2011-02-27

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid, And Buy Our Oil

Speaking at a Meet the Author event at Kelowna's University of British Columbia Okanagan campus on February 24, Ezra Levant allowed himself to go off on a fear-mongering rant about the rise of islamofascism in Egypt:

"What we really have to watch out for here is the Moslem Brotherhood. They bumped off Sadat in 1981, then they got rid of Mubarak without firing a single bullet."

This statement completely misrepresents the origins of the January 25 Revolution, its aspirations, and its execution. And it is symptomatic of Levant's distortion of the truth to support his thesis. Here's another perspective on Egypt's revolution from an unexpected source appearing on Fareed Zakaria's GPS:

PW
All these experts here that somehow know what Egyptians think--I don't know what Egyptians think! I didn't see much evidence of people in the streets of Cairo saying "Death to America" or "Allahu'akbar," but what I did see was a lot of young Egyptians with "Facebook" painted on their foreheads.

FZ
[...] The Israelis [...] seem to have deep Mubarak nostalgia.

PW
It's crazy. The Israelis should welcome what's happening in Egypt, if only cynically. Instead of associating themselves with a dead, doomed regime, they should try to find allies in Egypt, and I would assume there are millions of Egyptians who do not want to restart a war with Israel.

That voice of reason belongs to Paul Wolfowitz. Long regarded as one of the architects of the Iraq invasion, his name usually uttered as one third of the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz triumvirate. He spoke of embracing the potential for democracy to emerge in the Middle East as a populist movement rather than at gunpoint, if only as the proper strategic disposition when the tipping point has already been reached.

However, Levant wants you to be afraid, very afraid, of the petro-states. And I freely admit that the OPEC nations have distorted their politics to serve their distorted oil-based economies. If Canada isn't careful, it will surely suffer the same fate.

Some say Canada has already distorted its politics, shifting its political and economic axis from Toronto--Ottawa--Montreal to Calgary--Edmonton--Fort McMurray. Calgary is the location of Stephen Harper's electoral district and home to headquarters for many of Alberta's oil patch companies. The legislature in Alberta's capital, Edmonton, regulates and grants the extraction rights for this multi-billion dollar industry, and just northeast of the city lies an extensive upgrading facility. Ft McMurray lies in the midst of the oil sands' richest deposit along the Athabasca River, and is the hub for the extraction companies operating in the region.

Calgary Edmonton Ft McMurray politicoeconomic axisWhy does Levant want you to fear the corrupt, misogynist, ethnic nationalist regimes that control access to the bulk of the world's oil supply? Because he wants to ensure the primacy of the oil sands for supplying American oil demand. Canada is now the top oil supplier to the US. But that primacy is threatened by hand-wringing over the environmental impact of extraction. Levant intends to invigorate demand and for the oil sands to keep right on producing, unabated by environmental concerns. He papers over the inefficiency, ecological damage, energy intensiveness, and socioeconomic disruption of the oil sands by calling it Ethical Oil, a phrase now embraced by Canada's fifth Environment Minister in five years, Peter Kent.

Stephen Harper's former Director of Communications, Kory Teneycke, has ensured that Ezra Levant is given a platform for his disinformation on SunTV, a new Quebecor network referred to as FOXNews North by some.

2011-02-22

Why Fair And Balanced Reporting Is Killing Modern Journalism

The Daily Show's interview with Anderson Cooper tonight had Jon Stewart and Cooper musing about Cooper's unflinching description of Mubarak's disinformation as lying, and the LA Times' James Rainey's peculiar criticism of him:

JS: Now is that maybe just a misunderstanding that you have with modern journalism? That things that are demonstrably untrue--that you should then bring on somebody--like, you say "Mubarak is lying, but we also have someone here who believes he's not, and also believes that ice cream cures cancer. So, let's have a fair discussion about it." Is that an issue?

AC: That's certainly a problem that I think journalism has a lot of, of being afraid to say that something that is demonstrably not true is not true. There are things that are facts. I'm not so sure why so many people shy away from that.

The problem with "fair and balanced" journalism is that it purports to achieve its aim by simply giving equal time to diametrically opposed viewpoints, letting the viewer sort out which is true. In fact, neither may be true: fiscal balance can only be achieved by raising taxes vs cutting spending. Or sometimes only one is true: life arose through natural selection vs intelligent design. In some cases, both can be true: to reduce crime we must improve crime detection vs rehabilitate criminals.

One pitfall of this strategy is that little effort is made by the journalist to assess the veracity of either of the viewpoints they report. They aspire only to present a clash of ideas, the more extreme the better, and the emergence of the truth from this clash is less important than boosting ratings. Reasoned moderates need not apply.

Another pitfall is that merely by lending the proponents of these polarized views a platform, the journalists lend them legitimacy. More people will believe a crazy idea if it appears on FOX News than if it doesn't. And that's precisely why FOX News exists.

Truly fair and balanced journalism weighs reportage against the truth. That exercise takes a lot more work than mere punditry. And, much to the chagrin of the right wing, "reality has a well-known liberal bias" (see 6:38).

Colbert isn't the only one who gives America "the truth, unfiltered by rational argument." FOX News adds another wrinkle: in order to balance reporting of the mainstream media, which provides a simulacrum of truth, FOX is the soapbox of the neocon, gussying up every crazy notion with stock video, beautiful blonde fembot anchors, a news ticker, and other accoutrements of serious news stations. They don't bother to present the other side of the story except to mock or discredit it.

In the end, we are left with no reliable arbiter of truth. The task is left to us to parse the truth ourselves.

2011-02-21

Harper's Rogue's Gallery

The Globe and Mail's Norman Spector (@nspector4) tweeted a photo of Paul Martin shaking hands with Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi yesterday, though it was published online a year and a half ago. An attempt to implicate the Liberal Party by association with Libya's dictator and his ruthless crackdown on recent demonstrations demanding democracy?

For kicks, I collected a Rogue's Gallery of Harper's recent associations. What does it prove? Absolutely nothing.

Harper with Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
Karzai is characterized as a paranoid kleptocrat who relies on the support of criminal warlords and the Taliban to maintain his power


Harper with Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy
Berlusconi was recently charged for paying for sex with a 17-year-old. He is 74. It is the fourteenth criminal charge of his prime ministership.


Harper with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
Netanyahu presided over Israel's invasion of Gaza in December '08 to January '09 in which approximately 1,400 fatalities were suffered by Palestinians, nearly all civilian. The invasion was triggered by haphazard rocket attacks by Hamas which caused 4 Israeli fatalities.

Harper with Pope Benedict XVI
While still a Cardinal, Ratzinger did not remove clergy who were sexually abusing children, concerned more with insulating the Church from scandal than children from harm, according to the New York Times


So, I'm curious about what Mr Spector was trying to prove with his photo. Hope he tells us.

2011-02-18

Stephen Harper: NOT Here For Canada

Stephen Harper NOT Here For Canada
“Ministers err and sometimes do things that they shouldn’t do. It is the job of the Prime Minister to send messages loud and clear that some things will not be tolerated. And under this Prime Minister, it seems that lying to other parliamentarians, fudging the truth, fudging documents, all of those are acceptable.” (Chantal H├ębert, CBC’s The National, February 17, 2011)

For backstory, see Andrew Coyne's excellent summary of Odagate, including his peculiar singling out of Michael Ignatieff as the lone, responsible critic in all of Canada. How about the 37% of Canadians that still want to vote for these shysters?

Former Canadian Ambassador Says Canada Risks Becoming "An Actor Of Inconsequence"


The following is an unofficial transcript CBC Radio's, the Current, from a broadcast aired February 14, 2011. Anna Maria Tremonti interviews Michael Bell. Bell served as the Canadian ambassador to Egypt in the mid-1990’s, and is the former ambassador to Jordan and Israel. He is currently a Senior Scholar on International Diplomacy at the University of Windsor.

AMT
What do you think of the Canadian response to Egypt?

MB
Well, I really think it was lacking. […] There’s no point, in my view, of being on the wrong side of history here. The only reason I can think of as to why the government would have wanted to do this was for the purposes of supporting Israel for domestic constituencies. So it’s kind of ironic that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet would be very close-mouthed about what was going on, not wanting to influence things one way or the other, necessarily. I’m sure they would have preferred that Mubarak stayed, but they recognized how sensitive this was. Whereas it seems to me–particularly in [Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence] Cannon’s earlier statements–that we were putting up a challenge, saying "You may change your government, but we won’t have normal relations with you unless you commit to a certain style of relationship with Israel." I think that was really premature and unnecessary.

AMT
If you were the ambassador now, what would you be suggesting the Canadian government do?

MB
Well, I’m not sure, since the Canadian government doesn’t seem to listen to its ambassadors very much anymore. But I would be suggesting that we look very carefully at the possibility of substantial involvement in assisting Egyptians–assisting any new government–in remaking the country. In other words, in institution building, in the practice of pluralism, in economic reform…

AMT
What risks are [sic] Canada taking if it doesn’t take on that role?

MB
Well, we marginalize ourselves. We become an actor of inconsequence. And I think that would be a pity. Ultimately, to the average Canadian on the street here, that may not matter. But I think Canadians generally, in a broad sort of way, take pride–or have taken pride–in the way their country is looked at internationally. Here we have a chance to make a difference. We have lots of experience in Egypt. Until very recently, we have had very good relations with Egyptians. The government’s current policy in Israel and what have you will make that a bit more challenging, but I’m sure that could be overcome.

2011-02-14

Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro

Still on youtube, til the lawyers get at it.



UPDATE: too late.
Try this one instead:



UPDATE: too late.
How about this one?