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Bruce Dowbiggin

Institutional Neutrality is Dead. Long Live Chaos

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Liberals believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion. Just so long as it’s the same opinion as theirs.— P.J. O’Rourke

Have you ever ordered from Skip The Dishes and then greedily savoured the taste of your food as it made its way to your house? And then, when the food arrived, the salad was wilted, the fries were mushy and the burger was overdone?

That’s probably how Republicans in the U.S. feel in the wake of the much-touted midterm elections on Tuesday. They ordered a mouth-watering portion of crushing Joe Biden’s Democrats. When their order was tossed on the stoop it proved a nothing burger.

Yes, the GOP appear to now (barely) control the House, which is no small thing. Biden’s legislative agenda goes through them. But the promised triumph in the Senate likely comes down to a woeful Herschel Walker winning a runoff in December with the incumbent Raphael Warnock to simply maintain a 50-50 status quo.

The GOP’s caviar dreams and champagne wishes were stoked by pollsters and TV pundits who promised revenge for two years of Biden calling them Nazis. Instead they got a cadaverous husk named John Fetterman, rendered non compes menses by a stroke, schooling TV doc Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. Go figure.

The only upside was in Florida where governor Ron DeSantis led a true red wave, swamping the DEMs across the board in governor, senate and House elections en route to historic gains in the Sunshine state. The DEM drubbing was what had been promised— and never materialized— elsewhere.

Now, Republicans are left with the scenario none of them wants. The Mara Lago whale Donald Trump— whose wonky endorsements in the midterms face-planted in important races— stands as GOP kingmaker. He largely withheld his huge war chest from candidates who wilted against DEM media blitzes. And he has a fanatical base.

He believes he has the road open to a 2024 presidential nomination. Indeed, he thinks opposition to him would be disloyal to a former president. The only thing standing in his way will be fellow Floridian DeSantis, the favourite of those who live in a real world. Their clash— if DeSantis is willing— promises to be bloody. And highly entertaining for DEMs.

What leads conservatives in the U.S. to most despair in this conflict is the urgency of a cultural moment Trump introduced in 2016— a moment he seems to have allowed to pass in place of a cult of personality. As Pedro L. Gonzalez describes in in Chronicles Magazine: The Trump moment was a repudiation of the status quo through a legitimate democratic process.  By subsequently denying that option to people through force and fraud, the establishment effectively removed a pressure relief valve.

It’s hard to explain what a disaster this is for the establishment… They had to radicalize the people who are most patriotic about this country and most reverent of its myths, symbols, and founding documents: Middle Americans. People no longer believe in institutional neutrality. That is bad for the regime. But it’s good for Americans who needed to be disabused of that illusion.

The abuses of the establishment against Americans have all but guaranteed the rise of a force that will be as bad or worse than what they pretended the first iteration of Trumpism was. It’ll be good and necessary when it comes.”

It’ll be good for Canadians, too, when Jagmeet Singh, the Happy Squanderer, does his democratic duty bringing down the Trudeau Tower. Read the previous quote and insert the Canadian establishment where Gonzalez referred to its American counterpart and the observation applies to Singh, Trudeau and the insatiable apparatus of the Capital Region.

As we have seen in the ongoing Emergency Measures finger pointing, institutional neutrality in Canada is mort. The entire exercise on display in Ottawa has seen the Usual Suspects demonizing working-class’ complaints as white supremacy. They are saying they have nothing to learn from their fellow citizens. Anything but blaming themselves for allowing the Convoy to metastasize on the steps of Parliament Hill.

The recent government disgorgements to failing traditional media— abated by the corrosive Bill C-18— make clear that the ruling elite in Ottawa think they have bought off dissent. Trudeau has an open field to dabble in his vanities.

[If you want to sample the self-absorption vibe, here’s Trudeau’s wife Sophie nuzzling with Meaghan Markle on her podcast: “This wasn’t our day of being the wives and moms, all perfectly coiffed with updos and pearls and demure smiles,” said Markle. “This was the other version of us both with wild curly hair and swimsuits and loose linen and huge belly laughs. Big cuddles with our little ones, quiet whispers of girl talk on the terrace, giddy like absolute schoolgirls.”

The only resistance to this twaddle— Sophie G. greeted Markle with the chummy African term “ubuntu”— remains social media, and the Trudeau government is moving quickly to head off that outlet, too, with C-18.]

The presumption being he can turn off all the pressure valves for opponents and ride out the storms of his corruption. As in, the Global News investigation of Canadian intelligence briefs alleging that China’s Toronto Consulate covertly funded a clandestine network of CCP-affiliated candidates in the 2019 federal election. A scandal that Trudeau let lie for 22 months while he told the UN that Canada is a genocidal state.

He needs to bear in mind Gonzalez’s prediction of “a force that will be as bad or worse than what they pretended the first iteration of Trumpism was”. While Ontario is still content to colour within the lines, a combination of western provinces is willing to provoke the biggest constitutional crisis since his Papa repatriated the constitution in the early 1980s.

Tread lightly, M. Trudeau. Skip The Dishes can’t save you now.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Corked: The Incongruous Affection For Government Liquor Retailing

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First, the nostalgia. In 1974 we worked at the (now departed) Huron and Dupont LCBO site for Xmas. In those days, when people arrived by dog sled, customers were required to consult a book, find the code that corresponded to their choice of wine or booze, and then hand the slip to a clerk (us) who would fetch the evil brew from a deep lair beneath the store.

Okay, it was from shelves beyond the view of customers. We would then return with the bottle, a cashier would process the transaction, and democracy was safe for another day. After we left, the LCBO modernized stores to allow customers to actually see the bottles they were considering (heresy). They hired clerks who actually knew something about the products, Later still they even had sales and tasting bars in fancy stores adorned in chrome and wood accents.

Those who wanted anything different could hoover to Buffalo or Rochester where the stores were often modest but the prices attractive. Different stores carried different inventories. While Ontario customers ordered rationed futures or shivered in parking lots to get a miniscule share of a hot new wine, getting product at the U.S. stores was both immediate and not rationed.

The contrast was stark. Which is where things sit today. The Ontario government (like all provincial governments save Alberta) is still in the retail business. In the day, they had about 8,000 slots for shelf-worthy products. If you wanted to purchase something else you needed a process that made finding the headwaters of the Nile seem like a casual jaunt. It’s less strenuous now, with the Ford government allowing sales in corner outlets and grocery stores.

But the LCBO remains a unionized tribute to Bill Davis’ Ontario. A polite, apologetic concession to pre-Trudeau Canada. Which is why the noisy ruckus being kicked up by the unionized employees is a downer for the Family Compact sensibilities. The people who stock shelves, operate cashes, check IDs and refuse to give you plastic bags are on strike to protect their sinecures with government. Have they no gratitude?

Union leaders are insisting that the loss of their workers will be a death blow to healthcare and education in the province. All sorts of miscreants will be allowed to escape detection in the buying process. For those of us now living in Alberta this eye-rolling claim is amusing. You see, private liquor retailing has been in effect here for decades. Different stores have different choices. Sales are an everyday feature of the experience. While the LCBO brags about its buying power you don’t see it reflected in prices. Bonus: We also can purchase Costco’s Kirkland brand wines which are cheap and delicious.

The predicted increase in crime and diminution of tax income without unionized store clerks has not happened. As Brian Lilley explains in The Sun, “Statistics Canada tracks the annual net income of liquor authorities in Canada and for fiscal year 2022-23, Alberta returned $825,104,000 to the provincial coffers. With a population of 4,645,229 as of April 1, 2023, that means the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission gave the government a per capita return of $177.62.

“That same year, the LCBO’s net income from liquor was $2,457,527,000. With a population of 15,457,075 as of April 1, 2023, the LCBO returned $158.99 per capita. Even using the $2.58 billion the LCBO remits, which includes other earnings, the LCBO’s per capita return to the province would be $166.91, which is still lower than Alberta’s return.” In short, we call bogus on the union’s claim.

But there is in government liquor sales the Canadian quality of worshipful adherence to the state. This is the polite impulse of restricting competition that has driven healthcare into the stratosphere for Canadians. Even as they wait 18 months to see a specialist or sit endlessly in a waiting room, Canadians privately welcome this as a merit badge for not accepting the two-tiered systems of Europe or the insurance-based market in the U.S.

Their suffering gives them gravitas that, as middle-class folk, they can suffer like the poor folks do, the ones whom, pace the NDP, need our empathy. The glossy brochures churned out by LCBO minions allow a frisson of pizazz but without oppressing the folks camped out in Trinity Bellwods park.

For this reason the Ford Conservatives are treading very carefully despite the evident big-foot uselessness of the current model. In the venerable Ontario government tradition of trying to be half-pregnant they don’t want to stir up the class warriors seen recently in ant-Israel demos. It’s similar in the rest of the provinces where bureaucrats have convinced elected officials that, like Jack in Brokeback Mountain, “I wish I knew how to quit you, Ennis.”

Whatever the LCBO strike result it’s a safe assumption that no one in the Canadian bureaucracy will be losing their jobs to the free market. The huge bumps in hiring since Covid show a colossus that has no intention of giving back its power to regulate. From liquor to climate Canadian politicians have ceded responsibility for areas that can be handled more efficiently and cheaply by civil servants and consultants. Kind of like CBC.

It is possible to kick the habit. The recent Chevron SCOTUS decision seeks to unpack the bureaucratic state by de-fanging its armies of in-house experts, pushing regulations and laws back to elected officials and away from the sprawling DEI-infested bureaucracy. You can tell it’s working by the torrents of complaint from redundant officials. Even more drastically, new Argentine president Javier Milei has reduced his cabinet departments from 22 to just nine.

While PM-in-waiting Pierre Poilievre talks a big game about tackling these excesses, he doesn’t stand a chance at rationalizing government services. So it’s likely he’ll have to content himself with a nice glass of beer or wine. That, under the LCBO, will cost him more than it should.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Soccer Most Foul: While Canada Soars The Game Suffers

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Watching Canada’s mens team at the Copa 2024 soccer tournament has been a hoot. With a coach who hasn’t been there long enough to unpack his bags and with a smattering of world-class players they’ve managed to make a little go a long way. They play mighty Argentina on Tuesday after winning a dramatic shootout against Venezuela on Friday.

They’ve yet to score more than once in any game. In two games they’ve been shut out in regulation time. One of the top forwards, Tajan Buchanan, broke his leg. The grandstands are about five percent Canada, 95 percent the other guys. They played almost an entire game with a man advantage and never took any advantage.

The Canada national team huddle together during the Concacaf Gold Cup football match semifinal between Mexico and Canada at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on July 29, 2021. (Photo by AARON M. SPRECHER / AFP) (Photo by AARON M. SPRECHER/AFP via Getty Images)

But here they are. God bless ‘em. The American announcers, bereft after the U.S. collapsed, have adopted Canada as a feel-good story. Should they beat Argentina it will be almost enough for Canadians to forget that Justin Trudeau is still their prime minister. Almost.

What is unavoidable— outside the Canada plot line— is the distressed state of soccer being played at the Copa and the concurrent Euro 24 tournament deciding the champion of that neck of the world. Not that it hasn’t been a disputatious disgrace in the past, but the soccer playing out next to Canada’s ascension is breaching new lows.

Soccer is the UN of sports. It has a storied past. It represents many good and virtuous things in the world. But it is now a swamp of corruption, cynicism and bad people. To paraphrase the Hunter S. Thompson expression, soccer is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.

At times it seems that the object is the litigation process of lies and deception during the game, not the eventual outcome. Like Iran on the UN Women’s Commission or China on the Human Rights board, Ecuador as a soccer titan seems to beggar the imagination. But there you go.

The nadir of this incarnation of “the beautiful game” was likely the unwatchable spectacle of Uruguay and Brazil on Saturday night. The way the bodies were hitting the ground you’d have thought it was the Somme. Except at the Somme, the bodies didn’t miraculously revive and rejoin the battle as if nothing had happened to them.

While there were 37 fouls called (including four yellow cards and a red card) dozens more incidents ended up with players writhing on the turf, pounding the grass with their fist as if their leg had been severed. When the referee ignored the charade, their teammates swarmed Dario Herrera to dispute the sheer injustice of it all. The pantomime of outrage and pomposity was more suited to Gilbert & Sullivan than a sporting event.

Creating some offence seemed to be too heavy of a load for the Brazilians and Uruguayans. (Brazil’s star Vincius Jr. was suspended for the game.) Hence the puny four shots on target in the entire 120-minutes plus of regulation (three by Brazil, one by Uruguay). Better to see if the referee can set you up for a free kick inside the box by feigning injury. Or halt your opponents as they threaten to launch a ball in the direction of your goalie.

The endless lather, rinse, repeat of this process was exhausting as it became clear that the clubs were going to let a shootout settle who would proceed to the semifinals against Colombia (Canada/ Argentina is the other semi.) Finally Uruguay outlasted Brazil 4-2 in the shootout.

Almost hidden in the docket of legal challenges made to luckless referee Herrera was the fact that one of the Brazilian players is currently being investigated in for match fixing. Turns out he’s been (allegedly) taking a dive to draw a yellow cards so his being buddies can cash in.

But he’s been granted a papal dispensation or the equivalent to play in the tournament . Oh, that puts the whole thing beyond the pale. Remember that unhappy bettors once murdered a Colombian player for an own goal at the World Cup. What could possibly go wrong?

That brings up another subject. Which is the standards for what’s allowed in the game. Under a mysterious tradition, defenders are apparently allowed to grab jerseys, hand-check attackers, tackle players in the penalty box on corner kicks and generally impede attackers who stray into their vicinity. If you want to know why three of four COPA matches and three of four Euro matches ended in SO or OT, look no further than the permissible impeding of offence. Scoring is a herculean task when teams are remotely competent.

In a hidebound sport such as soccer where politics reigns supreme, nothing happens without someone’s palm being greased. (And this is our seemingly umpteenth time in our four decades reporting on sport that we have made this point.) But we shall try again.

Other sports have understood that neither fans nor networks pay to see defence. So the NBA made hand-checking opponents a foul. The NHL made slashing the hands of a shooter into a two-minute penalty. The NFL told defensive backs that they couldn’t grab jerseys or limbs in covering receivers. It worked, freeing up the game enough so it doesn’t look like Brazil/ Uruguay every night.

Surely, soccer can restrict the borderline tactics of defenders to allow more flow to the sport. No doubt the cro-magnons that roam the pitch will howl. The players-turned-announcers in the booth will scoff. Fans will blame “sissy tactics” when their team loses.

But please. For one last time. We want to enjoy soccer, not endure it. Open up the game. Shut down the players who turn soccer into The English Patient. Let skill, not clever fouling, decide matches. Remove the terpsichorean spectacle from the pitch.

There. We said it. Nothing will change, but we will feel better about not watching in the future.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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