Bob Dylan Sells Out

AmDylan.gif (54973 bytes) I too harsh on people?


In the movie, The Magic Christian, a worldly-wise millionaire (played by Peter Sellers) adopts a destitute young man (Ringo Starr) as his own son. He decides to impart to him all of the great wisdom he has accumulated over the years. The first and most important lesson is that everyone– without exception– can be bought. In the unforgettable climax of the film, Sellers scatters numerous British pound notes over the surface of a swimming pool filled with the most disgusting, offensive substances imaginable as dozens of extremely well-dressed financiers and bankers are strolling by on their way to work in their gleaming towers of steel and glass. They stop, stare, try to reach the money. One of them finally steps right into the sludge, and soon all of them are splashing around in it trying to grab the money away from the others. Yes, everyone can be bought.

I just picked up the latest edition (March-April 1998) of the Utne Reader, a bi-monthly compendium of articles by the “alternative” press. On the back of the cover, there is a picture of a very young Bob Dylan. That makes sense. Who better defines “alternative” than Bob Dylan, especially a young Bob Dylan? Think of those songs from the early 1960’s: “God on Our Side”, “Only a Pawn in the Game”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Masters of War”, “Visions of Johanna”… Dylan, unintentionally, perhaps (you could write a whole book on the subject), became a spokesman for a generation of young people who seemed to reject plastic, phony materialism, the consumer ethic, the idea that everything could be bought and sold, and that the ultimate goal of life was a home in the suburbs, a zillion appliances, Tupperware, and a two-car garage.

If you were born too late or too early, you probably have no idea of how powerful his mystique was. No one before or after has had anything near the pull he did in his prime. Every other major artist was acutely aware of what Dylan was doing. Even commoditized performers like Sonny and Cher included Dylan songs in their repertoire.

He was the very definition of “alternative”, because, at the time, the wholesale commoditization of life was well under way and he was one of the first and most powerful voices of popular culture to mock it. His performances were utterly compelling, because he was powerfully eloquent and uncompromisingly savage in his rejection of moral hypocrisy and glib righteousness. [notes on Dylan film]

The trouble is, there is an Apple Computer logo at the top left-hand corner of the page. And under the logo, these words: “Think different”.

Yes, everyone can be bought.

Well, I guess most other folk singers would have regarded selling out as the wrong thing to do, so, yes, I guess Bob Dylan thinks different.

I wish I knew how much he got for the ad, and why he needed the money. I do NOT wish I could hear him explain why I’m an idiot for thinking he should not have taken the money, should not have sang for the pope, should not have taken part in the tribute to Frank Sinatra, should not have allowed “The Times They are a Changin'” to be used in a Bank of Montreal ad, and should not have treated Phil Ochs like dirt way back in the 1960’s. I don’t want to hear it because it is so entirely predictable and self-aggrandizing and phony and I don’t think I could stomach it coming from Bob Dylan even if almost everything else he’s done in the past ten years should have prepared me for this.

This may sound absurd, but does anybody still need an explanation of why doing a commercial endorsement is wrong? It’s not all that complicated.

If the role of art, music, poetry, drama, and fiction, is nothing more than to entertain, then, yes, I guess there is no problem, since consumer products are just another form of gratification. And if you believe that the gleeful consumption– conspicuous or otherwise– of material goods is about as meaningful as life gets, then yes, there is no problem.

But if you believe, as I do, that there is a higher purpose to art, that it should also enlighten and stimulate and provoke, and should in some way expand our knowledge of what it means to be human, of what it means to love, of what it means to be alive, then a commercial endorsement is the anti-thesis of good art. It is a sell-out. It is betrayal of the very idea that human values are above simple self-aggrandizement.

A great artist stands out because he has the courage and integrity to observe and reflect and illuminate the weaknesses and strengths of human behaviour. When an artist agrees to accept money in exchange for the association of his image or persona with a commercial product, he shows that his integrity is compromised, because his endorsement is the result of a bribe. And when he accepts accolades and awards from people whose whole lives are dedicated to dishonesty and materialism, then he shows that he has no courage, for his acceptance is the result of his desire to become like those who thusly honor him.

When Bob Dylan first came to prominence, one of his most attractive qualities was the way he stood apart from the establishment toadies and drunken crooners that dominated the entertainment world of the 1950’s, singers like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, who sang meaningless love ballads to addled over-weight pant-suited matrons in the crassest of American cities, Las Vegas. Today, Dylan takes part in a tribute to the King of Crass, Frank Sinatra. How long before Dylan himself plays Las Vegas?

In defense of Dylan, I have heard people say that it’s just no big deal. Just because he endorses Apple computers doesn’t mean “Tangled Up in Blue” isn’t a great love song. In reply to that, I have to say that even if it wasn’t a big deal, it’s still a cheesy, tacky, contemptible thing to do, and you have to wonder about why Dylan would do it. Dylan’s income from song-writing royalties alone must be enormous. Did he manage his money so badly that he is desperately broke? Are the alimony payments getting out of hand? Is his exclusive Malibu mansion in need of repair? Is he so isolated and surrounded with sycophants that there is no one to tell him that, considering his stature as a songwriter of uncommon power and intensity, the commercial endorsements look petty and stupid?

Well, maybe we all should be as humble. What if someone offered me, say $100 a week if I agreed to display his product logo on my web page (as if…)? I could argue that journals and newspapers have always carried advertising so it’s really not “selling out”, it’s just the business of writing. If I sold my writing to a journal (which I have done, in fact, on a regular basis for many years) who do I think pays for the checks I receive? Right– advertisers. Dylan’s music is played on radio of course, so his royalty checks really come from the same source.

So is it really such a big leap from a royalty check to a product endorsement? The difference is that we all understand that just because a Miller Lite ad follows a Dylan song on the radio does not mean that Dylan drinks Miller Lite, in the same way we know that a General Motors ad in a newspaper doesn’t mean that the newspaper believes that General Motors cars are any better than anyone else’s cars. There is a line that is being crossed.

The bottom line, I guess, is that it is ridiculous to believe that Dylan needs the money so badly that he will allow such questions to be raised about his integrity as an artist. The answer is that Dylan, singing for the Pope and Frank Sinatra, and flogging his reputation on the Grammys, is after something other than artistic achievement. The answer is that Dylan doesn’t believe himself anymore, and therefore, why should we?

Songs from the Old Dylan:

” you used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat/who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat/Aint it hard when you discover that/He really wasn’t where it’s at/After he took from you everything/He could steal..”

“…businessmen, they drink my wine/Plowmen dig my earth/None of them along the line/Have no idea of any worth…”

“Dear Landlord, please don’t put a price on my soul…”

“…but even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked…”

A Playlist for Bob Dylan when he finally goes all the way and plays Las Vegas.
  • Opening number: Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
  • Mood Piece: Dear Landlord
  • A love ballad so all those Amway salesmen can get off their duffs and shake out their double-knit pants:  Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
  • For those who really appreciate the décor:  Visions of Johanna
  • For those who wonder if this is the same Bob Dylan who used to do those protest songs: My Back Pages
  • For the maids and kitchen help: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  • And the waiters: Serve Somebody
  • To his former wife, Sara, if she happens to drop by: It Aint Me Babe
  • To patrons who favour the Black Jack tables:  Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts; Black Diamond Bay
  • To those who wished it was Elvis instead: I Want You
  • Just before Milton Berle comes on: Motopsycho Nightmare
  • To a convention of Dupont engineers: Hard Rain
  • To contestants for the Miss America Pageant:  Just Like a Woman
  • After a Fashion Show:  Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat

Time Magazine Tabloid Watch

When Does Time Magazine (Canadian Edition)
Become a Tabloid?

Time magazine used to cover the news.  But lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of stuff that we normally find on the cover of the National Enquirer instead.

Time’s current subscription base: about 5 million

Issue Pages News Advertising Other Tabloid
Feb 23, 1998Feb 16, 1998

Feb 9, 1998

Feb 2, 1998

Jan 19, 1998

Jan 12, 1998

Cancelled Subscription


























The Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team: Class

Canadian Men’s Hockey Team Represented the Spirit of the Olympics

Sure, they didn’t win Gold or Silver, or even Bronze. But I was proud of the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team.

  • They stayed in the Olympic Village with the other competitors, even the ones who didn’t make six figure salaries.
  • They played selflessly, with heart and determination, and they played well.
  • They simply got beat by teams that were a tiny bit better than they were.
  • They made no excuses, and blamed no one but themselves for those heart-breaking defeats.
  • They showed up at other Olympic events to cheer on other Canadian athletes.
  • They played good, clean, skate-pass-shoot hockey: showing the sport at its best.

Why didn’t they win? It’s hard to fault Clarke, Gainey, or Crawford. They chose solid, two-way players, and those players generally performed up to expectations. The one deficiency in this line-up was players with a deft touch around the net… like Kariya and Sakic(!). Gretzky played well, but he’s not 25 anymore. Lindros also played well, but he’s not a finesse player. Once they knew Kariya was in doubt, I wonder if they shouldn’t have added Vincent Damphousse or someone else with a deft touch around the net. But, again, I’m not quibbling. The team was well-chosen. Unfortunately, I think Canadians simply have to face the fact that the rest of the world has caught up to us and we are no longer the dominant hockey power. We were close– the games were thrilling– but we’re going to have to work hard and develop new talent if we hope to ever reclaim the World Championship or the Olympic Gold Medal.

Olympian Rip-off

According to Avery Brundidge, the Olympics “embraces the highest moral laws. NO philosophy, no religion preaches loftier sentiments.”

Well, if the highest moral law is “he who has the gold, makes the rules”, then he’s right.

For all the hype, the Olympics is nothing more than a two-week long commercial with athletes. During the first few days of competition, I would estimate that there was about three minutes of competition to about three hours of meaningless chatter about scandals and politics and about twelve hours of commercials. Someone with more patience should sit down with a stop-watch and get the actual figures.

During an important curling match, the CBC actually cut away for commercials while rocks were being thrown in the late ends of an extremely close semi-final match between Britain and Canada. It’s almost as bad as ABC News Nightline. Could anything have made it more clear what the Olympics are really all about?

There will be some great competitions, no doubt, and men’s hockey is shaping up to be one of the best. On the larger ice surface, we might actually get to see some skating, passing, and stick-handling. Why did the NHL agree to this? Don’t they realize that viewers will be appalled when they are forced to watch the ridiculous thuggery of the NHL again after this treat? Maybe that’s why they announced there will be a crack-down on clutch-and-grab tactics after the Olympics.

As for figure skating and ice dancing, if everyone knows that the judging is decided on the basis of back-room politicking, why can’t anybody seem to do anything about it?

The reason why is simple: the International Olympic Committee is the personal fiefdom of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former youth fascist, who runs the organization with an iron fist behind walls of secrecy. He appoints new members to the committee. He controls the purse strings. And he is accountable to no one.

This kind of structure should not be able to survive the modern era. Most large corporations have begun to realize that without clear lines of accountability, they cannot be competitive. Everyone is too busy covering their own rear end to serve the genuine interests of the company.

When Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana at these Olympics, someone should have looked at the receipts for the Atlanta games. As Dan Morgenson pointed out in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 9,000 cases of beer, 1,800 cases of wine, and 600 cases of liquor, were delivered to Hyatt Regency hotel for the benefit of the 106 members of the International Olympic Committee. Hypocrisy run amok!

All of the world’s national Olympic Committees should meet together this year and announce that a new structure must be created by a committee elected from the National Olympic bodies. The first task of this committee will be to create a code of conduct which all of the national bodies must subscribe to or suffer ineligibility. This code of conduct must stipulate that the committees are accountable to the athletes they serve and to the supporting community. This code should set a fixed ratio of “officials” to athletes to attend each sporting event. All officials must be legitimate representatives of their sports– not sycophants of some politician or general.

The second task will be to set up a new International Olympic Organization with a board that is democratically elected from among all the member national bodies. No nation will be allowed to nominate from their own country. At least 50% of the board members should be elected directly by the athletes.

The third task will be to impose stringent limits on the amount of Olympic dollars that are allocated for administration and promotion. Nobody knows what the exact numbers are, but nobody doubts that a huge proportion of Olympic spending is devoted to the comfort and pleasure of the same idiot officials and appointees who decided that Ross Rebagliati should lose his gold medal because of trace amounts of THC in his blood.

Finally, the baloney should be removed from the selection process for hosts for the Olympic games. Once again, everybody knows that the process is incredibly corrupt– officials are almost handed suitcases of cash by representatives of contending cities– but nobody seems to have the guts or the means to stop it.

We have seen the U.S. press become hysterically obsessed with the salacious but insignificant scandal of Bill Clinton’s undisciplined sexual urges. Millions of words and thousands of hours of television program have been devoted to this non-news story. Compared to the Monica Lewinsky story, the way the International Olympic Committee operates is a major scandal of outrageous proportions. The only way it will ever get on the front page, however, will be if Samaranch hires himself a lovely little intern…

Nixon vs Clinton

Many Republicans in the U.S. have publicly compared the Monica Lewinsky scandal with the Watergate scandal of the Nixon Administration. Some of these same Republicans used to say that Watergate was nothing more than politics and Nixon should never have been forced to resign. Nixon used to say so himself. So if the Lewinsky scandal is similar to Watergate, then I guess they are saying that Clinton shouldn’t resign either.

Just to set the record straight, I thought I would render a public service by offering a short refresher on Watergate.

In the early planning stages of the 1972 election campaign, a night watchman at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. spotted some masking tape over a lock on a door leading to the National Headquarters of the Democratic Party. He called the police and several men were arrested and charged with burglary. At the hearing before a District Court, one of the men admitted that he had been an employee of the CIA. A reporter for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward, got curious about this connection and started investigating the case more thoroughly.

So Watergate began with a criminal act. A criminal act is a violation of the public laws of the land. The Lewinsky affair, of course, began with a case of adultery. And because Lewinsky was a consenting partner to the offense, there was no criminal act involved (though the Republicans made more than a passing attempt to characterize Clinton’s actions as “sexual harassment”, because it involved an employee. Republican House Leader, Newt Gingrich, at precisely the same time, was having an affair with one of his own office employees, while his wife was ill with cancer!)

A few months later, Bob Haldeman, one of Richard Nixon’s top aides, informed the President that the FBI was investigating the burglary. Nixon instructed Haldeman to tell the FBI to stop their investigation, and he agreed to a payment of “hush money” to the burglars. This is called “Obstruction of Justice” in legal terms and is a serious criminal offense, especially when it is committed by a public official entrusted with the authority to enforce the law.

There is no evidence that Clinton attempted to use his office to influence the investigation of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Even if you believe the worst case scenario, that Clinton asked Lewinsky to lie to the Special Prosecutor, no sane person would regard such activity as being in any way comparable to authorizing the disbursement of bribes or attempting to interfere with the criminal investigation of a burglary of a political party’s national headquarters. We should add that the burglars were attempting to plant listening devices on the phones in the offices of the Chairman of the Democratic Party. This certainly goes beyond what Nixon liked to characterize as “dirty tricks” when discussing other acts of sabotage conducted by his underlings during the election campaigns. At the core of the Watergate scandal, there were a number of discrete criminal acts, and the cover-up was intended to prevent the men who committed these acts from being caught. As much as the Republicans would like to suggest that Clinton’s attempts to conceal his affair with Monica constituted a similar act of malfeasance, it is absurd to say that because both Nixon and Clinton tried to conceal that they were concealing actions that were substantively similar.

Nixon’s legal advisor, Charles Colson, was instructed to keep a list of “enemies”. This list included political commentators like CBS’s Daniel Schorr, liberal activist performers like Paul Newman, and other public figures and journalists. The Internal Revenue Service was instructed to conduct thorough audits of the tax returns of many of the people on the list. This is a rather serious abuse of authority.

Nixon’s staff hired former CIA employees to break into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in a coordinated attempt to discredit the well-known source of “The Pentagon Papers”. This, of course, again, was a criminal act. We don’t know if Nixon knew about it before it was carried out, but he definitely knew about it afterwards and again authorized a cover-up.

Nixon ordered secret bombings of Cambodia despite legislation which clearly required him to inform Congress promptly of such measures. He ordered his staff to lie about the bombings before a Congressional Committee. As a result of these bombings, the government of Cambodia was destabilized and subsequently over-thrown by the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge conducted wholesale massacres afterwards, leading to the deaths of millions of Cambodians. The U.S. was already in a state of undeclared war with North Viet Nam (no official declaration was ever made). The bombing of Cambodia was a very serious violation of the rights of a sovereign nation.

Nixon’s personal choice for Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, was charged with influence peddling and extortion and forced to resign. I suppose it’s not a crime to select a criminal to be second-in-line to the office of President of the United States, but it ought to be. Al Gore, on the other hand, is squeaky clean.

Nixon fired the Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, after the Supreme Court ruled that the President must accede to his request to turn over the secret tapes of conversations held in the Oval Office shortly after the Watergate break-in. Had he not resigned, this action alone, which was in defiance and contempt of the highest court in the nation, would have been almost certain grounds for impeachment. When Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, refused to fire Cox, Richardson was fired. When Richardson’s deputy refused to do it, he too was fired. FBI agents were then ordered to seize the offices of the Special Prosecutor.

The move backfired, and alienated even some of Nixon’s staunchest supporters. He was forced to back down and appoint a new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who promptly renewed the demand for the tapes.

Having exhausted his legal options, Nixon finally turned over some of the tapes, after announcing that several were missing and that one of the key tapes had an 18-minute gap. Nixon denied that he had ordered the destruction of evidence, but it stretches credulity to believe that he was unaware of the gaps or missing tapes until the day he finally turned them over to the Special Prosecutor.

The tapes revealed that Nixon had in fact participated in the cover-up, ordered the destruction of evidence, ordered his staff to lie to Congress and the Special Prosecutor, ordered hush money to be paid out to informers out of a secret fund controlled by the White House, and had openly suggested that intimidation and extortion could be used to obstruct the investigation. More significantly, the tapes demonstrated that Richard Nixon believed that he was above and outside of the law. The conversations reveal a petty, insecure, vindictive little man who thought nothing of using the privileges of his office to lash out at political enemies and intimidate those who thwarted his plans. When he tried to use “Executive Privilege” to hide evidence of his wrong-doing, he became a genuine threat to the rule of law and the democratic process and to the institutions of accountable government. His crimes were very serious and, had he not resigned, he deserved to be impeached, and he would certainly have been impeached, and a large number of Republicans, (including present Secretary of Defense, William Cohen), would have joined the Democrats in voting for impeachment.

To compare the Lewinsky affair to Watergate is ludicrous.

Black Eye for Canadian Athletes at the Olympics

CBC Radio just reported on a “visit” by Canadian Olympic athletes to a Japanese elementary school near Nagano. This event had been planned months ago and the school had been told that even Wayne Gretzsky and his wife might show up.

Well, the only people who showed up were a few Olympic Committee Functionaries and Atina Ford, an alternate on the Canadian Women’s Curling team. The entire event became a dismal embarrassment to all concerned. The children had prepared elaborate gifts and ceremonies, and games designed to include the honored athletes. The teachers had brushed up on their English and arranged an assembly and invited parents.

Atina Ford saved the day to some extent. She is a teacher by profession, and she quickly gathered the children around her and got some games started and had the children laughing and clapping. The Japanese were exceedingly polite and gracious, but there was no hiding the crushing disappointment, especially among the staff of the school who had been preparing for the event for three weeks.

I surprised myself at how ashamed I felt about the behaviour of the Canadian athletes, far, far more ashamed than I did about Ross Rebagliati testing positive for marijuana. In the back of my mind, I think I understand how busy their lives are and how it must feel to have everyone clamoring for a piece of you all the time. But this story twists a knife in your guts. Maybe it’s because we do know how busy our athletes are: signing endorsement contracts, going to parties, receiving congratulatory calls from the Prime Minister, posing for pictures, exchanging Olympic paraphernalia with other athletes, meeting with their agents, their trainers, their personal chef, or whatever… and none of them had a few moments to spare for a group of hopeful Japanese school children?

I just know that when our athletes find out about this humiliating situation, a number of them will step forward and immediately schedule a visit to the school as soon as possible. If they do, we’ll know they really do have class, and all will be forgiven. If they don’t, I know what my strongest memory of these Olympic games is going to be.

* * *

What’s all this blather about how beautiful and elegant and graceful the figure skaters are? As far as I’m concerned, Joan McCusker of the curling team is the only goddess on ice at these Olympic games.


* * *

The Canadian men’s hockey team is far more dominant than I think most people give them credit for. I’ll go on record: they will stroll into the Gold Medal. Remember, you heard it here first.

March 8, 1998: Obviously, I was wrong. However, I will observe that Canada lost to the eventual champions, Czechoslovakia, by the slimmest of margins. Then they lost an embarrassment to the Fins, but did anybody really believe the Canadians cared deeply about the Bronze medal?

* * *

The Canadian women’s hockey team deserved to lose, but I wish they had won just so I wouldn’t have had to watch the U.S. women actually sing their national anthem after receiving their medals. Don’t they know that you’re supposed to just move your lips up and down vaguely so, just in case anyone accused you of patriotism, you could always say you were mouthing the Lord’s Prayer or just chewing gum instead?

Anyway, Women’s hockey should not be an Olympic sport. There were only two countries in serious contention. It was a medal giveaway for the U.S. and Canada. Come back when there are at least six contenders.

Olympics Notes

Other Olympic Notes
Catriona LeMay Doan won the gold medal for Canada in the women’s 500 meters. She discussed her faith with a CBC interviewer, with slight defensiveness. She obviously didn’t want to be confused with other Christian athletes who believe that God awards the gold medals. Sports Illustrated picked her to win the 500 and to place 3rd in the 1000.

The Canadian Women’s Hockey team is very poorly coached. On February 14, they were leading the U.S. 4-1. The U.S. team scored a goal, which rattled the Canadians, who responded with a foolish penalty. Another quick goal, and the Canadians were really rattled, disorganized, and confused. Coach Shannon Miller merely kept pacing behind the bench, while the Americans kept scoring. They lost the lead. She didn’t call a time out, she didn’t speak to her players, she didn’t change goalies… nothing. This was a golden opportunity for the Canadians to take the high road, play clean, determined, defense, and show the U.S. how unflappable they were. Instead, they fell apart. With more than a minute left in the game, Miller pulled the goalie without securing possession of the puck or a face-off in the U.S. zone. The Canadians lost 7-4. This is merely the most recent in a long series of negative indicators– Miller cancelled the team Christmas party after a poor game against the U.S., and imposed a gag order on star player Haley Wickenheiser. There was also some controversy about the selection process for the team.

Brian Stemmle has CLASS. His terrific run at the downhill, in which he was leading 3/4 of the way through the race before hitting a fluke rut, was electrifying. In an interview afterwards, he blamed no one but himself, even though a lot of us were tempted to think the hill should have been better maintained.

At the 1994 Olympics in Spain, the U.S. basketball team stayed in private villas and hotels and refused to mix with the mortal athletes in the Olympic Village. The NHL players deserve high praise for choosing to live in the Olympic village with the rest of the athletes. Class again.

CBC coverage is the worst I have ever seen. Brian Williams is boring. Most of the “features” are poorly conceived and weakly presented (read “cheap”). There is very little insight into either the competition or the character of the athletes.

There was a time when the viewers were informed when what they were watching had been taped earlier. It is a kind of fraud to present 12 hour old events as if they were just happening. And when it really is happening, you don’t know.

Please please please get rid of those drab middle-aged men who present the medals. Who are they? What are they doing there? How did they get those jobs?!. They are the self-serving crony-apparatchiks of the IOC. Wouldn’t it have been great to have Eric Heiden, for instance, present the gold medal for speed skating, or Peggy Fleming present the medal for figure skating, or Nancy Greene for skiing? Come on, wouldn’t it? The Olympics remind me of war when I see those men: wasted, hollow old functionaries without courage, grace, or skill, controlling the destinies of the young and innocent.

Let’s see… Elvis Stojko skates a 3 1/2 minute routine including several triple-triple and triple-double jumps, makes all of them perfectly… but he can’t skate from the centre of the ice to the boards without practically collapsing in pain? Why did this remind me so much of the Keri Strug farce at the summer Olympics? My guess is that Elvis was really in some pain– every athlete at this level of competition always is–and probably had a bit of the flu. My guess is also that, knowing he couldn’t win on merit alone because he didn’t include a quad in his program, he made a play for audience sympathy. Stojko’s not stupid: he knows when the camera is on close-up. He wanted us to be impressed with his courage and determination. He wanted the judges to know that he could have done better if he hadn’t been injured. Maybe he really hoped it might win him a mark or two. Whatever the reason, I thought it was coy, and I wished he’d shown a little more class. And I’ll bet you most of his competitors think so too.

I hope the people who arrange housing in the Olympic village had the genius to put the curling teams into the same dorms as the snowboarders. But then, marijuana probably is a performance enhancing drug for curlers….

This is about the fifth Olympics in a row for which it was predicted that Canada would take a “record haul” of medals. Who is responsible for these predictions? Whoever it is should be sacked.

Bettman Weenie

Gary Bettman was interviewed on CBC last night. He was in Nagano attending the Olympics.

Gary Bettman is the weenie who runs the NHL. I think the technical name for his position is “President and Chief Weenie”. You remember Gary Bettman, don’t you? He’s the guy who scored that over-time goal for Philadelphia in the 1976 Stanley Cup finals while playing a man short and with a fractured ankle.

Yeah, right.

Actually, Bettman is an accountant, I believe. He looks about as athletic as a tub of cream cheese. But when the Stanley Cup is finally won every spring, guess who gets to present it to the winning team? Jean Beliveau? Rocket Richard? Bobby Hull? Bobby Orr? No, it’s president-weenie, Gary Bettman.

What I want to know is, who is paying for Bettman to be in Nagano and what is he doing there? Is he staying in the athlete’s village? If not, who’s paying for his hotel room? Why is he there? Why does this man even exist?

He is typical of the controlling functionary class of parasites who, unfortunately, dominate almost all sports. He was never an athlete. He never practiced something for hours and hours every day of every month of every year for most of a life-time in order to be the best at something in the world. He never suffered through the injuries, pain, and sacrifices to reach an Olympic class of performance.

He is a weenie, and now he is an Olympic weenie. When these men present medals and awards, they are sending a message to the athletes. The message is, you may have done all the work and made all the sacrifices, and you may have all the talent, but our system is not controlled by people who do all the work and make all the sacrifices and have all the talent, and if you don’t kiss my ass, we will crush you, the way we crushed Jim Thorpe, and Carl Brewer, and the American sprinters who gave the black power salute on the podium at the Mexico games in 1968, and Bourne and Krantz, the Canadian ice dancers who could turn perfectly synchronized quintuple lutz’s and still finish fifth.


So Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson wanted clemency for Karla Faye Tucker, the Texas murderess who was executed yesterday evening. It’s hard to imagine why. Won’t the morals of western society collapse in a sodden heap the day we allow compassion to over-rule our sense of biblical justice?

It is hard to imagine how someone who claims to live his entire life according to the precepts of the bible can come to some of the conclusions that Falwell, Robertson and company come to. According to them, the Bible endorses free enterprise, capitalism, and the American way. It’s mind-boggling. Even if you are a literalist– and I’m not–where on earth does someone get the idea that the Hebrews believed in laissez faire economics? In fact, time and time again, God held the Hebrews strictly accountable for how they invested their capital, used their resources, and what they spent their money on. The widows, orphans, and strangers had to be treated well, or God would withdraw his favours from Israel. Nowhere does God say or suggest, “don’t give generously to the poor, for in so doing, thou wilt encourage dependency and sloth. And thou shalt keep the minimum wage low that the Lord may bless your tax-free capital gains”.

Back to capital punishment: contrary to what I just said, there is sound biblical evidence for the application of capital punishment, right next to the sound biblical evidence for mass murder and genocide. Does that sound harsh? Well, if you’re a literalist, you have to find some way to explain, to your heart’s satisfaction, why God occasionally approved of the slaughter of women and children, along with the soldiers of Israel’s enemies.

Personally, I’m happier believing that the Bible is infallible in the sense of spiritual inspiration, but not necessarily in the sense of historic, social, or economic truth. Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have found more than a few errors of translation in the gospels. One more error in translation I’d like to suggest is the idea that God approved of Israel’s violent campaigns against their Canaanite neighbors. More likely, Israel’s writers and historians merely did what all modern writers and historians do as well: attribute a divine moral authority to an all too human act of nasty blood-thirstiness.

The Salaries of Canadian MPs

According to Southam Newspapers, Canadian MP’s rank near the bottom of the world in terms of pay. Here’s some comparisons:

The big surprise here is socialist Sweden, which pays their members of Parliament less than anyone else, though they sit for a respectable 125 days a year. My goodness. What happened to the stereo-type of the free-spending left-lib government hack squandering all the taxpayer’s hard-earned money on useless and wasteful policy-wonking? What’s going on here? How come the most conservative government in the western world, the U.S., pays their legislators nearly the most?

There is a theory that a national health insurance plan similar to Canada’s would never work in the U.S. (where the cost of health care is, proportionately, three times what we pay) because conservative doctors would consider it a moral duty to cheat the plan as much as possible. There is a good deal of evidence that this theory is true. So the conservatives have made themselves a self-fulfilling prophecy: national health insurance will not work in the U.S. because we will abuse the system to death.

Good for them. That’s why they get paid so much.

Canadian MPs are paid too little. Most people in responsible positions that are at all comparable to being a member of parliament earn well over $100,000. But if we do decide to increase their pay, we should demand something in return: genuine democracy. Thanks largely to Trudeau, our government has evolved into an overly centralized system wherein most key decisions are made by top advisors and cabinet and ordinary party members play almost no role in arriving at decisions anymore. If we really only need ten people to run the country, let’s pay ten people to run the country and toss the rest of the bums out. Let’s also abolish the Senate now and get it over with.

Yes, our MPs are paid too little, but one thing does need to be pointed out: they all applied for the job knowing full well what the wages were. No one forced them to run. If they don’t like the pay or working conditions, fine, quit. There is something offensive about these guys campaigning on civic-mindedness, prudence, and responsibility to the taxpayer… and then doing everything they can to line their own pockets once they get in.

The problem is: who decides what the government should be paid? I have a solution. It’s so ingenious I can’t believe no one every thought of it before! And it’s perfectly in tune with the modern spirit of privatization and downsizing. This is the plan: every candidate running for political office must include, as part of the registration process, a “bid” for his own salary. So when Joe Schmo launches his campaign in Kamloops, the first thing voters want to know is, how much is he offering to work for? Preston Manning can offer his services for $34,500 a year. Chretien thinks he’s worth $100,000. Voters can decide.

You may think this will give an unfair advantage to the rich, who can afford to offer to govern for free. I don’t think so. I think most voters will realize pretty quickly that a Paul Martin at $125,000 is worth a lot more than a Sheila Copps at $69,000, or a Conrad Black– should he decide to run– at $5,000. It would make elections a lot more interesting, because really good, popular politicians could set records for highest pay, and would be entitled to influential positions because the voters want them to have influential positions. Politicians would be more accountable, because we could quickly figure out if they were worth the amount of money they asked for, instead of the amount that all MPs, competent or not, receive.

One last rant here: the taxpayer subsidizes education in Canada to an enormous degree. I forget the actual figures, but I saw them once in the Globe and Mail, and believe me, the numbers are huge. Among the most expensively subsidized educational programs is medicine. And those figures do not even include the cost of providing hospitals and clinics in which doctors and nurses are trained.

I propose that every medical student, nurse or doctor, who enrolls in a Canadian college or university, should be required to sign an agreement to repay every last cent of the subsidized portion of their education if they ever decide to move to U.S. and practice there. The amount would probably be well over $100,000 for doctors, and $40,000 for nurses. Perhaps someone will come up with better figures for me. Why should we Canadian taxpayers, in effect, subsidize the U.S. health care system just because they’re too stupid or dishonest to have their own coherent plan?

Country Salary Sitting
Japan $169,759 43
Germany $102,798 66
United States $169,672 144
Canada $64,400 148
Sweden $36,465 125