Category Archives: Uncategorized

Propaganda vs. bombs: a lose-lose situation

One of the two sides is lying through their teeth and it would be quite difficult to figure out which one: Russia or Ukraine.

According to official Ukrainian reports, Russian forces attacked and set on fire Ukraine’s Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant.

That mainstream media almost all over the world, as if led by an invisible conductor, picked up the Ukrainian version and went stir-crazy, was to be expected. If true, this could have led to another nuclear plant explosion, and again, on Ukrainian soil. Remember Chernobyl.

Except, Russian government’s response, while confirming a fire at the plant, accuses the other side.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defence Ministry’s spokesman, announced (verbatim translation): “Last night, an attempt to carry out a horrible provocation was made by Kiev’s nationalist regime on the area surrounding the station.

What happened, the Major-General went on, was that a Ukrainian sabotage group (his words) attacked Russian troops patrolling the territory.

The timing, according to the Russian spokesman, went as follows: at about 2 a.m. local time, Ukrainian forces had attacked Russian soldiers. They opened heavy fire from a training facility next to the power station. Their plan, according to Major-General Konashenkov, was to “provoke a retaliatory strike on the building.”

The Russian patrol had neutralised the group’s firing points, he added, without elaborating how and at what human cost. The incident went on, however, as the saboteurs (his description) had then set fire to the training facility as they retreated.

Ukrainian State Emergency Service’s firefighters put out the blaze. That’s the one part of the story neither side would dispute.

To calm the nervousness somewhat, Russia’s spokesman said, “At the moment of provocation, no staff members were at the facility.”

As anyone could understand, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky would not let pass such a great chance to score off the Russians in the propaganda war.

Zelensky denied the provocation claims and accused Russian forces of having staged the attack.

Most interestingly, a link to Russia’s RIA news agency that published Zelensky’s statement, is almost inaccessible from North America.

And here’s where the story gets somewhat unclear. Dmytro Orlov, Mayor of Energodar, a town close to the plant, had reported first that it was Russian shelling that triggered the blaze, and, to make it sound even more dramatic, he said the entire plant was on fire.

Whether they were aware of the mayor’s statement or not matters not. What does matter is that the emergency services dismissed out of hand the claim of the plant going up in smoke.

Elaborating on the question of who started it was something the firefighters wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. First of all, they didn‘t necessarily know and, besides, answering such queries would be high above their pay scale.

According to most reports, Russian forces have captured the plant but local staff were keeping operations going and monitoring radiation levels.

The International Atomic Energy Agency put in their few cents’ worth by saying that so far as they know, there has been no change in radiation levels in the wake of the incident.

If it all wasn’t so tragic, it would remind contemporary witnesses of this tale:

Soviet official news agency, TASS, has been authorised by appropriate authorities (this was a usual turn of phrase) to report on an incident near the Soviet-Sino border.

A group of Soviet collective farmers were peacefully tilling their fields when a group of Chinese intruders opened fire using sub-machine and machine guns.

Soviet collective farmers returned fire, using their grenade launchers and recoilless guns.

Having chased the Chinese intruders back behind the border, the Soviet collective farmers peacefully took off and flew back to their base.

That was a joke, one of those called “radioactive:” if reported to secret police, they could send you to toil in uranium mines, with as much hope of escape as from behind prison bars.

Flames in a plant that works on radioactive stuff is not funny.

Most nibs agree we’re watching two wars at once: the real one, with Russia winning almost hands down, and the other, war of words, propaganda war, where Russia’s foes have been scoring a barrage of hits.

The difference between the two?

Results of the former are often irreparable, while the latter goes down crashing as soon as people see through the charade.

Both cost real human lives.

And that’s the real crime.


Here’s how today’s racists managed to win their upper hand

Giving racist advantage to one group over all others seems to have become the rule of the day. On the other hand, saying we’re all equal has become a crime. Many prominent politically correct people, both in the media and in the academic circles, are being hounded if they pronounce one syllable wrong.

No need to feel sorry for them: they have been the ones who had instituted political correctness in the first place, denying their rights to everybody else, including the right of expression. So, what goes around, comes around.

But still: what the heck is happening? How did we manage to get to a situation where a bunch of arrogant, ignorant, illiterate hooligans have become the sole dictators, deciding what’s going to be going on in the public square?

Early warning signs

Interestingly, most people aren’t aware that Manning Rudolph Johnson did predict most of what we witness now when he published his explosive book in 1958, named Color, Communism, And Common Sense.

In fact, one wonders how many of today’s so-called intelligentsia have ever heard his name. Asking whether they had read his book would be superfluous.

Manning Rudolph Johnson was black. He used to think that communism would help overcome the many racial inequities his people used to suffer in his country.

As he rose through the U.S. Communist Party ranks, Manning Rudolph Johnson found out that no, the communists’ goal was not to help racial minorities. Their goal was to fan up mutual racial and ethnic hatreds to such a degree that the flame would lead to annihilation of the republican system of government in the U.S., bringing communism in in its stead.

What did Manning Rudolph Johnson get in return?

Abuse from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Ridicule from the mainstream media. And a serious attempt to ensure that his name disappears from history.

Justice Felix Frankfurter, in his dismissive remarks about Manning Rudolph Johnson and his information (not opinion but information), has become a shining symbol for the so-called liberal Jewish intellectuals whose blatant anti-semitism can only be compared to Adolf Hitler’s or Muslim priests’.

In any case, Manning Rudolph Johnson told the truth and America is now paying for its ignorance and sheer gullibility in the face of the dangers of the cancer known as communism.

Look back in anger

History tells us this is nothing new. We only have forgotten to learn from her. As has been our habit throughout history.

Here’s a brief peek at a few very recent examples.

A mere 103 years ago, Imperial Germany’s High Command told their Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II that they see an easy out of their country’s unending war on Russia. Queen Victoria’s oldest grandson found their ideas perfidious enough and gave his royal assent to the plan.

A group of Russians in exile want to overthrow their Tsar, Nikolai II, the generals told their Kaiser. That would bring Russia into such turmoil, Nikolai II would immediately start begging for some kind of a peace treaty to get his country out of World War One.

And if not the Tsar, then his successors will.

Let’s provide these seditious mongrels with money, put them on a train, and transport the lot of them to their country. Sealed train, insisted His Majesty, we don’t want them to start spreading their ideas among our own people. No problem, said the generals, sealed train it’s going to be.

But, His Majesty wanted to know, how do you know their revolution is going to work? How can you can expect the muzhiki (poor peasants) of Russia to turn on their Tsar, and on their beloved Orthodox (Pravoslavnaia) church?

The generals told their Kaiser that they had read the bolshevik chief’s works. He’s been promising to take the land away from its lawful owners and distribute it among the muzhiki. Vladimir Ulyanov obviously knows that the majority of peasants would be willing to desert their battle lines, and that would be the end of it. Not, the generals added, that they believe this Ulyanov guy would be as good as his word, but when that happens, it would be no longer any of their business.

And this is precisely what happened. A provisional government in Russia that had forced Nicholas II into abdication, had no idea that a group of their compatriots has embarked on the path known in every country, and every political and judicial system, as high treason.

It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Russia’s Tsars for simple family reasons: Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and German Emperor Wilhelm II were all first cousins of King George V of the United Kingdom. Nicholas and Wilhelm II were in turn second cousins-once-removed. Each descended from King Frederick William III of Prussia. They were third cousins, too, as they were both Tsar Paul I of Russia’s great-great-grandsons.

Incestuous family trees aside, once Vladimir Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin, got into power, he had his representatives sign a peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk. That treaty amounted to nothing less than to full surrender.

Of course, history would go on, and Germany would still lose the war. Wilhelm II would abdicate, and Germany would be thrust into such mayhem that it would later on find Adolf Hitler the most attractive leader to get her out of her misery. But that’s another story.

And that Lenin’s bolsheviks would soon enough tell the muzhiki they did not really need their own land, and start enforcing collectivization, that’s another story, too.

Many seem to forget what happened shortly after the bolsheviks took over. They decided that everything and everyone linked to their country’s past in whatever shape or form is suspicious. They began to act accordingly.

The created something known as Proletcult (proletarian culture: they just loved their abbreviations).

It remains a subject of general consternation that so many of old Russian palaces, monuments, sculptures and sundry works of art have survived to this day. Obviously, the bolsheviks had so much other stuff on their agenda, they just didn’t get round to destroying it all.

In any case, when the rest of the world, its so-called civilized part, at least, saw what the bolsheviks were doing to their nation’s rich cultural and historical traditions, they called it all kinds of names. Criminal barbarism was one of the nicest ones among them.

A few steps forward

How the militant Taliban managed to take over Afghanistan and spread its terrorist tentacles all over the world has been an issue analysed in so many densely printed tomes, just listing them would take yet another densely printed book.

Aside from debating the levels of war between the then-Soviet Union and the more civilized west, the answer would be simple: because the west allowed them to. How many learned, spectacles-wearing do-gooders used to say this is their (meaning: Afghan) culture and who are we to be telling them what to do?

Indeed: who?

Still, when the Taliban took to ancient sculptures and monuments and began dynamiting them, what did they hear? An occasional tut-tut, and a few editorials saying they were a bunch of idiotic barbarians.

The Taliban, just as the bolsheviks, knew precisely what they were doing and why: rob people of their culture and tradition, and what have you got? A disjointed group, one that may be linked by a common language, but disjointed, nevertheless.

The good old ancient Greek king Philip II of Macedon used to describe it as diaírei kài, the good old Romans found it intriguing enough to accept it as Divide et impera (divide and rule), and the Taliban felt no need to give it a name. They just implemented it.

And look where Afghanistan is now: a nation divided along old tribal lines where many villagers wouldn’t dare come close to a neighbouring village, in fear for their lives.

Who buries whom?

Today’s would-be revolutionaries, seditious criminals all of them, have found that the bolsheviks’ artificial hatred among classes, based mainly on envy, didn’t get them far enough. And it petered out, too, when people realized that it’s easy to hate all and sundry when you do have enough toilet paper at home, for example. When you have to chase for it all over the place and end up having make do with whatever else, class antagonisms become secondary in a hurry.

Today’s would-be revolutionaries have also realized that even religion-based terrorism no longer cuts it. In any case, not sufficiently enough.

So, why not try race-based grievances, most of them centuries old, and many based on outright lies. Why not destroy everything that reminds people of the past that led to today along the way?

Whether all of those grievances are even justified, or whether they are addressed where they should be addressed is not really relevant.

It will be 64 years this November since then-Soviet chief communist Nikita Sergeievich Khrushchev told the Americans that the communists will bury them.

This statement made instant headlines, and (as happens so often with modern media) most of what Khrushchev would say later would get lost. Not in translation (Khrushchev’s personal interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev knew his job to a t). It just wasn’t as catchy as the headline-grabbing burial statement.

But, it turns out, Khrushchev wasn’t as naïve as many thought he was.

Here’s what he had to say on that rainy November day in 1959: “Your children’s children will live under communism. You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright; but we will keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find you already have communism. We will not have to fight you; we will so weaken your economy, until you will fall like overripe fruit into our hands.

“The democracy will cease to exist,” Khrushchev finished, “when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

To sum it all up: whose lives matter now?

Look for the money trail, and you shall find …

America is a free country, but some people have decided to take it even further:

The family (brothers and sister) of George Floyd opened a Go Fund Me account to “help the family.” They have, at time of writing, already raised $13,958,800 from donations. Yes, almost $14 MILLION.

Please remember: George Floyd was arrested NINE times; he was a convicted drug dealer (and apparently high on drugs the day he died); he held a gun to the stomach of a pregnant lady while his five buddies robbed her home; he did prison time three different times, totalling about eight years, and he quite obviously didn’t learn anything.

Granted, his life should not have ended the way it did. Granted, as well, that he was a willing participant in activities that involved violence on both sides of the equation.

America is memorializing him by painting murals of him on the sides of buildings like he’s a hero.

Any wonder his family feel perfectly free to help themselves on his behalf?



What does it tell YOU?

All of this does tell something significant to a Russian-American who lives in the Excited States. She quite obviously knows her way around. Having worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), she knows a thing or two about the difference between politics and politicking. She summed it all up.

Writing on the day of George Floyd’s funeral, she published a comment that a social media platform where it appeared found so incendiary, it threatened to block her for a month.

Except: they were barking at a wrong tree. This lady won’t be scared. She hinted publicly where they should take off, left the piece on the site, unchanged, and the mighty platform backed off. People who had experienced communism first-hand, and at its worst, too, usually have a frightful time getting scared by some would-be censors from California.

Here’s the gist of Aleksandra Antosyak’s view, tongue firmly in cheek, quoted with her permission (including permission to use her name):

The most powerful power on the planet says good-bye to one of its best sons.

Not even presidents get this kind of funeral: a golden coffin, hundreds of thousands of mourning and crying people, thousands of kneeling idiots, and they all ask for forgiveness from the black population.

The mayor of Minneapolis, hands on the coffin that carries the body of the worthiest of the worthy citizens of America (so as not to fall down from grief), cries crocodile tears.

Screams such as ‘Forgive us’ interrupt the mayor’s sobbing.

The deceased criminal’s former wife is crying, too. Last time she saw him was six years ago, when he abandoned her and their then-three-month-old daughter. He hasn’t sent his former wife any support over the years, but the poor widow still has been screaming for a week that she was left without a breadwinner. The heart-sick Americans raised some $2 million (that was then, it’s now more than $14 million, and the Go Fund Me account has been growing steadily – my update).

The University of Massachusetts has established a scholarship named after George Floyd. We do not know whether this particular scientist could read or not, but, most probably, the answer is no.

Still, with events unfolding at this rate (and with the Nobel Prize Committee being what it is this past few decades), we can expect the prize to be renamed to honour George Floyd.

Floyd spent time behind bars for robbery, for drug trafficking, for armed robbery (holding a gun against a pregnant woman’s stomach, he and his accomplices demanded money), and his sentence was reduced in a plea bargain deal during which he identified all of his associates.

Drugs were discovered in his blood during the post-mortem.

So, this is the 21st century America’s national hero.

He left many followers. His case lives and keeps growing. To show respect and sorrow for their fallen comrade, we see these people perform acts of massive robbery and violence.

Some of the most beautiful areas in many cities, including Los Angeles and New York, have been turned into junk. At least 89 police officers were killed. A 17-year-old girl has been raped. Even swans that live in city ponds did not escape.

Joe Biden, a candidate for President of the United States, suffering from old-age dementia, also fell tohis knees.

Hundreds of thousands of “Saint Floyd” fans will vote in the election for this fossil, actually helping the Democrats to achieve their objective without bending anything other than their knees.

So wrote Aleksandra Antosyak. As mentioned, on occasion, she was sarcastic. But, at all times, she was actually very serious.

How did we get here?

Learnt tomes had been written about where current society of the so-called Western civilization variety has been headed the last few decades. To sum their findings up: they all eventually see scenes as if taken from Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The British historian wrote his masterpiece in the 18th century. One would have expected people would be able to learn. But no. Not a chance.

Some would trace the current situation to the emergence of the legacy of a school of ideology (thought it definitely is NOT), known as the Frankfurt School (Frankfurter Schule).

The Marxist group that called itself Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) was founded by Carl Grünberg in 1923 as an adjunct of the University of Frankfurt. It was the first Marxist-oriented research centre affiliated with a major German university.

Little wonder that Adolf Hitler’s Nazis went after the Frankfurter Schule with a serious vengeance. Most of those attached to the school managed to get away. Mostly to Great Britain and the U.S. While their beginnings in the Anglo-Saxon world weren’t very easy, when the Allies were drawn into the Second World War, the German scholars’ standing improved. It improved so much that quite a few of them decided not to return to Germany. They stayed behind in the two democratic countries that had given them shelter.

Slowly but distinctly, they began their climb to academically important positions in Great Britain and, especially, the U.S. Why, especially, the U.S.? It’s an American habit to treat everything that had come from Europe with a special sort of admiration. Many reasons. Suffice it to say that this is how it is, and the Frankfurter Schule’s alumni progress is proof if any was needed.

Their most worthwhile graduates would worm their way into other academic institutions, first of the highest learning, but then proceeding to lower levels, closer, as they like to call it, to the masses. Other such graduates would find ways to join the ranks of various business organizations, and many would land in the mainstream media organizations.

Metastatic society

This is the cancer that had brought today’s level of education, especially in the humanities, to the lowest common denominator imaginable. These are the people responsible for such crimes as political correctness, affirmative action and sundry movements they would call progressive.

Hijacking words and complete expressions has always been one of the mainstays of their actions. The word ‘progressive’ is just one of the many these people have abused for purposes of their own, making them lose their original meaning in the process.

Using such catchwords and catchphrases based on now meaningless words, they have become past masters in re-writing history and turning human values upside down.

Whether these people are bringing humanity to the precipice of an abyss whence we had got just a scant few decades ago knowingly or not, is not really too relevant. The only relevant fact here is that they are pushing us all, whether we like it or not, somewhere where we had been. Many of their followers are perfectly ignorant and illiterate of their own history. Simple slogans will do.

Many of us are too scared: what if someone accuses us of racism or any other –ism in vogue today? After all, these would-be revolutionaries take no prisoners. One of the main proponents of political correctness within Canada’s public broadcaster made just one, single, one-word slip, and where is she now?

There has been a popular saying according to which history tends to repeat itself: once as a tragedy, the next time as a farce. Sounds great, but it is a fallacy, too: what we did experience was a tragedy, what we are experiencing now is a tragedy, and what we will experience if this continues, will be a tragedy.

We will either stand up now, and put a stop to all of this nonsense, or we’ll have nobody else to blame but ourselves.

Proud people violently hate violence

Ephraim Kishon, a famous Israeli writer, once wrote a story about some kind of an international socialist gathering. It took place in Prague, capital of what used to be communist Czechoslovakia.

A group of Israeli youngsters, quite obviously of the so-called left-wing political persuasion, came to the heart of Europe to take part, too.

And, Kishon wrote, a group of Czechoslovak young communist organization activists used to walk around them, hissing: Jews! Jews!

What are they saying? the young Israelis asked.

Oh, their official interpreter said with an embarrassed expression on his face, they’re saying you’re Jews.

So? asked the young Israelis. So what? Yes, we’re Jews.

A few moments later it hit them: oh, they (the Czechoslovak young communist organization activists) seem to have a problem with THAT. Well, we can hardly care less. They have a problem with the fact that we are Jews. We are, and we don’t.

Mind, these were all children and grandchildren of people who had only very recently experienced the cruelest racist outrage in modern history, the Holocaust.

They were proud of their heritage, and if someone had a problem with it, they just shrugged it off: we won’t be solving others’ problems for them.

Kishon was born in Hungary. As a Holocaust survivor himself, he moved to Israel. He didn’t know a word of Hebrew or Yiddish when he got to the Promised Land. He managed to learn both languages well enough to write for printed publication and, later, for stage and film productions. His written Hebrew was impeccable, his spoken Hebrew reminded all and sundry of his Hungarian origin.

And yet, he never ever even thought of calling himself a Hungarian-Israeli.

Meanwhile, across the Big Pond

Which brings us to the United States and its ongoing battles with what has been called systemic racism.

The fact that Canada’s prime minister seems to think his country has the same problem can be viewed as a side show. It could, if only the so-called spontaneous protest demonstrations were not allowed to break all the limitations imposed by the so-called Covid 1984 (this is not a typo) pandemic.

Those who object to the draconian measures of power-hungry government officials suffer police harassment of the worst kind if they don’t obey the two-metre social distancing rule during their peaceful demonstrations.

Those who have issues with what they view as pervasive racism in our society, can march hand-in-hand in tight crowds, loot, attack innocent bystanders, and not many dare say a word about it (and never mind against it).

One would have expected that laws should treat all of us equally. Seems the expectation has been way too idealistic.

Yes, the outbreak of protest was triggered by inexcusable, criminal, even, treatment of a suspect by an American police officer. And yes, this officer, and all those who were standing around him doing nothing to save the suspect’s life, should be behind bars now, and never be allowed to work in any public office ever again.

Not that George Floyd was an angel in any shape or form, as some try to depict him now. His rap sheet was quite lomg, and it did include violent crimes that landed him in prison, once for five years, and that only because he pled guilty in a plea bargain.

And yes, the police were called in on that tragic day because he was suspected of committing yet another illegal act, while intoxicated.

Still, again, none of it justifies what happened to him, and here’s hoping that justice meted on those officers involved in the tragedy will be swift and just.

But what we are facing now is about something else.

It is about people who seem to suffer from deep-rooted inferiority complexes because of who they are, or what skin colour they happened to be born with.

Systemic discrimination my foot

Not only was the United States one of the first countries to constitutionally abolish slavery, its history has shown that the country has continued to fight to make sure that particular amendment (number XIII) is upheld.

Here’s what it says verbatim:

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865, the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, signed it into law on February 1, 1965, and the required number of states ratified it on December 6, 1865.

That it would cost Lincoln his life within a few months at the hands of an assassin is another tragic page in U.S. history.

Making sure that this particular amendment becomes reality everybody learns to live by and respect has been a struggle through modern U.S. history.

But none of it constitutes systemic discrimination. Not only has it been banned, but, as time has marched on, equality has become the code word for our existence.

This is not to say there have not been some individual cases of racism. Except, it seems, the definition of racism as used these days is sadly lacking, and so is the definition of discrimination as such.

And, perhaps not even surprisingly, it goes both ways.

Generally speaking, we all discriminate, day in and day out. If we apply for a job and somebody else gets it because s/he has convinced the would-be employer that s/he is the best and most knowledgeable candidate, is it discrimination?

You bet it is.

This is not a frivolous attempt to dismiss an important point with a meaningless attempt at a joke. Why not? Because there have been cases where the unsuccessful candidate would start crying discrimination, or, worse still, racism, and the employer would end up fighting for dear life before all those ideologically bent quasi-judicial human rights commissions.

It is intriguing, on the other hand, that there exist publications where authors of any kind whose skin is other than black need not apply. Ebony magazine, anyone?

Just try to imagine the boot on the other foot.

Can’t see it? Yes, and that’s one of the expressions of racism, too.

Or how about affirmative action?

The original 1961 plan by then-President John F. Kennedy included a provision, according to which government contractors were supposed to make sure that applicants for jobs are hired (and employees treated) fairly, without “regard to their race, creed, colour, or national origin.”

Fair enough.

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, added another executive order, demanding that government employers “hire without regard to race, religion and national origin” and “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.”

Again, fair enough.

Except, instead of only bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, the plan developed into a project to promote diversity (whatever THAT is supposed to mean, it remains in the eye of the beholder), and redress apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.

That history has shown that you can’t right a wrong by another wrong, has become perfectly irrelevant.

There exist some civilized countries in the world that maintain that giving preference to someone just because of their race, ethnicity (or any other standard other than merit) is not only bad for everybody concerned, it is also harmful for the entire society, including those who have supposedly benefitted.

Not so in the lawsuit-happy United States. It’s gone so far that the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2003 that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race as a plus-factor when evaluating applicants holistically. What the word holistically was supposed to mean in this context is left to any future lawyer’s imagination. The ruling only told the University of Michigan Law School not to use quotas.

Hallelujah, what progress when compared to communist countries that used quotas based on university applicants’ parents’ class origins.

So, what’s the issue?

Some of the most cynical political analysts around the world suggest that the issue is based on the fact that, historically, white-skinned Americans would bend over backwards to make sure there is no unfairness in their country. They have been trying, through their history, to repeal and redress the sins of their foreparents. When those who had cried foul were rewarded, they saw an opportunity to win other, even more important, concessions.

It’s called guilt-trips. Those most cynical political analysts say, today’s would-be victims have developed victimhood into artistically embroidered science.

Now, this concept is not new. Just look at Germany. After World War II, the victorious Allies instilled a deep-seated feeling of collective guilt for Nazi atrocities within her population. So, today’s Germans are willing to do whatever the evangelists of modern political correctness order them to do to clear their consciences of crimes committed by their grandparents.

Yes, that may be part of the problem, more generous analysts would say, but they still believe it is the inferiority complex that leads the black population to a certain level of self-pity that demands that others come, crawling on their knees, banging their heads against concrete floors, crying it’s all their fault. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

After all, why would they be changing their American names to Arabic-sounding names? Are they not aware that it was the Muslim Arabs of Africa who made their ancient ancestors slaves? Are they not aware that it was the Muslim Arabs of Africa who sold their ancient ancestors into slavery overseas? Are they not aware that slavery is still very much kosher among the Muslim Arabs of Africa?

Or: why would they be hyphenating the description of their nationality? African-American? Even the poorest in their communities are better off than most of the real black Africans in Africa.

In the early 19th century, a new state emerged in Africa. It became known as Liberia. It came to exist on a land purchased by an American group that thought it might be useful for black Americans freed from slavery to return to their roots.

While the idea may sound far-fetched these days, it may have had its charm then: the enforced arrivals across the Big Pond in the holds of slave ships were still relatively fresh memory then.

There had lived sundry groups in the area that would become Republic of Liberia: some indigenous tribes, as well as a number of immigrants from other African countries, such as Somalia.

The returnees from overseas would become known as Americo-Liberians. They would hold positions of power until the final years of the 20th century: the country was created for them, after all, so, who else should run it?

This arrangement came to a relatively violent end during the last couple of decades, and one of the accusations hurled at the Americo-Liberians insisted that one of the first things they did upon arrival was to enslave some of the locals.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the influx of Americo-Liberians has all but dried up since the country’s first few decades of existence.

Is there a lesson to learn?

Your turn.

Is the NHL staring another labour stoppage in the face?

Will there be an NHL season starting in the fall of 2012? Or will there not be an NHL season starting in the fall of 2012?

While there have been no official, for-the-record contacts between the league and its players’ association (NHLPA) yet, this is bound to change by the time the All-Star Game rolls by, Sunday, January 29, in Ottawa.

Between now and then, there have been unmistakable signs that the path to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is going to be wet from all that blood, sweat and tears both sides are going to pour.

It remains to be seen whether the fans will have a reason to cry or rejoice. The former seems more likely.

The first sign: the NHLPA is of the view the time has come to change the competition committee, one of the babies conceived during the last lockout. How precisely would you imagine it? came a polite enquiry from the league. If there was an answer, it must have been lost in the mail.

But there are issues that will be terribly difficult to overcome, and it’s tough to predict now whether there could be any compromise on any of them.

The NHLPA keenly watches what their basketball brethren, a.k.a. NBAPA, are doing. Having refused a 50-50 split in basketball-related revenue as the basis to calculate salary caps, the NBAPA is seriously looking to disband so its members are free to sue the league for breaking the anti-trust legislation. They may have a point there, except, if they do this, it would be a perfectly stinking hypocrisy: if a player wants to join the NBA, he’s got to be a member of the NBAPA in good standing. Is that monopolist or is that monopolist?

Do the NBA players actually care for their fans?

Still, the NHLPA is in permanent contact with the basketball unionists, keeping close tabs on developments there. Are they doing it just out of sheer pleasure of learning?

The NHL can make a very good case for itself by saying that, while, overall, league hockey-related revenues having been going up, the number of teams in dire straights has been increasing, too. Atlanta’s gone, Phoenix is close to going, Columbus is bleeding not only on the ice, both Florida teams are giving tickets away for free and counting days until Canadian retirees drop by for their regular winter holidays so they can at least sell some of the tickets, Minnesota isn’t too healthy, Dallas is hoping its new owner will be willing to invest, expecting at least some return, and the three California teams aren’t prime examples of economic health, either.

Of course, the logical reply would be: well then, why did you put those teams in such inhospitable areas in the first place? That it helped increase NHLPA’s membership? So what? It also brought cash in admittance fees to the existing owners.

The players are perfectly livid about the so-called escrow account into which they have to contribute a certain percentage of their salaries, just in case the NHL (or one of its teams) is sinking. Sure, they get some of the money back a season later, but they can’t help it: they just can’t understand why players’ contributions should be keeping alive clubs that shouldn’t have been born at all. That’s their view, and there’s something to it. So far as players are concerned, if the league has expanded the way it has, it should be the league who improves upon the system of revenue sharing, not the players.

The league, on the other hand, is of the view that the players have got it made, and that they’ve got it made on the backs of their poor employers. The players’ salaries are eating more than 54 per cent of the league’s hockey-related revenue, and that’s really altogether too much to swallow, quite a few of the owners say. To open the negotiations, they would be willing to offer a split that would see 47 per cent going to the players, the rest to them. Fat chance, of course, but that’s what you’ve got negotiations for: at the end, they would agree on a 50-50 split, giving everyone a chance to feel the pain of compromising, and share it.

Here’s a theory of games and economic behaviour element that comes into play. There is a recognized dictum amongst professional police officers that once a person murders somebody, that murderer finds it much easier to pull the trigger again, next time. This kind of behavioural pattern has a Latin name in which precedent plays a major role. We had a lockout just a few years ago, and the NHL survived. A precedent if there ever was one.

Another sore point: NHL owners just hate the fact their players have got guaranteed contracts. The NFL model (no guarantees, and if we don’t like you, tough sledding, Bubba) would make them feel much better. Who wants to wager on the players giving guaranteed contracts up? The owners can try to offer a sweetener: fine, your contracts, including no-trade or no-move clauses, will be guaranteed. To a degree. Once a player asks for a trade, though, the no-trade or no-move clause gets waived, and the player will go where the team finds a trade partner who suits the team, rather than the player. Can you see THIS happening?

Accepted wisdom has it that the forthcoming CBA negotiations will be tougher than what we had experienced in 2004. Why? Because NHLPA’s executive director Donald Fehr’s record says so.

It, of course, says no such thing. Yes, Donald Fehr was instrumental in several labour stoppages when a Major Baseball union Pooh-Bah, that’s true. But those were different times, a different game, different league issues, different owners. The fact it had been about a Collective Bargaining Agreement just as it is now is the only feature these situations have in common.

Donald Fehr must be aware, just as any major professional sports league should be, that the demographics of fandom have been changing rapidly in the last few years, and that the change has been resembling a downward spiral more than anything else. Reasons for this trend have been varied, and none of them, at least thus far, described as paramount. Randomly speaking, you can define those reasons as signs of general economic malaise worldwide and, consequently, lower disposable incomes amongst potential fans. Scientists have also observed that in the era of new media in general and social media in particular, younger generations’ interests have veered away from passive participation in professional sports. Some case studies also indicate that an increasing number of members of the general population are positively angry about top professional athletes’ remuneration demands. Descriptions of animals linked to words that describe greed have become norm rather than exceptions. Professional sports franchise owners who demand taxpayer participation in building new facilities for their clubs have been increasingly becoming objects for ridicule.

To sum up: times have changed. Professional sports might become (nobody says “will become,” not yet, anyhow) relics of the past before the first three decades of this century are gone.

So, if Donald Fehr plans to intimidate the NHL, and the owners let him, both sides will be stepping on an unmarked minefield.

Let’s hope they are smart enough NOT to do it. But let’s not mortgage our homes on it, either.

Who’s out when Ales Hemsky returns to the fold?

Now what?

With Ales Hemsky’s imminent return to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup, who should draw the short straw?

The original deal saw Hemsky playing alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth, an old-line revival that was expected to click forthwith and help the club along to new heights.

Then came the unfortunate shoulder strain, and a pretty wise decision to give it time to heal and rest: it was the same shoulder that underwent a bit of major surgery just a few months ago, after all.

So, in drew Ryan Jones, and guess what? The line hasn’t missed a beat. Yes, yes, yes, some fans might be saying the line would be scoring more with Hemsky on it. At the same time, there might be another school of thought that would say, no, Hemsky would only slow this line down, they wouldn’t have been as successful as they have been with him as they are without him.

And then, there’s the realistic school of thought: the Edmonton Oilers have been on a pretty good winning streak with Hemsky on the sidelines. How can you start fixing something that ain’t broken? Trade the guy? Are you kidding? Well, if, say, Pittsburgh offered James Neal and Jordan Staal, perhaps? Or if Tampa sent Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier Edmonton’s way? Nonsense on both counts.

But seriously, look at Edmonton’s forwards: do you find ANY who deserve to be sent up to the press box (or down to Oklahoma City) so Hemsky finds his way back?

Say you demote Ryan Jones by a line to accommodate Nr. 83. Ooops, can’t be done: why mess with the kid trio of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle? One more line down? For crying out loud, there’s not enough space to accommodate Linus Omark, if only to play him alongside his countryman Magnus Paajarvi, and how about Sam Gagner? How about Anton Lander? A defensive forward gem. Ben Eager? The Oilers need the grit, especially with Darcy Hordichuk still injured. How about Lennart Petrell? Another forward who knows how to defend. The Oilers need him, a very useful guy.

See the dilemma?

And that’s not all. Once Hemsky returns and Tom Renney will have to decide at whose expense he does so, will it not upset the applecart known as emotional and psychological relationships, ties, likes and dislikes within the group a.k.a. the Edmonton Oilers? Nobody knows, not even Tom Renney.

And yet, decide he will have to, and soon.

Many coaches around the NHL might be looking at this situation with envy: what kind of riches, eh? Yet, as we know, it’s a very fine line between riches and the poorhouse in the world of professional sports. Yes, the Oilers have put together an impressive series. But now that the rodeo is in town, and the Oilers are out of town, we’ll see how they handle their newly found swagger.

Besides, remember, everybody will be gunning for them: how dare the upstarts, 30th in the league for two years running, sit on top of their division, thumbing their noses at the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, making them look as also-runs? And, too, we all know that the Oilers’ record against their own division is far from perfect.

And into all this, Ales Hemsky is chomping at the bit.

It’s going to be a tough call, no doubt about that. Aaah, another few gray hairs on Tom Renney’s head. And a nose or two out of joint on the roster.

Who knew? The price of land for new arena more than double of what was predicted!

As highway robberies go, this one surpasses the original deal our city parents agreed to in an attempt to square the circle and revitalize the downtown area. No, the land our city parents purchased won’t cost anywhere in the neighbourhood of $20 to $30 million, as originally mentioned. And please note: even that $10 million discrepancy is money most of us have never seen before (and wont see anytime soon, either).

Now, we find out, the land will cost in the neighbourhood of $75 million, give or take a few million either way once the dust settles.

Not only that: where the amended deal called for a $30 million commitment by the Oilers’ owner to the area development, it turns out that if he decides to buy some of the land back, that amount would count as part of his commitment.

Robert Moylers, the city’s spokesthingie, suggests the additional land purchase will allow the city to control the development that goes in the area in terms of the time, the type, and the form. Gee, one would have thought that’s what development permits were for: tell me what you’re going to build, and if we like it, you’ll get the permit. If we don’t, you won’t.

And even if the Katz group DOES buy back the land it said it was going to buy back (no guarantees there, either), it would still cost you and me a pretty penny to keep the rest: $41 million, give or take a million or two either way, again.

Is THAT the cup of tea even the most ardent supporters of the publicly-funded downtown arena bargained for?

Either our city council is a bunch of rank amateurs whose basic knowledge of economics ranks them close to the primates, or – as some whispers seem to float – not all is well with the entire scenario. Let’s remain optimistic and hope it’s the former rather than the latter. If it is the former, this would call for an immediate recall of the entire council, extraordinary elections, and those should be linked to a referendum with the questions spelt out clearly.

Do you still want to use taxpayers’ money to build an arena, with the cost to the city, and be ready for this, NOT $100 ($125) million, but that amount PLUS interest, and PLUS the cost of the land PLUS interest (and the amounts of interest should be spelt out, too)?

Lest anybody objects to including the interest, here’s a reminder: it’s an amount the city will have to pay as part of its spending, so, might as well include it. Please note: it’s spending, not an investment. Somebody else, not the city, will be reaping the benefits.

As mentioned so many times earlier, this entire plan reeks to high heaven. And, as mentioned so many times earlier, there’s no proof the arena, if and when built, would do squat to stop the bleeding from downtown, turning the trend around and revitalizing the area in the process. What does happen here is that the taxpayers are supposed to carry most of the risks while the Oilers’ owner, even if the downtown revitalization plan flops, will be laughing all the way to the bank: his will be the revenues from everything that takes place under his roof.

On top of all that, we are now the landlords for the Baccarat Casino, an outfit owned by the Burnaby-based company, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. If that is so, where are the numbers we all have the right to know? Can we see the lease deal so we know exactly how much we are going to pay if we demolish the money-making eyesore and replace it with another money-making machine?

This is irresponsibility at its best.

There are some who maintain that even if the arena deal does NOT go through, it’s fine and dandy for the city to own the land: there will be other developments, and the city will be holding all of the real estate cards.

Perfect rubbish, of course. Civic administration is not, and shouldn’t be, a real estate developer.

Generally speaking, any government’s priorities differ from the priorities dear to entrepreneurs’ hearts. This is not to say which of the two sets of priorities is better. This is to say they are different. Governments have no business making such entrepreneurial decisions as imposing a ticket tax on Northlands patrons just to make the deal fair for another private entrepreneur in whose pockets they are sitting right now. To put it as simply as possible, so that even our city parents understand it: fairness in government has nothing to do with fairness in business. Why not? Simply because business is all about competition. Government isn’t.

Also: Mayor Stephen Mandel intimated not so long ago that if no money for the downtown arena project is forthcoming from the provincial government, he’s got a plan B, presumably to line up private investors. (Let’s hope it’s not to raise our taxes to pay for the shortfall.)

Guess what: if he were to show this unfinished piece of what is supposed to be a business plan to any shrewd entrepreneurs, they would do their due diligence, and once they’re done, they would chase him down their corridors with a whip cracking.

This is not to suggest we should apply such corporal punishment to the guy. This is to suggest we should demand, as mentioned, an immediate recall of the entire council, a new election, and a binding referendum.

If the majority of voters still say they want to proceed, highway robbery notwithstanding, let’s rename this place a City of Masochists.

And remember: this is NOT about shining visions. This is all about a perfect crime. Why fleece us one by one when you can fleece the entire city in one fell swoop?

As robberies go, this one takes the cake

Taking a leap of faith, that’s what our city parents have done. They acknowledged that part of it as they had approved the deal with the Oilers’ owner, warts and all, as if there was a lot of competitors who could beat them to the punch, and as if they had no concern over whose money they’re playing with.

They are playing with money that is NOT theirs. The previous municipal election was NOT about the arena deal, even if some informal and unofficial polls asked individual candidates where they stood on the issue. The results – if published at all – were published so unobtrusively only political junkies could have noticed. So, to say, without blushing, that council has and had a mandate to commit the city to this highway robbery is demagoguery as shameless as Sir Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “Peace in our time.”

If the city politicians were willing to pool their own money to finance the project, there would have been no need to waste time debating the issue. As it was, it was a charade, plain and simple.

And here’s why. Mayor Stephen Mandel was quoted, on several occasions, and not that long ago, either, that if the provincial share of $100 million was not forthcoming, he himself would help raise it using private sources. Asked to elaborate, he dodged and said he would announce it only if and when needed.

Well, here’s the question: why did the city not go this same route, instead of committing money that doesn’t belong to it to a private corporation’s project?

It’s a separate issue, to a degree, but claiming that a new arena, even with an entertainment complex attached to it, would in and of itself revitalize our downtown, now, that is perfectly ridiculous. Economic case studies performed on a number of similar projects all over North America have shown that such projects, no matter how they are financed, do nothing to save downtown cores. Period. Learn to live with it. Some economists suggest there might be ways to turn the downtown deterioration around, but they all see it as a longterm goal, and none of their solutions include sports arenas and entertainment complexes.

The deal, as negotiated by the city (or, more precisely, as dictated by the NHL), is definitely NOT a deal. It is a surrender. And it is a surrender to an enemy that doesn’t exist.

We have observed quite a few not-so-subtle hints that if the deal that would be to Mr. Katz’s liking were not forthcoming, then, why, he would move the team elsewhere. Sure, sure, nobody has stated this to be so for the record, but veiled threats are threats, too. To this, our council’s answer should have been: oh yeah? Not a word more, not a word less.

Why? Well, can you imagine the NHL moving the Oilers somewhere else? Where, pray tell? There’s not one spot in Canada that could accommodate an NHL team on the move. And the U.S.? With the Phoenix club still in the ashes (and the league owing, for example, Wayne Gretzky a cool $8 million), with Columbus unable to attract more fans than their players’ immediate families and former schoolmates, with both Florida clubs fighting potential fans’ indifference, with the Dallas Stars fighting valiantly to spend at least enough money to touch the salary cap’s prescribed minimum? If you look at most of the other U.S.-based NHL teams, you would see that there’s not much of a market there, either.

Besides, the overall economy being where it is, in the U.S. in particular, Mr. Katz (and the NHL) would be hard pressed to find a community stupid enough to invest in a hockey team’s arena. Whoever thinks Canadian overall economy is in better shape should give their heads a thorough collective shake.

One anticipates Oilers’ fans in Edmonton will consider this protest an act of treason.

Not that I would try to provoke anger, that wouldn’t be me, as anybody who knows my peaceful demeanour would attest, but here comes. I heard from a guy who questioned the city’s investment in public libraries. The new arena, he said (wrote) for the record, was much more important. These public libraries, he said (wrote) for the record, were places where he has never set foot, and didn’t plan to, either.

That particular reader sounded quite proud of himself.

Another reader, questioning the wisdom of private financing for a sports arena, said (wrote) for the record that all those privately financed arenas built recently in Canada flopped. He was exaggerating a bit. The original owners walked away, that’s what one considers he wanted to say. Of course, these original owners walked away for a number of reasons, such as other commitments, or sudden realization (triggered by their bankers) that they had spread themselves too thin.

Now, so far as this reader is concerned, if the arena flops (or starts bleeding, whatever you wish to call it), why should its private owner suffer? The city is a bottomless pit, isn’t it? To those coming back to tell me the city would own the arena and Mr. Katz will be only renting it, the answer is simple: have you really lost your mind? So, the Oilers rent the place for a token amount, they and their parent corporation stage all kinds of events there, and they get to keep whatever they make there. Whom are you trying to kid here (except yourselves)?

Remember the names of those who voted for this deal. And never return them to council chambers (or any elected position) ever again.

Kevin Lowe preaches calm: easy for him to say

There’s no need to be ashamed, depressed, even, when your coach calls you into his office and gently informs you that you will be joining the NHL club’s minor league affiliate or, Heavens forbid, return to your junior club.

Thus said Kevin Lowe, Rexall Sports’ president of hockey operations, in the most recent installment of TV documentary Oil Change, a.k.a. Overdrive.

This segment, by the way, airs Sunday, at 11 p.m. on Sportsnet West.

A player who is told to go to the farm team (or return to his junior club) should accept this as a challenge. Basically, the NHL team tells him, we like you, love you, even, otherwise, we wouldn’t have kept you. But we think you need to learn this and master that, to make yourself really indispensible for the top club.

That’s the gist of the train of thought behind Lowe’s statement.

Of course, this is playing with words.

Imagine you’re at school. Your teacher tells you you’ve had unsatisfactory marks in, say, math and you will have to repeat the year. What the teacher is telling you is simple: you’ve failed in math. If you have any ambition left in your mind and/or body, you will be livid. The teacher will be the first culprit. She or he doesn’t know how to teach math in the first place, how was I supposed to understand? The fact that the rest of the class understood with admirable ease doesn’t become part of the equation. Not yet.

Your next step would be that the teacher doesn’t like you. Never liked you, anyway. Why? Because of your strong personality? Whatever, your failure is a sign of the teacher’s personal animosity towards your wonderfully bright and talented persona. And, besides, Albert Einstein failed his high school math, too. So there.

If you’re lucky, but only if you’re lucky, you’ll figure out you’ve failed because you didn’t work hard enough, or you were not talented enough, or both. Now, you’ll have two options: sulk or start working. Hard work, by the way, is more often than you imagine more important than talent. In any case, if you do apply yourself, and if you do succeed eventually, you’ll be looking at that year of repetition as the best thing that could have happened to you: you’ve learned how to work. That should count for something special.

This is exactly what Kevin Lowe would like his players to understand.

Of course, it’s easy for him to say. One of the original NHL Oilers, the guy who scored their first NHL goal (shocking indeed: no, it wasn’t Wayne Gretzky, it had to be Kevin Lowe, of all people, to perform the feat for the new NHL franchise!), former player, captain, coach and general manager, he’s got it made. Never ever sent to the minors, now he can dispense advice as an elder … ooops, more mature statesman, right?

The question is not whether Kevin Lowe is right. The question is whether Oilers’ players think he’s right.

Based on conversations with many who had the misfortune befell them throughout the years, the consensus opinion would be: Oh, yeah?

Here’s the issue: hockey players (just as players in all team sports) have been trained to know that there’s no I in team. Except, to be able to make the team, especially in the rarefied top-notch leagues’ air, athletes have to concentrate on themselves. Without individual skills, nobody will bother to give them a look, or a second look, even. What does it mean? It means there is a certain level of egocentrism and egotism involved. You’ve got to push yourself. No need to push the others.

After all, there is a certain level of egocentrism and egoism in all of us. We all think of ourselves as the standard by which we measure the rest of the world. It has nothing to do with whether we’re right or not. It’s just the way it is, that’s all, and nobody can blame you (or me, or her, or him, or anybody else).

A hockey player who’s trying to become an NHL club’s member knows perfectly well that there are four vacancies on right wing, four at centre, four at left wing, there are so many spots on the blue line, and there can be only one goalie in the net at a time, with another to back him up, and having three goalies on an active rosters more often than not spells trouble.

Will a particular, say, centre, sigh and say, aaaaaaah, this is perfectly rotten, there are four better centres than I am on the team already, and now what’s a guy to do? I can either ask for a trade to a team that is short on good centres, and God knows I am one, or I can accept a demotion and work hard to become better than those four centres ahead of me. I’ll compete with them, and I’ll win.

You see, it’s not always about money. Much more often, it’s about pride. And you cannot become the top dog in anything without at least a certain amount of pride.

After all, it’s even the dictionary that defines it. You’re cut. You’re demoted. You’re sent down. You’re returned. Does any of these words have any positive connotations?

Kevin Lowe meant well, obviously. What Kevin Lowe meant was there’s no need to succumb to negative thinking because THAT gets you nowhere. Positive thinking has become a cliché, but it still exists. It may help get you closer to your goal. Then again, it mightn’t.

But even if you lose at the proverbial numbers game and it’s Oklahoma City or bust for you, at least, you’ll fly there with a smile on your face.

Oil Change sets a new standard, and it’s pretty high

As the Oil Change series goes, this one takes the cake.

Broadcast Friday night on CityTV, to be repeated Sunday at 11 p.m. on Sportsnet West, this season’s first installment, titled Overdrive, begins where the last season’s Oil Change ended: at the end of last season.

A lot has happened between then and now, and this season’s opener takes us on an incredible journey, looking at the twists and turns and turning points we, mere mortals, wouldn’t have seen and known without this show.

Aquila Productions’ people, creators of Oil Change, have obviously won a lot of confidence from the Oilers. The club now knows they have never abused this confidence, shown in unprecedented access to what is going on behind the scenes.

Just a few examples: we witness a serious between-you-and-me-and-the-lamppost conversation between general manager Steve Tambellini and his chief scout, Stu MacGregor. The topic: why the chief scout is of the view that the club’s Number 1 draft selection has got to be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and nobody else. The train of thought in and of itself is interesting, but the fact Oil Change people were privy to the conversation to the extent they could record it and broadcast it, now, this is perfectly surprising.

A conversation between Steve Tambellini and last year’s No. 1, Taylor Hall, during the draft, in which the top pooh-bah explains his strategy to his rising star, is an eyeopener, too.

This season, there was an unusual twist of fortune for Oil Change creators: three of former Oilers’ kids got drafted that day, too. Frank Musil’s son David went to the Oilers as No. 21, Kevin Lowe’s son Keegan went to Carolina as No. 73, and Craig Simpson’s son Dillon stays home in Edmonton at No. 92. To see these former greats as happy dads rather than as hockey professionals made for pretty good television.

We saw team brass negotiating about potential free agency deals last year, too, but that was from a bit of a distance. This time, we get as close as possible to seeing (and hearing) how the team managed to land Eric Belanger and Darcy Hordichuk.

And we saw that Steve Tambellini is about much more than just finding players and signing them, or trading them, or trading for them, or sending them down to the minors, or calling them up. Remember the incident in an exhibition game in Minnesota where Taylor Fedun broke his leg trying to chase the puck for an icing call? An Oil Change camera caught Tambellini standing alone in a corridor, talking to someone on his cell phone, confirming that young Fedun would be staying in the Minnesota hospital a few days before being allowed to fly back to Edmonton, and then telling whoever was on the other end of the call to please make sure the Oilers bring Fedun’s parents down so they can be with their son at this difficult time. Now, that was a touch of humanity if there ever was one. And, unlike such would-be reality shows like Survivor, this wasn’t staged or rehearsed. This happened. In real life.

There are more such moments in this version of Oil Change.

From a professional point of view, one of the things that catch the eye is the ability of the show’s creators to adjust the pace of the story they’re showing on the screen to the story they are telling. Face-paced where the story calls for it, they don’t hesitate to go for longer takes and slower cuts in spots where viewers deserve (and need) to get enough time to be able to absorb what they see on the screen.

And, as is usual for great television, they let the pictures do the talking, rather than overwhelming their viewers with too much commentary. So far as the sound is concerned, reality and great (but not overwhelming) music selections should suffice. They do.

What comes across loud and clear is the Oilers’ coaching staff’s basic philosophy. Head coach Tom Renney sounds like a teacher, one of those types who insist they’re strict but fair. Players might agree with the strictness part but, some of them, at least, might be (privately) inclined to raise an eyebrow or two about the fairness part. Especially those who think they deserve more ice time, or they don’t deserve to be healthy scratches, never mind being demoted.

In his first speech to the troops as the main training camp opens, Renney tells the assembled 70-plus hopefuls to remember that if they think that good enough is good enough, they’re terribly wrong.

And, during a drill in practice, Renney tells a player he mustn’t be surprised by anything at all. He must be ready for anything and everything.

That says it all, doesn’t it?

This season’s opener for Oil Change has set the bar pretty high. It’s a great documentary, unbelievably good television, and the Oilers should be counting their lucky stars to have this talented Aquila Productions group on their side.

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