Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I should have been overjoyed by Michael Ignatieff’s performance at the Canada at 150 “Thinkers’ Conference” in Montreal this past weekend. To a large extent leadership is a media construct, and the received view of it is, I believe, fundamentally anti-democratic. I have long argued for a new conception of leadership, a cooperative approach, and one where a leader feels safe to speak of complexity and difficulty rather than offering the false security of sound-bites and press releases.
And here was Ignatieff, pushing for a “party of the network,” asking for help, inviting widespread participation, and bringing together thinkers, even dissident ones like Robert Fowler, in his refurbished big tent. That style contrasts vividly—and it was meant to—with the rigid, micro-managing Stephen Harper, his sense of perfect rightness, his utter unwillingness (or inability) to admit doubt or nuance into his pronouncements.
Yet it left me cold.
In his closing remarks, Ignatieff talked about a new way of leading—in his usual passionless, tepid, professorial manner. When he did try to inject his own words with enthusiasm, it sounded as though he was trying. That’s a matter of style, but style is a necessary element of communication, surely the single most important aspect of leadership. A great communicator can viscerally transmit his or her confidence and passion directly to the listener. But there is something bloodless about Ignatieff.
In fairness, had anything substantive come out of the think-meet, he might well have shaken off some of his stiffness. But the Liberal Party seems stubbornly resistant to anything rising above the cliché. Ignatieff's wrap-up lacked life, at least in part, because nothing new came out of this conference at all, other than the remarkably forthright views on foreign policy delivered by Robert Fowler—who was almost immediately patronizingly dismissed (“He has earned the right to say what he wants, ” said Ignatieff.) Unlike Conservatives, Liberals do allow dissent—but they are prone to stifle it with soft pillows.
What leadership is Ignatieff actually offering? He was absent when Parliament recently resumed, off gallivanting in the hinterland to prove his democratic credentials. Now he’s back, but rather than reaching out to Canadians as a whole, he headed almost immediately into a Thinkers’ Conference stuffed with intellectuals, who were supposed to generate coherent collective vision and policy.
And what did we get? Judging from Ignatieff's closing, no bedrock of principle to which specific policies can be anchored; no coherent new vision or striking new departure to galvanize Canadians or even (judging from the lukewarm applause he received) his own party faithful.
It was just one boosterist platitude after another: “We started as a conference and became a community.” “We changed Canadian politics this weekend and it will never be the same.” It was "Team Canada" this and "Own the Podium" that. I suspect most Canadians went about their business utterly unaware that the world had changed beneath their feet.
What were these changes? Well, there is now a “national strategy” supporting “knowledge and innovation.” Something has to be done about Aboriginal educational outcomes. Illiteracy is a “national priority.” Immigrants need more access to language programs, and those who qualify for post-secondary education should be able to go. And we could export our educational capacity to benefit a mysterious “five million people in Asia.” (That last one still has me scratching my head.)
Then there was a healthy dose of Facebook politics: network, network, network. But the "party of the network" now believes in a "responsibility network" instead of those nasty old Trudopian big federal programs. How reassuring that the with-it Liberals are really committed to Conservative values after all.
And so the mountains laboured, and brought forth a freeze on corporate taxes, and a set of priorities so vague that any party would have been comfortable advancing them, in almost exactly the same words.
Something happened this past weekend, but, pace Ignatieff, it’s not likely to be “forever etched in the memory of our Party and our country.” The memories are probably already fading for those involved, and most Canadians didn't even know it took place. “We have changed ourselves,” said the leader, but there is no outward sign of it. The Liberals remain adrift on a sea of bromides, safe harbour well out of reach—and the man at the wheel is, by all appearances, as lost as his crew.
The emperor – oh, sorry – the mayor of Quebec City Régis Labeaume, was still basking in the glory of celebrating the 400th anniversary of La Ville, when he convinced the conseil municipal to spend $300,000. for the professional services of Clotaire Rapaille in order to keep tourism in full bloom.
If this stirs vague memories of Clochemerle, a satirical novel by Gabriel Chevallier (and a 1972 BBC telly serial ) set in a French village that must deal with the ramifications of the mayor’s grandiose plans to install a public urinal in the village square, read on.
In February Monsieur Rapaille revealed, with great media panache, the results of his research – so far.
Many people assumed that the information discovered by the mayor's guru would help craft a marketing campaign directed at new generations of tourists who would happily spend money in Quebec City.
His method, which he has applied to dozens of major corporations, including Chrysler, Procter & Gamble and Nestle, seeks to unlock people's deepest feelings about a product or location. In Quebec City, the 250 participants spent 20 minutes lying on their backs listening to new-age music and being encouraged to relax. They were then asked to write down profound memories of the city. Mr. Rapaille had planned to go over the hundreds of pages of notes gathered, hunting for the "code" that defines the city. ...
At his introductory news conference, he warned that Quebec City had to avoid becoming "a tourist dump" like Venice and move beyond postcard cliches. Otherwise, the city would become "a retirement home for old people eating poutine."
Some journalists were taken aback and challenged the justesse of M. Rapaille's expert market research techniques and his knowledge of Quebec's culture. In response, M. Rapaille claimed he has long been emotionally connected to Quebec because he heard songs from 'le grand Félix' during the German occupation of France. Recordings of Leclerc's music became available in France only after 1950. This anachronism motivated some reporters to investigate M. Rapaille's background in depth.
Mayor Régis Labeaume wants the city to undergo an image makeover he said it needs to give the city a more modern feel after the huge success of its 400th anniversary celebrations in 2008.
Mr. Rapaille told a group of communications and marketing specialists Wednesday that “Quebeckers are emotional. Now don't get angry when I tell you that you are completely neurotic,” he said in his presentation.“You are like a sadomasochist couple. The sadist needs the masochist and the masochist needs the sadist. … These types of couples last an eternity, they are the best couples, the most stable. You are with the English a sadomasochist couple and you will be that way forever.”Quebeckers' emotional impulses toward the rest of Canada are part of what Mr. Rapaille calls their “primal reptilian core,” which he says constitutes the “code” that lies deep in people's subconscious. Unravelling that code is, he says, the key to determining how consumers behave toward products. Mr. Rapaille wants to determine how Quebec City residents relate to their city in the same way he helped Dubai and Singapore discover their own particular “code.”
Well, well, well. Mayor Labeaume was not amused by the reporters' investigation. In fact, he became quite testy at a press conference this week.
Le Soleil discovered that Mr. Rapaille falsely listed the French government as one of his clients on his website. He said he had conducted an "archetype discovery on nuclear energy" for the late French president Georges Pompidou. In fact, Mr. Rapaille told Le Soleil, the work was for a charitable foundation established by Mr. Pompidou's widow.
He has also vaunted his work for such cities as Singapore, Dubai, Paris and Venice. Questioned by Le Soleil, he acknowledged the studies were not for the municipalities but for business clients seeking to break into those cities' markets. Quebec City was his first municipal client.
Unhappy with the questions he was facing, he told the reporters they did not represent the public but profit-seeking companies. He told a journalist from Le Devoir that her recent story, in which a British marketing expert questioned the hiring of Mr. Rapaille, was "journalism of the colonized."Right. M. Rapaille can declare that Quebeckers have a sadomasochistic rapport with the rest of Canada - and that's OK.
Surely Mayor Labeaume can return to Holt-Renfrew those leather chaps and the studded collar he purchased, in anticipation of his role in promoting the essence of Quebec City. Perhaps he can focus on a different type of feeling instead.
Oh yes, my prediction. The usual suspects will say that the Committee 1)
[Doug] Finley was one of a quartet of Tory senators to lead a Senate inquiry into free speech rights in Canada, rights they felt had come under attack when the speech by controversial American pundit Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa was cancelled, and again when a woman in Vancouver sued a comedian because she didn't like jokes aimed at her.
Er...no. The Vancouver woman is complaining to the BC Human Rights Tribunal--not suing--after having her glasses smashed and a stream of homophobic comments directed at her and her partner that had nothing to do with the "comedian's" act.
As for the scheduled University of Ottawa Blonde Bigot speech:
"[T]he mob took its cue from the provost," [David] Tkachuk told the Senate. The provost, university vice-president François Houle, sent Coulter a letter cautioning her about Canada's speech laws.
"The letter closed with a line that could have come straight out of the re-education camps of Pol Pot's Cambodia," Tkachuk said.By "the mob," I assume Tkachuk was referring to the thousand or so would-be attendees that the benighted organizers had thought might fit into a small room, and not the two hundred or so protesters exercising their own freedom of expression outside. Here, for the record, was Provost François Houle's genocidal last comment:
I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.
Obvious incitement to mob violence. I'm amazed the man hasn't been charged with something.
Keep talking, Senators. I just wish it weren't on my dime.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
One of the Braun Gang lets loose. One doesn't know whether to laugh out loud or weep at this warmed-over hackery, and its tone of shrill defensiveness. Paul Wells juxtaposes.
Marco Navarro-Génie is no disinterested observer, not that you'd imagine that for a moment reading his frothy little rant. He did his thesis work at the University of Calgary--under former Harper Chief of Staff Tom Flanagan.
It's not worth refuting his many inaccuracies and falsehoods. But this is typical:
The board of directors has made clear that there never was an ‘Israel issue' at Rights and Democracy. The only issue was the board's discovery that Canadian tax dollars were going to organizations whose leaders would not be allowed into Canada. Indeed, the government of Jordan would not give one of these recipients an exit visa.
Er, no Marco, that was Shawan Jabarin, who wanted to travel to the Netherlands to pick up a human rights award. He was denied an exit visa from the West Bank by the government of Israel. And if you're referring to Al-Haq, Al-Mezen and B'Tselem, the first has been funded by CIDA, and Foreign Affairs oversaw the Rights and Democracy grant to it. B'Tselem is an Israeli human rights organization, which, despite the bizarre calumnies of your Chair, is well-respected inside and outside Israel.
Go read. This is what's running Rights and Democracy at the moment. Good grief.
The three fired managers of Rights and Democracy, and the brave PSAC Local president Maxime Longangué and vice-president Micheline Levesque, were in front of the Parliamentary committee today, and Kady O'Malley has the details.
UPDATE: Paul Wells has more. A glimpse, from one perspective, of a year in the life of Rights and Democracy.
Why is the Christian community not speaking out? Where are their leaders? Are there any moderate Christians?
Are any of us safe from these people?
Sure, they preach peace and love.
But this is what they really stand for.
And by the way, you'll have to remove that hood if you want a Quebec driver's licence. Just so you know.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Oh--and the aboriginal populations of the region in question.
Nunavut means "Our Land" in English. Whose land? No invitation for Inuit:
"It is inconceivable that the Government of Canada would contemplate holding a conference to discuss economic development and environmental protection in the Arctic without the active participation of Inuit, who will have to live with the consequences of any new government policies. This reeks of paternalism," said acting president [of the Inuit Tapiirat Kanatami] Pita Aatami. [emphasis added]
No kidding. And ITK President Mary Simon is just as blunt:
[T]he people who have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, and who will be the most affected by the potential outcomes of this meeting, have not been invited to sit at the table. Quite frankly, we find it absolutely inconceivable that the Canadian government would contemplate such a thing. Inuit have a long history of working with whatever government is in power on a very wide range of both national and international issues. We should put that experience to work, and we see no reason why we have been excluded from this discussion. Our position is, and always has been, that Inuit are not content to be passive bystanders while the fate of our homeland, our people, and our culture, is discussed and planned for by others.
The Chelsea meeting was great-power chauvinism of the worst kind, a throwback to the Western "spheres of influence" in China, an unpleasant colonialist echo of the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-5 when Africa was parceled out to European colonizing nations.
Such thinking by the wise white men of the ages dies hard--as well as the misery they have wrought. Nunavut has a tuberculosis rate 185 times that of the general Canadian population. (You read right.) And Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which administers the Nunavut land-claim agreement, has had to expend enormous resources to sue the federal government to get the the latter to honour its side of the deal. One can easily sense the tone of despair in conciliator Thomas Berger's comprehensive Final Report on the implementation process--a depressing but recommended read.
And this is just one of the aboriginal populations with Arctic shoreline in the circumpolar region--shoved off to one side while the Great White Fathers talk and decide, as they have done for centuries. No wonder the natives are restless.
UPDATE: Hillary Clinton weighs in. [H/t Scott Tribe]
Sunday, March 28, 2010
"Robert Fowler is a Canadian hero and has earned the right to say whatever he wants."
Translation: "We cut this guy some slack, but we aren't taking him seriously."
UPDATE: (March 29) Full half-hour version of Fowler's speech here. Grab a coffee and hear him out.
"[I]t seems that Liberals today don't stand for much in the way of principle. I have the impression that they will endorse anything and everything that might return them to power and nothing which won't," he said.
Good grief. Hasn't that always been the Liberal modus operandi? Can anyone point to a single principle that the Liberals have ever consistently stood for during their long history? Has this Big Tent confection ever had a soul?
Former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, slipping ever-further into a kind of political automatism, has now embraced "xenophobia lite." Fowler's words will be waved off by the Natural Governing Party backroom boys and smug politicos. The LPC's drift to the Right will continue, with its endless unprincipled vote-trolling--they'll call it "pragmatic," or even "realist."
As usual, they're all tactics and no strategy. Play to the basest instincts of the electorate. Try to be as much like the governing party as possible. Be all things to all people. It's worked in the past. But that was when both major parties played the same game.
Today's Conservative Party is not the party of Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney. It's populated by gimlet-eyed ideologues like Jason Kenney, Vic Toews, Stockwell Day, and, of course, the Prime Minister himself. They have a Maximum Programme for Canada that goes well beyond the traditional power-and-perks regimes of the past. Whatever mild concessions to centrism that they might have made, the Conservatives have a vision and a plan from which they have never wavered. But wavering is precisely what Liberals do.
And so, I suspect, that Ship of Fools is drawing ever-nearer to the electoral shoals. All Stephen Harper has to do now is sit tight and try not to make any more spectacularly silly moves like proroguing or defying Parliament. If the Libs keep on like this, he's in like Flynn. He has always stood for something, after all, in his cold, blue-eyed way.
Given a choice, people will vote for the real thing instead of the flagrantly opportunistic imitation. For all their vaunted pragmatism, this is one lesson today's Liberals just can't seem to learn--even with rare birds like Fowler telling it like it is. Dither, blow with the winds, anything but take a stand and offer a real alternative, a different way of doing politics, a vision to counter the Conservative one. Don't expect anything but more of the same to emerge from Montreal.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
A few more tidbits:
Evening preyers. Remember the saying about the fish and how it rots. Senior Roman Catholic Prelate Karl Juesten pledges to "get to the bottom of it." 'nuff said.
Shorter Randall Denley (and boy, is he not alone): Freedom of speech for A*n C*ulter! Punish the students who exercised theirs!
Former human rights advocate supports a state dress code for women. (Aka "trolling for votes.")
The "watering of the girls." A fertility ritual? Ya think?
Weekend Free Speech Quiz: What do Winnie Mandela, William Ayers, George Galloway and Bobby Seale have in common? Bonus points: where was Seale scheduled to speak?
And last but not least, how a thread at even a reasonable conservative/libertarian site can go utterly off the rails when you try to teach history to apes.
Friday, March 26, 2010
- The Harper government is closing three Canadian Human Rights Commission offices, in Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. 70% of all complaints received by the Commission have been submitted through those regional offices.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada is spot on:
"When the Conservatives took power in 2006, one of their first moves was to abolish the Court Challenges Program and close Status of Women Canada offices across the country," [PSAC President John] Gordon said. "Women's groups were denied government funding if they engaged in research or advocacy work, and equality-seeking groups lost the ability to fund Charter of Rights challenges. The government has also cancelled funding to notable NGOs such as KAIROS, and appointed ultra-conservative partisan board members to Rights & Democracy - manufacturing a massive crisis within the organization. The closure of CHRC offices is another example of this outrageous trend."
Canadians living in British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces will no longer have access to walk-in or telephone services at a CHRC office even remotely close to where they live. The urban centres where the CHRC offices are being closed represent a high percentage of racialized people. In fact, 60 per cent of all racialized people in Canada live in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax.
(In case anyone is unfamiliar with the term "racialized," it means "assigned to a 'racial' category." While "race" is a construct, the practical consequences of invoking it, as we know, can be dire.)
Now the Cons will be able to say that Canada has grown more inclusive under their wise governance--"See? Human rights complaints have dropped significantly!"
One thing you can say about the Harper agenda: it isn't "hidden," these days, if it ever was.
- Niqab nuttiness continues apace in la belle province. Quebec lawmakers are going to liberate those women, and the heck with what the women themselves say they want. It's for their own good, dontcha see, to refuse government services to them unless they give up their silly religious garb.
Odd resonances there. Women under the Taliban were confined to the home, but allowed outside if they wore a concealing garment. Quebec niqabi, if the current xenophobic trend continues, will be confined to the home unless they don't wear a concealing garment. And in true Orwellian fashion, this sort of thing is called "pluralism" by solicitous Quebec intellectuals.
- Almost four years ago, the Canadian Jewish Congress attempted to rid the schools of a book about Palestinian and Israeli children, called Three Wishes.
Now the folks at B'nai Brith, fresh from defending A*n C*ulter's right to freedom of speech, is trying to throw another book on the bonfire, The Shepherd's Granddaughter.
Here's a pretty sympathetic review of the book, about a Palestinian girl growing up in the occupied West Bank, who wants to escape her traditional role and become a shepherd like her grandfather.
Every student who has read The Shepherd's Granddaughter has come back to tell me that they are suddenly viewing the Israeli-Palestinian situation differently. As one student said, "It made me stop and see there might be more sides than just one." Maybe there are three sides - one for each side and then one for the truth that no one can see.
But we know that in Canada there can be only one side when it comes to the Middle East, even if it takes endless censorship, heavy-handed government action, human wrecking balls and a parliamentary coalition to enforce it.
UPDATE: More information on the closures of CHRC offices. I find this odd:
In a brief interview on Friday, [CHRC Sectretary-General Karen] Mosher described how an analysis of the CHRC's three priorities -- complaint resolution, discrimination prevention, and research -- led to the conclusion that they should close the branch offices.
In their place will be two regional headquarters focused on discrimination prevention, in Montreal and Edmonton.
Without regional offices to take complaints--where more than two-thirds of them have been lodged in the past--what kind of "discrimination prevention" is Mosher talking about? In any case, both she and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson are firm that the re-organization was a CHRC decision, not a government one.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Well, judge for yourself.
Arnie Lemaire, aka "Blazing Cat Fur," spouse of ol' what's-her-name, is a co-editor at my pal Jay Currie's place. In the past, various comments of mine there (and of other progressive bloggers like my unfailingly polite co-blogger John Cross) have disappeared into the memory hole. Various excuses have been made, but I gather that Arnie has been responsible for at least some of that.
Editing a combox, of course, isn't the same thing as, say, blocking George Galloway from entering the country to deliver a speech at, say, the University of Ottawa. A blogsite is private property. I've banned trolls from my place, after all. I'm interested in free-flowing debate, but I'm not running a public service for the terminologically afflicted.
There are limits, however. I draw the line at editing someone else's commentary (other than the spelling corrections I occasionally do out of kindness). But Arnie, with no such scruples, has now taken to revising readers' comments. "truewest," a tough but fair swimmer against the current at Jay's, has had a recent comment played with in precisely this fashion.
Is this a free speech issue? Well, it's not clear-cut. But suppose Ann Coulter came a-visiting (just a name that popped into my head for some reason) and I replaced her comments with pro-Obama ones. Would that be kosher?
Here is the original text, after Jay, to his considerable credit, intervened:
Thanks. You let Arnie drive your car and access your bank account too? Clearly a bad idea. Here’s the original post, only slightly modified to address James’s objection about the counting ability of lawyers.
God Bless Ann Coulter.
There is no single factor that so accurately identifies a spotlight-seeking, pig-ignorant, gleefully hateful wingnut as a slavish devotion to that odious stick-insect whose idea of wit is a racial slur:
Rachel Marsden – check;
Ezra Levant – check;
Kathy Shaidle – check;
Shaidle’s sad sack spouse – check;
Michael Coren— spotlight-seeking, check; pig-ignorant, check; but let’s give Michael a break this time and assume that describing Coulter as a “world-reknowned journalist” was a professional obligation.
And here is "truewest's" post as amended by Arnie:
God Bless Ann Coulter.
There is no single factor that so accurately identifies a spotlight-seeking, pig-ignorant, gleefully hateful wingnut as a slavish devotion to that odious stick-insect whose idea of wit is a racial slur:
Truwest’s mom – check;
Truwest’s imaginary friend – check;
Truwest’s sad sack spouse – check
Michael Coren—well, two out of three ain’t bad…...
Doesn't make any sense, spells "truewest's" handle wrong, and is grievously unethical. Some might call that a moron hat-trick. Not I, of course. But the phrase "Standard Operating Procedure" does spring to mind. Time to set down some guidelines, Jay.
Has anyone else encountered this problem? What can be done about it?
The first is “Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature” by McLean, de Freitas and Carter. The paper itself is an interesting look at the effect of the Southern Oscillation on global temperatures. While this effect is well known, they provide some useful numbers about it. However the problem begins when Bob Carter (one of the authors) starts talking about the paper and says “The close relationship between ENSO and global temperature, as described in the paper, leaves little room for any warming driven by human carbon dioxide emissions.” The problem with this statement is that their methodology (by design) ignores any trends and instead looks only at the variation. Tamino did a wonderful job of showing this very clearly by using the exact data they did, but introducing a fake warming rate of 1 degree per year (about 30 times the current warming rate). What effect did this large rate have on their final results – none, zero, zip, zilch. Of course simple facts do not deter the people who wish to spread Dr. Carter's quote and thus we are left with it echoing through the blogosphere.
The second example is “Amazon forests did not green-up during the 2005 drought” by Samanta and a number of co-authors who looked at satellite images of the Amazon forest and counted the “green” pixels during several years around 2005 – a bad drought year. (It may seem paradoxical, but one reaction of a rain forest to drought is more green.) The meme created out of this paper is that because there is no change in greening during a drought, a drought does not cause changes in the health of a rainforest as predicted by the IPCC. Canada’s own Terrance Corcoran was active in spreading this bit of disinformation (although it has been pointed out that he was possibly misled by a poor press release). Of course when you look at the actual numbers, what they describe as no change actually shows a significant greening. The % of pixels that were green in the 5 years prior to 2005 was on average 6.2, in the 3 years after 2005 was 4.3 and for 2005 was 10.8! This result fits in quite nicely with other studies and shows that, despite the title, the Amazon did green up. So while Mr. Corcoran says “None of this resolves the Amazongate issue. What it does show, however, is what all the of the IPCC science problems show: The science isn’t settled.” the study actually supports the results of previous studies and strengthens the conclusions of the IPCC. Anyone want to bet on Mr. Corcoran issuing a retraction?
My final example is that of sea level rise, specifically a paper titled Constraints on Future Sea-Level rise from Past Sea-Level Change. That paper predicted that the maximum sea level rise would be 82cm by 2100. It turns out that the study was flawed and the authors have since withdrawn it. The people who are credited with finding the errors in it are Vermeera and Rahmstorf who have their own study out that predicts a rise between 70 and 190 cm by 2100. So we have two studies out, one shows low sea level rise, one that shows high sea level rise. The people who show high rise are able to show why the low rise is wrong and how is it reported?
Seas not rising, warmy credibility sinking:Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.
It’s trifling little errors like these that lead to mood shifts among the broader public.
So there you have it – three scientific studies that are touted as showing that global warming isn’t happening or isn’t a problem when in fact they show nothing or the exact opposite. They call this science, I call it fraud!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
That's Ann Coulter, believe it or not, on the right of free speech. But last night she came to Ottawa to exercise it for herself. And then she moused out.
Now the Speech Warriors™ are pig-biting pissed, or so they want to appear. Actually, I strongly suspect, they're pleased as punch. They have a fresh new martyr, even if they've had to spin like mad to create one. Because Ann Coulter and her organizers, confronted by demonstrators exercising their own rights of freedom of assembly and of expression--pulled the plug on her themselves.
Let me make an observation right at the start. For all the talk of students "shutting down" Coulter's talk, there was not one mention of physical violence against anyone. There was not one reported arrest, although two dozen tactical squadders from the Ottawa Police were on hand. No weapons of any description were in evidence--just voices, sometimes angry, uncivil ones to be sure, but so what?
Here are some accounts, mostly from outraged conservatives. I urge readers to follow my links and read them first-hand. Let me begin with one by my friend and frequent sparring-partner, libertarian Terrence Watson. Much of his article concerns his discussions with protesters. There was shouting, which he found uncomfortable. There was quite a crowd in the foyer, including demonstrators, folks who had registered to hear the talk, and others who hadn't, so there was some jostling.
Watson says that the demonstrators were "threatening to burst through the doors," but that doesn't exactly jibe with his report that many were apparently already inside.* Could some of those at the doors have been would-be attendees, of whom there seemed to be many? In any case, what bothered Watson seems to have been the message of the protesters, who plainly opposed Coulter's presence.
Then there was Deborah Gyapong. She reports that violence was done--to a table. She thinks that two-thirds of the crowd was actually there to hear Coulter, which accords with what other commentators have said. She says she was relieved there was no book-burning. So am I.
Here's right-wing news commentator Brian Lilley. "Protestors were determined to shut this speech down and they did, through songs, cheers, pulling fire alarms and through threats of violence."
One "thug," he continues, "picked on" an old man in his seventies, "who gave as good as he got." Obviously we aren't talking physical combat here. They were evidently yelling at each other--free expression, if no doubt uncivil. And then the "thug's" friends pulled him away! Lilley provided no further evidence about those "threats of violence," but the songs and cheers must have been a bitch.
Then there's local so-con John Pacheco: he writes of a "screaming, salivating, fist-pounding mob which pressed in on the doors," but once again, not a mention of physical violence, weapons, or anything else. And one person's "mob," of course, is another person's "crowd."
And here's Coulter herself.
The police, Coulter says, “had been warning my bodyguard all day that they were putting up [messages] on Facebook: ‘Bring rocks, bring sticks, you gotta hurt Ann Coulter tonight, don’t let her speak.’ And the cops eventually said, we’ve got a bad feeling, this isn’t gonna happen. And they shut it down.”
But there are no reports anywhere else of rocks, sticks or personal threats to Coulter. Even so, she repeats her third-hand mantra: "angry mobs with sticks and rocks." Why did none of the Coulter supporters in the crowd report any? It was just more Coulter hyperbole, I believe: she knows she can dine off this event for years to come, and is looking forward to it, with ever-new embellishments. By the way, here are the only relevant Facebook sites I could find: more free expression, some of it really rude. But no mention of rocks or sticks.
CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian said "a combination of overcapacity and utter disorganization" contributed to the collapse of the event.
Prior to the cancellation, Hamamdjian said only a small number of students were tasked with verifying the names of the people who had signed up to attend Coulter's talk.
"It was a disaster in terms of just organization, which is probably one of the reasons why it was cancelled," Hamamdjian told CTV News Channel from Ottawa on Wednesday morning.
Police eventually showed up to the scene and blocked the door to the building, but Hamamdjian said she doubted whether the combination of protesters and disorganization actually constituted "a physical risk to Ann Coulter."
Blogger Rebekah of Miss Marprelate writes: "Then the fire alarm went off. Do you know how loud industrial fire alarms are? Do you know what they sound like when they go on for about ten minutes?!"
At about 8:09, over an hour after the lecture was supposed to begin Ezra Levant finally got up to speak. He said that there were 2000 protesters outside and that it would not be physically safe for Ann Coulter to appear. Levant did however give a little mini-speech which included some stinging words about [University Provost] Francois Houle.
And Rebekah, like Lilley, referred to unspecified "threats of violence."
Finally, here's University of Ottawa student Nick Milne, who writes quite an entertaining article, in fact, well worth the read. Much of the confusion began, he says, when would-be attendees discovered that they had to register to get in: in this, he is in agreement with other observers. The foyer soon became crowded. Milne thinks that only about 200 in the milling throng outside the doors were actual protesters, calling the media estimate of 2,000 "an absurd lie."
He interviewed student council president Seamus Wolfe, and had quite an amiable discussion with him, it seems. Milne stuck around after the cancellation, and saw angry people arguing with each other. At one point he intervened:
Two men were getting up in each other’s faces in a very loud, essentially incomprehensible argument. There was a thick mob of people around them, some egging them on, some trying to restore calm. One of them was holding a stout wooden stick with a sign attached to it, and he was beginning to brandish it somewhat alarmingly. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, unfortunately, and quickly went up to him. Grabbed his shoulder, spoke clearly in his ear. “If you’re going to argue like this,” I said, “do NOT do it holding that club. Is that how you want this to go down? Is it worth it?” To his credit he agreed, and gave me the sign. So now I have a nice stick, and nobody died.
How Canadian is that?
So is it fair to conclude, based upon mostly right-wing accounts, the following?
Ann Coulter had to brave 1) a polite note from the University of Ottawa Provost; 2) chanting demonstrators, mostly outside the lecture hall; and 3) a fire alarm, turned off after a few minutes.
Personally, I would have preferred to have her speak, and arrested if she broke Canadian law, by, say, advocating genocide. But when you look at the welter of accounts, some of which I have linked to above, what was stopping her?
Sounds like she encountered a robust, healthy exercise of free expression, except of course for the juvenile fire alarm prank, which was quickly remedied. But it was all too much for Coulter and her team. And now the myth will be perpetuated forever--count on it--that protesters "shut down" her speaking engagement.
Like hell they did.
UPDATE: Kady O'Malley has more. A point worth noting: at least one of Coulter's "security team" was talking cancellation--at 5:15pm. [H/t Shiner in the comments.]
And, via BigCityLib, this post from Jaeger at Small Dead Animals is worth a look as well, and now Hades has frozen over.
UPPERDATE: Matt Drudge got almost everything wrong. "2000 protesters surrounding building with rocks and sticks." Good grief. (Screen cap at Mondoville: Drudge has since revised his irresponsible coverage. But his first report is all over the Web.)
UPPESTDATE: Via reader Marky, this bit of purple fiction from Coulter herself:
The police called off my speech when the auditorium was surrounded by thousands of rioting liberals -- screaming, blocking the entrance, throwing tables, demanding that my books be burned, and finally setting off the fire alarm.
See? They lie, and lie, and lie. The police did NOT call off her speech--her own people did. There was NO riot, "thousands" of protesters is plain silly, "tables" were not "thrown," and no "demands" that her books be burned have been reported. (The latter two claims appear to derive from Deborah Gyapong's post referenced above.)
*Watson replies in the comments:
I probably could have made it clearer, but my two observations are consistent.
They let some people into the lecture hall. But the lines, especially toward the back, had broken down. Those already inside the foyer had remained in queue (they didn`t really have an alternative, as there wasn`t a lot of space there), but those outside had begun to cluster and press toward the doors.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
And that's it, ladies and gentleman: The Liberal caucus's much-vaunted wedge motion managed to wedge, well, the Liberal caucus as three backbench MPs -- John McKay, Paul Szabo, and Dan McTeague voted against the party, and the motion. Afterwards, a bunch of Liberals accidentally voted in favour of the budget. All and all, a banner day for Team Ignatieff, I've got to say.
Abstained: Albina Guarnieri, Gurbax Malhi
Curiously absent from the Chamber, despite having been there just a few moments earlier: Derek Lee
Other Liberal absences, some of whom, at least, were simply not in Ottawa and would almost certainly have supported the motion had they been around, from a list provided by the ever helpful PMO: Anita Neville, Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Kania, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Alan Tonks, Marlene Jennings, Joe Volpe, Lawrence MacAuley, Stephane Dion, Mario Silva (paired with B. Calkins), Jim Karygiannis.
Talk about the gang that couldn't shoot straight. What a toxic mixture of malevolence and incompetence.
UPDATE: The Red Wing of the Librocons doesn't mind Third World workers dying agonizing deaths from mesothelioma, either. [H/t]
So, good Canadian that he is, he doesn't impose a ban on Ann Coulter. He simply lets her know that the laws here are different from what she is used to. He has been made aware of previous Coulter comments like this:
Promoting torture and genocide:
I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
[On the desegregation of schools] Few failures have been more spectacular. Illiterate students knifing one another between acts of sodomy in the stairwell is just one of the many eggs that had to be broken to make the left's omelette of transferring power from states to the federal government.
When we were fighting communism, OK, they had mass murderers and gulags, but they were white men and they were sane. Now we're up against absolutely insane savages.
I think our motto should be, post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.' [That was too much even for Michelle Malkin].
And--with refreshing candour--fascism:
My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism.
Oh, and that freedom of speech thing?
They're [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let's do it. Let's repress them. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment.
Some of this is arguably proscribed by our Criminal Code, in particular Sections 318 and 319, which make the advocacy of genocide and the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups a crime. Provost Houle had every right to be worried. So he sent Coulter a mild little note:
Dear Ms. Coulter,
I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus.
We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here. You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.
Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind. There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.
I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.
You really can't get much more Canadian than that: a courteous message, expressed almost diffidently, suggesting that a visitor to this country might want to pay some attention to our laws, given her past record.
But the far right, which frankly sympathizes with both the tone and the substance of the comments noted above, leaped to their feet in classic faux-outrage. This letter was alleged to be a "threat." Free speech, we were told, was imperilled. Houle was personally attacked hither and yon. A caricature of a frog was published by one well-known blogger.
And the libertarian left somehow got infected with the same virus.
Provost Houle's coordinates were posted. A virtual lynch-mob was summoned. If he didn't know before, he's about to find out rather quickly what fascism--local, regional, national and international--smells like.
One unrepentant fascist visits this country, and the mildest suggestion that she obey our laws generates an American-style ergotic frenzy affecting even some of my own comrades. It's not a day when I can feel proud to be a Canadian. Not at all. The quicker this poison drains back to its country of origin, the better for all of us.
In the meantime, let her speak. But if she breaks the law, she should suffer the consequences. It's not like she hasn't been warned.
UPDATE: Thread-winner at Big City Lib's place:
Uh huh, so in Coulter world being urged to practice restraint, respect and consideration is discrimination?
Who raised her? Wolves?
*Or not. Law student Jimmy Durante on this thread and now lawyer Nbob on the thread following my later post on the topic agree that there would be no legal liability on the part of the university unless there were knowing participation in a criminal offence. It seems likely, given that, that the Provost was simply voicing a reasonable institutional concern about the possibility of criminal hate speech or defamation occurring on the campus for which he had responsibility. This changes nothing about the uncalled-for, insulting, sometimes grotesque comments made about him since. The latest, from Coulter herself:
"After Tuesday night, the hatred incited by Francois' [sic] letter is no longer theoretical....Either Francois [sic] goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud."
How the OHRC gets into the picture here is anyone's guess, as the Ontario Human Rights Code does not proscribe hate speech--nor, of course, do the Commission or the Tribunal have the power to jail anyone. But as most of us know, Coulter just makes stuff up.
Yesterday Michael Ignatieff was on his feet in the House of Commons, asking about Rights and Democracy, and so was the NDP's foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar.
According to Paul Wells, R&D Board chair Aurel Braun was "too busy" to show up to the Committee meeting today--his second no-show in as many weeks. As it turns out, however, he gave no reasons for his absence. Braun's colleague Jacques Gauthier, also invited, didn't show up either. Paul Dewar was talking subpoena.
Today's meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee was liveblogged by Kady O'Malley. It looks as though the Cons have thrown in the towel, and the suggested witnesses (including Beauregard's widow) will be heard after all. The Cons have a witness of their own, too, but they aren't saying who it is.
Paul Dewar was mocked by Con MP James Lunney for threatening a subpoena. Who does he think he is--Perry Mason? Lunney asked. But as O'Malley points out, Parliamentary committees indeed do have subpoena power. Will the elusive Braun and Gauthier force the issue? When they do come, willingly or not, they will be expected to bring documents that pertain to their recent rash of contract-letting.
Accountability? Let's see if they walk the talk.
The fired managers are scheduled to appear on March 31. And Braun is now offering to show up on April 1. If he doesn't, would that be considered un poisson d'avril?
Coulter: "A component of many plows which consists of a vertically mounted knife-like blade." No, don't go there.
What would a perfected Ezra Levant be like? Let your imaginations run free.
Kathy Shaidle's head explodes.
Monday, March 22, 2010
"The pope has shown great love and compassion, much as Jesus did when he ministered to tax collectors and whores," said Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. "Despite all they have done to jeopardize the careers of so many priests—to say nothing of imperiling the priests' immortal souls—the church embraces these underaged seducers and tempters with open arms. The pope's words and actions prove that the church is willing to put an end to the suffering and let the healing begin."
And here's one of the faithful who might actually think she's reading L'Osservatore Romano instead of The Onion. Satire is dead.
[H/t DAMMIT JANET! and the wicked Buckets]
The late President. The employees. Grant recipients. "Outsiders who willingly propagate convenient fantasies for their own ends."
Yet another op-ed from the Magnificent Seven. Do these people have any notion of how weak and self-serving their by-now stale protestations appear?
That's a rhetorical question.
Once again, the name of former President Rémy Beauregard is dragged through the mud:
Both before and after its compulsory submission of the review to government, the board's evaluation committee (the same three members whose resignation is being demanded) repeatedly offered to meet with the former president to discuss the evaluation. Regrettably, he rejected that option, rejected the review of his leadership, and launched an intensive campaign to overturn it.
It was his right to object, and to counter with his own report. But instead, he turned to his senior managers, and they in turn involved their subordinate staff to combat what the president claimed was a grievous wrong.
Charitably, this can be seen as a misjudgment arising from emotion, one that could have been rectified had outside actors with their own agendas not seized what they saw as a prime propaganda opportunity. [emphases added]
This is beyond foul. As I have noted before--and indeed, rather than repeat myself on every point, I direct readers' attention to that review of the Magnificent Seven's previous flim-flammery, tiresomely recycled in this new broadside--Beauregard was indeed willing to meet, but the evaluation committee couldn't seem to find a convenient time. In the event, Beauregard never did see his evaluation until he pried it from his tormentors' hands with an Access to Information request. And your tax dollars and mine were used to hire expensive legal help to (unsuccessfully) contest that request.
Nor did "outsider actors" with or without their own agendas even get involved in this mess until Beauregard was dead. Meanwhile the staff were being ethnically profiled by Magnificent Seven member Jacques Gauthier. They complained in an all-but-unanimous letter on January 11 that intimidation and harassment at work were the order of the day. It was at that point that people like myself started to notice this little agency in Montreal and the bizarre goings-on there.
But the disingenuousness continues, without let-up. "There is no credible evidence of any attempt to politically interfere" with the Board, quoth the Seven, but it was the very fact of their appointments in the first place that constituted what many observers consider to be interference. Nor should we be lulled by their oh-so-innocent claims that none of them "had any discernible partisan background," or that there was no "Israel issue" at Rights and Democracy.
As I commented earlier:
Middle East politics...have been foregrounded at ICHRDD for months. The new Board appointees include two active members of B'nai Brith (Braun and David Matas). Jacques Gauthier wrote a PhD thesis defending the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel. The Board also has a couple of Conservative Party trained seals (failed CPC candidate Brad Farquhar and Marco Navarro-Génie, who did his thesis work at the University of Calgary under Tom Flanagan), and a business-oriented Christian think-tanker, Michael Van Pelt.
And then, once again: "Accountability is the issue that should be the sole rallying point at Rights and Democracy."
Uh-huh. At the Board's meeting this week, the Seven, who have the votes, will be making by-law changes that will concentrate more power in the hands of the President, including unfettered contracting rights without tender. This might provide some retroactive justification, of course, for the recent rash of hirings at Rights and Democracy: private detectives, forensic auditors, outside communications people--even though R&D has a communications section--and a CEO. Four staff members considered all this to be outside established procedures, and brought it to the forensic auditors' attention. The four were promptly handed suspensions.
The Magnificent Seven say they would welcome a public inquiry. Bring it on. And in the meantime, let the widow speak.
Here is Linda, and her warmed-over talking points (emphases added):
Anyone who has ever served on a board knows that such inquiries on the part of a board chair and the audit and finance committee are necessary in order to fulfill the duty of “due diligence.” But to the managers of R and D—unaccustomed to any challenge to their authority and hostile to investigations into their pet projects—the board’s interest was deemed “harassment” and requests for “sensitive” information were rejected or stonewalled.
It would be interesting to have her evidence for this. She's only an "outsider with an agenda," after all. Why do I suspect that she's simply channeling Aurel Braun? It's worth pointing out--yet again--that virtually every member of the R&D staff, not solely management, signed a letter complaining of harassment and intimidation.
To this day, management refuses to co-operate fully with an audit being conducted by the respected firm of Deloitte & Touche. Instead, they have launched a self-righteous campaign of media sniping and obfuscation—aided by the disappearance of managerial laptops and computer records.
As noted earlier, four employees who did provide information to the auditors were promptly punished. And the suggestion that staff had anything to do with the theft of laptop computers and records is simply unconscionable.
The sudden death in January of Remy Beauregard has injected an element of sorrow to the situation, but it does not alter a public body’s duty to account for public money. By January 2010, even Beauregard finally came to the conclusion that giving money to Al Haq (and like organizations) was wrong and voted to repudiate it. But the staff he left behind remain resentful of the board’s scrutiny.
Not so. The money was long gone, the "repudiation" but a gesture. Beauregard voted with the majority because, I am reliably informed, he simply wanted peace.
The R and D staff’s anger at the board’s curiosity suggests that something has gone very wrong at R and D.
Or that anger might suggest that there's a serious problem with the Board. Is ethnic profiling a bona fide management technique?
On March 29, Gerard Latulippe, an experienced administrative law and labour lawyer with professional expertise in promoting democratic accountability in the third world (most recently in Haiti), will take over as Rights and Democracy’s new president.
What--no mention of his opposition to gay rights and his Islamophobia? Is he really a suitable President for an organization whose mandate is to promote human rights? What about a little "democratic accountability" right here at home?
He has the tough task of reforming an agency gone rogue long ago.
What utter rot. As has been pointed out almost from the start, R&D had been subject to annual audits and a five-year audit by Foreign Affairs--and passed with flying colours. Did Frum's informants fail to mention that?
Yes, some of the staff are complaining anonymously to the press. But the complaints do not prove them right. On the contrary, their complaints prove how very deep the problems go.
Oh, indeed they do, Linda, indeed they do.
So much for déjà vu all over again. Now Paul:
Elsewhere in today’s news, the Braun Seven majority on the board of Rights and Democracy has published another in their series of occasional op-eds wondering why the world is so mean to them. “We call upon Parliament to hold public hearings so that facts can replace fantasies, and we can move ahead,” they write.
Here’s a fact: after first confirming he would appear tomorrow before the foreign-affairs committee of Parliament, Braun has now sent word that he’s too busy to show up.Well, read the whole article for yourselves. And pay careful attention to this:
A month ago they hired Deloitte to do an audit of the company’s books over a carefully-selected date span. “Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors,” Gauthier said in the press release sent out by a communications firm he hired without tender outside the target period of the Deloitte audit.
Excellent. Good. Fine. Great. The Deloitte audit was going to take three weeks. That was four weeks ago. When will Braun and Gauthier table the audit — along with the terms of reference and the details of the consulting contracts Gauthier has entered into, on Rights and Democracy’s behalf, since February?
Since nobody has anything to hide.
Ouch. That's gotta leave a mark.