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Reading newspaper

Years from now there will be more news museums like this one in Washington.
City newspapers and community newspapers are dying, but their legacy is journalistic integrity, worth far more than the yellowing paper on the shelves of newspaper morgues and museum shelves.
The legacy is an honourable, but thin one. New news consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about it, nor would most recognize it.
Today’s news consumers are a TMZ generation, a coruncopia of clickers.
Years ago I sat down with Cleo Mowers, for two decades the publisher of the Lethbridge Herald. Impressed and fascinated by the man, I looked up the newspaper from his era. It was unrecognizable.
Our newspaper could be read in five minutes. His was a morning’s read.
He had a reporter in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, for provincial politics, he had reporters writing sending in material from far off places, he had agriculture, opinion, local news, news from nearby places, a newspaper so full of news it was like a plucked ripe fruit, one wanted to consume it to be sated.
He started out a columnist after she wrote a letter expressing a horrified concern about a tune a visiting German high school marching band played. He liked her letter to the editor, he saw something in it, and he started her off as a columnist.
I had no idea of her history as I read the old Herald, but after I read a few columns I knew I had to meet her. She wrote with passion and insight and had a view of the world that was from some mysterious source I had no idea about.
I discovered she lived in a nearby town. I called her. She invited me to lunch.
“I’m having fish Saturday,” she said.
She lived in Coutts. I told a fellow journalism student I was going to her area that weekend to interview a woman named Eva Brewster.
“Oh, I know her,” she said. “Have you read her book?”
I had no idea she’d written one.
She brought it to school the next day and I couldn’t put it down. Vanished in Darkness described the horrors of her Aushwitz experience- here was the reason for that deep insight- here was that source of that world view I had seen in her columns kept in the Lethbridge library.
That weekend my first in-depth interview as a journalism student was of Eva Brewster, Aushwitz survivor, in her kitchen in Coutts, Alberta. I learned the tune that visiting high school band played, she’d heard before, as a prisoner in Aushwitz. She remembered it as a band tune used to welcome and reassure new arrivals.
I remember my questions. Such basic questions. I really wanted to know.
“What’s a Jew?” I remember asking.
I remember coming away thinking a voice is all anyone has. Whether it is writing, music, broadcasting, a shout, a scream- a voice is all we have. I knew choosing journalism had been important to me. I drove away from that interview knowing why.
Newspapers do that. Good newspapers don’t just contain news. They contain magic.
Writing good news- even opinion- requires anticipation and digging and a recognition of our humanness, and of not just justice, but of basic fairness. The world of a good newspaper is a world of subtleties.

The web page of the New Democrats is enough alone to inspire me to vote for them. The page has a faller on the front- not a model or actor, but a real faller with a real chain saw slung over his shoulder, the blade with its stilled, but dangerously sharp edges ignored as the faller walks through the bush to another tree. As the son of a British Columbia faller, I am touched.

Canadians are prone to make significant decisions for sentimental reasons, and for evidence of same, I am reminded of another story. Future Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, when a young lawyer, was defending his first murder case. The jury retired to deliberate. The young lawyer did a good job, said one juror. Yes, and it’s his birthday, too, said another juror. Yet another juror said later, “That did it. We voted for aquittal.”

I have not voted New Democrat since the early 1970s, and then in British Columbia provincial politics only, when it was either Social Credit (hiss, boo) or New Democrat (cheers). The Social Credit Party was lead by W.A.C Bennett, of a hardware-store owning family in Kelowna. Bennett was as jut-jawed as Jay Leno, and as confident as a carnival barker. He led the province for 20 years, calling himself B.C.’s Prime Minister ( we usually reserve the title Premier for provincial heads, prime minister for our national leader) and was the finance minister to boot. Coming to power in the early 1950s, roads needed to be built through the mountainous province, and the Social Credit did so. Common were the “Sorry for the Inconvenience” signs as the province built its highways. A grateful citizenry reelected the free enterprise social crediters until 1972.

The Libby Dam was coming. My grandfather’s farm on the Kootenay River was passed on into the hands of my Uncle Bob but the American dam would flood out some of the best farmland in British Columbia, the family farm included. The whole valley was none to happy about the coming rising water.

My Uncle got his photograph on the front page of the Fernie Free Press leaning over his broken fence after some B.C. government workers were caught by him tearing it down. My grandmother- its hard to imagine her doing this- took the keys from the government truck so the pair could not get away while Uncle Bob, young, tall and strong, and with no sense of humour when it came to losing the family farm to an American dam, laid a licking on the pair until they were finally, and mercifully, given their keys back. They never returned.

When the election of 1972 came around the reputation of W.A.C Bennett was as low as it could get around what was called the South Country, whatever he was thought of elsewhere. The discussions around the dinner table in those days etched my young mind with impressions that have not since been erased: government is not to be trusted and they are always, always, always, to be held accountable.

I remember going into a cafe in Wardner after we had completed the first leg of a two-day cattle drive from Uncle Bob’s new ranch.The family farm was gone by then. I worked for Uncle Bob that summer, one of the most memorable summers of my life. I still remember us coming in for lunch, about eight of us, to the greeting, “I thought you were on a drive” and the answer from one of our own: “It doesn’t take us all day to do half a day’s work.” Then a waitress told us we had missed the sight of W.A.C Bennett’s car going by on the highway with motorcycle escort. “He needs one around here,” said a cowboy before ordering his meal.

British Columbia voted New Democrat that year, ending 20 years of Social Credit rule. I got up the morning after the election to sit across from Uncle Bob already at the breakfast table. I was too young to vote at that time. “What were the results?” I asked. “We’re NDP this morning,” he said, and my grandmother, not a socialist, retorted, “That’s just as bad.”

Back then it was a choice between the free enterprisers or the socialists. British Columbia allowed the NDP three years then voted in the Social Credit again, led by W.A.C Bennett’s son Bill, who governed the province for another 11 years, making ruling British Columbia a family dynasty far better known than their Kelowna hardware store.

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I somewhere read that the colour orange can inspire a restaurant customer to order more food. It is, apparently, the colour of hunger.

Perhaps the New Democrats have sensed hunger in the land. Who knows why the grand old party of Tommy Douglas of bygone days has chosen the prominent orange colour backdrop for their 21st century socialist-leaning but conservative-looking leader. But do take a look.

The New Democrats get the importance of the Maple Leaf Foods listeria out break, and the concern it has been for everyone who packs a lunch or packs someone else a lunch with cold cut meats. When 15 people die from eating lunch meat, and the government of the day has been on the record as considered reducing government meat plant inspections and letting the industry police itself more, it should be call to arms. The New Democrats are the only party making a stink about it. See their news release for today.

The one vulnerability the Conservatives have and that ordinary people understand is this: you should be able to eat Canadian-raised, Canadian-processed food more safely than food imported from third world countries. The government has the responsibility to protect its people. It failed in this case. That the government was in the process of divesting itself of much of this responsibility means they should pay at the polling booth.

Thank you for reading AardvarkCola

The leader of the Green Party arrived in Edmonton about 5:00 today on her short campaign whistle-stop aboard a VIA rail train. I missed it, being at work. If I had known the location and time would I have made the effort to go out and wave at her?

Sure, why not. She’s intelligent, articulate, and interesting. Unfortunately, I disagree with most of what she has to say so far in this election campaign.

However, curses be on all who tried to keep her out of the leaders debate. The English debate is to take place at 9:00 p.m. October 2.

I’ll include a very old interview with May, with CTV’s Craig Oliver, from spring, 2007.

Lee Zalosfky, a United States armed forced deserter from the Vietman era, has been giving radio interviews on an organization he is coordinator of, the War Resisters Support Campaign.

He is asking Canadians for support for American war resisters, including deserters, coming to Canada.

I first heard of Mr. Zalosfky today, about two hours ago, on my way home from work, listening to a radio program I hadn’t listened to before. During the interview, Mr. Zalosfky said when he left the army- he was drafted and decided to desert once in- getting into Canada was so much easier in the Vietman era. You simply applied at the border and if you had enough points you were in. It’s much more complex now. You have to apply as a refugee.

Then he criticized our government, saying it was somehow targeting and victimizing American war resisters.

I have no idea if Mr. Zalosfky is a Canadian citizen, but I have the strong view that foreigners who desert their armed forces and come to Canada should never be granted citizenship while that issue is outstanding. He may be landed immigrant. Whatever he is, he makes it plain he doesn’t like our Prime Minister, Steven Harper.

Our Prime Minister, he says, is supportive of the present Republican administration, supports the Iraq war and now is “taking it out on” the war resisters.

Taking it out on war resisters? Hogwash. It is a vile comment, and would be objectionable if it were not altogether silly.

There have been people in exile before this. Mr. Zalosfky is not the first. But his criticism should be directed at his own government of the country he exiled himself from at least 34 years ago. I would have more respect for the organization if it were called War Resisters for Change and lobbied the American government during their self-imposed exile. But to come here and criticize my government for not providing support to American deserters demonstrates the very same gumption Mr. Zalosfky had while in uniform.

I also lived during the Vietman era. I have met many people who left the United States to make a life in Canada. I have met people who drove Americans over the border at that time. I rode in a car with two young men not much older than I was as they arrived here from Wyoming ( I thought it was a city back then) to avoid the draft. But I have never met an army deserter.

I also believe the present United States government administration messed up and there never should have been an Iraq war. The Bush administration told the United Nations to leave Iraq, impatient with its not finding weapons of mass destruction, then invaded a country that was not involved in 9-11, and was no threat to the United States. They found great resistance there. The resisters there are fighting for their country. They are resisting a foriegn occupation. Americans, in their own history, have some experience with that and have trumpeted their experience as an honourable exercise.

Simply put, the Americans are mired in a war of their own making after conducting a horrendous invasion that has killed more than 4,000 of its service people.

The war is in Afghanistan. That is where Canada is, fighting as the tip of the spear in dangerous areas of that country like Helmund Province, where many other countries dare not fight in. Afghanistan is where Osama Bin Laden made a home, where the Taliban thrived, where terrorists camps trained young men determined to export terror to innocents around the world. Why the United States is in Iraq is anybody’s guess, but my guess that it has little to do with 9-11.

If Americans wish to protest their governments’ decisions, protest. It is a country that allows it. If you need to flee, flee. It’s been done before. But once you are in uniform, you owe the uniform respect. You’re in the army.

Deserters are not welcome in Canada.

For Mr. Zalosfky, a deserter of a foreign army, to criticize the government of Canada with such a vile comment, a country that has provided him, and friends of his, safekeeping for a war than ended three and a half decades ago, is indeed a slap in the face.

Go back to the United States of America, Mr. Zalosfky. Face the music. We have protected you long enough, it seeems. You have forgotten the reason democracy exists.

We have the vote because people in uniform fought- yes, and too many died- so we could have and maintain that vote. We have the vote for responsible government because people took responsibility.

If you wish to protest, there is a place for that, Mr. Zalosfky. It is called the United States. For all its faults, and there are many, it is a place rich in democratic tradition which it takes seriously. It is, however, a poorer place when its citizens do not even have the mettle to criticize it from its home turf.

I see you have found it to be a safer and easier occupation to criticize ours from our safer ground.

If you really want a very good article on the financial troubles in the United States and how it may favour Obama’s bid for the presidency, I link you to David Callaway of Market Watch, who has coined a new term, the “Paulson Doctrine”. Worth a read. Link here.

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Scribe Allan Fotheringham (in Canada all who write are writers; Foth is our only scribe) described his fellow Canadians as people who will, as pedestrians, stop on a sidewalk intersection in the middle of the night, no traffic coming, no one looking, and wait politely until the “walk” light comes on before crossing the street. It does actually describe something about our national psyche. We Canadians put up with a lot of bullshit (a Canadian word used, at times, even in polite company).

Americans, on the other hand, are a different kind of animal. While we founded our country talking bullshit (William Lyon Mackenzie, Louis Riel, and other like-minded forefathers’ attempts excepted) Americans founded their country by kicking royal hiney.

American comedian Richard Pryor included a bit in a routine describing an imagined Japanese tour group visiting California before Pearl Harbour to assess American butt-kicking gumption. The visitors from the Empire of Japan, Pryor said, found Californians to be laid back, easy going, with nothing ever bothering them.

“They didn’t go as far as Alabama,” Pryor quipped, adding if they had gone into the U.S. that far, they would have found people-beasts (my description, not his) chained up in basements to be let out only for fights. He clowned on stage as if struggling with something wild at the end of a chain.

Pryor touched on something real about the American psyche. Americans can get seriously pissed off about stuff very quickly in a way we don’t seem to. Everyone will kick back if pushed, but history shows if you sucker punch Americans, expect more than a hard kick in the teeth. Expect the world to change. Read your history or see a Hollywood Western.

Now my point.

When will Americans figure out this whole sub-prime mortgage affair meant what seemed like the giant pillars of their financial system- including some that survived the Crash of 1929- were felled by managers that didn’t manage, accounting practices that hid huge problems, and a regulatory system that was absolutely ineffective?

During the biggest financial crisis in the United States in 79 years, will Americans be pissed off over banks that booked credits as assets to perform the all-time mother of magic tricks- crumpling the greatest financial sector the world has ever known so it fits into a toilet bowl. With the U.S. economy dizzy as it circles the bowl in the middle of this flush, will Americans get pissed off?

Will Americans kick in the hiney whichever presidential candidate does not appear to have a grasp of these financial issues while giving the other one a desk and told to damn well get to work and straighten out the mess?

I close with this link to the web site of a junior senator from Illinois, who wrote Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson back in March 27, 2007, 18 long months ago, out of concern over the looming crisis in sub-prime mortgage lending, including his suggestion for a summit to discuss matters including, “how to ensure adequate liquidity across all mortgage markets..”

Meanwhile, a certain senator from Arizona ‘s presidential campaign co-chair (well, until last July) – who has been described as an economic advisor to him, and had a history of fighting regulation of the financial sector as a senator from Texas- said in a huff as recent as July- just two months ago-(see post) that Americans citizens were a bunch of whiners.

I’m not an American citizen, but if I was, given those two choices right now, I’d be severely pissed right off.

No bullshit.

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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence

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