Sunday, November 06, 2011

Mirror Image

So, you lose your job, unfairly as you perceive it, and you're angry.
Understandably so.
You decide to vent, publicly.
Understandable still, but perhaps not the smartest thing to do.
You say or write things about the situation and about your boss, and how you got screwed over.
Still okay.
Okay, that is, until you throw in the racial epithet.

Those who follow sports may realize I'm talking about the ongoing Tiger Woods / caddie Steve Williams saga. Details here.

Yes, but that's not all. On the very same day that story appeared, I came across a Facebook posting from a "friend" who, coincidentally, had also been recently fired.

She's young, probably about 24 now, and worked briefly with me about three years ago before going back to school. We kept loosely in touch on Facebook.

She wrote that she was angry at being "let go" before her trial three months was over. She felt she hadn't been given enough feedback, wasn't given a chance to improve, and wasn't treated fairly by her "Jew boss".

I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

I kept reading and after a little more ranting she came back to that, saying it was the second time she'd had a Jewish boss and they were the worst, and she's sorry for saying it but she feels better now.

I'm glad she does, I feel like shit.

There were only a few comments, one from a Jewish friend who tried to make light of her remarks, to which she replied, "ha ha you're Jewish but I love you anyway."

I couldn't take any more, and unfriended her on the spot.

I'm a bit sorry now because I'm curious about how that thread may or may not have evolved, but it's really irrelevant.
People obviously say things in anger that they wouldn't say when calm. I get that. It's just too bad that racism has to enter into it, still, in the 21st century.
Maybe I'm naive but I thought this sort of thing just wasn't publicly acceptable anymore.

It's also too bad that when a trait is seen as negative (such as being a tough boss) it's automatically attributed to the entire population in question; but when it's something positive (such as being a good guy) it's an exception.

And the "love you anyway"? I can't even begin to deal with that.

I'm disappointed in my young former friend and in a society that is evolving, but oh so slowly.

As for Steve Williams, I have to hand it to him, I didn't think it was possible to turn my sympathy back towards Tiger, but he did it.
Well, at least a little.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Moving On... (Pun Intended)

Upon further reflection, my problem (see previous entry) isn't so much what Avaaz is doing, rather the way in which they are doing it.

Of course agencies based in other countries have a right to comment on Canadian issues, as Canadians have a right to speak to events outside Canada.

This is something else; I do not believe that Avaaz portrayed their petition initiative for what it really is. I believe they have their own agenda and are trying to manipulate Canadians to achieve it.

This is what the petition would read like if portrayed honestly:

 Greetings, Canadian voters,

We are a global advocacy group based in New York City, born from the roots of Moveon.org (itself generously funded by George Soros) and Res Publica.  We feel that you should be upset with your Prime Minister because our prime objective is to defeat him in the next election.

To that end, we attempted to meddle in your last election two years ago. Yes, we stayed within the letter, if not the spirit, of your election law  but our basic message clearly came from outside the country. We ran an initiative to urge Canadians to "vote strategically" by voting for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative Party candidate in their riding (voting area), rather than the candidate of the voter's choice.

Our agenda may be benign: fighting all sorts of evil such as poverty and climate change and Neo-Conservatism but our methods leave something to be desired.

For instance, we hear that a new Cable News Channel is in the works for Canada. The former top aide to PM Harper has quit that job to become VP of Development for Quebecor Media and so could have his hand (and by implication, the PM's hand) in their programming.

We feel that this is the wrong message for Canadians to receive and so we are trying to frighten you into protesting this channel by calling it "Fox News North" and by providing links to all the idiocy going on in the US with Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the Tea Party.

And since we can't actually TELL you to try to block the channel (that would infringe upon free speech) we further frighten you with unproven allegations of influence peddling on the part of the Prime Minister. Protest that, protest the channel itself, we don't care. Just protest.

For those who object claiming that we are "foreign", we insist that our co-founder is Canadian-born (although he has lived out of the country for years.. sound familiar?), we have hundreds of thousands of Canadian members, an office in Ottawa, and a web address with a .ca extension.

Of course, if you actually try to go to avaaz.ca, you get redirected to this address http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_cbc (note, no more .ca) which urges Canadians to sign a petition... TO SAVE THE CBC.

It claims the big bad government "refused loans" to the CBC which will cause it to cut jobs and programming.

So: we want your tax dollars to go to the liberal-leaning network in the form of  loans to cover their "shortfall" but not the conservative-leaning one, even if that would only be for three years and might just provide a little balance, unlike its American counterpart, because we just don't know yet what its programming would be like and since you would be footing part of the bill (for three years, not in perpetuity as with the CBC) you could then muster up a protest movement if we (I mean you) don't like it. Not that it would do any good, because of that pesky "free speech" thing.
The point is: just because I happen to agree with most of their politics, does not make what they are doing ethical.

If a Canadian organization had done the same thing I'd be protesting just as loudly but to think that moveon.org and George Soros are behind this is beyond scary because they have resources far beyond that of any home grown organization, and motives that may or may not be in Canada's best interests.

Will they even get Sun News Network in New York City? The certainly don't "get" the nuances of Canadian politics. Like how people don't trust Michael Ignatieff (Liberal Party Leader) because of his days of defending the Iraq war and his opinion on torture. Like how Canada will probably dwell in minority parliament limbo for some time to come, until a dynamic Liberal leader comes along. Maybe Bob Rae, more likely Justin Trudeau.

One more thing, as for our elections law, Avaaz isn't alone in running afoul of Provision 331. Michael Moore did so twice, in 2004 and 2008.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Free Speech?

I don't like being played with.

I especially don't like being manipulated by fear mongering and hyperbole complete with bold font and exclamation points.

And I especially especially don't like it when the manipulator has no business sticking their nose into my business!

What this is about is something that fell into my email inbox this morning:
Subject: Canada: stop "Fox News North"


Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a 'Fox News North'. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!


I've just signed a petition to the CRTC urging them to stand strong and resist the PM's calls for a conservative propaganda news network. Please join me in signing:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada/98.php?cl_taf_sign=sNJEyP8v

I already know that this refers to Sun TV News, a proposed channel to be run by Kory Teneycke, a former aide to Prime Minister Harper, which would present a more conservative viewpoint than that presented by the CBC, our public network.

But "American style hate media"? "Conservative propaganda news network"?
This kind of overkill makes me nervous, so I follow the link, whereupon I find:
Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a "Fox News North" to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper’s former top aide and will be funded with money from our cable TV fees!

I already have a few problems with this, and the hysterical tone is just the beginning.

Doesn't this make it sound as if the actual channel will be actually run by the actual US Fox News?

It won't.. it's owned by Sun Media, the Newspaper arm of Quebecor, a company that trades publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Fox News has poisoned US politics?

I think that gives them way too much credit. US politics is poisoned all right but hardly by one channel that is only accessible by cable. I think talk radio had a bigger hand in influencing the public; also town meetings, word of mouth, emails, newspapers and anything else you can think of. Yes some of the hosts of the most vile talk radio shows also have a home on Fox News but everything that station does is under microscopic scrutiny from the left and is rebutted to death as it should be.

Hate media?

How do they know what the station will be like? If indeed it does broadcast "hate media" then there is a legal process to follow. Shutting it down before it begins sounds more like censorship to me.

Funded by taxpayer money?

Not so far as I can tell. Certainly not in the same way as the CBC is funded by taxpayer money. Many taxpayers don't agree with the orientation of the CBC but nobody is trying to save their delicate sensibilities.

Finally, Harper is trying to push it?

Perhaps he'd like to but it's out of his hands. If he is exerting inappropriate influence over the CRTC then that's what laws and reporters are for. Does anyone think the media will give this a pass when they've been all over prorogation, the G20 protests, the census debacle and most recently the long gun registry debate?

It continues,
One man stands in the way of this nightmare -- the Chairman of Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Konrad von Finckenstein. And now, Harper is trying to get him out of his job. Sign the petition below to send a wave of support to von Finckenstein and forward this campaign to everyone -- we'll publish full page ads in Canadian papers when we reach 100,000:


To CRTC Chair von Finckenstein and PM Harper:
As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC's refusal to allow a new "Fox News North" channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada's democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.
So what exactly am I supposed to be signing?

A petition to stop the Sun TV News Channel from ever existing?
That would infringe upon freedom of speech.

A petition to allow it to exist but not be funded by taxpayers? I'm not convinced that it would be, and where does that leave the CBC, anyway?

A petition to protest perceived inappropriate influence by the Prime Minister? Even Ricken Patel, the Executive Director of the group behind this petition, had to admit to Evan Solomon on CBC TV that there was no proof of this.

The petition's wording is very unclear. What is clear is that I'm supposed to be very afraid. Words like "hate", "propaganda" and of course the ! tell me that.

All of which makes me wonder who the heck is behind this. 
Avaaz.org claims to be
...a new global online advocacy community that brings people-powered politics to global decision-making...


Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want...


Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org, an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.
Their website claims activism in the following arenas, among others:
  • save the oceans
  • protection for elephants
  • save the Brazilian rainforests
  • Haitian earthquake relief
  • Lots of stuff on climate change
  • Human rights in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the US (torture, y'know).
  • And of course Middle East peace. 
In this context, how does the prospect of an alternative Canadian news channel even fall under their radar?
And yes I say "they" because this group is not Canadian. It may have a Canadian-born cofounder and Canadian members but its mailing address is in New York and its funding comes from sources outside of Canada.

So a non-Canadian organization whose name means "voice" wants to save our fragile Canadian ears from hearing the voices of those with opinions this organization doesn't like?

For some reason they want to scare Canadians into wanting to censor an alternative viewpoint. A viewpoint that I personally don't agree with but that is the magic of free speech.

And a little more context here: recently Canadian cable channels began carrying the English version of Al Jazeera. I do not remember seeing any petitions protesting this assault on what we are supposed to think. If Canadians are to be protected from speech that might be offensive to some, then we need to be protected from all speech. 

Nobody will be forced to watch "Fox News North". Nobody will be forced to behave like Tea Party Activists in the US. The biggest danger to democracy is not "propaganda", but censorship. Stick that in your Res Publica, Ricken Patel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Freak-Out du Jour

It started, as most things do, with me innocently surfing the web.

More specifically, skimming tweets, among which was a link to a recall notice for baby pacifiers.

Since my first grandchild is on the way, my alert system went into high gear.

Never mind that the recall was for a pacifier sold in Texas and California (we live in Canada), never mind that with the baby due in November pacifiers are likely not on the shopping list anytime soon, it's the idea that we must watch out for danger lurking around every corner when it comes to my precious grandchild!

Oy.

What we need here is a grandma pacifier and this is it, my blog.

As with every other time this sort of thing has happened, I resisted the urge to email my son and daughter-in-law. I trust them to be good, responsible and loving parents. I especially trust my daughter-in-law to research anything that has to do with being a parent very thoroughly and to call on her older sister, who has two young children, her friends, her doctor, her prenatal group and perhaps me after that, if she needs advice.

As hard as I'm trying not to be a meddling grandma, I tried even harder  to not be an overprotective parent. My own mother was way ahead of her time - she'd have fit in wonderfully with the class of parents who don't let their kids out of their sight, strap a cell phone on them from the time they can burp, and whose mantra is "better safe than sorry".

I really really detest that expression especially when used as an excuse to smother.

So what's wrong with a little excess caution? Only that it tends to create an emotional cripple, a fearful neurotic person who sees only life's evils and is afraid to experience and grow. Or perhaps someone who rebels in the opposite direction. Either way, nothing good comes of it.

I refused to do that to my children when they were growing up and I refuse to do that to them as adults, or to my grandchildren.

As it turns out, I'd written about this sort of thing before: ten years ago in my personal journal. My then 15 year old son was off on a bus trip to a rock concert in the dead of winter and I was sitting up worrying. Of course he came home ok and life went on.

Being the nudnik that I am, I called to ask if he remembered it. He did indeed, but quickly sensed that I was "interviewing" him for a blog entry. What I managed to get out of him was that he does not feel that I was overprotective and that he was not just saying that because it was what I wanted to hear because "men don't do that".

I had to give him that one.

Oh and the band that they went to see in January 2000? Simple Plan, who now have their own Wikipedia page not to mention a stack of awards and nominations. Definitely worth the trip.

I guess what bothers me about my initial reaction to hearing about a pacifier recall is that I've let my guard down. For one thankfully short moment I became my mother or even worse, became one of those people who votes Republican because only George Bush can keep us safe. 

And now in conclusion, I cannot resist an over-the-top metaphor:

We live in a world full of warnings and cautions. Most are appropriate and useful - it's good to know when a thunderstorm is approaching, if only to keep your laundry dry. The problems arise when you never hang out your sheets in the first place because some day it might rain.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Refudiate This!

Contrary to popular opinion, Sarah Palin did NOT invent the word "refudiate"



Poor Sarah Palin. She can hardly utter a sentence without it being picked apart by the liberal elite intelligensia, by which I mean anyone possessing a dictionary.

Her latest gaffe: repeated use of the non-word "refudiate" in both oral and written language.

Well if "refudiate" wasn't a word before, it is now. I kind of like it - a perhaps accidentally clever, even elegant combination of the words "repudiate", "refute" and "refuse".

Many words start out in life this way, for instance, "brunch", "smog", and "humongous". In fact there is even a term for a "word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings": portmanteau, as explained in Wikipedia - which is itself such a word combination.

Betcha didn't know that, Sarah.

And while "refudiate" is not in the regular dictionary - yet - it has turned up in the Urban Dictionary, a great resource for anyone wondering "what the heck does that mean" while browsing online or eavesdropping on the kids.

The Urban Dictionary lists three entries for the word, the first two referring to our Sarah, but the third predates her gaffe - by a whole three weeks - referencing an article in the New York Times in which the word was reportedly used by:








wait for it...








"pot sellers"

We are not talking Food Network here. Pot, as in weed, marijuana.

The article is in the Business Section, discussing the adventures of legally selling medical marijuana:

With a couple of exceptions ...  interviewing pot sellers is unlike interviewing anyone else in business. Simple yes-or-no questions yield 10-minute soliloquies. Words are coined on the spot, like “refudiate,” and regular words are used in ways that make sense only in context.


Sarah Palin, using a term borrowed from the drug subculture, putting lipstick on the pig to make it look like Shakespeare.

Sarah, why do you hate America?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An American Triumvirate

Well now it's official.

The US political hidden agenda is now exposed, thanks to one unassuming little headline, probably intended to be drowned out by the World Cup vuvuzelas and the happy noise of North American Father's Day.

The headline, courtesy of CNN, also reported by Fox:

Louisiana lawmakers propose prayer to stop oil disaster

Yeah.

Politicians whose integrity has been bought out by corporate interests, yet again pushing religion on the public as a means of diverting attention from science and education, and empowering people to enjoy that nice warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment that prayer provides.

Politics, Corporate Power, Religion: the trinity is complete.

I have ranted about this before but never expected to be proven right in such blatant fashion.

The complete text of Louisiana Senate Resolution No. 145 is here.

They passed it unanimously.

CNN quotes Louisiana State Senator Robert Adley as follows:

"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,"...
"It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

Clearly.

Gee I kind of had the feeling that maybe the efforts made by mortals so far were somewhat inadequate and that perhaps improving that aspect of the response would take priority over voodoo chants sorry *prayer*.

Like maybe giving Billy Nungesser everything he's asking for, NOW.

Then, if you like, pray.

Like maybe getting Tony Hayward off his yacht in England and have him hip deep in waders in the marshland, catching oily birds.

Then pray. For the birds.

Actually, when you think about it, if "God" is all-knowing and all-powerful, why would he wait for mortals to pray for something before arranging it? Is it like some kind of dog-training thing?

Beg!
Gooood boy here's your treat.

I'd rather have a God that gives people the ability to fix their own problems, especially the man-made ones. It's bad enough we have to work around "acts of God".
In fact, people do have brains and the deep desire to explore, discover and innovate. Unfortunately, too much of this resource is wasted. Sick people can't learn, and proper health care is unavailable to millions in the United States.  Any alternatives to dysfunctional schools are equally expensive and out of reach for those of limited means.

These problems have not been solved and are far from being solved because to do so would undermine corporate interests.

The Louisiana Senators are right: there is nothing left to do but pray.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking Stock

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
--from The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, American journalist and satirist, 1911.



Whenever I hear people complain that the Evil Corporation du Jour (at the moment, BP) doesn't have a heart/soul/conscience, I think of the Scorpion and Frog parable:

The scorpion stings the frog even after it said it wouldn't, and even though it leads to both their deaths, because it's a scorpion and that's what a scorpion does.
The tragedy could have been prevented if the frog had understood the nature of the scorpion before trusting the scorpion with his life.

Preventing tragedies like oil spills is a little more complicated but the basic concept is the same.

Corporations have been around for centuries for both business and nonprofit ventures. One of the major advantages of incorporating your business it that it limits your liability:
for instance, if your business goes bankrupt, creditors can only seize the assets of the business, not your private holdings such as your house, car and bank account.

Most of the corporations that have been in the news lately are publicly-owned, that is their shares (pieces of ownership) trade on the stock market.
Shareholders share in profits when the company declares a dividend. If the business isn't doing so well and the dividend is reduced or dropped altogether, the share price will go down because people will be motivated to sell their shares before things get even worse.
If the share price goes down far enough, the company could end up virtually worthless (bankrupt).

This process, maintaining and increasing the dividend and share price, is the main motivating factor behind business decisions. Public corporations are responsible first and foremost to their shareholders.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. It is just the way it is, inevitable because of the essence of what a corporation is.

Democratic governments, on the other hand, are responsible to the people who voted them in. Just as corporations cater to shareholders, governments are meant to cater to voters. It's all about getting elected, and then re-elected.

Again, neither good nor bad. One system ideally balances the other.

HOWEVER

It doesn't really work that way anymore, particularly in the United States, because it takes a great deal of money to run an election campaign, and nowadays this great deal of money comes largely from:

corporations.

The US Supreme Court elevated the status of "corporation" to the level of "human being" way back in 1886, so this is nothing new; but just this past January that same court struck down a previous decision which limited corporate spending for political purposes. So in reality, the US government is still dependent on voters but the road between Washington and voters runs through the corporation.

And since corporations aren't really people, Supreme Court notwithstanding*, they don't have a heart nor a soul nor a conscience. Just loads and loads of money.

Now I'm not saying ban the corporations. We need them in order to have some sort of economy and way of life. It's like the polar bears: we don't want them to disappear, in fact we need them to maintain the balance of nature and the ecosystem. But if we run into one on the street (still possible in some parts of Canada) it is best to quietly get out of the bear's way. Good and evil is all in the context.

The first step to regaining some sort of balance between the common good and corporate good is for the public to understand the nature and role of corporations, then find ways to turn government attention directly to voters instead of running through the corporate middleman. And forget about "self regulating markets" - when left to themselves, markets are greedy, like the people who created them, but without a conscience because they were designed as such. People need to demand - loudly - that the government pay attention to the common good first, and only then will things begin to change.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Landing #130

I watched the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis this morning, live on my computer.

A little over 29 years ago, I watched the first Space Shuttle landing, that of Columbia, live on my TV.

I was 7 months pregnant with my first child, and I cried. The accomplishment of landing a spacecraft like a normal airplane seemed so majestic, even spiritual.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't cry.  I attributed it to the pregnancy hormones but even watching today's landing I admit to tearing up just a little.

The Space Shuttle program is nearing its end. The baby I was carrying is now married and expecting his own first child. I'm no longer a 20-something, but a 50-something, reinvented multiple times since that first landing on April 14, 1981.

And in the process of verifying that date I discovered that the first landing, like everything else, is on YouTube.

It looks pretty much like all the landings except for the chase planes and the fact that it had never been done before.

This latest mission was number 132, which means that it's the 130th safe landing.

I will miss the shuttle program, which has only two more scheduled missions before retirement. However, it's not reasonable to expect NASA to continue with thirty year old technology.

In 1981 I watched on analogue cable TV; in 2010, on broadband Internet on a wide-screen HD monitor.

In 1981 I did not have a microwave oven, VCR, nor a cell phone. People didn't have home computers, and the Internet was in its infancy.

If I've moved on, I guess NASA should as well.

What's disappointing is that there is nothing comparable to replace the shuttle. Trips to the space station will continue via the Russian program and there are some vague rumblings about trips to the moon (or not) and Mars but that won't be in my lifetime.

It's difficult, as always, to justify the amount of money spent on space exploration when compared to funding needs on earth. But if it weren't for the space program, would American schools and hospitals be better off? Would the money really have been spent there or on other programs for the common good?

Funding magically appears for ventures such as the invasion of Iraq and bank bailouts so I can't help but feel that it's lack of motivation, not lack of resources, that has allowed most of the dysfunction in society to continue.

I was six years old when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, causing a spurt of science mania for the US, which couldn't let their Cold War enemies eclipse them technologically.

The igniting spark might have been political but the result was a better educated public and great strides in scientific achievement. Science was cool. If you got the grades, you studied science in school.

I completely fail to understand the current public attitude toward science. It seems to range between apathy to disdain to outright mistrust. And while it might be appropriate to question the motivations of corporations such as drug and oil companies, the underlying science in its pure form has no hidden agenda, according to the scientific method.

It was a shock to discover from my own kids that science and the space program were no longer cool and that hardly any of their peers went into science in University. It's beyond disturbing to read about the state of science education in parts of the United States and even Canada when religion tries to exert an influence in an area in which, in my opinion, it does not belong.

So now, as I watch the stock market sputter and the oil spill crisis unfold, I have to wonder whether a better educated society would have allowed corporations to fulfill their destinies with so few checks and balances.

Or was that the point, all along?