to work since there is absolutely no movement at the bargaining table. Here is the first test for the Conservative majority government: they're supposed to go on summer break as of Friday, but they have stated they would remain sitting until the strike is settled. The NDP (the official opposition party) is insisting that Canada Post workers not be forced to return to their jobs because they would be denied most of what they are asking for. 

Here's the problem: I agree with both sides. I think the Conservative government has every right to legislate postal employees back to work, but I also think that the two sides need to sit down and knock their heads together until they can reach an agreement they can live with. Much as we have gotten used to electronic communication, postal services are still vital to the economy, and this disruption has been a pretty big pain in the ass. I happened to be waiting for a parcel from the U.S. that earlier today finally landed in my hands via courier service from Montreal. Don't ask... 

I don't really know enough about unions to keep sitting on my soapbox about the pros and cons of their existence. What I do know is that neither side comes out a winner in any type of labour dispute. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa. 

What I also know is that protection for the working man is a good idea, but some unions take that too far. Professional athletes have no business being unionized - hence the current NFL labour dispute that involves protracted bickering over billions of dollars. That should not be allowed. If postal workers want to fight for higher wages, improved safety protocols and other benefits, more power to them. Millionaire athletes should not be afforded the same ability. If a mail carrier were to be paid by the number of letters and parcels he or she delivers, I'm sure they'd be richer than Alex Rodriguez. But that's not how it works. 

In the meantime, unions aren't going anywhere, and both sides of the table will never be at peace with each other. It's all part of the theatre we know as democracy. Or is it? 


Monday, June 13, 2011

Private Parts

Greetings Friends,

What hasn't been said about Anthony Weiner and his inappropriate texting over the past couple of weeks? I've said plenty, just not here. Honestly, he's just another repressed politico who felt the need to take to the Great Electronic Void to show off his, um...assets. But, really, who cares?

The thing that fascinates me more than the incessant need to share with the world one's "thing", is the reason why. Here we've got a six-term Congressman who seemed to be on the fast-track to becoming mayor of New York City (a job that is both a blessing and a curse in my opinion), who has instead become the latest late-night TV talk show punch line. He's married to a big-time Beltway insider (Hillary Clinton's top aide) and was, up until a few short weeks ago, a relatively innocuous politician. 

Could that be the reason why Representative Weiner chose to expose his wiener to his faithful followers on Twitter? Was life just too gosh-darn boring that he needed to spice it up a bit? Then, he has to lie about it by claiming that his Twitter account was hacked. Right now, "Weiner-gate" has been paused since he has entered "treatment" to supposedly help him  become a better person, as well as a better husband. There have been numerous calls for him to resign his seat, but as of now, he is on leave. Kind of like Gabrielle Giffords, except she didn't ask to get shot in the head by a lunatic. Anthony Weiner, like so many people, is the architect of his own misery. 

There are interesting parallels in this story that are worth delving into. Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has been an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton since 1996. She was by Clinton's side during her own version of "Weiner-gate", although it must be said that Twittering photos of your junk is a far cry from getting blow jobs in the Oval Office. Of course, cell phone cameras did not exist back in Clinton's days in office, but had they, God only knows how much worse that scandal would have gotten. 

Clinton is mother to Chelsea, who was a teenager during that ordeal, and Abedin is purportedly pregnant with her's and Weiner's first child. I can only imagine how stressful this must be for Ms. Abedin, even though Weiner technically (as far as we know) has not committed any actual adulterous acts. He hasn't pulled an Eliot Spitzer, but should what he's done be deemed any better or worse because there was no actual sex involved? Does this fall under the looking-at-porn-on-the-Internet infraction so many men are guilty of, or is this something altogether different? 

I think it is safe to day that the combination of smart phones, technology and the Internet is pretty combustible. It takes an idiot not to realize that a single Tweet or Facebook posting can haunt you forever. many people got into some pretty sticky situations when MySpace was at its height of popularity, but Social Media has transcended that medium and become something all of us have the ability to screw ourselves on; literally and figuratively. In the wrong hands, or should I say, in the hands of someone with questionable risk assessment capabilities, social media could bring about personal Armageddon. 

Here's how I see it: Nothing in the world is totally private anymore. If you've got a modem and a smart phone in your possession, you have weapons of mass destruction. In this case, the destruction is personal. It can also be epic, but it depends on how far-reaching your destructive tendencies are.

In Anthony Weiner's case, I believe he'll probably have to give up his congressional seat, but I don't think that will mean complete annihilation of his political career. New Yorkers are a pretty forgiving bunch, and he might still be successful if he tries to run for mayor. As for his personal life, I can't help but wonder what sort of advice Huma Abedin is getting from Hillary Clinton right now. There are millions of women out there who have suffered humiliation at the hands of their indiscreet spouses, but how many of them have had to deal with it under intense media scrutiny? Maybe there is some DC insider scorned wives support group that secretly meets in an underground bunker. 

And why is it that we've never caught Sarah Palin having a nip slip? She can babble on and drive us all insane with misquotations and misinformation, but there's no getting rid of her. Yet, Anthony Weiner had to "seek treatment". 

The world is definitely off its axis. There is no justice and karma to speak of; and I'm not only referring to the politicians.