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Friday miscellany

Been a while since I did a “sum up the week” post, but there’s enough going on in Canada and elsewhere to merit a return.

First up, WikiLeaks.

I’m starting to get suspicious about the motives behind the massive attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder. The Americans accuse him of treason even though he is a foreign national. Financial institutions like MasterCard and PayPal are pressured by the U.S. government to shut down WikiLeak’s access to its accounts. Frontier mentality gunslingers everywhere (but mostly American, it seems) are saying that Julian Assard should get a bullet in the head… if you doubt me, check out the discussion forum on Facebook.

But why? Why has this been whipped into such a religious fervour?

I know some disagree with me, but I don’t see this who thing as much more than a leak of some pseudo-important information (at best) that may cause some embarrassment to some governments and individuals. I noted in an earlier post that governments are loath to give up their control of information access and spin, but the more I think about it, the more I have to wonder if there isn’t something bigger behind this (what I consider to be) over reaction.

OK, Squid-dude – I know you’re going to comment on this! Fair enough to call him a criminal (I don’t quite agree – but it is a legitimate position) but you have to admit that there is much being made of this tempest in a teapot!

Next, the perimeter security agreement between Canada and the U.S.

This could be an issue that has some legs. Although the Harperites will do their best to spin it as a national security matter and that Canadians had better just shut up and do as we are told.

The Department of Public Safety communications strategy for the “perimeter security” deal amounts to a blueprint for selling the agreement to Canadians.

It also provides a rare insight into how the government regards Canadians: as a nation ignorant of the true scale of the security threat it faces and more concerned with privacy rights.

The communications strategy for the perimeter security declaration – which the document says will be unveiled in January, 2011 – predicts one of the biggest potential critics will be the federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. That’s because the deal is expected to increase the amount of data exchanged between law enforcement and other government authorities in both countries.

This is important, folks! A foreign government is about to get access to your personal information and the Harperites think that this is just jim-dandy. We need to pay attention to this as it develops and ensure that our Privacy Commish’s concerns – when they are expressed – are addressed.

And how about that brand spanking new Ottawa city Council?

One of the first decisions to be made was to establish a transit commission. This, in my view, is a positive development as a pseudo arm’s length decision-making body will be able to make the hard choices that are sometimes necessary when dealing with transit issues – and especially the ATU – without a fear of political backlash.

On the other hand, all of the first decisions made by this Council involved spending more money… hopefully THAT is out of their systems!

Stevo sings and dances!

Two words: spring election.

Riots hit London. Royal couple imperilled!

Demonstrators spotted the royal couple in their purple Rolls-Royce as they were riding through London’s theater district surrounded by a cordon of motorcycles. A mob of around 50 demonstrators, many wearing full-face balaclavas, managed to shove through their police escort, which included armed royal security guards. They then hurled paint bombs at the car, kicked dents into its doors and smashed its rear window — all the while chanting “off with their heads!” and “Tory scum!”
And folks, if the economy in Great Britain and elsewhere continues to tank, expect to see more of this. People may get into desperate straits and this begets desperate measures. And if THAT happens, expect to live in more of a police state than we already do.
Lastly, about that student performance thing again…
I take it back. Yes, we could do better, but as Jeffery Simpson correctly points out, we aren’t doing too shabby either. Plus, as the Squid noted, the OECD figure showed only two Chinese cities – Shanghai and Hong Kong – and not the country as a whole. If the whole of China were assessed, I suspect the rankings would be different just as if only one high-performed city in Canada was ranked instead of the country as a whole.


My take on the WikiLeaks controversy

While I was completely pissed at his party, as well as ALL of the Federal parties, for apparently letting Bill C-12 die (which is apparently NOT the case anymore), I do like Bob Rae’s comments on the “big” WikiLeaks controversy that is currently causing heads to spin from Ottawa to Beijing to London and all points in between.

Some of what will emerge – in the Middle East, in Pakistan, and elsewhere – will compromise sources, practices, and on it goes, but none of it should “shock”.  Corruption in Russia, Arab leaders saying privately how worried they are about Iran, Americans razzing Canadians for having an “inferiority complex” and “anti-american” programming on the CBC:  there’s nothing new here, and we shouldn’t be so touchy or sensitive that we can’t handle a vigorous discussion.  CSIS directors complaining about the “shackles” that courts concerned about charter rights and due process is hardly news.

The internet is full of gossip, hate, mistrust, misinformation, as well as all that is true and valuable.  We still want our diplomats and public officials to give us their candid and honest assessment of things, and to keep the spin to a minimum.  Maybe if our public comments were closer to reality there wouldn’t be so much amazement at what we are now seeing.(emphasis mine)

Isn’t that a telling sentence? “If our public comments were closer to reality…” So true. M

Much emphasis is put on the spin of the story rather than the story itself. Politicians and their communications managers work on their message to gain maximum political advantage and the public knows this! Everything that is uttered from the mouth of a politico – no matter which party – has been dissected and processed to such a degree that often the original intent of the message is lost. The public senses that they are being played with and consequently turns off the voice. They simply don’t know which message or part of a message to believe and what to throw dans la poubelle.

Is it any wonder why people are so cynical when it comes to politics?

But I digress…

WikiLeaks provides raw and unfiltered information. One can go to their site and take a look at the actual text that was sent from ambassadorial offices. Without a filter and without spin.

What Rae says is true. Most of these so-called “sensitive” cables that have been released contain little information that has not already been widely broadcast. The Americans are worried about the Mexican drug wars – of course they are! Diplomats in Afghanistan do not hold President Karzai or others in the Afghan government is very high regard? Well, duh! Sarkozy invited Harper to the D-Day ceremonies because he felt that Stevo could use a bit of a political boost at home? Well, yeah… leaders stick together, don’t they? And Harper and Sarkozy have a good relationship.

What worries the Americans and everyone else more than anything is that the control of information has, in this case, been taken away from them. And this scares the bejeebers out of them! Without total control of the flow and content of the messaging, they cannot give it the spin that in their minds, is required to properly “interpret” or “contextualize” the messages. No government wants to lose that control but WikiLeaks has taken it away from

As for the trumped up charges against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assnage? What a crock.This is just a way to try and turn public sentiment against Assange.

As for the calls by some for his assassination? Barbaric at best and criminal at worst. Mr Flanagan and others should be charged with uttering death threats.

To end,  I leave it to this gentleman who wrote the following letter to the Calgary Herald today:

Re: “Professor won’t face discipline for remarks,” Dec. 3.

The citizens of our liberal democracy should be alarmed at the reaction against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

From condemnation to suggestions of assassination of Assange, we have prominent political leaders to University of Calgary professors, openly calling for this man’s termination.

What we are witnessing is the beginnings of Stalinist silencing. No matter how inflammatory Assange’s reporting may be, it is still newsworthy and carries the right to be published in any society that market’s itself to be, quote unquote, a free entity.

Let us ask ourselves the chilling question of when will people’s legitimate political expression and opposition be silenced in the way that some are suggesting Assange be silenced?

Frank Koeksal,


Thanks Mr. Koeksal. Well put.