Apr 29, 2011

Superman questions the American way

superman,citizenship,US

Some Superman fans want the Man-of-Steel to remain resolutely American in an uncomplicated defender-of-the-American-way fashion. The same caped patriot defending the same set of values more or less - even though we live in a world that is more complex, more transnational and interconnected, requiring an updated set of responses.

It offends them that their iconic hero is thinking twice... thinking in an unpatriotic manner in the view of some... not content to remain superglued to a world view that has more in common with the Reagan era.

What offends them most of all is that Supes, in his current incarnation courtesy of Action Comics, is threatening to renounce his American citizenship. His decision is sparked by a dressing down he receives from an American national security adviser for showing up at a protest in Tehran. Supes was there to support the demonstrators. In the eyes of the government of Iran he is an agent of the US and his attendance at the demo nothing less than an act of war.

Superman:

"I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy..." then adds - "Truth, justice and the American way... it's not enough any more."

superman,dc comics


The conservative outrage is typically myopic, best illustrated by this paragraph from a Jonathan Last article in the Weekly Standard:

...in the end, the only truly interesting aspect of Superman’s character is his complete devotion to America. Because it’s this devotion—of which his citizenship is the anchor—that establishes all of his moral limits. Why does this demi-god not rule the earth according to his own will? The only satisfying answer is that he declines to do so because he believes in America and has chosen to be an American citizen first and a super man second.

There is no higher calling or incentive for establishing "moral limits" than "devotion to America"... really? This type of Glenn Beckian propaganda is so bereft of reason it is almost a faith-based conceit.

It may come as news to some people but there are inspirational values that transcend the American way - values that are universal if you will. But a lot of Americans do get that and Superman/Clark Kent isn't suddenly an-enemy-of-America because he has the backbone to voice a few objections. Isn't that what being American is supposed to be about?

It is entirely appropriate at this juncture in history that Supes is showing signs of discontent with a narrowly defined identikit. This doesn't mean that he is a traitor, it just means that he doesn't appreciate being co-opted by a view of the world he doesn't entirely buy.

That he talks in terms of renouncing his citizenship in front of the UN is a road too far for fans with conservative leanings. Not surprising really since many remain enamored of a retro vision of America, compounded with nostalgia and misty eyed musings. It's a vision that is out-of-touch in an America that is increasingly diverse and yeah - complicated. But whether it is Superman or Oprah or anyone else who rocks the boat, the solution for some is to seek for lost context in the crawl space of history.

Maybe they will start demanding Supes' birth certificate. Start questioning his citizenship. If he was born on Krypton - is there proof of naturalization? Has anyone actually seen his naturalization papers? Maybe Supes was an alien agent to begin with. Siding with America just to show "America" up in the end. There is no limit to the paranoia in some areas of the conspiracy addled American right.

If the evolution of the superhero suggests that maybe he is becoming more sensitized, more principled, less reflexively patriotic while no less American... is this is a bad thing? In the eyes of some people, nothing short of a comic-disaster.

For more on this story link also to - Guardian - Toronto Star - Comics Alliance

Superman: other ways to enrage the right

Superman is made more PC

Police arrest three anti-royal wedding protesters

knight,royal wedding

Before the royal wedding at Westminster Abbey, British police arrested three anti-capitalist activists who were planning a street theater event.

Guardian:

Three anti-capitalist activists who were planning a mock execution of Prince Andrew with a guillotine to mark the royal wedding have been arrested and detained at Lewisham police station.

Officers arrested Professor Chris Knight, a leading member of the G20 Meltdown group, outside his home in Brockley, south east London at around 6.15pm, according to an eyewitness.

Also arrested were Knight's partner Camilla Power and Patrick Macroidan, who was dressed as an executioner, said fellow activist Mike Raddie, of north London, who was with them.

The three activists were preparing to drive their theatrical props, including a home-made guillotine and effigies, into central London when three police cars and two police vans drew up near Knight's home in Brockley, said Raddie.

Street theater hardly ranks as a serious security threat even if the content might be offensive to some people. Looking into what the group was up to is one thing, but arresting them seems like a needless overreaction on the part of British police. Chris Knight has stated on a number of occasions that he doesn't engage in violence.

The group advertised the event as the "Zombie Wedding" and posted a disclaimer on their website that states: "PS govt of the DEAD disclaimer: this is a totally non-terrorist event and bears absolutely no resemblance to the Jacobin Terror of 1793-94."

The group had no intention of getting close to the royal action at Westminster. Their plan was to link up with a street party - Republic's Not the Royal Wedding - in Red Lion Square, Holborn, central London.

The police may have had concerns because of the hype about anarchists in the lead-up to the wedding - most of it ridiculously overblown. For example the London Evening Standard's warning of 15,000 anarchists (1,500 of them hardcore militants) out to wreck Wills and Kates' special day.

Video of the arrests beneath:





For more, link to: Guardian, London Indymedia

Apr 25, 2011

Henry Mintzberg: Harper majority? Think twice

mintzberg,harper

On the surface at least, you would think McGill's Henry Mintzberg - one of Canada's leading business scholars - would be happy with the prospect of a Harper majority. Harper is about business after all... corporate tax cuts, right? So what's Mintzberg's beef?

Montreal Gazette:

He [Mintzberg] fears that Harper’s brand of conservatism, which can be considerably more hard-edged and combative than Canadians have been used to, “puts at risk the things that make Canada different and wonderful” in a world he sees as increasingly dominated by “an unholy economic dogma of corporate entitlement.”


Harper often takes credit for Canada avoiding some of the heavy fall-out from the financial crash. But as Mintzberg points out the safeguards that kept Canada from experiencing the worst of it had nothing to do with Harper.

Montreal Gazette:

... the elements that saved Canada during the U.S. crash were put in place long before the Harper government arrived on the scene. It was the Liberal governments of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, for example, that slashed Canada’s government debt. As for the strict bank regulation that helped keep our financial sector safe, it was actually loosened by the Harper government before it more recently reversed course.

Other concerns relate to the type of political culture that would characterize a Harper majority government. Mintzberg believes political discourse would be debased by more of the 'harsh, personalized attacks on opposition figures that have become commonplace under Harper.' He also anticipates that there would be a loss of support on the part of government for medicare and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

More of Henry Mintzberg's views on the upcoming Canadian election can be found at http://www.mintzberg.org/

The [Canadian] HARPER government

Harper government - new agenda on Parliament Hill

Dancing Dmitry: Medvedev steps out

medvedev,dancing,russia

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has been making a few moves of his own of late - and not only on the dance floor. The more independent stance by Medvedev suggests he is at odds with Putin on a number of issues. However as is often the case with Kremlin politics - things aren't always the way they appear.

There have been sharp divergences of opinion between the leaders on recent occasions. On a video posted on the Kremlin website Medvedev was critical of Stalin. Remarks such as “I’m convinced that the memory of national tragedies is no less sacred than the memory of victories..." and references to "mass crimes against the people" differ markedly from Putin's more nuanced, at times positive commentary on the Stalin legacy.

More recently Putin likened the allied effort in Libya to “a medieval call for a crusade.” Without directly referring to Putin by name, Medvedev issued a cautionary warning - “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions that essentially lead to a clash of civilizations — such as ‘crusade’ and so on.”

Some pundits see the president's more independent stance as indication of a power struggle in the ruling elite, or even a Medvedev inspired 'coup' of some sort. This is highly unlikely. A more strategic read on the president's differences with Putin is that an independent Medvedev could prove politically advantageous for the ruling party in the run-up to the elections.

Medvedev may appear to be working at cross-purposes with Putin on some issues - but Putin himself may not be altogether averse to creating the appearance of shaking things up internally. Former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov as an example was a big Putin supporter, but the PM remained quiet when Medvedev gave Luzhkov the old heave-ho. The mayor had become both an embarrassment and a political liability.

Medvedev has been pushing for less state interference in the economy. He proposed replacing officials on state-controlled company boards - some of them Putin cronies - with independent directors. This move is unlikely to be as far reaching as some may have hoped. A senior Russian official announced that government representation will remain strong on state-controlled company boards.

It would be a mistake to see these initiatives as an attempt at some type of unilateral action on the part of the president. Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov rather tellingly sees "no conflict" between Putin and Medvedev in these matters - it seems to be more about how the changes are implemented:

The subject of replacing officials with independent directors has long been on the agenda. It is another matter, in the context of carrying out the instructions of the head of state, how we’ll monitor the implementation of state directives in those companies where the government is the majority shareholder.


Medvedev has not only been staking out a voice for himself - he's also been staking out some dance space.

Check out dancing Dmitry's moves below:





For more link to Guardian

Confession by app: 'sin' goes digital

confession app,catholic

The Catholic Church's Sacrament of Penance allows those who have been baptized to confess their "sins" to a duly ordained priest. The cleric then recites prayers of absolution to obtain divine forgiveness for the penitent's wrong doings.

Confession presupposes faith in the clerical go-between. Given the number of Catholic clerics who have been outed in scandals of one sort or another, how can you be confident that the priest you're confessing to is someone you would even trust with a grocery list?

There is now the option of confessing with a digital assist courtesy a new app.

CBC:

It [the app] also advertises features such as password protection to allow multiple users, a "custom examination of conscience" based on age, sex and marital status, the ability to add sins that aren't listed and a choice of seven different acts of contrition — prayers that express sorrow for sins.


The app isn't a replacement for actual confession - more along the lines of a supplement - since absolution can only be granted by a priest.

A Guardian article includes a few interesting insights on the use of the app:

I was invited to measure myself against the benchmark of the 10 Commandments. Since the Catholicism of my confessional years was hot on sexual misdemeanors, I selected "thou shalt not commit adultery". The comprehensive checklist that came up contained everything from the petty (impure thoughts, masturbation) to what only the Pope today still regards as sinful (contraception and homosexuality). As a handy reminder of the intolerance of the Church, it could hardly be bettered.

The app was developed by Little iApps based in Indiana and has the blessings of the American Catholic Church. The company received an "impramatur" - an official publication license from the church - and was aided in the creation of the app by a priest and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What if a snoop accesses the digital confession? Phone penitents should consider making their passwords long and complicated.

Amusing take on the confession app beneath:





For more on story link to: Guardian - CBC

Apr 21, 2011

Focus magazine's Venus insult triggers lawsuit


A cover of the German magazine Focus that shows the Venus de Milo holding up a middle finger accompanied by the words 'Cheater of the Euro Family' continues to provoke outrage in Greece. The cover and the equally provocative article have triggered a dissing match between German and Greek tabloids.

Now it seems a lawsuit may be involved.

Der Spiegel:

... six Greek citizens who felt particularly offended are taking legal action against the journalists involved, including Helmut Markwort, the magazine's founder who was also editor in chief of Focus at the time of publication.

According to reports in the Wednesday editions of the German newspapers Handelsblatt and Tagesspiegel, Markwort and nine other Focus employees are due to appear in an Athens court on June 29. The newspapers reported that public prosecutor Ourania Stathea is looking into accusations of defamation, libel and the denigration of Greek national symbols.


In the offending Focus edition the question is posed - "will the Greeks make off with our money?".
The magazine broadside has opened old wounds and ignited buried resentments. Anti-German videos have been showing up on YouTube containing images from Nazi-era concentration camps. Insults include the claim that when Greek civilization was at its zenith the ancestors of the Germans were little more than barbarians.

An Athens daily hit back at the Focus' graphic by publishing a doctored image of the Victory column in Berlin. The goddess Victoria atop the Siegessaule is shown holding a swastika. There is a warning of 'financial Nazism.'

Greek vice-president Theodoros Pangalos made references recently to Nazi looting of Greek wealth. He said: "They [the Nazis] took away the Greek gold that was in the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back…!". PM Papandreou has also weighed in on the debate with the claim that Germany has never paid compensation for WW2 crimes.

Focus editor, Helmut Markwort, argues that that the cover was intended to be satirical. He said "It was legitimate, satirical commentary... After all, the Greeks invented satire."

Focus lowered the finger on the cover of a recent edition. It shows the Venus de Milo with hand extended as though begging for a handout, accompanied by the words “Griechenland – und unser Geld” (Greece and our money)... guaranteed to stoke further indignation.


focus,greece


A statement from the Greek Consumer Institute (INKA) reflects the level of anger. 'The falsification of a statue of Greek history, beauty and civilization, from a time when [in Germany] they were eating bananas on trees is impermissible and unforgivable...'

PASOK's parliamentary representative Petros Evtimiou noted that "instead of Germany showing the finger of Aphrodite [Venus] de Milo, it must realize that it is sitting on it."






More on the story at - Guardian - Der Spiegel - Time

Apr 16, 2011

James Frey's bisexual dope smoking 'Messiah'

james frey,messiah,bible


James Frey is best known for his memoir of addiction and recovery "A Million Little Pieces." It wasn't the memoir that garnered public notoriety for Frey, so much as the negative fall-out from the book. The website Smoking Gun did some digging and discovered that seemingly real-life events in "A Million Little Pieces" were little more than fabrications.

The book was selected for inclusion in the Oprah Winfrey book club. Winfrey was understandably put out when it became clear that she was backing a fraud. Frey appeared on her show and did some fessing up.

After the memoir mess Frey turned to fiction. A novel about LA titled "Bright Shiny Morning" was published in 2008 to mixed reviews. His upcoming book with the weighty title - "The Final Testament of the Holy Bible" - is slated to be released later this month.

Frey's Messiah figure in The Last Testament - a bisexual dude named Ben Zion Avroham aka Ben Jones - is into sex, dope and booze. A prostitute he gets involved with becomes pregnant. An accident at work triggers epilepsy and some dubious species of enlightenment ensues, paving the way for the Messiah within.

Guardian:

This current crock of mendacity is a "high-concept" fabrication, artlessly crass in its retelling of what's meant to be the greatest story ever told. Christ returns to Earth, to get us ready for the annihilation of our vile, belligerent species. Renamed Ben Zion, he joins a band of apocalyptic loons who hole up in the subway tunnels beneath Manhattan. His divinity seems to be proved when he miraculously survives an accident on a building site after a sheet of glass punctures his skull and severs his arteries. He communes with his heavenly father during epileptic seizures, and gathers around him a gaggle of hapless apostles, to whom he preaches drippy sermons about peace. He licks and laps the genitalia of his female acolytes, disseminating celestial bliss in their nether regions; bouts of tantric sex follow, along with vegetarian love-ins at a rural commune.


Frey's novel isn't exactly original. John Niven's "The Second Coming" also features a dope smoking Messiah figure who gets laid.

Revisionist takes on the life of Jesus have a long tradition going back to Nikos Kazantzakis' "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1951). Dennis Potter was accused of blasphemy when his play "Son of Man" created controversy in the 60's. Mailer's "Gospel According to the Son" (1997) is part of the tradition, although Mailer stuck pretty closely to the text of the four canonical gospels.

On the promotional end of things the "The Final Testament" seems to be about giving-offence as a marketing ploy. Frey anticipates the prospect of being targeted with apparent relish, even saying that he expects to "get blasted" and that he's sure "the religious right will go crazy." To be truly blasphemous though a book needs to be convincing enough to pose a genuine threat. Frey's book isn't close. It's so out there, even silly in parts, any Christians who view it as blasphemous would have to be really insecure in their beliefs. Bill Donohue will likely log an objection, but then what's new.

The controversy around the book is more staged than real. Frey badly needs the Catholic League and outraged fundies to go on the attack so he can lay claim to literary victimhood. Then he will be assured of accolades from those who view that type of targeting as a sign of greatness. There is some doubt that the book will stoke the type of outrage he seems to expect.

In the minds of many Frey is still the chancer who faked his way to fame with a concocted memoir. With the Last Testament he's evolved into a different kind of literary opportunist.

Final Testament is worth the read... provided you don't take it too seriously.

Also link to LA Times - Best Damn Creative Writing Blog - Guardian

James Frey's 'Messiah' performs first miracle


Apr 15, 2011

Birther Trump has good relations with "the blacks"

trump,birther

Donald Trump is considering running in 2012. Given the baggage he would bring to the race, you have to wonder if he's even electable - that's of course assuming anyone takes his recent soapbox rhetoric seriously. As a candidate he would certainly stand out with that hairdo. Even on good days it looks as though it has been combed in the wrong directions following extensive blow dryer abuse.

Trump has been pushing whacky birther theories that have been thoroughly debunked. Leave it to The Donald to send his very own team of "investigators" to Hawaii.

He recently described the strong African American support for Obama as 'frightening.' Climbing aboard the birther soapbox will alienate him from African Americans he claims he gets along with so well. His use-of language might also be an obstacle. Terms like "the blacks" seems like a throwback to the Reagan era.

As Averagebro puts it in a Daily Kos post:

I'm a black man who grew up in The (not so Deep) South, so I'm intimately familiar with the pejorative term "The Blacks". It's not too far removed from referring to black folks as "Negroes", "You People", "Coloreds", "Darkies", or "Flavor Flav's Kids" on the racial insult totem pole. Referring to a race of people as a single entity is probably the height of racial insensitivity.


Maybe The Donald is trying to scare up support on the part of those white Americans who respond to coded race talk and paranoid hype. It comes across as kind of pathetic - but he's got to love watching those poll numbers climb the harder he beats the drum.

Bill Cosby says Trump is only running "his mouth." But there might be method to his grandstanding. Maybe it's as crass as alienating a black vote he has no hope of ever getting in order to attract a breed of white voter who resonates with such low ball tactics. But don't call The Donald a racist... he gets along just swell with those "black people."

For more link to Salon - Media Matters

Apr 14, 2011

'The Conquest': Sarkozy biopic makes waves

sarkozy,biopic,la conquete

French president Nicolas Sarkozy isn't the most popular guy in France. His disapproval rating stands at 74 per cent. He is badly in need of a political make-over. A new biopic of Sarkozy titled La Conquête (The Conquest) may add to the negative perceptions.

La Conquête is a first. Films about French leaders are few and far between. None have been made featuring a president still in office. The film deals with the five turbulent years leading up to Sarkozy's 2007 election win.

Sarkozy is played by Denis Podalydès who wears a wig for a more Sarko-like effect. Podalydès succeeds in capturing the president's distinctive mannerisms and gestures with uncanny accuracy. The actor prepped carefully for the role, watching reams of footage that showed Sarko going through the motions.

Some scenes feed into the satirical view of Sarkozy. His cinematic doppleganger has concerns related to height, or lack of - one of the president's alleged sensitivities (in addition to voodoo dolls).

The real life Sarkozy reportedly prefers to make himself appear taller in public. During a visit to a Normandy factory a trade unionist informed the French website LePost that "Only people of small stature could pose beside the president. Those that were bigger than him could not." The worker chosen to appear alongside Sarkozy on a podium during the Normandy visit was reportedly selected because she was appreciably shorter than the president.

Sarkozy has been known to add to his stature by standing on a small platform while delivering speeches. The occasion beneath was the 65th anniversary of D-Day.


sarkozy,short man complex


La Conquête captures Sarko's mercurial nature. He comes across as as irascible, given to explosive outbursts and colorful language. In one scene the Sarko character announces: “I am a Ferrari. You open the hood with white gloves on.”

On the other hand there is also a human, even sympathetic side to the character that emerges in scenes that deal with the rocky break-up of his marriage to Celilia Attias.

Given the hot political content it has been a challenge getting production companies on-side.

Guardian:

Producer Eric Altmeyer said that given its potentially explosive political nature, getting the film off the ground had not been easy. "We faced a problem that you face in the press: that of the 'hot potato'," he said. "They [production companies] tell you: 'Yes, yes why not, but we can't do it here.' They all pass the buck. And this subtle self-censorship might explain why in France there had never really been a movie about politics. Even though the genre works really well in Anglo-Saxon countries and even in Italy."


La Conquête is due to appear in French theaters in May.

Beneath is the trailer for La Conquête:





More on the story - Guardian - Deuxballes

Apr 11, 2011

Jean Wharf's yoga button and the transit cops

jean wharf,sky train


Ride the subway in any major city and the odds are high you will encounter the fuck word. It crops up on T-shirts, in tunes, conversations. Variants of the word even compete for attention... for example the FCUK brand. The F-word word is ubiquitous. Whether or not you think it represents a decline in societal values is another question. For now it is very much a feature of urban culture.

It has many connotations. You could say it is an infinitely malleable word that can be used as both a verb (transitive and intransitive), adverb, adjective and noun. It's used to express annoyance, pleasure, surprise, pain, disgust... indifference too as in "fucked if I know." It's a word that a great many people use a whole lot or every-now-and-then. If there are people around who are shocked by the F-word you have to wonder if they live really sheltered lives.

More shocking was news that a BC native Jean Wharf was evicted from the Nanaimo SkyTrain station for refusing to remove a 1-inch lapel button bearing the words "fuck yoga." It would be easy to miss on a packed train and Wharf says she's worn it 'millions of times' on SkyTrain without incident.

What made this occasion different was the attention she received from transit police because she was on the platform with a ticket that wasn't valid. A transit cop served her a fine for $175. She was 'grabbed' and told to remove her lapel button. When she refused she was instructed to leave the station.

This was an abuse of authority. It was also an attack on Wharf's freedom of speech guaranteed under the charter of rights and freedoms. The message on the button wasn't, as Wharf has pointed out targeting gender, sexual orientation, race, religion. It wasn't even a put-down of yoga in the original sense of the term - it was making an ironic comment about westernized yoga, something Wharf describes as 'the industrialization of yoga.' And yeah there are aspects of the yoga craze that do indeed make you want to roll your eyes and say WTF.

Compared to some F-free buttons that appear on lapels and backpacks "fuck yoga" is pretty mild. Two that come to mind - "I'm so cute I shit kittens" and "I'm surrounded by assholes" - would likely offend easily shocked types on a commuter train. Policing language in a transit setting is a subjective call at best.

BC Civil Liberties have come out in defence of Jean Wharf's rights. The BCLA's executive director, David Eby, makes the point that Translink's policies are not a police issue: “It’s not up to police to enforce policy. It’s their job to enforce the law..."

University of British Columbia law professor Mira Sundara Rajan had this take on it: “You have to have a pretty good reason to restrict free speech, and a small button is pretty innocuous, language like this is around us all the time. It’s not as if she was verbally assaulting a fellow passenger."

Transit security needs to focus on issues associated with public welfare and safety, not with fashion/lapel button policing.

Link also to Globe and Mail, CBC, Straight.com

Transit cops: bad language crackdown

Vancouver transit cops evict woman for wearing 'fuck yoga' button

Apr 8, 2011

Voina: art group backed by Banksy wins Russian state prize

voina x

Earlier this year funds raised by Banksy went toward bail for two jailed members of the Russian art collective Voina (WAR). Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotnikov were charged with 'aggravated hooliganism' following a Voina action named "Palace Revolution." In the course of the action some police cars were overturned. The pair were held in St Petersburg's Kresty prison pending trial.


voina,russia
Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotnikov


Given Voina's political message it is ironic that the group has been awarded a state prize for contemporary art.

Guardian:

Members of Voina (the war) – two of whom are awaiting trial on hooliganism charges – whitewashed the decoration on a bridge in St Petersburg last June. When the bridge was raised the erect phallus faced the local headquarters of the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

The work, entitled A Dick Held Prisoner at the FSB, was awarded the 400,000 rouble (£8,700) 2010 Innovation prize by the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow on Thursday evening.


The curator, Andrei Yerofeyev, described the gigantic phallus as an outstanding work consonant with the Russian tradition of "socially engaging art." Voina won't be pocketing the cash. The collective has issued a statement saying that the money will go to help political prisoners.

Voina uses performance statements to draw attention to issues that concern them. A Voina action "In Memory of the Decembrists" featured the staged hanging of Asian guest workers and others - a symbolic indictment of Moscow mayor Luzkov's reactionary attitudes.


voina
In Memory of the Decembrists


Some Voina actions aren't without a humorous side. Check out the RT video beneath that includes scenes from "The Art of Kissing a Cop":




For more on the story - Guardian

Apr 6, 2011

Awish Aslam: Facebook pic prompts ejection from Harper event

aish aslam,ignattief

The run-up to a Canadian election that Stephen Harper describes as "unnecessary" has already produced a few insights into undemocratic tactics on the part of Tory campaign staffers. If you want to attend a Conservative event to hear Great Leader speaking be sure you haven't posted any photos of yourself on Facebook in the company of liberals.

Awish Aslam, a political science student at the University of Western Ontario, was asked to leave a Harper rally. The cause for concern? A picture she posted on her Facebook account that shows her in the company of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

Harper staffers do 'background checks' on citizens who want to sit in on public meetings. Aslam isn't the only casualty. Another student was ousted from a Harper event for the 'offense' of having an NDP bumper sticker on his car.

Aslam isn't politically affiliated. She simply had an interest in hearing all the party leaders speak in person. As yet she hasn't made up her mind who she will vote for.

In typical fashion Harper dodged questions about the ousting of Aslam. He took a hands-off approach claiming that it was a matter for his staff and that he couldn't comment on specific situations.

The unfair treatment Aslam received isn't an isolated case. Another student Izzy Hirji has used a Facebook posting to describe how he and other students were escorted out of a Harper rally in Guelph. Hirji had pre-registered for the event, but after receiving a name tag and being seated was 'rudely' told to leave by an RCMP officer.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pointed out that background checks of the audience at Tory events are rather ironic given that former long time Harper adviser, Bruce Carson, managed to get hired despite five fraud convictions. No rigorous background screening there.

Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe joked that if Carson had shown up at a Harper campaign event he might actually have been screened.


bruce carson
Bruce Carson


Is anyone really surprised by tactics of this sort? Harper is a well known control freak. His need to micromanage extends to Tory message control. Message Event Proposal or MEP's lay out every detail of an event in advance - make-up of the audience, preferred camera angles, best headlines and sound bites... even clothing and stage props figure into the plan. Nothing is left to chance. Harper comes across as wooden and choreographed - because he is.

So the micromanaging of the audience is really no surprise. The larger question is do Canadians want their country Harperized along similar lines.

Funny yet disturbing video beneath asking Harper to stop "creeping" Awish Aslam's facebook.






Link also to related story - CBC

Apr 3, 2011

Stephen Harper addresses new Canadians as 'you people'

stephen harper,canada pm

When Canadian PM Stephen Harper was addressing a gathering of new Canadians in the Toronto-area on Sunday he referred to them at one point in his speech as "you people." Liberal leader Michael Ignattief criticized Harper for his use of the term and also for the Conservative party's strategic targeting of the so-called "ethnic vote."

It's not really surprising that a them-and-us term of the "you people" variety comes naturally to Harper. Perhaps his predominantly white/male government is the "us" he had in mind.

In the role of PM Harper has turned out to be a programmed poli-head given to the odd gaffe. He comes across as scripted whether he is backing-off or toning down former policy positions to court popularity... channeling the words of others or glad handing in Brampton. Despite best efforts to come off as natural you get the sense that even the most casual contact isn't without a political angle.

Ignattief wasn't impressed: "These are Canadians. I'm going to everybody out there saying: 'A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. Come on into the big red tent. I'm going out to Mississauga not to talk to the ethnic vote. I'm going out there to talk to Canadians."

Comedian Rick Mercer's take on the demographic "targets" in the upcoming election:




Link also to Hill Times, Rabble

Stephen Harper: 'man of the people'

Stephen Harper campaigning for the ethnic vote