Make the silent heard and the invisible seen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

You need to get off Facebook

"I'm impressed that your attention span has stretched this far."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke: statesman

Ambassador Richard Holbrook 1941-2010
It is on days such as this that I regret not having kept a tape. It is on such says as this that I observe the passing of an individual who strove to end inhumanity, and with whom I had the great fortune to talk.

When I left the CBC Newsworld studios on Memorial Drive in Calgary at the end of 1998, I never returned. The tapes of the programs and coverage that I was proud to host are there, or they have been purged.

If still there, on one such tape, likely gathering dust in a box in the library, would be an interview that I conducted with the late US statesman, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 - December 13, 2010), on an important show that I anchored called International Hour for what was then CBC Newsworld.

I remember how hard my producer Mike Vernon and our team of young associate producers worked to book Ambassador Holbrooke on the show. In 1995, he was the "got-to-get" guest at the time because of his tireless efforts to end two wars in the former Republic of Yugoslavia - in Bosnia-Herezgovina and Kosovo. And our team got him.

It is a gross understatement to read, in the reporting of Ambassador Holbrooke's death today, these blood-feuds being described as conflicts and war. When Yugoslavia broke apart in the mid-90s, clans went for each others throats, blood flowed, and there was no sanctuary for the innocent.

My memory is that of every report or video that I introduced at the anchor desk from that region being prefaced with "a warning, some of you might find the images disturbing" - a phrase that had became an all too hourly clarion in 1995 with the Rwandan Genocide and the hatred that exploded in the former Yugoslavia. The images were deeply, deeply disturbing.

It disturbed me to read Ambassador Holbrooke's "style" described as a 'breathless monotone," by Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, in the New Yorker magazine for a 2009 profile of Holbrooke.
“I wouldn't call it conversation. It’s this sort of breathless monologue that you can only engage by interrupting. Dick is an advocate. He almost always has a case to make.”
That is not the recollection that I have of my interview with Ambassador Holbrook. On the contrary, we had a conversation. He was intelligent, warm, gracious and humble as to what he'd achieved.

And, in what was his greatest achievements of many in a long and distinguished career of public service, he made his case. He ended the blood-shed. His role as President Bill Clinton's special mediator of the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis led to 20 days of negotiations at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio that culminated in the 1995 Dayton Agreements.

Next, in 1998 Clinton sent him to deal with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic - the accused war criminal who died behind bars in 2006 while awaiting trial on crimes against humanity - in attempting to end the Kosovo blood-bath. However, Ambassador Holbrook was unable to secure peace with the monster and, just two years ago, warned that the region was again in danger of collapse.

Clinton said in a statement following Ambassador Holbrooke's passing after heart surgery,
“In a lifetime of passionate, brilliant service on the front lines of war and peace, freedom and oppression, Richard Holbrooke saved lives, secured peace and restored hope for countless people around the world."
Ambassador Holbrooke did that for four democratic presidents from Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam to Barack Obama's Afghanistan.

In these days of Wikileaks, if statesmanship is now measured by snarking, how telegenic or glib an individual is - and, sadly, it is - rather than by their intellect and abilities, then that is the state of public disservice. Ambassador Holbrooke was, to my mind, a noble and an honourable man. Such statesmanship would serve us well today.

Here is a conversation with Richard Holbrooke from Charlie Rose:

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Bill and Christy Show

Bill Good, CKNW
BC Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark appeared on the Bill Good Show (CKNW) this morning. Here are some of the highlights from her answers to Good's softball questions. (If Ms. Clark loses the race at the end of February, she has said she'll return to her former radio show on NW, but a better fit would be to liven up Mr. Good's tired, old jalopy. The pair sounded more like co-hosts this morning than a journalist throwing hardballs at a politician.)

Christy Clark at rally announcing her
BC Liberal leadership candidacy
On leadership: Ms. Clark promises a different kind of politcal cultural - one that is inclusive. One that listens to British Columbians, including cabinet and caucus in decision making.

On the NDP: if elected government, would beat-up British Columbia. Ms. Clark conjured the favourite Liberal bogeyman that just isn't scary anymore - of an NDP government. Eeeek! She trotted out the old saying: "Remember the 90s, 50,000 people fled BC because of the NDP." Remember, Ms. Clark, that was a decade and three Liberal mandates ago, and a fact disputed by's Andrew MacLeod (read; The Hook).

On Education: Ms. Clark served as minister of education and deputy premier in Gordon Campbell's first government (2001). She defended her decisions while education minister, but Mr. Good did not ask if a Clark government would restore sweeping funding to education during the Campell years that begin in her tenure. As a result, her relationship with the BCTF was sour.

But Ms. Clark argues education is not just about the BCTF, it's about parents, about principals, vice-principals and schools. Parents, in her mind, are the primary educators.

She instituted parent councils while education minister for four-and-half years, requiring schools be accountable to parents and parents would be involved in that accountability - a position she stands by.

She also - "absolutely" - believes in her decision to removed public school boundaries and let parents decided where their kids would schooled. The alternative is that the government becomes the parent and decides where kids go to school.

Ms. Clark wants a strong education system for parents. She didn't mention kids involvement in education. Ms. Clark has chosen a faith-based education for her own son, who attends a Catholic school. She believes private schools should continue to receive public funds in BC.

 "(If) All schools will be run by government, then government is the parent while your kids are in school."

"I don't think anyone is served by a public monopoly."

On the Harmonized Sales Tax: Ms. Clark is pro-HST. In responding to the anti-HST petition that has resulted in a fall referendum, Clark said to remember what that public demanded. Those 700,00 who signed-up for former Premier Bill Vander Zalm's revolt demanded an end to the HST, that's only 10% of the population that doesn't want it. Her opponents are unanimously against her position to have another free-vote in the legislature.

"I'm not saying it must go to legislature, but let's talk about this option," said Ms. Clark.

She wants MLAs to go back to their constituencies and listen again. If, by the end of March, the polls are what they are now, put it to a vote and get it over with. Or, change the polls by listening and selling the HST. (Good salesmen always claim they don't want to sell anything, just listen, yet all the while listening for the moment when they can start selling.)

Ms. Clark believes that if you change public opinion or if the anti-HST number stays the same, or close, then the decision can be made in the legislature, and there would be no need to spend $30M to pay for the referendum).

On "familes first": Specific policies on family first, the core principal of her campaign, are still forthcoming. Philosophically, as premier, she would use the family perspective as a lense for all policy. Every piece of Liberal legislation in a Clark government would be prefaced with the question, "Is this good for families?

On Liberals: "BC Liberals stick together," said Ms. Clark, taking a clear and cheap shot at the NDP, and forgetting the two former Liberal cabinet members who are no longer stuck. Would Ms. Clark open the Liberal caucus door for a return of Blair Lekstrom, who quit the Liberal and cabinet over the HST? Yes. She's less certain about Bill Bennett after caucus expelled him for his bombast against Gordon Campbell. She isn't sure if the Liberal caucus would be in favour of welcoming Bennett back.

She's the only leadership candidate to have taken the attack to the NDP over that party's in-fighting.

For the Liberals, who have just begun the delegate selection process that will decide the new leader on February 26th, is Christy Clark good for the party?

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Are leaders strictly necessary?" - Andrew Coyne

Further to yesterday's blog where I posited "the west coast prefers its politics leaderless:"

"My latest, on the current insanity in British Columbia. Naturally, I'm in favour of it."  (Read: Andrew Coyne in Maclean'

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thar blows the poll

British Columbia political tides are shifting and there are unseen sandbars, deadheads and submerged rocks ahead.

New Angus Reid Public Opinion poll charts the latest waters in BC's political sea
Geezer newsrooms and political back rooms have their jibs aflutter about the poll (click here for: Angus Reid Public Opinion poll) showing the BC Liberal and NDP parties are dead-even at 36%, revealing that the west coast prefers its politics leaderless.

The numbers are telling tales of mutinies in the recent headlines.

Reading Desolation Sound; a history, by Heather Harbord, it's surprising how many captains shipwrecked in the early days on the Sunshine Coast.

When captains are left too long and fall asleep at the rudder, the ship oft runs aground. Rats scamper, as was seen when Gordon Campbell's ship started taking on water and almost capsized before he relinquished command; as is happening in the aftermath of the Jenny Kwan-led sedition that scuttled Carole James.

First to summon all hands on deck, and frantically manning the bilge pumps, The Liberals. According to the winds of change that polls track, the first to get shipshape and become seaworthy. The NDP is just now limping into harbour where it will remain in dry dock until the barnacles are scraped from its rusty hull and a new captain emerges to muster unity.

And, most critically, who will be O Captain! My Captain!... From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won...?"

At the Liberal helm, if Angus Reid's cyphering of the sextant readings holds until the convention in 12 weeks? A woman. Bad luck?
It was long considered bad luck to permit women to sail on board naval vessels. To do so would invite a terrible storm that would wreck the ship. The only women that were welcomed on board were figureheads mounted on the prow of the ship. - Wikipedia
Carole James was made to walk the gangplank - actually, more myth than pirate precedent. But tell that Jenny Kwan who, incidentally, polls even with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson - who Robertson will not be a leadership contender for either party, so forget about it - at 27% behind front-runner Mike Farnworth with 34%.

The Liberal admiralty and officers - all-male opponents who would dismiss Ms. Clarke's seamanship - threaten to gang-up and the front-runner overboard as harbinger of an ill-fated voyage after bringing-about on the HST to set a prior course for a free vote by MLAs. (Read: Ian Bailey's story in The Globe and Mail) But Clark has been ashore for a while. She's listened and learned. There is strategy in her tack.

Aye, the HST, the tax that three-in-five British Columbians are against, is the albatross around both party's necks. But which mariner will shoot the bird dead and which will wear it dead around their neck, is a rime yet written.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christy Clark shows guts; leaving one male clubhouse for another

Christy Clark - "This campaign is about offering our province
new leadership - leadership that extends beyond one person
and one way communication." 
Bridgitte Anderson, Gordon Campbell's former press secretary - who always conducted herself politely and professionally - posted on my Facebook Wall after Christy Clark announced that she was entering the race to become leader of the BC Liberals (read: Ian Bailey's report in The Globe and Mail), "... where is the female perspective on (CKNW)??"

We might all ask, where is the female p-o-v on any of the geezer media platforms in British Columbia?

Mike Smyth - CKNW's go-to fill-in host -
is interim replacement for Ms. Clark
None of the major ink-on-dead-trees daily newspapers - Sun, Province or The Globe and Mail - have a regularly read BC woman's opinion on provincial current affairs. None of the talk radio stations - and there is only CKNW - give voice to a female host now that Ms. Clark has taken a leave from her daily show to devote her energies to winning the Liberal leadership. Her replacement? A nice enough guy, I suppose. Mike Smyth - a neo-con right-wing geezer columnist from the Province. Way to mix-up your content, NW.

Ms. Clark was the one host in CKNW's programming mix that a reasonable listener did not, by sheer willpower, have to fight back from verging on radio rage (similar to road rage but much easier to break a radio than the SUV that just cut you off). Charles Adler's conservatism and cheer-leading for the likes of Don Cherry is cold and disconnected from common Canadians. Bill Good is a shill for his friend and neighbour Gordon Campbell. When Mr, Good isn't openly expressing his love and admiration for the former BC  Premier, he is quite simply boring and nap-inducing.

The difference between Ms. Clark and NW's male hosts was her liberal morality versus their entrenched, immovable, white middle-aged and male morals of conservative phobias and -isms.

In-studio on my former radio talk show.
My former producer of the talk show I had on TALK 1410 - before it was silenced by the corporate powers and replaced with a second made-for-men all sports station for Vancouver - as if one broadcasting all Canucks, all the time wasn't enough - Libby Herman, posted an insightful reply to Ms. Anderson's question:

"Bridgette clearly you haven\t gotten the memo that AM (radio) is for men - the ladies get FM - all hits radio and soft rock... not that there's anything wrong with that. And no, I'm not kidding you. Real words spoken by real people in charge."

And, I will add, the "real people in charge" of geezer media are, for the most part, men.

Men are also in-charge of the BC Liberal party. But, Ms. Clark knows the deck is stacked against her having played smoky, back room political poker with the boys. She distinguished herself as former minister of education and deputy premier when Mr. Campbell's Liberals took power in 2001.

She also distinguished herself among her male lesser-thans on CKNW. Advocating on behalf of Pink Shirt Day and anti-bullying, outspoken on issues affecting families, and proving she had the most important skill for a talk show host - a willingness to listen - Ms. Clark exhibited an honest openness to new ideas and solutions. Hopefully, she has the toughness to defend against the close-minded political bullies she will face in the leadership campaign.

She will be off-air until the Liberals choose if she or another candidate will replace Mr. Campbell as leader and Premier. During the campaign, Ms. Clarke's perspective will bring her refreshingly female perspective, ideas and solutions to a much larger audience than ever listened to her, sandwiched as she was in a clubhouse of male blowhards on CKNW.

It is a bonus for the BC public that her return to politics might divert attention from the caterwauling of Jenny Kwan and the Gang of 13 scratching within the BC NDP. I said it, so meow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The 'Kwan-dary' of NDP unity in BC

Kwan with James - Happier times
or eye-on-the-camera?
Catherine de'Medici left no
permanent legacy
Interviewed by  Evan Solomon on CBC's Power and Politics today (watch: full interview), Jenny Kwan - speaking out of the left-side of her mouth about "values" being what unites the British Columbia NDP - brought to mind Catherine de' Medici. A dowager queen of the NDP, if you will.

Values, indeed. Ms. Kwan's values split the NDP and led to the abdication of the ethical, if not electable, Carole James.

The longest continuous serving New Democrat MLA in BC and decidedly on the left-wing of the party, Ms. Kwan told Solomon that she has no leadership aspirations. How could she? She has shown none of the values of leadership in this ugly mugging. But on which candidate will she place her de' Medici touch?

If the NDP emerges united it would be well advised to exclude Ms. Kwan from important political decisions and dispense with her advice and, so-called, values. She should be left with no permanent legacy.

Nuovi Democratici di British Columbia cosa nostra

British Columbia's New Democrats need a Joseph Valachi to reveal its inner workings after the hit on leader Carole James by the parties Gang of 13. 

For the good of the party, there will be nothing like the "Valachi Papers" coming from Ms. James, Joseph 'Joe Cargo' Valachi's testimony before US Senate committees in the early 60s named names, gave history and structure, revealed that American mafiosi referred to their organization by the term cosa nostra ("our thing" or "this thing of ours").

The public knows only some of the names after the two sides went to the mattresses in the NDP's all-out gang war. The Gang of 13 have been identified, led by longtime, made-NDPers Jenny Kwan, Harry Lali and Leonard Krog, and the likes of hypocritical Laura "The Bag Lady" Popham who accused James of commanding "same old, same old" party politics despite doing the same.      

Whose thing is the NDP in BC? Has the Gang of 13 taken over? Is labour pulling the strings? 

This much is clear after union leaders played middle-man in 11th hour dealings that left James with an offer she could not refuse (read: The Globe and Mail's Gary Mason, A timeline of the downfall of Carole James), the NDP are leaning left from the centre that James had been attempting to drag the party. Whose side was labour on in this turf-war? It is doubtful they wanted James to succeed in making the NDP more legitimate to business. 

Back in the day, back on the prairie where Canadian socialism was bred, we learned quickly that the party was run like the mafia. It still is run as "their thing," But back then loyalty was demanded, unlike this thing of theirs today.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Desolation Sound: of the BC political toilet flushing

British Columbia - The BC Liberals never anticapted a scenario in which a series of events, both within and beyond their control, would lead to the party's self-destruction.

An unscientific RT poll on this week asked BC: Do you agree with former energy minister Bill Bennett?

Bennett was fired from cabinet and then fired back with a believable salvo denegrating Premier Gordon Campbell's character. Some of the statements he made in the heat-of-the-moment he has since retracted.

Bennett said: "The (BC Liberal) party is going down the toilet. If we don't have a fresh start, I fear it's going to go the same was as the Social Credit party went." Eight-seven percent agree.

But wait a minute. It is widely known that friends brought Mr. Campbell to power as the leader of a, so-called, Liberal Party. It was his creation - a coalition that folded the Socreds - a party that, if we follow Mr. Bennett's argument, was a political septic tank. Campbell and Co. took that sewage and treated it with their idea of BC-style liberalism.

"It was the biggest dump of my life!"
The effluent didn't start to stink until bad politics and worse politicians - notably Mr. Campbell and his finance minister Colin Hansen - gave rise to a grassroots campaign rebellion, led by odorous and opportunist former Socred Premier Bill Vander Zalm, against the toxic idea of the HST. Campbell's popularity plunged and now the party is decomposing.

The next sound you'll hear is the Liberal caucus flushing Mr. Bennett down the drain.

The big question is, what will rise from the stench of the BC Liberal Party? Likely, more neo-con crap.

Out here, in the country on the BC Sunshine Coast, we say you can never have enough poop for growing in our gardens. Politically, the province is up to its neck in shit, its plugging up the works and, unlike gardening, political poop is not good for growth.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

I learned today -

Some days are meant to be Sundays spent in gardens.
- djb 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I learned today:

Trust is irrational, but sensible.
Thinking and feeling are incompatible.
- Quirks and Quarks, CBC Radio

This diamond-dusted sapphire sea

LUND, BC - Gazing out on a lazy sun-drenched afternoon over the fluid jewel that is our very life on this Earth causes reflection - with every feeling of disgust, disappointment, dread, and despair - on what our ways have wrought in the Gulf.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Squamish: start of never-ending fun

Across the great sprawling mass of natural territory that is western Canada there are half-way points that are no more, neither places of departure nor destination, and, invariably, the community possessed of a "glass half empty" disposition. This is not to say that they were once points of departure, but so many have left and never returned, and, back in the day, they were all, I suppose, termini, to a point.  These stops-along-the-ways – once bustling, now emptying towns and small cities of the west – are becoming fewer and fewer as Canada, sadly, goes urban and loses history.

Squamish, British Columbia is a halfway point, but it sits apart from rural rest stops. Squamish stands alone because it’s so close to Vancouver and Whistler: halfway. It might stand above if Squamish were to activate its location as one of the biggest outdoor attractions in the world; if Squamish didn’t seem so squeamish to do so. Look up, Squamish, way up.

Chief among its distinctive advantages is the Chief - the Stawamus Chief. At a point driving along British Columbia's Sea-to-Sky Highway and, rounding  a/the/that corner, you will whisper, in hushed awe, when it appears, "The Chief." If you're with others in your vehicle, someone will say, "That's a big f**king rock." You might likely say it to yourself. It is a big f**king rock of granite. Yea, so it’s a rock. Some lists put it as the 2nd largest granite monolith in the world, except this list. What good is a big rock? Ask any kid and the answer is quick and rock-solid: climb it, and they do. From all over the world, they are drawn to climb the Chief.  It’s not just any big f**king rock.

Squamish, or Squeamish or Squagmire or Squamptom - the later is what my friend, and fellow writer and journalist, Myles Estey (pictured with Prince, from when he was reporting out of Liberia for my radio show, and check out his blog) delights in calling it. He's pulled it out of some incongruent reference to a classic rap video, N.W.A. Straight outa Comptonthat only he - along with fellow dudes who surf, board, climb, ski and bike - knows. It has something or other to do with substituting Squampton every time you hear Compton in the lyrics, which seems to me to be an intentionally convoluted and confusing exercise in uselessness.  But, for Myles, the idealist, it is, apparently, never ending fun. 

My family, my friends and I, as I have purposely set out to re-discover on this adventure across western Canada, live for never ending fun; none of it useless, much of it spontaneous, most of it nonsense, and all of it genuine. As my sister, Brenda (left), wrote the other night when detailing the somewhat irrational things her children and middle-aged brother are doing at present, "What fun!" For my sister - the more conservative of us two - to make such an exclamation is a profound testament to where we are in our lives, indeed.

Myles, Martin, the realist, (pictured, and whom you'll meet in moments) and Barrett, too, are the classmates whom I took as friends from my student years at UBC. There is no finer a trio of noble young men, and I am a better man for having had the great fortune to meet, to share, to know, and to be squared with them, each to his own. Remarkably, despite our age difference, as I'm old enough to be their dad, our friendship has and always will stand on rock-solid footing. 

It's Barrett whom I entrusted as partner when I climbed the Cornflakes on the Chief and, later that same summer, The Crags of Strathcona. 

Martin, not only a realist, is also an occasional inventor of words - some of which I won't let him get away with, like awesomer. There is a limit to my patience for all that is dude. It is also through his eyes that I have come to see Squamish disengaged from its enviable halfway point, squished between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky Highway and letting the world drive by.

I'm lucky to have Martin as my guide. There's nothing like a local to show you the secrets of a place. And, as you will see, Squamish is and can be more than a strip of gas stations, Starbucks and fast-food chains strung-along-a-strip on the Sea-to-Sky that most passers-by only know it to be.The squirarchy (yes, a real word, not one of Martin's inventions) of Squamish needs to stop squawking and squabbling like they're playing 43-man Squamishstop sqaundering the Chief brand and draw inspiration from that big f**king rock.  

Squamish, feel my squib as the first stop on my wandering west, and you, my dear fellow wanderer, prepare to meet Martin and Shannon, Shasta, too, and hear tell, for the first time, of the Cantankaroo. Let the fun begin.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quitting Facebook

Since sharing the post for Dan Yoder’s blog, Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook, on Facebook (May 4, 2010) I have, disregarding a few exceptional moments of weakness, stayed off the social network. My avoidance is not out of concern for personal privacy or security that has been much written about, discussed and criticized of late. Believe me, I've shared and exposed, literally, more online than I care to remember with each new version of a porn site; but all of it harmless between consenting adults. The internet is for porn, and each new social media sensation can trace its origin to, in all likelihood, not some lightning-strike idea from some programming geek, but a gay chatroom or straight counterpart. We were listing friends, what guys were hot, who thought we were hot, bookmarking and viewing long before Facebook gave us the chance for virtual friendships - and very rudimentary at that - like trying to collect the most Valentines cards in Miss Chisholm’s  grade 3 class.

Over the last few weeks I’ve thought daily of quitting Facebook. However, quitting Facebook would be to quit the world as we now know it, and even that has a certain appeal. But, herein is my problem with FB - friendship. What Facebook has made of friendship is not harmless. Case in point:

Brad Fraser, one of the 400 or so friends I have collected on FB, give or take, is an exception. Brad is a friend. He commented on the Yoder blog, as follows: “I read it and thought the same things could be said about the telephone company, the cable company, any major corporation and most world governments. Whatever it's failings, FB still contains great potential to convince when all twitter does is inform.”

Brad, and a few others, actually read the post. I often wondered, when I was sharing news and information that I found politically and socially interesting, if not critically important, which of my, so called, friends actually took the time to read the article and then offer thoughtful comment, as Brad had done and did regularly. I single out Brad because had it not been for Facebook, we might, sadly, have never re-connected as friends. About a decade ago, Brad and I were as close as two friends could be but for a falling out that I doubt either of us can remember the true details. Within the last few days, as true friends will do after not having seen or spoken in some time, Brad inquired, "Where are you? Did you really drop off of FB? Why aren't you on the radio? What's going on?

Facebook has done some great good for me insofar as friendship – finding those long-lost, like Brad and others, repairing damages, and making anew. It has also allowed me to have an open line to the lives of them and my family. (My sister, naturally, was the first to see I hadn’t been making my daily FB visit and ranting back on May 12, asking in rather lame FB vernacular, "Whatsa ya doing?")

But, for the most part, my recent disappearance from FB has gone unnoticed; much like my absence from radio has been forgotten in the 7 months since my talk show was cancelled. It’s funny that my list of friends still includes the people who fired me: some friends, huh? It even includes people who I have little regard for and many I’ve never met. But by including them as “friends” I add to my total number, like those 3rd grade Valentines. There was a time when I was doing my daily broadcast that I ranted against Facebook, and vowed never, ever to join its growing mob or take-up what was then the newest social mob-media craze, tweeting. However, after a time, I saw the branding and marketing value in each, and started to incorporate both platforms in the production and promotion of the show. And it worked. I became known as an ‘innovative’ producer for incorporating old and new media.

Now, however, in these days of the decidedly solitary confinement of writing, and working on the launch of my next media enterprise, I find myself missing not so much the friends that I have never met face-to-face or my followers, but my true friends and family.

By friends, I mean those life-long, and some far-flung, individuals who are all so much a part of shaping me as the man I am. Friends - you know that you are my friends because shared knowledge is part of what makes a friend. Know that I regard your friendship not in Facebook’s collective term, or as Emerson wrote: “a thousand friends (and) not a friend to spare.” Your friendship is, paraphrasing and combining a few more thoughts by Emerson: Friendship may well be considered nature’s masterpiece and one before whom I may think aloud.You are my private sanctuary and security. So long as I am known by my friends then I could give a rat’s ass what personal information a web site steals.

To you who have followed me faithfully, or were classmates, work colleagues, associates, even chance encounters, or added to my list out of suggestion, I have deep appreciation, and please know that I mean you no disrespect. I hope that we’ll continue to engage in sharing and commenting on stories of interest and import with reason, respect and common sense, as I haven’t quit and will return to Facebook soon and, what Brad calls, its “great potential to convince.”

And convince we must because it has become much too easy to quit, as easy as it is to add a friend.

The internet allows us, without any foreseeable consequence, to quit human contact. Online, we have the capability to have and quit virtual relationships, sex included. We have quit eye-to-eye contact for screen fatigue. We are quitting the world, giving over our own neighbourhoods and streets to the false sense of privacy and security of friends we will likely never meet, and web sites that reflect only our values and beliefs. We have quit everything outside of what we chose to see on that screen. The sites that we favour or bookmark don’t demand much work on our part but to scan a headline and a few sentences, or a top-10 list. We are quitting the politics of Canada and the world. We are quitting the stewardship of the planet. We are quitting knowledge and analysis.

If Dickens had not walked the dangerous streets of Victorian London we would not be left with some of the greatest characters and storytelling in history. But here we are, quitting the street for the tweet in all of its 140 characters. An entire generation has quit knowledge of history, even quitting the fundamentals of our most promiscuous English language. There are times when I try to decode the abbreviations in txts that I wish I was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune so I could buy a vowel from Pat Sajak.  

But herein is the paradox: if we quit the online social mob or give-in to its lowest common denominator of trending tweets (more fad than trend) then we will all but lose the individuality and humanity that is nourished by true friendship. What we are to make of our society is being shaped online by twits who tweet so there is no reason on any list that I can think of to quit and give-in to them. It’s too easy to quit, which is why nature and friendship are masterpieces. Imagine if nature quit because we are imagining what will happen if we quit nature.

My friends would never accept it from me quitting them and I'd never let them quit me without a fight because we share a common bond and shared experiences that we did together, face-to-face. What we have is precious and priceless. Facebook is, so far, free and cheap, has no traditions, etiquette or civility. It requires little of our time and even less thought. In fact, it demands nothing, which is perfect for this do-nothing world of ours.
Friendship should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into corners. Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command.  
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fuming leaves a stench

After the sometimes fuming Q & A by MPs on the parliamenty operations committee of flummoxed Rahim Jaffer (a.k.a. "Ra-ra-helena") and his business partner, what are we left with? A stench but no rotting corpse.

  1. The Conservatives have washed their hands of their former colleague; thrown under-the-bus, banished, excommunicated. Jaffer went into the hearing expecting the Tories to circle-the-wagons around him. He left the Hill, after stumbling and bumbling before a scrum of reporters, to drift alone toward Disgraced Island where his fallen wife awaits; with no coke.  
  2. His business partner, Patrick Glemaud is shady. The NDP's Pat Martin's questioning was particularly agressive, showing his distaste with numerous ad hominums. During one particularly testy exchange over Glemaud's dodgy answers about documents concerning the pair's three clients, Martin spat that he wouldn't trust Glemaud as far as he could throw him. Glemaud was offended by the whole process, quelle surprise.
  3. Jaffer and Glemaud have bad memories. At one point Glemaud drew audible astonishment when he claimed he couldn't remember the names of their three clients.
  4. The two are bad businessmen. They're ruined, and they only have themselves to blame for getting tied into a Gordian Knot that nothing will unloose.
  5. The stink of influence peddling hangs over the government.
  6. But, after today's televised entertainment, the reality showmanship from both sides - the judgement of the committee and the performances of the contestants - there remains no evidence and no connection between the pee-yew and the PMO. 
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

I heard today

Politicians may be good at looking into camera lenses...
... but not investigating. - Patrick Brown (CON), Question Period, CTV
 So much for getting at the truth behind tortured Afghan detainees and "Ra-ra-helena."

Unethical authenticity

The headline in the National Compost,  Keeping it 'real': On the hunt for authenticity (4/16/10), by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, didn't mention Jay-Z. Jay-Z, if you're not hip, is proclaimed in Esquire's recent "People that matter" profile, "the CEO of authenticity."

Ms. Blaze-C writes at length about the hooey of "the search for the authentic... the dominant moral imperative of our age," in Andrew Potter's book - The Authenticity Hoax: How we get lost finding ourselves - clever title.

And Jay-Z is its CEO?

Potter's book premise, likely, could just as easily been a column. The "excellently named Kathryn Blaze Carlson," Potter gushed on his blog, does that for us, saving the 30 bucks we would have spent on his book.

I doubt Potter consulted Immanuel Kant before making the statement he did. But, when you come from his point-of-view - the advertising age - then authenticity in advertising is the moral imperative of our being. That's sad.

I doubt Immanuel Kant imaged his concept of moral imperative used so off-handedly. He'd certainly never have imaged hip-hop or the looming figure of Mr. Z, the most famous hip-hop artist ever, as moral imperative's front-man. Moral imperative is BIG philosophy. Jay-Z shills the ersatz authenticity that Blaze-C writes about Potter writing about. It's branding to ellicit a consumer reaction. Where I'm from, branding is what you do to cattle., and not the same as the free will that compels Kant's principle.

Authenticity, as a Kantian moral imperative, won't be found by today's mob seeking ox-blood tinged floors, organic orange juice, safaris and hot yoga, or Jay-Z's endorsement of Budweizer - the beer of da 'hood. Morality is not a bio-degradable label or an awards show shout-out to god. If it is, then we're, sadly, not up to Kant's highest expectations.

Moral imperative is rational, Kant argued. Rationality demands that we promote the highest good, and we can and ought to bring it about.  It demands that we do it because it is the highest good.

You might think your do-gooding is acheiving humanus authentikos, but unless you have a conception of the end your high-horse is heading, you're a donkey. You can't buy a ticket to go knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door. Can't be done.

Today's virtuous authenticity seekers think they're the genuine article just by being seen installing an outhouse in their New York condo - to protest modern plumbing, no less. Look at our biffy! We have acheived status as believers in the highest good. Our lives are not miserable! These are the true authenticity achievers? If they knew the truth, that their biffy could not help a moral universe, they'd be sad. Their moral motivation to buy a 15 dollar jar of lowbush blueberry jam or $400 Reeboks would be undermined. Their fickle faith in the moral imperative of our age, consumerism, sad though it may be, would be proven false.

Sorry, we can't achieve the highest good listening to people like Potter use BIG philosophy to sell a book about advertising. Moral imperative, indeed - I'm not buying.

Source: A companion to philosophy of religion
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?

“How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?” said Liberal MP Anita Neville. “This certainly introduces discussion into the House of Commons and it is a rather sneaky way of doing it. The government hasn't got the courage of bringing it forward in a straightforward way to appeal to their base, so they are doing it in a back-door way and I think it is deplorable.”

As quoted in the Toronto Star, Neville's question was in response to ultra-Con backbencher Rod Bruinooge, chair of the all-party pro-life caucus in Parliament with a secret membership and, in all likelihood, a secret initiation rite and handshake. Bruinooge introduced a bill that would penalize anyone who “coerces” a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will.

An abortion bill is not an abortion bill when it is a bait-and-switch tactical maneuver by the Prime Minister's office to deflect attention from more serious questions surrounding the alleged complicity of Canada's military in the torture of Afghan detainees and, to a much, much lesser degree, the sleazy antics of former status of women minister Helena Guergis and her partner Rahim Jaffer - the neo-con celeb couple who are now and henceforth called "Ra-ra-helena," as befits the gossip-feeding  Canadian equivalent to "Bennifer" and "Branjolina." (And to be said in the style of 70s disco classic Rasputin by Boney M.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has kept the 69% of anti-choice geezers in his Conservative caucus muzzled. He has also repeatedly stated that the abortion debate would not be reopened in the House while he is PM. At least he recognizes the Canadian consensus - the abortion debate is over. Done. Finished. You lost, years ago. Move on.

So how is this abortion bill not an abortion bill, despite Bruinooge's contrived explanation? When it suites Mr. Harper's political gamesmanship.

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The end of the road

I have changed somewhat, as is evident in this picture. A bit scruffier, seeking more the life of a voluntary peasant, and suited in mind and spirit to small town life at the end-of-the-road.
Many times in the past, I've asked, I'm living at the end of a one-way dead-end street, how did I get here? I'm here. I know how and why. I can see beyond; beyond Major Rock, Hernando Island and the mountains of Vancouver Island.

The road ends, for now, on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast in the harbour village of Lund. Lund is where highway 101 ends; where I have taken residence in a small and delightful single-wide trailer, secluded in the trees above a stream; overlooking the wonder; where I will write and document and report, as I have done throughout my career. But, no more constrained by corporate or commission interests.

This isn't so much about me. I write this only to apprise you that there has been change. I will write about my life, the people and the experiences of Lund, because there are stories to be told here, I assure you. But my continuing duty as a journalist is to make the invisible truth of the news seen.

As always, with reason, respect and common sense.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harper steps up attacks on HIV/AIDS solutions while preaching "unity of purpose"

Vaccine facility mystery deeps by the day
Silence from Quebec ramps up rumour mill
There comes a point, and that point is now, when rumours can be accepted as fact. There is no mystery. Advancing HIV/AIDS awareness, education, prevention, treatment and now hope for a vaccine is not part of the PM's conservative idea of a caring social agenda.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has tried to shut, by every means possible, the door of Insite, Vancouver's globally lauded safe injection facility for drug addicts in the Downtown Eastside. If successful, and he won't be because the law is against him, the closure of Insite would have negative and devasting implications to the spread of HIV.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I march, therefore I am. We post: we are

If you're wondering why Stephen Harper didn't jump to Jack Layton's rather lame call to "unlock these doors" of parliament, it's very simple. Firstly, the Prime Minister of Canada isn't like a church custodian with a key-ring. More importantly, nobody was arrested. Note that I wrote arrested not interested.

That's the answer. Nobody was dragged off by police in handcuffs. Not one, not nearly enough to grab the Prime Minister's attention.

On Saturday (1/23/10), my friend and colleague with The Globe and Mail British Columbia bureau, the ever-musing Rod Mickleburgh and I were texting - as I marched and tweeted, and he did whatever it was he was doing. We agreed that demonstrations just aren't what they used to be. And they used to be something.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today in the land of right-wing neo-con evangelical geezers

The day (01-13-10) began with a headline in The Globe and Mail reporting on crackpot criticism from an odd assortment of interest groups, other than filmgoers, towards James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar. One denouncement came from the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Its film reviewer complained the movie's story about the planet Pandora - where its tall, blue, nature-loving Na'vi species is set-upon by resource-marauding humans:
“gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature... (and) cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”
As a student with a major in Religious Studies, I would argue that an environmental "pseudo-doctrine" is better suited to today's planet-in-peril than one that is interpreted by an out-of-touch Pope who, the day before, called gay marriage an "attack on creation." Well, your Holiness, fundamental Catholic creationism is an attack on reason and common sense.

The day ended with alarming nonsense from a pair of notorious US blowhards weighing-in with deplorable comments on Haiti's heartbreak. Evanglical Pat Robertson teamed-up with right-wing radio heavyweight Rush Limbaugh to show how conservative-Christian morality stands in shocking contrast to the respect and thoughtfulness of the liberal-minded. According to Robertson, the Christian mouthpiece, and Limbaugh, the Republican loud-mouth, light-skinned and dark-skinned Haitians made a deal with the Devil.

What is more devilish is that evangelicals and Catholics, alike, are among the Christian missionaries who volunteer for aid agencies in impoverished countries, like Haiti. When disaster strikes, wealthier nation governments, such as Canada, through branches such as the Canadian International Development Agency, channel emergency aid through these faith-based NGOs so they can buy poor, uneducated converts for their fundamentalist religious agenda.

See you in church.

Stephen Harper's economic panic attack

Yesterday (01/11/10), Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared himself Canada's economic saviour, telling BNN that by proroguing parliament, he brings stabiliy to the financial markets. By day's end, slumping commodity prices, not Mr. Harper's preposterous claim, drove the S&P/TSX composite index to its first triple-digit loss of the new year and the dollar fell half-a-cent.

Today, the PM and his finance minister are being lectured by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin page on Canada's structural deficit, saying the government hasn't produced any analysis showing the country's deficit is not "permanent and it won't go away."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prorogation upside, downside

Dismissing, for a moment, the reprief we get from minding the kids in this minority parliament sandbox, if there is a silver lining, it is that the government's right-wing justice reform agenda has been put on hold.

The 11 justice bills (for legislation progress chart: click here) that died on the table have "a strong American flavour, and in which the human and financial costs remain hidden,” deal with the Conservative's "tough on crime agenda."

Prorogation breaks the impasse that began building between the government and the Senate (soon-to-be-resolved when the red chamber goes Toy blue after Mr. Harper announces his senate appointments) over two bills and sends others, including controversial sentencing legislation, back to square one.

Liberal senators had insisted on amending Bill C-15 - the government's "reefer madness" marijuana sentencing bill. The upper house also insisted on amending a bill to shield home-business operators from sweeping search-and-seizure provisions.

The government was unlikely to accept the Senate amendments, setting up a cycle between the Commons and Senate bouncing eh bills back and forth.

But prorogation means those amendments cease to exist and both bills will head back before the Stephen Harper-appointed Conservative-controlled non-elected Senate.

Stephen Harper's right-wing social agenda is to mount a direct attack on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Harper declared prior to prorogation that a vote on an omnibus crime bill was a vote of confidence. Last election, the last triggered by his last prorogation, Jusctice Minister Rob Nicholson, warned that the "anti-crime measures [are] subject to a vote of confidence." The Conservative attack on civil liberaties will be unrelenting until Mr. Harper is defeated.
You should read: click here

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do you have anything to declare?

US HIV travel ban lifted today

The ban on HIV-positive people entering the US officially ends today. The 22-year-old law was one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world for people with HIV but was lifted by President Barack Obama in November.

As the first Canadian TV personality to publicly acknowledge my HIV status and being active in HIV/AIDS awareness, I was never denied entry to the US while so many others were. I often wondered why? Perhaps my file was never red-flagged by US authorities. Perhaps it was profiling. Over the last two decades I crossed the border countless times with my medications for gay journalism conferences, holidays, baseball games, and work.

The ban was brought in by Ronald Reagan, the President who never let the word AIDS cross his lips. Liberal and Conservative governments never made it a bi-lateral human rights issue because the US and Canada seem blind to such abuses existing in our friendship of democracy. They do (i.e. Marc Emery).

The fact that a ban on travel to the US has been lifted - symbolic, in part, to host to 2012 International AIDS Conference - pales against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cold-shoulder in not attending the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto*, his government's court case against Vancouver's Insite and inability to talk thoughtfully about HIV/AIDS in Canada today: on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, in aboriginal communities and to gay youth.

Now, when asked if we have anything to declare when entering the US, every HIV-positive Canadian should loudly declare, "YES! I have HIV!"

* Just before the 11th conference in Vancouver (1996) Jean Chretien announced he had an important fishing vacation that would prevent him from opening the conference.