Sun Media to loyal employees: “Merry Fucking Christmas!

Christmas bonus? Christmas bonus? Did anyone say Christmas bonus?

Sun Media’s message to its loyal employees Monday was “Merry Fucking Christmas, and have a happy and prosperous New Year, too! Please pick up your personal items on the way out.”

Ten days before Christmas seemed long enough, so the Quebec-based media company, which owns the wretched Edmonton and Calgary Sun newspapers, laid off 600 employees coast to coast. This is the second major round of slashing at Sun Media in as many years. In Edmonton, more than 20 got the sack, according to insiders.

If that doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot to you, you’re residing deep in the past. The local Sun paper operates on such a pathetically frayed shoestring that news coverage other than right-wing bloviating (no research costs) and hysterical crime-and-crash coverage was already all but impossible. There are weekends when there’s no one at work in the newsroom except a spavined hack desker and an unpaid intern of a particularly dull variety.

About all that’s left is the moribund rag’s functionality as fish-wrap. Frankly, one wonders why they bother.

A few weeks before, Canwest Global Communications – owner of the chronically fatigued Edmonton Journal – announced its own round of cutbacks.

Absentee newspaper chain owners have taken and taken and taken from local newspapers in Canada to the point where there is virtually nothing left. Most newspaper owners think “public service” means a revival meeting held in the rain. Edmonton, with a population of nearly a million, might as well be a city without a daily newspaper.

For years, newspaper owners invested nothing in news coverage or training, and as pathetically little as possible in salaries. They churn out homogenized dreck in centralized newsrooms in Ontario and stuff it down the throats of their few remaining readers elsewhere in Canada. (It’s actually remarkable that they haven’t yet started to hire reporters in India to cover local city council meetings by phone and cable feed. God knows, they’d be cheaper even than the pathetic sluggos they hire now, and probably more literate. Who cares if they think “spunk” is something other than a cheerful combination of grit and alacrity?) No young person with an ounce of sense would consider a career in newspaper journalism any more.

Newspapers now blame the economic downturn, shriveling advertising rates and the effects of the Internet for their troubles. Well, there’s enough truth to this to be dangerous, but the real reason is that for years they’ve been putting out a shitty, one-dimensional product and cheekily boosting their advertising and subscription prices without regard to their withering readership. (They justify it all with made-up “readership” estimates that count tattered papers lying around shawarma shops as each having a dozen readers. Yeah, right!)

“The effect was a general acceleration of a journalistic trend already evident: a trend toward more ‘lifestyle’ reporting, trivialization of news, and in extreme cases to what has been dubbed disco-journalism.” If those lines sound faintly familiar to you, you’ve been around longer than I have. They come from Tom Kent’s Royal Commission on Newspapers in 1981. Other than the fact that there’s nothing extreme about disco journalism any more – indeed, it’s standard operating procedure – and that the very idea of disco is so, well, disco, the commission pretty well nailed it.

For its part, Sun Media said Monday they want to drive content on-line so they can save on newsprint costs. Well, good luck to them. But crappy content produced by underpaid hacks who wish they were somewhere else doing something else is still crappy content. Semi-pornographic Sunshine Girls, fully a quarter of whom seem to be pulling their pants off nowadays, are only going to attract so many people to their Web site. It’s just not going to work – especially if they’re so foolish as to try to get anyone to pay for it.

The 1981 Royal Commission also made some sound recommendations, which had they been implemented, might have saved the Canadian newspaper business, or at least put off its demise by a few decades.

These included rules that would have prevented further concentration of ownership, incentives to independent investors in newspapers, guarantees of editorial freedom and tax measures to support newspapers and news services.

Instead – at the vocal urging of newspaper owners and their bought and paid for toadies on Parliament Hill – they were ignored and we got Conrad Black, David Radler, Pierre Péladeau and their odious ilk.

Now the public has cottoned on to what’s been going on and all but one or two of Canada’s newspapers are done for.

Well, cry me a river!

One can feel some sympathy for the employees, told they were out of a job on a day when it was 25 degrees below zero.

One can even feel a bit sorry for newspaper lovers who are now going to have to go out and buy a Malaysian-built laptop.

But as for Sun Media? Hasta la vista! Who the fuck cares?


Russian invasion serves the cause of world peace

At the risk of sounding like a nostalgic old Red brokenhearted at the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a tonic! It serves the cause of world peace.

This is, oddly enough, because Russia has acted a little like the Soviet Union – that is, like as a superpower prepared to stand up and defend its own interests.

Almost since the day George Bush became president of the United States despite being defeated in the general election by Democrat Al Gore, and certainly since the Saudi Arabian attacks on 911, the neoconned United States government has been lurching out of control.

Sane people throughout the world watched with alarm as U.S. forces under the leadership of Bush’s creepy Darth-Vader-like Veep Dick Cheney invaded countries, set up concentration camps, subjected non-citizens and citizens alike to torture, subverted the U.S. Constitution, asserted their right to kidnap and murder anyone anywhere, and rattled nuclear sabers in every direction.

Particularly disturbing was the Bush junta’s apparent and increasing willingness to risk confrontations with powerful states that had the potential for grave consequences, military and economic, for those of us who live in the rest of the world.

Examples included encouraging separatism in the Balkans, threatening Iran and China, and, indeed, financing the “pro-Western” coup that brought Georgia’s loony-tune president to power.

There is plenty to suggest the Georgians were encouraged by the Americans to launch their spree of ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia. Apparently they believed that the Russians, with Prime Minister Putin out of town at the Olympics, would hesitate too long to push back, allowing the U.S.-advised Georgian forces time to dig in and present the world with a fait accompli.

Indeed, disturbing reports in the world press – though nary a word is heard from North America’s tame media, of course – indicate that when the Georgian dictator sent his troops into South Ossetia they were accompanied by American and Israeli advisors.

This was not the United States we knew and admired. It was as if a trusted and beloved uncle had begun to act violently and abusively, screeching at his children, beating his wife, drinking straight from the bottle and threatening to set the neighbourhood afire.

Sane people in Canada were not only alarmed, but embarrassed as all this transpired to a chorus of support from the pipsqueak neocon choir of Stephen Harper’s “Conservative” government. Harper would support any U.S. action, even if it flew directly against Canada’s interests – viz., backing vicious Kosovo separatists thereby encouraging their counterparts here at home, or sacrificing the lives of brave Canadian service men and women in Afghanistan.

So, notwithstanding the democratic imperfections of the Russian bear, in Soviet or post-Soviet attire, it comes as a relief that someone with the muscle to back it up has drawn a line in the sand and told the Americans, “No more!”

Clearly the slap delivered by the Russians had an immediate salutary effect. While some neocons continue to bluster and threaten, and the Dickster’s office no doubt continues to scheme and plot, Washington seems to have sobered up, at least for the moment.

At any rate, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in measured tones there is no way U.S. military forces would directly confront a nuclear-armed Russia, justifiably aroused, in its own back yard. “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation,” he stated. No kidding!

We are not out of the woods, of course. Neocon forces in the U.S. government, contemptuous of democracy and the needs of ordinary people everywhere, have plenty of scope for mischief, in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

Moreover, despite the obvious wish of the American people for return to normal competent government, there is also no guarantee the neocons will not steal another U.S. election next November.

But Russia’s willingness to stand up to the bully on everyone’s block – the world’s last remaining “superpower,” broke, tied down by its considerably less justified invasion of Iraq and nearly hysterical, but still armed with more nuclear weapons than the rest of the world combined – offers us all some hope for a return of peace, order and sanity.

One imagines that it is not just in the rest of the world that sane people are heaving sighs of relief and discreetly thanking the Russians for their resolve.

Even in the halls of State Department and the Pentagon in Washington, one suspects, cooler heads are secretly relieved by this turn of events.

Who is the IRC, and why are they sending unarmed Canadians into a war zone?

So who or what is the International Rescue Committee and what are they doing sending unarmed Canadian women into a war zone?

This is a serious question. Who had ever heard of these guys before today? If their Website is to be believed, they do nothing but good work. Between the lines, though, we can conclude that they have an agenda that – how can we say? – bespeaks a certain worldview.

Every year the group honours some worthy soul with what it calls its “Freedom Award.” The award is “presented to individuals for their contributions to the cause of refugees and human freedom,” the group says.

In 2001, the recipient was one John McCain, now the Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States. The next year it was Hamid Karzai, the Mayor of Kabul. In 2005, it was George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Presumably it’s only a matter of time until the Shrub gets his IRC Freedom Award, or maybe Dick Cheney.

So, while it is a genuine tragedy that the lives of two Canadian women were lost in an attack on a convoy in which they were riding, presumably by the Taliban, it should not come as a complete surprise. Nor should it surprise us that the Taliban might see these Canadians, no matter how honourable their intentions, as something other than “aid workers.”

This tragedy has provided Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his media toadies, of course, with an opportunity to try to score the usual propaganda points.

Harper referred to the victims as “murdered humanitarian workers.” According to the Canadian Press, the PM said “this cowardly attack on unarmed aid workers yet again shows the depravity of the Taliban.” According to the Globe and Mail, they were “gunned down in an ambush.”

In fact, we know virtually nothing of the convoy in which they were riding, how it was behaving, or whether it included people who were armed. Given that it was in a war zone, it’s likely that some people in the vehicles were in fact armed.

Presumably, when self-evidently innocent and unquestionably unarmed Afghans are caught in a Canadian crossfire, they haven’t been gunned down, they’re not murder victims and their deaths aren’t the result of a cowardly attack that should remind everyone of the depravity of Afghanistan’s Canadian occupiers.

Yet I don’t suppose Mulkia Mohammed, 5, and her little brother, Thorian, 2, were armed or were active Taliban agents when there were ripped apart by a powerful Canadian cannon that, as the National Post gleefully reported, “can slice through steel.”

Apparently no one in the Canadian media thought to ask Prime Minister Harper what he thought about that tragedy, which took place as the toddlers’ parents tried to carry them to safety from the war zone in which they lived. Media reports, however, were deeply respectful of the Canadian troops who pulled the triggers and profoundly shocked that the children’s father would have talked about killing Canadians in revenge.

But revenge is exactly the kind of thing that happens to your soldiers and citizens when you commit yourself to an imperialistic war to guard Dick Cheney’s pipeline. In the end, the insurgents will win, because insurgents can be counted on to lose every battle except the one that counts. This is an axiom of history.

We’ve now wasted 93 Canadian lives in Afghanistan and suffered about 600 non-lethal casualties, many of which will leave their victims crippled for life, on this tragic and pointless exercise.

It’s time to get the hell out!

American training finally pays off

We understand that Russian soldiers have been taunting fleeing would-be Georgian ethnic cleansers, saying they’ve received “American training in running away.”

For shame! This is truly appalling. We await an editorial in the Globe and Mail that forcefully states “two wrongs don’t make a right!” (This morning, the neocon boobs who staff that august journal’s editorial page explained why this is all Russia’s fault: there is “mounting evidence,” intoned the Globe from On High, that the G-boys were “enticed into the conflict.” Goodness gracious! It was all a sting, then? Some sting!

With the Russian Army Chorus and balalaika band tuning up their chops for a Russian-language version of Marching Through Georgia and the heroic Georgian army making tracks for the Black Sea coast, the 2,000 U.S. Marines and Israeli military “advisors” have also presumably, as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf famously said of the Republican Guard, “bugged out.” Maybe they had return tickets on the USAF flights that rushed the Georgian contingent back from Baghdad.

Readers, however, will be comforted to learn that American training can and will ultimately prevail.

Retreating Georgian makes V for4 Victory sign - may not be exactly as illustrated.

Retreating Georgian makes V for Victory sign - may not be exactly as illustrated.

From this morning’s Toronto Star: “At the Beijing Olympics, Georgian women rallied Wednesday to beat their Russian counterparts in beach volleyball, the first head-to-head clash of the two nations.”

Victory at last!

Guess who didn’t do their homework?

Guess who didn’t do their homework? Not just those plucky little Georgians, that’s for sure!

I mean, the Georgie boys had 1,000 U.S. Marine Corps “advisors,” plus another 1,000 Israeli mercenaries, helping get them ready to “join NATO,” plant the Dickster’s “missile shield” next door to Russia, and suchlike. (Any CF members in that bunch? I’ll bet there were!)

So forget common sense, didn’t any of those guys have a GPS? A cell phone? A Chev with OnStar? A paperback on military logistics, maybe?

I’ve got news for you – and apparently for them, too – it takes a couple of weeks and a certain amount of stuff to get 100,000 soldiers with tanks all fuelled up and pissed off enough to invade the neighbours. Especially when you have to drive ‘em all through a tunnel so small Leonidas could hold ‘em off with a sharp stick. (One good thing about South Ossetia: Unlike Iraq, there really is light at the end of the tunnel!)

Plucky Little Georgian, may not be exactly as illustrated

Plucky Little Georgian, may not be exactly as illustrated

Stuff like this can be noticed from above … if you bother to look. So didn’t anyone at Fort Meade take a peek last week, or were they all too busy spying on John Edwards?

You’d think if someone had noticed the Russian buildup, they might have passed the word along to their Georgian allies before they went on their little Ossetian rape and ethnic cleansing spree.

Now there was a smart move. Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s kick the crap out of a few thousand Russian women, children and pensioners, burn all their houses down, when the whole freakin’ Red Army, or whatever they call it nowadays, is sitting next door with the diesels running and the Kalashnikovs all broken out, lookin’ for a little Kosovo payback.

Major General Sergei Chaban, Commander, Russian forces in Georgia

Major General Sergei Chaban, Commander, Russian forces in Georgia

I mean, how flippin’ dumb… ? Well, I guess we know how flippin’ dumb now, don’t we? (Over to you, President Mission Accomplished!) Speaking of the Liberator of Pristina, the Master of Iraq, how idiotic does he sound telling the world that the Russians invading to protect their slaughtered countrymen is “disproportionate and unacceptable” while more than 150,000 GIs are getting they sorry good-ole-boy asses shot off in and around Greater Baghdad to protect Dick Cheney’s business partners? (Ditto for the CF on pipeline security in Kandahar. David Emerson, c’mon down!)

Well, my goodness, pardon us!

Imagine what the Americans would have done if they’d discovered the Cubans had gone and cosied up to the Russians and were planting nuclear missiles right across from Key West… Oh, wait. We know the answer to that one.

A word to the wise: Hank Kissinger was right. Great powers don’t retreat forever. Never mind Texas, don’t mess with Mother Russia. Get used to it!

William Tecumseh Sherman was a Great American.

Get lost, world!

I’ll start blogging when I’m ready to start blogging. Until then, get lost!