Wednesday Night #1489

Written by  //  September 15, 2010  //  Cleo Paskal, Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

Frank Kruzick introduced his daughter Stephanie who lives and works (as a teacher of English as a second language) in Croatia

Canada, the U.S., media and politics
Media is a subject that everyone (at least at Wednesday Night) is passionate about
As the present governments of Canada and the United States move in the direction of closer synchronization, a paradox real or imagined, becomes increasingly evident.  Abroad, Canadians and Americans are frequently considered indistinguishable from each other and both our governments and news media appear to be moving in increasing harmony, yet in many ways, our approach to issues is very different. With the impending November U.S. elections, the Democratic Party appears to be in some difficulty.
Most recently, there are two issues, either politically or media motivated, that make the schism more evident in North American print and electronic media.  A recent Canadian visitor to the U.S. who was “taken hostage by the car radio” is shocked by the tone, lack of facts and right-wing content of talk radio. Polarization of the media is also becoming more apparent in Canada,  reflecting the political climate and tactics of certain parties.  The depth and breadth of anti Muslim content in the U.S. news media and the acrimonious debate over the proposal to scrap the long gun registry in Canada are current and disturbing examples.  It was generally agreed that both relate to the evolution of  journalism as a profession, to that of Canada as a nation and the apparent increasing importance of wealth accumulation as a measure of success as opposed to vying to produce the best product or service.  Politics, too, appears, in many instances, to have evolved from a personal sacrifice in an effort, at one time, to best serve the country, to the construction of and attack on a political straw man, in an effort to garner votes in the constant drive towards  re-election. The four issues, namely the evolution of business ethics, the news media, government, as well as the evolution of the two countries are closely related.
Up until the advent of television, many newspapers and radio outlets took pride in the accuracy and quality of their news gathering, reporting, editing and even grammar and spelling.
  Journalism was an honored profession in which honesty and accuracy were a sine qua non.  Although media outlets such as the London Times, the New York Times, the BBC World News and Al Jazeera (Wednesday Nighters have many choices for their respective reliable sources), as well as some television broadcasts, although sometimes biased, remain true to their journalistic roots, it is increasingly difficult for them to compete with encapsulated items (some with little basis in fact) published on social networks.  In fact, it appears that these constitute a prime source of information for the print and electronic media, much less expensive than sending reporters on local or foreign assignments.  Frequently, competing newspapers even use each other as news sources.  The recent surfacing of virulent anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. has been blamed largely on its ability to attract interest in the media with some claiming that those with opposing views have been systematically ignored in order to keep up that interest. With the incredible increase – and concurrent fragmentation – in the number and variety of news sources, each catering to its segment of the audience, the line between the reliable and the sensational becomes blurred and the human psyche is all too often attracted to the latter.

The long-gun registry
In Canada, the proposed legislation to abandon the long gun registry has proven to be divisive, mostly pitting urban dwellers against rural dwellers. Whereas the American constitutional right to bear arms has taken on an almost religious significance, Canadians have depended on our police forces to protect us. While the U.S. per capita firearm homicide is either the highest or second highest (after Turkey) in the world, Canada sits much lower in the list along with countries such as New Zealand and Finland.
The need for firearms by rural dwellers is incontestable as needed protection against attack by wild animals.  It is equally true, as alleged, that long guns owned by criminals have probably not been registered and that the cost in time and money for honest long gun owners to attend courses and register their guns is considered an unnecessary expense and annoyance.  As for the latter argument, it also holds true for automobile owners and the retention of the registry is requested by the Police as an important tool in the arrest and subsequent conviction of murderers.   Although it is true that murderers, with the possible exception of those who commit murders impulsively, would avoid registering their weapons, Canadian urban dwellers retain vivid memories of École Polytechnique, Dawson, Concordia and other school murders and do not usually own long guns and so exhibit little empathy towards rural Canadians who have a legitimate need to do so.
Although it is most likely true that divergence of opinion on the part of urban and rural Canadians is common, there are some allegations that the current divisive debate has the appearance of more a political tactic than a ideological debate. It is notable that the Conservative government attempted to suppress the RCMP Report Canadian Firearms Program Evaluation of February 2010. It appears curious that the bill to end the long gun registry has been introduced as a private member’s rather than a Conservative Party bill. Those posing that question see it as a tactic to attract anti-registration proponents without antagonizing urban voters. Some Wednesday Nighters have gone so far as to suspect that specific proponents of specific policy issues have been selected, both in the United States and Canada, to appear on radio and television, briefed by politicians to spread a message on behalf of the governing party when a deadlock appears imminent.This is said to be not unique to this country or this issue, but merely part of the evolution of news gathering and dissemination and of politics.

BRICs and the world economy
Emerging markets are still the place to make money – and will be for many years to come
Gold is also an attractive vehicle, but contrary to the experts who recommend the large-cap stocks, our gurus suggest a strategy of buying smaller and average producers that have possibilities to increase their reserves and will eventually become takeover targets for bigger companies that are unable to replace their reserves.
Hans Black appears to be following this strategy with his acquisition of gold prospecting company Williams Creek Exploration
Our geologists suggest that Agnico Eagle also bears careful watching.
One Wednesday Night Market Maven reiterates his conviction that China, India and Brazil are poised to surpass the traditional economies in the world.  If true, economically and politically the United States will have to deal with these people and the question arises as to the nature of the role to be played by the United States in tomorrow’s world. Will it continue to be the world’s prime military and police force in a world when these burgeoning nations become dominant in the same manner as the U.S. succeeded the U.K. in the mid twentieth century?

The F-35
The Canadian Defence Minister has announced the government’s intention to spend nine billion dollars on the purchase of F-35 fighter jets. While admitting to the fact that Canada has always in the past, depended on the U.S. for continental defence, there appears to be very reluctant support for the expenditure. The hypothesis that Canada will gain as resulting aircraft construction contracts will undoubtedly aid Canadian economy, is not at all a certainty and other NATO members are said to have some reservations. It is certain, however that with increasing melting of Arctic ice and subsequent development of our northern border, a higher level of vigilance becomes important.  The questions that do arise include the purchase of the aircraft said to have been ordered without tender or negotiation, the uncertainty as to what extent Canada will participate in the manufacture of the jets and to whether these aircraft meet our specific needs.  In other participating countries, there is some concern about the size of the expenditure at this difficult economic period.    

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The Prologue
We have survived the anniversary of 9/11 – barely – despite the efforts of the obscure pastor from Florida (like President Obama, we will not use his name) to persuade us to burn the Koran, and despite the increased volume of on-going debate over the location of Cordoba House aka the 9/11 mosque. As one far-away Wednesday Night observer says: Unfortunately it is always the loud people who control the agenda and dominate the discourse.  My concern is that in a political leadership vacuum, the fundamental issues become irrelevant; it’s just a matter of screaming back at the last guy, who was screaming back.  This is all the easier when a digital soapbox means any idiot (or even the odd well-informed person) can exercise the right to free speech, but the speech can now be heard/seen and rebroadcast by millions around the world.
In fact, thanks to the good will and leadership of people of all faiths and persuasions, the anniversary passed in relative calm.  Now, the BBC reports that Imam Rauf ‘exploring options’ over NY Islamic centre saying that “everything is on the table” in a bid to “resolve this crisis”. Recent Wednesday Night discussions have shown sentiment that is strongly divided on the issue; while recognizing the constitutional guarantees that prevail, there are legitimate questions regarding foreign financing of the mosque project. There will surely be more to follow. Meanwhile, we suggest a careful reading of this piece, Building on Faith by Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative.

Another item of considerable debate at WN is the Long-Gun Registry. Tonight there is a disturbing headline CBC story: NRA [is] involved in gun registry debate “The National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group in the United States that advocates fewer gun controls, has been actively involved in trying to abolish Canada’s long-gun registry for more than a decade, CBC News has learned.” As the story continues, we are pleased to note that in recent months, “the NRA-inspired slogans and rhetoric may have backfired on [Conservative MP Garry] Breitkreuz and the anti-registry supporters. It seems he “sent out emails to 12 NDP MPs, asking them to support the Conservatives in scrapping the long-gun registry. Instead, many of those same MPs are now voting against scrapping the registry in protest of Breitkreuz’s tactics.” However, we still do not like the thought of the NRA intervening in Canada’s debate over the issue.

Canada has more problems, starting with immigration policy and most particularly how to deal with human smuggling. Last week, Ward Elcock, one-time head of CSIS was dispatched to Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries in the region to increase intelligence and police co-operation to thwart networks of smugglers. Former CSIS chief tasked with cracking down on migrant smuggling That sounds like a first good move. The Editorial Board of the Ottawa Citizen is less impressed with Jason Kenney’s suggestions about imposing new mandatory minimums for human trafficking, pointing out that “if Kenney wants Canada to get tough with the thugs who exploit migrants, he should focus on finding out why the investigations of both the Ocean Lady and the Sun Sea are dragging on without any perpetrators being identified or prosecuted. Would-be smugglers and traffickers won’t be deterred by amendments to Canada’s laws; they’ll only be deterred when they see their fellows imprisoned.” Trafficking in people

Before we become over complacent about how brilliantly Canada weathered the financial crisis, consider the recent survey of the economy by the OECD Housing market, homeowners still vulnerable: OECD  [It concludes that] Canadians are in a vulnerable position due to reduced interest rates throughout the recession that have convinced many to bite off more than they would be able to chew if rates were to rise. Canada Mortgage and Housing’s annual report also paints a grim picture: Last year, more than a billion dollars’ worth of properties were seized or about to be seized. That’s three times higher than the year before — and four times higher than forecast. BUT, there is brilliant news from Saskatchewan according to CBC Radio’s The Current and RBC Economics Saskatchewan leading the country in economic growth

Moving right along, Chantal Hébert has strong opinions (now, that’s a revelation) New chief-of-staff must stand up to PM, end Conservatives’ missteps – a must read if only for the entertaining litany concluding with “an asinine move to finance a new hockey arena for Quebec City at a time when the government is stressing the need for fiscal austerity.” And that of course has opened the door to Mad Max and his merry band with the tempting possibilities of a face-off between Max and the Maximum Leader.

We would add to Mme Hébert’s list the dismaying news that “the Harper government has tightened the muzzle on federal scientists, going so far as to control when and what they can say about floods at the end of the last ice age.” (Federal scientists being ‘muzzled’) – is someone afraid that evolution might become a part of science education?
In fairness, Margaret Lefebvre points out that the NRC is showering us with good news about developments in Canada that we should celebrate.

This seems like the right place to mention the 1st Annual Science & Policy Exchange, a forum on the role of science in shaping public policy, organized by An Ngo with the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and the undergraduate Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). It will take place on October 7. More details will follow.

We are looking forward to hearing Dr. Mark Roper’s comments on the study “The economic case for universal pharmacare“, released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which promotes the advantages of a national Pharmacare plan. And perhaps, West Winger, Dr. Alexandra T. Greenhill will add her voice.

From now on, we can expect a deluge of every form of news, analysis, commentary and op-ed pieces by the informed and merely loud-mouthed regarding the mid-term elections in the U.S. We will follow it avidly on our U.S. Mid-term elections 2010 page and point you in the direction of anything we consider newsworthy. For now, you may wish to consider Maybe Not Such a Mid-Term Blowout by Robert Kuttner, Co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect.

China is again in the news – when is it not? – On Clean Energy, China Skirts Rules and risks being hauled before the WTO for violations regarding subsidization of exporting companies. Any bets?

Cleo writes that she spent her birthday in the Kingdom of Tonga, where she has been on and off for several months.

In conclusion, we would remind you of the lovely South African saying that Professor Karel Stanz quoted to us à propos of Wednesday Night: If you want to run fast, do it alone. If you want to run far, do it with other people

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1489"

  1. Fredrick Lounsbury March 30, 2013 at 5:46 am · Reply

    Gun control laws and policy vary greatly around the world. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have very strict limits on gun possession while others, such as the United States, have relatively modest limits. In some countries, the topic remains a source of intense debate with proponents generally arguing the dangers of widespread gun ownership, and opponents generally arguing individual rights of self-protection as well as individual liberties in general…

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