Monday, October 24, 2011

#skvotes and #OccupySaskatoon

I appreciate democracy.  But, I despise elections.  Why?  Well, for example, on Twitter recently I was following a discussion about the NDP promise to raise the minimum wage by $1 to $10.50 and then index it to CPI.  Someone actually commented that it was a crazy idea to give high wages for non-skilled jobs.  $10.50 qualifies as high wages?

I'm as right-wing a Canadian as you'll find (well, maybe not crazy right like Kevin O'Leary), but this doesn't mean I hate left-wing goals.  Now, listen can be right-wing and have the same goals as left-wing people.  I despise poverty.  I despise racism.  I think everyone should have the opportunity to get an education.  These are all supposedly "left-wing" goals.  They are good goals.  But, the way in which we achieve these goals differs from right to left.  I don't think it is our governments responsibility to tackle all of the social issues.  Being conservative means believing that governments role should be limited and non-intrusive.

And this is why I'm against #OccupySaskatoon #OccupyEverywhereElse.  As far as I can make out, #OccupyEverywhereElse is protesting the governments lack of involvement in ensuring the well-being of all.  But, our situation is entirely different from #OccupyWallStreet.

See, in the US, financial institutions took advantage of deregulation and loaned out money to folks that never should have qualified for loans.  The government, instead of backing the individuals who'd essentially been swindled, then bailed out the criminals corporations in hopes that jobs would be created thus allowing the victims public to be able to meet their financial obligations and not lose their homes, cars etc. etc. etc.  This NEVER happened in Canada. Yes, people lost their jobs.  Yes, there are people that make tons more money than other people.  But, no laws were broken.  No Canadian financial institution knowingly abused its power and put a Canadian homeowner in jeopardy of losing their home.

And this is where Canada is completely different than the US.  Not only were our financial institutions not complicit in the market crash, but our government's approach to guiding us out of the recession has been completely different.  In the US the #OccupyWallStreet folks are equally upset at corporations as they are with Washington; in fact, they have a lot in common with the TeaParty folks.  No one is happy with the economic situation.  It's not about changing governments there--the Republicans and Democrats are both equally owned by Wall Street. 

But in Canada it is a different matter entirely.  You may disagree with the current government, but they are not owned by our corporations.  Or maybe you think they which case you work to get another party elected.  Unless you think that the NDP, Greens, Liberals and Bloq are also Bay Street puppets.  If you believe that--then protest away; I think you're completely wrong--and would be interested to see where you think the NDP et al are controlled by corporations...but, protest away.

#OccupySaskatoon is just lazy thinking.  As Canadians, we typically pride ourselves on "not being American."  We're kinder, gentler, more socially conscious...and yet, here is a movement that is basically saying we are the same as the US.  What?

Oh, that's right.  We elected a Conservative government and now they're destroying Canada.  And of course, we can't vote them out because now we're a dictatorship so we must join with the legitimate beef of #OccupyWallStreet because we are now the same as the US.

#OccupyWallStreet is about justice and that's neither a left-wing or right-wing issue it's a human issue.  #OccupyEverywhereElse is about forced redistribution of wealth (higher taxation) and that's a left-wing issue and I am against it. I am not against it because it is a left-wing issue. I am against it because I don't believe the government is the best institution to deal with complex social issues

I am in favour of smaller government (government should enact laws, maintain infrastructure, defense and's a small list in my books) and incentives that encourage people (whether corporations or public individuals) to apply the Golden Rule in their daily lives thus working towards the jointly shared goal of justice (human value).  And, I guess, this is why I hate elections.  We tend to focus on the "what"--$10.50 minimum wage--and if you're against it you end up sounding like a heartless slumlord.  $10.50/hr is a pittance.

The larger question isn't what should the minimum wage be, the larger question is what's the best way to ensure people aren't living in poverty?  More government means more taxes.  Is that the best bang for our buck?  Maybe lower our taxes and incentivize us to give to non-profits who would get more mileage from our donations and then the government could match those dollars.

There's positive change that could happen in Saskatoon.  I don't see any of it coming from #OccupySaskatoon.  I do hope that this larger discussion gets some traction in this coming election...but, if history is any guide, all we'll see is bashing of platforms where real ideas get denigrated to the best sounding soundbite.  And that's really too bad, because the issues that really matter--in this case justice--aren't right or left and their solutions will require the best minds from both sides of the spectrum.

This post is now up for discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Much Is a Life Worth?

How much do we value human life?  I guess that depends where you live.  Today, if you are a soldier in Israel your life is worth exchanges 1000 other lives of your enemy.  If you are a 2-year old living in China, your life isn't worth very much.  You can get literally run over by a truck, be writhing in pain on the street and yet 18 passers by won't stop.

And, seeing the video this morning made me seethe with anger.  I have a 4 year old and a 15 month old; to think that anyone could pass one of them by if something like this were to happen.  It makes me almost hate humanity. People, WAKE UP! We are all in this together.

We all do this though, from time to time, in one way or another--maybe not so obviously, but we do it.  It's not limited to investment bankers profiting from the misery of the working class father of 4 who can no longer afford the mortgage he was convinced to take out.  When we turn a blind eye in our own communities to the racism, poverty...when we decide that "it's none of our business" that there is an 8-year old wandering the streets at 11PM.  When there is a severe shortage of foster parents and children are shuffled from abusive home to abusive home and we do nothing--are we better than the 18 people who passed by the toddler dying on the street?

Getting hit by a truck is sudden and shocking.  Being born into poverty, abuse and racism is a creeping death--sapping the good-will breath by breath.  If we sit by and do nothing, we are as complacent as if we see the toddler lying on the street.  We all see the truck, we all see the toddler lying on the street we've just convinced ourselves that if they really want to they could get out of the way or get up and get help because, really it is THEIR choice.  Is it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#BAD11 A Retrospective

The very first post in this blog was a post I wrote when I heard there was a famine in Somalia.  Today is Blog Action Day and I decided to participate as the topic is "food" because today is World Food Day.  There is still a famine in Somalia.  The post I wrote then, is still relevant today:

I woke up at 5AM on Wednesday, July 20th and read the news that famine had been declared in Somalia. The reasons for the famine are being debated and discussed. But, because this is a tragedy of, largely, human making, does that mean we are absolved of the responsibility for caring for those affected?
Can we simply chalk this famine up to the policies of a failed state, wash our hands and walk away? What, realistically can they expect? Our own governments are struggling with debt; we have less disposable income than we did ten years ago. We have our own natural disasters to contend with, we can't help everyone, all the time.
That may be true. But, if you have $20 that you can spend on leisure activities then you really can make a difference and you can save a life. We hear much about how we are living in a "global community," with a global economy. I guess it's great to say you're part of a community and it makes us feel better to be connected with our "brothers" and "sisters" around the world but if we turn a blind eye to them when they're dying what kind of a community are we creating?
Yes, Somalia is complicated. No, there are no easy solutions. But, this is not the time for debate about "why" this famine has occurred. This is not the time to find blame. This is the time to "do to others what you would have them do to you." So, the question you have to ask is: if you were starving, what would you want someone having bbq steak do for you?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breaking Down #OccupyWallstreet

I'm not entirely certain when I first heard about Occupy Wall Street.  But, as I've done some research on the movement, I've come to some preliminary conclusions.

Fundamentally, I think I understand why folks are occupying Wall Street (why they are occupying Saskatoon--my city--is another entirely different subject).  Let me rephrase that. I think there are two competing ideas at play; one of those ideas I agree with and the other I don't.

At the root of the movement, I believe, is a deep-felt, guttural yearning for justice.  Banks that got trillions in bail-out dollars from the US government have literally done nothing.  Yes, banks were in trouble.  But what of the home-owner who owed the bank not trillions of dollars but thousands of dollars, what for them? Nothing.  And, did the banks--the same banks that had just been bailed out--show any leniency?  Any mercy?  Did they reciprocate and extend credit to the homeowner who suddenly found him/herself unable to pay their mortgage? No, they didn't.

This all happened three years ago.  I questioned the wisdom of the US government giving the banks trillions of dollars.  And, when very shortly after those same banks gave their executives bonuses in the millions while not extending credit to anyone, I too thought not only is that not fair, it isn't right.  There was outrage everywhere.  Did they give the money back? Nope, it was contractual they said.  They were obligated to honour the deals that had been made prior to receiving the bailout money.

And so what did the government do?  Nothing.  That it has taken three years for the Occupy Wall Street movement to get going perhaps speaks to the American ideal.  Perhaps somewhere they hoped that the promise of "Yes We Can" would eventually become a reality.  It hasn't.  So, people are calling for change. The governments role is to ensure justice.  They have abdicated that responsibility and the people are saying, "no more."

There's an old story about this sort of injustice.  In this story there was a man who owed a king millions of dollars and couldn't pay.  The king was going to sell the man, his wife and his children into slavery to pay off the debt.  But, the man begged for a bit more time to pay his debt.  The king relented and completely forgave the debt and sent him off--a free man.

Now, this man in turn was owed a few thousand dollars by another servant.  He went to the servant grabbed him by the throat and demanded all his money instantly.  The servant, couldn't pay and begged for a little more time to come up with the money.  But, the first man wouldn't give him any more time and threw him in jail until he came up with the money he was owed.

Now, some friends of the recently imprisoned man, thought this was a pretty rotten deal and they went to the king to let him know what was happening.  The king immediately called the first man into his throne room.  He said, "Who do you think you are? Did I not just forgive your debt of MILLIONS of dollars? Shouldn't you have shown your servant the same mercy that was shown to you and forgiven his debt?  So, the king then threw the man into prison until he came up with all the money he owed."

Jesus told this parable to his disciples and if you want the unparaphrased version you can find it in Matthew 18: 21-35. The king is the government of the day.  The banks are the man who owed millions.  The homeowners are the servants.  The friends are #OccupyWallStreet.  Will the US government do what is right?  Will they FINALLY hold the banks to account for their mistreatment of the American public?  Time will tell.  Kings knew that ultimately you had to rule fairly or there would be revolt.  The same holds true for any government.  

Now, I believe there are a second group of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement as well--perhaps moreso here in Canada where the issues of the US don't apply as our government had put in place measures to hold the banks to account.  But, there is a measure of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement that see what the rich have and are coveting.  Thou shalt not covet.  I have no respect for that.  We all need to work for everything we get and shouldn't expect any handouts along the way.

I think though, for the most part, that the Occupy Wall Street movement--at least the part I sympathize with--isn't about redistribution of wealth.  It is about justice.  It is about friends--community--coming to the government and saying, "Hey, you bailed out the banks, but they've done NOTHING for us...nothing for our neighbours--they are taking our homes, they are taking our businesses...that's not right.  We want JUSTICE."

It is now up to the government to show its true colours.  Are they really a government of the people, by the people and for the people?  Or are they a government owned by corporations and banks?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The NHL and the Centre of the Universe

Very interesting news yesterday about the impact hits to the head have on the brains of hockey players.  And, all I have to say to everyone who commented on my last blog post that there was no correlation between fighting and depression is, "are you so sure now?"

But let's leave that aside for now.  The season starts today and so every fan is just waiting to see how their team will do.  And, that's what's got me pondering: are Toronto Maple Leaf fans the most deluded fans of all time?  Every year, every post regarding hockey will bring out the Leaf fans rabidly defending the fact that this year is the Leafs year.

Now, I have to out myself as a Sabres fan at this moment, because historically we've not yet won a Cup.  Yes, we should have had Brett Hull been playing by the rules.  And, oh my have we had some exciting teams.  But, just like the Oilers in recent years, we've been a team with a very small payroll and just when players are hitting their stride we lose them because teams like the Rangers and the Flyers offer them more money than what our ownership would.

All that changed this season.  The Sabres new owner opened the vault and so there is a real sense of optimism surrounding the team.  But, what of the Leafs?  Because our Canadian National media thinks Toronto is the centre of the universe, we are subjected to the rantings of delusional Leaf fans who again think "this is the year."  Why?  Does living in Toronto lower your IQ?  Is the water bad?  Have the radio waves somehow been brainwashing daily commuters during the 3 hour trek to and from work?

It is the duty of this blog to discuss those things that don't have a rational voice elsewhere.  Toronto Maple Leaf fans...YOUR TEAM SUCKS.  Respectfully submitted.

Enjoy the season everyone.  I will.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shanahan vs. Cherry

Brendan Shanahan has caused quite a stir by suggesting that the NHL is seriously looking at whether fighting has a place in hockey.  I'm certain that Don Cherry will have something to say about this on Coaches Corner when the season starts.  But, are we really suggesting that hockey is BETTER with sanctioned fights between goons?

There are three compelling reasons that fighting should be eliminated:

1)  When you think of the BEST games, what comes to mind?  Stanley Cup intensity, Olympic Gold medal games, World Junior Championships.  Is there fighting?  Nope...or at least very rarely.

2)  Is it a tactic that works?  Most likely not.  Drew Remenda on his radio sports show took a look at the teams with the players that had the most PIM last year and with one exception none of the teams even made the playoffs.  So, does fighting equate to Stanley Cups--really, not since the era of the Broad Street Bullies.

3)  This past summer three well-known hockey tough guys (enforcers, pugilists, role-players) all took their lives.  Each, it was subsequently learned, suffered from depression.  Is there a correlation between fighting and mental health?  If that possibility even remotely exists, until evidence suggesting otherwise is produced, the NHL MUST eliminate fighting.  To not do so would be like Toyota not recalling vehicles it suspected of having accelerator sticking issues.  How many people are required to die before taking action?

For those that say fighting is a part of hockey; every sport evolves.  Boxing used to be bare-knuckled and 15 rounds.  Now they have gloves and only go 12 at a maximum.  And, how often do boxers fight?  Once every few MONTHS.  In an era where we have 82 games, pugilists face the possibility of fighting 2-3 times a WEEK--bare-knuckled fighting at that.  And, it's not just the fights.  The pace is quicker.  The equipment is lighter and more lethal.  The players are bigger and stronger than they were in the 1950's and 1960's.  Is the culmination and frequency of hits and fights too much for the brain?

Do you see fights in the NBA, MLB or NFL?  Yes, occasionally when things get entirely too heated you do.  The same would be true in hockey if you eliminated fighting.  From time to time, a spontaneous Iginla/Lecavalier fight would break out.  Suspensions would ensue.  That is how it should be.  But, to sanction bare-knuckled fist-fights that could potentially add to the risk of a mental health tragedy when we KNOW better--that's an egregious error that is akin to using asbestos or lead.  When we have facts at hand that suggest there are health issues, we are compelled to take action.  To not do so is criminal.

To those that say that fighting cuts down on the amount of stickwork in the game.  Baloney.  As the league is demonstrating with it's video reviews of illegal plays and subsequent suspensions, this is not an either/or issue.  Both need to be eliminated.  And, both can be eliminated.  If we eliminate illegal stickwork and goonery from the game of hockey, what would we be left with?  Fast, hard-hitting, skilled hockey.  Hey, we might just have playoff calibre hockey year round.

And, maybe we won't be faced with another summer of monthly reports of hockey players funerals.

This post is now up for discussion.