Friday, June 28, 2013

Returning soon

I’ve been absent from the blog world for a few weeks and regular readers deserve an explanation. First, I'll describe what started this one person blogging effort more than four years ago.

In 2008, months after Robert Dziekanski’s death at the hands of RCMP officers, I was outraged by police denial of accountability. Preferring lies and obfuscations, the force spent funds readily, aiming to blame the victim and excuse their own actions. More than 5 years later, lawyers are in court, still on that quest, paid for by taxpayers. The approach was not limited to a few officers worried about individual misconduct, the effort was systemic, managed by high ranking personnel.

I was sensitive to Dziekanski’s death because one of my children could have been a police casualty. Early one morning, oldest son, then a UBC science student and home alone, was aroused from sleep by commotion of unknown people. He was seized in our living room by gun toting RCMP officers and confined until they realized he had legitimate reason to be in his own house and they did not.

RCMP claimed our address was mistakenly targeted by police responding to an audible alarm in the neighbourhood. That made little sense since we had no detection system and residential alerts were not typically dealt with by plain clothes officers with guns in hand. The odd process after my complaints made it clear the RCMP had no interest in admitting error or explaining why a lawful person could have his life threatened at gunpoint in his own home.

The event occurred after 22 year-old Danny Posse had been shot dead during what Vancouver Sun writer Ian Mulgrew called a “botched drug raid staged by the West Vancouver municipal police and the North Vancouver RCMP.” After police homicides of Posse, Ian Bush, Frank Paul, Kevin St. Arnaud, Paul Boyd and others, I presumed my innocent son could easily have been one more name on the list. Had he been shot dead by a nervous officer after they wrongfully invaded our house, RCMP would have denied responsibility and slandered him to justify the shooting.

Experience and observation of police actions required that I speak out with vigour. My first blogging target was the RCMP but I became certain that police accountability was entirely flawed and, a system that remains defective over years becomes the responsibility of system managers: ruling politicians. They became my primary targets.

In youth, I was a Liberal activist but came to believe the party was unworthy of support, from me or anyone else. (Sorry Pat McGeer and Gordon Gibson Jr.) With a career in small enterprise management, I was not inclined toward the other party of big business or the party of trade unions so I consciously spoiled ballots in federal and provincial elections. Yet, with study, I became certain that a strong labour movement enabled a strong middle class and that meant a strong economy. Government transparency and accountability was the key to political change and spoiled ballots had been an unnoticed and worthless protest.

People ask if my blog was intended to promote one party over another. My usual reply was no, I only hoped that better informed citizens would result in better government. However, I realized that citizens could not and would not be better informed because professional media messengers are obliged to commercial interests.

Independent, public-interest reporting is practised rarely. It is a little more than a relic of past idealism. Admittedly, journalism in the good old days was less perfect than we like to remember. Then, people aiming to influence public opinion knew how to handle media gatekeepers. And, they do today. Rewards a few decades ago were less direct: meals, drinks, travel and entertainment benefits, usually modest in value. Today, rewards are richer and more direct, and the recipients defiantly oblivious to conflicts. Right, Vaughn? Right, Bill?

If you want important persons from the province's largest media players to be onside, pay tens of thousands for Edge of the Ledge boys to have dinner with you and your friends. That Postmedia, Global and Corus colleagues fail to condemn the practice demonstrates their own insecurity or suggests more than a few in corporate media are waiting, willing and hoping for similar rewards. Their employers care nothing of journalistic ethics but care instead about bottom lines. That involves serving the same groups paying rewards to individual writers and broadcasters.

After starting this blog in 2009, I spent thousands of hours researching material, considering and writing about matters that caught my interest. I wanted always to say that readers could disagree with my opinions, but never with my facts. I've tried to be diligent despite lacking resources or special contacts. My personal situation allowed commitment to unpaid work but only because of an understanding spouse, who works tirelessly and keeps the boat afloat.

In early days, when blog visitors counted in the low hundreds, I sensed that I was tilting at windmills. However, as readership rose into the tens of thousands, I knew the messages were finding a significant audience in British Columbia. Other bloggers claimed large readerships and I believed that collectively, we were having a worthwhile impact.

In a caution, Keith Baldrey implied on Twitter that bloggers misinterpret their influence because they speak to themselves. Probably true. Tsakumis, Yuile, Reid, RossK, Farrell and others cannot add audiences in the same sum because most readers visit each place regularly. That means the total is tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. In fact, BC Liberals were empowered by 795,943 voters, 17% of the provincial population. (Disclosing that percentage particularly disturbs Liberal Twitterbots.) So, bloggers are not much short of speaking to a very significant audience. However, there remains a substantial segment of our citizenry who choose to be unaware and uninvolved in community politics. If they weren't motivated in 2013, they might never be motivated, even if their BC Hydro bills quadruple, as they will.

The reasons behind my entry into the world of blogging are still worthwhile to me but I'm not certain that I can continue at the past rate. I have ambition to do long form writing but that means plenty of work that might result in a few hours of reading for individuals, if any find it interesting. Additionally, I registered for three UBC courses last fall and would like to continue more of this recreational learning.

I remain committed to the idea stated a while back about a non-commercial online aggregation website for bloggers but realize that putting it in place demands time and financial resources that are considerable. I was determined to provide my own effort but life intervened. My residence project moved from renovation to reconstruction. The budget went from OK, to Oh Yeah?

We've got three little people and their mom living with two old folks. Despite a fine contractor and the spectacular assistance of a tradesman son, this project has been much larger than we expected. It nears completion but all the changes have had unanticipated consequences on life.

I used to spend about eight hours in research for each hour of writing and that might have produced minutes of material for readers. Until we've accomplished what we need to accomplish at home, and that includes drywall, paint, flooring and landscaping, I will not produce daily articles. For the first time ever, I turned off my news collection services in May and ignored the world outside my home.

Actually, that's been kind of nice, for a change. But, I'm starting to wonder what has  been going on with all of you people.

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