Category Archives: News > National

Followup: Charlottesville

Quick update to Tuesday’s sto­ry …

It was wide­ly observed by atten­dees and report­ed in the media that Neo-Nazis arrived armed and well-pre­pared at the ral­ly in Char­lottesville, then moved in lat­er to attack counter-pro­tes­tors with bats and oth­er weapons as police took a hands-off approach to a good por­tion of the vio­lence.

Giv­en that author­i­ties have his­tor­i­cal­ly been quick to respond with over­whelm­ing shows of force in the instances of the DAPL Water Pro­tec­tors protests and the Black Lives Mat­ter protests, it came across as noth­ing short of infu­ri­at­ing when a major show of force was not tak­en dur­ing the Char­lottesville riots in the midst of a far more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.

In an arti­cle that ProP­ub­li­ca released over the week­end, reporter and wit­ness A.C. Thomp­son not­ed, “State police and Nation­al Guards­men watched pas­sive­ly for hours as self-pro­claimed Nazis engaged in street bat­tles with counter-pro­test­ers.” He then went on to name the main orga­ni­za­tion­al and tac­ti­cal fail­ures at the event and describe them in nau­se­at­ing detail.

I’m glad oth­ers point­ed me to this arti­cle, as I’d missed it in the ini­tial media shuf­fle that took place when the riots began, so thank you for that.

Now, it’s only been a few days since the riots, and it can take time to con­duct a for­mal inquiry into the police response, but here’s a spoil­er: when author­i­ties appar­ent­ly had sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness “for a long time” and went on to make errors such as fail­ing to sep­a­rate camps of pro­tes­tors and going easy on Nazis who phys­i­cal­ly attacked offi­cers, the optics of the over­all sit­u­a­tion don’t look good. As Thomp­son fur­ther notes, “Sev­er­al times, a group of assault-rifle-tot­ing mili­tia mem­bers from New York […] played a more active role in break­ing up fights,” after riot police failed to ful­ly inter­vene.

I’m not sure how to respond to that, besides not­ing the same con­clu­sion oth­ers have acknowl­edged many times: white priv­i­lege, it’s a thing.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the fact police didn’t mount a stronger response to stop the fight­ing and the way they failed to arrest more of those involved in the fight­ing are things that work to the advan­tage of far-right insti­ga­tors, who love the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be cast as vic­tims of left­ist vio­lence.

In oth­er words, let­ting Nazis slug it out with Antifa for a few days isn’t just a shit­ty idea, it’s actu­al­ly a recruit­ment win for Nazis and their ilk.

I’m sure this isn’t what author­i­ties want­ed, but regard­less of whether it arose through acci­den­tal blun­der or planned non-inter­ven­tion, that’s now the real­i­ty they’re going to have to deal with, as will many oth­er cities who are cur­rent­ly fac­ing spin-off ral­lies in the wake of the mess in Char­lottesville.

It will be inter­est­ing to read the results of a for­mal inquiry, if one is ever con­duct­ed into these mat­ters.

On Hate: Charlottesville And Beyond

Dur­ing one more in a long line of racist clash­es in the Unit­ed States, one pro­test­er was mur­dered and at least nine­teen oth­ers injured after a Neo-Nazi from Ida­ho attend­ed the “Unite the Right” ral­ly at Char­lottesville, VA, and pro­ceed­ed to dri­ve his car into the crowd.

A run­ning theme with white nation­al­ists, Neo-Nazis, and oth­er hate groups is they’ve tried repeat­ed­ly to avoid the name they’ve earned for them­selves while still try­ing to per­pe­trate all of the moral and crim­i­nal wrongs his­tor­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with their move­ments. To vary­ing degrees, they will advo­cate fer­vent­ly in pub­lic spaces for the advance­ment of racism, social seg­re­ga­tion, racist pro­pa­gan­da, hate speech, acts of vio­lence, and even mur­der, but if recent news cov­er­age is any indi­ca­tion, many seem unable to stom­ach the idea of get­ting caught or called out for their dis­gust­ing behav­iour.

This, in and of itself, speaks vol­umes.

Remem­ber — if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then racist apol­o­gists be damned, it’s a fuckin’ duck.

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The Ongoing US Trump/Russia Media Flap

Here’s a fair­ly lev­el-head­ed expla­na­tion of the Trump/Russia cov­er­age that’s par­a­lyzed the news cycle for the past few months, cour­tesy of Michael Tracey from TYT:

It’s impor­tant to note that whether or not the Trump/Russia sto­ry has legs, we’ve long since passed the point where irra­tional nar­ra­tives became ends and pur­suits in them­selves, and peo­ple have large­ly cho­sen to see what they want to see come out of this sit­u­a­tion.

If there’s one thing 2016 taught us, it’s that the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal sys­tem and elec­torate are, large­ly, no longer ratio­nal actors. They’re in a bad place and they want to burn some­thing down because they’re under­stand­ably pissed off at the sta­tus quo. The oth­er side of the coin is most aren’t ter­ri­bly con­cerned with how they go about doing it, or what cor­ners they cut when giv­ing it thought.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Until now, I haven’t been report­ing on the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States because news on the sub­ject has been ubiq­ui­tous, and many tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als and media out­lets have been call­ing the sit­u­a­tion for what it is.

Today, this changes. I don’t feel it’s appro­pri­ate for a per­son to stand on the side­lines and wait for oth­ers to do one’s duty in the midst of a mat­ter this impor­tant. I’ve writ­ten on Cana­di­an pol­i­tics on this site in the past, and arguably US pol­i­tics can have just as sig­nif­i­cant an impact on any­one liv­ing north of the bor­der due to wide­spread export of Amer­i­can cul­ture, val­ues, and geopo­lit­i­cal influ­ence.

At the same time, lin­ger­ing con­cerns remain on the polit­i­cal and finan­cial affil­i­a­tions of some media out­lets, the impact of com­pro­mised jour­nal­ism in an infor­ma­tion dri­ven soci­ety, and the pit­falls of the rat­ings-dri­ven sys­tem hold­ing sway on most TV-based media deliv­ery plat­forms which tends to cap­i­tal­ize on dra­ma and suf­fer­ing while often fail­ing to deliv­er con­text and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive.

While there are many media groups who are doing high qual­i­ty work and pro­vid­ing in-depth jour­nal­ism, the mixed nature of tech­nol­o­gy and its use (or mis­use at times) means it’s wise to ensure infor­ma­tion is reg­u­lar­ly fact-checked and fur­ther research is con­duct­ed to under­stand con­text and estab­lish a broad­er per­spec­tive of cur­rent events.

The unfor­tu­nate thing about pol­i­tics is that despite hav­ing great impor­tance in dai­ly life, it fre­quent­ly tends to be treat­ed as a spec­ta­tor sport. Media com­pa­nies run round-the-clock news cycles and make mon­ey from it, peo­ple talk to fam­i­ly and friends about what’s going on in the world, some offices run pools on what they think the next big change might be, but how many of us are actu­al­ly will­ing to roll up our sleeves and get involved?

When was the last time you talked with a Con­gressper­son, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, or MLA? Have you ever read leg­isla­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion to learn the issues? When was the last time you fact checked a polit­i­cal state­ment? Ever been part of a pub­lic com­men­tary hear­ing? Heck, when was the last time you vot­ed?

Here’s why polit­i­cal engage­ment mat­ters:

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The Sea-Change at YouTube

It’s time we had a con­ver­sa­tion about cen­sor­ship.

Recent­ly a mass exo­dus of major adver­tis­ers occurred at YouTube, which has since caused the ecosys­tem of that plat­form to fall into dis­ar­ray. As not­ed by both YouTu­bers and main­stream media out­lets alike, the pre­cip­i­tat­ing event seems to have been a small num­ber of gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate ads appear­ing along­side racist hate videos on a very small num­ber of chan­nels. The issue was brought to the atten­tion of gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions in a high pro­file man­ner, and from there, indus­try brass decid­ed to pull all adver­tis­ing off the YouTube plat­form, cit­ing the desire to not be asso­ci­at­ed with harm­ful con­tent.

As var­i­ous media out­lets have report­ed, it’s an odd nar­ra­tive to fol­low giv­en the fact this prob­lem has exist­ed for many, many years. Until the mid­dle of 2016, it’s been an issue that’s rarely made the news. Fur­ther­more, despite the his­tor­i­cal efforts made by media com­pa­nies (espe­cial­ly Google) to stamp out racist and oth­er extrem­ist con­tent, the issue remains dif­fi­cult to address owing to the sheer vol­ume of data being uploaded at any giv­en time.

In Youtube’s case, at least 300 hours of video is uploaded each minute (though some put that num­ber as high as 400 hrs/min). If we go with the low­est esti­mate, that’s still 18,000 hours of video in an hour, 432,000 hours of video in a day, or 12.96 mil­lion hours in a 30-day month. These num­bers are def­i­nite­ly not in Google’s favour, and despite valiant efforts to screen user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, Inter­net media com­pa­nies as a rule tend to be faced with a nev­er-end­ing, uphill bat­tle when it comes to man­ag­ing these enor­mous vol­umes of user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent.

Sim­i­lar to the ongo­ing sit­u­a­tion at Face­book (and its impli­ca­tions for that network’s 1.2 bil­lion dai­ly users), the logis­tics are impos­si­ble when it comes to set­ting up a pure­ly human inter­ven­tion as a solu­tion to harm­ful con­tent. There’s no prac­ti­cal way for Google, or any ultra high vol­ume media com­pa­ny for that mat­ter, to retain suf­fi­cient human staffing in order to indi­vid­u­al­ly review each piece of user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent that comes in the door. As a result, indus­try stan­dard prac­tices include the use of soft­ware algo­rithms as gate­keep­ers and the automa­tion of most issues relat­ed to pol­i­cy enforce­ment and con­tent man­age­ment.

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On the Death of David Bowie

There’s “pass­ing away with style,” and then there’s “I’m going for one more encore, and I’m not just going to love this, I’m gonna strike the bold­est dot imag­in­able on the excla­ma­tion point that is my life.”

When I heard about David Bowie’s death, I part­ly expect­ed to hear about him doing some­thing notable or dra­mat­ic on the way out — ain’t that just like him.

The end is near, the odds are tan­gi­bly impos­si­ble, and even as the world comes crash­ing down around his ears, here he is on set cast­ing a music video, singing with that same sweet, sil­very pas­sion that’s defined so many of his life’s oth­er accom­plish­ments.

Not florid prose nor mourn­ful dis­course nor sim­ple won­der can prop­er­ly describe the inspi­ra­tion and beau­ty in such a ges­ture. Lyrics here. Links to the Cana­di­an and Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­eties as well, because why not con­tribute?

Now, if you haven’t clicked PLAY on the above video, you’d bet­ter turn off every­thing else around you right now, and load it up.

And don’t for­get the encore …

May you be well remem­bered, and remem­bered well in all the ages to come.

With Liberty and Firearms for All

One of the issues that’s come up repeat­ed­ly in con­tem­po­rary US pol­i­tics is the idea that the 2nd Amend­ment con­veys an individual’s right to obtain, pos­sess, and open­ly car­ry firearms.

The realm of law and order is not unlike the fash­ion world in that over time, new trends emerge and fresh items of inter­est arise, while estab­lished trends can be played down or may fall out of favour entire­ly. Inter­pre­ta­tion mat­ters most, and that inter­pre­ta­tion is gen­er­al­ly sub­ject to the lin­guis­tic evo­lu­tion and soci­etal atti­tudes of the peri­od. In the case of the 2nd Amend­ment, the leg­is­la­tion has been furi­ous­ly debat­ed in a mod­ern set­ting as to the mer­its of its gram­mat­i­cal struc­ture and mean­ing, oth­er his­tor­i­cal prece­dents, and dif­fer­ences between the orig­i­nal and rat­i­fied ver­sions.

The recent push for wide­spread ‘free­dom’ enshrined in law as per­mit­ting indi­vid­ual gun own­er­ship wasn’t always so. Up to the turn of the 21st cen­tu­ry, it was wide­ly accept­ed by many (even con­ser­v­a­tive Chief Jus­tice War­ren Berg­er) that an indi­vid­ual right to bear arms wasn’t a thing. Many con­ser­v­a­tives at the time car­ried the same torch and stood in oppo­si­tion to what they believed was a sil­ly, if not fair­ly haz­ardous, idea.

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Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

Dur­ing 2015, Cana­da took a con­scious, intro­spec­tive turn toward a more pro­gres­sive jour­ney as vot­ers elect­ed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. Since then, we’ve been mak­ing inroads on a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the atti­tudes of the pri­or admin­is­tra­tion and stay­ing most­ly true to this. While there remains a lot of heavy lift­ing to do in cor­rect­ing the anti-progress lega­cy of Stephen Harp­er, we’re on the road to recov­ery. There remains a cer­tain faith in gov­ern­ment, such that we’ve sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost­ed vot­er turnout. That in itself speaks vol­umes.

The change of admin­is­tra­tion brought with it some very pub­lic moments, like the new equal­i­ty cab­i­net, the rise of an abo­rig­i­nal chief as Jus­tice Min­is­ter, and the appoint­ment of an inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed war hero as Defense Min­is­ter.

While these changes are in all respects wel­come, and in most cas­es long past due, it’s the sub­tle stuff we don’t see going on behind the scenes day-to-day which con­tributes just as much if not more to the shap­ing of our char­ac­ter as a cul­ture of many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. The way our politi­cians behave toward one anoth­er, their inter­ac­tion with the peo­ple, their will­ing­ness to cham­pi­on progress and edu­ca­tion, their atti­tudes toward strangers, and their com­pas­sion towards the ‘oth­er’ — all of these are the mea­sure of a politi­cian whether that indi­vid­ual is with­in view of the press or not. One thing I found reas­sur­ing about this past elec­tion was the con­scious rejec­tion of divi­sive pol­i­tics by the Cana­di­an peo­ple. What we have right now is not per­fect by any mea­sure, but it’s a lot bet­ter than the alter­na­tive might have been.

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Keeping Our Perspective on War

When one takes a bird’s-eye view of bat­tle and civil­ian casu­al­ties by the num­bers, the results as shown above are shock­ing.

All of this helps one main­tain a healthy sense of per­spec­tive, and reveals that not only do present-day news chan­nels and dis­trib­u­tors exag­ger­ate the fre­quen­cy and feroc­i­ty of con­flicts on a reg­u­lar basis by flood­ing the pub­lic space with over-report­ing and embell­ish­ments, but we almost invari­ably are fed infor­ma­tion to arrive at a mind­set that makes us for­get on a dai­ly basis the major pow­ers have not fought one anoth­er since World War 2, and today’s war deaths (mil­i­tary and civil­ian) are minus­cule in com­par­i­son.

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Financial Corruption and Value Dilution in Higher Education

I’d been brows­ing through the news recent­ly for a col­lec­tion of arti­cles to share on a rather broad top­ic: the influ­ence of mon­eyed inter­ests on the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem. This is a long­stand­ing inter­est of mine, hav­ing grown up dur­ing a time when a year in uni­ver­si­ty cost about $1,200, and hav­ing watched tuition rates and liv­ing costs bal­loon expo­nen­tial­ly ever since. But what shocked me into get­ting the links to this post up that much soon­er is this emerg­ing sto­ry from the US:

The Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion on Tues­day said it brought fraud charges against ITT Edu­ca­tion­al Ser­vices Inc. and two of its top exec­u­tives, alleg­ing they mis­led investors about the loom­ing finan­cial impact of two bad­ly-per­form­ing stu­dent-loan pro­grams on the for-prof­it edu­ca­tor. […] ITT formed the stu­dent-loan pro­grams to pro­vide off-bal­ance-sheet loans for ITT’s stu­dents in the wake of the finan­cial cri­sis, when the mar­ket for pri­vate stu­dent loans dried up and for-prof­it schools cre­at­ed new ways to help stu­dents pay their tuition bills.”

source: Wall Street Jour­nal

Let us fur­ther expand on the dia­logue sur­round­ing mon­ey in edu­ca­tion for the ben­e­fit of those who haven’t been as immersed in the debate:

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