Zod and Shapiro: Episode 3 (Canadian Federal Leaders Debate)

Zod & Shapiro are Neil Waytowich (@WaytowichNeil) and Ari Shapiro (@ari_shapiro)

They’ve finally combined forces to address the chronic and existential imbalance of societal lies, government misinformation and political hypocrisy that’s permeated our world endlessly.

We welcome our shared glorious followers, recent admirers, and fellow soothsayers interested in our philosophical musings on life, the universe and everything.

This episode is our Canadian Federal Leaders Debate special which is bound to be as thrilling and worthwhile as Superman III, a film that had Richard Pryor in it and also predicted drone technological warfare and artificial intelligence.

This show’s quotes and segments:

1:07 – Moderator Shachi Kurl tries to get to the bottom of why Prime Minister Trudeau decided to inexplicably call an early election during the fourth wave of a global pandemic.

10:01 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempts to defend his over-stated climate policy using under-stated grade school analogies similar to that of your common neighbourhood bully.

15:42 – Trudeau calls out conservative opposition leader Erin O’Toole for wanting to honour indigenous people by raising all the flags across the country back to full-mast and watches him glare back with a “pot calling the kettle black” kind of look.

19:51 – CPC leader Erin O’Toole brings forth a succinctly reinforced financial plan that’s meant to stave off the pandemic with a groundbreaking recovery strategy that balances the budget, caps support spending acts like it’s 1998.

25:20 – Green Party leader Annamie Paul calls out Trudeau’s feminist hypocrisy and ill-timed penchant for firing strong, powerful women armed who write perfectly timed political literature.

30:11 – NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who’s known for his illusionary targets and utopian ideals, skewers the leader of Canada for his illusionary targets and utopian ideals.

36:20 – Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet alerts his opponents that without increasing resources (transfer payments) and a higher yield of subsidized Canadian living (more transfer payments), mums and dads will suffer a most ignominious pandemic fate. And he’s not wrong.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XXIII

Whiskey & Cream for August 9th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:40-16:48: “An ounce of perception is worth a pound of obscure”

To the average human being living under the relentless scourge of a variant-multiplying pandemic, understanding and absorbing what mRNA, spike proteins and lipid nanoparticles are can be a most daunting and bewildering experience. From the outset, this modern day global health emergency that’s affected every country on the planet has been handled dubiously by politicians acting as soothsayers, poseurs and hypocrites who want to assure us that they know what’s best for us, even while abandoning the most fundamental principles and medical facts provided by established science and health authorities. Naturally, this has created a harrowing disconnect and some would say existential schism that’s significantly undermined humanity’s collective efforts to move into a bold and brave new future.

Rob Swanda (@ScientistSwanda) is an mRNA Biochemist and doctoral candidate who’s completing his PhD at Cornell University. Back in December of 2020, he decided to post a YouTube video that provided a brief but succinct overview of how vaccines work and why taking them is a personal choice based on a decision that – ideally under normal circumstances – should be rooted in a profound understanding of science. In doing so, he’s unlocked a powerful covenant with those of us interested in knowing truth before ideology, facts ahead fiction, and real coronavirus science in place of anti-vaccination superstition.

Music: “Into The Woods” by Tycho (Christopher Willits Remix)

17:01-32:11: “Baseball is ruled by 12 billionaires and plenty of nostalgia”

120 years ago, the Cleveland Indians baseball club was born and along with it a procession of legendary players who remain synonymous with the team to this day. Cy Young, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Al Rosen, and Frank Robinson are just some of the legendary and towering baseball figures that have come to define the memories for generations of fans of both the team and the sport. Throughout their entire fabled history (one that’s almost completely bereft of any winning flavour considering their last championship victory came in 1948), the Indians were instantly recognizable with their branding that always seemed to define how they were remembered; namely, the Chief Wahoo logo that was used from 1950 up until 2018. A potent and controversial symbol that also alienated and disrespected indigenous people all over the country.

Nick Francona (@NickFrancona) is a baseball journalist and Marine veteran who fought in Afghanistan. His intrepid skills of research and investigation has produced a commitment to finding the truth in a game that’s become filled with chronic deceptions and daily lies when it comes to confronting the racism, sexism and domestic abuse realities that are nonchalantly swept under the rug and quickly rationalized by unscrupulous owners worried more about profit than any measure of social justice. Amidst all the hypocrisy and failure of moral leadership, Nick remains optimistic that the more fans and admirers of MLB appreciate the state of the game today, the more likely they are to understand why rebranding is absolutely necessary in order to set a true example for future generations, and that much more work needs to be done after simply painting over a legacy that should have been confronted a long time ago.

Music: “Journal” by Polar Inc.

32:22-41:45: “General Zod would have enjoyed ruling Canada”

Although Canada managed to get a grip on the most recent pandemic wave, it’s left many in the province wondering what kind of political crucible is likely to remain when the dust settles. Most recently, a triumvirate of conservative-led provinces from Doug Ford in Ontario to Jason Kenney in Alberta and Brian Pallister in Manitoba have all tried the combined patience and humility of their coronavirus-riddled constituents who’ve become fed up with the powder keg of anti-vaccination movements brought forth by their rudderless leadership methods. In short, the fact that mandatory mask and vaccination efforts for front-line and essential emergency workers remains an opportunity cost in their neck of the woods is a sad reminder that ideology still trumps common sense in many parts of the country.

Neil Waytowich (@WaytowichNeil), also know as Neil Before Zod, is a Canadian political blogger and podcaster. He takes little solace in knowing that for a country where a majority of Canadians identify as conservative, their message has been tainted and corrupted by party leaders lacking a stable game plan or any legitimate promises for the future. And although the prospect of a better brand of compassionate and humble successor to the status quo seems like a reason to be positive about the future, Neil remains highly circumspect and abundantly skeptical that the worst may be yet to come and might possibly require a visit from Kal-El himself.

Music: “Borealis” by Nora Van Elken

41:50-54:09: “Toronto: world class and completely unaffordable”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who lives in and knows about the city of Toronto that the cost of living in this world class wonderland comes at a steep and generally unattainable price. Instead of witnessing three levels of government working in tandem to help city dwellers with investing in their future, many already believe that we’ve ushered in a new and unprecedented level of austerity. With the lowest property taxes found in the most expensive neighbourhoods across the GTA, the question of how to recalibrate the wealth of Torontonians becomes paramount – especially when deluged with visions of homeless folk being evicted from sanctuary parks adjacent to extremely wealthy neighborhoods, profit-mongering real estate developers buying up scores of sub-divisions and converting them into rental homes, and ideologically-bound politicians ignoring the growing plight of the poor and disenfranchised in all corners of social media..

Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) is a journalist who writes for the Toronto Star and has his own official newsletter on all things emanating from city hall(@CityHallWatcher). To call him an expert wouldn’t even begin to do justice given the time he’s spent writing about the cosmopolitan juggernaut that is Toronto. But in his calm and dispassionate manner of analyzing the recent trends across the municipalities of the fourth largest city in North America – one that’s world renowned for its finance, business, technology, and entertainment sectors, and also praised for its supposedly dynamic multiculturalism – he’s also unearthed profound reasons to be legitimately concerned about a post-pandemic future around these parts.

Music: “Standing Outside a Broken Phonebooth with Money In My Hand” by Primitive Radio Gods, performed by Pressing Strings

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XXII

Whiskey & Cream for July 25th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:38-16:20: “No one loves Marineland”

It’s very possible that at some point during the long history of a profoundly greedy private company whose sole purpose was to showcase extremely rare mammals to the masses for sheer profit, some Canadians actually thought fondly of Marineland. But when a deeper dive of modern technology mixed with whistleblowing tenacity reveals nothing more than an anachronistically ridiculous aquatic zoo that’s shamefully taken advantage of every level of government to deflect the lingering array of cruelty, neglect and abuse taking place insider their hallowed halls- well, at someone you have to ask yourself: “How is Marineland still a thing?”

Phil Demers is a crusader for animal rights and a champion of Walruses. His tireless and indefatigable advocacy for all the suffering animals at Marineland who are nothing more than a means to a profiteering end, is a testament to a man who’s fed up with the hypocrisy used to silence him in the media; primarily by a cabal of lawyers deployed to strategically minimize the public from knowing the truth. Between the presence of dirty, unsanitary water filtration and increasingly poor life support systems, all of Marineland’s inhabitants – the beluga whales, the bottlenose dolphins, the sea lions and penguins, Kiska the last Orca and Smooshi the lovable Walrus; well, they simply won’t stand a chance if something isn’t done and soon.

Music: “Ocean” by John Butler

16:20-26:41: “Ignoring Gandalf is bad for The Shire”

As you probably know by now, Dr. Anthony Stephen Fauci is an American physician and scientist who is also an immunologist that serves as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is also the chief medical advisor to the president. Why then is a man with over five decades of established and renowned medical experience in serving his country and fellow man so often vilified and pummelled in the mainstream American media? Why are there so many anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers and anti-science troglodytes strewn across social media all clamoring to remind us why their conspiratorial nonsense is badly damaging the collective efforts of an entire country to emerge from a crippling pandemic?

Aaron Parnas is lawyer, writer and social influencer based out of Florida. Although he identifies strongly with being a Miami-Dade Democrat in a country that’s splintered ideologically, his understanding of the community forces at play when it comes to pursuing a progressive agenda based on empirical learning and historical facts is what bolsters his daily resolve. That, and mobilizing the public to be mindful of the frail and precious reality that is their quickly diminishing participatory democracy, and also to always herald science and logic to help better society one election at a time.

Music: “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles

26:41-42:11: “Engineering loyalty, dignity and gratitude”

It’s hard enough to find gainful employment in a field that you may have spent decades trying to perfect. It’s especially difficult when considering the obscene nature of the country’s overpriced real estate market. For most people, the prospect of owning a home has become too daunting to even begin contemplating. It’s hard enough to find security during dark times, now we’re supposed to also find a way to handle a mortgage during a pandemic? What if a business existed that one day realized how genuine employee loyalty and endless gratitude could be leveraged by simply trying to help a family find real dignity in affording a home by helping them purchase it?

Nick Mocan is the President of Cozier: Consulting Engineers and is an unabashedly proud altruist. For him, the concept of rewarding employees by investing in their ability to purchase a home is a natural existential equation that is less about politics and more about humanism; more precisely, a desire to tap into the potential of what people are capable of when they know their employer has their backs.

Music: “Making Plans For Nigel” by XTC

42:12-53:57: “Release the Kraken and Harry Hamlin”

The changing nature of the NHL was on fierce display last week as the Seattle Kraken entered the fray as the league’s latest expansion team. By the time they were finished, recognizable names like Giordano, Larsson, and Eberle has all changed hands, indicating a significant paradigm shift in why certain franchises were willing to part with older, highly paid promising talent in a competitive crucible where one’s salary cap is everything. As a result, local fan favourites like Zach Hyman and Jared McCann are no longer a thing – even if their contributions are seen as vital to the cause.

Luke Armstrong is a writer, podcaster and blogger whose work has been featured with The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. His recent article on the expansion draft presented a primer that was based on a new drafting philosophy that not only differed in the method to which the Vegas Golden Knights constructed themselves to be competitive so quickly, but also revealed a long-term play for an untraditional hockey market that’s looking for success through players arriving with heart and soul that was previously on display elsewhere.

Music: “Do It Again” by Steely Dan

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XXI

Whiskey & Cream for July 14th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:40-10:05: “We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember”

There was a time before the days of pandemic entropy and woe where the celebration of a traditional monotheistic reason to gather at the end of the week and drink wine while surrounded by loving friends and family was considered to be as symbolically celestial as it was psychologically necessary. The Sabbath has always stood the test of Judeo-Christian time in that its very existence is a testament to the need for human socialization and cathartic release. But in an increasingly volatile and beleaguered world where eight-second attention spans mixed with crushing rates of anxiety and despair tend to prioritize the work week, it has become more vital than ever for us to consider why the holy day of rest might be the last bastion in taking a precious moment and remembering why our history, values and identity deserve to be honored with a reason to gather and celebrate life – even when the candles have long dimmed and the future remains uncertain.

Judith Shulevitz is an American journalist, editor and culture critic who has written for The New Republic, New York Times Book Review and The New York Times. When she wrote “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time” over a decade ago and considered the question of what a holy day of rest represents to human culture and our sense of tradition, she unwittingly stumbled upon a powerful narrative that looks at the importance of gathering around the hearth and relishing in the flickering flames of family unity and interpersonal growth that allows us to find solace in a brutally unforgiving world filled with historical revisionism and lonely hearts.

Music: “Paranoid” performed by 4Tune Quarter

10:07-21:41: “Vulgo superiorum suffugit”

It’s hard enough to chart a path towards a successful post-secondary educational journey that ends with the promise of a financially sustainable career let alone identifying which area of life one wishes to become a proverbial subject matter expert capable of garnering respect and self-worth. Gone are the halcyon days of considering a college or university that is as affordable as it is established in its tenured professors, course flexibility and prestigious value. Instead, the United States has led the western world in revealing an inherent crisis in the very nature of how we learn, what we’re taught and where we use our acquired skills and tuition experiences to create a prosperous life amidst all this societal disarray. Until we start unpacking the twin beasts of insurmountably crushing debt caused by over-zealous for-profit public institutions and the increasingly diminished scholastic freedom of speech and critical-thinking on campus, the prospect of a bona fide higher learning education that’s worth pursuing will continue to remain precisely what it’s become: a mug’s game in a fool’s paradise.

Dr. Mike Nietzel is president emeritus at Missouri State University and holds a Ph.D. In clinical psychology. He’s authored and published books on higher education and contributes regularly to Forbes magazine while remaining a champion against the perils of an academic system that’s floundering mightily and absolutely trending in the wrong direction. For him, it’s all about looking at the scales of systemic unfairness and balancing them against a generational reckoning that’s changed the way students and parents look at how higher learning is considered from both a political and existential reality.

Music: “School’s Out” performed by Alice Cooper

21:45-29:18: “A Russian, a Canadian, and an American walk into a hockey rink…”

True to form – and really, this is how it should have ended – the NHL’s best team, The Tampa Bay Lightning, captured their second Stanley Cup in a row thus earning the title of being the best pandemic team in the sport of hockey. And although their victory was sublime and came with major accolades from their peers and fans alike, there’s still the bigger issue of why players like Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy aren’t given their due as not only the best in class, but also the finest talent that the league has to offer considering the decades-long anti-Russian sentiment which permeates to this very day. While fans in Toronto continue to lament a 54-year old tradition of losing and being known as losers, the rest of the league needs to make sure it takes the time, effort and investment of honoring international contributions from athletes whose penchant for winning is reflected in their multicultural roots.

Michael Mazzei is a graduate of the Ryerson journalism program and sportswriter whose work can be found on The Leafs Nation, Maple Leafs Hotstove, CBC and The Fan 590. His passion for the NHL and Canadian hockey has become both a blessing and a curse in a modern culture that rationalizes mediocrity in a manner that’s left him coldly analytical when it comes to the future. Being a Maple Leafs fans for the better part of one’s life will do that, as does accepting the fact that NHL is as flawed a business organization as one can find when it comes to understanding the strange manner in which it often treats their players who aren’t born in North America.

Music: “The Sound of Silence” performed by Charlie Melodia

29:20-35:59: “There’s no punishment for bad journalism in the world”

Before the Rachel Nichols controversy jumped the shark and revealed to everyone that high-octane gonzo journalism has become less about the story and more about who’s framing the narratives, ESPN was already in a heap of serious trouble. The network has steadily destroyed whatever credibility was constructed over years of dominant sports media by wading into a litany of controversies encompassing racism, sexism and nepotism at breathtaking levels of banality; just ask Doug Adler or Bob Costas or Maria Taylor how they feel. And although ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro joined the organization to bring forth less politics and more sports into the equation, it’s abundantly clear that they’ve got a long way to go in addressing a culture where substance is devalued in the face of click-bait shenanigans.

Marshall Auerback is a fellow of Economists on Peace and Security who writes for international publications ranging from Muck Rack to American Compass to Forbes magazine. As a seasoned and literary critic of sports teams and narratives, it should come as no surprise that the contempt he holds for a time-honored leader in sports journalism is born elegantly out of the fact that there’s no accountability for bad writing, horrible stories and incorrect takes in a world where polarized views of so-called industry propriety and morality dominate the underlying need for cold, hard transparency.

Music: “Pigeon Lake” performed by Daniel Steidtmann

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XX

Whiskey & Cream for June 19th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:38-8:15: “”Canada and Islamophobia: Hypocrisy lives here”

How quickly so many have forgotten that a deranged, hate-filled gunman stormed a Quebec City mosque back in January 2017 and brutally murdered six men while injuring 19 others, splintering a close-knit Muslim-Canadian community already grappling with xenophobic prejudice in their neighbourhoods. By March of that year, a Liberal MP (Iqra Khalid) tabled a crucial parliamentary motion following the attack that directly condemned the “fear of Islam” as a form of religious discrimination and source of racism across Canada. Although Motion 103 was subsequently adopted and heralded as a progressive triumph of social and cultural solidarity over political grandstanding, it also resulted in 91 Conservative and Bloc Quebecois members voting against it, including the current leader of the opposition Erin O’Toole.

Karim Kanji is a celebrated political and cultural podcaster whose “Welcome To The Music” show has earned him legions of fans who appreciate his disarming candor and real honesty with guests. For him, the London, Ontario attack on a Muslim family that left a nine-year old boy orphaned remains a powerfully tragic reminder that Islamophobia is alive and well in a country that’s always been high on good intentions and low on political results – especially when it comes to growing communities and embracing the multicultural nature of this country.

8:21-15:45: “A disease does not fully exist in America until it has a business model”

Biogen’s Aduhelm has arrived like a bolt out of the blue and changed the way the world is looking at Alzheimer’s disease. Suddenly, a horrific condition which has had little or no medical progress in treatment for decades and is the sixth leading killer in the United States has met its match and been challenged by the marvels of a pandemic world where science lifts us away from sheer futility and into the realm of endless possibility. However, three members of the FDA’s advisory board resigned in protest when it was discovered that the drug had been approved for far broader use and without any substantial consultation. In fact, 10 out of their 11 members voted to reject the application and yet here we are. At $56,000 a year for treatment that doesn’t even begin to address how badly a burden it will place on medicare or socialized medicine if you factor in physician, imaging and infusion center expenses that will more than double the overall cost. Many industry experts believe it’s only worth around $8,000 in raw manufactured costs, leading many to seriously wonder: is this the latest snake oil from big pharma?

Dr. Jason Karlawish is an American physician and researcher in the field of bioethics, aging and the neurosciences. He’s also written a series of critically-acclaimed books on the subject, including: Open Wound, Treating Dementia, and The Problem With Alzheimer’s – How Science, Culture and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It. For him, it all comes down to trusting and believing in medical regulatory agencies that have traditionally held the best interests of their patients in mind well before aggrandizing their voracious need for profits, and to have government protect their citizens from the exploitation of big pharma and the scourge of false hope.

15:23-21:02: “Say it ain’t so, Robby: the gradual extinction of the modern day baseball hero”

To be banned from Major League Baseball is a terrible thing – especially considering how morally, ethically and existentially the game has gone to rot. Fairly or not, the list of “undesirables” includes Shoeless Joe Jackson for dubiously cheating, Pete Rose for unrepentant gambling, Marge Schott for virulent racism, and Brandon Taubman for being a lying, cheating misanthrope whose conduct shamed the entire sport and a whole generation of disbelieving fans. And now we can add Roberto Alomar’s name to the list as a reminder that fame, fortune and influence is fleeting when humility and decency are lacking, leading us all to a place where the emperor has no clothes.

Shi Davidi is an MLB columnist and insider with Rogers Sportsnet. As someone who’s covered the Blue Jays legend for years, it comes as no surprise to him that fan nostalgia would cloud the reality of what unfolded to a man who’s become synonymous with those glorious World Series championship years. Alomar’s troubles are less about the “woke” culture we live in and more about a rapid disintegration of respect for the national pastime and their fans. For him, the struggle to reconcile a hero’s fall from grace is never easy when the game is running out of role models for the next generation.

21:11-28:30: “An inspirational league for inspired players”

Basketball in Canada might single-handedly solve our collective problems with bigotry and prejudice. That might sound like hyperbole, but when measured up against other professional sports leagues (and most contemporary western governments for that matter), there’s a community-first reality to the NBA that you don’t find with football, baseball or even hockey. It’s a business mentality that started with the belief that their players remain the most important facet of their success and that everything else is secondary when it comes to the welfare and integrity of the sport.

Dashawn Stephens is a Canadian journalist and social media influencer. In 2019, he founded PRSVRE, an athlete-empowered brand and sports-media platform based in Toronto that sheds light on the inspiration derived from collegiate sports and grass roots storytelling. In doing so, it’s shaped an appreciation for the trials and tribulations that underprivileged youth and marginalized athletes face in their quest for excellence and made him into a true crusader for the importance of community-oriented and culturally vibrant philosophies in life.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

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