Saturday, June 04, 2005

Media Interference

Why on earth would any responsible news agency hire 'independent expert' analysis of tapes that could be evidence in a criminal investigation?

Why, when the analysis is completed, would that news agency release the results to the public as though the conclusions drawn were fact?

By now, you've all read or heard this (edited):

Experts say Grewal tapes were altered
Last Updated Thu, 02 Jun 2005 22:00:47 EDT CBC News
Two audio experts have independently concluded that the secret recordings made by MP Gurmant Grewal were edited.

John Dooher, a forensic audio engineer hired by CBC News, said Thursday there is a "crude" edit and something "amiss" about a section of tapes made by the B.C. member of Parliament.

His conclusions are supported by Stevan Pausak, one of Canada's leading forensic-sound analysts. Pausak was asked by Canadian Press to carry out a similar examination. He said one of the tapes has an abnormal break, indicting (sic) a section may have been cut out.

The CBC does not indicate in their report that their experts weren't examining the original tapes, and the omission of that significant information, leads the reader to assume it is the originals which were examined. Canadian Press to their credit, notes (late in the piece) the Conservative statement of the same day, that the gaps were made in transfering the originals to CDs for use on the Internet.

More than being an oversight, CBCs exclusion of this detail in their initial reporting of this, is extremely prejudicial.

At the time of their news reports, the original tapes had been handed over to the RCMP, but there are no reports that the RCMP ever asked for the tapes. Questions abound as to why the Conservatives did not hand over the tapes from the beginning, but I wonder where was the initiative of the RCMP? Within days of the existence of these tapes being made public, the RCMP was formally asked by the Bloc and the NDP to launch an investigation. They were aware of the tapes, but never asked for them. Although the RCMP is now 'reviewing' the tapes, there is still no formal investigation.

Conjecture over the authenticity and integrity of the tapes is spin when it comes from the Liberals. It is expected that they will vigourously defend themselves. But when the CBC or Canadian Press reach beyond their scope as reporting agencies to begin acting as investigators -- prematurely drawing conclusions where none can credibly be drawn -- and announcing those conclusions as truth -- they cease to be reporters of news and become tools for the Liberal government.

This whole story about 'tape doctoring' began with Liberal accusations, and rather than let the RCMP do their job, two media outlets (with ties to the government) couldn't wait. Instead, they took it upon themselves to ascertain the 'truth' -- only it is not truth they have provided -- simply speculation, dressed up to look important.

With all the gnashing of teeth over the importance of waiting for the truth with Gomery -- one would wonder why these two agencies would jump the gun rather than waiting for the RCMP and/or the Ethics Commissioner to do their jobs.

I had always believed that journalists were in the business of reporting the news, not making it -- and certainly not making it up.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Tale of the (Mishandled) Tapes

The Conservatives dropped the ball on this one.

I don't believe the tapes were doctored, but the suspicion is out there and a lot of people have already started with the 'a-ha!s'.

Libs, who have been largely silent until now, are posting comments all over the place suggesting Harper and Grewal resign because of the 'disgrace' they have brought to the political process. And people who are not inclined to care about politics either way, just find this very boring or mildly amusing -- but the accusations of tape-tampering will linger in their psyches. Even when the Conservatives are cleared, it's like when a man is accused of rape and subsequently exhonerated -- there are people who will always believe he must have done it, but got off on a technicality.

The Conservatives have a lot to answer for with this -- not the 'alleged' doctoring (funny how they were 'alleged' transcripts, but no such modifier used by Libs today). They should be answering to their supporters for fumbling so badly.

The tapes should have been handed over immediately. Waiting may have allowed them to catch the news cycle as they saw fit, but it has obviously been a PR disaster.

They are trying to play the same games as the Liberals, and they are amateur hour. People don't want the spin -- they want the truth. It would have been much better to do the information dump than the tease. People get ticked off when you mete out information at a trickle. They start to feel they're being manipulated. The Libs (masters of manipulation) know all the ploys -- they invented them. They've been five steps ahead of the Conservatives from the getgo.

If the Conservatives had played it straight instead of being coy to keep the headlines, maybe it would be the Libs in the spotlight and on the defensive.

Liberal strategists are masters of the game. Regular people don't want games anymore, but when given the choice, they'll pick the winning team -- not because they believe in them -- but because the other guys look like losers.

Honesty and integrity in government begins when we dispense with 'tactics' and 'strategy' and start talking the talk and walking the walk. Otherwise, the Conservatives are nothing better than less-successful hustlers than the Liberals.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Paul Didn't Call

Michael at The Blue Maple Leaf gives a good account of Harper's questioning of the Prime Minister during Question Period today. Harper was really able to pin him down and Martin looked foolish trying to climb out of the quicksand.

Another interesting question came from Gilles Duceppe. The Prime Minister had just said, more than once in reply to Harper's questions, that: Grewal approached, no offer was made -- an offer was solicited, the member from North-Delta asked for rewards but no deal was made. Duceppe got up, and it looked like he was uncertain that he was going to be given the floor. He had already asked his questions near the beginning of QP and this was closer to the end.

He said to the PM (and obviously, I am paraphrasing a translator): You have just stated (the above). You say now that you knew that Grewal approached, you knew that he asked for some consideration in exchange for crossing the floor -- it is against Section 119 of the criminal code for an individual to ask for something in exchange for his vote, and yet you didn't call the RCMP when you knew this crime had been committed. Why did the Prime Minister not call the RCMP?

Of course, Martin didn't stand up. Anne McLellan got up and went on and on and on about how if anyone knew about a crime they should report it, and if the member knows about a crime of course he should go to the RCMP . . . blah, blah, blah.


Grewal didn't want to be Inky Mark

I am inclined to think Grewal's motivation for taping conversations with Murphy and Dosanjh is irrelevant.

Maybe Grewal did intend to cross the floor. If that is so, why didn't he? There is every indication that had he abstained in budget vote, that he would be on his way to Cabinet in the government -- because as Dosanjh said: 'Cabinet is easy'. So, if that was his desire, Cabinet within the government -- and Murphy obviously didn't say no -- in fact, he all but said yes -- then why didn't Grewal jump at the chance?

If we look at the situation in context, and remember what happened with Inky Mark, then maybe Grewal's assertions have more credibility.

Grewal says he was approached a few times, and declined. That would give him an opportunity to be prepared that it might happen again -- Murphy or Dosanjh might have said: 'don't say no just yet, we'll let you think on it'.

Given that Inky Mark publicized what he characterized as an approach by the Liberals for his vote, and that Inky Mark was swifty and summarily dismissed by both the Liberals and the media -- Grewal's decision to tape the conversations is more clear.

Had Grewal told anyone that the Libs were courting him, their response would be 'why would we want him -- he's (conveniently) under investigation for graft'. He would have been mocked and ridiculed in the same way Inky Mark was, and he would likely have been disbelieved.

However 'wrong' it might have been for Grewal to tape these conversations, the fact remains that there would have been no way to corroborate his accusations. It would have been the 'he said/he said' that the press is trying to make it now.

Rather than playing the 'they're both just as bad' game, the press and the public should demand more from government representatives like Murphy and Dosanjh. They are in positions of power and influence and their abuse of public trust is clear. Grewal getting it on tape, didn't make it so.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Maybe they'll start an inquiry

There must be good men and women in the Liberal Party -- they can't all be corrupt and morally bankrupt -- and yet, they'll be in the House tomorrow, jeering and cheering as is required of them by Dear Leader.

An ethics professor on CTV tonight said that Tim Murphy did not cross the line into criminality. He said with a straight face, that the tapes are ambiguous and that Murphy did not offer anything so he did not cross the line.

There is no line anymore. How can you be unethical, if there are no ethics? How can you behave immorally, if morality is relative.

The PM says: Grewal 'approached'. I don't believe it's true, but in another place, at another time, that would not have mattered. The illegal actions of two senior members of the PM's staff would have been enough to have the government fall.

Do Canadians want gay marriage, and hate Christians so much that they can turn a blind eye to this? I admit, I am biased against the Liberals at this juncture in my life -- but I can't see how anyone could accept that they did no wrong, and that there was nothing wrong with what they did.

Scott Reid even tried to paint this as 'entrapment'. The laugh is that in order to be entrapped, Grewal would have had to have been working as an agent for the government or the police.
There are questions as to whether this will even be investigated --- he obviously was not working on behalf of any policing agency -- and the government certainly wouldn't set itself up -- it was trying to prop itself up.

It is not illegal for a private citizen to record conversations and not disclose the taping of the converstations. People are trying to make out the issue of the taping is somehow as shocking and unethical as attempting to bribe MPs in order to maintain a tenous grasp on power.

There is no spin that can make this anything but what it is.
The sound of the media's indifference is deafening.


'Alleged' Transcripts

So now the transcripts are 'alleged transcripts'

That's what Anne McLellan started shouting during Question Period, and I wonder now if that will be the slant the Libs will take. Will they begin to doubt the authenticity of these tapes -- or the accuracy of the transcripts?

The delay by the Conservatives in releasing these tapes gives rise to these sorts of accusations.

That said, what we have heard and read seems credible.

Paul Martin's 'I don't know anything, and we didn't do anything' defense is getting worn.
When is this going to explode?
I remember back in the 90's when David Peterson was ousted from Ontario, and when the Conservatives were tossed in 1993. Where is the rancor and bitterness that existed back then for what were far less egregious behaviours?

The media called the shots back then too, and the difference is, the media is still willing to give Martin a pass.


Monday, May 30, 2005

One-Issue Propagandist

Gloria Galloway's continued focus on 'activist Christians' in the Conservative Party has removed any guilt I had, pegging her as an irresponsible scaremonger.

It doesn't even matter if she's not writing in a 'negative' way. Even if she is only reporting the facts, the subject matter is wrong.

Freedom of the press -- yes, I agree -- she has the right to write what she sees fit, and the Globe has a right to print it. But in order to maintain at least the appearance of being unbiased, Galloway's approach should have been to examine the religion in nomination races in general, or one-issue candidates across all parties --- not the Conservative Party in particular.

John McKay, evangelical Christian and Liberal MP in Toronto, estimates that over 20% of Liberal MPs (not just candidates -- actual MPs already serving in the House) are evangelical Christians, or have evangelical 'sympathies'. Even more than that are either Roman Catholic, or orthodox Christians. Their ability to separate their responsibilities as MPs from that as Christians has not been questioned by the media.

In fact, John McKay, a Parliamentary Secretary and member of the Privy Council, asked for and received, a special dispensation from the party to vote against the Civil Marriage Act. It is believed Paul Martin gave the dispensation because McKay's one vote wouldn't be decisive, but McKay had threatened to vote against Bill-C-38 regardless of this special authority.

One-issue candidates are not exclusive to any particular political party. One could argue that Scott Brison is a one-issue candidate. He left the Conservative Party because of the same-sex issue. It might be argued that Belinda Stronach is a one-issue candidate (her own advancement being the one-issue) Many people said that Glen Murray (failed Liberal candidate and former mayor of Winnipeg) was a one-issue candidate. Besides questioning their loyalties, I don't recall anyone making too big of a deal of the 'one-issue' that defines their political careers.

Chuck Cadman, the current hero of the Libs, is a one-issue candidate. When the Libs were soliciting his support on the non-confidence vote, it didn't bother the newspapers that his career in politics began with one-issue. Maybe people think Cadman's issue was a 'good' issue, and these 'Christian activists' are forging their political careers on a 'bad' issue, but the fact remains that no politician can remain a 'one-issue' MP and maintain the support of the electorate -- which renders the Globe's anti-Christian zeal even more disturbing.

And, I believe I could argue with considerable success, that most Liberal candidates are one-issue candidates. The issue is power. They want it at any cost. What they have to do for it is never an issue.

Galloway has allowed her anti-Harper, anti-Conservative predisposition to take hold of her writing. In a bid to discredit the Conservative Party by disseminating misleading information, she has become hostile to the opening of the public square to all who would have a voice.

Galloway's accusatory tone suggests she is obesessed with 'outing' Conservative Christians and branding them as cardboard cutouts, incapable of thinking seriously about any issue but homosexuality -- or perhaps she believes they are unable to hold more than one thought at a time -- something she would do well to worry about in herself. She'd have us believe that of any demographic group, Christians alone are unsuited to balancing the fine line between their religion and their politics. I would argue that to be able to maintain religious convictions in an increasingly secular world displays an incredible ability to work co-operatively and conjointly with those with whom you have considerable moral and spiritual disagreements.

While she continues to try to paint Christians as threatening to the democratic process, she diminishes the invaluable contributions Christians have made to education, civil liberties, and democracy over two millennia. Argue what you will, Christian values have shaped Western Civilization for the better. People like Galloway would do well to remember that.

Christians have not tried to impose their values on the government -- this government is attempting to impose its values on all Canadians. This important distinction should be remembered when the liberal press lifts its poison pen.

Mark Peters, Warwick, Policial Staples, and Dissonance and Disrespect, (among others, I'm sure) all have comment and/or links on this subject.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Martin's Dirty Work

I've been thinking a lot about this 'Christian Activist' thing in the Globe. It's carefully worded, but it's a controversial piece because of its subject matter. Religion - politics. It's a tricky subject. I started to feel bad about giving Gloria Galloway a hard time. It might have been poor judgement to offend a whole segment of society, but certainly there couldn't have been a political motivation -- it's not like she's one of those 'Liberal cheerleaders' Harper dislikes so much.

I was doing a search for something else, and I came across this-- I'd forgotten all about it.
Do you remember this from last year:

CTV -- May. 8 2004 11:13 PM ET

Liberal MPs shocked by party's election tactic
Canadian Press
OTTAWA — . . . (devout) Liberal MPs were horrified to discover their party last month commissioned a pre-election poll asking Ontarians if they'd be more or less likely to vote for the Conservatives if they knew the party had been "taken over by evangelical Christians."

It took an extra year, but they finally managed to get the word out on this. I wonder did they pay Galloway for sniffing out this scoop, or was it on the promise of some future consideration. Senate? Not senate.

Naw, some people don't even need inducement to show lack of principle.


Harping on about Harper

Today in the Toronto Sun, Greg Weston echoed the sentiments of Don Martin of the Nation Post, who suggested that Stephen Harper needs a make-over. (Martin's column was subscriber only, so I won't bother to link.) The only difference seems to be that Martin believes there is a chance it could work, and Weston doesn't.

Both columnists in so-called 'conservative' media, they follow in the same vein as Adam Radwanski, who has written negatively of the Conservative Leader on many occasions: Has Harper's Time Come? (May 20th) and Sucking them in, Blowing them off (May18) Stephen Harper's Tipping Point (March 18)

These men are amongst a host of media pundits who insist they are reflecting the views of the public when they write their scathing commentaries on Harper. I disagree. They are creating public opinion.

When Harper assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party early in 2004, the media was quick to point out how little we knew of the man. He was described as a 'policy wonk' who was not given to chit-chat with the journalistic elite of Ottawa. Now, because Harper doesn't bow to those who shape popular opinion, they continually offer public rebuke of his perceived 'failings'. Rather than taking the view that Harper's anger is well placed, and that he is reacting with justification to ongoing abuses by the Liberals of the public trust --- these sensitive columnists are betraying their frustration with Harper not playing their game, their way.

Harper doesn't schmooze and suck up to them, so they have taken personal offense, and allowed it to colour their commentary. Of course columnists are supposed to express opinion, but nothing of what they've said substantially reflects Harper's leadership abilities. They are talking about Harper's need to change public perception, while beating the anti-Harper drum. Their writing drips with contempt as it reinforces the negative view of him that they have been pushing all along.

Don Martin says:

To put it bluntly, Stephen Harper is screwed.

What analysis. What insight. What would we do without Martin's enlightening observations? Indeed, Martin has taken on one of the characteristics of the liberal press. He speaks in our vernacular. He talks the lingo of the common man.

If the public thinks Harper's scary, and it does . . .

Says who? Says Don Martin. Says John Ivison. Says Adam Radwanski. Says Gred Weston. Says the Globe & Mail. Says the Toronto Star. Parrots Joe Canadian.

Do they really think the average Canadian is so weak-kneed and lilly livered that they are quivering over anything Harper has said? And those who recite the mantra on cue haven't thought this up themselves -- the lack of varied public response is indicative of a concerted campaign to malign Harper. When you keep asking people "Do you think Stephen Harper is scary?" eventually they are going to believe that he must be, or they wouldn't have been asked.

Don Martin opines:

Harper appears to have confused signs of firm leadership with flashes of sneering anger. The public hates angry white males, and he's become Parliament's Exhibit A.

Ottawa's reporters are, in Harper's mind, a Liberal cheerleading squad. Yes, those elements exist. But it's not monolithic . . .

Martin censures Harper throughout the column, then suggests the 'Liberal cheerleading' amongst commentators is not uniform. While he is soundly thrashing Harper, the Liberal cheerleaders are nodding from the sidelines -- Don Martin may not be cheering for the Liberals, but while he persists in creating animosity for, and perpetuating myths about the Conservative leader, he is certainly giving the Libs comfort and supplying them with ammunition.

Greg Weston gives us more of the same:

On the evening of Paul Martin's televised grovel to the nation last month, Stephen Harper stepped up to the microphone, scowled into the camera, and proceeded to scare the living hell out of voters from sea to sea.

Media judgment of the Conservative leader's performance was swift and brutal, depicting Harper more as a candidate for anger management than a prospect for prime minister.

Weston says it right there -- 'media judgement . . . was swift and brutal'. Not public opinion, but media opinion--- passed on to the public as 'news'.

John Ivison of the Post said of Harper the day following the big speeches that Harper: "just reinforced the view of many voters that he's not a man they'd want in their living room in the flesh."

The Globe & Mail editoral after the speeches said: "Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, by contrast, was shrill and excessive. His thirst to harness the anger over sponsorship to bring down Mr. Martin is understandable. . . but to call Mr. Martin's speech a "sad spectacle" performed by a man "begging" for another chance was a bit much."

Those assessments became popular opinion, they did not reflect it.

Greg Weston closes today with:

But most of the wisdom coming at Harper is cosmetic and unrealistic, an expectation that somehow a grumpy not-so-old man can be miraculously transformed into a warm and fuzzy metrosexual who loves politics, journalists and Belinda Stronach.

The NP announced yesterday that political scientists say that people would prefer to have Peter McKay to dinner than Stephen Harper. BIG DEAL! This isn't Canadian Idol, it's politics. I want a leader who is strong and assertive. I want leader who doesn't mince words. I want a leader who sees injustice and gets angry. I want a leader who is a little uncomfortable in the spotlight, because it suggests to me that he's not courting the media --- he's the real deal.

Arrogant media-types know that they have the power to sway public opinion. This is another example of a non-news story taking on a life because the media wants it to. With each line of condemnation they are not just telling us not to like Stephen Harper, they are telling Stephen Harper -- 'you better be nice to us, or else you can expect more of the same.'