Monday, January 21, 2008

Newspaper tries hard to cause social unrest, then parent company goes under

Soon to be bankrupt owner of QuebecorLast week, Quebecor-owned tabloid newspaper the Journal de Montréal ran a cover story about an undercover reporter who applied for retail sales jobs in downtown Montreal while pretending to speak only English.

The supposed English-speaking job applicant was rejected by 75 percent of employers. But you wouldn't know that from the sensational front cover or the outrage this caused on French-language talk radio. The Journal did a good job of spinning the article in such as way so as to play up the 15 percent of retailers who agreed to hire her and not the inverse statement.

Last year, it was the Journal de Montréal that stirred up anger and resentment against religious and cultural minorities. This led the governing Liberals to try to defuse the Journal's irresponsible stories by what they hoped would be a boring public commission.

Now the Journal is back to baiting the English-speaking community. On cue, all the usual language supremacists are demanding the Quebec government strengthen language laws to make the most business-unfriendly jurisdiction in North America just that must more intolerable. The threats from the FLQ won't be far behind.

From time to time, you begin to think everything is going to be okay in Quebec. I can live here. I'll buy a house and send my kids to school here. And then things like this happen to remind you to pay more attention to the writing on the wall.

The only happy note in all this is that Quebecor World, the parent company of the Journal de Montréal--whose founder once commented that Jews "take up too much space" in Quebec and women had no place on boards because "they seduce too much"--filed for bankruptcy protection today. The Péladeau brothers should have no trouble getting work at a store downtown as their French is impeccable.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Democratic debate

I watched part of the Republican and Democrat debates from New Hampshire on Saturday evening. Charlie Gibson did something I've never seen before: he was interviewing a group of people at the same time. That is, he would challenge an answer in the way he might do in a one-on-one interview.

Gibson also did something else interesting by getting the Democrats to come on stage at the end of the Republican debate. It was like a rumble royal but without the flying chairs.

Change is the keyword in the last week or so. Change is what people want, we are told by the talking heads. Senator Obama did well in Iowa because he is the change candidate.

The silliest exchange of the evening was Senator Hillary Clinton's answer about how she, too, is all about the change. You dig?
"I want to make change, but I've already made change. I will continue to make change. I'm not just running on a promise of change. I'm running on 35 years of change. I'm running on having taken on the drug companies and the health insurance companies, taking on the oil companies. So, you know, I think it is clear that what we need is somebody who can deliver change. And we don't need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered. The best way to know what change I will produce is to look at the changes that I've already made."--Hillary Clinton, Jan. 5, 2008
You can no more convince someone you are the change than you can convince someone to love you. Change is a feeling and people "feel" that Obama is new and different in some way. They don't "feel" that way about Hillary Clinton. "I'm running of 35 years of change..." what they hell does that even mean?

While her "change" answer was ridiculous, her nuclear-terrorism answer was not. Gibson asked:
The next president of the United States may have to deal with a nuclear attack on an American city. I've read a lot about this in recent days. The best nuclear experts in the world say there's a 30 percent chance in the next 10 years. [...] On the day after a nuclear weapon goes off in an American city, what would we wish we had done to prevent it? And what will we actually do on the day after?
Senator Edwards responded thus: "The first thing is we have to immediately find out who's responsible and go after them. And that is the responsibility of the president of the United States." Wow. He fully grasps the issue.

Edwards adds: "Because if someone has attacked us with a nuclear weapon, it means they have nuclear technology, it means they could have gotten another nuclear weapon into the United States that we're unaware of. We have to find these people immediately and use every tool available to us to stop them." Uh huh. Wonderful. Next!

Senator Obama pretty much said the same but segued into his message about his work in nuclear non-proliferation: "We would obviously have to retaliate against anybody who struck American soil, whether it was nuclear or not. It would be a much more profound issue if it were nuclear weapons. That's why it's so important for us to rebuild the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty that has fallen apart under this administration." But Obama, the bombs are out there. Terrorists don't sign non proliferation treaties.

Senator Clinton gave the best answer. She sounded like someone who has thought about this before: Firstly, she said the US needs to reform its intelligence agencies. That's a good, practical suggestion. Then she hit a home run showing that, on this issue at least, she is way ahead of her opponents. "If we can demonstrate that the people responsible for planning the nuclear attack on our country may not themselves be in a government or associated with a state, but have a haven within one, then every state in the world must know we will retaliate against those states."

Exactly. As Benjamin Netanyahu has said, there is no international terrorism without the support of sovereign states. He said: "Terrorists are not suspended in mid-air. They train, arm and indoctrinate their killers from within safe havens on territory provided by terrorist states."

Clinton understands this. The other Democrats do not, or more charitably, have never taken the time to try to understand it.

Governor Richardson freaks me out. Here's what he said: "If I'm elected president, I will do two things. First, I will seek immediate negotiations with the Soviet Union and other nuclear states to reduce the number of nuclear weapons."
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