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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29 comments:

  1. .. what a warm, refreshing & unique Canadian reflection ..

    I often think about the indy Canadian exemplars.. the essays, blogposts, journalism, links to source docs.. and collections of comments or diligent research that inspire me or shake me up.

    Sometimes you never know when you've succeeded.. sometimes we never really understand why we believe .. or why we want to share a perspective, an idea.. or express outrage.. folks like you just do it.

    Your indy efforts create ripples, eddies of thought, and inform, inspire.. stir up. You move, think & write in ways that mainstream can't. Your ideas wriggle and swim into little spaces and shelter there. Neat, unique Canadian ideas.. stubborn, strong, valid. And when those ideas anchor themselves and grow.. they create wonderful new space where more good ideas can come to hang out...

    I often mention how a simple little video called 'Tipping Barrels' was such a wake up call for me. And how despite being parked in the flatlands of Ontario I can go to British Columbia via informed indy writers or concerned biologists or observant artists.

    Keep on keeping on .. your view and voice is priceless

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  2. Your contribution to the world of blogs has been a valuable one and much appreciated, I hope you will find time to produce an occasional commentary as events grab your attention.
    But yes, taking a break from all the bad news does feel SO good!

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  3. What Salamander said--exactly. Thank you both.

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  4. I hope to see you back -- after things are in order on the home front. That's always the first priority.

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  5. Norm, thanks so much for taking the time to let us know that your thinking process is still right on the money. And for that very personal visit with your blogging beginnings.

    Know that the effort you put into accuracy and good expository writing is very much appreciated by this reader.

    I certainly miss your writings; I have checked twice a day for over a month for new words of wisdom from this page.

    I hope your health is standing up to all the stress going on in your life at present.

    And finally, whatever direction you decide to take when your household situation is resolved, I wish you all the best in your endeavours. Thank you for your contribution to a more informed public body.

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  6. Thank you for the update. It's great that there don't seem to be health considerations as a big part of the mix which was my primary concern. Hope the house gets buttoned up and that you can find the time to do both a bit of blogging and the long-form writing, sometimes the only way to say something that really needs saying.Very happy to hear from you. I suspect that many are breathing a sigh of relief as they see a new post up.

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  7. Gosh Norm, I really thought you were like the Energiser Bunny, but as the light gets dimmer,I realize that even those need recharging to make the light shine brighter.

    Our world would be a pretty dismal place without little patches of light here and there to lift our spirit and our hopes for a better homeland.

    After all, it is our hopes for those 'little ones' that underlies all our motivations.

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  8. Norm,
    Thank you for the update and a peek into your life. I must admit, you're absence had me concerned, very happy to hear that all is well with you.
    As a grandparent I can tell you the time spent with the grandchildren should take centre stage right now, even though your blog is dearly missed.
    When you're ready to come back to blogging, we will be here for you... Take good care of yourself Norm and know your hours of research, writing, investigating have made a huge difference to the lives of many British Columbians..

    Thank you for all your efforts, and for sharing such a personal side of your life.

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  9. Norm, thank your for your posts and I agree with George because I am a new grandparent, that time with your grandchildren is important and should take centre stage now.

    Your insights and in-depth analysis of our political scene have been a great source of information for all of us. When you decide to return, your readership will be here and will continue to expand as you offer a unique perspective on the events of the day.

    Again thank you and I look forward to reading your posts in the future

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  10. You have been sorely missed as the news media is in complete decline. The Sun and province have become the BC Liberals version of Völkischer Beobachter and Pravda.

    Real news is ignored as a litany of Liberal Party speak; TransLink speak; Fraser Health Authority speak; has now become what passes for news.

    The Tyee has gone off the rails and the Georgia Straight still have good articles but they are not mainstream.

    Bill Boring is, as he has been, boring, selling out to whomever will pay the price; the man has lost any modicum of intelligence and has become a caricature of himself.

    It is the blogs that one now garners the real news stories and even though some are quirky or somewhat long winded, they offer more intelligent discourse than the Global/Corus/Postmedia crowd.

    Again, you have been missed, your take on news has been missed and until I can have my morning (or even 4 times a week) read of Northern Insight, my day is not complete.

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  11. I hear you Norm,loud and clear. It's nice to see this.

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  12. Thank you Norm and best wishes to you and your family.

    I look forward to reading whatever and whenever you write.

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  13. An ambitious project, Norm, at a time when most of us are trying to wind down. Good on you.

    MoS

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  14. Norm,
    Thank you for the explanatory letter. I as many was very concerned checking daily and hoping that all was okay with you and your family.
    Each event you describe, the Dziekanski murder, the incident your son endoured, this current renovation is enough to bring pause to the normal flow of our lives and not in a minor way.
    Your clear and open minded writing has been a gift to us all and much appreciated.
    As is the case with Mr. Mandella people fear a future without the wisdon he provides them.
    Being a Grandfather myself I understand the responsibility of that and our families in general, sometimes overwhellming.
    Whatever you decide on how to spend your future efforts be it a book or other I'm sure it will in someway contribute to the betterment of all.
    My respect for you is great Norm and I have appreciated all you have done for the people of this province.
    Don

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  15. As always, thank you for sharing your time with us. Also, the house is looking good! Hugs to your grandkids, they are precious!

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  16. I've always considered you to be a balanced & fair journalist. Your efforts are very much appreciated and I look forward to a time when all works out at home & a return to your interesting comments.

    Guy in Victoria

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  17. Norm you have added more towards the advancement of humanity in five years, than most could achieve in several lifetimes.

    As one who has supported a spouse in their pursuit to lift humanity, I appreciate that you acknowledge yours.

    Life isn't much without a family, and supportive community.

    Speaking of which, the CBC commenting community is dropping away with recent unwarranted, and unwanted changes to the CBC commenting format which effectively stifles timely conversation. More about that later.

    Your nest looks lovely, feather it and relax.

    seven

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  18. I'm so happy to hear from you again. I was beginning to dread asking of your whereabouts in case the news was bad. So glad its only financial - that can be remedied, I hope. I was abandoned at the age of 63 and at the time thought it was the end of the world. Here it is ten years later and I couldn't be happier.
    All the best. I'll be looking for your great commentary when you're ready.
    John's Aghast.

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  19. I have to agree with all of the comments above .Best to you Norm.

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  20. Scotty on denmanJune 28, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Thanks for letting us know how you're doing, Norm. I wondered if you was gobsmacked by recent events but, knowing you've been renovating and, having been both renovator and renovatee myself, and seen everything there is to be seen about it, I always worry a bit about the inevitable strains and stresses of even the simplest reno. We don't have building inspectors here on Denman. Local politicians have touted it as being a fringe benefit of living under the bylaws of the Islands Trust, supposedly allowing for more architectural freedom but, I can assure you, often leading to unpleasant surprises for unwitting home buyers when something they thought was elective becomes necessarily expensive. Surprises are a certainty and impossible to estimate until revealed. Of course nowadays everything is so expensive! And what's with this 'blueskin' stuff? Code in Comox but needlessly costly IMHO where building paper has served well in the past. Stuff like that makes you wonder if it's worth it sometimes.

    We bought a 50s bungalow and "renovated" it, that is to say everything we wanted just so we built new as an addition to the old part where we simply tore out the broadloom and repainted. We eventually sold the place and it was leased to the medical clinic. Many people have asked me in the doctors' waiting room (our old dining room) if it felt strange being in my old house and I would say, no, not really--except for the time my doctor asked me if I ever thought I would be alone with her in my old bedroom in such a delicate position. Never in a million years, I had to admit. The place eventually changed hands again and the new owner 'gifted' our old house to the clinic, which had been given a treed lot on the other side of the village to which the house would be moved. The charge-hand told me they (the clinic) simply could not sneeze at the nominal one-dollar price of the house which would save them a lot of money even accounting the cost of the move. Now in its new location, people still ask me in the waiting room if it feels strange being in my old house and I say yes, because the back door that used to open into our kitchen garden is now the front entrance and the veranda where I used to survey the downtown Denman strip from my rocker now looks into a peaceful, treed yard. Naturally the move, and inevitable reno that gets done after every move, was afforded by many gifts of land, money, volunteer time and, of course, the house itself, contributions individual residents can only dream of. Yet when I asked the charge-hand if he would, in retrospect, do the same house-move-and-reno again, as opposed to building anew, he said never in a million years. Anyone survives a reno knows what I'm talkin' about.

    Good when it's done, though. All the best, Norm.

    Scotty

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  21. Hey Norm!
    I'm REALLY glad to hear that you've not died. (I think many were wondering).
    I doubt that you'll be able to resist an occasional blast about the mess we're in.
    We'll look forward to that.

    As for your description of the inspiration for beginning your regular commentary, here's a quote from Brendan Behan that you might have already heard:
    "I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn't make it worse."

    Regards,
    Ray Blessin
    Kamloops

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  22. Likewise, I was wondering about you!

    This is why I read your writing --- "readers could disagree with my opinions, but never with my facts."

    Great writing as always, thank you!

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  23. G. Barry StewartJune 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    Thanks for the update, Norm. You had us worried.

    I had never heard the story about your son, that got you started on the blogging path. I can imagine it would REALLY get you motivated.

    Your thoughts on the smallish band of folk who frequent these political blogs... and the even smaller group who respond in writing: Do we make a difference? I thought this most recent election would have been largely influenced by the blogosphere. I think others did, too.

    The news of the BC Libs' win hit me hard. How was it possible? I grossly overestimated the size of our collective voice. Even a cloudburst can't do much to a sea of ignorance — but I think we have to keep trying.

    Step back and evaluate what is important... but keep on seeking and speaking the truth.

    (Great looking reno, BTW. I know how wearing they can be!)

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  24. Norm
    nice to see your post and that all is well with you! What a great feeling it will be once the reno is finally finished. And thanks for posting the pics, looks beautiful.

    Both from a personal viewpoint, and for our communities and province, I hope you will continue to post either weekly or every so often. Would crowd sourcing the research help at all? And for me, although your research is outstanding, what I really value are your observations to things that would otherwise go unnoticed and unremarked.

    The provincial election was so disappointing and on many fronts. And it doesn’t help that the CBC and Tyee have changed their commenting format for less privacy and less readability. No more anonymous comments or voting. Changes that will further constrict progressive voices.

    Having the lamps of independent blogdom is even more important now. Blogs to rally progressive people, to give a sense of community and shared values, to shine light on dark corners and to acknowledge the elephants in the room.

    However it is also good to take turns and you’ve had an outstanding tour of duty regardless of whether you ever post another word. Thank you Norm.

    All the best, and hope you have a wonderful summer
    off-the-radar

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    Replies
    1. Norm, and off-the-radar,

      A quick thinking CBC commenter found an example of the old CBC comment format, the difference between the new, and the old is striking. Hope they don't disable the old one so we'll have an example of what we lost.

      Don't fix it if it ain't broke old format:

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2013/06/norways-slow-tv-culture-brings-salmon-knitting-to-the-tube.html

      New "improved" format:


      http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2013/06/cbc-community-gets-improved-commenting-space.html

      seven

      Delete
  25. Glad to be able to read your column!

    The renos look great! Nice work.

    Blogging and writing as you and others do is important. If no one voices opposition to what is going on in our province and elsewhere, nothing will change, people won't even know. It may not change much, as the last election demonstrated. However, the truth was written and people did read it and passed it on. It is what makes for a democracy. its like that old expression about for evil to prevail good people only have to do nothing. Well you are doing something and it is important. I have found your blog informative. Please, when you are able, continue writing.

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  26. Wow, that is an amazing recap of your genesis as a political writer, Norm, and I am in deep awe of both your abilities and your quest. Please, please keep sharing your info and opinions, because you are one of a very small number of beacons of enlightened discourse in this province. All the best to you.

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  27. Interesting story, Norm. I, too, once spoiled a ballot intentionally by writing in "None of the above". Unfortunately, my candidate didn't win....one of the above won.

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