Monday, November 28, 2011

It took less than a year for Cablegate to prove it's worth

One year ago yesterday, the world was introduced to the largest-ever cache of unpublished government documents as Wikileaks began the slow release of over 250 000 US diplomatic cables. It did not take long for the media to deride the cables, widely referred to as a "dump," as a useless unimportant thing that would serve no purpose other than slight amusement. Not long after, Tom Oleson in the Winnipeg Free Press chose to echo his mainstream cohorts from around the globe, purpotrating the myth that Wikileaks was somehow out to publish every little detail of absolutely everything that ever existed. My response to this column was published two weeks later.

A year later, the cables have had a profound impact on journalism worldwide. Exactly the opposite of every op-ed pundit snickering at Wikileaks' latest.

Even in Canada things have been uncovered. This CBC story published in September 2011, about how Canadians with a history of mental illness may be denied entry into the US, for committing no crime. Or right here in Winnipeg, the details of Gail Asper expressing her interest in having President Obama come to Winnipeg to speak and raise funds for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, is detailed in this cable right here.

It should be lost on nobody in this town of the desperate gasping for more funding for the Museum, the irony in getting President Obama to come speak about human rights. Wikileaks published many cables unveiling for the first time evidence that CIA drone strikes authorized by the White House were occurring in multiple countries such as Yemen, where two US Citizens were assassinated via drone.

I have written on this website periodically about the massive oil spill and lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. Wikileaks published cables to this as well, exposing Chevron's lobbying attempts to get the US Government to help them avoid responsibility for environmental damage. Other serious environmental cover-ups have been revealed as well, including the revelation that up to 90% of Peru's Mahogany exports were illegally harvested.

This sort of information has a profound effect on people's abilities to hold their governments to account. As well as an incredible tool for journalists around the world, the Cablegate documents remain an important prime source, effectively ushering in an era of what Julian Assange called "scientific journalism." An era where you can check the source yourself, read it yourself, and decide for yourself, without filter.

For more foreign policy examples, you can view this summary here of a number of cables related to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, as well as on the recently concluded NATO-led war in Libya.

The harshest of Wikileaks critics have been silenced, by the realities of the impacts of these cables, their content, and their value as a source material. Knowledge and truth, it seems, really does win in the end.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Out of Mind/Into Creativity Symposium

The studio I currently have space in, Artbeat Studio Inc, in conjunction with the William Kurelek exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (which everyone should go see) is holding a gathering of distinguished speakers from the mental health community to speak about the relationship between mental health and the arts.

The keynote speaker is today and there are events all day tomorrow, Friday November 25.

I'll stop there...this is a message from the Studio Director at Artbeat:

In October the Winnipeg Art Gallery opened the exhibition William Kurelek: The Messenger. This major undertaking marks the first major retrospective look at the life and artwork of one of Canada’s most important visual artists. The life of William Kurelek has been well documented, but of particular significance was his intense struggle with depression for which he was twice hospitalized in London, England. Kurelek ultimately went on to become one of the most successful Canadian artists of the twentieth century and an enduring excellent example of the power and hope provided by participation in the arts.

Artbeat Studio along with the Winnipeg Art Gallery believe that the realization of the Kurelek exhibition offers a critically relevant moment at which to offer a symposium that will shed light on the relationship between mental health, the arts, and social inclusion. This landmark symposium “Out of Mind/Into Creativity” is drawing international interest and participation and presents a very important move towards the engagement of the Winnipeg community regarding issues of mental health-- issues often unknown, ignored, or misunderstood in the general public. By highlighting the vibrant creative contributions of artists living with mental illness, the event will also act as a cultural celebration and hopefully stimulate the public to become involved in mental health awareness & advocacy in our community.

Historically speaking, we can point to many artists (visual, musical, literary) that have dealt with the debilitating effects of mental illness and yet mental illness within contemporary society remains a topic of deep-seated social ignorance. Mental health consumers still face rampant social stigma and marginalization. A symposium on mental health and the creative mind will explore the relationship between individual creativity and artists’ mental health, whilst stimulating public discussions, fostering the sharing of information and working to subvert the myths, stereotypes and stigma that continue to haunt discussions of mental illness today.

We hope that you will join us for this symposium. We look forward to seeing you there.

Lucille Bart

Executive Director
Artbeat Studio Inc.
4th Floor, 62 Albert St.
Winnipeg, MB R3B 1E9
t: (204)943-5194

There will be many great ideas and speakers on Friday, which I encourage you to come out to.

Hope to see you there,


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dan Lett and the Ivory Cafe

On November 5th, Dan Lett wrote this feel-goodery piece about Kevin Chief, what a great guy he is, and his volunteers who helped him win a provincial MLA seat in Point Douglas. A commenter challenged the validity of Chief's victory. Dan responded:

Behold the wonder of citizen journalism.
Posting under a made up name, or perhaps that is your real name, a number of allegations have been presented as fact.
We did look into the allegations in Pt. Douglas. A poll worker wrongly allowed nine people who did not live in the riding to vote there. That box was sealed. However, let's keep it in perspective. If you take a look at the number of spoiled ballots (reported in official results at Elections Manitoba) and you'll see about two dozen. That's consistent with most ridings.
Then there's the allegation of poll workers telling voters who to vote for. The Tories have filed a complaint with Elections Manitoba but have not offered anyone a witness or other piece of hard evidence to support this allegation. They said there was cheating, they just haven't been able to specify what happened. EM will report back on it.
As for voters without ID, there is a huge problem in the riding with transient population not having ID and not being able to register. Chief's campaign got many of these people ID; whether or not some were turned away because the ID they had was insufficient is something that happens in every riding. And every party shuttles voters to polls on election day with the implicit message that they should vote for the candidate that provided the ride. It's called "getting out the vote." 
I'm glad your passionate about politics. Sorry you guys didn't win. I think you need to find a new hobby. The 9-11 conspiracy folks and the "Birthers" hanging around the Republican party need a researcher like you.


First Dan chides the commenter as a citizen journalist, and then makes fun of his probably-anonymity. He goes into some allegations, and then decides to label his commenter a 9-11 conspiracy theorist, and a “birther”(someone who believes Obama is not actually American and demands to see the “real” birth certificate), ending with a career suggestion of “researcher for the Republican Party.”

I'm just a citizen journalist, so I have no idea what triggered this outrageous display of idiocy from Lett. Perhaps Dan and “teddybaxter” have had it out in previous comment threads. I searched for “teddybaxter” and he certainly is no citizen journalist, just a prolific news commenter-person.

So I left a comment for Dan. In the interest of keeping this post shorter than the Sports section of the Free Press on a Tuesday, I'll omit it. This is Dan's response:

@ Graham - so I'm not allowed to cross swords with people who write inflammatory, derogatory comments? I do that, and I'm disrespectful. You and your cohorts do that, and somehow that's a "new approach to journalism." I read your blog several times each week. I don't agree with everything you say, but I surely don't write blog posts or post on your site and call you names. My point in calling out the "citizen journalists" was to point out that many do not have to live up to any standards of reporting or attribution. It's great to float theories but don't represent them as facts. Challenge the facts, absolutely. 
Go back and read teddybaxter7's posts and tell me you think he represents "citizen journalists" well.

Nobody said you couldn't cross swords. But you did, and in doing so, you exposed yourself for being a rather dull sword in the drawer of Winnipeg jourmanalists. No, you don't leave posts on my site calling me names, but “teddybaxter” didn't call you any name other than your given one (unless it's an alias, some journos do that you know, to remain anonymous?). I alleged that the Free Press was practicing “ostritch journalism,” an allegation I stand behind. Burying your head in the sand ins't a great journalism practice, and quite frankly, it's the reason why people like me exist.

To take at face value anything that Elections Manitoba says, after what happened in 1999 and 12 years of NDP rule, probably doesn't do you any journalism standards credos. I won't get started on how Dan “Stefano Grande” Lett spins Crime Stat to perpetrate the mainstream media insistence that downtown is safe and that crime is all in our heads. Dan's colleagues Mellissa Martin and Bartley Kives both ruled out any possibility of anything actually going on during the 2010 Civic Election in which Ross Eadie claimed he “couldn't have run without the help of the NDP,” a clear violation of election laws. City Clerk Mark Lemoine refused to investigate a formal complaint filed in writing with his office.

After that incident, real citizen journalist Marty Gold was attacked for having eyewitnesses on his show to this incident. In a convoluted way, it ended up with the cancelation of The Great Canadian Talk Show on November 8th of 2010. That is, a show with the approval of local real journalists, James Turner, Kevin Engstrom and Kelly Dehn. I believe you were on that show once or twice, Dan?

TGCTS brought to public attention the string of Magnus Street murders from 2007. The Disraeli expropriations and situation with Eliminator RC were broke I believe, a full two weeks before the Free Press wrote about it. We call that in the citizen journo world “reporting history,” Dan. Marty Gold broke the Gail Glesby story, of ghastly treatment by hospital staff which the Mainstream papers picked up on after the fact, and which Theresa Oswald was forced to address in question period. Don't forget the role bike lanes played in the 2010 Civic Election, all work carried out by citizen journalists, while the Free Press especially rolled their eyes while waiting for something “exciting” to happen in the race.

More ostrich-ism. Through Freedom of Information requests it was revelaed that Dan's boss, Margo Goodhand, was entirely 100% complicit in this cancellation. A show with a 4-year track record of zero complaints filed with RRC, zero complaints filed with the CRTC. But Margo insists that TGCTS host Marty Gold had a platform for daily “attacks” on the WFP, which “escalated to defamation on more than several occasions.” That is, defamation that Margo can provide no proof of, and no examples of, despite there being a 4-year archived history of the show online.

How's that for journalism standards? Shutting down other media outlets? With no reason, no complaints, no lawsuits, no nothing. Oh there was a reason, it was “I don't like you.” It says right in our Charter of Rights that we are entitled to free speech, and a free press! Here is an independent group of journalists, breaking their own news, doing their own coverage, lining up their own interviews. It was too much for Margo Goodhand. We welcome criticism she says, but when it's by citizen journalists, it isn't criticism anymore, it's “attacks,” it has to be stopped.

Now we see the Winnipeg Free Press wants to control the practice of citizen journalism, with their own citizen journalism training program, in conjunction with Margo Goodhand's favourite censors, RRC's CreComm department no less. A program I have been thus far kept entirely out of, despite assurances from some at the Free Press. Not one citizen journalist has been asked to partake in this project that has been given a $400 000 grant, to my knowledge.

Perhaps the Free Press sees it as their job, to “educate” their plentiful “citizen journalist” commenters, by people like Dan Lett. Citizen Journalism exists to fill a vacuum created by mainstream news outlets. They are incapable of criticizing themselves, and interests of the editor and the paper's advertisers ensure some stories get buried, others don't get any coverage at all. That is why citizen journalism can exist and does exist.

But Dan's incredulity didn't stop there. In a response to commenter "sherlock" on his Kevin Chief story he says:

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own version of the facts."

Oh but people are entitled to their own version of the facts. Especially if you're the editor of a major newspaper and you want to get rid of some pesky citizen journalists. Margo Goodhand is apparently entitled to this, isn't it a great stalwart of journalism ethics to be entitled to your own version of the facts? Margo invented her own facts, crippling citizen journalism in Winnipeg in the process. She knocked down the station manager, and then went and lied to the National Post, and lied about lying to the National Post. I mean really, she never listened to the show, but there she is whining about how her newspaper gets "attacked" every day of the week?

For the Free Press to attempt to control this community by cranking out their own virgin citizen journo reporters via the Free Press News Cafe as trained by the already-existing journalists at the Free press, they are undermining the entire purpose of blogging and citizen journalism. It is purely self serving. They'll probably get an award out of it somehow.

The track record of existing citizen journalists and bloggers proves exactly why the Free Press has no place “developing” their own vision of it.

Trained by the people at the Ivory Cafe. The ones who take Elections Manitoba at face value, and Crime Stat at face value. The ones who mock their own commenters for asking questions. The ones who take editorial control of the news to spin an Upper Fort Garry apartment into an evil menace. The ones who think they are a cut above and a cut beyond, that they're better than you because they are “trained.” The ones who won't risk their careers to get the truth out, no matter in what highly regard they delude themselves for believing they do so.

The ones who are entitled to make up facts.

So, Dan. What are you going to write about your boss Margo?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Money makes the world go 'round

Are you a charitable organization that wants to support Palestine's statehood bid? Say goodbye to your biggest funder, the US. Oh, and Canada will keep giving UNESCO money until 2014, but John Baird doesn't like it. 'Cause everyone knows the Palestinians aren't real people and, therefore, have no real heritage sites.

Is your name Greece? Is your country about to be saved by a giant international plan and by agreeing to all the austerity measures dictated by the iron-fist IMF, who have saved other fine countries like Russia in the 90s, South Africa in the 90s, and all those South American Junta countries decades ago? Wanna let your country decide the country's fate? The world economy really hates it when democracy gets involved. And these guys wonder what all this "Occupy" stuff is about?

Are you a whistleblower organization? Are you publishing secret documents that probably should be in people's hands, but aren't? Have you broken no laws, operating under the idea of Freedom of the Press, your material sourced and used by newspapers all over the world, uncountable numbers of times? That's too bad, because the biggest financial institutions can decide you are blacklisted and stop over 95% of your funding from ever, ever reaching you. Thereby proving that banks are indeed the most powerful unfettered corporations in the world.

If it interests you, you can donate via Visa to alleged rapist Julian Assange's Defense Fund, however you cannot donate via Visa to Wikileaks. Funding alleged rapists? Go ahead! Funding publishing, participating in democracy and journalism? Oh, hey now, boy.

Assange's extradition verdict is due in 6 hours. If extradition to Sweden is approved, it leaves open the possibility for him to be re-routed to the United States, where he will probably never see the light of day again, though he has committed no (publishing) crime. Known serial rapists are out in the world, their locations are known, yet they remain free. The international arrest warrant for Assange in December 2010 is insulting to the purpose of Sweden's rape laws, as well as the European Arrest Warrant system.

It's all about the money.

It's all about political power.

Events like these contribute to the Occupy movement. This is the age of the internet, the age of information, and the age where people and governments are as close as they've ever been to equal.

191 Days Without Charge from WikiLeaks on Vimeo.

Assange has now been under house arrest without charge for 339 days.

In other Wikileaks-related news, Bradley Manning, alleged source of the Collateral Murder video from the Iraq war, has been detained for 526 days without trial in the US.

( attention to those UNESCO folks. They're the ones who, with the NDP Government here in Manitoba, want to make a huge chunk of forest on the East side of Lake Winnipeg a heritage site)