TV Commentaries

They just don’t get it!

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Will the media never grow up?  No sooner does J.K.Rowling author of the Harry Potter books remark that she’d always conceived of Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts as being gay than an avalanche of comment and news reports descends

Like prurient school children we are invited to pick over every imagined detail of the imaginary sexual preference of an imaginary character, This in turn arouses the ire of anti-gays with the Harry Potter series.

Meanwhile relatively little media attention was given to an ugly situation concerning a real life gay person,  James Loney, who’d suffered
long months of imprisonment by Iraqui militants.

Recently Loney, a Catholic , was “uninvited” to a Winnipeg conference he hd been asked  to attend

At the time of his release Loney had made no bones about the fact that he was gay.  The invitation to him  had been made some time before his rejection by Winnipeg Roman Catholic Archbishop James Weisgerber

The Archbishop’s lame excuse for the “uninvitation”  wasn’t because James Loney is gay, but because he’s in a relationship with another man.

I ask you!

Do two wrongs make a right, Bob?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Bob Runciman, Progressive Conservative MPP for Leeds-Grenville, a former solicitor general and former minister for public security has always been a law-and order advocate, but his latest foray into the field leaves me wondering

Runciman took umbrage at a letter that Chief Human Rights Commissoner of Ontario Barbara Hall wrote to a Westport newspaper declaring the recent attacks on fishermen of Asian origin in that vicinity as acts of racism. and in particular the beatng of a 73-year-old man

The Review Mirror in Westport Ontario is in Runciman’s riding. He in turn wrote an open letter to Barbara Hall demanding she apologize for the slur of racism against the people of Westport. By the way, the text of Hall’s letter in no way charged all citizens of Westport with racism.

Runciman highlights the fact that there’s a lot of illegal fishing going on in Ontario waters which is true and leaves it there. But surely this is a matter for police and conservation authorities to deal with, not unauthorized persons. If the attacks aren’t racist aren’t they examples of vigilantism, people taking the law into their own hands? As a law-and-order man, Runciman should make sure he condemns such violence, too.

Otherwise, with his knee jerk reaction he’s tacitly implying that two wrongs make a right!

Some October commentaries

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Let’s take back the sidewalks!

A few weeks ago, I was walking along Toronto’s Bloor Street when I met hordes of cyclists all chanting “More bicycle lanes on Toronto streets!”

I hope they win their way I’m all for giving the utmost protection to those who choose to pedal their way along or streets: it’s healthier, and better for the environment and the economy.

However, and this is a Big however. Cyclists must be prepared to give a little — and these aren’t just kids. I’m talking about thousands of cyclists who’re abusing our sidewalks invading them at will, expecting pedestrians to jump out of their way. They refuse to stop at red lights and they hurtle down one way streets in the wrong direction.

It’s all very well to blame the police for not being more vigilant but these road warriors know we just haven’t enough police on the streets

I know it takes time and money to establish the necessary bureaucracy to begin an enforceable bicycle licensing system but no amount of dedicated cycle paths will stop this abuse until we do.

A crime is a crime

I’m disgusted over the reported physical attacks on Asian-Canadian fishermen and the spray painting of homes and vehicles with anti-semitic and anti-homosexual slogans in York Region.

This may sound paradoxical, but I feel it couldn’t have happened in a better place. As might be expected, culturally sensitive Chief Armand LaBarge of the York Regional Police Service has been quick to come up with statements that he considers these to be criminal acts.

Too often when anything like this happens, municipal government representatives from mayors to police chiefs to other solid citizens come out with woolly statements which enjoin us to ”wait and see” whether these are really hate crimes or “isolated” incidents.

Whichever way you look at it an offence of this kind against a single mosque or a single synagogue or a single cemetery or a single man, woman or child is a crime.

One such act isn’t just an isolated incident. It’s the product of a sick mind that if it’s swept under the rug will feed other sick minds that are just waiting to sneak out of the closet and back again before their anonymous acts are given the perpetrator’s name.

Wake up, Canadian retailers!

I must confess that when the Canadian loonie rose above parity with Uncle Sam’s I made a little holiday in my heart. For too long, George W Bush and his gang of tricksters have been leading Americans into an inflated sense of their superiority.

But the higher loonie is bad for our exporters and tourism from the United States and I know it’s bad in that it signifies the beginning of what looks like a economic downtown which will affect us all. So let’s hope for the American people and for us that the worst won’t happen.

And I certainly hope the current flood of Canadians shopping across the border slows down; it’s not good for our own retail industry.

Oh yes, I’ll take some of the blame there too, but I intend to mend my ways.

There are certain steps Canadian businesses must take. If parity or an even higher rate begins to look permanent, Canadian retailers had better attend to competitively pricing what can now be obtained for much less south of the border.

That’s Multiculturalism….

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

In a lifetime that’s embraced sixty years in one form of communicating or another, I spent some time in public relations when the keyword was empathy: understanding your public, identifying with it and working to an understanding between communicator and audience.Today it seems most of that thinking has gone by the board. I get a lot of queries as to how pr people can get their stories accepted by ethnocultural media.

Recently a colleague and I met with the staff of a large pr company and in a very productive discussion one of the things we learned was our audience had never looked at an ethnic newspaper, listened to ethnic radio nor looked at ethnic TV. They’d have discovered most of these media are in a language other than English or French and maybe, just maybe, would have appreciated news releases in their language of choice. In any case, why not contact editors and producers and discuss their needs?

The basic fact pr people have to learn is in today’s multicultural society there’s much more to communicating than getting hold of a
mailing list and just firing off press releases.
—30—

Global warming feared but…

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

A recent Angus Reid poll has indicated that a majority of Canadians believe global warming is a genuine threat to us all. That it’s the most important issue of the day — one that won’t go away.However, to paraphrase Al Gore this truth really becomes an inconvenience when it comes to making everyday changes that could help combat global warming. Many are reluctant to commit themselves to the fight.

The online poll which questioned 3,500 Canadians revealed that people in Quebec are most concerned about green issues and willing to make changes while oil-rich Albertans are the least environmentally conscious.

Wealthy, educated Canadians are unwilling to give up their gas eating SUVs, long showers and frequent air travel — all of which contribute to climate change. Lowering the thermostat was deemed undesirable, as was driving a hybrid car.

Yet, those who have extra money to burn can afford to make lifestyle changes, like retrofitting their homes.

What does all this add up to, as the problem becomes more and more serious? Unfortunately, if we don’t begin to exercise a degree of self-discipline — Enforcement, which crybabies will lament when it’s too late.
–30–

Echoes of McCarthyism

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

The Prime Minister’s recent accusing of the Liberals of supporting the Taliban sent shock waves throughout the entire opposition. What’s more, he refused to apologize.

Those words followed other accusations spewed out recently by Conservative MPs. While we may tend to dismiss them as pre-election gusts of hot air, we mustn’t ignore them There’s a parallel in United States history and we should heed it.

In the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, playing on Cold War paranoia in the United States began to find communists everywhere.

What became known as the 1954 Army – McCarthy hearings were finally torpedoed by a gutsy team from the CBS network who dared to speak up while other media feared the uncouth, alcoholic McCarthy.

CBS chair Bill Paley, Producer Fred Friendly and above all newsman Edward R. Murrow stuck their necks out to show what a liar McCarthy was.

What are Canadian media doing about these shameful Tory accusations?
–30–

How to live with our elephantine uncle

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Pierre Elliott Trudeau once told American journalists: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Well, maybe today the elephant seems less of a menace, as the Bush gang becomes more and more mired in the consequences of the big Iraq lie which Jean Chretien had the good sense not to support. This gives us all the opportunity to rethink our across-the-border relations

Here comes Living with Uncle, an anthology of essays by well known public figures who for years have pleaded for Canadians to stand up to Uncle Sam in a dignified, reasonable manner.

Edited by Bruce Campbell and Ed Finn the book has seventeen essays by such well-known Canadian patriots as former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, perennial pro-Canadian Maude Barlow and activist-broadcaster Avi Lewis.

I was particularly impressed with the final essay by American economist Thea Lee, praising us for our many activists whose successes encourage socially conscious people south of the border.

The choice: more comfort or a better planet
I warn you, the following is going to be offensive to millions who’ll be reluctant to give up some of their creature comforts.

But whatever our self-interests, whatever our economic interests whatever our political interests, we have to face some bold decisions if we’re to help save humanity from the dreadful consequences of global warming.

Don’t tell me the signs aren’t there. Don’t tell me the tsunamis, the new Orleans disaster, mud slides in the Philippines, forest fires and floods all over the world are coincidental occurrences; there are just too many of them.

Let’s face it. We Canadians have a clear choice: to face up to the need to sacrifice gas-eating automobiles, unlimited air travel , the wholesale discharge of weaponry in wars amd self-indulgent consumerism or stay with the herd that like lemmings, seem hell-bent on self-destruction.

We Canadians are going to have to stop looking over our shoulders to see what other countries are doing. We’re going to have to learn to say:

This is about our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

It’s about survival stupid!

Perhaps they’ll listen now
Just over a year ago, I attended a press conference in Toronto which, to say he least, was poorly attended. There, for the first time, I met a softly but firmly spoken gentleman who was planning boldly to host the December environmental summit in Montreal. Even though he knew his political party would probably lose the next federal election, he spoke with sincere conviction about the need for decisive action on the environment

Until that time, I had thought of him as a man of sincerity who seemed above the rough and tumble of rancorous debate that in recent years has characterized the House of Commons Bu at that press conference I saw him as a man of great determination based, not on emotionalism but on scientific evidence.

In December, that man, Stephane Dion became the leader of a party that aims to take on Stephen Harper and hs fuzzy environmental philosophy. Even if he loses, he won’t give up the fight because like a growing number of Canadians he knows where we’ll all be in the lifetimes of our grandchildren — maybe even of our children.

A shadowy group
Project for the New American Century is a so called neo con think tank in the United States. I and millions of internet users know it’s more than that, but conventional news media both sides of the border have failed to engage in any serious investigation

It was founded in the United States in 1997 by the likes of Dick Cheney who became vice president when the republicans won the 2000 election and Lewis Libby who was appointed his chief of staff.

Among the founders were Donald Rumsfeld, who became defence secretary, John Bolton, named ambassador to the United Nations, Jeb Bush Governor of Florida and brother of the man who was to become president. All die-hard Republicans of the extreme right.

Libby was the first casualty, indicted for perjury in 2005
Then, since the Democrats won power in congress and the senate last November, Rumsfeld and Bolton resigned. One wonders who’ll be next to go? Or should I say one hopes there’ll be more in monhs to come.

To find out more about this group which some claim to be the real government of the U.S go to Google and search the hundreds of references to Project for the New American Century.

Fear of fear

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

There’s no doubt that the fear of terrorism has coloured our lives in recent years.

Now, 17  men and youths have been arrested  and for the first time we’re confronting alleged homegrown terrorism of the kind that erupted in Spain and Britain. Please note I said alleged, for in the public eye, a person should not be considered guilty until tried and convicted

All kinds of people are claiming the arrests as proof multicuturalism is to blame — heaven knows why. Scratch the surface and you’ll find outright blowhards who’ll seize on any topic to get publicity and closet racists who’ll claim 17 non-white persons among 32 million Canadians have been driven to terrorism because of our policy of multiculturalism.

The two things just aren’t related but when  you tell them this, the next thing they’ll harp on is our immigration policies.

I’d like to quote the late great Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Second World War “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  So let’s remember not to let fearmongers drive us out of our minds and  into blaming multiculturalism.

What I thought about Canada Day

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

More than ever when we celebrated Canada Day this year we needed to remind ourselves what we stand for The first thing that came to my mind when preparing this commentary was a single incident.

In June, Mount Everest challenger Andrew Brash from Calgary stopped short of the summit to save the life of an Australian climber who was near death. He and his team
cared more for a fellow human being than reaching the top.

I was once asked to write an essay on the Canadian identity and defined us as a caring people. Cynics laughed and skeptics pointed to the plight of the poor, disconcern for the environment and our sense of being inferior to Americans

So we’re not perfect and maybe never will be, but most of us do care still. Let’s set our goals higher and higher. Many young Canadians are challenging us to do just that — to care and to admit it.

Our hope for the future lies with our youth and it is up to us older people to convince them that the things they’re concerned about really count.

A sad comment on intercultural understanding

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

You’ve heard of a storm in a teacup, I’m sure. Now listen to this tale of a spoon and fork — that has generated international repercussions.

Filipinos traditionally eat their meals with a spoon and a fork and seven year old Luc Cagadoc is no exception, But his teacher at a Montreal school is and in an extraordinary display of stupidity told the boy he shouldn’t use a spoon and fork

According to Luc, she said he was disgusting, a pig, and a clown for eating that way. Luc says he was punished and moved to another table away from his friends.
His mother said she tried to get help from the school principal, but was told Luc should adjust to the Canadian way of eating. “‘Every time your son eats like a pig, he’ll be disciplined” he said

The protest spread from Filipino Canadians in Montréal to communities across Canada and even to the Philippines, where the culturally insensitive act of one person has besmirched Canada’s name. There have even been demonstrations outside the Canadian Embassy in Manila.

A conundrum for our police forces

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Something seems strange about the  way people are looking at Stephen Harper’s avowed intention of giving stiffer sentences for serious criminal offenses.

I’m not arguing one way or the other about fine-tuning the Criminal Code; in many ways I feel that the punishment should fit the crime —  always barring  capital punishment. Then  we must consider the other — and sociological  side of the argument — but that as I said isn’t my purpose here.

Right now we have our police forces across Canada understandably applauding the idea of stiffer sentences and at the same time understandably urging tighter gun control. Now haven’t Harper’s Tories many times over voiced their  wish  to scrap the gun control registry.

To my mind, what should be written into the criminal code is that possession  or sale of handguns and automatic weapons  should be regarded as a  criminal offense punishable — not by a fine —  by imprisonment and confiscation and destruction of the weapons.  Collectors, too often vulnerable to theft would have to give up their toys.

Arms manufacturers, too, should be placed under tight scrutiny to determine to whom their products are being distributed– and how.