Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rick Hillier and Stephen Harper Have Some 'Splainin' to Do!

Stephen Harper may have put the brakes on the Afghan Detainee issue when he prorogued Parliament, but with the House set to resume next week, the issue will definitely be back in the news.

And despite the fact that he has been working behind the scenes to stall the process, I don't think even he can simply make this go away.

Nor should he be able to. Canada's honour is at stake here, and if we don't start taking this seriously, the International Courts, who have already opened a file, will step in; and no amount of gold medal victories at the Olympics, will erase our shame.

This is what will define the mission, and our troops will wear this.

In his column yesterday, James Travers reminds us that Rick Hillier has some explaining to do.

As chief of defence staff, Rick Hillier was a hero to the troops and an irrepressible force Liberals and then Conservatives struggled to contain. Now in his second retirement year, Hillier still casts a long shadow over a military worried about its future and a federal government desperate to control Afghan prisoner-abuse damage.

For better and worse, Hillier remains synonymous with the Armed Forces. On his watch, it regained lost stature as a national icon and became a fountainhead of public pride. On his watch, it also slipped into a controversy so politically threatening that the Prime Minister suspended Parliament rather than answer questions or release documents.

I've been going over some of my old postings and putting things together to try to make some sense of this. As a person who was against getting into this war, I was lulled into a sense of complacency by both Rick Hillier and the PR campaign that sold it as a noble mission.

But looking back now, I believe I was duped, as many people were. The warning signs were there all along and I chose to ignore them. I never trusted Stephen Harper's military fervour, especially since he fought against defense spending when he was in opposition; but thought Hillier was a stand up guy. Now, not so much.

"Our Job is to Kill People"

When Rick Hillier showed up on Parliament Hill to convince then prime minister Paul Martin to intensify our involvement in Afghanistan; he was armed with maps, charts and an excitement that was infectious.

According to Billy Schiller in the Toronto Star, Hillier used this March 21, 2005 meeting with then prime minister Martin and his 12-person inner circle, to convince his government to send "a battle group of at least 1,000 soldiers" to the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. He saw it as a way to improve Canada's armed forces and their reputation worldwide.

Hillier had been trained at Fort Hood, under Lt. General Thomas Metz, and had no patience for anyone not ready to climb on board. He stated that the military was not the public service. "Our job is to kill people."

And when Jack Layton called his remarks "disconcerting", he was accused of trying to "bestow the most ennobled status on the Taliban---that of victim".

From that time on, everything changed. We were no longer on a mission ... we were at war!

Mind you Paul Martin was adamant that all of our resources not go into this, and that we maintain enough Peacekeepers for other duties. But when Stephen Harper took over, he aligned himself with George Bush, and those silly notions were thrown out the window.

Demonizing the Enemy

A group that supports the criticism of Israeli aggression, being deemed antisemitism, used a 3-D approach in defining the Palestinian position : Delegitimize, Double Standard and Demonize.

On July 15, 2005; just three months after his meeting with Paul Martin, Rick Hillier was quoted by CBC, in an article entitled Helping Afghanistan will protect Canada, says top soldier:
"It doesn't matter whether we are in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. They want to break our society. I actually believe that," he said.

If Canada is attacked, he says, it will be only because it is a free country. "They detest our freedoms. They detest our society. They detest our liberties," he said.

By sending troops to Afghanistan, Canada is actually protecting itself, at least in the long run .... In time, Hillier said, Afghanistan will develop into a fully functioning country that's not a haven for people like al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the man believed to be responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

He would also refer to the Taliban as "detestable murderers and scumbags."

It's certainly not a new concept during war time to demonize an enemy, so you can convince yourself that their deaths are justifiable, but "They detest our freedoms. They detest our society. They detest our liberties," where have we heard that before? Fort Hood Texas trained him well.


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes one word in a thousand can paint a very vivid picture.

When General Metz, (who was the commander of Fort Hood when Hillier took his training there), spoke to an audience of senior Canadian military officers, soldiers, defence analysts and lobbyists; on a Saturday morning in Toronto, he laid it all out.
The general notes that there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, "that's ten million radicals." He then shows a chart depicting the military challenges America faces, measured in terms of level of danger and level of likelihood. At the very apex—the most dangerous and the most likely—sits just one: radical Islamic terrorism. "Radical Islam wants to reestablish the Caliphate," says Metz. "Just as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, you can read what they want to do." (Holding the Bully's Coat, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, pg. 67-68)
And there's that word in a thousand - Caliphate. Funny he should bring that up.

Much like the proposals of a North American Union, so revered by those free marketeers; a Caliphate simply put, is a union of the Muslim world.

However, there are two words that describe this initiative, that scare the west, or more specifically neocons, the most. No they are not "Islamic Terrorists", but "Welfare State".

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when they throw water on the witch and she melts? Next time you see a neoconservative, look them in the eye and mutter those two words: 'welfare state', and I swear they'll be reduced to a puddle of sweat.

The Caliphate was the first political philosophy that adopted the notion of using their natural resources to look after their people. It wasn't communism, or socialism, it was just a belief in something bigger than they were. God or Allah, and they believed that this is what he wanted them to do. Historically, it is a continuation of political authority, first introduced by Muhammad's disciples.

Most Christians who share the same God, but a different prophet; agree. So why not western governments?

In the midst of his talk about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, Lt.-Gen. Metz abruptly shifts gears and starts talking about America's dependence on oil. In his southern drawl, the general notes how much oil the U.S. consumes—roughly 25 per cent of the world's consumption, even though Americans make up only 5 per cent of the world's population—and how central this is to the country's high standard of living.

He then tells the story of a big strong man not being able to cut as much wood as a chainsaw with a bit of gasoline. Point taken.
The general's little discourse on the importance of energy to America is certainly interesting. But what is it doing in a speech about military threats to the United States', The connection between America's voracious oil consumption and the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism are never explicitly stated by Lt.-Gen. Metz; he simply notes that the Islamic world has a lot of oil and what happens there has an impact on energy markets. (McQuaig, Doubleday, Pg. 68-69)
George Bush once asked, when he was criticized for using so many soldiers to guard Iraq's oilfields, "can you imagine what would happen if the terrorists got their hands on all that oil"? Loosely translated that means, can you imagine what would happen if we allowed the Iraqi people to keep their oil?

They can't risk having the Arab world unite on any level, not necessarily because they would pose a united front in battle, but because they would nationalize their resources, and then they would decide who gets to buy them.

Double Standard

In Warrior's honour, Michael Ignatieff says that 'War is always at the most unrestrained when religion vests it with holy purpose.'

Many will associate that to a Jihad or a holy war, but that's a double standard.

According to Jason Kenney's buddy, John Hagee; America is at war with radical Islam ... Jihad has come to America. If we lose the war to Islamic fascism, it will change the world as we know it .... They hate us because we are free. They hate us because it is their religious duty to hate us."

Stephen Harper's buddy Link Byfield suggests that the future will be dark if "Islam Prevails because although Muslims share the Christian notion of family, Islam also demands submission. Democracy is a Christian philosophy and, therefore, does not exist or, at best, is only a peripheral force in most Muslim countries."

And Rick Hillier's buddy, Thomas Metz says: "The Islamic faith is not evil but it's been hijacked by thugs ... there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, that's ten million radicals."

Yet there are between two and three billion Christians in the world, so if only 1% are fundamentalists, that's twenty to thirty million Christian extremists. But the general doesn't mention that.

So maybe they don't hate us because we're free. Maybe if they hate us, it's because we want their stuff, and they fear we also want their souls.

We Were Warned

In December of 2005, while Canada was in the middle of the election campaign that brought Stephen Harper to power, then-Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier signed a deal establishing our detainee transfer protocol — an arrangement that did not provide for Canadians to monitor their prisoners (Stephen Maher, Chronicle Herald)

Before the Globe and Mail picked up the story, and before Richard Colvin revealed what our government knew of the torture of detainees, Linda McQuaig wrote:

... the likelihood of torture is actually higher for detainees who are not transferred but who remain in the custody of Afghanistan, which has a notorious human rights record. Even the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission—an agency of the Afghan government—reports that Afghanistan routinely tortures its prisoners. There have been bone-chilling reports of Afghanistan housing prisoners in steel shipping containers, with only a hole cut in the bottom for them to defecate. Yet, despite widespread reports of horrendous abuses in Afghan prisons, Ottawa's arrangement with the Afghan government contains only the most minimal protections. [quoting Michael Byers]

...Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, describes the Canadian arrangement as a "detainee laundering agreement" that "has no adequate safeguards to prevent torture from occurring. In an interview, Lieutenant Carole Brown, a spokesperson for Canada's Department of National Defence, acknowledged that Canada doesn't follow up on what happens to its detainees. "It would not be our mandate to track them in any way." She also refused to reveal any information about Canada's detainees, including even how many there have been.'In fact, Canada has left its detainees in a particularly dangerous situation.

Attaran notes that, by refusing to reveal any information about these people, Canada is actually making their situation even more perilous than those held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon at least lists the names of Guantanamo prisoners on its website. By not revealing the names of those it hands over to Afghanistan, Ottawa makes it impossible for lawyers or human rights organizations to contact them or their relatives or to in any way take up their cause, thereby denying them any hope of access to the courts. They simply disappear into a black hole, beyond any possible legal protection. Says Attaran: -We are doing something [denying them access to the courts] that has not been done in the common law in centuries."This alone should make our involvement in Afghanistan intolerable. (HOLDING THE BULLY'S COAT, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, Pg. 20-21)

I don't know how this is going to play out. Stephen Harper has already fired the head of the Military Police and cut off Richard Colvin's funding, making it almost impossible for a committee to start this up again.

He has also been distributing taxpayer funded attack ads suggesting that the opposition Liberals are accusing our soldiers of war crimes.

Of course that's not rue. The only one who has tried to pass this off on our troops, is Stephen Harper himself.


A Few Related Stories

Harper's Meddling in Military Affairs Reveals That He Knew About Detainee Abuse

Stephen Harper's Cowardice Has Reached New Heights

The Conservatives Are Not at War, They are on a Crusade

Afghanistan and Detainee Abuse up to and Including 2006

By 2009 Harper's Spin on Detainees Was Stopped in it's Tracks

Why Do We Never Include Peace as a Strategy for Afghanistan?

Luis Moreno Ocampo of the International Criminal Court Could Charge Canada With War Crimes
Military Spending and Other Costs Associated With the Invasion

The Shah of Iran and the Birth of Terrorists

Peacekeeping is Not For Wimps and Canadians Are Not Wimps

The Manley Report Gave New Direction But Failed to Answer the Question: Why Are We There?

A Country's Shame and a Nation's Heartache

How Did we Get Here From There? The Afghanistan Call to Arms

Paul Martin, Rick Hillier and a New Direction For Afghanistan

Selling the War Invoked a Buying Frenzy But Was the Product Shoddy?

Rodney Weston Must be Replaced as Member of Parliament for St. John New Brunswick

Rodney Weston is the Reform-Conservative Member of Parliament for St. John New Brunswick, beating Liberal incumbent Paul Zed, by a mere 495 votes in 2008.

His party recently presented a schedule of what their MPs had been doing during the propagation, and it showed that Weston worked a mere 4 days in 2 1/2 months. 4 days!

At a time when the New Brunswick government is reducing it's civil service, and freezing wages, this man believes it's OK to claim a salary of more than $150,000.00 from taxpayers, so he can sit home and watch TV for 2 1/2 months.

Since first taking office, he has proven to be nothing more than a hyper partisan talking head for the Reformers, so he's got to go.

Since strategically the Liberal Paul Zed will be the best option to take out Weston, I'm throwing my efforts into promoting him. He's an experienced member of Parliament with an excellent record.

Mr. Zed's website is here. He also has a Facebook fan page here.

We will get this riding back and we will take our country back. If you live in St. John, here's what you can do:

1. Join the Liberal Party. It's only about $10.00 and is a great way to show your support. They will keep you up to date with what's happening in the community and on the federal scene.

2. If you are able to find a bit of time, volunteer; perhaps with canvassing or some other promotions.

3. If you can afford it at all, donate a bit now and then. I'm set up to contribute a regular monthly donation, but it's whatever you feel comfortable with. Remember that the Conservatives have a lot of wealthy backers and it takes money to launch a campaign.

4. Join Catch 22 Harper Conservatives to learn more tips, and encourage others to join.

5. Join Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. There are more than 30,000 links to stories with reasons to vote the Reform-Conservatives out. The better informed you are the more motivated you will be.

I'll keep this page updated as often as possible and will continue to provide reasons why Rodney Weston and these destructive Reformers have got to go.

And I will also provide plenty of information, as to why Paul Zed must be brought back.


My Postings on Rodney Weston

Rodney Weston: Thick as a Brick or a Ventriloquist's Dummy?

Last March, the Reformers' partisanship hadn't gotten so out of hand in the House of Commons, that the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, was forced to make an announcement, reminding them of the rules.

Althea Raj with Eye on the Hill, explains:

MPs were reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken for using time dedicated for statements by members - also known as Standing Order 31 (a fifteen minute period before Question Period used mostly by MPs to salute little league teams and constituents who volunteer a lot) - to
slam each other.

"The tone was so consistently negative in Standing Order 31 statements that I felt it was appropriate to change the way it is happening in the House," Milliken said.

He then reminded MPs they are not allowed to use offensive language, attack a Senator, criticize the actions of the Senate, denounce a ruling of a court or attack the character of a judge. "The Speaker has also cautioned Members not to use this period to make defamatory comments about non-Members, nor to use the verbatim remarks of a private citizen as a statement, nor to make statements of a commercial nature," Milliken added, referencing older judgments.

Now I don't know if Rodney Weston was having trouble with the big words, or thought that 'Standing Order' meant to stand and take orders from the Party, but didn't he just go ahead and break the rules:

Mr. Rodney Weston (Saint John, CPC): Mr. Speaker, 34 years after leaving this country, the leader of the Liberal Party has returned with a plan to bring Canada back to the tax and spend ways of the Liberal Party that Canadians know so well. In fact, he even refers to himself as a tax and spend Liberal.

He is also the leader of the party that first pushed for a carbon tax, so he should not be at all surprised that the weekend that he became leader of the Liberal Party was the same weekend that his party reaffirmed its support for the job-killing tax. The Liberal leader said, “We will have to raise taxes”. He made this statement during a global economic crisis when all economists agree that raising taxes is the worst things to do.

The Liberals may want to raise taxes but Canadians know that this Conservative government will not raise taxes.

The only accurate statement in that convoluted nonsense was that the Conservative government would not raise taxes. But his claim that "when all economists agree that raising taxes is the worst things to do.", is dead wrong. All of this country's leading economists condemned the Reformer's cut to the GST, and recently the Council of Executives, made up of 150 of the country's CEOs.

As Murray Dobbin reminds us:

Ed Clark, the CEO of TD Bank ... told a business meeting in Florida that Stephen Harper was not listening to those on Bay Street who were telling him the best way to get rid of a large deficit is through tax increases — on people just like him. And it wasn’t just Clark. He was reporting on the judgement of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the voice of the 150 largest corporations in Canada.


Rodney Weston Says That Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day Were Wrong

Rodney Opposes Stockwell Day's Plan:

On August 3, 2000; James Brooke wrote in the New York Times under the heading: Rightist Shocks Canadians By Flirting With Separatists:

With newspapers reporting ''informal negotiations'' between his party, the Canadian Alliance, and the Bloc Quebecois, whose stated goal is to make Quebec an independent nation, Mr. Day refused to rule out teaming up with the Bloc in a coalition after general elections, expected next spring, in order to dislodge the governing Liberals.

''An unholy alliance with people who don't believe in the country,'' fumed Allan Rock, Canada's health minister, and an aspirant for leadership one day of the Liberals ... Stephane Dion, the leader of the Liberal government's unity drive, said, ''It's playing with Canada, and you don't play with your country.''

At the time, Conrad Black, the man behind Stockwell Day's success, was livid:

In an interview on Tuesday [with the NYT], Conrad Black, chairman of The National Post, said the strategy would not work. ''It makes it too easy for the Liberals to represent him as a separatist fellow traveler, ambiguous about the future of the country.''

In Trevor W. Harrison's book; Requiem for a lightweight: Stockwell Day and the Image of Politics, he discusses the controversy.

"Day repeatedly journeyed to Quebec ... During August and September, Day stepped up these efforts, going even further to suggest the Alliance party welcome Quebec separatists and might even consider forming a national coalition government with the Bloc Quebecois .... But Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said he wanted nothing to do with Day whose values (re: gay rights, abortion, youth justice) Duceppe described as "inspired by the United States..."

(Mr. Harrison lists as sources two newspaper articles: "The Report, August 28, 2000" and "Bloc leader denounces Day's ideas" Edmonton Journal August 14, 2000.)

During all the uproar on the Hill over the legitimate 2008 coalition, Daniel LeBlanc unearthed documents that gave proof of the Day/Separatist coalition attempt:

The separatist Bloc Québécois was part of secret plotting in 2000 to join a formal coalition with the two parties that now make up Stephen Harper's government, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail. The scheme, designed to propel current Conservative minister Stockwell Day to power, undermines the Harper government's line this week that it would never sign a deal like the current one between the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc.

When confronted with this in the House of Commons (Mr. Duceppe even had the lawyer's letter), Stocky denied it of course, suggesting that it would be against his DNA to make a deal with separatists. The DNA part is right, because Day's father was very anti-Francophone. In several letters to close personal friend Doug Christie, he confirms his contempt.

And talk about separatists. Doug Christie has been trying to use his separatist party, the Western Block, to push for the Western provinces to leave Confederation. It used to be called the Western Concept Party and Stocky's father, Stock Sr., once ran as a candidate for the WCP. DNA indeed.

And remember, Jason Kenney was Stockwell Day's right hand flunkie at the time, so he would have been part of this.

Rodney Opposes Stephen Harper's Plan:

On December 11, 2009, in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, former Harper insider Tom Flanagan discussed coalitions with Frances Russell:

The author of Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, managed the Conservative 2004 and 2006 election campaigns. But he insisted he "wasn't a part" of a coalition proposal made by then Official Opposition leader Harper, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in September 2004 that would have included the Bloc as a full partner.

Harper and the other two party leaders drafted a letter to the Governor General pointing out they had a majority and stating "this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options" before dissolving parliament.

'That would have included the Bloc as a full partner'. Not just to support confidence motions, as the 2008 coalition would have done.

Of course, Stephen Harper has never really been a federalist and in a speech he made to the National Citizens Coalition, when he was the Reform Party MP for Calgary West, reveals that he would much rather see a loose federal government, than a united Canada.

“Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion.”

And let's not forget his Belgian model speech during the 2004 election campaign, that made reporters think he was nuts. He wanted to divide Canada up by ethnicity.

Stephen Harper would continue to push the coalition idea, while opposition leader against Paul Martin, prompting Martin to accuse him of being in bed with separatists.

Rodney Weston: Short Memory or no History Buff?

Everything I've read about this St. John MP clearly shows that he is not really a politician, so much as a trained seal for Harper and his minions. The Reform leadership says "bark Rodney", and he stands up, claps his little hands together and immediately bellows; : "arph, arph, arph"

Kady O'Malley was live blogging the comedy of errors announcement in St. John's last fall, and had this to say:

Okay, this is weird: the PM just wrapped up his speech, and handed the floor over to Rodney Weston, the rookie Conservative MP who beat out Paul Zed by a mere sliver of vote share last time around, and who is now delivering a vaguely embarrassing paeon to the prime minister’s brilliant leadership. That was — sort of painful to watch, although he really seemed to mean it.

And in the House of Commons when the opposition was trying to get answers about the Afghan Detainee issue and the walking caricature John Baird was up, our Rodney decided it was time for a little grade school skit:

“Why will the government not just simply support a public inquiry,” Mr. Layton asked. “There is a vote today on this. Is the government going to vote against making the truth... [at this point he was cut off].”

Mr. Baird did not answer his question. And while he was under fire from the opposition, the government attack dog had an easy time answering a lob ball from his colleague, Rodney Weston. The Saint John MP noted that today is the first anniversary of the “reckless coalition” that tried to “overturn” the election results from just two months before.

“Could the Minister of Transport … please remind the House of all the measures that we have introduced to help Canadians?” Mr. Baird had no trouble with that one: “When Canadians saw the leader of the Liberal Party sign a pledge, a letter to the Governor-General supporting a coalition, they went to the streets and protested.

“Thank goodness that did not happen. We have Canada’s economic action plan,” he said. As Mr. Baird answered the question, former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, the would-be head of that coalition, listened with his head in hand before giving a dismissive wave and a mock “blah, blah, blah.”

Of course the marches were organized by the Conservative Party and the so-called Action Plan is proving to be nothing more than a publicity stunt. But thanks for playing Rod.

Obviously, since the 2008 coalition attempt had the least involvement with the Bloc, Weston must find Stockwell Day's 2000 agreement, and Stephen Harper's 2004 agreement, extremely reckless.

But if that's the case, why is he protesting in St. John?


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rodney Weston and the Conservatives are Wrong About Childcare

Last May a conference was held at Mount Allison University in Sackville, hosted by the Council for Early Child Development. One of the speakers invited to attend was former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

He reminded Canadians that the Conservatives had cancelled the childcare program that Ken Dryden had spent several years developing, replacing it with the ridiculous $100.00 Universal Tax Credit.

Rodney Weston came out swinging in the local paper:

"I chuckle when I hear the former prime minister talk about us breaking a promise. It wasn't the Conservative government's promise. It was a promise made by the Liberal party," said the Saint John MP.

"We kept our commitment to an early childhood benefit"¦ that goes to every family in Canada."
The Conservatives currently provide a universal child care benefit of $100 per month for each child under six, and they say they have helped the provinces and territories create more than 60,000 child care spaces since March.

They may say they have but the fact is, they have not really created any new spaces. The slight blip is due to provincial incentives, mostly in Quebec.

The 2009 budget failed to provide any new funds for childcare, despite the fact that it would have been a very good way to stimulate the economy. According to the National Union of Public and General Employees:
While the 2009 Federal Budget promised to help Canada's economic recovery and stimulus budget, the Harper government once again refused to address the issue of child care spaces. And yet, research indicates that for every dollar spent on child care there is a ripple effect of $1.58 in the the local economy.

And of Weston's claim that his government has created new spaces:
Ottawa (6 Feb. 2009) – Despite promises by the Harper Conservatives that their child care annual allowance and capital grants to employers would create more than 250,000 child care spaces, the reality appears to be greatly different. Child care advocates are pointing to a growing loss of child care spaces which is making a serious problem for parents even worse.

This is a very important issue, because without a viable childcare plan, many people are unable to enter the workforce. Private day cares are too expensive and provincial plans are stretched to the limit.

Gerald Caplan wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail last October under the headline: Why do Tories hate children? It was no doubt meant to grab our attention, and it certainly did.

Mr. Caplan had been involved with trying to implement early childhood education in Ontario under the Mike Harris government.
The reality emerged in a series of phone-in shows I participated in soon after our report was released. I'm not easily shocked, but this time I was. ECE was seen by innumerable callers as some kind of plot to steal the minds of tiny children before they could think for themselves. Who were the plotters? What nefarious purpose did they have? To what end would helpless toddlers be brainwashed? There were no really good answers to these obvious questions. But in general, all ECE was seen as some kind of socialist/communist plot to forge Ontario's children into mindless little reds.

Nothing, but nothing I could argue about the benefits of ECE and the lack of ulterior motives of any kind could sway this motley collection of paranoids. (I was not surprised to learn how many were also creationists.) It appeared they were getting ammunition for their wacky fears from organized conservative groups, some of them in the back-to-basics school movement. They made it easier for Mike Harris to deep-six ECE for many years to come.

(This sounds not unlike Stephen Harper's Reformers.)
Paul Martin began the task of developing a national child care system that would include early childhood development. But his early defeat left it to Stephen Harper to scuttle Martin's entire system and to introduce instead an allowance for parents of young children that is not remotely enough to get their kids into child care that doesn't exist.

Why? What do these conservatives know that a generation of education researchers don't? I've been racking my brain over this one for almost 15 years
now and still have no sensible answer.

It's that neoconservative ideology. They believe that children will be indoctrinated into some kind of cult that will only want to improve their minds and create better educated and healthier children. Oh the horror.

Although, it actually has more to do with teaching scientific theories that might contradict the Bible. But if you want indoctrination, when Stockwell Day was teaching at the Bentley Bible schools, one of the questions on his test was 'Are the Jews the children of the devil, yes or no?' The seed is planted, associating Jews with the devil, so it doesn't matter how they answer that.

We've got to get our country back so we can start moving forward again. I'm really getting tired of this.


Kelly Block Must be Replaced as Member of Parliament for Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar

Kelly Block is the Reform-Conservative Member of Parliament for Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar, who won her seat by only 253 votes, over NDP candidate Nettie Wiebe.

Right off the bat, she went wild with the ten per centers, filling up recycle boxes across the riding; the worst of which was to promote spanking as a normal discipline for children.

This is a woman who speaks at pro-life rallies, but when children are born, refuses to protect them from abuse, feeling more empathy with the 'poor' parents who've lost control of their tempers.

Just another theo-con, and the government has too many of them already.

During the last campaign she refused to debate the other candidates, so we can only gather she was out of her league.

This is one of the ridings that Catch 22 will be adopting. UPDATE: Nettie Wiebe will be running again. Yeah! Since strategically she will be the best option to take out Block, I'm throwing my efforts into promoting her. Her website is here.

Her Facebook page is here.

If you live in this riding, here's what you can do:

1. Join the NDP. It's only about $10.00 and is a great way to show your support. They will keep you up to date with what's happening in the community and on the federal scene.

2. If you are able to find a bit of time, volunteer; perhaps with canvassing or some other promotions.

3. If you can afford it at all, donate a bit now and then. I'm set up to contribute a regular monthly donation, but it's whatever you feel comfortable with. Remember that the Conservatives have a lot of wealthy backers and it takes money to launch a campaign.

4. Join Catch 22 Harper Conservatives to learn more tips, and encourage others to join.

5. Join Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. There are more than 20,000 links to stories with reasons to vote the Reform-Conservatives out. The better informed you are the more motivated you will be.

I'll keep this page updated as often as possible and will continue to provide more reasons why Kelly Block and these destructive Reformers have got to go.

And I will also provide plenty of information, as to why Nettie Wiebe will be the best for this riding, if in fact she is runing again.

Other Postings on Kelly Block

Mr. Layton You Were There 20 Years Ago. We Need You to Save the Gun Registry Now

On this night 20 years ago, a small group of heartsick Toronto women gathered at city hall to hold the first vigil for the 14 young women slaughtered that day at 'École Polytechnique in Montreal by a gunman screaming about "feminists." Every year since, women have marked Dec. 6 with memorials, vigils, reflections and vows never to let it happen again.

On the second anniversary, a vanguard of prominent men stood in solidarity with them, wearing white ribbons to show their determination to end violence against women. The chief organizer was Jack Layton, then a Toronto mayoral candidate.

And yet here we are today with the gun registry, created in part in honour of these women, on the brink of losing it altogether.

One of the survivors, Heidi Rathjen, is hoping that the handful of Liberal and NDP MPs who supported the private member's bill, will change their minds.

MONTREAL–Gun-control advocates pleaded with opposition parties to stand against a move to shelve the long-gun registry when Parliament reconvenes. The
call came Friday from a coalition of police, politicians, women's groups and Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of Montreal's Polytechnique massacre. They said they hold no hope of persuading the governing Conservatives to back away from one of their MPs' private bill to end the registry, which was established as a result of the 1989 massacre ....

This is not who we are as Canadians. We don't do guns and super prisons. We're a peaceful country. Or at least we were.

But then with columnists like Margaret Wente, you just wonder if maybe we held this country up to too high a standard. Maybe we're the worst of what America has to offer after all.

For two decades, Dec. 6 has been an annual excuse for fevered breast-beating over the moral failings of society and the persistent inequality of women – as if the glass ceiling or the lack of universal daycare existed on the same moral continuum as homicidal misogyny. “I'm not very optimistic,” warned Nayyar Javed, who spoke at a vigil in Saskatchewan. “Women in Canada in all sectors are not equal to men.” Monique Frize, an engineer at Carleton University, allowed that there's been progress and regress” in women's rights, and suggested that young women are reluctant to call themselves feminists because they're being “gagged.” ... How much sophistry can you stuff in one small space? The truth is that women in Canada have never been safer than they are today ...

But Margaret Wente is wrong. Women in Canada are not better off. In fact in the four years since Harper has taken power, Canada has dropped from 7th to 25th place in terms of gender equality.

This is the party of Helena Guergis, the Minister in charge of the Status of Women, stated that date rape was the result of the hyper sexuality of young girls.

This is the party of David Sweet, founder of the Promise Keepers.

We are going backward instead of forward, and this gun registry is as much symbolic as it is a necessary tool to protect, not only women, but all Canadians; even if it's just from ourselves. So come on Mr. Layton. You were there 20 years ago, you need to be there now.

This issue is very personal to me because my aunt was killed by her husband, using a long gun. I need to keep fighting this for her.

Personally, I don't think the Conservatives should even have a vote, especially the women, because they do not reflect the spirit of women in Canada.

On Wednesday, at a Parliament Hill ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Dec. 6 massacre at Montreal's L'École Polytechnique, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner co-starred in Status of Women minister Helena Guergis's show of sympathy. Bad enough that, last month, Guergis voted for Bill C-391, the legislation that aims to kill the long-gun registry and Hoeppner was the one to introduce it in the House. No wonder that Status of Women committee members Anita Neville (L-Winnipeg South Centre), Irene Mathyssen (NDP-London- Fanshawe) and the Bloc's warrior queen of women's rights, Nicole Demers (Laval), boycotted the ceremony. As Neville told me Wednesday, "The Conservatives' record on women has just been abominable.'' ...



The Montreal Massacre and a Noisy Minority. Taking a Look Back

The Death of the Gun Registry Was a Slap in the Face to the Victims of Gun Violence

Women in the Harper Government Must STOP SPEAKING FOR CANADIAN WOMEN IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gun Ownership in Canada is a Privilege, Not a Right. WHAT DON'T YOU GET?

The Garry Breitkreuz Story: Have Gun Will Use it

Garry Breitkreuz Stacks Firearms Advisory Committee

Sarah Palin Agrees With Jason Kenney. Maybe Two Plus Two Really is Five!

It's interesting that a recent interview between Barbara Walters and Sarah Palin, revealed the beliefs of the former candidate for the vice presidency of the United States.

Like Stephen Harper, her foreign policy was going to be based on biblical prophesy.

Following the teachings of men like John Hagee, all Jews are to be put in boats and lovingly assisted to Israel, before they can feel the rapture.

And like Jason Kenny and Charles McVety, she believes that this is going to happen sooner rather than later.

This is why any criticism of Israel is deemed to be a hate crime, and why all of our humanitarian organizations are being terrorized by Kennyism.

Now I'm not suggesting that Sarah Palin and Jason Kenney share the same IQ. After all, she's written a book. I doubt Jason Kenney has even read one.

Canada's Democracy May be Crumbling But Harper's Agenda is Right on Track

Democracy has proved only that the best way to gain power over people is to assure the people that they are ruling themselves. Once they believe that, they make wonderfully submissive slaves – Joseph Sobran (American journalist and author of The Myth of Limited Government)

Sobran's quote neatly sums up the neoconservative approach to democracy. They know that a country's citizens would not support their autocratic intent, so the trick is to allow them to believe that they have a say, while making sure that they have no say at all.

Stephen Harper once shocked journalists back in the day when the Reform Party was being sold as a grassroots movement. I can't remember the exact quote, though I have it somewhere; but the implication was that Preston Manning had to frame messages to make his followers believe that the messages came from them and not him.

Many eventually did catch on, and complained that all the real power in that party was in the hands of what they referred to as the 'Calgary Clique', which included Harper as Manning's lieutenant. If you've ever read George Orwell's Animal Farm, you'll get the picture.

There was an article in The Mark yesterday, by Shauna Sylvester, headlined; Canada's Crumbling Democracy, with the suggestion that we should be cheering for our athletes in Vancouver, but we shouldn't forget about the looming crisis in Stephen Harper's Ottawa.

Sylvester has lived and worked in countries without democracy and recognizes the signs. She says:

Some of the early warning indicators are:
• Limits on the media and the erosion of free speech
• The development of policy without consultation
• The centralization of power
• Limits placed on the activities of public servants
• Quelling or squashing dissent

Canada has already undergone all of these early warning indicators and then some.

The Gig is Up

James Travers had another excellent column this week, as I think he may have experienced a light bulb moment.

Our media, including Travers, had gotten it completely wrong. They had been viewing the Harper government through the conservative lens, so often found themselves shocked or puzzled by their actions.

For me it was like listening to a hockey commentator at a Blue Jays game. They just didn't understand the plays.

Travers writes:

Conservatives are out of their particular closet. Not since ripping into social and legal activists during a first year in power has the party so aggressively, or openly, imposed its ideology. Subtlety is strangely missing in the behaviour of a party tantalized by the prize of turning a minority into a majority. Gone is any serious effort to disguise the motives in Conservative machinations. In its place is the blatant use of money and muscle to discourage and to discipline those judged offside.

I think they've realized that they didn't need a majority to accomplish their goals. Just a strong will and a compliant media. Travers again:

Whatever the labels, the writing is on Ottawa's walls: To challenge Conservative orthodoxy is to risk reprisals. Even if it's new to non-governmental and arm's-length federal agencies, the message is familiar to bureaucrats and watchdogs. More quietly – but as effectively – Conservatives have been making it clear to civil servants and independent oversight officials that what the Prime Minister wants is mute obedience.

When Louis Ranger was forced out of his job at public works, John Baird told him "We don’t want your advice; we want you to do as you’re told." Ranger had been with the department for more than three decades.

It's All About the Image Baby

One common phrase used by pundits and pollsters when describing Stephen Harper these days, is that he 'looks prime ministerial'. He is the image of what we expect a prime minister to look like.

This is in direct contrast to a statement in the New York Times after Harper's 2006 election victory. They wrote that he "... lacks charisma and looks mad all the time".

The picture on the left is from 2005, which better fits the profile laid out in the NYT.

That's the real Stephen Harper, not the one created by image consultants at taxpayer's expense; who go out of their way to make him look 'prime ministerial'. I think they even died his hair grey, because it seemed to have gone from mousy brown almost overnight.

But the grey hair makes him look more statesmanlike, fatherly and wise; while concealing the fact that he is aggressively pursuing the agenda that scared Canadians away from voting for him in the first place.

This is all part of Image Politics, where a 'leader' is created through images, while the real power lies in the hands of the unelected.

When Paul Calandra's former boss, Mike Harris cabinet minister, Steve Gilchrist, got into trouble when his past revealed charges for tax evasion and alleged fraud, where was Mike Harris? At a photo-op, in a schoolroom surrounded by smiling children.

And the evening news which briefly covered the Gilchrist story, was filled with images of the premier and those children. The media were not even given a soundbite from Gilchrist and he didn't stick around long enough for a decent photo.

Those photo ops defined the government of Mike Harris, just as they are now defining the government of Stephen Harper. (I guess it's no coincidence that Guy Giorno is behind both men).

When Peter MacKay was first put into the hot seat over the Afghan detainee issue, where was Stephen Harper? At a photo-op with the Olympic Lacrosse team.

And when Canadians learned that their sovereignty was traded away for a few crumbs of dry toast, where was Stephen Harper? At a photo-op standing and cheering the Canadian athletes.

And when NATO forces recently bombed the hell out of Afghanistan, killing 27 civilians, where was Stephen Harper? You guessed it. Visual at the Olympics and a pre-taped interview with Wayne Gretzy and Gordie Howe.

The late American historian Daniel Boorstin once wrote: "When images have become more vivid than originals, it is only natural that we should commonly prefer to speak of the more vivid copy."


Friday, February 26, 2010

Kelly Block, Stephen Woodworth, Dean Del Mastro, et al - Are NOT Pro-Life!

I was on LifeSite News website today, where they claimed that 12,000 people attended their March for Life on Parliament Hill last spring.

I know that abortion is a tough subject to debate sometimes, crossing different political stripes, faiths and genders. My own personal opinion is her body, her choice, but I respect the passion and commitment of the marchers. They firmly believe what they believe, just as I do.

What I have a problem with though, are members of the Harper government taking part in these rallies, promising to work to change the laws; when they have an opportunity to exact real change.

Instead people like Kelly Block, Stephen Woodworth and Dean Del Mastro, speak at these rallies, scoring political points, trying to claim what they feel is the high road; while they clearly have no interest in the children once they're born.

In 2007, the last time the figures were provided, 637,000 children were living in poverty in this country. This accounted for 15% of Canadian children. Aboriginal communities fared worse, where 1 in 4 children live below the poverty line.

And remember these are 2007 figures, when our economy was strong, and before this most recent recession. The Kelowna Accord that Harper scrapped when assuming office, would have helped the First Nations, but that would go against the Reform Party belief.

Recent statistics have also shown that:

Inuit infants die at well over three times the rate of other Canadian babies, according to a massive new study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. And as if to underscore the tough situation facing aboriginal children in Canada's North, a second study in the same journal found that 70 per cent of Inuit preschoolers live in homes where there isn't always enough food .... (Bob Weber, Canadian Press, January 26, 2010)

As the young man in the video reminds us, this is not a society that values children; or at least not all children.

So people like Block, Woodworth and Del Mastro, who claim to be concerned about unborn babies, need to start looking at what happens to some of these babies. Otherwise, pro-life simply means anti-abortion.

If they were really pro-life they would vote down Jim Flaherty's budget, that is calling for HUGE cuts in corporate taxes, with more to come.

And if they were really pro-life they would demand that Jim Flaherty's budget includes initiatives to end child poverty, and focus on the health of all Canadians.

But then Stephen Harper once boasted that he was often sought out to speak against government money going out in the name of child poverty, so I'm not expecting him to have a change of heart.

However, by putting the needs of the wealthiest Canadians above the needs of the most impoverished, many women are left with few choices.

These sanctimonious and self righteous MPs might want to think about that.


Helena Guergis Just Wrote Prince Edward Island Off For the Reformers

If the Reformers were hoping to hold on to Gail Shea's seat, or make further inroads into Prince Edward Island; Helena Guergis just put the screws into those plans.

Somehow being referred to as a hell hole, does not sit well with the friendly islanders.
Junior cabinet minister Helena Guergis has issued an apology for her rude behaviour at the Charlottetown airport, where she allegedly threw a tantrum and screamed obscenities at staff who asked her to take her boots off for security screening.

Guergis "slammed her boots into the bin" provided by security personnel and then, according to the account, said to one of the airport staff: "Happy f---ing birthday to me. I guess I'm stuck on this hellhole.

This girl is such a ditz, but Harper holds onto her for some reason. Maybe by giving her the Status of Women portfolio, he can use it to claim that women should not be in politics, and Guergis is his proof of that.

Women should very much be in politics. Just not this woman.

She recently claimed that date rape was the result of the hyper sexuality of young girls, and voted in favour of scrapping the gun registry, then had the nerve to show up at the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Her husband was charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession and at the airport people who witnessed her meltdown said she looked intoxicated.

Harper's God Squad can't be too pleased. And yet a spokesperson for the prime minister claims that she apologized so the matter is settled. I can assure you that the people of PEI will not think her apology means much.


Spanking and Dominionism, From Kelly Block to James Dobson

In October of 2009, Reform-Conservative Member of Parliament, Kelly Block, sent out a tax-payer funded flyer to her constituents that asked the question, "Are Parents Criminals?” The intent of this was to drum up support for her opposition to a senate bill that would see parents charged for inflicting corporal punishment on their children.

According to the Star Pheonix:

The Liberal dominated Senate already voted to approve this terrible idea last year,” the mailout says. “(The bill) is designed to make moms and dads into criminals for using the traditional punishment of spanking to teach their kids right from wrong.”

Block did not return multiple interview requests seeking comment.

What Block was referring to was Liberal senator Céline Hervieux-Payette's, Bill S-209. Believing as many do that spanking or any form of corporal punishment can encourage violent behaviour, the senator felt a need to introduce consequences.

She includes the following video on her site:

While section 43 of the criminal code, prohibited spanking, it did not allow for criminal charges to be laid against the person inflicting the harm.

Kelly Block was not the only member of the Religious Right to be upset.

Charles' McVety's Family Action Coalition, suggested that "... section 43 of the criminal code [is] to be rescinded. That section allows parents to use "reasonable force" to correct behaviors of their (not the state's) children. If that allowance for spanking was rescinded then any parent who reasonably spanks a child could face criminal charges of assault."

REAL Women of Canada had already presented their views on their website:

The arrogant political left, which looks contemptuously down on those who disagree with its supposedly enlightened views, is attempting to revive the spanking issue. Apparently the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada on the subject, handed down a year ago, was only a stopgap in the onward journey to ban the spanking of children in Canada. (2)

I'm not sure what 'arrogance' has to do with wanting to protect children, but spanking has come to mean something more to the Christian nationalist movement.

James Dobson, Dominionism or Destruction

James Dobson is the Founder of Focus on the Family and a leading member of the American Religious Right movement. He provided 1.6 million dollars to help set up the Canadian Focus on the Family group, founded by Stephen Harper's deputy chief of staff, Darrel Reid.

He has written extensively on the issue of spanking, and though he is a child psychologist, it's never from a scientific argument, only Biblical.

In his book, The Strong Willed Child he makes an extraordinary case to justify harsh discipline. In it he speaks of his small dog Siggie, who he claims to love very much, but when he was away for awhile, the dog had picked up some bad habits. And when he disobeyed him, Dobson retaliated. He describes the scene:

“At eleven o’clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

“On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. ...“I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with Mr. Freud.”

“What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!” (3)

What the good Mr. Dobson describes is animal cruelty and the fact the he outweighed him 200 to 12, makes the whole scene even more horrific. That man clearly should not own a pet.

He goes on from "destruction" being the only thing the dog understood, to the need to discipline children, and even uses capital letters:


And he doesn't just say a child but "a little child ", like the little 12 pound dog. And after describing ways that children will challenge their parent's authority, he states:

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of ‘original sin’ which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster.” (3)
Nothing clinical befitting his profession, but children and "original sin".

You do get some insight into the reasons for his disturbing behaviour from this bio:

Dobson's own family was a bit out of the ordinary. His father was a preacher who often told the story that he had tried to pray before he could even talk. His mother routinely beat their son with her shoes, her belt, and once, a 16-pound girdle. His parents somehow instilled so much guilt in young Dobson that he answered his father's fervent altar-call, weeping at the front of a crowded church service and crying out for God's forgiveness for all his sins, when he was three years old. "It makes no sense, but I know it happened," Dobson still says of being born again as a toddler.
This would certainly prove senator Céline Hervieux-Payette's belief that children learn what they see. However, the spanking issue may be more complex.

For those who have studied the Christian nationalist movement, which is also referred to as 'Dominionism', submissiveness is required to make it work.

In a politico-religious context, dominionism (also called subjectionism) is the tendency among some conservative politically-active Christians, especially in the United States, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action. The goal is either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. (4)
Movement conservatives see the end result as a nation whose laws are based on the Old Testament. There can be no exception. And they are very clear in their understanding that fundamentalist Christians must assume control of all levels of government, beginning with school and municipal boards. It stems from Genesis, where God commissions man to exercise "dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

George Grant, one of their founders (and I will be writing a lot more on this) states:
"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less... Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ." (5)
It's up to us to decide what kind of Canada we want for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. This is not a movement with any flexibility and it does not represent Canadian values. When Stephen Harper decided to exploit the religious right for political gain, I'm not sure if he understood just what that meant. He is a "born-again" Christian, but I believe he worships on the altar of capitalism. This is now out of his control, I'm afraid.


1. MP favours spanking, Star Phoenix, October 5, 2009


3. The Strong Willed Child, By James Dobson, Living Books, 1992, ISBN-10: 0842359249

4. Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, By Michael Frost, Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN 1565636708, Pg. 235

5. The Changing of the Guard, By George Grant, 1987, as quoted in "American Theocracy: Who is Trying to Turn America into a Theocracy?

Zionism, Antisemitism, Fundamentalism, Feminism, McCarthyism, Kennyism ... Toomanyotherisms and Not Enough Pragmat-ism.

Someone shared this video yesterday and we discussed it a bit on Facebook. I've watched it several times and find the entire thing very disturbing.

It appears that what they are attempting to do with this is counter the Israel Apartheid Week, with a bit of doctored footage, to justify their claims that criticism of Israeli occupation in Gaza is indeed antisemitism.

I haven't broken the entire video down, because I really didn't need to. However, I did notice that the soundbite of teaching assistant Rafeef Ziadeh, was edited for impact. I listened to a longer version of that speech and she goes on to say why there was nothing to dialogue with Zionists about, because they won't listen. Clever though.

The problem we have in this country is that we are not allowed to debate this important issue. To our government, Israel is right, everyone else is wrong, and to suggest otherwise is a hate crime.

In the video they discuss the 3-Ds: Delegitimize, Double Standard and Demonize; as part of the raging antisemitic movement. But I would challenge those subjects as applying more to Palestine than Israel.

Christians United For Israel, the radical fundamentalist group that is spear heading much of this nonsense, was founded in the U.S. by the controversial John Hagee. The Canadian chapter was started by Charles McVety, the man who appears to have more power than most of our elected officials.

Hagee, who has been described as the current face of Christian Zionism, is quoted as saying: "Joel 3:2 says do not do it. Those who divide up the land of Israel will come under the judgment of God. Therefore, don't do it. It's just that simple."

He also uses fear mongering by claiming that Muslims have a "mandate" to kill Christians and Jews; "those who live by the Quran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews."

And when asked "So, for you, there's absolutely no way of tolerating Islam at all? I'm not talking about extreme Islam. I'm just talking about the Muslim religion." He answers: "No, there are Islamics who want peace, but they don't have center stage right now. And whenever Islam, radical Islam, does things that make the headlines, like getting on a bus with a bomb strapped around them and killing people, the moderates do not speak up because they're afraid that they will be killed by the radicals. So it gives the appearance that there are no--there is--there are no moderate Islamic people...

So should we assume from the Christian fundamentalism that now defines the Harper government, that all Christians are radical because they like killing people? I certainly hope not. How's that for your 'double standard'?

This is eerily similar to a speech given by Lt. General Thomas Metz, to Canadian military personnel; as documented by author Linda McQuaig.

The Islamic faith is not evil," says the general [Metz], then quickly adds. "but it's been hijacked by thugs ... Most of the Islamic World believes the suicide bombers of the World Trade Center are now in the land of milk and honey." The general notes that there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, "that's ten million radicals." He then shows a chart depicting the military challenges America faces, measured in terms of level of danger and level of likelihood. At the very apex—the most dangerous and the most likely—sits just one: radical Islamic terrorism. "Radical Islam wants to reestablish the Caliphate," says Metz. "Just as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, you can read what they want to do." (Holding the Bully's Coat, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, pg. 67-68)

And unfortunately most of the North American media has adopted this alarmism (another bloody 'ism'), and demonization, when reporting on the conflict. According to journalist Jim Miles:

Canada lives in the unfortunate position of being under the thrall of U.S. media for most its information and cultural relevance. At the same time, its own media, apart from the national broadcast company CBC, is highly centralized under the influence of two media empires (Canwest Global and CTV GlobeMedia) who support the same kind of biased coverage that is provided by the U.S. In sum, Canadians who wish to receive a balanced view of events in the Middle East, Gaza in particular, have to rely on alternate or external media.

Canwest Global (Israel Aspers' media empire) provides nightly updates with little context and "balanced" reporting of showing deaths in Israel from the Qassam rockets as being equally as devastating as the IDF attacks in Gaza.

The current Canadian Conservative government under Stephen Harper is very much a shadow of U.S. conservatism: right wing Christian moralism; a hawkish if small military projection to give the world what it needs (whether it asks for it or not); and an unquestioning support of 'neoliberal' free trade practices. As such it echoes/mimics/supports the all too familiar U.S. perspective that Israel is the victim and Hamas the perpetrator of events in Gaza.

The Harper government, and in particular Jason Kenney, is trying to turn the control of the Middle East into a crusade, and they are using a form of McCarthyism, to stifle dissent. I call it 'Kennyism'.

If NGOs, in particular human rights organizations, dare to report on the deplorable conditions in Gaza, he cuts off their funding; or threatens to if they don't tow the line. His line. Or I should say John Hagee's line.

In the first video, they show the graphic cartoons, but what about the Danish cartoons that Kenney's buddy Ezra Levant so gleefully published? They also use a 2002 headline and not one more current.

They are alienating the Arab community in an attempt to demonize Islam and justify further agression. We have got to start paying attention.

Stephen Harper's friend and co-founder of the Northern Foundation, Link Byfield spoke at a REAL Women conference in 2002, and his message to fellow Christian fundamentalists was pretty clear.

Mr. Byfield's talk was originally to have been on "The Effect of Feminism on the Media", but he declared that the topic was simply too depressing. He spoke, instead, on his view of "Three Futures for Mankind," two of which are quite dark, while one is bright. Which will become our eventual fate?

And those three scenarios:

1. Islam Prevails - Although Muslims share the Christian notion of family, Islam also demands submission. Democracy is a Christian philosophy and, therefore, does not exist or, at best, is only a peripheral force in most Muslim countries.

2. Materialism (secular humanism) prevails: Interesting how he equates materialism with 'humanism, something he no doubt ponders as he's being whisked away in his limo. Technology is good, but materialism turns man into God. The Brave New World morality will be a blasphemy, based on laws which man makes up rather than on the laws of God. Since couples will not be needed to produce children in families, boys and girls will be sterilized before puberty so the state can keep the upper hand. The state can do it better, so who cares about Kate and Tom? It's all happening: sterilization, abortion, test tube babies, designer babies, sex-change operations ...

3. Christianity Prevails. There you go. Why all faiths can't co-exist is obviously not in his range of expertise. It comes down to a classic struggle. Islam or Christianity (which makes it very comforting to know that the prime minsiter can declare war any time he wants).

And they carry that notion into everything they do, even the abortion issue. As columnist Antonia Zerbisias states on the issue:

Meanwhile, the usual right-wing suspects, mostly male pundits, are accusing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff of advocating abortions for women in poor countries, as if he is some evil eugenicist.

(Funny thing is, many of the critics making that charge are the very same people who constantly sound alarms about how white Christian women aren't making as many babies as those brown Muslim women.)


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Murder of Television News Was Premeditated

"The greatest power of the mass media is the power to ignore. The worst thing about this power is that you may not even know you're using it." --Sam Smith

There's no argument that we have a serious problem in this country when it comes to our media, or lack thereof.

Most newspapers are a joke, which is why more people are turning to international news or social media if they want to know what's going on in this country.

We can trace a lot of this back to Conrad Black, when he bought up many of the country's papers and made them a vehicle for the far right.

But even some of the more moderate publications have become a disappointment. Very little investigative reporting and far too much fluff.

That's not to say that they are all bad. We still have a few very good journalists, who aren't afraid to tell it like it is: Lawrence Martin, Murray Dobbin, James Travers, Don Martin, Antonia Zerbisias, Frances Russel; to name a few.

But most of the others are now just cut and paste specialists, or topic spinners; so I rarely waste my time.

And television news is just as bad if not worse. Again a few good ones, but the majority are more into entertainment than keeping the country informed.

And if we don't believe that these so-called news 'personalities' are partisan, look at how easily they move into government. Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy from CTV. Peter Kent from Global. How can we believe anything they tell us now?

I thought however, that a lot of this problem started with Stephen Harper, and while he is definitely the worst to control the media, bar none; a 2000 article from the Ryerson Press, describes how Mike Harris manipulated the press, so it's definitely a neoconservative trait.

We may not have anything as deplorable as Fox News, but give it time. Everything these guys do, they learned from the worst of the Republicans.

TV newsmakers need vivid images to illustrate their stories. Harris's Tories, easily the most communications-savvy provincial government this country has ever seen, are delighted to oblige — on their terms. They dodge negative coverage at every chance and will go to ridiculous lengths — giving preferential treatment to friendly reporters, shutting out critical ones and staging elaborate, unrelated events — to avoid it.

With expectations so superficial, many television journalists are losing the incentive and initiative to go out and chase stories beyond the pre-packaged photo ops offered up by government communications staff. Even if they want to go beyond these prefab items, with shrinking political reporting staff and dwindling resources, they can only pursue one or two stories a day. Government PR people know this and are prepared to make it easy for journalists to get their precious pictures, provided the coverage doesn't end up being too hard on them. The result is political coverage that serves no purpose other than promoting a government that's already very good at promoting itself.

But what happens if a television anchor tries their hand at a little honesty?

... in October 1984 when Lesley Stahl said on air what President Ronald Reagan was really doing: she called him on all the promises he had failed to keep, particularly to the poor, since his election, calling him a president who "highlights the images and hides from the issues."

But minutes after the CBS Evening News Broadcast was over, Richard Darman, Regan's deputy chief of staff and Michael Deaver, a republican political consultant, called to thank Stahl. They'd watched it with the sound off, and without her verbal assault, it was just five minutes and 40 seconds of sweet, wholesome pictures of the American president with balloons, the president with the flag and the president with needy children.

As Stahl found out, consistently getting the right pictures on the evening news is a PR tactic designed to keep government in the public favour. Harris's communications staff, many of whom are trained by Republicans in the U.S., subscribe to the Mike Deaver school of thought: they know they can't control what journalists say, but they do their damndest to control what they show. Robert Fisher, a Global anchor and host of Focus Ontario, a weekly half-hour political analysis show, says he's never seen such tight control by a premier's office in his 19 years of political coverage.

"This government, unlike any governments before it, is absolutely obsessed with image," he says, "whether it's what shirt the premier wears or what the bus looks like or what backdrop he's in front of. I don't remember governments before being that concerned. If they stood in front of a grey curtain, they stood in front of a grey curtain. I've seen these guys change the curtain because it clashed with the premier's suit."

Image politics. It's the new norm. And news programs are not written with a view to keeping a country informed, but keeping a country pacified. Or even worse, and something that is all too common with Harper's divisive style, keeping a country turned off.

Being offered flawless pictures isn't the kind of help reporters need, but it's the only help they're getting. CTV's Queen's Park bureau, which had three full-time reporters in February 1997, now depends on one CFTO reporter. Global also has just one. The Ministry of Health, however, has a communications staff of 40. "I've sort of adapted to it more, maybe because I'm younger and I can go with the flow a little more," says Kelly. "But it drives guys like Robert Fisher nuts. In his day, we always did issue stories, issues were important."

Fisher admits the decreasing emphasis on solid political reporting does aggravate him, but he recognizes why it's happening. Issues don't usually make for good pictures and, once reporters commit their meagre resources to a superficial event, they can hardly afford not to cover it. This budget-induced apathy is compounded by the stations' general disinterest in traditional political coverage.

Bill Fox, author of Spinwars, who has been both a political journalist and a communications advisor for Brian Mulroney, says news executives are giving up too easily. "Behind a lot of this focus on dumbing the news down is the belief that you can't communicate anything of substance on television. But the academic research indicates the opposite. Used properly, television is an excellent medium to communicate very complex issues," he says.

Used improperly, local news becomes more vulnerable to communications initiatives. "You won't have the time to get behind the pre-packaged announcement," says Fox. Over time, consumers will realize that and move on.
North Americans are already giving up the evening news as a source of daily information. In the late 1970s, 92 percent of Americans watched one of the big three stations' evening news but that number, according to Fox, is now below 60 percent.

Toronto news organizations don't seem deterred by these statistics and, according to Kelly, are perpetuating the dumbing-down trend. "We're an inch thick and a mile wide," he says. "TV news has always been very shallow and in the past five years we've become even more so. It's shorter clips, shorter stories, more pizzazz ...

More pizzazz ... Yep. I guess that's why I've only watched television news very sporadically for the past 20 years. I just couldn't handle the pizzazz.