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.