Friday, February 29, 2008

Independent's Day

As someone writing inflammatory opinion pieces both in print and on the internet, I was legitimately shocked and personally upset when I opened up a copy of The Independent this morning and found out that someone doesn't like me.

Ivan Morgan, I am undone.

In an open letter to yours truly Mr. Morgan has gone to great lengths to convey how dismayed he is that someone out there has the audacity to give opinions on politics using a pseudonym. It's cowardly and dishonourable to the entire profession of journalism and roughly on par with allowing AIDS patients to die untreated or ordering the massacre at Beaumont Hamel.

With smarm and self-righteousness, Mr. Morgan has singlehandedly exposed me as a loathesome fraud, too pathetic to publicly reveal myself for fear that Danny Williams will personally come to my house under the cover of darkness and kneecap me.

I am a disgrace to journalists everywhere and I admit defeat.

This is, of course, what I would say in response to Ivan Morgan assuming his point had any merit or relevance and didn't read like someone gave Comic Book Guy print space and deep-seated insecurities about his place in his chosen career.

I hate to break it to you Mr. Morgan, but I'm not actually a journalist. I know, it's really difficult to make the distinction between an objective and scholarly investigative report and what is essentially a satirical political weblog adapted for print media, so I can understand that this is probably a fairly common mistake. It's cool, I won't hold it against you.

I like your assumption that I am hiding behind a fake name because I fear that were my true identity revealed, I would be put up against the wall. I'm not entirely sure where you got this from, because I don't really remember saying anything of the sort. I'm not even sure I've ever said this is a pseudonym. Why do you assume I'm not legitimately a man named Richard Raleigh? Why do you assume my employment is such that posting on a blog I (apparently mistakenly) assumed no one actually read would get me fired?

What if I actually was Danny Williams and this whole thing is just one big meta-joke? More importantly, why does this even matter? Slow news day? I'm going to assume it was a slow news day.

But since you were so nice to write me a letter, I'll fill you in on a secret, Ivan - the biggest secret of them all. My real, honest-to-goodness reason for being a dishonourable coward (or, if you prefer, a "despicable twerp") isn't because I live in fear of losing my job, but because I think it's funny. I know, a comedy writer doing/saying something because it's perceived as funny - we're through the looking glass here, people. I would make a "stop the presses" joke at this point but I'm afraid if I besmirch the good name of journalism anymore you might have an aneurysm.

I'm also impressed you drew the analogy between publishing monthly opinion pieces in a free newspaper and refusing to treat AIDS patients - I know that the logical acrobatics you need to undertake to draw that kind of parallel are no small feat. A better analogy would probably be an individual from a totally nonrelated profession is a doctor as a hobby and who treats AIDS patients using a different name. Or something like that - you're the professional writer, man; help a brother out.

All in all, your letter reads like a hit piece from J. Jonah Jameson raging about SPIDERMAN WHY DOES HE WEAR THAT MASK RAAARGH - not that I'm complaining, of course. I started doing this to ruffle feathers so I was, in all seriousness, flattered when I opened up the paper this morning. By rights I should be thanking you - by getting angry enough at my mediocre satirical musings to devote a column to me you've actually legitimised the very thing that's making you so upset. Also the free publicity was great, too. Thanks!

Your outrage is silly, Mr. Morgan. Relax - it's not like this is serious business or anything.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Much ado about Freudian Slips

It must be a slow week for the Department of Education because apparently Jokegate 2008 is the only issue the Minister of Education has to deal with at the moment.

There isn't much point in repeating myself over the merits of the Minister's complaint, but it's worth pointing out that she's brought up an interesting new point: Hearn's joke about an overweight woman is actually a manifestation of underlying sexism present in the federal Conservative party.

While the federal Tories have made some blatantly regressive policy decisions regarding the status of women in the short time they've been in government ("You can go home guys, women are pretty much equal" - Bev Oda, 2006), the last time Hearn's joke could be considered even remotely edgy or sexist would be sometime in the 1930s, and contrary to what Joan Burke might have been told to believe by her bosssay, it really is a leap of faith to assume that because of an incredibly lame joke, Loyola Hearn truly believes women belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen as little more than glorified baby-producing machines.

But, all that aside, Joan Burke's comments raise an interesting question: can such seemingly innocuous statements act as Freudian slips to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of people and governments?

Why don't we take a look:

Statement 1: "...[it involves trying to] balance the responsibility of the patients who needed change and the responsibility of protecting the interests of [Eastern Health] in the event of a litigation." - Health Minister Ross Wiseman referring to why Eastern Health did not inform patients of inaccurate breast cancer test results

BURKEAN SLIP: "We are greedy misogynists." - Health Minister Ross Wiseman

Statement 2: "I think I represent, in my heart and soul, the hearts and souls of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians..." - Premier Danny Williams, explaining why he feels his party enjoys overwhelming popular support

BURKEAN SLIP: "If you vote Liberal, I'll cut you." - Lord Daniel Q. Williams I, God-Emperor of Newfoundland and her colony Labrador

Statement 3: "I think we have a clear example here of a government that does not respect women." - Education Minister Joan Burke, referring to a joke Loyola Hearn made about an overweight woman

BURKEAN SLIP: "God please let the media keep going with this story so I have time to come up with a way to blame the Liberals for stealing information on children or whatever it was that happened and can therefore continue to avoid actually being knowledgeable about my job in any way." - Education Minister Joan "Psychoanalyst" Burke

Of course, this is purely a thought experiment - I mean, I don't think Ross Wiseman is evil so much as he is inept, and I doubt that the Premier intends to put dissenters up against the wall anytime soon.

Joan Burke, however, is definitely clutching at straws here.

Relax, Minister - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Minister Burke, the joke is on you

Do you like jokes? I like jokes. In fact I heard a really good one recently that I feel compelled to share with you:

So there's this tourist travelling across Canada, and he decides to visit one church in every province that he stops in. So he gets off the plane in British Columbia and visits a church, and they have a phone line directly to heaven that costs 100 dollars to use. He doesn't use it, of course, because that's an obscene price for a phone call, period. So he heads out to Alberta and finds that at the next church they have the same line to heaven, but this one costs 80 dollars. Thinking there might be pattern to this, his next stop is a church in Ontario and sure enough, there's another phone line to heaven and it costs 50 dollars. He heads to New Brunswick next, where it costs 20 dollars, and finally he runs out of room to head east in Canada and makes his last stop in a church here in Newfoundland, where he discovers that the line to heaven is only 25 cents - the reason being, of course, that he's already there.


But wait, it gets better:

While he's stopped over in Newfoundland he hears someone mention that they've got the same thing over in Ireland; so obviously, he jumps at the chance to continue his investigation of these bizarre heavenly phones. Of course, when he gets there, he realises they have a totally different pricing scheme on the other side of the pond, and he's told that it'll cost him about 300 pounds to use their line to heaven. Naturally, he makes the call and then leaves his wife behind.

Hah, I love that one. Unfortunately I can't take credit for it though, since I got it from federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn. Or maybe I didn't. At this point, I'm not really sure if I did or not, and apparently neither is Mr. Hearn or Education Minister Joan Burke.

Honestly I'm not entirely sure Joan Burke is in any position to criticise anyone for over their choice of comedy (or lack thereof). Based on everything I've ever heard her say both in and out of the House, I can only assume that she is the sort of person who enjoys Mallard Fillmore unironically:

Also applicable: Ross Wiseman

That aside, the joke in question - which apparently neither CBC or VOCM will reproduce in print medium - is pretty tame as far as sexist jokes go, to the point where I firmly believe that anyone finding it legitimately and/or offensively sexist desperately needs to get out more (Lorraine Michael, are you reading this?). If it makes you more comfortable, feel free to imagine the protagonist as a woman and replace the word "wife" with "husband" and it's essentially the same joke, although this might make it somewhat more difficult for the Education Minister to claim moral outrage about it.

Also, claiming moral outrage over a joke you never actually heard except through hearsay seems like an extremely frivolous and hilariously trivial thing to do that no sane government member would ever actually follow through on. Or at least, you would assume as much, until you remember that our provincial government has gone completely overboard in its grudge match with the federal Conservative party to the point of being so desperate to come up with something to offset recent spending announcements that they've resorted to trying to make a mountain out of what they heard might be a molehill (but aren't really sure).

Ironically, what Joan Burke and the provincial government don't seem to realise is that by blowing up at the federal Conservatives over everything they do and actively trying to make sure none are elected to the House from this province, they'll create a situation in which the only jokes they'll be hearing from federal Ministers in another (likely) Harper minority government will all start with "so, there's this Newfie..."

Friday, February 15, 2008

We Have Always Been At War With Eastasia

Well it sure has been an intense week here in St. John's as the Premier finally stepped in to decisively state that there's no real problem with Andy Wells keeping his job as mayor and taking the job of chair of th-

Wait, hang on a second, I'm seeing something else here. Wha-


Well it sure has been an intense week here in St. John's as the Premier finally stepped in to decisively state that Andy Wells can't keep both his job as mayor of St. John's and the job of chair of the PUB and that it has to be one or the other.

It's very refreshing to see a reminder of the proud, strong and determined will of the Williams Administration every once in a while; as a single-issue voter who was wowed entirely on the Premier's uncompromising stance against Prime Minister Stephen Hitler, no matter how detrimental to provincial-federal relations that may have been, I am pleased to see that the man I helped give a Smallwood-esque mandate will not crack in the face of public pressure or otherwise waffle on his stances.

I mean, if he had, someone in the media would have called him on it, right?