Saturday, May 21, 2022

Ontario Election Blog, Part I: WHY???

 If the polls are to be believed, the Ford government is going to win a second majority. 

I do not for the LIFE of me understand why. And while I know I'm saying that a lot just lately, I really don't get this. 

The normal question you ask yourself before voting, or at least you used to, is am I better or worse off than I was four years ago? If the answer is "better", you probably vote for the incumbent.

Quick show of hands: how many people would say their lives are better, here in 2022, than they were in 2018? Maybe I'm missing y'all, but in my world gas has doubled, rent has doubled, the healthcare system is threadbare to the point we will soon not have one at all (unless you're monied...d'ya think that might be the whole point?) As of today, 40,625 Ontarians have died with covid-19. That's the entire population of Stouffville and Parry Sound put together with some left over. 

Okay, I think it's pretty clear that unless you're a realtor or a developer, your life is considerably worse now than four years ago. So maybe it's Ford's sterling track record of enacting his platform and keeping his promises. After all, the last PC Premier, one Michael Harris by name, earned back to back majorities largely because he actually did most of what he said he would do. From my point of view, most of what he did was repugnant, but I do actually respect the man a great deal for following through. As hard as that might be for people to understand. So how about Ford? 

Contrary to popular belief, there were actually some proposals in Ford's platform. Five, to be precise. They were: 

1) Open up many more cannabis retailers;

2) drop the foreign investor tax on real estate (!!!);

3) privatize undisclosed "government assets";

4) replace the sex ed curriculum with one that doesn't mention consent, gender identity,  or much of anything else

Oh and I forgot the big one: 

5) Buck-a-beer!

Putting blinders on and disregarding the utter banality of these promises, precisely zero of which address anything meaningful to the average Ontarian...there are cannabis stores everywhere now, to the point some are closing down; the foreign real estate investor tax has actually gone up, after four years of  "who gives a shit about Ontarians and their shelter?" (He still doesn't, or foreign investment would be banned.)

Let's talk about what Ford has privatized. Because they weren't government assets, they were assets belonging to the people of Ontario.

  • over 18,000 long term care beds;
  • home care;
  • covid testing;
  • covid vaccine distribution
 I thought Canadians valued their health care system. The man who designed it, Tommy Douglas, is widely considered a hero. Well, Ontarians seem poised to collectively piss in Tommy Douglas's grave.

Ford isn't done: when he wins his second majority we'll have private hospitals, even though they are illegal under the Canada Health Act and have been since 1973. He will simply ignore any court ruling against him, invoking the notwithstanding clause again if he must.

This is not baseless fearmongering. These are his stated plans. And he's spent millions of dollars of your money fighting the release of his mandate letters to ministers. Every government writes these: marching orders for ministries for the new electoral term. We have no idea what Ford told his ministers to do, and Ford is doing everything possible to keep it that way. 

Are you surprised? Alarmed? This has been WIDELY reported. I find it incredible that there's a single Ontarian of voting age who isn't aware of all this. Moral of the story: all you millions of people who "don't care about politics" are facilitating the destruction of this province. 

I don't care who you vote for, so long as it's not Ford and his PCs.

I mean that.

I especially mean that if you're of a conservative bent. Don't vote PC, vote The New Blue or the Ontario Party! They are your real tribe: the people who think Doug Ford is a leftist. Split, split, split the vote! (And please quietly unfriend me...)

This election is a choice between -- I cannot overstate this -- order and chaos. What I mean by chaos: a party that has less than zero interest in actually governing. Ford's candidates are declining to participate in any media interviews or debates. Not just one or two: LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM. Is that what you want politics to be? Inaccessible "leaders" who rule by fiat? 

I get it. Politics has undergone a deep sea change in the last ten years. Policy is for chumps. Who gives a fuck what you say you're going to do, you're lying to gain power and we all know it. So we've given up on government working for us people. Maybe we can get it working AGAINST "them" people. Yay! Go Team Red! Red's dead, fuck red, Blue for the win! GO TEAM GO!

If you vote for Doug Ford, that's your vision of politics. It is most emphatically NOT mine.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

I SAID I WAS READY TO BE HURT AGAIN...

 And so, once again, a team with seemingly more than enough talent on it has been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs without winning a round.

There are two types of Leaf fan, I have found. There's the one sort, very loud right now, yelling that we need to blow this up and start over from picks. "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results", and all that. I can see why someone might feel that way, but I belong to the other class of fan, a small minority that echoes our first line center, Auston Matthews, in saying hockey is a game of inches, that blowing up this kind of talented core will catapult us right back to 2014. Or 1986. That seems to be the earnest wish of many this morning: a team that, instead of never getting past the first round of the playoffs, never reaches the playoffs at all. 

 Due to the vagaries of the playoff seeding format, our reward for our best regular season record in franchise history was this date with the back to back Cup winners. They showed, particularly last night, why that is, and where the naysayers really do have a point. I can sum it up in one stat. 

BLOCKED SHOTS; TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 26, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS 13

For non-hockey fans, the stat we put up -- 13 blocks -- is really impressive for a game. Hockey games tend to average between 25 and 35 shots on goal per game for each team. This is the biggest reason I watch hockey and not soccer. In soccer, you can go entire games without a shot on net. Being as scoring goals is the entire point of both sports, I submit soccer's doing it all wrong. 

Anyway. Getting your ass or your face in front of one of those pucks moving, potentially, close to a hundred miles an hour is not pleasant. But it's a vital skill in defensive hockey. If you block the shot, your goalie doesn't have to make the save. If your goalie doesn't have to make the save at all, the chances of him not making that save are zero. 

Twenty six blocks is insane. That means the Leafs directed more than 57 shots at the net (I'm not counting the ones that simply missed). That's nearly one shot attempt per minute of game play. Don't tell me they didn't try this time. They tried hard.

But in the end they fell short again because of the philosophy behind the respective teams' construction. 

Tampa, as I said, are the back to back repeating Cup champs, going for a threepeat that hasn't been seen in the NHL since the Islander dynasty. They lost several good players of their roster last offseason: the curse of good teams, you can't afford everybody. So what do they do? Scout their opposition and pluck their best role players for their next Cup run.

Your stars do win playoff series, of course. But when teams are as evenly matched as Tampa and Toronto -- and looking at the series holistically, they were VERY evenly matched -- it's more often than not your unheralded third and fourth liners who make the difference. These aren't the most talented guys on the squad, but they (a) work their asses off to compensate and (b) are more used to playing through the clutch and grab bullshit that dominates playoff hockey when the whistles are put away. Last night, Nick Paul scored both of Tampa's goals. I didn't know who Nick Paul was before this series started. I sure as hell know and respect the guy now. If we had just one of him, we'd have added seven blocks to our total last night. And if my grandma had wheels she'd be a bus. 

Toronto's game is built entirely on puck possession. The idea is, if you have the puck, your opponent doesn't, and if your opponent doesn't, the only way it ends up in the back of your net is something truly mortifying. Sound reasoning, and it works very well in the regular season. It leads most nights to you crushing your opponent in the faceoff circle (starting with the puck means...your team has the puck!) and on the shot clock (if you have the puck, your team is the one shooting it!) More often than not this leads to more goals than your opponent...which is the whole point. 

You negate that strategy by blocking the fuck out of anything headed towards your net. You'll have to do it a lot, but against these Toronto Maple Leafs, you'll frustrate them to no end doing it. They'll try to make cutesy plays through your dense screens and you'll pick off every puck, moving most out of danger and even taking some back the other way.

A word about officiating. 

One of the many reasons Leaf fans are mocked around the league is because when the Leafs lose, many of us blame the refs. The thing is, for whatever reason, sometimes it's not paranoia. Sometimes they're really out to get you. And it has seemed that way many many times for the Leafs this season and playoff. Our players get outright mugged without a call, but we breathe on somebody wrong and into the sin bin we go. What's even more frustrating is the inconsistency.

All I ever ask of officials is that they call the game by the rules. I think that's literally their job description. But to a man, they're into "game management" instead. Don't give one side too many penalties, that means you're biased. "But what if that team is committing all the infractions?" "No, they're not, look harder. See that guy there with the face? You don't like that face, that's a penalty. Two minutes for I don't like your face." There, now you're not biased anymore!

Last night our captain, John Tavares, scored a pretty goal to tie the game at ones. The goal was disallowed because the whistle had gone before the puck entered the net; the reason the whistle went was because Justin Holl ran a perfect pick to allow Tavares to get that shot. In hockey, that's an interference penalty. I'm not disputing that. At all. That goal had to be waved off and Holl deserved the penalty.

That exact play happens five or six times a game. That's the only time all series I've seen it called.

In the game before, there were numerous offences against our players, some of them egregious, that drew shrugs from the stripes. And to be honest we got away with a couple of dirty hits ourselves that should have been penalties -- one of them was a borderline major that went entirely uncalled. 

The Leafs are built for regular season hockey. But again and again and again they wilt when the rubber meets the stick. 

I feel most terrible for Jason Spezza, whose career is likely over. He has BLED blue and white since the minute he got here looking for the Cup that has eluded his otherwise stellar career. I hope he stays. We need him.

There are people demanding we trade everybody but Matthews. Classic Leaf fan knee-jerk. If you trade Mitch Marner, (a) he will eat you alive every time you play him for the rest of his career; (b) you won't get like value back; (c) Matthews will walk at the end of his contract. Nylander I can see going. Tavares, who is a good player still but not worth his pay rate...I hope there's an exit strategy on that signing. 

People hate Justin Holl this year, and like many Leafs he has made occasionally boneheaded errors, but overall he's been much better than the haters think. Both my eye test and the fancy stats back me up on that. Our defense does need some tweaking, though. Lyabushkin is a liability and Muzzin isn't getting any younger (Gio's even older, but he still seems to have game). 

The other area of concern is the fourth line. We've been searching for that fourth line for years now and every season I think we've found it only to be proven wrong. Our fourth line this year barely played. Tampa's played a lot more.

After last year's debacle against the Canadiens -- when we really didn't seem to bother to try for a majority of the games, expecting the series to be handed to us by default -- I was angry. This year I'm just sad. Here comes another year of endless taunting and abuse (what people get out of that, I'll never learn). I'm trying very hard to stay out of all comment sections (not always successfully) just because the atmosphere in there is poison. I'm watching as we fritter away the primes of some of the best players ever to don the Blue and White, and every fan of every other team blames ME, personally, for this. It gets old. It gets REALLY old. 

Congratulations Tampa.

Go, Blue Jays, go. 




Monday, May 09, 2022

Let's Go Chasing Waterfalls....

That's from a 1987 novelty song by The Firm. It's our unoffical road trekkin' anthem. 

It's been a long and dark winter.

The forecast for this past weekend spun like a roulette wheel. Rain, sun, rain, snow, rain..SUN!

Gas prices being what they are, "left-right tours" are not advisable. So the idea was to pick somewhere with a lot of sights in proximity. Niagara is always at the top of that list...except we're two of the few people who recognize and care that covid didn't just get up and flounce out the door. A large number of people who feel otherwise swarmed over Niagara yesterday, so we didn't/

Instead we drove to Hamilton. "The Hammer"'s official nickname is "The Ambitious City" (and it is that: real estate there is actually more expensive than in Toronto as of this writing. It's also known as the Pittsburgh of Canada, and has deep working class roots. But the nickname that has drawn us today: The City of Waterfalls.

It comes by that nickname honestly. Hamilton has over 100 waterfalls within city limits, with many more in the immediate surrounding area. Most are tiny cataracts, but there are several seriously impressive cascades.

First up: Tiffany Falls.  21m (68 ft) tall. This is a short and easy hike (10 minutes or so and suitable for people of all ages) over some bridges criss-crossing a stream:


before you walk around a corner and behold this: 



Without a drone, it's hard to do justice to this place. The valley you're in feels considerably deeper than it is. These falls apparently roar in early Spring. What we saw was a hypnotic mix of power and delicacy. 

Parking is $7.50 and it's money well spent.

Next: Felker's Falls. 


The foliage mostly obscured this one, which is a pity as it's actually a meter taller than Tiffany. The flow was weaker, too. On the plus side, this one is free to access (and even easier than Tiffany).: 

Here's Felker's presenting its best face:

The rock formations here are part of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from western New York State to near Chicago. In southern Ontario it's responsible for some stunning outcrops, not to mention all those waterfalls. It's the Niagara Escarpment visible on highway 26 from Owen Sound to Meaford, and Manitoulin Island is considered part of the Escarpment as well. 

Onwards and upwards...to the Devil's Punchbowl and lookout. This was $11.50 for parking -- and again, money well spent. There is an extensive trail network all through this area, including the Bruce Trail, which runs 885 km from here to Tobermory. You can see the Toronto skyline from this lookout:

...and of course not in this picture. I had a hell of a time with my phone/camera on this trip. Somehow I had set it to take videos instead of pictures, and added a timer to boot, and when I went to take the pictures the glare from the sun was such that I just aimed in the general direction of what I wanted to capture and...thought...I hit the shoot button. Most of the time I didn't, so my pictures were nonexistent or herky jerky video clips that last four seconds and finish in my pocket. This was discovered after Felker's and grrrrrr.

This is not my shot, or Kathy's. I stole it from the Tourism Hamilton website. That's not because Kathy's photo was bad, at all, but because it included a totally incongruous road that is about half a millimeter above the top of this pic.  It's maybe a silly thing to care about, but if I'm taking nature shots, I don't want the trappings of humanity visible in them if I can help it. This can lead to some awkward contortions, and I know it's not true to life, but damnit my species is nothing but a giant blight on this earth. I love individual persons, and lots of them, but people deserve the coming cull, as far as I'm concerned, and most of our works will eventually erode back into the earth whence they came and where, to be perfectly frank, most of them belong.  No great loss.

That was something we marvelled at, actually: Hamilton really is "the city of waterfalls" in that there is city right on top of some of these places. You have to envy some of these properties that back on to unspoiled beauty like this. 

Next up: Albion Falls. 


I love how delicate this looks. Very pretty. Up close, photo by Mark Harris: 


Our final waterfall of the day, Tew's Falls, is the tallest cascade in Hamilton, just a little shorter than Niagara Falls. This one hurt: $15.50 to park. Rather steep (though not as steep as the waterfall.)
 




A wonderful day. We'll be back to Hamilton: there are at least three dozen more easily accessible falls to view, not to mention the lookouts from Hamilton "Mountain". Further road treks are guaranteed; the where of them will depend on gas prices and whim. 

"Boldly going forward, 'cause we can't find reverse"...yeah. It applies. 

Thank you, hon. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

This blog brought to you by a special cookie.

 As I mentioned on Facebook, I use edibles to help me sleep. Most of the time they turn my thoughts into entertaining sludge, but occasionally they seem to bring a weird green clarity to my thinking (just before everything turns to entertaining sludge). Such an occasion chanced to happen the other night. 

What triggered it was my musing about The Big Sort.

Humans are a social species. As such, we are hardwired to seek out people like us, and to distrust people who aren't. Human history is a series of waxings and wanings of the size of the "like-us" group. At one point, it was our tribe of 100-150 people: everyone else was suspect. Gradually, over millennia and with time out for civilizational collapses, we've come to a point where we're provisionally able to accept the basic humanity of people on the other side of the planet, who speak a different language,  worship a different god, have a radically different culture and worldview. It's far from universal: hatred and war, obviously, still reign in places. But I'd argue the overall trend has been towards an integrated, connected world in which more and more people are considered "like us". Civil rights have especially proliferated in the last sixty years, leading this generation of people to imagine a skypie future where everyone is free to be who they are, marry who they love, and live as they wish. 

Neither history nor sociology nor ecology supports such a rosy prediction, I'm afraid.

I have little doubt the Romans thought themselves invincible -- the word does derive from Latin, after all -- and look how vinced they ended up. I'd like to propose a rough and ready equivalency: to be Roman in the late Empire was as being an American, or Westerner, is today. We're at the top of the global heap, which earns us envy and resentment in equal measure...and that heap is in the process of rearranging itself, as history shows it periodically does. 

Rome is fascinating to me for its similarities and its differences. "Racism" as such wasn't really a thing in Rome: "Nubians" from the deepest darkest heart of Africa could attain citizenship every bit as easily as any other come-from-away (which is to say, not overly easily, but skin colour wasn't the issue). But classism was very much a Roman thing, as it generally is in human societies "advanced" enough to develop classes. 

Our world is very different because we've handed all of our levers of power and communication to the people at the very tippy-top...who, aided by foreign agents seeking to destabilize our polity, have at every turn fomented a culture war to prevent us 'plebes' from launching a class war. And I can be reasonably certain everyone reading this is a plebe. Even if you're a multimillionaire, you are an ant as far as the real power is concerned. 

We are currently losing trust in our public institutions and media, because we've belatedly realized that the powers that be really don't have our best interests at heart or in mind.

 What do you do when the larger world around you seems hostile? You make your world smaller, that's what you do. And how do you do it? Do you include people who don't share your culture and values? Probably not. At its worst, this is some class of bigotry, but it must be acknowledged that it's inherent, to a certain degree, in humanity. It just doesn't make evolutionary sense to instinctively trust that strange person who's probably not trusting you. 

This process is accelerating in America. Consider just one example: abortion.

Some states are busily making it so that women who live in those states have fewer rights than corpses. (You can't take anything out of a corpse, even to save someone else's life, without express written consent from that corpse before it became a corpse). Oklahoma was alarmed at all the Texans flooding over their border to 'murder' 'babies' since in Texas now, you can rape your 12 year old daughter and collect ten grand if she dares to do something about it! Plus legal fees! Hey, get enough people to help her do something about and you can sue 'em all! So Oklahoma passed a version of Texas's law. Meanwhile, Connecticut has stated it will become a sanctuary state for women seeking abortion. I'm calling it Aunt Tam's Railway. 

Expect a lot more of this. Red states are getting redder, blue states are getting bluer, and at some point the "United" States will reorganize itself into a collection of smaller jurisdictions. This will happen in Canada, as well. It will, in fact, happen worldwide, higgledy piggledy. 

It will have to. Because globalism finally rests exposed as the sham it is.

Don't get me wrong. Globalism was sold to us as the way to increase living standards worldwide, and it has, by and large, done so. But it also adversely affected some people who were already lower class in the United States and Canada, and those people are raising a stink. That stink does have racist overtones, of course, but the reflexive instinct for those of us on the left is to dismiss the whole thing as racist, when it really, really isn't. Let's have an adult conversation about immigration, and what's coming, very shortly.

I'd like to ask four questions for your consideration. 

Here's one: does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- into an area such as California that is in a decades long drought, is already restricting water, and will soon have to ration it?

Here's another. Does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- into a country where housing is completely unaffordable to all but a fraction of a percentage of its native citizens? 

Question three. Does it make sense to encourage immigration -- documented or otherwise -- and simultaneously demand higher wages? Immigration drives down wages: it's not racist or bigoted to make that observation, it's supply and demand. And yes, I am fully aware we pay undocumented immigrants shit wages to do many jobs we outright refuse to do, but that's far from all immigrants. I'm also very much aware that "supply and demand" is a capitalistic concept that's easily overcome with legislation, but nobody will ever choose to make that legislation because they would lose money doing it. Such is the inevitable consequence of government infection with the hypercapitalist virus. 

Question four: What makes anyone think they're going to have a choice about immigration as the years unspool?

We're damned lucky here for the moment. War is elsewhere. That war is affecting us in terms of higher fuel prices, which means higher prices for everything...but shells and missiles are not landing our our homes. 

Many people far from Russia and Ukraine are going to be casualties of this war -- quite likely many more casualties elsewhere than in the actual areas fighting.  Why? Food scarcity. We have this globalist system that necessitates trading with less than savoury nations. Russia and Ukraine collectively supply slightly more grain to the world than the United States and Canada. Pretty much all of that is off the table, which leaves the table much barer for many people. Russia supplies 27% of the world's nitrogen-derived fertilizer. Good luck getting that even in the Midwestern U.S. at present. And so on and so on and so on...and this is only one war. China's about due to say enough is enough and appropriate Taiwan for good. Other nations are likely to look to war as their populations insulate and their prospects dim. 

The Russia/Ukraine war is the largest mass migration in Europe since World War Two. It's going to push other migrations in many parts of the Third World. And it's a tiny drop in the ocean when weighed against the coming climate migration. There are going to be an awful lot of people -- people who don't look a thing "like us" and don't think much "like us" -- invading "our space" because theirs has become uninhabitable for one or more very pressing reasons. I'd love to think we'd treat these people the way Poland is currently treating Ukrainians. I'm stupid, but I'm far from that stupid. Because at that point it's going to be abundantly clear to everyone: there is not enough. Sociology tells you what happens next. 

I hate to belabour the obvious, but it didn't have to be this way. There is ABUNDANT wealth on this planet, more than enough for eight billion people to live comfortably. Put pithily: there is room for billions. There is not room for billionaires. There is not room for any corporation to be worth a billion dollars, either. But we are so much products of this pervasive system we've created, there is a mass failure of imagination. Communism or company towns, take your pick. 

This binary thinking is somehow blinding us to current events.  Either we all perish next weekend or (a very few people still believe) we inherit our Destiny In The Stars (tm). The idea of decline is all but unthinkable, even as it occurs all around us.

Social media has hastened the Big Sort. We tend no longer to associate with people who see the world differently. Both sides believe the other to be evil and stupid. What I'm going to be exploring in the coming weeks and months: how the future might be bent positive, at least for those of us alive right now. I can't speak for anyone's unborn children: frankly, I think it's an act of striking optimism-slash-hubris to procreate at this point in human history. Your kids are not in for an easy ride even today.

This blog, which seems like the ramblings of a paranoiac but which I assure you is if anything understated, has been brought to you by a special cookie.  


I had another blog to write...

 ...but this is my 1967th entry since I started this thing almost eighteen years ago. That means I have to write about the Leafs again. Sorry, folks: I can't change the rules here. 

I AM READY TO BE HURT AGAIN

So you remember last year? When I waxed rhapsodic about the team additions and suggested we'd  never see an easier path to the Cup, only to have Carey Price stone us? We technically didn't even make the playoffs. And everybody laughed at me, and them.

Hindsight is usually 20/20 (depending on the hind you've sighted)...and I shouldn't have been so sanguine last year, let alone cocky. The Leafs limped to the end of the season. Riley Nash, the 4C we acquired  to shut down the other team (because he'd done such a great job of shutting us down the year before)...was badly hurt and barely played; Nick Foligno, son of a fan favourite and the captain of the Blue Jackets, we rented and he was badly hurt as well. And then of course OUR captain was knocked out of the series early with a concussion. Once that happened, the series was over. 

It didn't help that "Jumbo" Joe Thornton, who came to us to win the Cup he'd never won anywhere else...showed why he never won a Cup anywhere else. He nonchalanted his way through those seven games with a "what, me worry?" attitude and worse, it infected much of the squad, including our best playmaker, Mitch Marner. Cue ignominy.


_____

Cue 2021-2022.

Statistically, the best regular season in the 104 year history of the team. Led by Auston Matthews, who scored 60 goals and finished with his second consecutive Rocket Richard trophy, we finished with a record of 53-21-7 for 115 points, another team record. Freaking awesome. We should be able to stomp the comp we're about to face, right! I mean, we can't get too confident based on what Montréal did to us last year, but when you smoke the regular season this well, you get to face...

...the repeat Cup champions? Going for a threepeat? 

Life is NOT FAIR.

Actually, the conference we're in is historically strong. Every one of the eight teams that made the playoffs on our side got 100 points or better. That's never happened before. The path to the Cup is BRUTAL for anyone in the East this year. There are going to be teams eliminated in the first round that shouldn't be. 

I hope one of them isn't the Toronto Maple Leafs. They're the only team facing two teams in the first round: the Lightning, yes, but also the Head Demons. Those bastards can play. 

All Kyle Dubas, the GM of the Leafs could do, he did. This year's crop to push us over the top includes:

  • Mark Giordano, who gave up the captaincy of the Seattle Kraken and demanded a trade to Toronto. He partnered with T.J. Brodie for several years in Calgary and at 38, he's still got game. He's been an incredible mentor to Timothy Liljegren
  • Michael Bunting, who would be in serious consideration for the Calder as rookie of the year were he not 26 years old and if Moritz Seider in Detroit wasn't such a beast
  • Ilya Lyabushkin, one of the best D-men on a terrible Arizona team, who has injected our D-corps with some snarl and who has actually produced a few points for us, a nice bonus
  • David Kämpf, who is the 3C this team has lacked since the 1990s
Add in career years from

  • Ilya Mikheyev, who had a solid rookie campaign, sustained a horrific hand injury, and now has finally more than fully recovered. Word was he had demanded a trade earlier to somewhere he might be able to move up the lineup. He's currently on the second line and they're glad to have him. Speed to burn. 
  • Pierre Engvall, a depth piece who has blossomed this year into a little mini Mikheyev. He's discovered how to use his speed, and his reach, to create odd man rushes the other way, and he's even found some finish
  • William Nylander, who polarizes this fanbase because he occasionally takes games off. That said, he was one of the few who never took a second off last year in those seven games against the Habs. He's finished just shy of a point per game and when he's on, he's dynamic as all hell
  • and of course, speaking of dynamite, the aforementioned Matthews and Marner. Pure magic. Auston is the first player since 2012 to notch sixty scores; the last guy who did it just happens to be the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos, who is still fearsome ten years on. (He's got 30 goals in his last 15 games played, more than anyone else over that span.) Marner, who was crucified without wood or nails for his Thornton-inspired disappearing act last year, is dialled in this time around, I can assure you. Despite sitting on 97 points, with a reasonable chance to get 100 in the last game of the season tonight, he chose to sit out and rest and prepare. I think that says something. Whatever happens this year, it has been an absolute joy to watch those two feed off each other. 
  • Jack Campbell. "Soup" went cold for about six weeks immediately following the All-Star game that he started, but he seems to be on track now, at just the right time. A lot is going to rest on Campbell. If he plays as he can, the Leafs probably win this series, albeit won't be easy. If he falters, we're done. Pressure...want some?
Sheldon Keefe, who coached the team to its best finish ever, sure does. Asked how he felt about facing Tampa, he said "the harder, the better. That is what we need." BRING IT ON. 

We have home ice this time round, so games 1, 2, and 7 (if necessary, and it likely will be) are within the friendly confines of what I still want to call Maple Leaf Gardens. (WHY didn't Maple Leaf buy it all those years ago? Would have been a great joke when Matthieu Schneider patrolled the blue line for us....)

For the moment, the fanbase seems to have its mind in the right place. I've seen a marked reduction in fan toxicity this season, which isn't to say it won't rear its ugly head the instant somebody perceives a less than adequate effort. We are slight underdogs according to the Vegas odds and I don't think those odds take the Head Demons into consideration. 

Game one goes Monday. I parlayed my best ranking ever at work into a 12:30-9pm shift, the earliest shift available with weekends off. It means I will at least get to watch third periods. (We won't even bring up overtimes because do you want my heart to explode?)

MAPLE LEAFS-LIGHTNING. LET'S DO THIS. GO LEAFS GO!

May the best team in blue and white, captained by the center wearing #91 from Toronto, win!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Musk

 "There had better not be a scandal involving Elon Musk," I told Eva a few years ago. "Elongate would be really long and drawn out."

Little did I know.

I had a Twitter account, once. It sat mostly dormant for a year before it died a redundant death. Everything on Twitter is already on Facebook (and Reddit, and Instagram, and TikTok, and Christ only knows how many other places. My understanding is that Twitter no longer limits you to 140 characters, but the interface still feels limiting: often on Facebook I'll find reposted Twitter threads of ten or twenty "pages" that could have fit on two or three screens. 

There was a time -- not all that long ago -- when I might have embraced the realtime rush of Twitter. Endless streams and reams of information to digest, endless curiosities to satisfy. I no longer feel this way for two reasons. One: I've already nearly drowned in a septic tank once in my life.  Two: Heinlein's Crazy Years are upon us with a vengeance. Even dipping a toe in the crazy gives you toe insanity, and that metastasizes through your bloodstream in a hell of a hurry.

Speaking of Robert A. Heinlein....

I don't agree with everything that man thought, not by a long shot. But he forces you to think to refute him, and I'm very much convinced that was his real goal. Politically, Heinlein is very complicated and misunderstood: in his younger years he embraced social credit ("For Us, The Living" isn't so much a novel as it is a manifesto), but as he aged he became more and more libertarian. Heinlein believed in, and lived, a personal morality that superseded rules and laws where it suited him. Where he very much differed from today's legions of people who do the same thing: Heinlein took every responsibility for his words, his actions, and their outcomes, and he was a fierce advocate for the same in everyone. 

I am far from the first to notice the parallels between Elon Musk and D.D. Harriman, "The Man Who Sold The Moon". Like Harriman, Musk believes humanity is "destined" for the stars. Like Harriman, Musk is obscenely wealthy, has dozens of irons in a gross of fires, and comes across as brash, cocky and arrogant. And further, like Harriman, Musk is not just unafraid, but oblivious of how many toes he steps on to achieve his vision. Elon's Moon is Mars, and he said in 2018 that there was a "70% probability" he'd get to live there himself. 

Elon Musk considers himself benign. Most people do think of themselves that way. His ideals are...idealistic, extremely so, and not to belabour the point but time is growing mighty short. And in my opinion, everything he is up to is ass-backwards.

Musk is a techno-utopian. He fervently believes in all the sf tropes; uploaded consciousness, cyborgs, virtual reality, and so forth. I, quite frankly, do not. Where Musk is transhumanist, I am simply humanist. I believe technology has a place: I also believe (and much more strongly) that we have allowed technology far too much of a place. Given the choice, I would rather connect to the warmth of a human being than a cold machine. Musk would have us all half-machine.

Twitter is his latest $44 billion plaything.

I read once about an avid videogamer who found a bug in his favourite game. It bothered him so much he got a job with the software developer, fixed the bug on his first day of work, and then immediately quit. I feel like that's more or less what Elon's up to with Twitter, except the bug he's removing is what I would consider not just a feature, but a failsafe.

Twitter was the first company to take action against the former U.S. President. I give it scant credit for that, because that thing's account should have been permanently banned in 2015, not 2020. (Sometime around 2018, a man got an account on Twitter and simply retweeted every one of the President's tweets. The account was banned within 72 hours.) But scant credit is still credit: Twitter did what absolutely had to be done. 

Elon Musk doesn't see it that way. He believes all voices should be welcome, "no matter what". I'd suggest he can't be serious: does he mean to turn Twitter into the dark web, a tangle of child exploitation, snuff videos, dens of white supremacy and such? Surely not. But he insists on framing it as "free speech" and I have to tell you, it makes me see red.

Musk once personally cancelled a Tesla order because the orderer had been rude to him. He routinely fires people on the spot for disagreeing, or not agreeing enthusiastically enough. Free speech, my left butt cheek. What he means by "free speech" is the same thing everyone else with his power means: enabling my narrative and cancelling yours. 

Let's think about some of the narratives taken as fact by many people around the world. Democrats stole the 2020 election. They are Satanic baby-eaters. (Yes, that is a core QAnon tenet!) Ukraine is full of Nazis busily destroying their own country and blaming Russia for it. So-called "nonbinary" people are mentally ill. Mickey Mouse is teaching your child what "fisting" is. Justin Trudeau is a fascist dictator (!) who, somehow, is also too cowardly to show his face to people who want him dead. The covid vaccine gives you cancer. Climate change is a liberal hoax.

 This stuff pours out of millions of bottomless wells already as it is, and now Musk says it should infect the largest social media platform in the Western world?

(I wonder how Musk is going to get around the EU Digital Services Act, which mandates stiff moderation against hate speech as a condition of doing business on the continent. In this as in most things, Europe has it right.)

I used to think, when I was a young and hopeless naïf, that all viewpoints deserved a full airing and through critical thinking and education (snort) the truth would prevail. What can I say, I was full of shit. Critical thinking has gone the way of the dodo and I'm astonished daily by the number of people calmly spouting bullshit they learned the truth about in FUCKING GRADE SCHOOL. 

What happens online never stays there. I am very frightened of the future.











Monday, April 04, 2022

Friends with Benefits

ADULT MATERIAL NSFW

You know right away what's coming: an instinctive moué of disgust. Even saying those words out loud makes me cringe. I find them highly offensive, and people make a pointed effort of not understanding why.

It dawned on me last night, as four or five blogs were swirling around in my head getting in each other's ways, that I really need to start checking myself whenever people make a pointed effort of not understanding me, because in cases like that I'm probably the problem. It's like that old truism:  if you meet an asshole in the morning, you met an asshole. If you keep meeting assholes all day long....YOU'RE the asshole.

So how my selective literality can't help but hear "friends with benefits": there are friends, see, and then there are friends you fuck. Only the latter kind provides you with any "benefits". The rest of them are not worth your time and energy.

You scoff -- I can hear you scoffing. Nobody means it like THAT.  Are you sure?

A question for vagina owners: how many male friends have you made and then dumped because, as it turned out, you weren't actually a friend, you were only a vagina? Wow, that looks like....all of you. What's that? More than once? Many times? All of you? Many times?

Yeah. Thought so. You can't be a man's friend unless you fuck him, right?

I often wish I were something other than a man. Not physically and mentally, in the way that trans and nonbinary people don't fit their skins, not even close, but, um, culturally? I have no desire AT ALL to be identifiable to strangers as belonging to the same gender as so many people who think women are walking vaginas. 

Yes, this attitude is poisonous. It's poisoned me. Having seen so much misogyny, I'm to the point where I'm inventing it. 

You would think I would have learned my lesson in five years of openly practicing polyamory. I mean, I said it often enough: space must be preserved for each relationship or things get very messy very quickly; don't place limits on a relationship you're not part of; each relationship is its own thing.

I know what "friends with benefits" sounds like to me. All this time I have been mapping my own prejudices on to others.

I gotta stop that. Like yesterday.

Friendship -- "with benefits" or no -- is reciprocal. I get to have a hand in defining and naming any relationship I'm a part of. I do NOT have the right to do so for other relationships. What other people call each other should be of no concern to me.

Hell, what other people choose to DO with each other is of no concern to me (outside issues of sexual safety, of course). I have always railed against casual sex in the most sex-negative language I can muster: poles and holes, genital sneezes, fifty pumps a tickle and a squirt...because I've seen entirely too much of this:

hey baby wanna fuck?

go away creep I don't even know you

what do you need to know for me to fuck you?

I do NOT understand why anyone would respond to hey baby wanna fuck with fuck yeah. That's how I characterize casual sex, and it quite frankly makes me sick to my stomach. Except in porn. 

In porn, and ONLY in porn -- and with the ironclad caveat that the woman or women must really be enjoying themselves, not pretending to -- the more gonzo the better. Line 'em up.  I'm not sure I can ever reconcile that, it makes no sense to me. I've given up trying.

Spectrum, spectrum, c'mon Kenny-me-boy you know better than this. Porn isn't sex, of course, and there is this long passage between hey-stranger-fuck-me-now and missionary in the dark with the only partner you ever had or will have. Somewhere roughly in this big playpen in the middle  is "friends with benefits". You're okay. You can still detest casual sex as you are defining it (though you  may want to refrain from detesting those who feel differently!) but you can let go of your animosity about "fwb". 

I think a secondary reason I detest "friends with benefits" so much is that I have lots of friends who are women, and the friendships are entirely platonic. If I so much as acknowledge another category of friendship, "friends who are NOT platonic", does that put the fear of Gawd into them that I'm actually sitting here fantasizing about plowing them into next July? That's why I have always insisted on saying "lovers", even though that's wrong, too: a hammer hams, a finger fings, a grocer groces, and a lover...fucks????? If I tell you I want to be your friend, that does NOT mean I want to get into your pants, and I will make every effort to assure you of that. 

In fact, I will make you every assurance and mean them even if I DO want to get into your pants. (It happens: I have attractive friends with attractive qualities.) It's unlikely I'll ever ask you, but if I do, I'll take a no with good grace and we can both forget I asked. 

Relationships are strange and unpredictable. You may lose sexual interest in a sexual partner or even a spouse: suppose you stay partnered, what do you call yourselves? Friends can grow into lovers and back: is there a name that works for all stages? And again aside from issues of sexual health and safety, why should anyone care about chandelier-swinging or the lack of it, if everyone involved is content? I quite firmly and correctly tell people that sphere of my life is none of their business: I should extend the same courtesy to others. 

This is one example of rigid thinking I am dismantling. There are many, many more. I feel that it's important to have a bedrock of principle, but beyond that I need to do everything I can to loosen my thinking. 

I should, for instance, recognize that sex doesn't have to be sacred. 

It feels sacred to me, two becoming one and all of that. Even at its filthiest and raunchiest, there is a tidal current of love and affection. Sometimes especially at its raunchiest: just admitting some fantasies is an exercise in vulnerability, and one of my stock definitions for "love" is "feeling vulnerable, safely".

I've tried sex without all the emotional underpinning/baggage (depending on your point of view). More than once, because I didn't learn. (This was in the days before I met Eva.)  I could fool myself for a while, "making love out of nothing at all", as Air Supply has it, but in fairly short order I would feel absolutely scuzzy. Is this really any different from jerking off? It bloody well should be, and I don't feel like it is. 

Again, MY experiences and feelings, nobody else's. I've been proven to be an odd duck often enough that my default setting really should be "I'M THE ASSHOLE OUTLIER HERE". But still too often I unconsciously assume I'm normal, and then wonder why the most of the rest of you are so fucked up. 

I think I just want to be normal...









Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Slap

 So many layers, so many perspectives, so many takes, both hot and not. I've been reading and digesting it all today, and I'm more muddled now than I was when I first learned what "Will and Chris" referred to. 

So let's start with the importance of this. I've seen more than a few people saying this is not worthy of discussion at all because [insert crisis here].  I'm very much aware of ... probably more crises than most of the people with this view, and I strongly disagree about the importance of a supposedly tasteless joke and the reaction to it that we all saw and heard.

To be clear: I don't feel Hollywood is important. It thinks it is, but all you need do is look at declining box office revenues and Oscar viewerships to put the lie to that. Hollywood makes three kinds of movies these days, for the most part: sequels, remakes, and arthouse flicks with MESSAGES  that slap you in the face so much harder than Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.

 There are original flicks getting made. By all accounts, CODA is a masterpiece that fully deserved its Best Picture nod. Both Encanto and Turning Red are excellent entries (and both of them have messages, too.) Still, it's hard to dismiss the thought that the Academy, recently so blind to any social justice cause, is now wallowing in ALL of them. Not to promote visibility, which would be a laudable goal, but to be smugly self-satisfied with itself. That's Hollywood's default attitude and it rankles. 

But what Will Smith did last night to Chris Rock is important. It's important regardless of any other crises now or to come, because in the face of whatever comes, we need to stand up for each other/be civil and not resort to violence. It's important because it touches so many hot-button issues: ableism, women's autonomy, toxic masculinity, the nature and purpose of jokes, and that's just off the top of my head.

Let me tell you two things this isn't about (no matter how many people try to drag them in). 

One is racism. A ridiculous number of people decry this as "Black on Black violence". Which, technically, it is: both men are Black, after all. But Chris Rock's Blackness has nothing to do with why he was struck, and Will Smith's Blackness has nothing to do with why he struck Rock. 

Please get this through your heads, people: there is a lot more to people than race. A LOT more. And viewing people entirely through a racial prism is -- I'm sorry to say -- the literal definition of racism.

The second thing this isn't about, and I'm going to try to keep this short, is polyamory.

Yeah, you heard me. Will and Jada have an open relationship. They've been quite candid about it. So of course some people are saying Will Smith is a simp, a cuck, pussywhipped. The argument they give for the last epithet: Will laughed at Rock's joke, then looked at his wife, who was not laughing, and then he strode across the stage and roundhouse slapped Rock.  If he was a real man, the argument goes, he wouldn't have to check in with his wife to see if she was insulted before he responded to an obvious insult. But then, a real man wouldn't "let his wife sleep around" and "humiliate" him. 

Let's dismiss the polyamory quickly before we dismiss the rest of this. It's not cheating, it's not sleeping around, and if you want to speculate about their unconventional marriage, I do suggest you ask them about it. Will is clearly not humiliated by his wife's extramarital escapades, so maybe it's not a good idea to project how you think you'd feel in a situation none of us outside that relationship fully understands. 

Now, as to the more important "real man" argument.

A real man does check with his wife to see how she took that joke. Maybe she laughs: he'd look pretty stupid (or even stupider, depending on your allegiances here) if he slapped Rock for something his wife found hilarious, now, wouldn't he? 

A real man doesn't resort to violence. 

Or does he? This is absurd, but hear me out. What if Chris Rock had tried to physically attack Jada Pinkett-Smith? Would you be more likely to excuse her husband slapping the man? 

You're probably thinking yeah, of course, but that'd never happen.

It nearly did in 1973. Ever heard of a guy named John Wayne?

But that's different. 

Is it. Is it really. 

Jada's sensitive about her condition, and Rock knew this and still made the "joke". I put joke in quotes because, look, I'm sorry, but there's a whole genre of so-called "comedy" that's all about hurting people. Chris Rock is the exemplar of that kind of comedy: he's built an entire career on it, and he's gleefully unrepentant about his bullying. Thinks he provides a needed service, "toughening people up". 

I was bullied from grades four to eight. I didn't need to be "toughened up", thank you. I needed the support of my peers. 

Now let me flip the script yet again and remind you that "joke" about Jada's alopecia (a) wasn't Chris Rock's joke and (b) was almost certainly not intended to elicit the reaction it got out of her.

It wasn't Chris Rock's joke! It was written by some nameless Academy hack. And...have you SEEN G.I. Jane? I actually have: Eva's a sucker for cheesy movies and that one vies with Tank Girl among her favourites. Demi Moore's character in that was badass. Like seriously badass. You could easily argue Rock was paying Pinkett-Smith a compliment. And she took it wrong, and Will, who, remember, laughed at the joke, suddenly realized he was in the doghouse with his partner for laughing. Well do I know that fabled doghouse. It has a big sign on it that says "Hell", and the good intention paving stones are everywhere, and so he compounded his fuckup by overcompensating. Knee jerk reaction. I get it. Maybe because I have made that fuckup myself many times, and knee-jerked in a different way, I can't help feeling some sympathy for the guy. Like my friend Remi says, you see pain in a loved one's eyes, the next thing you see is red. 

And he slapped him. He didn't pull out a knife or a gun. Rock has declined to get the police involved, let alone press charges. None of this excuses assault, of course. But it does, perhaps, mitigate it just a tad. If the victim isn't feeling particularly victimized, who are we to say otherwise? 

I do wish Smith had taken a higher road. The best thing to do would have been to assume best intent and actually acknowledge Jada is a G.I. Jane level badass. That would have saved him grief with Rock and Jada both. But he didn't, and now he's going to face consequences from the Academy, including the possible stripping of the Oscar he won ten minutes after slapping Rock. And I will not complain about those consequences, because violence should never be the answer. But I will also suggest that mean, hurtful "roasting" is not comedy; that at least some of the meanness is heartfelt; that making fun of a woman's medical condition in front of the entire world is not kosher.

Both men need to do better. Smith closed his apology with that. I'd like to see Rock make one. Whether you feel he needs to or not, it would be the classy thing to do. 




Saturday, March 26, 2022

ART YOU SHOULD EXPERIENCE: The Callahan's Stories, Spider Robinson

 I have struggled with this long-promised blog because Spider Robinson is a man I must do justice to -- and when I describe him and his work, you're likely to ask why that is. 

He's not a literary giant, although I feel he should be. His stories are beloved amongst the small circle who have read them; they would be just as beloved by the much wider circle who should. And I can write dozens of sentences of hype like this, which does you, my reader and hopefully his, no good. You want to know what's so special. You want to know why I feel these stories ought to be read by human beings everywhere. 

Let me cop out and use Spider's own words to give you an answer. This is from the Foreword to "Off The Wall at Callahan's", a collection of aphorisms, puns, and songs shared in the Place over the years. 

Callahan's Plaxce, the now-vanished tavern in Suffolk County, New York, owned and operated by Michael Callahan (a.k.a. Justin of Harmony) was an unusual establishment in many respects. (Understatement of the millennium!)

Among the many peculiarities of that merriest of oases:

Aliens, cyborgs, transvestites, talking dogs, telekinetics, telepaths, clairvoyants, immortals, Intergalactic Travelling Salesmen, time travellers, vampires, victims of severe Tourette's Syndrome, and even editors, were all made welcome there from time to time.

Patrons were encouraged to smash their glass in the big fireplace after drinking -- as long as they were willing to propose a toast first, naming the reason they felt like smashing a glass. Exercising this prerogative doubled the price of your drink...to a dollar. (Mike got a bulk rate on glasses.) [Ken intrudes: also, Callahan's was open from the mid 1940s until sometime in the 1970s.]

Punning, and competition therein, was encouraged -- nay, actively abetted -- by Callahan, himself a hopeless and utterly shameless paronomasiac. 

Privacy was defended by force: any patron heard to ask snoopy questions of another patron was customarily blackjacked by Fast Eddie the piano player and dumped in the alley.

But perhaps the most remarkable and most important thing about Callahan's Place was the converse of the last paragraph: any customer who displayed any desire to discuss his or her troubles received the instant and undivided attention of everyone in the room. 

That right there is the core of Callahan's and what makes it special. The puns and assorted antics make me giggle: the empathy shown towards a range of difficult issues, and the healing wisdom imparted, give these lightweight short stories heft and substance. 

This is a bar you can spend the night in and forget to get drunk. (Mike Callahan's wife, Lady Sally, runs a brothel you might spend the night in and forget to get laid, too: the principles there are the same, it's just that the merry therapy in Lady Sally's Place tends to happen in the nude.) Even better: this is a bar where they'll cure your alcoholism. Best of all: this is a bar you might walk in to rob and find yourself a welcome patron in a few short hours. It's happened more than once. 

You can perhaps see how this set of stories lands right in my sweet spot: a surfeit of empathy liberally mixed with terrible puns basically describes the contents of my own personal meat sack. To add enticement: Jake Stonebender, the author's stand-in, is a folk singer who sweats melodies. 

These people (Ralph von Wau Wau, the talking German Shepherd and a genuine son of a bitch -- says 'please' and 'thank you', and Lady Sally insists that where she comes from, anyone who does that is human) -- are called on in successive stories to save the world, the universe, and the macroverse, and like Frank Sinatra, they do it their way. A great deal of fun is had by all as they seek to get telepathic with each other, in the meantime leaving everyone who enters the Place better for having done so. 

He doesn't shy away from some challenging material, either. The most divisive entry I ever wrote in this blog concerned a story from THE CALLAHAN TOUCH, a story I am quite sure is real, with only some names changed. Here's a link. The Eddie in the story is the same Fast Eddie I referenced above, but the events actually happened to Spider or a close friend of his, I'm entirely convinced.

However you come away from reading that, you can't deny it was handled with caring and compassion. That, more than the puns and wordplay, keeps me reading and rereading CALLAHAN'S novels. 

The full series consists of:

CALLAHAN'S LADY

LADY SLINGS THE BOOZE

CALLAHAN'S CROSSTIME SALOON

TIME TRAVELLERS STRICTLY CASH

CALLAHAN'S SECRET*

*(this and the previous two entries together make up THE CALLAHAN CHRONICALS)

THE CALLAHAN TOUCH

CALLAHAN'S LEGACY

CALLAHAN'S KEY

CALLAHAN'S CON~

~Eva's gift for me for my 50th birthday was a signed, limited edition of this last instalment, which instantly became among my most treasured possessions

The guy who introduced me to CALLAHAN'S was named Kevin Cogliano and he was an abrasive and annoying colleague.I have forgiven his abrasion and annoyance. When I met Eva, she lent me a bunch of books from a pulpy post apocalyptic series called DEATHLANDS, and soon after that a book by Gary Jennings called AZTEC (both book and author are among my favourites). I in turn introduced Eva to Spider and CALLAHAN'S, and through Spider, his idol, Robert Heinlein. 

Final note: Spider lives alone on Bowen Island, off Canada's west coast. He lives alone because his wife Jeanne and daughter Terri died of cancer within eight months of each other in 2009-2010. With them died Spider's muse. He still has a small web presence (ha) here, where he occasionally spits out a little bloglet. But there will be no more CALLAHAN'S PLACE tales. 

Pity, that. But it's okay, because what he has written has deeply impacted my existence. Look no further than Callahan's Law:

SHARED PAIN IS LESSENED, SHARED JOY INCREASED; THUS DO WE REFUTE ENTROPY. 







Sunday, February 20, 2022

Truck Around And Find Out

 First they compared their "suffering and segregation" with the Holocaust...while standing next to actual neo-Nazis. 

They demanded to meet with the Prime Minister, and jeered him when he didn't follow their orders...all while wearing "FUCK TRUDEAU" hats and shirts. 

Then they called the police action against them "Tiananmen Square"...while sneering about the "Chinese flu". 

Then they placed their children between themselves and the cops, which only makes sense when you remember the whole ostensible reason for their protest is that society should stop protecting children along with everyone else. 

Given the level of antipathy I feel about the forces that have invaded my country and especially its capital, this is going to be a very difficult blog to write. Given my throughly mixmastered feelings about the police (mixed, not mastered as yet)...the degree of difficulty means I might splat on my face. 

========

Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, divides society into "the Virtuals" and "the Practicals". The Virtuals are people who have spent the majority of the pandemic safe in a home office;  the Practicals are people in the trades, people in blue and pink collar jobs, those with a "strong connection to the physical portion of the economy, the part that relies on brawn and savvy, not just the manipulation of words and symbols on a screen."

There is class resentment both ways here. The Virtuals, who tend to be liberal on account of their academic backgrounds, look down their noses with snooty arrogance at the Practicals; the Practicals accuse the Virtuals of being abstract fools far out of touch with reality. This division in society has provoked strife as long as it has existed (we've looked down on labourers forever; all they do is hold our society together)...but covid put it on steroids.

Justin Trudeau is the embodiment of the Virtual elite, and Practicals throughout the country despise him. I don't think people insulated in their Toronto and Montréal bubbles can truly grasp the depth of the hatred. Conservatives even managed to "defeat" him in the last election and yet he's still PM.  (The Conservative Party of Canada got more of the popular vote than Justin's Liberals). The fact Stephen Harper, the last PM and a Conservative, also  won elections with far less than a majority of votes cast is, of course, irrelevant). Our first-past-the-post system (which Trudeau promised to abolish and then immediately reneged) makes it very difficult for any one party to capture more than fifty percent of the electorate. It's only happened once, federally, in my lifetime. 

So you try to look at this from the Practicals' point of view. They have their own media, which "trump"ets their values and their visions of a world in which arrogant Liberals are taken down a bunch of pegs. They come, largely, from small town and rural Western Canada, and friends and neighbours, their world is different from ours.

Take covid. We all started this from the same place, but very quickly our perceptions diverged. Living in a small town, or out in the country, your guidance comes from your self and your friendly neighbours, and you're resistant to outside forces -- especially those elitist assholes out East headed by Turdeau, that Liberal literal  son of a bastard who embodies everything you distrust. You see that smarmy twat on television every day, telling you to wear a mask and get your shots. You hang back because it's your body, goddamnit, and sure enough you were right: the vaccines are a total scam. You can still catch and spread covid even with the fuckin' shots! So then they move the goalposts and say the vaccines keep you from getting really sick and dying and what total BULLSHIT. 

It's been two years and like ten people from your town have died. You don't know their vaccination statuses and you don't give a  shit. You tell yourself most of them would have died anyway so why the fuck are you being restricted from living a normal life? 

You don't have to go out west to see the difference in attitude. Small town and rural Ontario never took the pandemic as seriously. Masks, ubiquitous in urban centres, are a sometimes to maybe thing in many places where cityfolk wouldn't last a month. While most of Canada is vaxed and boosted, there are pockets where less than half the population got any kind of jab at all. They're the people who trust themselves, who trust the neighbours they see every day, over some useless academic who would shrivel up if he got his hands dirty. Fuck Trudeau.

As the scamdemic enters its THIRD YEAR (!!!) you've had enough and so have many of your friends. Trudope is too chickenshit to ever come where you are (besides, he hates everything west of Ontario), so you've got to go to him. And you do. You set out for Ottawa. Maybe you even know this is a Canadian tradition. You're not going to overthrow the shithead, though you wouldn't mind one bit if somebody did: you just want to make him see sense. You've got allies in the cities, fellow Practicals who have also had enough. You've even got some cops on your side, but then, of course they would be. Every interaction you've ever had with a police officer went swimmingly. That time you got pulled over for speeding, you exchanged pleasantries and the cop let you go with barely a warning. Cops are fellow Practicals -- how many of them fellas ever went to fuckin' university? -- and  your friends. Your cause is that much more righteous and you know it. 

Your numbers swell as you move eastward. You're joined by fellow travellers who hate Justine even more than you do. They tell you they've got big plans. And that you're part of them. 

You've never had so many friends in your life. You're sharing food, fuel is getting donated to keep you going, you've got somewhere to sleep besides your car, you have a COMMUNITY. They love you, they laugh with you, they're your kinda people. After two years of pandemic, this is a hurricane of fresh air.

In Ontario, fellow protestors have blockaded the border in Windsor, protesting the rules about vaccination governing cross-border travel for truckers. The police just let them be for the longest time, lending them (and you!) even more legitimacy.  You begin to sense a larger purpose here. Organizers are openly calling for the ouster of the elected Trudeau government and its replacement by a coalition of the opposition and...themselves, of course. The backlash to this is predictable, and your new friends decide they should maybe stop saying the quiet part out loud, and retract the document. Yours is a peaceful protest. 

+++++++++++++++++++++

The Ottawa cops knew what was coming. How could they not?  The media'd been yammering non-stop 24/7 about it. But really, would it even get to Ottawa? Kinda doubtful. Canada Is Really Big, and it costs a lot of money to traverse even half of it. Nobody tells you that donations are pouring in by the millions, more than half of them from outside the country. So you get ready for a run-of-the-mill protest. You've seen lots of them before. 

++++++++++++++++++++++

418 trucks, with or without trailers. Somewhere just south of 1,000 passenger vehicles. Most of them blaring on their horns nonstop, making sleep impossible. Diesel fumes choke the air. The crowd is "peaceful" in the sense that they're not rioting, but you in Ottawa haven't had any peace for three weeks. This is not a protest. This is an occupation, a city under siege.

As can be expected with ANY event nowadays, there are competing narratives spreading worldwide on social media. The media has an annoying tendency of focussing on "a few bad apples".  (That link is...quite the read). Attempted arson, theft, widespread vandalism, assault...a few bad apples.  That saying, as you might know, is incomplete, although you never seem to hear the full proverb anymore. It dates to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales -- specifically, The Cook's Tale, written in the year 1387.

Wel bet is roten appul out of hoord

Than that it rotie al the remenaunt.

 … It is ful lasse harm to lete hym pace,

Than he shende alle the servantz in the place.

“Well better is a rotten apple out of the store

Than that it rot all the remnant."

It is much less harm to let him go away,

Than that he should ruin all the servants in the place.”

In Modern Twitterspeak: a few bad apples SPOIL THE BUNCH. 

The convoy, of course, has a different story, heavy on the bouncy castles, the sauna, the live entertainment, the free food for anyone who wanted it. Hell, they even collected garbage like good citizens. It was a city within a city. The convoy even "swore in" its own "peace officers" (which is, of course, illegal). It's that story that circulated on friendly social media sites, and it accounts for a lot of what seems utterly nonsensical and alarming to people outside. (If you are reading this and you still think the convoy is peaceful, I IMPLORE you to go read the link accessed by clicking "a few bad apples" above. 

The cops, for instance. For all the world saw, the police were complicit as fuck. Frontline officers were videoed carrying fuel to convoy members; posing for selfies; standing idly by while laws were broken in plain sight; one of them even allowed his cruiser to be used as a convoy photo op. "Don't let them think I'm arresting you", he said. 

What the world didn't see was the reaction of the "protestors" if a police officer made even a token effort to do her job. That officer would be quickly mobbed by dozens of people. Orders had come down from on high not to use force unless you had absolutely no other recourse, including simply walking away. Why were those orders given? Think about it. Imagine the havoc eight thousand people -- and their vehicles --  could wreak against a vastly outmanned group of law enforcement officers. Think of the political blowback. Think of your future career: the odds of you running into an ally of the person you just tasered or god forbid shot are roughly one hundred percent. Is it worth it? Is it really?

My readers are doubtless thinking of the G20 protests in Toronto, and how that city's police force kettled people and didn't even pretend to hesitate to use violence. Or, of course, the long history of police-Indigenous protests where police acted despicably. 

I'm not excusing any of that. I know full well the American police forces were originally formed to hunt escaped slaves and the RCMP was formed to pacify 'the savage Indian'; I also know that for the most part police officers don't even prevent crime, and if you're poor they tend not to follow up afterwards, either. We can go back and forth all day on this and there is a real and serious discussion to be had about police reform -- just don't call it 'defunding'. But that's for the future and we're in the present. Let's please deal with the reality we have.

You can't use force, not because these are white men, but because these white men are backed by shadowy organizations that seem to have political clout. There's also the bloodbath that would very likely ensue: that'll be called your fault. You'll likely have a target on your back for the rest of your career and beyond. In other words, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. As a cop, that's your every day, but this is a bit much. 

Still think the police had a chance? What if I told you their every move may have been leaked to the occupiers?

"A few bad apples..." doesn't apply only to the protestors, it seems. 

Adding to the confusion, there is a lot of internal dissent within OPS on how to handle this. Your chief, Peter Sloly (the media felt the surname couldn't be more apt) calls for help, requesting 1800 additional officers, and muses that might not even be enough: the military might have to get involved. He's jeered and mocked because "I've tried nothing and I'm out of ideas". 

He was also...right. He resigned in disgrace, but that didn't make him any less right. 

The Ottawa police service, on its own, 1480 officers. They can be augmented by limited RCMP units. By contrast, the Toronto Police Service has 5500 officers. You have to remember in addition to 8000 people, the convoy had its own retired or former cops, along with (and this is truly frightening) a couple of Joint Task Force 2 counterterrorism experts. Just try setting up nearly 100 checkpoints with that level of staffing. You can scoff all you want: I've talked to police officers who do NOT side with the convoy and all three of them have told me the situation was hopeless if the police were not able to use force. Especially when, as has happened twice now, hundreds of people swamped 911 in an attempt to scatter the police throughout the city. Readers of the ACAB persuasion would do well to put themselves in a police officer's shoes, if they can. 

The perception, inside and outside Ottawa, was that the police had gone rogue. And so Doug Ford, the Premier of our province and a man I deeply dislike, called a state of emergency. He called a state of emergency and then did...nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. He even refused FOUR separate attempts to join the Feds once Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time ever. (His father famously invoked its antecedent, the War Measures Act, during the FLQ crisis in 1970 when a minister and a British diplomat were kidnapped; the minister was murdered). It's very clear to me that the only reason Ford even declared a state of emergency at all was to play hot potato with Trudeau, who is from an opposing political party. Remember when politicians of all stripes stood for the good of the country? Pepperidge Farms remembers. 

Trudeau's invocation of the Emergencies Act gives the government virtually unlimited power for a limited, strictly defined  period of time. Once a national emergency is declared, a motion for confirmation of a declaration of emergency must be tabled in the Senate and House of Commons within seven days after a declaration of emergency is made. That motion was tabled on Thursday with the intent to debate through the weekend; Friday's debate was cancelled because of the long-awaited clampdown on the 'protestors' adjacent to Parliament. Votes will be held on Monday at 8:00 PM  If both chambers adopt the motion, the declared emergency remains in place for its original duration, subject to renewal (also subject to parliamentary scrutiny). Either chamber may end the emergency declaration by voting against it.

In other words, Fox News and its ilk screaming about dictatorships can kiss my left butt cheek. This is a reasoned and reasonable response to the situation, and two thirds of the country agrees with me. 

 Nobody will confirm or deny that the hours-long outage affecting mobile banking for all of Canada's Big Five banks was connected to the Emergencies Act which took effect the day before, but it's a pretty solid theory. We do know that protestors' personal and business bank accounts have been frozen. Crowdfunding platforms were required to register with the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and to report any large or suspicious transactions, including in cryptocurrency. 

This is an elegant virtual solution to a practical predicament....but it isn't seen that way to the convoy and its allies, of course. If you donated to the convoy, you may be sued in court: there is a class action lawsuit against the convoy's organizers and participants--currently for $306 million in damages -- adding defendants at a hell of a clip. 

Once the convoy's deep, deep pockets -- again, more than half the funding came from out of country, which I'm sure will be investigated thoroughly -- acquired holes, and once the Emergencies Act permitted the police force around Ottawa to be vastly augmented, the resources were finally in place to evict the squatters and their trucks. 

Under the Emergencies Act, the government can compel tow truck companies to act on its behalf. The resistance to that has been fierce, and if you read that article and put yourself in a tower's mind, you can perhaps understand why. "Career suicide" is the LEAST of your concerns. 

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I fully expected someone or someones to be killed. 

That only one person, as of this writing, has been seriously injured (contrary to the admitted fake news tweet of a Fox"News" contributor) is a remarkable testament to the professionalism of police at their best. Seriously, this needs to be pointed out. Regrettably, anti-police elements will only view it as more white privilege -- damned if you do, damned if you don't -- but consider: the goal isn't for police to use disproportionate force against everyone, it's for police not to use disproportionate force at all. 

I would have excused a tad more rough stuff, myself. But the police used nothing more lethal than pepper spray, and that only when protestors attempted to disarm them. 

Let's hold them to that standard in future. 

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The immediate emergency seems to be over. With apologies to James Howard Kunstler, the "Long Emergency" has just begun. We have a lot to grapple with in this country.

1) Per Angus Reid, 57% of Conservative voters in Canada support the convoy's demands and 47% support their actions. Big, BIG caveat I only spotted because Eva used to be director of West Coast operations for a market research firm: the questions in this poll begin with "Given what you know about the protestors..." This is problematic because in this fractured reality we no longer seem to share, "what you know" can be very different from "what is true". Angus Reid is a respected polling agency: they fucked up here. 

Regardless, the level of support among Conservatives can be EASILY exploited when that party regains power. 

2) Related: The people in the background of this this movement are a toxic mix of accelerationistswhite supremacists and others dedicated to the destabilization of Western democracy. We must be concerned with them as well as with the thousands of people they duped.

Perrin Beaty, who drafted the Emergencies Act 34 years ago, says: "The issues facing Canadian politics are not simply going to vanish when the trucks leave Ottawa. How do we ensure this never happens again?"

How, indeed?

Do we have any credible alternative to invoking the Emergencies Act every other month -- or every other weekend?  I have some thoughts. 

The first thing I would do is pass a law--details to be decided--making it a serious offence to bring a vehicle to a protest. I don't think this would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: people have the right to freedom of assembly, not vehicles; people have the right to freedom of movement, but walking is movement. 

Protests require permits -- the most trivial of the laws the convoy broke -- and I would slap a curfew condition on those permits. Or, if that seems like too much overreach, enforce existing noise bylaws to the letter of the law. 

3) Foreign funding. This is a thorny, thorny issue I have no easy answer to. But something has to be done to curtail the effects of millions of dollars in dark money flooding into the country. 

4) Everyone and his horse will be crying out for police reform. We will need to have a long and substantive, REASONABLE discussion here about what went wrong. We also need to screen police officers just a wee bit better, in my opinion. I've explained above why I largely forgive police inaction in Ottawa. I do not and can not forgive complicity. 

There are other issues, some of which have yet to reveal themselves. One thing you'll notice is that I have NOT listed anything to do with covid-19 as an issue. That's because our actions with regard to the pandemic should be decided by those most affected by it: health care workers. Most of our restrictions are going away very shortly. Time will tell if that was a catastrophic error or not. But we must not allow the convoy to think it won.

I hope I have given you a perspective you haven't considered. Fellow Canadians, I will again repeat what is becoming a kind of mantra for me in the year 2022. We must stand together or we will fall apart. 




Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Some reflections on the 'Freedom Convoy'

I have tried three times to write this blog. One of the efforts ran to seventeen paragraphs before I killed it. 

I am angry. I am, in fact, righteously PISSED. 

Not near as angry as the people in this convoy are, however. And that, too, pisses me off. Because THEIR anger is so pointless, and the way they are choosing to express it is so infantile, and all of a sudden there is a huge wave of misinformation. It all feels so very....American

That's because a lot of it is.

I thought we had four or maybe eight years before the rot to our south migrated up here. I thought wrong. It's here now and growing.

We were originally told the reason behind the convoy was the U.S.'s insistence that truckers crossing the border into their country be vaccinated. I guess they went to Ottawa because they wouldn't be allowed to go to Washington, D.C.? But then we were told the real issue was broader: they demanded that all covid restrictions be lifted immediately. Not sure why they didn't go to Toronto (initially) as health care is a PROVINCIAL responsibility in this country. 

Then we were told why they went to Ottawa: to overthrow the government. 

As I have said many times, I don't like Justin Trudeau or his Liberals, and I wish he wasn't still PM. That does not mean I support anyone who wants a kudetah. That's not how democracy works. 

Ottawa has endured twelve days and counting of utter hell. I was initially quite sympathetic to the Ottawa Police Service, because they were faced with an enormous task: convince 8,000 people to get the hell out of your city, but don't be heavyhanded about it. When the chief threw up his hands after trying....nothing, though...you get to wondering. As this gentleman notes, he observed no arrests where there certainly should have been. As of February 7, the crowd was largely friendly, but with a distinct hard edge to it. If he had shown himself in any way not to support the convoy, I have no doubt he would have been eaten alive, and to his credit, he makes that point himself. 

The police are finally starting to do something. They have announced they will arrest people and seize property. I hope they follow throw on this. There is also a class action lawsuit against the convoy, and I'll be cheering THAT on with everything I've got. 

One of the organizers is suggesting that the 'next step' will involve a lot of guns. That's almost certainly nothing but fearmongering...but the intent is there. 

Almost ninety percent of truckers are fully vaccinated.  Better than two thirds of Canadians do not support the convoy's aims (not known if those aims were accurately presented in the poll). Are these protestors aware that Facebook and TikTok are not Canada?

I got into it on Reddit with somebody that was just full of idiocy. He accused me of being brainwashed by CBC and CTV, and when I asked him where he got HIS news, he said "live YouTube feeds. Pretty hard to fake live video."  That level of stupidity is really kind of hard to credit. Pretty hard to fake live video, and yet in the previous breath you accused CBC and CTV of doing just that. 

He also told me to "wake up" because the vaccine is an "obvious scam".  YOU CAN STILL CATCH IT, he said. 

Did NOBODY take science in frigging PUBLIC SCHOOL? I have heard this silly statement more than  a hundred times in the past eighteen months. What the hell do people think a vaccine IS? Of course you can still catch covid if you're vaccinated...THAT'S THE POINT. A vaccine doesn't give you magic disease repellant properties. It teaches your body what the virus looks like so that WHEN YOU ARE INFECTED, your body knows how to fight back. And the vaccines dramatically reduce severe outcomes: you're between 16 and 60 times more likely to end up in ICU if you are unvaxed. (Please Google this if you don't believe me...there are a wide variety of sources, all saying the same thing to different degrees.) 

We can certainly have a talk about restrictions. We are ALL tired of them, and many of us are questioning how it is almost every other country in the world is much further ahead in reopening than we are. (Answer: our health care system has been starved of funds for decades, and we have fewer ICU beds per capita than many Third World countries. It is therefore much easier than it should be to overwhelm the system). 

The Omicron wave is receding. The positive test rate is down to 11-14% (it peaked at well over 30%). There are still an alarming number of deaths--66 yesterday alone--but the ICU numbers are down 125 since last week. This is good news. It suggests we are close to relaxing. But we can not, MUST not, bow to domestic terrorism. 

And that is what this protest is, party vibes or not. I have little doubt that from certain angles, the January 6th insurrection attempt in Washington looked like a giant party too. Except most parties don't involve attempted arson. (Taping the doors shut is a nice murderous touch.) Nor do they typically involve harassmentassaulting homeless people, flying Nazi paraphernalia, and the like. And while parties are loud, they don't go on for twelve days and counting. 

The saving grace we have with these people is that they genuinely believe they are in the right. As such, they are documenting everything. It will all look so good in court later. I saw one YouTube video where the police were arresting an elderly gentleman who had laid on his truck horn for something like three hours straight. The cops were professional, non-confrontational, and very restrained given the provocation. The man recording all this for posterity kept screaming for the officer's name and badge number and shouting COMMUNISM...THIS IS COMMUNIST BULLSHIT...HE'S ARRESTING A CITIZEN! A CITIZEN OF CANADA! AN OLD MAN!"

When were old men deemed exempt from the law? For that matter, don't police arrest "citizens" every day? No, actually they don't, not if you see through the word "citizens". It's code for "white man". For most of this convoy, this will be the first time they get held legally accountable for their behaviour in their lives, and they're not taking it well. They support police eagerly so long as they're arresting indigenous people. (Ken: stop writing this paragraph soon. Do NOT go into an exhaustive compendium of police abuse of indigenous people to make your point.) I'm convinced the convoy doesn't feel like it's above the law but outside it. And I have nothing but contempt for outlaws. 

I'm not sure how this ends. It's already cost Erin O'Toole his job (and of course he was replaced by a card-carrying MAGAt). The fact we now have a major political party headed by someone inimical to Western ideals of democracy and inclusivity is what has me shaking in my boots.

The Freedom Convoy does not speak for me. And I hope they all get a chance to experience unfreedom. They deserve to.