As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.
Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.
In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.
Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.
Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.
Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?
The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.
That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.
It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!
Why do people in high-profile positions spend taxpayer dollars as if it were their own? Don’t they know they will always get caught?
One American psychotherapist, Judith Acosta, tried to answer the question in an essay. She was blunt: Politicians, she says, are sociopaths.
It’s a tempting analysis, but having spent most of my adult life around politicians I am inclined towards a different, admittedly unscientific, assessment.
Politicians are (clearly) goal-driven. They tend to regard the universe as a win-lose proposition. They believe that, upon election or appointment, they have been admitted to another plane of existence, wherein (as Acosta says) the rules do not apply to them so much, or at all.
I’ve also found that they harbour deep resentments. Every day, they meet rich and powerful people who want things from them. Because they work hard, and they don’t have much of a life anymore, they feel — and my heart sank the first time I heard this now-storied phrase — they are entitled to their entitlements. Rules, begone.
That doesn’t make them sociopaths. They are, instead, next-door neighbours.
They see the grass on the other side, they see it is greener, and they want it.
So they go after it, and they don’t give a damn who is paying the bill.
Where did Chief Spence and Idle No More get off track? How did a movement that showed such promise lose so much momentum? Three reasons.
One, if you have a compelling message — and Idle No More inarguably did — stick to it. Have one “ask,” not 100. Idle No More lost the public because, after a while, no one could figure what it was about anymore.
Two, have a single spokesman saying one thing — not a disputatious chorus, all clamouring for time before the TV cameras and thereby creating communications chaos. At the start, Chief Spence was the face of the movement. Eventually, every other First Nations leader seemed to be trying to get in on the action, creating confusion about who led Idle No More, and what it hoped to achieve.
Thirdly and finally, don’t alienate the folks holding the microphones and notepads. The moment Chief Spence and her allies started to physically bar — or eject — reporters asking unwelcome questions, they were doomed. At the start, their main allies were the media. When Chief Spence lost them, she lost the larger war. Idle No More could have secured positive change — and may still. A few short weeks after it began, however, it has been hurt by too many messages, too many spokesmen and a grave miscalculation about the media.
For First Nations willing to pay heed, Idle No More offers lessons about how to do things. And how not to do them, too.
Over the years, I have advised many native bands. I have worked in communities almost as bad as Attawapiskat found in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I have advised successive governments — Jean Chretien’s, Paul Martin’s and Stephen Harper’s — about dealing with problems which are quite similar to Attawapiskat.
As the father to an aboriginal daughter, I was so proud to do that work, but I cannot tell you that I ever succeeded in what I tried to do.
I was a failure.
Now, in respect of our ongoing struggle to assist our aboriginal peoples, every federal government has had moments of which they can be proud. Chretien was, by all accounts, the finest Indian Affairs minister this country has ever seen.
Martin devoted himself to the Kelowna Accord, which would have assisted many native Canadians. Harper’s finest moment — the act which I believe history will always regard as his greatest success — was his apology to, and reparations for, those native children whose lives were destroyed in hellish residential schools.
But all of those governments, too, have ultimately been failures, as they have grappled with the issue that is Canada’s enduring shame — our relationship with those who were here first, the First Nations.
All those prime ministers have tried to prevent future Attawapiskats, and all have been unable to do so.
The blame — because that is what these sad situations typically become, exercises in blame-shifting — does not rest with governments alone. Aboriginal leaders, too, bear much of the responsibility for the ongoing crises faced by some (but by no means all) native communities.
Too often, I have been in reserves where black mould covered every surface, and the house had been condemned, but scores of children could be found living in it, peeking out at me through cracked windows and filthy curtains. While rumours circulated within the reserve about a band member who recently bought a big boat, or a big car.
Reading the paper, trying to understand the Attawapiskat situation, we shake our heads. The federal government only this week put the band in “third party management” — akin to trusteeship in a bankruptcy. But what took them so long?
Why did they pour millions into Attawapiskat for years, and only now decide that there was a problem? It defies sense.
Reading about Attawapiskat, we are reminded that such stories seem to come up all the time.
Two, three, four times a year, someone at a reserve calls up a reporter, and the terrible tales get told.
There is sameness to the stories — and there is sameness to the response.
Fingers get pointed across the aisle, the media write columns like this one, money gets spent, reports get written, and then everyone moves on.
Everyone forgets, until the next Attawapiskat happens.
There’s a understandable temptation, in the midst of stories like this one, to simply throw up our hands and call the problem one without a solution. To give up.
We cannot, cannot, do that. Right now, somewhere not far from where you live, there is a native child who is living in conditions to which you would not subject your dog.
Until we change that, all of us, this is not a country.
The other day in the hospital, Mark complained to me about his Twitter user name. He doesn’t like @coopermark and said it looked stupid. I replied to him that others have that form of username. When pressed who I was referring to, I said Warren Kinsella’s username on Twitter is @kinsellawarren. Mark asked who Kinsella was and I said, he helps Liberal’s win elections. Mark replied with, “So he hasn’t done much lately.”
Before he brought in the gaggle of geniuses who helped him to pilot the once-great Liberal Party of Canada into history’s ditch, I was an adviser to Michael Ignatieff. I didn’t know the guy, particularly, but I was friends with his chief of staff, Paul Zed, and his principal secretary, Ian Davey.
They brought me in to run their “war room.”
A political war room is mainly designed to toss figurative hand grenades at one’s opponents and, when necessary, catch and defuse the ones tossed your way. In the spring of 2009, I and others had heard a big hand grenade was about to land: Stephen Harper was going to unleash the Mother of All Attack Ads on Michael Ignatieff.
Harper had decided to define Ignatieff before he could define himself. Simple. Politics 101.
Except when the $4 million “Just Visiting” campaign commenced, Ignatieff wasn’t nearly as concerned as me or Davey or Zed. If anything, he was initially bemused by it all. Ignatieff, who had a tendency to regard politics as a teaching experience, simply couldn’t believe Canadians could be taught he was a foreigner.
Said he: “I’m a Canadian. Nobody will believe these stupid ads.”
“They’re not trying to say you’re an American, or that it’s bad to be American,” I said to him. “The point of their ads, Michael, is that you’re not ‘just visiting’ Canada — you’re ‘just visiting’ Earth. They’re trying to suggest that you’ve never been on public transit, or worried about a mortgage payment, or lost a job. They’re trying to say you don’t understand the reality of the average Canadian’s life.” He disagreed with our suggestion that we fight fire with fire, as was his prerogative, and that was that. I went back to the real world in Toronto and, a few months later, he did likewise.
What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, it means all sorts of things.
As of May 2, it means if you leave home, you bloody well better not take 30 years to find your way back.
It can also mean that if you are going to live abroad, you need to do a better job defending it then this.
When the video came out, I really enjoyed it and posted an earlier version here. It was posted on YouTube, promoted on the Liberal Party website and they bought adspace on National Newswatch. After a month it had less then 10,000 views. Even now it has less then 70,000 views. It’s three minutes long, nothing really compels me to forward it or tweet it which means that it never went viral. Nothing against National Newswatch, I stop by probably 10 times a day but it’s a political website for news junkies and politicos. Harper’s Just Visiting attack ads were seen by more people each time they were shown. Harper launched a four million dollar ad campaign against them and they probably spent $25,000 in responding.
While I agree with Kinsella, he missed the bigger lesson. Don’t go into a swordfight carrying a butter knife.
Warren Kinsella has an excellent article on Elizabeth May’s use of time lately. The Green Party leader missed her first question period in the House of Commons and then logged onto Warren Kinsella’s website to defend her decision to miss her first chance to appear in the House.
To be fair, I prominently posted May’s response on my website. My commenters, of all stripes, didn’t buy it. One regular Tory commenter, Gord Tulk, wrote: “Your party’s very first chance to rise in the House and ask a question as its very first elected member, and you go into a lock-up? You are a poster child for poor political judgment.”
Others felt likewise.
May, turns out, had been lurking the Internet ether, and had decided to respond. “I am leader of a grassroots party,” she wrote. “I attended lock-up with the Green Party finance critic and two staff. We needed consensus in response and I needed to read the whole budget to handle media.”
Here’s why: May, like every other member of Parliament, gets about $300,000 a year to hire staff and run their offices.
In May’s case, she would also be able to draw upon her party’s budget since she leads it. For years, the Green Party has raked in millions from individual donors as well as the Elections Canada vote stipend. May could have easily afforded to hire a staffer or two to attend that budget lock-up and crunch the numbers. That way, she could have attended both question period and been available to chime in on the budget.
On Parliament Hill — as Michael Ignatieff learned during the leaders’ debates when Jack Layton went after him on his attendance record — it’s the little stuff that will kill you. Political graves are dug with small shovels.
Liz, here’s a free tip: You complained for years that you belonged in the House of Commons. The good people of Saanich-Gulf Islands agreed. They — and we — now expect you to show up for work. Not lurk in Internet chat rooms.
I am not a big fan of the Green Party leader. Actually I think she has terrible political instincts but even the most tone deaf of politicians should have known that leaving a comment on Warren Kinsella’s (or any other political) blog would come back and haunt her. These missteps seem to define her (remember the train tour across Canada which no one paid any attention to). Under Elizabeth May, the Green Party has moved from an environmental protest party to a party focused on getting her elected. Her political judgement seems to undermine both efforts and many of her decisions are, as Kinsella said, weird.
As someone who is concerned about climate change and the environment, having an engaged Green Party being part of the debate on those issues is important but since Ms. May has become leader, I have heard a less about those issues and more about May herself. Since many of those involve missteps, that’s not a good thing.
About a month ago, venture capitalist Chris Sacca wrote this on Twitter.
Journalism: The art of ignoring all the facts that don’t support the article you’ve already written.
I retweeted this and replied:
The same could be said for my blogging….
Sacca’s quote generated some discussion on Twitter and some email as well. Some asked if I believed it, some just trashed it, while some wondered if he was right.
Here are my personal thoughts on the subject, something I have been thinking about for over 16 years.
In 1995, a Nebraska football player named Lawrence Phillips violently beat his his ex-girlfriend, Kate McEwen. He dragged her down a flight of stairs and it was a horrific scene. A situation in any other university, the player would be expelled. Instead of being kicked off the team, kicked out of school, he suspended from the Husker football team by coach Tom Osborne. He sat out a game and then started to play again. There was some national outrage but at the local Cornhusker press conference, the local media didn’t ask Osborne a thing about it. The media was dependent on it’s access to Osbourne and wasn’t going to let a shameful decision by the coach affect that access and was silent when security kicked the network news crew out of there for asking hard questions.
The same thing happened during the Rick Pitino debacle in Louisville, the Jim Tressel fiasco at THE Ohio State, and basically everywhere John Calipari that has coached. Don’t even get started with Rogers Sportsnet brining in the compulsive rumor fabricator Eklund onto their trade deadline show. He was proven to be a liar before they ever brought him on their air. In many media markets the local sports coverage is so dependent on it’s access to the program that it has stopped covering the program and instead becomes beholden to it and transforms into it’s P.R. arm (it doesn’t have to be that way, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella and New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks essentially hate each other)
During the same time of the Lawrence Phillips assault and whitewash, investigative journalist Gary Webb was writing a series of articles about the Dark Alliance which accused the CIA of drug smuggling. The San Jose Mercury News stood by the story, backed away from the story and when things got tough for the paper, tossed Webb under a bus which ended his career as an investigative reporter. After Webb committed suicide, other papers started to verify his stories but the Mercury News blinked in the face of opposition.
Probably the most famous case of mass newsroom and editorial failure was the lead up to the Iraq War. The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and most other papers were touting the American government line that there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At the same time some American and most of the world’s media outlets were saying that there was no weapons of mass destruction. It was kind of surreal. I would wake up every morning and read the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today and see compelling (and competing) arguments for the invasion of Iraq while in the evening I would come home and watch Kudlow & Cramer which had a regular series of experts (including Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector) on the show all stating that there was no WMD in Iraq. I remember after the invasion of Iraq was complete and there was no WMDs thinking, “I got it right, CBC got it right, Kudlow & Cramer got it right, CBC got it right… why did almost everyone else get it wrong?” The New York Times later talked about being caught up in the mood of the nation, believing Colin Powell, and their government sources. So much for questioning everything.
We saw the same thing with the Irish media and their boosterism of the Irish economy the expansion of real estate values. From Michael Lewis’ article in the New Yorker
Kelly wrote his second newspaper article, more or less predicting the collapse of the Irish banks. He pointed out that in the last decade they and the economy had fundamentally changed. In 1997 the Irish banks were funded entirely by Irish deposits. By 2005 they were getting most of their money from abroad. The small German savers who ultimately supplied the Irish banks with deposits to re-lend in Ireland could take their money back with the click of a computer mouse. Since 2000, lending to construction and real estate had risen from 8 percent of Irish bank lending (the European norm) to 28 percent. One hundred billion euros—or basically the sum total of all Irish public bank deposits—had been handed over to Irish property developers and speculators. By 2007, Irish banks were lending 40 percent more to property developers than they had to the entire Irish population seven years earlier. “You probably think that the fact that Irish banks have given speculators €100 billion to gamble with, safe in the knowledge that taxpayers will cover most losses, is a cause of concern to the Irish Central Bank,” Kelly wrote, “but you would be quite wrong.”
This time Kelly sent his piece to a newspaper with a far bigger circulation, the Irish Independent. The Independent’s editor wrote back to say he found the article offensive and wouldn’t publish it. Kelly next turned to The Sunday Business Post, but the editor there just sat on the piece. The journalists were following the bankers’ lead and conflating a positive outlook on real-estate prices with a love of country and a commitment to Team Ireland. (“They’d all use this same phrase, ‘You’re either for us or against us,’ ” says a prominent bank analyst in Dublin.) Kelly finally went back to The Irish Times, which ran his article in September 2007.
So what causes entire newsrooms to get a big story wrong? One local reporter suggested it was trusting different sources which kind of makes sense but it doesn’t explain why the CBC, CTV, and CNBC went a different direction than the New York Times and Washington Post. This wasn’t the case of two reporters hearing two different stories about Jerome Igninla being traded, this was a story that sent a nation to war for years and the reporting was very one sided by the Times and Post. Why did most of the American media buy the Pentagon sell job and most of the international media did not?
While it is popular to say that everyone got it wrong, a post by Arriana Huffington from 2004 that everyone did not.
Among them is Joe Lauria, a reporter who has covered the UN since 1990 for a variety of papers, including the London Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and the Boston Globe. He bridles at Miller’s claim. "I didn’t get it wrong," he told me. "And a lot of others who covered the lead up to the war didn’t get it wrong. Mostly because we weren’t just cozying up to Washington sources but had widened our reporting to what we were hearing from people like Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, and from sources in other countries, like Germany, France, and Russia. Miller had access to these voices, too, but ignored them. Our chief job as journalists is to challenge authority. Because an official says something might make it ‘official,’ but it doesn’t necessarily make it true."
This is no time for rewriting history, or for allowing those who helped the Bush White House market the war to fall back on the comfort and safety of a collective "we all screwed up." After all, as Jack Shafer pointed out on Thursday, even in the New York Times there were "at least four non-Miller stories published during the war’s run-up that glower with skepticism about the administration’s case and methods."
Why, I wondered, had it taken the Times so long to report this? Around the time that Jehl’s article appeared, I ran into a senior editor at the Times and asked him about it. Well, he said, some reporters at the paper had relied heavily on Chalabi as a source and so were not going to write too critically about him.
After looking at this, he concludes
This points to a larger problem. In the period before the war, US journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration. Those with dissenting views—and there were more than a few—were shut out. Reflecting this, the coverage was highly deferential to the White House. This was especially apparent on the issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—the heart of the President’s case for war. Despite abundant evidence of the administration’s brazen misuse of intelligence in this matter, the press repeatedly let officials get away with it. As journalists rush to chronicle the administration’s failings on Iraq, they should pay some attention to their own.
Judith Miller, who was responsible for much of the New York TImes reporting blamed her sources. This confused Slate’s Jack Slater as Miller claimed her roll is to share the what people in official positions tell her rather than question and investigate what she is hearing.
My job was not to collect information and analyze it independently as an intelligence agency; my job was to tell readers of the New York Times as best as I could figure out, what people inside the governments who had very high security clearances, who were not supposed to talk to me, were saying to one another about what they thought Iraq had and did not have in the area of weapons of mass destruction. [Click here for Miller Clip 3.]
More disturbingly, a later investigation by Byron Calame, suggested there was a fair amount of editorial incompetence in the New York Times Newsrooms as well.
By the spring of 2003, the newsroom was overwhelmed by the Jayson Blair fiasco, and Mr. Raines and the managing editor, Gerald Boyd, left the paper. When Bill Keller became executive editor on July 30, 2003, he focused on dealing with the trauma of the Blair scandal. Nevertheless, with questions growing about weapons in Iraq, he told Ms. Miller she could no longer cover those issues. But it took until May 2004 – more than a year after the war started and about a year after it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – before The Times acknowledged in an editors’ note that the coverage was flawed. Mr. Keller then directed her to stay away from all national security issues.
The Times weren’t the only ones who had jumped on the WMD bandwagon. The Washington Post was in there as well.
On December 12, for example, The Washington Post ran a front-page story by Barton Gellman contending that al-Qaeda had obtained a nerve agent from Iraq. Most of the evidence came from administration officials, and it was so shaky as to draw the attention of Michael Getler, the paper’s ombudsman. In his weekly column, Getler wrote that the article had so many qualifiers and caveats that
the effect on the complaining readers, and on me, is to ask what, after all, is the use of this story that practically begs you not to put much credence in it? Why was it so prominently displayed, and why not wait until there was more certainty about the intelligence?
The question is asked,
And why, he might have added, didn’t the Post and other papers devote more time to pursuing the claims about the administration’s manipulation of intelligence? Part of the explanation, no doubt, rests with the Bush administration’s skill at controlling the flow of news. “Their management of information is far greater than that of any administration I’ve seen,” Knight Ridder’s John Walcott observed. “They’ve made it extremely difficult to do this kind of [investigative] work.” That management could take both positive forms—rewarding sympathetic reporters with leaks, background interviews, and seats on official flights—and negative ones—freezing out reporters who didn’t play along. In a city where access is all, few wanted to risk losing it.
Which isn’t a lot different than what happened at the University of Nebraska with Tom Osbourne. The other factor is the same that played into the Irish financial implosion (and the American housing boom), reporters were afraid of being on the wrong side of public opinion.
Such sanctions were reinforced by the national political climate. With a popular president promoting war, Democrats in Congress were reluctant to criticize him. This deprived reporters of opposition voices to quote, and of hearings to cover. Many readers, meanwhile, were intolerant of articles critical of the President. Whenever The Washington Post ran such pieces, reporter Dana Priest recalls, “We got tons of hate mail and threats, calling our patriotism into question.” Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and The Weekly Standard, among others, all stood ready to pounce on journalists who strayed, branding them liberals or traitors—labels that could permanently damage a career. Gradually, journalists began to muzzle themselves.
In the weeks following the speech, one journalist—Walter Pincus of The Washington Post—developed strong reservations about it. A longtime investigative reporter, Pincus went back and read the UN inspectors’ reports of 1998 and 1999, and he was struck to learn from them how much weaponry had been destroyed in Iraq before 1998. He also tracked down General Anthony Zinni, the former head of the US Central Command, who described the hundreds of weapons sites the United States had destroyed in its 1998 bombing. All of this, Pincus recalled, “made me go back and read Powell’s speech closely. And you could see that it was all inferential. If you analyzed all the intercepted conversations he discussed, you could see that they really didn’t prove anything.”
By mid-March, Pincus felt he had enough material for an article questioning the administration’s claims on Iraq. His editors weren’t interested. It was only after the intervention of his colleague Bob Woodward, who was researching a book on the war and who had developed similar doubts, that the editors agreed to run the piece—on page A17. Despite the administration’s claims about Iraq’s WMD, it began, “US intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden….” Noting the pressure intelligence analysts were feeling from the White House and Pentagon, Pincus wrote that senior officials, in making the case for war, “repeatedly have failed to mention the considerable amount of documented weapons destruction that took place in Iraq between 1991 and 1998.”
Two days later, Pincus, together with Dana Milbank, the Post‘s White House correspondent, was back with an even more critical story. “As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week,” it began, “it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved—by the United Nations, European governments and even US intelligence reports.” That story appeared on page A13.
The placement of these stories was no accident, Pincus says. “The front pages ofThe New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are very important in shaping what other people think,” he told me. “They’re like writing a memo to the White House.” But the Post‘s editors, he said, “went through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference.”
If nothing else, the Iraq saga should cause journalists to examine the breadth of their sources. “One question worth asking,” John Walcott of Knight Ridder says, “is whether we in journalism have become too reliant on high-level officials instead of cultivating less glamorous people in the bowels of the bureaucracy. “In the case of Iraq, he added, the political appointees “really closed ranks. So if you relied exclusively on traditional news sources—assistant secretaries and above—you would not have heard things we heard.” What Walcott calls “the blue collar” employees of the agencies—the working analysts or former analysts—were drawn on extensively by Knight Ridder, but by few others.
It paints a pretty ugly picture of journalism. The part of it that gave me hope was what happened to Judith Miller. First of all, Maureen Dowd went to town on Miller’s reporting
Judy admitted in the story that she ‘got it totally wrong’ about W.M.D. ‘If your sources are wrong,’ she said, ‘you are wrong.’ But investigative reporting is not stenography. . .
The next day, public editor, Byron Calame wrote,
Ms. Miller may still be best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction… Many of those articles turned out to be inaccurate."
Have they changed? Well today Fox News asked their viewers regarding Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate, "is it good enough for you?"
The Nation looks back at the reporting that defined the Mission Accomplished event. A mission so accomplished that there was another 4,000 American and a couple hundred thousand Iraqi casualties. Try to control the grimace as you read what Maureen Dowd wrote.
Maureen Dowd in her column declared: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.
“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.
“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”
So much for the paper of record. It asks the question, if I can’t expect the New York Times, Washington Post, or the any newspaper in Ireland to stand up to popular opinion and keep digging for the truth, why expect more from The StarPhoenix or local television stations. While they probably aren’t offered rides on Air Force One, how do I know that selections on The StarPhoenix’s 52 things to love about Saskatoon aren’t connected to advertising buys? (especially when reading this article) or electoral coverage is not influenced by the same access issues that sucked in Judith Miller and a lot of other respected journalists? Who knows what information that James Wood has published after Premier Brad Wall offered to help him win the office football pool?
I almost everything before this paragraph last the day that Sacca’s tweet appeared. Since then I have been wondering, do I trust journalism.
First of all, there is a difference between news entertainment and journalism. What FOX News practices, what MSNBC does, and what SUN TV parades out isn’t journalism. It’s driven by ratings and is all about profit. Now I may find Keith Olbermann a lot more entertaining and less offensive then Glenn Beck, it’s still not journalism. Does anyone even on the right think that Sarah Palin is on FOX News for any other reason than to further her own political aspirations (faltering as they are)?
I believe in it because as I have grown older and wiser, I know it when I see it. This winter a reporter came in and did a story where she opened with the line, “I am just going through the motions on this story but at least I don’t have to endure another day of —-.” Seriously. Another local reporter assured me that I was off the record and direct quoted me. I had read of stupid reporters in Warren Kinsella’s book Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics and The War Room but thought they were confined to covering politics (or Nebraska football). Apparently it’s not and I learned it the hard way. Even I have a blacklist of local reporters I will no longer talk to and sadly I keep a voice recorder in my office drawer after being misquoted.
Do I trust journalism? I don’t know but I have grown to trust specific journalists and yes, I trust many outlets. In addition to The StarPhoenix there are papers and magazines that are an important part of my daily life, including those that have screwed up big time in the past (I’m looking at you, The New York Times and the Washington Post). They are the papers and magazines that I toss in front of Mark and later Oliver that will teach them a global worldview, the importance of figuring out both sides of a story, and in the case of some papers, how to handle a situation when you have screwed up. Others will teach Mark what happens when you lose your intellectual integrity and only choose to see one side of an argument so I guess Fox News does have some value after all.
Economically (apparently I prefer deficits) and on defence spending I agree with the Conservatives but on Senate Reform, Quebec, and Moral Values, I am with the Liberals.
It’s kind of a fun survey but I realized that locally I find myself politically at odds with four of the city councillors at the left end of the political spectrum and yet I would vote for each of them if I lived in their wards. I explain that in that all four of them do a really good job of communicating their positions, do their jobs with integrity, and have the best interests of the city at heart so there is more to voting than 30 questions that determine my political ideology. It’s the same reason I voted for Eric Cline and now for Cam Broten. It’s also why local campaigns matter. It’s a fun tool though and I agree with Warren Kinsella that it shouldn’t be taken that seriously.
As for local campaigns, Kelly Block and Nettie Wiebe are running in Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar. As always, the race will be too close to call. The Liberals are running Lee Reaney and the Green’s are running Vicki Strelioff. Neither will make an impact in the campaign and as far as I could find, neither have a campaign headquarters.
Warren Kinsella has a good post titled TEN POINTS: WHEN DEMOCRACY LOSES ALL MEANING that you should check out. I was going to reply in his comments but after drafting up a reply, I decided to post here instead.
Looking back at the decision that was made to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2011, I thought it was a premature and arrogant one. It seemed to underestimate the enemy, which everyone does. The Allies thought the path from Normandy to Berlin would be over by Christmas of 1944, the Dieppe raid would have light casualties, and the Nazi’s thought Soviet resistance would collapse as they got closer to Moscow. Later on the American’s were confident that the occupation of Iraq would be easy and orderly. The public also shares this overconfidence. In Ken’s Burn’s documentary The War, he points out that by late 1944, American support for WWII was waning, despite the fact that it was a war that was started by the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As in Iraq, western forces totally underestimated how long it would take for them to train the Afghanistan military. I have no idea why it has taken so long, especially when you consider how quickly infantry was trained during the Second World War (Operation Torch was a year after Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal was only six months or so later) but it was that way in Iraq as well. It has been years of training for Afghanistan troops and there still are significant issues with their performance in the field and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
The other variable was Iraq and the amount of troops it took to stabilize the country, troops and equipment that could have been used in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is not the same military it was under Ronald Reagan. Under Reagan, American military doctrine was that it could wage and win two wars at once (as in World War II). That doctrine was changed to win one war decisively and contain the enemy in a secondary war until resources could be redeployed. When Iraq was not won decisively, it still put Afghanistan into an extended holding pattern that changed the game for the Canadian troops there who bore the brunt of the fighting in a war that the Allies had not committed the resources to win.
So now what? Canadians are in the middle of a war which has changed strategy several times and there is no clear blueprint to win. While General Petraeus’s counter insurgency strategy worked in Iraq, will it work in Afghanistan? Time will tell and I tend to think it will but that is a separate question. The question that is burning with me is should Canadian troops be forced to pay for years of mismanagement of the war by staying there even longer? It comes down to the Powell Doctrine, “Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?”. I don’t know if I see one.
For me, Kinsella’s best argument is his fifth point
There’ll be no debate about any of this in Parliament, which is, you know, the Supreme Legislature of the People. No one seems to give a shit about that.
I really don’t know if I think Canadian troops should stay in Afghanistan. Part of me says that we need to see this through but how many times was that said during Vietnam (which is why Powell was so insistent with an exit strategy). I do strongly believe that if there is an extension to the mission, that it is debated before Parliament. Dissenting voices may not change the terms of engagement but they will be heard and that is a part of the democracy which our soldiers are trying to protect. I know a lot of you will argue that if the Conservatives and the Liberals both agree, what is the point. The point is that we are asking Canadian soldiers to risk their lives and in a parliamentary system, they are the ones that should be making the choice and being held responsible.
The second lesson of that historic night is this: As long as the Bloc Québecois exists – and as long as vote-rich Ontario remains split between Tories, Grits and New Democrats – no party will be able to win a majority in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is closest to realizing that dream, of course. Two of the three recently-announced by-elections in Ontario and Manitoba will likely result in Conservative wins – placing Harper a wee bit nearer to a Parliamentary majority.
But in a general election, seasoned observers expect Harper will lose most of his 11 Quebec seats. And no one expects he will be able to offset that in the way that Chretien did – namely, by winning virtually every single one of Ontario’s 106 Commons seats.
And so, we will continue to get what we’ve got: A Conservative Party on the cusp of majority power, and a Liberal Party that has a much greater way to go. With the separatist Bloc, and a splintered Ontario electorate, standing in the way of the aspirations of both.
Harper’s temptation, perhaps, might be to do what Chrétien did: Hug the centre, and jettison his opposition to things like the long-gun registry, same-sex marriage and liberal immigration rules. In that way, he might attract enough urban youthful and female voters — the ones that have so far eluded him.
But in doing so, Harper knows he risks blowing apart the Conservative coalition in the way Brian Mulroney did — driving Westerners back into a Reform-style option, and Central and Atlantic Canadians back to a Progressive Conservative model. So he’s stuck.
If I remember correctly, Mannings idea for forming the Reform Party (that’s Refoooooooooooooooorm Party for you old Manning supporters out there) was that he felt that Canada’s political scene was going to disintegrate into regional parties. Libs and the PCs in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, Bloc (or something like the PQ) in Quebec, and the NDP chipping away votes all over the place which would make it really hard for someone to win enough support to get a majority. Chretien may be the exception that proved the rule in that he won Ontario so handily and was strong enough in Quebec and eastern Canada to win three straight majorities. To counter Chretien’s strength, Manning tried to create a national party while it’s membership wanted to keep everything that make the Reform Party unattractive to Ontario and Quebec voters so we have the stalemate that we have now and probably will have until the NDP and Liberals can cobble together a stable coalition government that doesn’t include the Bloc.
I am trying to figure out if I want to purchase an e-book reader. Actually I am trying to decide if I want to pressure Wendy to get me an e-book reader for my birthday.
The three main choices seem to be:
The Amazon Kindle is finally available and functional in Canada. It’s has a six inch screen, I can read newspapers and magazines on it, and of course I can subscribe to some blogs on it.
Here are the highlights
Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered wirelessly in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
3G Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle; no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
Paper-Like Display: Reads like real paper without glare, even in bright sunlight
Carry Your Library: Holds up to 1,500 books
Longer Battery Life: Now read for up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on, a significant improvement from the previous battery life of 4 days
Built-In PDF Reader: Your Kindle can now display PDF documents natively. Native PDF support allows you to carry and read all of your personal and professional documents on the go.
Read-to-Me: With the experimental Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books out loud to you, unless the book’s rights holder made the feature unavailable
Free Book Samples: Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy
Large Selection: Over 400,000 books, including 101 of 112 New York Times® Best Sellers, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs. For non-U.S. customers, content availability and pricing will vary. Check your country.
Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. When traveling abroad, you can download books wirelessly from the Kindle Store or your Archived Items. U.S. customers will be charged a fee of $1.99 for international downloads.
Of course what has really gotten me excited about the Kindle is the apps that will be coming. The ability to blog, Tweet, or do other things from this device would make it exponentially better.
I hadn’t really thought of the Sony Reader until Warren Kinsella talked about his Christmas gift on his blog.
I got Sony’s gadget for Christmas, and I haven’t put it down yet. Right now, I’m re-re-reading Vonnegut stuff, and plan to re-read The Great Gatsby.
The eReader lets you download books super-cheap – sometimes free, for the classics – and then upload them to the eReader through an iTunes-like interface.
It’s easy to read, and you can increase the font size if (like me) your eyes are getting a bit older. You can load music on it, and even photos (but they’ll be in a quaint black and white).
It’s gotten me reading fiction again, big time. I don’t know why. A gentleman spotted me using it this week, and we chatted about it, and I told him it makes reading funner. (I didn’t say funner, however, I said something else, which my sleep-deprived hockey Dad brain now forgets). It’s easy to carry around, among other things.
I don’t know anything about the Amazon Kindle, but I’ve heard it’s pretty cool, too. There’s lots of AppleBuzz about Steve Job’s tablet thingie, per usual.
The old-fashioned way of reading books is swell, of course, and has the added advantage of being bathtub-friendly. They also don’t require re-charging.
I just wanted to opine that these new devices are pretty neat. And anything that makes reading easier is a good thing, no?
The reviews talk about a two week battery life and there is a general consensus that the Sony ebook store is less expensive then the Amazon one. When you purchase as many books as I do, that is a big deal. They both have six inch screens and weigh about the same and in Canada I need to use Wifi to download books. The Kindle has a keyboard but the Sony Reader has a tough screen. Of course the Kindle has apps coming and Sony has never embraced the idea of apps for it’s PSP so I doubt it would for the Reader. Of course one of the reasons I love to read a book is that it takes me away from technology so perhaps a Twitter free Sony Reader is a plus, not a negative.
Another big plus for the Sony Reader is that it has access to the entire Google Books library. With the Kindle, you (or I) am locked into Amazon. The Sony Reader has a bigger world.
Here is the feature summary
PC World thinks that the Sony Reader has the advantage over the Kindle.
Here is my dilemma. Most of the books I read, I don’t care if I ever read them again. While some of been lovingly published (the BLDGBlog Book comes to mind), much of them are poorly bound, edited and even written. While I care as a book as piece of art, I don’t care that much for books as paper and ink. I read them and give them away. For those books, I would love a ebook reader.
I have a small house and need to literally give away 600-700 books for the space they take up. A device that allows me to store books internally or with a SD card is my friend.
Of course there is the iTablet but I find Apple stuff really overpriced at launch as you Apple nerds rush out to get them and when I want to read, I don’t want to watch a movie. So while Darryl Dash keeps the share price of Apple strong, I ask the question… Kindle or Sony Reader?
A friend of mine/arch-nemesis has drawn her father and father-in-law for this year’s Christmas celebration and demanded a Christmas gift guide for them. While I am generally compliant towards requests from friends who have incriminating stories about me, this one is a hard one as I don’t have a relationship with my dad * and I don’t have a lot of use for my father-in-law so I am at a bit of a loss. While I had to laugh at the label emotionally distant father, the problem with too many dads out there is that they don’t exactly excel at communicating what they want for Christmas. If you have to shop for one, we feel for you.
Lucky for all of us, we do buy Christmas gifts for some hard to buy for people who are fathers and here are some of the ideas that I have come up with over the last couple of years.
- Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics by Warren Kinsella :: If you dad talks about politics all of the time and thinks he knows more than Mike Duffy but in reality has the same leadership instincts as Stephane Dion, maybe it is time to help your dad sound more knowledgeable. This is awesome on a couple of levels. First of all it will raise the level of political discussion in your house but if you dad lives in rural Alberta, he will have to explain to his friends why he has a book prominently displayed by the Prince of Darkness and how he is worried his child has become a liberal.
- While we are talking politics and tweaking dad a bit, I suggest you pick up either a copy of Brian Mulroney’s autobiography or Jean Chretien’s autobiography. Which one you give him, depends on how he votes. If he votes Conservative and has a Joe Clark tattoo, give him Jean Chretien’s autobiography. If he has campaign photos of him and Pierre Trudeau from 1968, you get him the Mulroney autobiography but you do it with a straight face… and then when all of the gifts are given out, pull out the book he wanted from beneath the tree. If you are American, substitute the book Sarah Palin paid someone else to write for her or something about the Kennedy’s.
- The War by Ken Burns on DVD and The War: An Intimate History. The DVD is a masterpiece and I enjoy it every time it comes on television but the book is special in it’s own way. It moves between the big picture of the war and the intimate details of the conflict with ease and despite telling the same story as the the mini series, has a much different feel.
- Some books on the War in Iraq. I recommend Fiasco or the Gamble by Thomas E. Ricks or The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army by Greg Jaffe. All three books are great.
- Band of Brothers (book) by Stephen Ambrose :: The men of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, volunteered for this elite fighting force because they wanted to be the best in the army–and avoid fighting alongside unmotivated, out-of-shape draftees. The price they paid for that desire was long, arduous, and sometimes sadistic training, followed by some of the most horrific battles of World War II. Yes the mini-series is great but this book is even better and is one of the best books on World War II that I have ever read. If he already has Band of Brothers, he may also like Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany by Ambrose as well. A skillful blending of eyewitness accounts (gathered mostly from the oral history collection at the Univ. of New Orleans’s Eisenhower Center and from personal interviews) gives the reader an intimate feel of what war was like for infantrymen in the European theater of operations–from the beaches of France to victory at the Elbe River.
- Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes. While Rhodes won the Pullitzer for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I found this book to be even better. Both of these books are epic endeavors of research and writing telling the story of how America started the nuclear arms race, the concerns of the scientists (and why they did it), how the Russians were desperate to find out, and the politics behind it. All of those topics could be books by themselves and once put together, form the foundation of a couple of truly remarkable books.
- The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson :: You can read my review of it here. If your dad in an inventor or just loves to read an engaging story of history, this is an excellent choice for your dad as he takes a break from puttering around in the shop while working on his doomsday device and avoiding the to-do list your mother made for him.
Gadgets for Dad
- MagLite :: Every man needs their own flashlight. At the cabin we have a million flashlights, some headlights and battery powered lanterns but everyone wants to use mine. Mark got me a Maglite for my birthday last year and I can finally say, “Hands off, go drain the battery on someone else’s flashlight.” Dads enjoy being territorial and petty once in a while, especially with a cool flashlight.
- Olivetti Manual Typewriter :: The last manual typewriter in production and the perfect tool for dad to write out his autobiography, love notes to your mother or he could just set it up in the living room to pound out a couple of notes to the grandkids who will totally miss out on the fact that their note was written on a manual typewriter. The other positive that unlike his laptop, DVD player, and home theatre system, he won’t need you to come over and fix this when it breaks.
- Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock :: There is a good chance that your dad has some old school music sitting in his closet that he lovingly looks at but has no idea how to play his Best of Olivia Newton John records let alone get them on the iPod that you gave him last Christmas. This should kill two birds at once. The bad news is that his old records have found a second life and we aren’t sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but that’s your problem, not mine.
- Since we are talking about your dad’s bad taste in music, why not give him a nice set of headphones. Not just any set of headphones but some noise cancelling headphones. They have long been a must have for frequent fliers but even for those of you whose dad isn’t flying to Toronto every week, they reduces unwanted ambient noise by 87.4%, providing a quieter environment to enhance his listening experience.
- 23 and Me :: They send you a kit, you spit into a tube and send it back. They analyze the DNA in your saliva, then tell you about your genetic ancestry, and your susceptibility to genetically linked medical conditions. If you have a genetically linked condition, you also will know who to blame.
- Atari 2600 Flashback 2 :: Okay, so your dad’s gaming skills started to fall behind when the Colecovision came out but don’t hold that against him and let him reconnect with the games of yesteryear and get him a vintage game system. It features the same wood grain paneling and look of the Atari 2600, and will capture the feel through two classic joysticks for multi-player competition and vintage controls. The system comes pre-loaded with over 30 classic games. No new purchases are required, just connect it to your TV and play! The system that brought you hits like Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, Combat and Pong now has them all collected on one handy system.
- The Pod :: If dad has a camera, he probably has a tripod or two. If he likes to take photographs out of the house and doesn’t like the hassle of finding the perfect place for his mount, the Pod could be a great option. Basically it is what happens when you combine a camera mount with a bean bag. While you are at it, why not get dad a new digital camera?
- Your dad probably has an old camcorder kicking around but new camcorders like the Kodak Zi8 are so much easier to use. If you have grandkids, give one of these to dad, set him up on YouTube and let him go crazy or let him film himself out in the wilderness as a Les Stroud wanna be. He will be amazed at how easy and how high quality Kodak’s camera is.
- Leatherman :: While most men want one, it is a lot of money to shell out for a multi tool but a the same time it is a iconic brand and tool that your dad will appreciate it as a gift. While you are at it, toss in a copy of Les Stroud’s book, Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere or the SAS Survival Handbook. If dad isn’t likely to read, pick up all three seasons of Survivorman instead.
- Weber Go Anywhere Grill :: Dad probably already has a kick butt grill at home but this is perfect for bringing to the beach or over to your place when you don’t feel like firing up the grill yourself. It’s also charcoal which will bring back good memories for your father of a time when he could afford to go to NHL games, drank stubby beers, and his sideburns were a fashion statement rather than the foundation for his comb-over. While you are at it, toss in a cookbook or two about cooking with charcoal to refresh his memory on how to do it.
* The last time I bought a Christmas gift for my dad, I called his wife and asked what she was getting him. The answer was a Dodge Viper. I seriously said, “Err, a model one?” It wasn’t. So we had my $40.00 gift and her $100,000.00 gift. I felt like a tool.
You can find more Christmas gift ideas here. If you have any other suggestions or comments, let me know in the comments.
The Conservatives sued the Liberals last year to silence allegations relating to an alleged $1-million life insurance offer for the vote of Independent MP Chuck Cadman.
But the party now says the cut and thrust of political discourse shouldn’t be silenced by lawsuits.
I am not a judge but when I read the press release, I saw them trying to link Kinsella to the ad-scam scandal and apparently Warren and his lawyers agreed. I am not a big lawsuit kind of guy but if I was in his situation, I think I would sue as well.
For me the article is interesting because no matter what the outcome, the Tories lose.
If the Tories win the lawsuit and even if they humiliate Warren Kinsella so badly, his wife and family all take out Conservative Party membership cards, they are still seen as mean spirited against someone who has a personal relationship with the Prime Minister. Plus, if they had read his book, Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics, they should have realized that Warren Kinsella is not the target politically (see 2000 General Election – The Canadian Alliance ran a website attacking Warren Kinsella but forgot that he wasn’t running for elected office) but Michael Ignatieff and to a lesser extent, Jack Layton is.
If Warren Kinsella wins, the Tories are still seen as trying to smear a Liberal strategist and taking a shot at a Chretien loyalist. On top of that, they are out some money that is now going to be spent keeping a VW Beatle on the road (another example of the Economic Action Plan at work) or taking W@AL on a Western Canadian road trip. The other thing that those in the that bunker could learn, many us across Canada like Jean Chretien (who had a pretty good record in both general elections and with the economy). I am not sure if they want to keep attacking him on the basis of his service to him.
If you have read Thomas E. Ricks‘ excellent book Fiasco, he makes the compelling point that many top American generals don’t know the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking which is why Iraq turned so badly so quickly. Ricks uses the illustration of taking out a sniper with tanks and heavy artillery. It was a clear tactical victory as you would need DNA samples to identify the body. Yet at the same time there was all of the collateral damage to the community and neighborhood around them. In winning each tactical battle, they were losing the war. Politics is a lot like that. I know Carville says that you have to respond to each charge made against you but you also have to keep your eyes on the big picture and that is winning the hearts and minds of Canadians.
The Conservatives risk doing the same thing. They have a reputation for being mean spirited and partisan and you can’t be really partisan without coming across as being small minded. That may be fine in some election campaigns but look around, people really suffered during this recession. I want my government to take care of the economy, not call Warren Kinsella names. If they do let a young staffer too close to the fax machine (it happens), then I want them to apologize, not try to spin things in more bizarre ways. When you govern (and you want to continue to govern), you need to cut back on the Amp Energy Drink, take some time off from the Conservative War Room and maybe read, take up photography, walk the dog, and maybe take a road trip to the places in Ontario which have been hit hardest by the recession and listen to their stories. Then decide if you need to be attacking Warren Kinsella, fighting him in court, or settling and then taking care of more important business.