Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The Perils of Sportsworld

December 9, 2014


“He is one of the most known athletes in the world and a lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did. Even playing hockey, everyone knows him. From being the type of person he was off the ice and on the ice. But you know he changed a lot while he was with us. He’s a tremendous guy.”

So said Toronto Maple Leaf goalie Jonathan Bernier about Nelson Mandela.
The latter the late anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner was honoured before Friday’s Toronto Raptor’s game.Many pro athletes were invited to speak and poor Bernier was caught off guard and further embarrassed when his clueless remarks were posted ever so briefly on the Raptor’s website.
Bernier was needlessly humiliated ever so briefly by the doofus who put his comments on the Raptor website..
The goalie,whose first language is French was contrite.
“I’m embarrassed.  I didn’t mean to offend him, his legacy. I got flustered with the red carpet and I was nervous. I think everyone makes mistakes and that was me that night,”

Two things need to be said here.
Why was Mandela feted at a basketball game? This was totally ridiculous given that most of the athletes assembled did little or nothing to end apartheid when Mandela was alive.
This event promoted by the African born GM of the Raptors Masai Ujiri, who was born and raised in Nigeria— was ill conceived.A very nice man–like Bernier—his tribute was personal, too late and irrelevant, a feelgood project he might better have pursued on his own time.
Most pro athletes as writer Rosie Dimanno wrote in her column are so fixated on their brief careers that they traditionally have spent little time on any social cause. It is all about them and their careers. That is just the nature of the beast.I have always admired Canadian hockey players as fundamentally down to earth nice people. I have known many personally but this does not take away from the reality.

Given their humungous salaries, most never will develop a strong social conscience.Their life trajectory has been largely set in stone.few will break through the blandishments of Sportsworld. It is not easy to extricate oneself from the voracious jaws of capitalist excess. Most simply go along for their privileged ride.This is what Sportsworld is all about.It is a self-enclosed planet of distraction, a fun place to visit periodically but if you live there your moral integrity will be severely compromised.You can count on one hand the pro athletes who even in retirement became passionate about planetary issues or even serious citizenship.
Finally, Leaf management needs to protect their players from such gaffes in the future.

Atheist nation leads fight against Ebola

October 13, 2014

Cuban doctors and health workers arrive at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sie

And Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matt. 7:21

And the great Christian nation to the south which pours billions into war and whose annual genuflection to Mars equals the sum total of the next 10 nations is asleep at the wheel when it comes to the Ebola crisis.

Yes folks meet the tiny island nation of Cuba a nation of 11 million people, with a GDP of $6,051 per capita is leading the effort to halt a potential pandemic.


A brigade of 165 Cuban health workers arrived in Sierra Leone last week, the first batch of a total of 461. In sharp contrast, western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in west Africa.

An outbreak which could have been stopped in its tracks at the outset by the great powers now threatens to go viral.

THE USA always the first to go to war and prepare for war seems to be asleep when it comes health sacares like this. With the greatest medical talents in the world it seems to be led by an impotent government and other great powers are not much better. China, Brazil, France and the UK —fellow dozers.

And there’s Cuba always ready with limited resources ready to lend a hand.

Stark panic about to set in —all it takes is a couple of deaths, even one in “the great state of Texas” and suddenly great concern. Thousands of deaths elsewhere, not so much concern.

Cuba demonized consistently in the USA always seems ready to act as a great global citizen

50,000 Cuban-trained health workers are active over 66 countries. Cuba provided the largest medical contingent after the Haiti earthquake disaster in 2010, providing care to almost 40% of the victims.

Makes a person wonder, don’t it?

Read the Letters to the Editor

September 11, 2014



Always read the letters to the editor first—especially these days when most newspapers are echo chambers for a power elite. In Canada we had 26 of 28 dailies editorialize for our Republican Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man who has done his best to turn Canada into a pale imitation of our friends to the south, the mighty United States of Amnesia as Gore Vidal named it.

As a teacher I can tell you the young have abandoned newspapers as a serious brake on the corporate takeover of our country. The Fourth Estate as an entity which challenges “the malefactors of wealth” who dominate society here and south of the border seems to have fallen asleep on the job. Or maybe they are wide awake and doing the reactionary work of their owners. In 1907 President Teddy Roosevelt took a shot at this group as “…a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization’. A .J. Liebling was closer to the mark when he wrote that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

The one paper which has struggled to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” has been the Toronto Star. The Atkinson Principles based on the philosophy (and his Methodist religion) of Joseph Atkinson who was the editor of the Star for 50 years until 1948.

Atkinson believed and the Star struggles to continue this belief that “a progressive newspaper should contribute to the advancement of society through pursuit of social, economic and political reforms”. Atkinson obsessed about injustice, be it social, economic, political, legal or racial. The  Star continues in this vein. It was one of two dailies that rejected Harper in the last federal election. Usually a left Liberal paper, it supported the NDP.

Young people,at least a creative minority are still idealistic, that’s why they have abandoned newspapers and found online journals or blogs which have the same values that Joe Atkinson had.
As far as letters to the editor go, I saw one yesterday that really hit home as a truthful description of the sagging fortunes of the institutional Catholic church.


Another Jew of conscience

July 26, 2014


Noted American-Jewish feminist writer Naomi Wolf walked out of her synagogue when there was no mention of the Gaza slaughter.

Naomi should not be surprised at this.Most rabbis would lose their job if they channeled Jeremiah or Amos.The real tragedy is the great damage to Judaism which occurs when it is conflated with Zionism.Torah should never coexist with occupation.One expects a cynical state to use religion. John Quincy Adams the sixth USA president knew this: Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak and that it is doing God’s service when its violating all its laws.

Constantinian Judaism is no worse than what passes for biblical faith  in too many Christian churches. Rabbis answer to boards and few are strong enough or free enough to speak the prophetic word. Yet it is being spoken by so many “Jews of conscience”. They should give all of us hope.

Good on Naomi Wolf

Challenged below for why I am mourning genocide in Gaza. I mourn genocide in Gaza because I am the granddaughter of a family half wiped out in a holocaust and I know genocide when I see it. People are asking why I am taking this ‘side’. There are no sides. I mourn all victims. But every law of war and international law is being broken in the targeting of civilians in Gaza. I stand with the people of Gaza exactly because things might have turned out differently if more people had stood with the Jews in Germany. I stand with the people of Gaza because no one stood with us. I went to synagogue last Friday night and had to leave because I kept waiting for the massacre of Gaza to be addressed. … Nothing. Where is god? God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice. I turn in my card of faith as of now because of our overwhelming silence as Jews…I don’t mean Israelis, a separate issue…about the genocide now in Gaza.
I want no other religion than this, that is, seeing rather than denying my neighbor under fire and embracing rather than dismissing those targeted with annihilation and ethnic cleansing.

Time out for beauty: Charley Haden RIP

July 16, 2014



Beauty will save the world.
Fyodor Dostoevski in The Idiot


Please some relief from the endless suffering in the Middle East.


We present the life of the recently deceased jazz bassist Charlie Haden, a testament to the power of beauty and the healing ministrations of  music.


I want to take people away from the ugliness and sadness around us every day and bring beautiful, deep music to as many people as I can,” Haden said in a 2013 interview with The Associated Press shortly before receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.


This jazz master made the bass sing in new ways and with different collaborators. A groundbreaker with “free jazz” saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the 50s Haden kept moving. One of his greatest strengths was his deep visceral understanding of humanity’s struggle for liberation,It seemed to suffuse his playing.
His evolution was astounding. He came from a well known background of country music. From the age of two he sang with The Haden Family then was struck with polio which damaged his vocal chords. At 15  he turned to the bass and jazz, his musical world lit up by the seminal Charlie Parker.
Haden never forgot the roots of jazz as a revolutionary art form, a radical identification with people’s struggles. He  was ailed for his support of the anti-colonial movements in Portuguese Africa and  had no time for The Bush wars. His Liberation Music Orchestra. mixed songs from the Spanish Civil War, antiwar songs and a tribute to Che Guevera. He remounted this band as a protest against the Bush invasion of Iraq. This  he called Not in My Name.

In the mid 80s he launched Quartet west with pianist Alan Broadbent.and tenor Ernie Watts. They produced a series of lyrical Be bop albums which owed much to film noir Latterly Haden’s stunning bass lines lit up duet albums with jazz giants Kenny Barron, Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett.

Charlie Haden lived a life of gratitude.A few years ago he told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman
I wouldn’t do anything different, except I would seek out as many musicians dedicated to life the way I am and dedicated to beauty the way I am, because it’s not really about categories, like jazz, it’s about beautiful music and playing music from all over the world with other musicians who are dedicated, because it’s up to us to bring beauty back into this world. It’s up to people in the arts, the painters, the writers, the composers, the dance troupes, everybody, the actors, the people who write poetry. You know, it’s up to us to try to make a difference in this world and try to make this planet a better to live for all the human beings and stop the cruelty and the devastation that’s going on, you know, and have a great place.


A few years ago Haden came to the CBC concert place and by an accident I ran into him lugging his bass out to a car. He was a amazingly humble when I thanked him for his profound commitment to the human project.


His final album ironically titled Last Dance was released in June of this year It is a stunning collaboration with the piano colossus Keith Jarrett.


Soul music—much like the other dozen Haden disks I play.


“Death to the Arabs” Gideon Levy

July 14, 2014


Scottish protestors

There are brave reporters in Israel, men and women who see beyond the hasbara the overwhelming propaganda of the state. These are called “Jews of conscience” by theologian Marc Ellis. They are not necessary Torah Jews but people of common decency who have transcended “the tribal”. Social scientists call this “ideological suspicion”, the sense that what they are hearing is blatant obfuscation, lies which hide the real reasons for state actions.


We all have ideologies, worldviews but ideology has a pejorative meaning. It may be as simple and limiting as the zeitgeist of the time like the greed of the Reagan/Thatcher era. It might be the received consensus which Mike Harris and Flaherty peddled (“It’s only common sense”); it might be a neoliberal view of seeing humans as “homo economicus” the idea that we are all driven strictly by the maximization of profit. But then we have had the masters of suspicion throughout history, often called prophets who see the real motivation in operation. The king is naked.


Jesus would have been one such master in his proclamation of the malkuth Yahweh, God’s rule over Roman rule, God’s rule over the self-interest of the Sadducees or the narrow law of some Pharisees. Marx was a master, Freud also. They are penetrators of the situation. They get to the heart of the matter, see through the flimflam and the booswa. Every society produces such masters. Havel, Chomsky,Tutu and Beyers Naudé in South Africa, Oscar Romero etc. The prophetic never dies.


A friend told me of a rabbi he met in israel whose worldview was collapsing over the treatment of the Palestinians. Torah was finally supplanting Zionism. He was potentially breaking through the “hasbara”. The ideology of conformity, of maintaining power was collapsing. The lens through which he saw the world was losing its distortion. He was beginning to see clearly. He could no longer remain complacent when confronted with such suffering.


Harper IS

In Canada and the USA too many are in ideological captivity. They are isolated and insulated from the suffering, none more than the Prime Minister,Stephen Harper  For tribal reasons they blindly support Israel.They live comfortable lives.They are not under occupation. Their homes are not bulldozed.They do not face daily humiliation penned up in a squalid area with no exits.They are so committed for whatever reason to a false consciousness that they cannot see.


In Israel the reporter Gideon Levy sees with great clarity. Here is his article in Haaretz on Sunday July 13

Israel’s real purpose in Gaza operation? To kill Arabs
Since the first Lebanon war over 30 years ago, Israel’s main strategy has been killing Arabs. The current atrocious war in Gaza is no different.

The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to restore the calm; the means: killing civilians. The slogan of the Mafia has become official Israeli policy. Israel sincerely believes that if it kills hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, quiet will reign. It is pointless to destroy the weapons stores of Hamas, which has already proved capable of rearmament. Bringing down the Hamas government is an unrealistic (and illegitimate) goal, one that Israel does not want: It is aware that the alternative could be much worse. That leaves only one possible purpose for the military operation: death to Arabs, accompanied by the cheering of the masses.

The Israel Defense Forces already has a “map of pain,” a diabolical invention that has replaced the no less diabolical “bank of targets,” and that map is spreading at a sickening pace. Watch Al Jazeera English, a balanced and professional television channel (unlike its Arabic sister station), and see the extent of its success. You won’t see it in Israel’s “open” broadcast studios, which as usual are only open to the Israeli victim, but on Al Jazeera you will see the whole truth, and perhaps you will even be shocked.

The bodies in Gaza are piling up, the desperate, constantly updated tabulation of mass killing that Israel boasts of, which already numbers dozens of civilians, including 24 children as of noon on Saturday; hundreds of people injured, in addition to horror and destruction. One school and one hospital have already been bombed. The aim is to strike homes, and no amount of justification can help: It’s a war crime, even if the IDF calls them “command-and-control centers” or “conference rooms.” Granted, there are strikes that are much more brutal than Israel’s, but in this war, which is nothing other than mutual attacks on civilians — the elephant against the fly — there aren’t even any refugees. In contrast to Syria and Iraq, in the Gaza Strip the inhabitants do not have the luxury of fleeing for their lives. In a cage, there’s nowhere to run.

Since the first Lebanon war, more than 30 years ago, the killing of Arabs has become Israel’s primary strategic instrument. The IDF doesn’t wage war against armies, and its main target is civilian populations. Arabs are born only to kill and to be killed, as everyone knows. They have no other goal in life, and Israel kills them.

One must, of course, be outraged by the modus operandi of Hamas: Not only does it aim its rockets at civilian population centers in Israel, not only does it position itself within population centers — it may not have an alternative, given the crowded conditions in the Strip — but it also leaves the Gazan civilian population vulnerable to Israel’s brutal attacks, without seeing to a single siren, shelter or protected space. That is criminal. But the barrages of the Israel Air Force are no less criminal, on account of both the result and the intent: There isn’t a single residential building in the Gaza Strip that is not home to dozens of women and children; the IDF cannot, therefore, claim that it does not mean to hurt innocent civilians. If the recent demolition of the home of a terrorist in the West Bank still stirred a weak protest, now dozens of homes are being destroyed, together with their occupants.

Retired generals and commentators on active duty compete to make the most monstrous proposal: “If we kill their families, that will frighten them,” explained Maj.Gen. (res.) Oren Shachor, without batting an eyelid. “We must create a situation such that when they come out of their burrows, they won’t recognize Gaza,” others said. Shamelessly, without question — until the next Goldstone investigation.

A war with no goal is among the most despicable of wars; the deliberate targeting of civilians is among the most atrocious of means. Terror now reigns in Israel as well, but it’s unlikely there is a single Israeli who can imagine what it’s like for Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants, whose already miserable lives are now totally horrific. The Gaza Strip is not a “hornet’s nest,” it is a province of human desperation. Hamas is not an army, far from it, despite all the fear tactics: If it really did build such a sophisticated network of tunnels there, as is claimed, then why doesn’t it build Tel Aviv’s light rail network, already?

The 1,000-sortie and 1,000 tons of explosives marks have almost been reached, and Israel is waiting for the “victory picture” that has already been achieved: Death to Arabs.



World Cup: part of the machine

July 11, 2014



In his brilliant Technics and Civilization (1934) Lewis Mumford analyzed the massive commodification of sport—and this was in the 30’s! Here are a few of his bons mots:

The machine had come into our civilization, not to save man from servitude, but to make possible mass servitude to the immoral standards of consumption that had grown up among the military atrocities.


Thus sport which began as a spontaneous reaction against the machine, has become one of the mass-duties of the machine age. It is a part of the universal regimentation of life, for the sake of private profits or nationalistic exploit.


Sport has turned out to be one of the least effective reactions against the machine, the other less effective in its reaction to the machine, more ambitious and ultimately disastrous, war.


This use of sport of course has been with us since Rome delivered bread and circuses to the masses.


Juvenal around 100 CE wrote omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses.


Everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses


Look at the mania in Brazil, grown ups? weeping at a loss in a soccer game as the missiles once again murder the innocent in Gaza.



The World Cup is the most watched spectacle in history.That’s what it is a spectacle, more bread and circuses to divert our attention from life and the denigration of life. Gaza is real, not part of a dream world.That’s where the tears–and then action—must be. The World Cup more “distraction from distraction by distraction.”(T.S.Eliot)


The score so far at the end of the second


Palestinian dead 100, 22 children
Israeli  0

Cultural revolution needed in israel

July 10, 2014


Here is an editorial (July 9) from Ha’aretz a leading israeli paper.


The sentiments expressed would never see the day in a North American paper so terrified are the editors of the Israeli lobby. Read the bilge coming daily from the National Post and from the likes of John Baird our sorry excuse of of a Foreign Affairs Minister.They have never walked in Palestinian shoes, never tasted the bitter herbs of Palestinian life under occupation. It is always “Israel has a right to defend itself” and send missiles into such a concentrated area as Gaza.


As Jerry Haber my favourite Orthodox Israeli professor recently wrote yesterday “ And the world? Well, the world reports two things: the number of rockets fired against Israel, and the number of casualties on both sides. Nobody cares that that the firepower that  hits in Gaza in a few days  is more deadly and horrific than what falls in Israel in a few years.
The editorial:
Jewish Hate of Arabs Proves: Israel Must Undergo Cultural Revolution

Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not “Jewish extremists.” They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of “the Jewish state”: Those for whom every Arab is a bitter enemy, simply because they are Arab; those who were silent at the Beitar Jerusalem games when the team’s fans shouted “death to Arabs” at Arab players; those who call for cleansing the state of its Arab minority, or at least to drive them out of the homes and cities of the Jews.


There are no words to describe the horror allegedly done by six Jews to Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat. Although a gag order bars publication of details of the terrible murder and the identities of its alleged perpetrators, the account of Abu Khdeir’s family — according to which the boy was burned alive — would horrify any mortal. Anyone who is not satisfied with this description, can view the horror movie in which members of Israel’s Border Police are seen brutally beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, the murder victim’s 15-year-old cousin.


The Israel Police was quick to label the murderers “Jewish extremists,” meaning they aren’t part of the herd, they are outliers, “wild weeds.” This is the police’s way of trying to justify a sin, to “make the vermin kosher.” But the vermin is huge, and many-legged. It has embraced the soldiers and other young Israelis who overran the social media networks with calls for revenge and with hatred for Arabs. The vermin was welcomed by Knesset members, rabbis and public figures who demanded revenge. Nor did it skip over the prime minister, who declared “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.”

Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not “Jewish extremists.” They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of “the Jewish state”: Those for whom every Arab is a bitter enemy, simply because they are Arab; those who were silent at the Beitar Jerusalem games when the team’s fans shouted “death to Arabs” at Arab players; those who call for cleansing the state of its Arab minority, or at least to drive them out of the homes and cities of the Jews.
No less responsible for the murder are those who did not halt, with an iron hand, violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians, and who failed to investigate complaints “due to lack of public interest.” The term “Jewish extremists” actually seems more appropriate for the small Jewish minority that is still horrified by these acts of violence and murder. But they too recognize, unfortunately, that they belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.



Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.


Sport and war

July 9, 2014

White Sox Red Sox Baseball


The Pulitzer winner Chris Hedges had the misfortune to attend a Boston Red sox game on the great american holiday July 4. He referred to it as a “worship service.”

Why sporting events begin with the national anthem escapes my understanding but nevertheless this bizarre practice is a Canadian/American staple.

Hedges comes close to the truth in describing what transpired on the July 4 game

A gargantuan American flag descended to cover “the Green Monster,” the 37-foot, 2-inch-high wall in left field. Patriotic music blasted from loudspeakers. Col. Lester A. Weilacher, commander of the 66th Air Base Group at Massachusetts’ Hanscom Air Force Base, wearing a light blue short-sleeved Air Force shirt and dark blue pants, threw the ceremonial first pitch. A line of Air Force personnel stood along the left field wall. The fighter jets—our angels of death—that usually roar over the stadium on the Fourth were absent. But the face of Fernard Frechette, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was attending, appeared on the 38-by-100-foot Jumbotron above the center-field seats as part of Fenway’s “Hats Off to Heroes” program, which honors military veterans or active-duty members at every game. The crowd stood and applauded. Army National Guard Sgt. Ben Arnold had been honored at the previous game, on Wednesday. Arnold said his favorite Red Sox player was Mike Napoli. Arnold, who fought in Afghanistan, makes about $27,000 a year. Napoli makes $16 million. The owners of the Red Sox clear about $60 million annually. God bless America.

In Toronto while taking my grandson to a hockey game I had to witness a soldier, one of “Luke’s Troops,” rappel down to the ice surface before the opening face off. He was sponsored by the young millionaire since traded Luke Schenn. Don Cherry, the minister of violence loved it.

Nothing against young Schenn but he too like the appalling militarist show in Boston he was simply a part of the militarization of society, a less than subtle attempt to get the citizenry to accept that war is an everyday part of our lives.

In Canada this has been part of the Harper agenda and its “Highway of Heroes” on our major roads.



What heroes is another question.

In America as we will see it has reached appalling heights.

Sport and war a deadly combo.


More on this later


Blue Jays cave to militarist USA

May 30, 2014



How low can you go?

I was disgusted decades ago when the Blue Jays opened their season on Good Friday. Is nothing sacred? Answer no, of course not. We would not think of practicing on Good Friday when I was running ball teams for the Knights of Columbus. It just wasn’t done but as they say that was then and this is now. But then I taught in a Catholic school where the obtuse VP got on the PA and on Holy Thursday and wished the student body, “a good long weekend.”

Now Major League baseball ordered the teams to dress in military camouflage to celebrate Memorial Day last Monday, a holiday unheard of in Canada.

More of the cloying uber-patriotism the USA is famous for but which used to be frowned on in Canada. A few years ago the ugly Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had a fan ejected when the poor sap never got up to sing America the Beautiful at the seven inning stretch.

All of this is post 9/11 nonsense

The caps and jerseys featured “an authentic military digital camouflage design licensed from the U.S. Marine Corps in honor of Memorial Day,” according to Major League Baseball. The Blue Jays Canadianized it by using “a camouflage design based on the Canadian Disruptive Pattern (“CADPAT”) used by Canadian Forces.”

Stephen Harper would have loved this suck up to the Yanks. First we had “the highway of heroes” for the 401, then a bloated military budget and now this hokey genuflection to the military. Don Cherry presumably was over the top.



As Pierre Trudeau once said, it’s tough when the mouse lives next to the elephant. The consumer BS does not recognize the 49th parallel and all this disgusting militarism finds its way here and we go along with it.

Shame on the Blue Jays for capitulating.


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