Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh FFS, Canada!

Remember how I said that sometimes, doing these rants, I run into stories that are just plain weird? Well, I've got another one for you. There's a small town in New Brunswick called Belleisle, and their elementary school is no longer allowed to sing "O Canada" every morning. When I first heard this, I thought it was one of those hoaxes that you sometimes get in the e-mail, but apparently this is really going on. According to the principal who made this decision, a lot of parents didn't want their kids singing it every day.

Now, since this will probably lead to a lot of very ignorant comments, let me start this by saying, I think that nationalism is highly overrated. One reason is because it's just a step or two below fanaticism and racism (just ask a Jew who lived in Europe in the 1930s). The other reason is because pretty much every country on the planet thinks that it's the best one, yet any critical look at the world around you will show you that at least one other country has got it better than yours. In any case, as my Christmas episode made clear, I'm not one who thinks that just because a group is of the majority, they have the right to force beliefs upon the rest of the population. That being said, the idea of dropping the national anthem from a grade school, because apparently some people have a problem with it being sung, is a little strange to me.

I should point out that the exact source of the complaint has been very vague in the press, but I'm going to guess for the moment that this is being brought up by -- or at least blamed on -- some recent immigrants. If that's the case, I must ask: if you have a problem with your new neighbours singing with pride about the place you apparently chose to live in, why are you there in the first place? It would be kind of like me moving to The Bible Belt and demanding that all the churches be closed; it's pompous, it's childish, and all it does is cause unnecessary problems. We all need to learn to put up with each other to some extent, in order to survive. It's a fact of life -- ironically, something that's usually expected of kids, at school.

The really goofy thing about this, to me, is that even if you have some sort of moral issue with singing a national anthem, dropping it is complete overkill. When I was a kid, I didn't sing the anthem much, either -- mind you, that was because I don't like singing in public. Nine times out of ten, other people aren't that picky about whether or not you actually sing the anthem, so much as you standing and showing respect. Why is that so much to ask? If nothing else, you can use that time to reflect on and be thankful for the life and freedom that you have. Enough said.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Liberal Doublespeak

Well, thanks to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, the budget from Emperor Harper is going through. Mikey said that there was a lot about it that he hated, but he's giving the Tories his support. Well that's just fricking great. Maybe he was trying to be pragmatic, so that at least something's being done about the economy, but then what's the point of all the posturing and criticism, if you're not going to follow through on it? Especially since Ignatieff knows full well that Harper is known for bullying the opposition like they don't matter, and sneaking sleazy tricks into the fine print. Simply put, Harper can't be trusted to serve this country, The Liberals know it, but they're giving them a free ride... suddenly I feel like Elmer Fudd has gave us to Jack the Ripper. Enough said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Patriotically Ignorant

Later this week, the Canadian Parliament will be re-opening, following a truly stupid move by Emperor Harper that nearly tore this country apart. Instead of doing something constructive about the economy, like he said he would, Harper and the Conservatives decided to gut funding to progressive interests, as well as the opposition parties. This would effectively bankrupt them, and Harper knew it. So, not surprisingly, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc were outraged, and joined forces to all but boot Harper out of power. Knowing that he was in trouble, that little chicken shit talked the Governor General into suspending Parliament for a couple of months, and here we are. While some of the initial dust has settled, it's still amazing that a lot of Canadians actually supported Harper over this.

When Canadians were fighting each other over this thing, in December, a poll was taken, which revealed that over half of the people in this country literally had no idea how our system of government works. This would certainly explain some of the comments I heard, which I'll get to in a minute. The thing that's really astonishing, though, is some of what they got wrong; for instance, most Canadians seemed to think that we actually vote for the Prime Minister directly, but anyone who's voted in an election knows that this isn't true. This leads me to wonder, how many of the people who are calling the coalition undemocratic, or illegal, have ever actually voted in their lives?

You see, Canada's government is what's called a Parliamentary Democracy. In plain language, this means that when elections are held, people don't vote for the government, they vote for a particular person who will speak for them in Ottawa. The government is made up of the party with the most seats, not necessarily the party with the most overall support, which is why the Tories are now in power with less than half of the popular vote. Therefore, the government is only in power, as long as most of Parliament votes for whatever they try to do. Once the government loses a major vote, such as the budget, that's called a non-confidence vote -- in other words, the government is fired on our behalf. When that happens, the result is either an election, or a coalition government made up of two or more opposition parties -- look up the Canadian Constitution, if you don't believe me. The point is, the alliance formed by the Liberals and NDP is not only completely legal, but it is actually a more accurate reflection of how the public really voted.

But, you'd never see a bunch of control freaks like the Harper government admit to that, so they been spending the last two months lying to the public about it. In addition to the bullshit about it being illegal, they claim the coalition is un-Canadian, given that it involves the separatist Bloc Quebecois. Now, leaving aside for a minute that our current government was formed partly by a Western separatist party, I should point out that every government since the Bloc's creation -- including Harper's -- has consulted the Bloc on several matters. Harper's hypocrisy about the coalition is even more interesting, when you consider that on September 9, 2004, he actually formed one himself, when he was in opposition. By the way, guess who one of his partners was? The Bloc Quebecois!

So Canada, when the government tries again to force its lies down your throat, keep in mind that they are, as usual, saying one thing and then doing another. For instance, one of their ministers, John Baird, recently stated that he thinks the Conservatives can just ignore the rule of Parliament -- so who's really undemocratic here? He also stated that the Conservatives can go over the head of our real head of state, Governor General Michaelle Jean -- who's really being criminal and un-Canadian, especially since that's very close to High Treason? Finally, who really isn't up to the job, when our so-called Prime Minister literally has to be threatened into helping his countrymen? People, we must stand on guard for this country, and each other, otherwise all of the freedom that we supposedly stand for, means nothing; Canada would be anything but glorious and free. Enough said.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Higher Education, Lower Intelligence

Ever since November 6th of last year, over three thousand teaching assistants, contract teachers and graduate assistants from Toronto's York University have been on strike. As is often the case, they are striking over wages, benefits, job security, and allow their members to have a two-year contract with the university, which would bring up to Ontario university standards. There have been many offers at the negotiating table, and every last one of them was turned down by the union. Now, I'm all in favour of anyone -- particularly workers -- standing up for themselves. However, there is a line to be drawn somewhere, and most would agree that when York's students have been severely affected, but the demands themselves have become unreasonable, that line has been crossed.

Let's start this by looking at the other people that the union and the university have dragged into this tug of war: York University's student body. They've already lost about half of their school year; this in itself is a huge pain in the neck, especially to out of town students, and anyone who will now have to co-ordinate a summer job around make-up classes that will likely extend to July. However, in addition to that, several senior students have now lost their chance at applying to grad school, because of this nonsense. The university is doing its best to accommodate the teaching union, but because the union isn't budging, who knows how much damage they've now done to the careers of these students? Hold your horses, though, I haven't even got to the best part.

The latest offer from the university -- the one turned down by over half of the union -- would have enriched their benefits, given them a five-year contract, and -- get this -- a 9.25% wage increase. And they didn't think this was good enough! What the hell is the matter with them? Who else in the country even gets OFFERED a pay raise that big? ...Okay, other than the government.

Look, while I agree that unions have a valid purpose, it's at times like this when I wonder if they're run by a bunch of six year olds. Presumably they have noticed that in the real world, the economy EVERYWHERE has gone completely down the crapper. This is why companies all over the place are cutting back to the bone, it's called trimming costs. So not only is the offer the union had just plain shocking, but the fact that they turned it down is fucking stupid. Where exactly do these people think the money for a better offer will come from?? Jesus H. Christ, that was a great offer! You should have taken it, you dumbass bastards!!

By the way, I looked around some news forums the afternoon after the vote to reject this offer. There were hundreds of comments. The vast majority of them are slamming the union for this, and clearly I don't blame them at all. Not only is this whole fiasco wrecking York's reputation, but to be honest, it's cases like these that make a good argument for not going to university at all, taking up a trade, and just working for a living. After all, if the people you're supposed to rely on for your classroom learning will just fuck you over at the drop of a hat, what's the point? Enough said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End of an Error

Wow. Today, Barack Obama officially becomes President of the United States of America. He will be the first coloured man in the country's history to do so, a fact that still doesn't sit well with some people -- though fuck 'em if they can't remember what century they live in. Anyway, Obama is easily the most inspiring and articulate statesman that this part of the world has seen in quite some time. That alone is great reason to celebrate him assuming power. I, on the other hand, am simply glad for one thing: BUSH IS GONE! Ha-HA!

Now, as embarassing as Bush's vocabulary blunders are, I'm not one to pick on that. After all, anyone who's seen my blooper reels knows that I trip over my tongue a lot, too. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'm glad to see the White House Washout go, because frankly he's a delusional megalomaniac. I refuse to respect a man who thinks it's perfectly fine to arrest, detain, and imprison people without charge, or to ship them to some God-forsaken hellhole to be tortured, and then claim that this has prevented terrorist attacks that the government conveniently never mentioned to the public. Excuse me if I'm a little skeptical there, Dubya.

By the way, while I'll give the guy credit for admitting to some of his mistakes -- like declaring to have won the Iraq War, which is still being fought to this day -- that doesn't change the fact that Iraq never should have been invaded in the first place, and the reason why much of the world stormed into Afghanistan, has apparently been forgotten by the outgoing powers that be. Oh, and the guy also has no right to get indignant about his government's piss-poor response to Hurricane Katrina, given that on much shorter notice he's been able to bomb countries with little effective defense. Finally, George, someone should have explained to you a long time ago, that giving huge corporations all the money and power to screw the rest of the country, isn't going to do anything about the poor. Except create a lot more of them.

I suppose that strictly speaking, time will tell what George W. Bush's legacy will be. In the meantime, though, it seems that he really managed to accomplish was polarize the hell out of America, nearly give the Christian Right a shot at a theocracy, damn near wipe out a country that was no threat to him, and turn American politics into such a joke that the Republican party was all but destroyed in the last election. In fact, I'm already getting requests to give him the Douchebag of the Decade award. So, Barack Obama -- by personality and intelligence alone -- is already a welcome antidote to the sick farce of the last eight years.

As I've already said in November... President Obama, I wish you all the best in the next few years. May God stand between harm, and the places you must walk. And as for George Walker Bush... I shall say what several millions of people around the world, have been waiting eight years to say: Suck it, Dubya! Enough said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Shoulder

Contrary to some American stereotypes, Canada isn't a nation that's entirely frozen over, 365 days a year. As a man very famously put it, I live in a house, not an igloo, and that's the way it is for the vast majority of us. However, it is quite true that Canada is known for cold weather. I don't pretend to love it, but it does strike me as a little odd that so many Canadians HATE any sign of it, given that it's a normal part of this thing called winter.

As I post this, my hometown of Stoney Creek is sitting at -18 degrees Celsius, with the windchill getting to -28 tonight, and it will be that way for a day or two. However, that's the coldest it's been around here in quite a while. Without fail, whenever we get so much as a thimble-full of snow, most people in town complain about it right then and there -- wussies! Right now, Atlantic Canada has to deal with windchill of -41! Hamiltonians should deal with that for a while, before they complain about what we've got here -- compared to Newfoundland, Hamilton sounds like the fricking tropics right now!

Like it or not, in the middle of January, it tends to get a tad frigid in the Northern hemisphere. So the next time you're eager to complain about there being one bloody inch of white powder on the ground, ask yourself two questions: Short of moving to Florida, is there anything you can do about it?; Is it really worse for you, than anyone else in the country? The rational answer to both questions, is probably "No." Enough said.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Smell Test

This is going to be a combination of current commentary, and a revisit of an earlier rant. However, my thoughts on both are about the same thing: public appearances. I'm not talking about how people dress, because nine times out of ten I really couldn't care less about that. I'm talking about backing up what you say.

As we know, recently Israel and Palestine got into yet another shooting match, over the Gaza Strip. Until now, this is a topic that I've never commented on, not only because some people can be really jingoistic about it, but because to be honest I don't think either side is even close to being in the right. However, in this context I think that it is important to say something to the Israeli government and military: if you want people to stop calling you a psychopathic bully committing war crimes and genocide, it would probably be in your best interests to stop bombing schools, hospitals, UN relief missions, ambulances, houses, and even some of your allies. Just a thought. Yes, I know that Hamas and their ilk like to hide among civilians, which genuinely makes the job of wiping out terrorists hard -- fine -- but you're never going to look like the good guys, if you keep grabbing land that doesn't belong to you, or blast the hell out of women and children. HOWEVER, you might just create more terrorists, who now have a good reason to hate your guts. I'm just trying to help.

The other thing, is people's response to my rant last year, over conspiracy theories. Specifically, I'm getting criticized over the fact that I don't buy the theories on 9/11. I've since looked into this in more detail, but my position stands: the stories are overblown at best. Now, since the theme of this blog is appearances, let's give the conspiracy guys some credit by establishing why these theories are popular in the first place: the U.S. government not only contradicted itself in a lot of places, when the 9/11 attacks were being investigated, but it went to the trouble of keeping some critical information out of the public eye, supposedly for the sake of national security. As anyone familiar with the McCarthy Hearings knows, this can definitely be a load of bunk. However, some of the theories concocted to explain this, aren't much better.

For example, there are people who say that the World Trade Center was demolished by explosives, as opposed to destroyed by the plane crashes. I've already explained why I feel this is very unlikely -- namely, the fact that these buildings were hit by two fairly large jetliners, which tend to burst into huge fireballs on impact -- but some people weren't too pleased with this. So I looked into this, and sure enough the engineering community seems to be pretty divided on this issue: a lot of engineers say that it was a demolition, but at least as many say it was the plane crash. It doesn't help that eyewitnesses are split on this, as well. So personally, I think it's dangerous to make an absolute statement, on something that even a group of experts and the people who were there can't agree on.

Another popular theory is the idea that the Pentagon wasn't hit by a plane, despite forensic evidence that suggests otherwise -- including bodies and debris found at the scene -- and that Flights 77 and 93 never crashed at all. Their passengers, supposedly, were deplaned safely, and asked to go into hiding. Think about this for a minute -- there is considerable physical evidence that both of those planes went down, not to mention a lot of eyewitness testimony. On top of that, between this and the demolition theory, you would need tens of thousands of people involved, and staying quiet, to pull something like this off -- and we're talking about a country where people will talk about their farts in insanely casual detail. There's simply no way, that something that sensational would stay quiet for long, especially when there's a very captive audience.

While we're on the subject, I'd like to talk about why these sort of theories aren't taken seriously in the first place, besides being -- by definition -- highly implausible. For one thing, a lot of those who take conspiracy theories seriously, use a lot of circular arguments. This means that someone holds a position so strongly, that anything proving it wrong is shrugged off as a cover-up. For example, a radical left-wing magazine called Counterpunch hired an aerospace engineer to look into the official story of what happened to the World Trade Center. What he found was that the buildings were destroyed, because of crash damage from the planes -- and he wrote about it in very intricate detail. Popular Mechanics interviewed about 300 other experts and came to the same conclusions -- so the demolition theorists all said that these experts are in on the conspiracy.

Another problem is that if you look into it in any detail, the motives are hardly ever the same, from one theorist to another; some say that it was staged to start a New World Order, some say that it was to create an excuse to invade the Middle East -- like the U.S. ever needed one that extreme before -- some even say that it was an elaborate form of insurance fraud! Again, if these people can't even agree amongst themselves, as to why the government would stage a massive terrorist attack, how do they expect anyone else to take it seriously?

I don't really have any more to add to that, except to say that whenever you hear some really outlandish statement, you should always look into it. Yes, that does include everything I've ever said on this blog. In this case, great places to start are Popular Mechanics, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and any newspaper with decent global coverage. Don't take someone's word for it, just because you like what they say. It may really be that they're just saying what you want to hear. Enough said.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Psychotic Hatreds

Welcome to 2009! We're going to start this off by going in a bit of a different direction from usual. Most of the time this blog is ranting about things in society and the news that happen to annoy me at any given moment, but I don't really talk about myself that much. Some of the fans noticed this, and want to know what my pet peeves are. That's a pretty fair question, so I'll tell you, in no particular order.

Pretty high on that list is people who complain about so many inconveniences in their lives, great and small, yet don't lift a finger to change it. Like people who have trouble using the Internet, but don't want to learn how to use it. I've honestly seen a teacher who was pretty deep in debt, but couldn't be bothered to work, for some reason. I just don't get this; can you imagine a doctor saying that you need emergency surgery, but saying he doesn't feel like giving it to you? Evidently my parents and teachers did something very wrong, when I was a kid: they told me that hard work pays off.

While we're at it, I really cannot stand people who pay no attention whatsoever to what's going on around them, then get on a soapbox to attack it anyway. Look, I have no problem with people saying something that I disagree with, but I think that there should be a law that before you open your mouth about it in public, you should know what the fuck you're talking about. Not too long ago, I got in a lot of arguments over Stephen Harper just sitting back and playing with himself, instead of doing something about the economy. Without fail, all I hear from his supporters is "What's he supposed to do, he's only been back in power for a few weeks" or whatever. The problem is that he's been in power for a total of about three years now -- and even though I don't have any training in economics, I for one saw this recession coming at least a year and a half ago, when the mortgage crisis turned up in The States. So Emperor Harper -- supposedly a trained economist -- should definitely have known something was going to snap and affect us, especially since I was taught in Grade 9 History that recessions are regular things that happen every ten or twenty years. That's why it's called an economic cycle. So the only way Harper could honestly have not had a plan, until the markets crashed and he was nearly kicked out, is if the guy either has no idea what he's doing, or simply doesn't give a damn.

And another thing: why the hell do blue-collar men and women honestly think that Harper cares about the working stiff? This guy thrives on high-end business interests, and until six months ago I've never seen him lift a finger to do anything about all of the local industries collapsing. In addition to that, he has repeatedly cut funding to or shut down groups that protect women's rights, not to mention weaken child care in this country. Why do so many people shrug off anything I say about the guy being a dictator in the wings, when all he's done since taking power is break the law, sue the opposition for pointing out that he bribed an MP, try to censor progressive voices, and finally dissolve Parliament just to save his own ass? Whenever I bring this up, people look at me like I have three heads -- BUT I JUST READ THE FUCKING NEWS!

I also have no respect at all for people who know full well that certain people are out of line, don't do anything about it, then have the nerve to lecture other people about things like decency and courage. Give me a break. To me, it's very simple: if someone I know is abusive and self-centered, then I stand up to them. Believe me, I've done this with people in every circle of my life, including some family members. I especially do this, if such a person is getting on the case of someone else close to me: what kind of a friend would I be if I don't go to bat for them when they're in the right? If you're not going to stand up for people, then don't pretend to care about them, I have no patience for soap operas.

Those who've been reading this blog for a while know that I don't have much respect for the local or provincial government either, and to be honest, it's because it's usually dumb as a bloody post. This is particularly bad in Hamilton, where city hall seems to have this allergy to doing anything useful, or even anything that will stop this city from falling apart. Case in point, it took them something like thirty years to build the Red Hill Creek Expressway, and when it finally opened, not only did we have several onramps cutting across traffic, but there are very few lights on the thing. Meaning that, if you happen to drive it at night, you will be blind as a bat. I've complained about this more than once, but for some reason the city doesn't plan on doing anything about it. They even went so far as to flat out lie to me, saying that there are lights out there, but they were burned out. Well, if that's true, then the posts are also completely invisible! Maybe if some of their staff crash into a couple of medians and guardrails one evening, they will change their minds... if they don't win some Darwin Awards along the way.

Finally, since some people have gotten on my case about anti-religious statements I've made on the show, I'll try to make my views on this a little more clear. I don't have any problem with people having beliefs -- it's when they just blindly follow it without any thought, or try to force those beliefs on anyone else, that I get pissed off. For the record, I have stood up to zealots of all faiths over this, from Christians all the way to Atheists. Stupidity and hatred are hardly exclusive to one religion. Generally speaking I get along with Christians just fine, the only time I look at them kind of funny is if they say something like "This is wrong, because God says so, and that's that!" Well, with all due respect, when the only proof of that is in a book that is well known to have been edited and altered several times over the last couple of thousand years, some of us have good reason to be skeptical. I don't mean to be rude about this, I really don't, but it is approximately the same logic that a five year old would use to say that Superman is real. Not to mention, The Bible contradicts itself so many times in tone and teachings, that you can use to justify pretty much anything, including things that are truly reprehensible.

As for some of the intolerant factions, such as the Christian Right, the reason I dislike them probably goes without saying by now -- anyone who watches them can tell that the group is racist, homophobic, and so zealous that they think non-believers have no rights. Heck, they wear it on their sleeves! But the fact that many of them use a religion of peace and love, to justify hatred, war, and oppression just sickens me. I've honestly come across some wingnuts who see no reason at all to help the poor, even though Jesus said many times that His followers are supposed to do exactly that! It's precisely because of this sort of bullshit that I don't have a religion, not because I don't believe in God but because I don't want to be mistaken for these heartless lunatics who give the whole concept of faith a bad name.

Ok, while I plan on revisiting this later on, I'd like to invite everyone watching this to keep the discussion going in the meantime. Talk amongst yourselves, message me with questions or more rant requests, it's all good. But don't ask me to do your homework for you, and please don't lecture me on things that anyone with a working pair of eyes can see is wrong. At the very least, I will have no qualms about blocking you. If I'm really in a bad mood, I might bite your damn head off. Enough said.