Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kelly Roche – ‘Unhappy Holidays’ (Ottawa Sun, December 18, 2011)

The page two Ottawa Sun headline is glaring: ‘UNHAPPY HOLIDAYS’.  It would seem that a group of protesters had the previous day gathered on parliament Hill.  At issue for the demonstrators was the idea that it should be ok, make that it is a right, to say ‘Merry Christmas’.   The whole idea is that rampant political correctness, and an ever-increasing bowing to minorities, has made it taboo to utter ‘Merry Christmas’ in public.  The main focus of the protestors seems to be on schools.  One child of a protestor was quoted in the article as saying, “we’re not allowed to say Merry Christmas. We have to say Happy Holidays.”

While this does indeed sound pretty alarming in the very next paragraph the article contains a quote from a spokesperson from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board stating that there is no policy with respect to this issue.  End of story right?   No, no, no, not so fast.  Instead Roche proceeds to revive the story regarding Cambridge Public School who recently decided to make what was formerly a Christmas concert into a more wide-ranging and less specifically Christian event.  This decision had caused something of an uproar a few weeks earlier.  Even the Canadian branch of The Huffington Post featured an article with the eye-catching, and inflammatory, headline ‘The Ban on Christmas Begins’.  Of course even this story was blown out of proportion as it was evident that the school in question planned a number of Christmas-related events – they had merely opted to make the concert into something more inclusive.       

Perhaps not surprisingly these are the sorts of details left out of the Sun article.   It is much easier to perpetuate a non-story when you ignore pesky facts and contradictory details.  The photograph accompanying Roche’s piece is of a man holding a placard which reads ‘The Christ In Christmas’ with an image of Santa Claus being crucified.  Glad to see that everyone was being balanced and rational!  The article further notes that some of the protestors wore red Santa hats.  That the whole fabricated corporate-imagined Santa Claus construct was being perpetuated by the demonstrators, of course goes unmentioned.  It seems to me that a lot of this issue can be traced to the policies of businesses. 

For years we have read articles about how stores have policies which instruct their employees to say ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas’ (although having worked in several retail stores myself, I’ve never encountered a policy with respect to this issue).   Still, why anyone would be surprised that stores want to be as inclusive as possible is a mystery to me.  I suspect that if you put to Sun readers the question ‘Short of breaking laws, should retail stores do all they can to attract as many customers as possible and maximize profits?’ the answer would be ‘yes’.  Of course the funny part of the screaming page 2 Sun article is that if you read long enough you learn that the protest consisted of “about one dozen protestors” – a number so low the Sun would surely mock it if it were related to any other cause.      

Perhaps the most disturbing piece I’ve read recently was a posting on a friend’s Facebook page.  The text of the paragraph wondered what our troops had fought and died for if not the flag and out right to say ‘Merry Christmas’.  The piece went on to say that if one comes here to live one should adhere to our national values.  My first thought was that if you followed the logic of this blurb, we should all be adopting Aboriginal values and beliefs – and should have left our European (and other) baggage at the door.  But clearly this is not what this piece was getting at.  The ‘us’ is obviously ‘us’ and the ‘them’ is obviously ‘them’.  As for how the writer of this rant accounts for the activities, dreams and motives of non-Christian Canadian soldiers (Aboriginal veterans in particular) this question remains unaddressed.  Perhaps some of those soldiers were fighting to make our society, and the globe, more understanding, harmonious and inclusive.  Again, such complexities don’t make for good rhetoric and easy answers.      

The argument is always that political correctness, and the accompanying drive for inclusiveness, is taking the fun and spirit out of Christmas.  There might be a hint of truth to this claim.  Although I’m an agnostic (even more frowned upon than being a Christian), I’m never offended when someone wishes me a ‘Merry Christmas’.   I enjoy the gesture in the ‘good tidings’ spirit – assuming this is more of a traditional wish rather than a strictly a religious one (although by the logic of those Parliament Hill protestors this would make me wrong-headed and off-message).  Often, there needs to be a decline in dogmatism on both sides of this equation.  Still, as for those that insist ‘Merry Christmas’ is correct and all variations of ‘season’s greetings’ are wrong, one might also make the point that being more inclusive and loving of others is the true spirit.  As is so often the case, claimed opposition to political correctness is merely an excuse to disparage, rather than embrace, ‘them’.  

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Michael Hlinka (business commentator) – CBC Radio One, Ottawa Morning (November 29, 2011)

Michael Hlinka is the master of avoiding counter-arguments.  All of his economic opinion is presented in a manner which suggests it is both logical and obvious – not so much his views as just the way things are.   This narrow and oversimplified method of presenting information became particularly clear during Hlinka’s recent rant about efficiency.  The bottom-line, according to Hlinka, is that when it comes to spending, individuals are efficient and governments are not.  Of course Hlinka fails to address both what his conception of efficiency (presumably we all have the same understanding of this word) is and that individuals, banks and private companies are just as capable of risky behavior and overspending as governments (in spite of self-interests being at stake). 

A part of the argument forwarded by Hlinka is that governments are not concerned with efficiency and thus are not suited to decide where money should be spent.  Of course, realizing that China would provide an obvious exception to this dubious hypothesis, our editorialist notes that, “Last week we learned that manufacturing activity in China declined sharply.”  This is a very selective tidbit of information indeed – find one morsel of data which doesn’t really address your point and somehow try to make it fit.  Hlinka manages to avoid discussing Canada’s own drop in exports and how our current Federal government studiously blames all ill economic news on ‘external factors’.   The neo-liberal/neo-conservative line has always been the increased trade and economic integration will be our savior – yet somehow it is also our villain of convenience.   Our commentator also ignores the long-standing tradition of right-wing governments (particularly in the United States) to spend like drunken lemurs only to leave their successors holding the debt/deficit bag.  Presumably the difference here is that right-wing governments are spending on worthy projects – rather than those wasteful ones which actually assist people. 

Not surprisingly Hlinka singles out the New Democratic Party as being particularly problematic.   The NDP wants all sorts of infrastructure programs to stimulate spending – programs which, according to Hlinka, include “Roads, bridges, transit facilities, you name it…”  I really like the inclusion of “you name it” as if the list was comprised of nutty ideas which are not concretely linked to our contemporary reality.  Yep, this is indeed a list of frivolities.  Somehow our editorialist refers to all of this as “spending money for its sake”.  It goes without saying that Hlinka sidesteps the Prime Minister’s record on the debt/deficit and infrastructure spending.  Un-discussed is the fact that Harper is on record as defending (at least temporarily) infrastructure spending to stimulate the sluggish economy.  Hlinka goes on the make a link between governments borrowing money and the decline of wages.  For this theory he offers no evidence.  One assumes he is hinting at a potential increase in interest rates which will make it more costly for businesses to borrow.  If this is indeed his theory the evidence is sparse to say the least. 

Our not-so-trusty commentator also blames workers themselves.  The general idea being floated is that the public sector is unproductive – as if efficiency is somehow their sole mandate.  The problem, needless to say, is that unlike in the private sector, there are no incentives for governments to be efficient.  Hlinka states, “I think that the indifference, if not outright hostility to efficiency, has everything to do with the self-selection process of who pursues a career in government in the first place.”  There are not even any exceptions to this iron clad rule as he adds, “But no one, at least no one in government, seems to care much about efficiency.”  Slackers are drawn to the public sector and serious people to the private.  Of course anyone who has worked in multiple sectors and industries will know there is plenty of inefficiency (if the word can even be defined) to go around.  Hlinka does not seem to understand that we select, finance and control the various levels of government – they are not abstract identities unconnected to reality.  The government is us – warts and all.  And if the public sector is as ‘bloated’ as Hlinka claims, one assumes the solution is to put more people on the unemployment line.  However, if the real economic problem is that people are unemployed, Hlinka’s suggestions offer the very opposite of solutions.  They are recipes for how to make things worse.  This side of the equation goes unanalyzed.  I guess Hlinka imagines that those magic businesses enjoying their new low tax rates will pick up the employment slack.  

Of course in his measure of efficiency, Hlinka miraculously avoids the obvious – that business requires public spending, and lots of it, to function.  From schooling to hospitals to road work for the transportation of goods, industry thrives on public spending.  All of that public stuff is stuff they don’t have to pay for.  And given how few companies in Canada pay income tax (a complex issue to be sure) one could even make the argument that businesses in Canada get a free-ride from public spending and Canadian tax payers.  But this is precisely the type of counter-argument and detail Hlinka conveniently forgets … or avoids.  What is even more telling is that Hlinka knows the whole ‘rational spending’ and self-preservation argument is false.  Just this past week he was discussing how individuals often opt to study for jobs they like in spite of their being little work (and little pay) in their particular field.  I guess we humans just lack the efficiency of robots.  The nerve of us! 

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," – Alan Greenspan (former chairman Federal Reserve Board 1987- 2006), October 23, 2008.

 “The figures, tabled recently in Parliament, show from the tax years 2000 to 2009, anywhere from 853,830 to 1,065,810 corporate tax filers did not pay income tax to the federal government. That makes up almost half of Canada's 2.4 million businesses, according to the latest December 2009 statistics from Industry Canada.” – Postmedia News, September 27, 2011.

“When (efficiency) is used as an end in itself, as a value in its own right, and as the overriding goal of public life, it becomes a cult.” – Janice Gross Stein

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Michael Hlinka (business commentator) – CBC Radio One, Ottawa Morning (November 15, 2011)

Michael Hlinka really should be writing for the Ottawa Sun.  His regular business commentaries fall into that same overly-simplistic and entirely predictable vein.  Business = good.  Anything that impedes business = bad.   So it was not a surprise to recently hear him decry the delay in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  Hlinka put the blame firmly on political activists, the financers of the Democratic Party and those ever-so-pesky environmentalists.   The problem is not only that Canada, as a nation, has been insulted, but that the decision to delay the project will cost jobs on both sides of the border.  According to Hlinka, and hinted at by our Finance Minister, if the Americans can’t get their act together we should be looking to China to sell our oil. 

Early in his commentary, Hlinka states, “You would think that given the current state of economic affairs there would be widespread political support for the project on both sides of the 49th parallel.”   One wonders if this means jobs should be the sole consideration with respect to any such project.  And what does it say about the nature of our economy if so much hope is being pinned on a short-term highly-regional initiative.  Even the number of jobs linked to the project is uncertain and contestable.  One number Hlinka is definite about – he claims that this delay will cost TransCanada Pipelines one billion dollars.  If this figure is correct, that a single entity can sustain such losses is in itself worth addressing and commenting on.  Although I’m not sure how the delay of a projected tentative deal can ‘cost’ anything.  Did it cost me ten thousand dollars when my boss failed to give me a raise this year?  Maybe.

Hlinka also makes the case that Canadians should take the delay as an insult.  He spoke of how “the decision should be understood as a slap in the face to the Canadian people.”   My question is: which Canadians?  Even those who opposed the pipeline?  Should I feel affronted that the President of the United States made a decision which may, or may not, alter the lives of a relatively small number of Canadians?  And should I always feel personally insulted when a political decision is made which may, or may not, alter jobs.  The reality is that such decisions are made – rightly or wrongly – on a daily basis in both Canada and the United States.  And what might be even more shocking to Hlinka is that a lot of decisions don’t place the interests of workers first.   One gets the sense that ‘jobs’ is code for profits and that the latter is much more important than the former. 

Although he does acknowledge that the environmental organizers in Nebraska are ‘grassroots’ one gets the impression that these folks, and their ‘claims’, are not taken seriously by Hlinka.  Somehow activists are suspect while high-profile lobbyists represent business as usual.  In Hlinka’s mind all of the forces opposing the pipeline are forms of protest.   There is a right way to do politics and a wrong way.  And if this is part of Obama’s reelection bid, and the President feels more voters are opposed to the project than support it, this would suggest that the democratic process is both intact and working.  If Obama has made a serious judgment error in this case it will be addressed in next year’s election.  Imagine a process which is attentive and responsive to voters.  That can’t be right!  Hlinka and others must paint these would be anti-business forces in a negative light and suggest there is something deceptive and malicious about their motives.  Lobbying is fine so long as it is a certain type of corporate lobbying.   And, as with critiques of the so-called anti-globalization forces, I’ve never met a single person opposed to either business or trade.  So what is really at stake is how, and in whose interest, such activities are conducted.  These debates are much more nuanced than the easy-answers right-wing media (yes, even the CBC has them!) would have us believe. 

One also has to question where the voices for ‘ethical oil’ are in this whole debate.  Yes, there are plenty of commentaries about how Canadian oil is more ethically suitable than the oil from several other countries around the world, but what about this focus on selling oil to China?   It’s funny how the anti-communists seem to be silent all of a sudden – even when they are often the same folks making the ‘ethical oil’ argument.  I guess this resembles the methods (by some clever slight-of-hand) pro-business/anti-communist forces in the United States are able to keep the focus on Cuba rather than China.  Perhaps this has become a requirement as China is holding a huge portion of US government debt.  I’m not making an argument for or against China, I’m just trying to figure out how this all squares in the minds of business commentators and politicians.  

My argument isn’t so much that Hlinka is wrong – or even that some of the alternatives to the pipeline are preferable.  The point is that such issues are complex and by nature reflect a multiplicity of competing interests.   Like it or not that is politics.  Why it is assumed, as our Prime Ministers does, that such questions are ‘no-brainers’?  Why is the environment not an ethical issue?   Why is the whole ‘ethical oil’ argument confined to producers rather than consumers?  I guess even when completion is the ideal state in business it is not always appreciated and welcomed in the realm of politics.  

Saturday, 12 November 2011

John Robson – ‘Occupiers’ hollow outrage truly obnoxious’ (Ottawa Sun, November 6, 2011)

John Robson has recently made the argument that the ‘Occupy’ movement is full of folks who do not know how to wash (yes, yes, yes, we get your lame on-running joke about how failing to shower is not a form of political activism) and who don’t understand the fundamentals of human nature.  The movement ‘conspicuously despises ideas’.  Imagine a movement without leaders and overt rules!  Robson sure can’t.  He does however argue that compassion is an individual choice and as such is not something which can be transformed into a political ideology.  Imagine the nerve and gullibility of a group of (mostly) young people suggesting we can make things better!   

When I recently visited Occupy Ottawa I came across three folks who had studied university-level political science and a professor.  Clearly none of these people are empty-headed or mistakenly think there are easy answers to complex problems.  Unlike our Sun editorialist, there seemed to be an inherent understanding that nuance and complexity are key components to any political equation.  And, of course, without offering evidence, Robson is quick to make the supposition that the ‘Occupy’ movement is strictly a left-wing affair.  A pretty big assumption – especially when one considers the potential political overlaps with the Tea Party movement (nobody likes ‘big government’ until they need something).  As he is intent on documenting the ills of the left, Robson is more than willing to brush aside the role laissez-faire economics has had in the current economic crisis.   The neo-liberal/neoconservative twin notions that open markets and free trade will be our saviors look more utopian than most of the ideas I’ve seen from ‘Occupy’. 

But what is most troubling about Robson’s piece can be found in his statement: “And I deplore the impulse to transform human nature through politics.”  There is an elitist assumption that he knows and understands ‘human nature’ and that it is something clear and unalterable.  One can take away from this position that all politics is folly as our true natures are set in stone.  There is to be a clear divide between politics and caring.  According to Robson, “The problem is that political remedies for life’s fundamental injustice cannot work.”  Yet one can’t help but recall that many of the arguments against the abolition of slavery and extending rights for women were made on the basis of some imagined ‘human nature’.  Robson is merely offering the same old exhausted one-dimensional right-wing argument: what I have is human nature and common sense and what the left offers is ideology.  After all who can argue with ‘nature’?     

Still, the Sun itself is not above making overt pleas for more ideology in politics.   In a recent editorial (November 9, 2011) there is a rebuke of Jim Flaherty.   Apparently our Finance Minister had the nerve to state that the government would ‘not be bound to ideology’ when it came to economic decisions.  The editorial wonders why this is the case as obviously Canadians had recently elected a conservative government.  To me this line of thought resembles the ‘hollow outrage’ Robson was speaking of. 

Any voter who had done even the smallest amount of research on the subject would know that the Prime Minister, and Flaherty by extension, supports the idea of changing economic policy to suit current circumstances and using government revenues to stimulate job growth.  In other words, Harper and his Finance Minister are textbook Keynesians.  So the real issue is about living up to pre-election commitments.   When such transgressions take place at the provincial (read: liberal) level the Premier is a devilish liar.  At the federal (read: conservative) level, Stephen Harper is merely not living up to ideological expectations.  Perhaps the ‘willful obtuseness’ and ‘deliberate vacuity’ Robson speaks of resides at the Sun as well.  Why wouldn’t Mr. Robson be as demanding of the paper he writes for as he is of the ‘Occupy’ movement? 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

John Robson – ‘Leaders give no reason to trust them’ (Ottawa Sun, October 2, 2011)

In a recent Sun editorial John Robson claims to have avoided watching the Ontario leader’s debate.   The general assertion of the editorial is that televised debates display more style than substance while failing to provide a forum for digging into the details of issues.  Of course, one could easily make the case that this is precisely the type of shallow, sound-bite, image-driven content offered to Sun readers on a daily basis. 

Robson’s editorial is a plea for more depth in public discourse.  As a way to demonstrate how substance could be added to debates he argues that politicians should be drawing from previous thinkers and authors.  By way of illustration, throughout the editorial Robson quotes from Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences.  While the book is worth reading according to Robson, the leader’s debate, by contrast, only offers, “synthetic people flapping their arms, smiling on cue, reciting talking points and telling contrived anecdotes with mechanical insincerity.”  The trouble is that this quotation perfectly describes the newspaper in which this editorial appears. 

The Sun is the most predictable read on any given day.  One knows automatically what the cover story will be and what slant the editorials will have.  This is the same newspaper which featured a cover comic of the Ontario premier as a devil and a post-election cover which tastefully and respectfully read: 'We’ve Got A Liberal Minority: Welcome to Hell’.  So, yes to populism but in reality the electorate are a bunch of idiots.  And if Robson really wants to see all which he criticizes (blustery, over-confident, surface-oriented gimmicks which lack detail, balance and careful research) he only need to look a few inches from his own writing in the Sun to find the sloppy, hysterical and mechanized work of Ezra Levant.  Yes, yes, Ezra, we know: free-enterprise great, CBC the root of all evil.  You have told us a thousand times in a thousand clumsy and frenzied ways.  In the Comment section of the Sun what is on offer is monotony, scare-tactics and stunts as content.  Hey, just like the debates.  I wonder if Robson reads Levant. 

Early in the article Robson attempts to maintain his salt-of-the-earth non-egghead credentials.  Following a recommendation of a Weaver’s book he writes, “I’m not trying to seem snobbish or overeducated here.”  Heaven forbid that any signs of a formal education, much less the recommendation of a book (gasp!), should be displayed in the Sun pages.   Robson is calling for a more serious debate on issues while at the same time suggesting there is something unseemly or elitist about having an informed opinion.  Yes, we should be quoting from books – but not too extensively.   

Of course the Sun is all about what Robson purports to be disgusted by.  The bottom line is that the newspaper uses the same easy-answers faux-populism that is witnessed in televised leadership debates.  Kind of makes you wonder why Robson writes for them.  Also makes you wonder why he hangs out with folks like Ezra.  Never mind the politicians for a moment, what reasons do we have to trust the Sun?

In the spirit of Robson’s call for the use of more quotations I offer up a pair:

“It ought to be possible to have convictions but to be open-minded at the same time; possible not to sound as if one had an easy answer to all political problems.” – Stuart Sim (Empires of Belief)

“The secret, then, is that we must alter our civilization from one of answers to one which feels satisfaction, not anxiety, when doubt is established.” – John Ralston Saul (Voltaire’s Bastards)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

David Warren – ‘Money talks’ (Ottawa Citizen, October 5, 2011)

David Warren recommends that rather than complaining about banks, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators should purchase bank shares so they too can reap dividends.   This would allow the demonstrators to donate their newly acquired wealth to causes they see as having merit.   What Warren is offering is sage ‘let them eat cake’ advice.  He fails to consider that ‘Money talks’ is precisely the problem. 

Of course Mr. Warren’s whole premise is that the demonstrators are both bullies and wealthy (and by extension spoiled and arrogant) students.  I’m not sure which scientific study he draws his information from.  In my experience the mainstream media is expert at missing the all-ages aspect of such demonstrations – easier to film the flashy and potentially violent than the toddlers and grandparents (both age groups I’ve seen at every post-Seattle demonstration I’ve attended).  Why photograph an elderly person with a clever placard when there might be a broken McDonald’s window in the offing.  Also, contrary to Warren’s assertion that protestors are one-trick ponies, I don’t know a single person who regularly participates in such events who doesn’t engage in other forms of political activism.  Perhaps I’m very lucky and have a group of sophisticated friends.

With the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations one senses there is something larger happening than Warren’s dismissive comments suggest.  For instance, my parents (mother being in her mid-70s, father in early his 80s) are welcoming the recent demonstrations with comments such as ‘it’s about time’.  Now I have to say my parents, rural Canadians who worked hard their entire lives (and still work hard) are not exactly rabble rousers.  In fact, until this year I would have argued they are the exact opposite of rabble rousers. What does it mean when they surprise me by supporting the demonstrations – and this only a few moths after voting NDP for the first time in their lives!  Perhaps they are on to something.  Of course even Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney takes an understanding view of the recent demonstrations – stating in an interview that the protestors have some valid points and legitimate concerns. 

The day before the Ottawa version of Occupy Wall Street I spoke with two people who planned to attend the demonstration.  One is a twenty-something cook and the other a thirty-something business owner.  Clearly neither of these folks fit into Warren’s wealthy student stereotype.  Of course, even if the movement was made up entirely of students I would say: so what?   Let the youth be smug and not altogether clear on what they want or how to get it.  And while I’m sure there are many affluent students out there, most of the ones I know are mired in debt and don’t have any job assurances when they finish school.    

Warren makes additional missteps when he criticizes the movement for not possessing a clear agenda.  As if this could be possible after a mere few weeks with any given body of loosely affiliated people.  What really puts Warren’s piece beyond the beyond is when he champions the mature Tea Party movement in comparison to Occupy Wall Street.  Warren writes, “The Tea Party types have not taken to the streets, and their organizers have consistently struggled to maintain civility: to ostracize any member whose behavior or loose talk detracts from the dignity of the movement.” 

Dignity?   Clearly this is not true – one only has to look at persistent Tea Party rhetoric which claims that President Obama is not American and that he shares traits with Hitler and Stalin.  Even when Tea Party members do confess to ‘going too far’ with rhetoric, the line is that it was all done in the honorable name of spreading a vital message.  At ‘Occupy Ottawa’ I saw no such outlandish hyperbole.  There were none of Warren’s ‘bullies’.  Actually the whole affair was pretty sedate.  I did see a guy dressed as Robin Hood.                 

Sunday, 2 October 2011


The news is there for all to see:  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is the “Debt Devil”.  In case readers didn’t believe it, there is an accompanying cover-cartoon depicting a red-coloured McGuinty with horns and a dollar-sign emblazoned pitchfork.  In the article not-so-amusingly titled ‘Dalton’s Debt’, Christiana Blizzard uses such words as ‘whopping’, ‘skyrocketing’ and ‘soaring’ to describe Liberal (over)spending.   Of course the article studiously avoids the detailed records of past Conservative provincial governments (easy to boast about Mike Harris – less easy to account for Ernie Eves and Walkerton) and the current Harper administration. 

It is not that the article is filled with lies so much that it is economical – extremely economical – with the truth.    

My favorite paragraph in Blizzard’s piece reads: “Education sector spending is projected to rise to $21.4 billion in 2010-11, a $700 million increase over the previous year.  It’s projected to rise to $22.3 billion in 2011-12, and to $23 billion in 2013-13, an 11.5% increase since 2009-10.”   Of course the assumption is this is a bad thing which is a highly questionable premise to begin with.  For instance, would it be bad if the numbers were doubled?  I’m not sure. 

But wait, on the very page of the Ottawa Sun, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak (you know, the guy most Sun writers seem to thing is going to save us from the Dalton economic disaster in the upcoming election)* is quoted as saying: “Looking at my own school days, I know a well-rounded education includes extracurricular activities.  We’ll increase the education budget by $2 billion annually.” 

Needless to say this quotation passes without comment in the Blizzard article.  One has to assume the difference here is that the benevolent Conservatives won’t, as with the sinister Liberals, be giving the money to bloated teacher’s unions but rather directly to sports-deprived children.

As I said, not exactly deceptions – more a case of budgeted truths.      

*  It is interesting to note that despite the clear Conservative favoritism, the Sun doesn’t think any of the Ontario leaders or parties are fiscally conservative enough to merit the paper’s overall endorsement. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

RE: THE SOURCE with Ezra Levant (Aug 26, 2011)

I am fascinated to hear Ezra Levant stating that “The one thing they (CBC) will never tolerate is a diversity of opinion” and “Only now that the Sun News Network is alive has there ever been any other points of view on TV.”   Of course Mr. Levant realizes this is an over-the-top exaggeration.   Still, the game – and it clearly is a game – it to present any even vaguely leftish comments uttered by anyone on the CBC as representing the views of the entire institution. 

One has to assume that when our not-so-trusty-reporter talks about the left-wing-NDP-supporting-CBC he is somehow managing to avoid the voices of folks such as Kevin O’Leary, Don Cherry, Rex Murphy and Tom Flanagan.  Why, I even seem to recall that Prime Minister Harper appointed a former CBC journalist to the Senate.  How is this possible?  Perhaps these conveniently omitted journalists and commentators are not true conservatives in Mr Levant’s view.  One wonders if he is questioning their conservative credentials.  Clearly Mr. Levant needs to take this issue up with Mr. Cherry. 

Of course to maintain their underdog/oppressed/lone-voice-of-reason status Sun editorialists must present the CBC as a monolithic left-wing conspiracy … and most insulting to these pseudo-mavericks of journalism is that this media monopoly scheme is supported by tax dollars.  Public institutions - the horror!  One has to assume the logic is that only rich private individuals are entitled to publicly express their opinions on the airwaves.  Yes, that is what democracy is all about.  In the view of many Sun editorialists, the sin of the CBC is that they don’t always offer an unquestioning conservative viewpoint – the nerve of those Commies!   Mr. Levant just can’t seem to imagine news stories which are multifaceted and nuanced.  Why have range and complexity when yelling and props are so easy.  

Of course Mr. Levant realizes this is how the ‘oppressed little guy’ game is played.   It is all about Sun media elites (and they are elites whether they like it or not) taking cheap shots at an exaggerated/invented enemy.   Perhaps Mr. Levant feels his boringly-predictable overt biases will be ignored if he constantly accuses others of bias.  This is the dull edge of journalism. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Ezra Levant – The great Obama cover-up’ (Sunday Sun, Sept. 4, 2011)

It is interesting to read that Ezra Levant is not above employing immigrant, religion and race-related fear-mongering when discussing President Obama this week.  He even manages to squeeze in the suggestion the President is a Commie ... or at least influenced by Commies.   Anyone who has followed the saga concerning the President’s birth certificate will know that there has not exactly been a lack of scrutiny.  And what exactly does Mr. Levant mean by ‘exotic’?  Levant also notes that “Barack Obama is going down as the worst president in American history.”    I wonder if our fearless journalist is referring to the fact that democracy is breaking out all over the world.  If Levant is making reference to the dismal state of the economy, anyone with an ounce of honesty knows that these issues both pre-date the current President and are linked to the current Congress.  

I have nothing against scrutinizing the President – particularly when it comes to policy and actions – but it seems clear there are shadowy motives at work in Levant’s column.     Incidentally, I don’t know or care how many children the Prime Minister of Canada has ... or anything about his personal life.  I don’t know anything about his family background or even his religion.  Why is that Mr. Levant?  Frankly the Prime Minister’s deeds are my sole concern. 

The attacks on the President (and media) remind me of the constant swipes directed toward the CBC in the Sun pages.  There is an assumption in the Sun editorials that there is one truly Canadian identity and perspective – a conservative one.  All others are kooky, or worse, traitorous.   The type of populist dissention the Sun writers routinely cough up is patriotic and noble, but other forms of critique or protest are down-right un-Canadian.   This is a neat, if partisan, twist.  

The constant assumption that there is a left-wing media conspiracy – which our intrepid reporter calls the ‘Media Party’ – is also pretty laughable.  Perhaps Mr. Levant doesn’t realize that he and his cohorts are the mainstream media … not the rabble-rousing under-dogs they make themselves out to be.  Sun editorialists are the elites of today no matter how hard they might try to pin this tag on others.  Even with a television network, the Sun columnists persist in playing the ‘we-are-an-oppressed-minority’ card.  Well, which is it: oppressed minority or wildly successful media chain?   I’m not sure that you can have it both ways.  Besides, this ‘valiant little guy’ claim is getting old and boring.   I implore Sun editorialists find some fresh material!