"The Pulse of Canada "



Shining a light

Posted April 7, 2015 by Norm Farrell
Glenn Greenwald,
“A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts.”

A BC political journalist,

“For sums paid to my agents at the National Speakers Bureau, you can engage my undivided attention and I will shine a light for you, enabling your organization to deal successfully with those who wield the greatest power. I won’t inform the public about acts done in the dark.”

From the Code of Ethics of the 106-year-old Society of Professional Journalists:

Journalists should:
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.

An example of “civil dialogue” by BC journalists:

An old favourite here: Still ROTFL.

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Racism taints Kwikwetlem reporting

Posted April 4, 2015 by Norm Farrell
This week we learned that Ron Giesbrect has been re-elected as Chief of the Kiwkwetlem band. The following was first published here October 8, 2014

My initial reaction to reports of compensation paid Kwikwetlem First Nations Chief Ron Giesbrecht was wrong. Until details were gained, I assumed he had abused public funds. That reaction was encouraged by cursory media reports that were shaped by common prejudices, reinforced by what lawyer Joseph Fearon calls an “example of the ‘corrupt chief’ narrative.”

In Fearon’s excellent article, he explains the reality of income tax exemptions, which are tied to other issues and restrictions,

“For the most part, the tax exemptions in the Indian Act are also not a result of (fair or otherwise) bargaining between Canada and First Nations. In fact, the Indian Act is a piece of legislation that was imposed on First Nations people by the Canadian government.”

In late July, federal Conservatives began posting audited financial statements of Canada’s First Nations. Within hours, news organizations were churning out revelations that were short on detail but loaded with indignation. National Post immediately had writers Paula Simons, Sammy Hude and John Ivison on the subject. Every Canadian media organization was involved; a Google search [Kwikwetlem “Ron Giesbrecht” pay] showed 34,000 results.

The Kwikwetlem pay story was especially important news at Postmedia, with additional reports and commentaries by Peter O’Neil, Rob Shaw, Jennifer Hough, Jeremy Deutsch, Tamsyn Burgmann, Mark Milke, Kelly Sinoski, Chad Skelton, Chris Selley, Tristin Hopper, Jordan Bateman, Derek Fildebrand and others. Thousands of reader comments gave emphasis to the outrage, including many rants coloured by racism and ignorance.

I found that strange because while preparing a recent article about Postmedia, I discovered the failing company’s CEO, Paul Godfrey, scored a 50% raise in 2013, bringing his compensation to $1.7 million. He got rewarded lavishly – a term Postmedia used in stories described above – even though his company has suffered losses in every year of its existence, has failed regularly to meet financial objectives promised investors and is sustained only by selling its assets, the supply of which will soon be exhausted. It is the corporate equivalent of an arthritis sufferer amputating limbs to lessen pain.

So, did Paul Godfrey’s $600,000 raise draw attention from a platoon of Postmedia writers? Well, not quite. The only report about the boss’s compensation was an inaccurate one that disclosed nothing of a massive raise and just part of his pay package. The equivalent would have been to report that Ron Giesbrecht earned $84,800 as Chief and Development Officer. In the Financial Post, Christine Dobby wrote,

“Postmedia said Friday it extended Mr. Godfrey’s contract, which includes a base salary of $950,000, until the end of 2016.”

Ron Giesbrecht was rewarded by a percentage of gross profits on development projects that allowed the band to increase its revenues by $10 million or 455% in a single year. The money gained is controlled by the Kwikwetlem Council and is available for whatever purposes the band members decide.

Despite what has been reported by media, the Chief did not, by himself, make a deal for himself. The vast majority of his compensation was not from funds provided by governments for capital projects, education, social or other programs. It came from commercial arrangements, negotiated with outside parties who found the agreements satisfactory for their purposes. Were it not for bigotry, the business press (and the CTF) would be applauding Kwikwetlem FN profitability and movement toward self-sufficiency.

Undoubtedly, many organizations make arrangements to share profits earned by their enterprises. As noted above, some provide rewards even in the absence of profits. Arrangements may be lavish; they may be austere, but in nearly every case not involving indigenous people, those are the affairs of organization managers and stakeholders. If the deal between the Kwikwetlem band members and their Chief was properly authorized and documented, there should be little more to say. According to the audit report prepared by independent professional accountants, there were no problems:

“The Kwikwetlem First Nation maintains systems of internal accounting and administrative controls of high quality, consistent with reasonable cost. Such systems are designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial information is relevant, reliable and accurate and the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s assets are appropriately accounted for and adequately safeguarded.

“The Kwikwetlem First Nation Council is responsible for ensuring that management fulfills its responsibilities for financial reporting and is ultimately responsible for reviewing and approving the financial statements.

“The Council meets periodically with management, as well as the external auditors, to discuss internal controls over the financial reporting process, auditing matters and financial reporting issues, to satisfy themselves that each party is properly discharging their responsibilities, and to review the financial statements and the external auditors report.”

Plutocrats and their media supplicants may be uncomfortable with shifting away from paternalistic treatment of First Nations and making fair resolutions for the harms caused. However, those are realities of 2014. The constitution and the Supreme Court of Canada dictate changed attitudes and a new style of cooperation.

Guess which person drew media outrage?

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Chomsky on media

Posted March 30, 2015 by Norm Farrell
What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream, Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, October, 1997

Part of the reason why I write about the media is because I am interested in the whole intellectual culture, and the part of it that is easiest to study is the media. It comes out every day. You can do a systematic investigation. You can compare yesterday’s version to today’s version. There is a lot of evidence about what’s played up and what isn’t and the way things are structured.

…The real mass media are basically trying to divert people. Let them do something else, but don’t bother us (us being the people who run the show). Let them get interested in professional sports, for example. Let everybody be crazed about professional sports or sex scandals or the personalities and their problems or something like that. Anything, as long as it isn’t serious. Of course, the serious stuff is for the big guys. “We” take care of that.

What are the elite media, the agenda-setting ones? The New York Times and CBS, for example. Well, first of all, they are major, very profitable, corporations. Furthermore, most of them are either linked to, or outright owned by, much bigger corporations, like General Electric, Westinghouse, and so on. They are way up at the top of the power structure of the private economy which is a very tyrannical structure. Corporations are basically tyrannies, hierarchic, controled from above. If you don’t like what they are doing you get out. The major media are just part of that system.

What about their institutional setting? Well, that’s more or less the same. What they interact with and relate to is other major power centers—the government, other corporations, or the universities. Because the media are a doctrinal system they interact closely with the universities. Say you are a reporter writing a story on Southeast Asia or Africa, or something like that. You’re supposed to go over to the big university and find an expert who will tell you what to write, or else go to one of the foundations, like Brookings Institute or American Enterprise Institute and they will give you the words to say. These outside institutions are very similar to the media.

The universities, for example, are not independent institutions. There may be independent people scattered around in them but that is true of the media as well. And it’s generally true of corporations. It’s true of Fascist states, for that matter. But the institution itself is parasitic. It’s dependent on outside sources of support and those sources of support, such as private wealth, big corporations with grants, and the government (which is so closely interlinked with corporate power you can barely distinguish them), they are essentially what the universities are in the middle of.

People within them, who don’t adjust to that structure, who don’t accept it and internalize it (you can’t really work with it unless you internalize it, and believe it); people who don’t do that are likely to be weeded out along the way, starting from kindergarten, all the way up. There are all sorts of filtering devices to get rid of people who are a pain in the neck and think independently. Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is very highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who really honestly (they aren’t lying) internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society. The elite institutions like, say, Harvard and Princeton and the small upscale colleges, for example, are very much geared to socialization. If you go through a place like Harvard, most of what goes on there is teaching manners; how to behave like a member of the upper classes, how to think the right thoughts, and so on.

If you’ve read George Orwell’s Animal Farm which he wrote in the mid-1940s, it was a satire on the Soviet Union, a totalitarian state. It was a big hit. Everybody loved it. Turns out he wrote an introduction to Animal Farm which was suppressed. It only appeared 30 years later. Someone had found it in his papers. The introduction to Animal Farm was about “Literary Censorship in England” and what it says is that obviously this book is ridiculing the Soviet Union and its totalitarian structure. But he said England is not all that different. We don’t have the KGB on our neck, but the end result comes out pretty much the same. People who have independent ideas or who think the wrong kind of thoughts are cut out.

He talks a little, only two sentences, about the institutional structure. He asks, why does this happen? Well, one, because the press is owned by wealthy people who only want certain things to reach the public. The other thing he says is that when you go through the elite education system, when you go through the proper schools in Oxford, you learn that there are certain things it’s not proper to say and there are certain thoughts that are not proper to have. That is the socialization role of elite institutions and if you don’t adapt to that, you’re usually out. Those two sentences more or less tell the story.

When you critique the media and you say, look, here is what Anthony Lewis or somebody else is writing, they get very angry. They say, quite correctly, “nobody ever tells me what to write. I write anything I like. All this business about pressures and constraints is nonsense because I’m never under any pressure.” Which is completely true, but the point is that they wouldn’t be there unless they had already demonstrated that nobody has to tell them what to write because they are going say the right thing. If they had started off at the Metro desk, or something, and had pursued the wrong kind of stories, they never would have made it to the positions where they can now say anything they like. The same is mostly true of university faculty in the more ideological disciplines. They have been through the socialization system.

Okay, you look at the structure of that whole system. What do you expect the news to be like? Well, it’s pretty obvious. Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations. In the case of the elite media, it’s big businesses.

…They all say (I’m partly quoting), the general population is “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” We have to keep them out of the public arena because they are too stupid and if they get involved they will just make trouble. Their job is to be “spectators,” not “participants.”

The complete article is linked HERE.

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The moderating effects of moderation

Posted March 28, 2015 by Norm Farrell
RossK writes about the Pro-Media Club and its implicit rulebook, which includes a requirement that no one reprove a colleague, even if overstatements and misrepresentations morph into purposeful lies. The blog world doesn’t follow those guidelines so we can point at any load of old codswallop encountered. In coverage of the Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite, there is plenty, particularly from alternative media that claim to publish content less influenced by special interests. Unfortunately, the interests are still special, just different.

Although a photo of the writer attached to the article gives a hint of bias, there is no indication Paul Hillsdon’s work is a paid advertisement. His Vancouver Observer “Special Report” presents implications of a “NO” vote. These are but a few:

  1. TransLink’s …communications to the outside world effectively eliminated.
  2. The Pattullo Bridge will be delayed for three more years, but eventually begin construction under a tolling regime.
  3. Broadway [SkyTrain subway extension] will become the next priority. …The project will start moving forward in 2020.
  4. Governance, administration or corporate structure will not see any major changes.
  5. The TransLink-owned and operated subsidiary Coast Mountain Bus company will be dissolved.
  6. To address issues of governance and regional equity, TransLink is dissolved.
  7. TransLink will make strategic investments in property that produces dividends for the agency.

This “special report” is not worth special attention but, if TransLink were to end communications to the outside world, would tens of millions of dollars paid to friendly communication contractors also end? Would TransLink continue to publish bus schedules and explain SkyTrain stoppages? Would $110,000 a year fare checkers be allowed to talk with transit riders?

#2 claims Pattullo bridge tolls would result if the sales tax is defeated, which leaves one to assume their absence if the vote is yes. In fact, TransLink intends to collect tolls on the new crossing regardless of the vote result.

In #3, The Observer reports the Broadway subway will not move forward until 2020. However, TransLink has already spent millions on design and property acquisitions for the SkyTrain extension. It’s construction is, shall we say, on track.

#4 is in direct conflict with #5 and #6. As Stephen Leacock might have written: The yes vote proponent flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.

The final item references the possibility of financing transit improvements through “value capture” by securing a portion of incremental values gained by commercial properties after installation of mass transit facilities. However, such a policy is not dependent on a regional sales tax vote, it needs elected governments to alter taxation philosophies. As the yes side claims elsewhere, this issue is not on the ballot.

Top Five Myths about the Transit Vote by David P. Ball is an improvement but The Tyee allows partisan enthusiasm to get in the way of accuracy. Ball goes wrong in his second sentence. He writes the vote is “on whether to boost sales taxes by 0.5 per cent to add $7.7 billion to the transit and transportation budget.”

The proposed sales tax would not guarantee that sum is added to TransLink’s budgets. By the company’s own reckoning, it would raise $250 million in the first year, which wouldn’t pay 3/4 of the annual interest on $7.7 billion, if TransLink can borrow at the province’s rate of 4.45% (FY 2014) and not the 6.7% paid on Golden Ears Bridge financing (Note 8, 2013 audited financials).

Clearly, the addition of almost $8 billion to the transit and transportation budget is more dependent on decisions of senior government than the choice of Metro Vancouver voters to accept or reject a new type of taxation dedicated to TransLink. Of course, there is also the possibility that the 0.5% regional sales tax would elevate to 1.75%, which is sufficient to repay $7.5 billion over 20 years.

Ball writes that myth #2 is “TransLink tax grab will cost households $258 per year.” The Mayors’ Council claims an average cost of 35¢ a day, or $128 a year. Of course, any tax that imposes a $250 million burden on roughly a million homes, needs a little mathematical manipulation to fit the Mayors’ assertion. I’ve seen convoluted calculations and explanations but none that fit this OED definition of an average:

The value obtained by dividing the sum of several quantities by their number.

Yes, some households will pay more, some will pay less, but the average is not $128. The myth listed by David Ball should have referenced the average cost propagated by the YES side.

The Tyee reports the third myth is “The debate is between the political left versus right.” No knowledgeable person has made that statement and suggesting existence of this fallacy undermines the writer’s credibility. A more accurate argument would be that the debate is between the publicly paid entitled (like TransLink’s countless media contractors) and the people who do the paying.

Ball says it is a myth that TransLink’s high CEO salaries are wasteful and offers a defence that “that other government agencies pay high salaries to their top executives.” That latter assertion is true but it is like arguing that I should be able to drive 80 km/hr through a school zone because drivers elsewhere are driving even faster. In reality, many people have complained about high TransLink salaries, but not just the amounts paid their imperfect CEOs. Excessive salaries in the corner offices create a demand elsewhere in an organization and remove the moderating effects of moderation.

Responding to financial pressures, one very large private company had this response:

Samsung Group said Friday it will freeze wages for about 2,000 executives next year as Korea’s largest conglomerate tightens its belt.

…In order to reduce costs, Samsung Electronics in July ordered executives to travel in economy class for flights under 10 hours and reduced allowances for business trips. It also encouraged employees to take vacations instead of receiving pay for unused time off.

As for the group, it has taken other cost-saving measures, such as reducing the number of executive promotions, restructuring business divisions and redistributing employees…

By the way, annual TransLink revenues are about 1/2 of 1% of Samsung revenues. The Korean company is a sophisticated conglomerate with a record of steady growth and substantial profitability. It also has a record of paying its top executives a small fraction of what individual executives make at North America’s largest companies.

At the North Shore News, former full-time journalist Trevor Lautens writes about transit tax proponents, saying they:

Overwhelmingly have this in common. They are politicians, downtown business people, high bureaucrats, self-important media types, charity moguls, and the delivery people who supply and sustain them. They write off their driving and parking costs. They don’t take public transit themselves. Never will. They want other people to take it.

At the same newspaper, estimable columnist Elizabeth James concludes,

TransLink, the agency that believes your pocket is the gift that keeps on giving — whether or not you are given good value for your money in return.

At The Common Sense Canadian, Rafe Mair makes an argument for a yes vote but commenter Evil Eye provides a response that is worth reading. It includes this:

To exaggerate the number of people taking transit, TransLink uses the number of times that transit-users board or alight transit. TransLink in effect creates clones to inflate ridership on transit and to make certain key statistics for transit (tax subsidies) by TransLink seem less bad than they really are:

“However, TransLink is unique in using that number — both Toronto and Seattle use “revenue passengers.” Seattle doesn’t even make “boarded passenger” counts public. Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC, questioned why TransLink would use a different term. He said… TransLink’s rationale is illogical.

“If you are using different measures, people will naturally feel that you’re doing it because you don’t want to be compared,” he said. “If you don’t want to be compared it’s because you don’t think you’ll measure up.”

TransLink is dishonest, rotten to the core and my gorge rises if even I contemplate a YES vote!

Transit Referendum and Congestion

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Exclusive photo’s of Jian Ghomeshi on a date!

Posted October 31, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Dear Readers: Once again, ya saw it here first! After a great amount of trouble and expense, the Perspective Naked News staff , a branch of the Perspective Research Department, has managed to obtain this clip of Jian Ghomeshi on a recent date with one of the women now accusing him of assault. As you […]

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Allan's Perspective

Any Ebola yours, is an Ebola mine!

Posted October 28, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Dear Readers: Since your ever faithful reporter comments on matters great and small in the world of religion, we also get a lot of letters trying to set us straight on some issues, and clarifying others! One of the most disturbing pieces of mail we have received in quite some time came from a far […]

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Allan's Perspective

Blowin in the wind!

Posted November 7, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Well folks, it’s official, wind turbines do NOT cause illness, or even ill effects, in people. A year long study of over 1000 people has positively shown that wind turbines do not cause  bad things to good people. Not through noise, or magnetic fields, or increased UFO traffic, or disruption of the O-zone, negative energy, […]

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Cracks in credibility remain

Posted April 9, 2015 by Norm Farrell

Two days ago, retired journalist and TV newsman Harvey Oberfeld headlined, “Bell Media President Brings Shame to CTV.”Today, the company reacted to disclosures Bell Media President Kevin Crull interfered with news coverage that affected Bell’s business…

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