Monthly Archives: June 2015

Stephen Harper to Rename Controversial Victims of Communism Memorial to Victims of Liberalism

After months of intense pressure from critics on the government’s plan to build a memorial to victims of communism in Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to scrap his original plan. Critics of the planned museum are unlikely to happy with the news however, as the Prime Minister, in a rather bold, if not shocking, move has decided to create a museum to the victims of Liberalism in its place.

According to some well-placed sources, the museum replace the exhibits focused on the horrors inflicted by Mao and Stalin, with those focused on Liberal atrocities here in Canada. The museum will focus primarily on the federal Liberal regimes, but will also have a large exhibit dedicated to the Bob Rae premiership in Ontario. The Chretien/Martin years will receive particular attention, with focus given to all the displaced workers as part of their brutal cost cutting measures in the mid-nineties, though there will also be smaller exhibits that deal with all of the pepper spraying by police during the APEC conference as well as all of the civilians that Jean Chretien choked with his own hands. Also, in a move that critics say is designed to damage Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the wing that was originally set aside to document Stalin’s brutal confiscation of land from the Kulaks will now be dedicated to Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy.

Sources close to the PMO say this change in direction was driven by a desire by the Prime Minister to extend his middle finger to both his political rivals and the mainstream media. There are rumours that Mr. Harper wanted to announce another 500 job cuts at the CBC at the same time, just for the hell of it, but was apparently persuaded otherwise by some senior advisors.

When asked if the Prime Minister was worried about being perceived as arrogant or outright trolling of his political enemies, sources said that after almost a decade in power, Mr. Harper no longer gives a damn what people think. The way he sees it, if people cared about having an arrogant prime minister he wouldn’t be in a position to win his fourth term. In any case, he is comforted in the fact that the rise of Thomas Mulcair and return of Gilles Duceppe should produce enough splitting of the anti-Harper vote to return him to power.  The fact is that the Conservatives could well win a majority government with around 35% of the popular vote. Even if they find themselves in a minority government, there is no chance of a coalition if the Liberals end up with fewer seats than the NDP, as the Liberals would rather be the third party in opposition than play second fiddle to the New Democrats.

*Editors Note: None of the above is actually true. 

Some Thoughts on the 2015 US Open

Jordan Spieth didn’t hit the ball very well this week and still won.

At the Masters, Jordan Spieth was in complete control of his game and ran away with the tournament. This week at the US Open he was clearly not in the same kind of rhythm off the tee and frequently found himself having to grind out pars after finding the rough and/or missing the green. It seemed like Dustin Johnson hit every drive 350 yards down the middle of the fairway, but he was still beaten by a guy who was driving it less accurately and nowhere near as long.

This was the weekend when the media stopped caring about Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods had a horrific US open, missing the cut at an unthinkable 16 over par, and nobody is talking about it. Sure, his opening score of 80 generated some headlines on Thursday, but after the thrilling finish on Sunday, everyone is now talking about Jordan Spieth and the potential for a decade long rivalry with Rory McIlroy. Tiger’s struggles are not even the most talked about poor performance of the weekend, as Dustin Johnson’s three put on the final hole is getting far more attention than Tiger’s 80. For the first few years of Tiger’s recent drought, there was nothing to take the golfing public’s mind off of him, as every major was won by a low profile, first time winner. Now that last four majors have all been won by either Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth.

What was Fox thinking with showing Jason Day’s 5 minute walk between holes?

This was Fox’s first time hosting a golf major, so it is to be expected if they have some hiccups as they get the hang of things, but what in God’s name were they thinking by cutting away from the golf to show us Jason Day spending 5 minutes walking between holes? Did they expect him to fall down the stairs or over the side of a hill? Is there a single viewer anywhere in the world who thought that was remotely interesting? The Twitterverse seemed to think asking Jordan Spieth about finding clothes to wear for a potential Monday playoff was the worst moment in the coverage, but that took a few seconds. The producers had what seemed like an eternity to reconsider whether they should just cut back to the golf, but kept the walk on the split screen right to the very end.

Rory McIlroy played really well this week.

As great as Jordan Spieth is, don’t forget about Rory McIlroy. He actually hit the ball better than Spieth this week but just couldn’t figure out the bumpy Chambers Bay greens until the final round when it was too late. He will likely never putt on greens like that again, so his tee to green success this week should give him plenty of confidence as he looks forward to the British Open at St. Andrews.

Canadians Would Hate Proportional Representation

This week Justin Trudeau announced that if he were to become Prime Minister he would end our first past the post electoral system, whereby Parliament is made up of people who won the most votes in their districts, and replace it with some form of proportional representation.  This was touted as a way of making our political system more democratic, as it would help prevent a party getting less than 50% of the overall vote but more than 50% of the seats, which has happened repeatedly in the past several decades (with both the Liberals and the Conservatives). The only problem with that proposal is that most Canadians would absolutely hate it if they actually looked at all the details of what that would entail.

One of the biggest complaints you hear about Parliament is that MPs are too often just pawns of the party leaders and blindly do as they are told. Do you think having MPs allocated based on the share of the national vote will make that better? Proportional representation will not fix that problem, it will exacerbate it, as it puts far more power in the hands of party leaders. Though Mr. Trudeau could come up with his own unique style of proportional representation, in such a system the seat belongs to the party as opposed to the MP, which would typically eliminate the possibility of floor crossing. While MPs switching parties is often viewed negatively by voters, the ability for an MP to pack up his things and leave does help keep a party leader with autocratic tendencies in check.

Though you could make the argument that first past the post is less democratic on a national scale, it is without question the most democratic at the local level. If you don’t think your MP is adequately representing the needs of your district you can vote him or her out of office in the next election. On the other hand, if the national leader really dislikes a local candidate, he can still win the local party nomination, or failing that, can run as an independent. Though it is difficult to win as an independent, it does happen (Yvonne Jones was once an independent MHA in her early days) and in minority government situation, independents can actually wield disproportionate power.

One of the virtues of the first past the post system is that if forces politicians to enact policies that appeal to a large number of voters. Though it is possible for a government to form a majority government with less than half of the total votes, it is also impossible to win any seats by having policies that 90% of the country find morally reprehensible. Not only is that possible under a proportional representation system, it is common.

Under a proportional representation system, you could literally form a party whose primary platform involves blaming immigrants for all of our problems and actively advocates for getting rid of recent immigrants and drastically cutting the number of new ones, at least from non-white countries. Because proportional representation makes minority governments more likely, these fringe groups can find themselves wielding a disproportionate amount of influence. Even the most progressive countries in Western Europe often have outrageously extremist parties on the far right and left holding significant numbers of seats.

The first past the post system may be flawed, but it is likely still the best one for Canada. Much like Thomas Mulcair’s empty promise to abolish the Senate, the promise of proportional representation sounds great in a soundbite on the election trail but is completely unrealistic in practice. The simplest solution is usually the best one. Let districts be represented by the person with the most votes in each district.

What Was Stephen Harper Thinking Meeting with Bono?

Aging rock star Bono visited Ottawa today and all three leaders of the major parties were falling all over themselves to be seen with him. I was particularly disappointed that Prime Minister Harper met with him. I am not a huge fan of Stephen Harper, but one of the things I admired about him is that he seemed like the type of guy who would never bother to meet with Bono. It seems I have misjudged the Prime Minister yet again.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised that either Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau met with him. Mr. Trudeau no doubt views himself as a rock star as well, and so it made perfect sense that he would want to spend some quality time with one of his brethren. I suspect that the most modern artist in Thomas Mulcair’s music collection is Stravinsky, but his base adores self-important celebrities who lecture governments about aid, so he had no choice but to meet with a person that, to him, was just some stranger with funny sunglasses and an Irish accent. But for Stephen Harper to even acknowledge Bono’s presence is strangely out of character.

I understand that the Prime Minister is an avid musician in his spare time, and he may well be a fan of U2, but I have to believe that he looks at Bono as just another vapid celebrity hypocrite who pontificates on social issues while exploiting Dutch tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of tax on music royalties. Stephen Harper has always been someone who, in a manner not entirely unlike Stephen Colbert, has steadfastly remained in character as the stereotypical, middle aged, grumpy, old fashioned conservative. Though that has kept him from being broadly popular, it has helped him maintain a solid base of conservative voters and a handful of independents who at least felt they knew what they were getting when voting for him. As an independent voter myself, watching the Prime Minister take time out of his schedule to meet with the nauseatingly self-righteous Bono, I feel like I no longer recognize the man.

What exactly does all this mean? Could it be the Mr. Harper has become unnerved by the NDP’s recent spike in popularity? Or is it that in addition to being a rock star who wrote great songs several decades ago, Bono has some sort of magical, Jedi-like ability to control the minds of all politicians? In any case, someone should probably remind the Prime Minister that it is a little late in the game to be breaking character.

Newfoundland Separatists Should Visit Labrador

With this past week’s passing of Jacques Parizeau, the former premier and crusader for Quebec independence, there has been not only an outpouring of sympathy, but also of respect for years of public service in the province. Tom Mulcair and even Justin Trudeau, son of the Quebec separatist movement’s arch nemesis, attended the funeral. Many in English Canada have expressed some distaste for all of the praise being heaped on someone who almost caused the breakup of Canada. I don’t disagree with that point of view, but I also know that a not insignificant minority of people in Newfoundland would vote for independence if we were to ever have a referendum (and $100 oil). I’ve known and respected many people who hold these views over the years and I would probably go to their funerals and say nice things about them as well.

No doubt some people reading this will be quick to point out that I used the old name of our province instead of our current, more inclusive name of Newfoundland and Labrador. I didn’t. I was referring to the island, not the province. Though there are separatists in Labrador, they don’t want to separate from Canada; they want to separate from Newfoundland.

One of my most interesting experiences during my short stint working in Goose Bay was learning how Newfoundland was the source of all of Labrador’s problems, and the solution to all those problems would be to separate from Newfoundland and keep all of their resources for themselves. I learned that Labrador forests were being pillaged to feed the paper mill in Corner Brook. A separate territory of Labrador could keep its wood for its own sawmills and live comfortably off nickel royalties and electricity sales for generations to come. What was particularly odd was that these arguments were being made by people who were either born on the island, or were children of people born on the island. The natives that I meet had no interest in Labrador becoming a territory; they were focused on their own land claims and self-government issues.

What was striking is that I had grown up hearing how I was the aggrieved one. Ottawa was the oppressor who was reaping the benefits of our natural resources and selling off our fish to foreign governments to help sell prairie wheat. It was an odd feeling to find myself being looked at as the one doing the oppressing. I would recommend that anyone who would like to separate from Canada, or at least thinks Canada is the source of all our problems, should probably take a trip to Labrador this summer. You may come back with a new perspective on separatism.

Jesus Christ Game of Thrones!

Over the past few weeks there has been a chorus of outrage directed at the HBO Series Game of Thrones for its gratuitous portrayals of sexual violence. Of course, some politicians even felt the need to let the world know that they would no longer be watching the show for this reason. I’ve found this all this faux outrage preposterous, particularly since the show has been depicting all sorts of cruel, sadistic violence for five years now. If these people were entirely sincere they should have stopped watching years ago. But Jesus Christ did they really need to have Stannis burn his own daughter at the stake?!

Let me be clear that I am not calling for a boycott of the show and I still plan on watching the season finale this Sunday, but that scene seemed wrong on so many levels. Aside from the natural revulsion that most people would feel at the thought of someone killing their own child in such a gruesome manner, the scene didn’t actually fit properly into the Game of Thrones narrative in the same way that most of the previous shocking scenes did. It is not surprising that this was something that was not contained in George Martin’s books.

One of the themes of Game of Thrones is that most characters are driven by their base instincts and desires. They are willing to kill, torture, and betray in order to sate their lust for sex, money and power. A handful of characters, such as John Snow and Daenerys Talgarian, stand out from the masses by mostly controlling their base instincts in favour of more noble goals. While humans have always exhibited tendency for murder and violence, humans have always had a powerful instinct to protect their own offspring.

Furthermore, the soldiers, many of whom would have had children of their own, would have been horrified at the thought of their leader burning his daughter at the stake. Such an act would have been more likely to cause a mutiny than motivate them to fight. In the scene, the burning happens in plain view of all his soldiers. Even if Stannis was prepared to sacrifice his daughter to get some black magic on his side, it would have made more sense to do it somewhere where all his men would not be able to see it.

I can’t help get the impression that the writers came up with this scene less to progress a storyline than to simply shock and horrify the audience. Watching the scene I was reminded of the words of my creative writing teacher back in high school. One of the students asked him if we would be permitted to use explicit language in our stories. He responded that if it was truly necessary to progress a story, then we could use whatever words we wanted, but he asked that we always consider whether the story could be progressed without using such language. He told us that in most cases we could tell our stories just as well without cramming them full of bad language. After watching last night’s episode, I can’t help think that the writers were acting a little bit like the 16 year old cramming his story full of four letter words just because he could.

The NBA Finals is not a World Championship

I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I am interested in this year’s NBA finals and all the storylines that come with it; LeBron returning to Cleveland, Golden State making it to the finals after declining to outbid Cleveland for Kevin Love, Mark Jackson being forced to watch Steve Kerr coach his old team in the Finals. I am genuinely interested to see if Steph Curry, the league MVP, can outduel the undisputed best player in the world, LeBron James. This is one of those Finals where I would be happy for whichever team wins. The only thing I won’t like about this series is how so many seemingly intelligent sports writers and commentators will insist on calling the winner the “World Champions”.

Just to be clear, the world basketball champion is the United States. They won that title last year when they beat Serbia in the championship game. That tournament actually got quite a bit of media coverage, particularly after Paul George suffered a horrific leg injury during a team scrimmage that generated a lot of conversation about the risks of NBA players participating in international competition. Even though many of the same journalists who cover the NBA Finals also covered the basketball World Cup, they seem to be still confused about the difference between a world championship and a league championship.

A world championship is where countries compete against one another. A league championship can have teams with players from many different countries. Last year’s NBA Finals champions, the San Antonio Spurs, had key players from the United States, the Virgin Islands, France, and Argentina. There are no trades or drafts in world championships. In world championships players don’t decide to come home like LeBron James; you either play for your home country or you don’t play at all. In leagues, players are routinely drafted, traded, released, and signed as free agents. This distinction should be pretty clear but it has proven oddly difficult for many sports journalists.

The justification for calling league champions world champions is usually that there is no other team in the world that could beat the winner, so we should therefore call them world champions. That reasoning is ridiculous on so many levels that I don’t know where to start. First of all, it is the nature of sports that you don’t get a medal or a title simply by being better than your opponent; you have to actually go out and beat the opponent.

The 2004 USA Basketball team was certainly the most talented team in the world, but they were beaten by team Argentina and had to settle for the bronze medal in the Athens Olympics. The Pistons won the NBA Finals in 2004 and I bet that there were plenty of journalists who referred to them as “World Champions” that year. If the twelve best American basketball players couldn’t beat Argentina that year, what chance would the Detroit Pistons have? Why not just go ahead and call this year’s NBA Finals champions the “Olympic Champions”? It would make no less sense than calling them “World Champions”. Most people would say that you can’t call them Olympic Champions because there was no Olympics this year, but there was no World Cup of Basketball either.

Though I am Canadian, I generally hate the intellectually lazy, reflexive USA-bashing that many Canadians frequently engage in. That being said, I can’t help but notice that the most Canadian of the four major sports leagues is the only one where nobody ever refers to the league champion as “World Champion”. In the NHL, the winning team is the Stanley Cup Champion. Winning the Stanley Cup is more than enough; you don’t need to tack anything else on.  In all the other leagues the winning team is frequently referred to as world champions. It is as if NBA Champion or Super Bowl champion just doesn’t have enough prestige and the sports journalists need to go out of their way to make sure that everyone knows that the best team in their league is better than any other team in the rest of the world. That may very well be true, but the winner of the NBA Finals will not be a world champion.