Saturday, May 19, 2012

Meet Margaret Wente’s Québec student protester - not from Québec, it turns out (but it’s all Greek to her)

In a nasty piece on the student protests, Margaret Wente lays on the clichés about lazy, demanding, ungrateful Québecers - protected cradle to grave by the “Québec model” nanny state –  all subsidized, she adds, by Anglophone Canada.

She describes Québecers as ingrates not sufficiently beholden to those in the ROC who pay the bills: “In France, which many Quebeckers feel more connected to than they do with the rest of Canada, growth has stalled and generous entitlements have far outrun the government’s ability to pay. The same has happened in Quebec. But it gets a helping hand from the rest of Canada in the form of equalization payments, which will amount to $7.3-billion this year”.

Wente makes the student protest emblematic of a French/English divide, and tells Québec to take a hike:  “The rest of Canada looks on, appalled. If this is an example of Quebec’s distinct society, we want no part of it”.

Comparing Québec to Greece, she concludes: “They want the Germans to send them money forever and ever, and no matter how much the Germans send, they’ll keep demanding more. The student protesters are the Greeks of Canada. And we’ve had it”.

So who is the emblematic Québec student Margaret quotes?  After describing a protest at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Ms. Wente offers a single, exemplary quote from a protester. 

But it turns out the protester isn’t quite so exemplary.  He’s not a Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, nor a Leo Bureau-Blouin  or any other Québec protester (who could no doubt have provided a quote in English).  No, Wente’s example for this exercise in Québec bashing isn’t from Québec.  The spoiled, entitled brat that “people in the rest of Canada simply cannot understand”, is a student named Ethan Feldman, from, well, somewhere in “the rest of Canada”.

Here’s Wente’s quoted example of his motivations:

“Governments are completely saturated by neo-liberal ideology, disconnected from the public interest. These protests – like others around the world – are about showing there’s a limit to how far the state can go to protect capitalist interests at the expense of the people.”

And here's Ethan Feldman (an out of province McGill student) in the Montréal Gazette:

 “’Governments are completely saturated by neo-liberal ideology, disconnected from the public interest. These protests – like others around the world – are about showing there's a limit to how far the state can go to protect capitalist interests at the expense of the people.’
He (Ethan Feldman) points out that few of those involved would be seriously affected by the proposed gradual tuition increase. They're working for future students. His out-of-province tuition is around $6,700.”

Of course this isn’t the first time Wente has offered up a sloppy cartoon of lazy, “entitled” students.  A more significant example of her lax standards was "John", the fake Occupy protester whose bio and quote originated on an American website – but who, it turned out, was not an Occupy protester at all.

While not as egregious an error, presenting an Anglophone out of province student as exemplary of the Québec protests is still irresponsible.  Particularly when Wente is so actively inciting ill will - asking us to view the Québec protests as something  “the rest of Canada” (read Anglophones) “cannot understand”, “has had it with”, and “wants no part of”.

I suppose from where Margaret Wente sits in her upscale Toronto neighbourhood, Greeks and Québecers might look the same – tiny, and far away – especially when you can’t be bothered to look.  Most Québecers disagree with the protests, but that doesn’t stop Ms. Wente from ramping up and exploiting Anglo outrage.

Clearly Wente doesn’t care to find out what’s going on, and omitting the identification of her protesting poster boy as someone from outside the province serves her purposes.  Wente’s article achieved its objective, eliciting an outpouring of nasty anti-Québec comments on the Globe’s website.  

But before she engages in any more divisive baiting, maybe Ms. Wente could do a bit more research.  Given that his parents cut the cheque” for his “$6,700” out of province fees, maybe Ethan Feldman isn’t so far away after all.  Maybe Margaret could actually interview him.  Maybe he lives next door.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

David Warren, Raymond Lahey, errors, and child porn

What’s the right word to describe David Warren’s writing?  Maybe it’ll come to me. In any case, we try not to waste time here on the absurdities and logical inconsistencies, focusing instead on errors of fact and attribution (just browse the archive).  Sadly, Warren has been resurrected in the pages of the Ottawa Citizen after his Easter break with a column on abortion.

Another news item today reveals an earlier error.

Here's Warren, on October 11, 2009, writing about disgraced Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey (who had been caught returning from an Asian adventure with a computer full of child porn):

“I offer this extenuation of the behaviour of Raymond Lahey -- the former bishop of Antigonish, charged with possession of child pornography (i.e. pictures on his laptop) two Fridays ago, and removed from his office by the Pope the next day”.

Two things worth noting here; first that Warren excuses Lahey (he blames “liberals” for tempting him), and second, Warren claims that in 2009 Lahey was “removed from his office by the Pope the next day”.   But it seems Lahey was not removed from office at that time.

Two years after Warren announced it, though, Lahey has finally been removed from office, as we learn today:  “A Roman Catholic bishop who was convicted of importing child pornography into Canada has been stripped of his clerical duties.”

In the intervening time, details emerged about the contents of Lahey’s laptop:

“Among the contents of Mr. Lahey's laptop were pornographic stories about children which, like some of the photos, depicted torture. A character in one of the stories, entitled ‘The Masturbation Chronicles,’ shares Mr. Lahey's name, Father Raymond. …Mr. Thompson told the court some content on Mr. Lahey's laptop ranked among the worst he has seen during the course of what he estimates are between 50 and 300 child-porn cases.
‘They're right up there,” he said. “I mean, it doesn't depict infants but the explicit images of torture are disturbing.’”

Aside from the falsehood about the Pope removing Lahey in 2009, we’ll note that while today he seems to advocate the re-criminalization of abortion on the grounds that a fetus may be able to experience pain, Warren remains unconcerned about the pain involved in child porn and torture when it comes to Catholic clergy.

In fact, he argues that we should inflict further suffering on victims’ families for the sin of embarrassing the church.  Writing about Lahey on the website “Catholicity”, Warren says:

 “…we should withdraw sympathy for people who claim their faith has been shaken by horrors within the Church – who make a parade of their own offended innocence, and abandon the Church in her distress.
If they do not know that their ‘relationship’ is ultimately with Christ, not a priest, then they need to be taught, urgently and publicly. More profoundly, they need to be taught how to feel shame instead of unctuousness.”

“Unctuousness”.   Maybe that was the word I was looking for. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Andrew Prescott, voter suppression, gay marriage and the Plymouth Brethren

Who is Andrew Prescott, the Conservative campaign worker now linked to the IP address in the Guelph voter suppression scandal?  For one thing, as a conservative Christian, he appears to be a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

There are “Open” and “Closed” or “Exclusive” Brethren sects, though they all seem rather secretive.  While Brethren are not supposed to be involved in politics (even voting is discouraged) the Exclusive Brethren made news in Australia some years ago for their questionable activities in support of John Howard.  Similarly when the same sex marriage bill was introduced in Canada the Brethren were active here - as this excerpt from the Syndey Morning Herald indicates:

“A political conflagration was soon blazing as the Canadian Parliament debated same-sex marriage… households in the electorate of every member supporting the bill received a greeting card raging against the legislation: ‘The suicidal rush to fundamentally change a 6000-year-old institution is the canker that will destroy the roots of Canada's 'living tree'.’
…the card was signed by ‘Concerned Canadian parents’ who gave as their address a post-office box in a 7-Eleven store in Toronto…’What I do not respect is tens of thousands of dollars being spent anonymously with absolutely no way to contact this organisation,’  said a Canadian Liberal MP, Mark Holland… I would like to know who is behind it. We do not know who is behind it. Is there foreign money? Is there a political party behind it?’
His questions were answered by advertising agent Ron Heggie a few days before the Civil Marriage Act was passed... Questioned by journalists after placing a newspaper ad attacking the legislation, Heggie said he and the ‘Concerned Canadian parents’ were Exclusive Brethren. He told the Vancouver Sun: ‘Those who think the Brethren are being unethical and deceptive don't understand their approach to the outside world. It's not that we're hiding anything. It's just that we're not interested in grandstanding.’"
A blogger adds:

“According to Marci McDonald* the Brethren have hired the services of Conservative insider Gerald Chipeur, who has represented the Reform-Alliance-Conservative Party for some time”.

So, it’s mildly interesting at least, if Andrew Prescott is a Brethren member (and one who seems to have been similarly exercised about gay marriage). Here is something that appears on a Brethren website at the time of the legislation:

The Government has attempted to re-define an institution that it has no authority to alter. As such, I do not recognize this legislation, and I will not recognize any same sex couple as being ‘married’. Marriage is an institution defined by God alone, and in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, God's Holy Word, I do not recognize such unions as valid.

Today, hereby referred to as ‘Black Tuesday’, marks the beginning of the end for Canada as we know it. History shows that as a nation declines morally, its end is near. Let it also be stated that the enacting of this law will result in the imprisonment of Christians within the next few years. As one who may enter Church leadership sometime in the future, and one who may be authorized to perform marriages, this law may end up in my own incarceration. Nevertheless, may God's will be done.

My Declaration - (to be read at my court hearing at a date yet to be determined)

On this day, ‘Black Tuesday’, June 28, 2005, I, Andrew Prescott, declare that in accordance with God's Holy Word, the Holy Bible, I do not and will not recognize the validity of same sex marriage.

In accordance with the religious freedoms proclaimed within Bill C-38, it is my right. Prime Minister Paul Martin has indicated that religious freedoms will be protected, and he is to be called as a witness to this fact. Any overturning of this right by any court or tribunal is in direct conflict with the religious freedoms protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We acknowledge that at a future date, these rights will however be ignored for the ‘greater good’, and let it be known that at every stage of debate, opponents of Bill C-38 warned that the protections for religious freedoms within Bill C-38 were not sufficient.

In other words, we were right. Bill C-38 will in fact be used to target those of faith.


Andrew Prescott
‘Black Tuesday’, June 28, 2005”

Here's another 2005 post on religion and politics:

Well, we are well aware that there will one day be such a unity of the globe, but we who study the Bible know that this will only occur during the ‘End Times’, when the dark powers behind the world leaders take final control and proclaim "peace" unto all the earth; when their master, Satan, will in essence be ruling the world. (as fortold by the prophets of the Old Testament, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, and the New Testament writer John in his ‘Revelation’)

The main question at hand is the role of true born-again Christians in politics. As a background for you, many in our sect of Christianity have in the past felt that we must keep ourselves seperate from the worlds affairs and use our time and resources solely for our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and seeking to convert the world by preaching His Gospel to all before His glorious return to earth to rule; that will of course be the true ushering in of ‘Peace on Earth’.

Several of us (mostly in the younger generations) have questioned this practice, (of non-involvement in politics) as we see many laws being passed in our home countries that are in direct conflict with the Word of God, the Bible. (in Canada, a law permitting Same-Sex Marriage is about to be passed) Some of us feel that it is partially due to our neglect of politics that these issues that we are faced have arisen.

Of course, some feel (as I do) that the passing of these laws may simply be another sign that the End of Days is almost here, and it should spur us on to proclaim the Truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that He alone is the pathway to God, before time is up for the world”.

Further on in this thread, Andrew Prescott makes reference to being “asked today to join the Board of Directors for our local CPC EDA.”  But for the most part (until then at least), it would appear that the author sees himself obeying some higher calling than the earthly laws enacted by parliament.  Would it be such a stretch to wonder whether the same might apply to the Elections Act?