Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Twist on Foreign Aid

Pick a country in need of a little foreign aid. Here's the plan.

A Canadian lends to the government of that country $10,000, at 10 per cent, for 10 years.

The only requirement is that the $1,000 annual interest be spent in that country. The Canadian government does not charge taxes on the interest earned by the Canadian investor.

The result:
1. The country has the use of the money for a fixed period of time.
2. The purchaser's interest is spent to support local industry.
3. The Canadian government aids a country in need.

Alberta Rights Commission a "Kangaroo Court"

Tolerance enforced by law is tyranny.

Yet another "worst example" of this comes from the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the May 30, 2008, judgement of Commissioner Lori G. Andreachuk, a lawyer. The issue was a letter in a local newspaper written by Stephen Boissoin in which he expressed his view of the homosexual agenda.

Darren Lund, a heterosexual, lodged a complaint. "[A]lthough not a direct victim [he] did expend considerable time and energy and suffered ridicule and harassment as a result of his complaint. The Panel finds therefore that he is entitled to some compensation," Andreachuck decided.

What do we have here? Lund, a person not affected by the letter in question, suffered ridicule from a third party, and Boissoin is ordered to pay him $5,000 for "pain and suffering." The illogic of all this failed to register on the Commissioner.

The farce continued when Andreachuk ordered Boissoin to "request" the newspaper to print her judgement and "request" the newspaper to publish his apology. Of course, the newspaper refused. This naive opinion constitutes legal over-reach at its most obscene.

Andreachuk further ordered Boisson never again,  until the day he dies, express similar views, not in his emails, not even in private conversation. This is more restrictive than what the Inquisition imposed on Galileo (who continued to publish).  Will the good Commissioner Andreachuck eavesdrop on Boissoin's pillow talk?

Fortunately, a court overturned the commissioner's mischief.

Human rights commissions are staffed by lawyers. One would think their training, if not common sense, would inhibit participation in such abuse of the legal process. The judgements of such tribunals too often smack of anti-intellectual flailing and gasping utopianism.

No law has ever changed a privately-held opinion.

Now the really good news. Commissioner Andreachuk's mischief came to the attention of the Alberta Government. The Culture Minister ordered changes in the Commission procedure. He has also initiated a search for a new Director who will "re-tool the commission from top to bottom. We had to change the governance of how it's run," he told the press. "It has to become objective. It's a quasi-judicial body that has to be run like one. No more kangaroo courts." All the commissioners were fired. They have been replaced, it is to be hoped, by people endowed with a modicum of common sense.

The non-profit Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership recommends the repeal of that part of the Code that deals with "statements or publications likely to expose people to hatred or contempt" in order to protect freedom of speech. There are those in the human rights community who are quick to say 'shut this person up, he said something nasty about gays or shut this person up he said something nasty about people in Somalia.' We don’t see limitations on freedom of expression as a good thing in the human rights arena. We see it as a bad thing.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Media Interviews

In the early days of television, the BBC interview program Face to Face set the standard for such telecasts. Its salient feature was the hidden interviewer. The camera over his shoulder focused on the guest throughout the entire program. The CBC program Take 30 had much the same format. The interviewer's ego was restrained. Since then, the interviewer has gained prominence to the point of intrusion. He/she has become the celebrity, not the guest.

The interviewer-free format produces desirable results: It minimizes the temptation of interviewer at self-glorification. It does not provide the interviewer with a platform for his opinions. It discourages negative interrogatories so favoured by today's media.

The format today is designed to showcase the interviewer. The late but not lamented program of CNN's Lou Dobbs illustrates this common practice. Dobbs introduced his guest as an expert in the topic of the day. With the camera focused on his abnormally white teeth, Dobbs opened with a self-serving thesis, the guest given time only to validate on what Dobbs has just said. Dobbs repeated his harangue. The guest uttered the affirmation sought by all down-scale interviewers, "You are absolutely correct." Another close-up of Dobbs's teeth ended the interview.

The flow of intelligent dialogue too often is not present as much as the listener deserves. Some interviewers operate from an inflexible agenda, thereby forcing the interview into a sought-after conclusion.

The closest we come to the ideal is TVO's Steve Paikin. Alone on camera for only short sequences, questions well phrased and researched, his personality never intrudes, no hand waving, no head bobbing. His guests are encouraged, indeed urged to soar. That's why they are there, to inform the viewer.

The clue to the interviewer's style is the negative interrogatory, and the word "but." For example, "But do you not believe...?" Good interviews are conversations among knowledgeable people.

The interviewer represents the listener. Questions should be those an informed person might ask. To accomplish this, the interviewer must be a well-researched listener, not a polemicist with an agenda.