"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pierre Trudeau and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Here was a man who had a vision for a united Canada. It was all inclusive. There was room for everybody, regardless of race, colour creed, gender or sexual persuasion. He was a man who was a strong federalist and loved his country. And more than anything else, he dreamed of equality. Where every citizen has the same rights to exist, to be happy and to be a contributing member of Canadian society.

Does this sound like Canada today? How did we get here from there? And more importantly, how do we get back? 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Strombo and the P.M's view of the media

Friday, September 10, 2010

I somehow don't think this was what Gandhi meant

It may be a good thing that practically no one reads this blog.

I first started this admittedly “snobbish” blog as a means of venting my frustration with what I call the “unethical and sophomoric” behaviour in Canadian Politics today. I tried, and failed, to be relatively balanced in my commentary. But because I’ve become rather accustom to the lush green fields here on the Left of Centre, and have taken on the belief that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, say, on the other side of the dividing line, my rather firm non-conservative, or more specifically, anti Stephen Harper opinions have very quickly surfaced.

I really don’t know the man. I’ve never met him. He might be an absolute “barrel of laughs” at a party. I just don’t know that. But the actions of this very “public” figure have led me to decide that he most definitely would not be at the top of my list of invitees for my next combination 60s revival theme party and Luau. However, I would dearly love to put a: “Have you hugged a Muslim Today” sticker on the back of his car. As a gift I mean.

As everyone knows, the “P” was dropped years ago from the front of the “Progressive Conservative Party of Canada”. It has been replaced by an invisible but firmly implied “R” for Reform. That would be the old “Reform Party of Alber….I mean….of Canada”. During it’s time, even the other “Right of Centre” folk thought that the Reformists were playing a little “too deep in the outfield” for their liking. So the former Reformers changed their name to the Alliance Party and introduced Stockwell Day on a Jet-Ski. Didn’t help their street cred much. But with the help of their Alberta power base, The Reformist/ Alliance party gobbled up the Conservatives with a “P” party and took over sole possession of Right Field.

So the “P”-less Conservatives now play very deep in the outfield. And they dance quite unabashedly on the Right Field Foul Line. And whenever the umpire turns to look at them, they take a firm step to the left and look skyward to see if God is watching. And all the Canadian citizens in the stands twitter and snicker at the charade because it’s so outlandish, like something from the movie “Major League”.

But I’ll mercifully end the baseball analogy there. Heck, I could stretch that out for ever. But my point here in all this is, that our Current P.M., Mr. Harper, was one of the founding fathers of the old “Reform Party”. Yes, that far right, extremist, intolerant and socially red-neck bunch from Alberta. But now he and his minions, the Grass roots Reformists, feel themselves legitimatized because they have inherited the party name “Conservative” along with the nick name “Tories”, and all the “Right of Centre” folk in the country. But what’s in a name anyway? I’m sure John Diefenbaker and “Honest Bob” Stanfield are rolling over in their respective Graves.

So now I’ve identified for you the roots of my mistrust for our 22nd Prime Minister, and he’s done little to alter that perception since taking office. He’s embarrassed us on the world stage, using his deep right field vantage point to interfere with global targets for climate change, alienate countries that Canada has worked hard at establishing mutually beneficial trade agreements with, come out strong in favour of other countries with which Canada has taken a neutral stance with, played petty partisan politics in front of the world media, and let’s not even talk about the shadowy specter of Afghan Detainees being tortured. That would be just plain “Un-Canadian”.  Never mind our responsibilities as a signatory of the Geneva Convention.

And domestic performance has been worse. The occasional racially intolerant comment still comes from out of the party’s back rooms, reminding us of the skeletons in those old Reform Party closets. Under Mr. Harper’s watch, issues of concern are no longer about ideals, but about how badly an opponent can be smeared in the media. Collaboration is an unknown word within the Reform/Conservative party. Instead, the focus is on petty politics and divisiveness. Priorities have shifted from what’s good for the country to what’s good for the party or for the Grass roots supporters. Even within his own ranks, there is no collaboration. It is Harper’s way or no way at all. And anyone who will not be assimilated get’s the “Borg” treatment (reference to Star Trek NG there, The Borg were nasty aliens who would vaporize you if you did not cooperate)

But also under Mr. H’s watch, the extent to which party strategists and collaborators have stooped in order to deal with legitimate issues and honorable people who may cross them,  has reached never before witnessed depths of deception and duplicity. Not to mention hostility and all around bad taste. Dirty tricks and half truths (or some times, outright lies) have become the order of the day. Methods that used to be considered out of bounds and “ungentlemanly” are now accepted ways of doing business. Not that our friends from the Left Field are entirely innocent. Those vicious attack adds run by Paul Martin’s Liberals at the end of the 2006 federal election were no better, even if they were true. They had no place in a Federal Election. And the Canadian people knew it…..then. But our Conservative party without the “P” seems to have perfected these tactics and they have been allowed to flourish.  

Now it appears the divisiveness and hostility with which the Harper regime has managed to perpetuate it's rather tenuous hold in Parliament is no longer exclusively it's domain. It seems that the media has been enlisted to fight a rather dirty war by proxy, thereby allowing the Conservatives without a “P” to distance themselves from the actual nasty business. 

Yes, I’m referring to this whole sordid Avaaz affair. What seemed like a perfectly honorable and democratic bit of activism, namely the Avaaz Initiated petition against Quebecor’s TV  license application, has degenerated into a nasty bit of mudslinging and libelous name calling. And that’s between Journalists and bloggers. The actual politicians have wisely stayed out of this bit of ugliness.

Well you all know what happened to Margaret Atwood when she came out on “Twitter” in favour of the petition.  She was promptly attacked and her integrity laid siege to. Mr. Kory Teneycke, Mr. H’s former Communications guru and current person of influence with Sun Media, came out swinging. And thus began the nastiness. Not long after Mr. Teneycke’s somewhat inflammatory  editorial regarding Avaaz, he had to humbly admit that someone in his office had tampered with the Avaaz petition in a misguided effort to discredit it. Now if this sounds like standard Conservative Party with an “R”  tactics, consider Mr. T’s previous communications job with Mr. Harper. Kind of makes you say “Hmmmm”!

Last Saturday evening, I witnessed Sun columnist Ezra Levant taking a shellacking from what appeared to be an on-line Twitter swarming. Mr. Levant however, proved to be the last man standing at that event. But what evolved out of that slugfest, was an ongoing rant from Mr. Levant regarding Avaaz being an American far Left Wing anti free-speech puppet organization belonging to American Billionaire George Soros. And to make matters worse, Mr. Levant produced tenuous evidence of Soros being a Nazi collaborator during the Holocaust. As it turns out, Mr. Soros was 14 at the time and was more of an observer to history rather than an actual participant.  

As this week wore on, names like “Anti-Semite”, “Nazi sympathizer”, “Jew hater” were seen regularly on Twitter (Mostly from Ezra Levant of course). Mr. Levant went public with his findings about Mr. Soros in his Tuesday Column of the Sun. And since then, Levant has been treated to similar name calling  and personality denigration, though more from bloggers it would seem than from actual fellow Journalists, (though some have been none too  subtle in expressing their opinions of Levant).

It would seem to me that Mr. Levant has done his job. Because of Mr. Teneycke still being so closely linked to the Prime Minister, and his connection, whatever it may be, to the tampering of the Avaaz Petition it was politically necessary for him to back away from the heat. Into the breach steps Mr. Levant who successfully diverted attention away from the Sun Media application and his boss Mr.” T”. Instead he heaped pressure onto Avaaz regarding the credibility of their petition, questioned their motives and right to tamper with Canadian TV and even went so far as to connect them with George Soros, you know, the 14 year old Nazi collaborator. No one seems to be asking this week about Kory Teneycke nor about the P.M.’s involvement in all of this. In fact, the only attention Stevie Harper has been attracting this week, is around building an Arena in Quebec City.

Mr. Levant is a very intelligent and very passionate man. But I don’t much like his methods. He is the very model of the new unethical political tactics that have been perfected by the Conservative Party with an “R”. His combativeness, finger pointing, libelous accusations, and tenuous connections with the truth are, in my opinion, certainly not in keeping with good ethical journalism. But in response, he’s received similar treatment. Perhaps not as blatant as his frontal assaults on his colleagues, but certainly the uproar from  “Deep” Left Field Bloggers has been just as caustic.

So it would seem that, at least for this week , on Twitter anyway, The story hasn’t been about the politicians. The real story, that has been a constant thread throughout the entire week, has been the behaviour of Journalists and Bloggers in a public domain. Instead of being unbiased reporters of the news, they became the news.

Now it should be noted that most legitimate journalists  rolled their eyes at these escapades and stayed out of the fracas, for which I am quite grateful. But there was still a decided change in behaviour and tone while following events on Twitter this week. Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see”. I somehow don't think this was what Gandhi meant.

Until next time


Friday, September 3, 2010

"Avaaz Me Hearties"!

Well it has been a bit of a whirl-wind, and a rather eye-opening one to boot.

It started two evenings ago when I received an on line petition about a very Canadian issue that I was completely unaware of. The petition was from Avaaz.org, an international on line organization that promotes various charitable and social conscious endeavors worldwide including promotion of democracy, especially in developing nations.

Now I had become an Avaaz member a little over two years ago at the encouragement of a social conscious friend of mine. The particular issue that caused me to join escapes me now (I think it was another on-line petition) but I haven’t read a single Avaaz news letter since. Until Tuesday evening.

The issue as I understand it, is regarding our Prime Minister, Mr. Stephan Harper, attempting to lobby for a mainstream News station, similar to Fox News in the U.S., in order to spread the good news from the land to the right of centre.

The facts according to Avaaz are: Mr. Harper met not long ago with the top dogs at Fox news. Mr. H brought along an underling, Kory Teneycke to that unannounced confab. Now it appears that Mr. Teneycke has left Mr. Harper’s employ and is now heading up political coverage at Sun Media, which is owned by Quebecor who are the operators vying for the new right of centre news station here in Canada. Mr. Harper (presumably through his old employee) appears to be lobbying for this new station to be granted main stream status, much like CBC News World or CTV News Net. In the process, Harper is advocating for this station to be funded by regular cable user fees. The head of the Canadian Radio Television Commission,(CRTC, Canada’s independent regulator of the air waves) Konrad von Finckenstein has denied this license based on the application contravening CRTC policy. Now it appears that Mr. Harper wants Mr. Finckenstein pink-slipped, like every other civil servant who has gotten in the way of his agenda.

What this all means is that Mr. Harper, the self imposed gate keeper of the right, not only wants to control his message, he also wants to control his media. Since he was first elected Prime Minister, Harper has accused the Canadian media of being biased and has since shut them out. He does not allow media into large Conservative party conventions and planning sessions, unlike Michael Ignatieff who not only invited media types to the just recently wrapped up Liberal Convention in Nova Scotia, but fed them Lobster as well.

So Harper now will only allow a hand full of his selected minions to speak to the media and when he has a news release, he tends to invite only those journalists who he feels are somewhat sympathetic to his agenda.

But if there was a main stream news station out there, run by his old Communications advisor, Harper would have unfettered access to the airwaves to frame or reframe his messages however he wants and with just the right amount of “English” on them.

What, you ask, is the problem with this? Why, in a free and democratic country such as Canada would we ever think to have issue with a right wing style news channel? Wouldn’t that be freedom of speech? Well for one thing, it presumes that all the other news outlets in the country are left leaning and are thus “biased” in their reporting. But what is more cause for concern, at least according to Avaaz anyway, is the style of news broad cast. The petitioners point to some of the more bizarre extreme right-wing fear mongering that frequently emanates from Fox News. One Fox broad caster has apparently stated that “Canada is lucky that the U.S. allows it to exist on the same continent”. You get the picture.

Former CBC Ottawa Bureau Chief, Don Newman claimed that “In the U.S., Fox News has been hugely polarizing. It specializes in drive-by attacks and misrepresentations, and is positively Orwellian at times, claiming to be "fair and balanced" while implying that its competitors aren't”.

Well there is nothing of course that says that Fox North will be at all like what Avaaz is insinuating. But given the optics of the whole affair, and the fact that “Mr. Autocrat” himself is behind this scheme, it really isn’t that much of a stretch to assume that there will be some real divisive destructive and decidedly “Un-Canadian” concepts tossed out to us, the TV viewing citizens. One only has to look to some of the smear campaigns Mr. Harper has been able to perpetrate on main stream TV to get the impression that, given unfettered access to his own news station, the subsequent messages would be absolutely dreadful. As Mr. Newman so eloquently put it, “positively Orwellian”.

Well as soon as I saw this particular news letter/petition from Avaaz, I signed it without question. I am, if nothing else, a democratic kind of guy despite my obvious tilt to the left. I then forwarded it to everyone I knew and then posted it, all nice and compacted, as a “tweet” on twitter. A few minutes later, I saw that noted Canadian author, Margaret Atwood also signed the petition, which of course, allowed me to feel that I had done the right thing.

Well then the “Brew-ha-ha” erupted within the “twitterverse”
Ms. Atwood was being attacked as being against free speech and noted journalists from Sun Media were crying foul, objecting to the notion that they would spread messages of hate. Journalists from both sides of centre entered into the fray. All of a sudden, it appeared that Ms. Atwood was left to fend for herself and her own honour…..there’s that word again, you know, that one that seems to be missing from Canadian Politics of late?

As if that wasn’t enough (though dare I say, it was all quite entertaining), the next day, Ms. Atwood was appearing in the media and being represented as though she was in cahoots with Avaaz to spread the word against Fox North. All the poor woman did was sign a petition. Then out came the scribes from Sun Media who proceeded to demonize Ms Atwood and her obvious affiliation with Avaaz. They took a vicious two handed swing at Avaaz itself claiming it to be an extreme left wing organization funded by American Billionaire George Soros. Their contention being that this was a matter of American interests medaling in decidedly Canadian affairs. “Obviously, Avaaz and Mr. Soros are anti free speech”.

Now I can’t say I blame the scribes at Sun Media for taking offence to the contention that they will become nothing but a bunch of hate mongers. Admittedly, there are some very fine individuals employed by that media outlet, and they hadn’t written a single hateful word themselves.  But let us not forget who currently controls the message emanating from Sun Media, remember little Kory Teneycke, Harper’s former right….no wait a minute, Mr. H has no right hand man… left hand media man?  

As to be expected, The Sun came out all claws and fangs, taking vicious swipe after vicious swipe at Avaaz and anyone who backed them at all, especially The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin. His journalistic integrity wasn’t attacked, it was murdered in this piece by the Sun….which for some reason, leads me to believe that Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Newman may not be too far off the mark when they speak of hate mongering coming from an all news Sun media channel.

So as if all this snarling and fuming wasn’t enough, apparently, a number of well respected political journalists began receiving emails from Avaaz, thanking them for signing the petition…..when in fact, none of them actually had. There appeared to be no way to prove whether or not those signatures were on the actual petition, but the journalists in question, were obviously and quite deservedly, becoming irate at the prospect of their names being taken in vain.

It appears now that these media folk were being “spammed”, possibly someone’s email list had been absconded with. And it just doesn’t do well to tick off journalists. Was this simply a case of Avaaz electronically mass mailing people? They certainly have the technology and know how to use it. Was it deliberate??? And if it was, were the offending emails generated by Avaaz? Or could they have originated from someone from the right side of the fence, seeking to discredit the Avaaz initiative?

I would like to think that no one from either side of the political spectrum would stoop to trying to deliberately manipulate the press. But given what I’ve seen from Canadian politics recently, either scenario is likely. Do you remember all those young and eager techie guys who so successfully launched internet smear campaigns in the last election? Like the seagull pooping on Mr. Dion’s head? They all got fired didn’t they? 

And that’s the problem now. We can no longer look to the south and say our way of politics is civil and ethical compared to theirs. It isn’t anymore. Anything seems to be possible now, including manipulation of the media. And many of these tactics are not only, dare I say, undemocratic, but I suspect, highly illegal.

So when I hear men like former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley call for a new approach to politics, I sit up and take notice. I thank god that someone of some repute has decided to shoulder the burden of initiating political reform in our country. Perhaps there is yet hope, that there can be a return to politics that can be trusted and politicians that possess honour and ideals instead of greed and self preservation.

But hey, this is just a citizen’s eye view of things political. My own opinions only. I just hope that our representatives are fully aware of the kind of impression many of them are making on the citizens of this country.

Until next time,