Friday, 12 December 2014

ISIS: Understanding the new fascist threat to Iraq and Syria and how this plays out in an Information Age.

ISIS: All the marks of a fascist regime are present in this organization.

ISIS and radicalized Canadian youth. North American and European youth succumb to a new fascism.

by Tom Thorne

At the time of writing Canadian youth are in Iraq and Syria fighting for ISIS. Estimates by the Canadian Government say they number about 130, but these are only the people authorities in Ottawa seem to know about. Canada is not alone. Young Americans and Europeans are also in Iraq and Syria fighting for ISIS. 

Canadians fighting abroad for ISIS are often born Muslims, but now we are seeing converts to Islam who are not from a Muslim background joining these jihadist groups. The Canadian Muslim community is on record denying these people. Several radicalized non-Muslim people have been turned away from mosques once their jihadist notions were revealed.

The youth who engage jihadism are in a state of anomie with Canada and also mainstream Muslims who practice the peaceful tenets of Islam. They may say they are now Muslim but they are a far cry away from it really means to be a Muslim and practice peace, stability and a productive life contributing to Canadian society.  

They also reject their own Canadian backgrounds and yearn to become contributors to the defeat of western countries including Canada involved in the middle east conflicts. They see the West as some Great Satan. They claim that the West is corrupt and without a moral compass on the world stage. 

Radicalization for those without a Muslim background is a two step process. First they have to convert. Second you have to reject the real peaceful and respectful tenets of Islam for the perverted notions expressed in Islam’s name by ISIS or the Taliban in Afghanistan. Finally they must ultimately endorse terror as a means to achieve their ends. This decision puts them at odds with Canada and it is especially drastic when they burn their Canadian passports in ISIS propaganda videos on the World Wide Web.

This means that what goes on in their heads is at least a 180 degree turn from what they know. A Canadian radicalized in this way has to surrender any ideas about democracy and replace it with totalitarian doctrines that are fascist in their origins. Fascism is basically a thought system where views are fixed and the response to any other view is a rigid one way response. Other views are infidels and therefore subject to abuse and even death.

If these young people have any religious or social ideas from the West once radicalized they reject all they know, not for Islamic values but for jihadist ideas that use Islam badly to perpetuate their deeds of violence and social mayhem. Real Islamic values have no conflict with Canadian values.

These converts to jihadism decide to fight for a dark side which to them is a justified fight, believing that it is the right and only way to correct the world’s ills. You have become a true believer keyed to violence, war and human dislocation. If you adopt ISIS you are capable of helping to create thousands of refugees in the Middle East and a terror in Iraq, Syria, and also Canada and elsewhere in the West if the opportunity arises.

In order to better understand this phenomenon I reflect back on the Flemish, Dutch and French youth who after 1940 willingly joined the Waffen SS to aid their German conquerors. These units saw service on the Russian Front fighting for a racist regime locked in by Nazi anti Bolshevism propaganda and the destruction of the Communist Soviet State. Nazi distortions enabled them to summarily kill and murder wherever their armies went in Eastern Europe. There is a parallel to ISIS today.

This propaganda was simultaneously bound up with expanding Germany’s influence and frontiers into Eastern Europe for living space with the idea of enslaving a slavic race of humans. If you had a slavic background you had no human rights.  Anyone in areas under ISIS control who cannot prove they are Muslim can summarily end up as a refugee or dead.

Young Europeans from conquered countries were seen by their Nazi masters as racially pure Ayrans who could be committed with Germans to set up a Nordic state with slavs as subjugated inferior peoples. They fought as these young Canadians do for ISIS an enemy of their own people, history and ideals of democracy. They were radically turned.

How does this anomie develop? How do young people make such as decision? In World War 2 none of the Flemings, Dutch or French young men who joined the Waffen SS were drafted or coerced. They all volunteered or fell for the SS and Nazi propaganda that surrounded them. The SS State within a state created glorious Ayran myths to justify the most heinous crimes on the Russian front and a glowing elite system to attract recruits to be their new SS supermen. In many ways ISIS recruitment in the West is the same.

When the propaganda says you are superior or always right it is an attractive lure that contributes to casting off your old values and simultaneously suspending critical thinking. Your own culture becomes unattractive and bankrupt. Recruits see themselves as winners where before they were losers or victims. These young people may be leaving behind student debts, and an economy that tolerates 25 percent youth unemployment or underemployment. Many of them have higher educations and also skills very useful in the Information Age to ISIS.

This World War 2 Waffen SS example sounds all very familiar when young Europeans saw almost 10 years of the Depression before 1939. Their experience was not the same as Canadian youth in that time who could join the Canadian military after war was declared on Germany and contribute to a Nazi defeat. Many of the young men who went to war in Canada had also undergone or were brought up through ten lost years of economic depression.

In Europe the youth could only cooperate with the Nazi conquers if they were to have any kind of life in the Nazi New Order or at least that’s what they thought.  Resistance seemed futile because the Nazis were so confident and strong by 1940.

We see the atrocities and beheadings of ISIS as they try to cut a Calif out of Iraq and Syria. In order to do the wicked things that ISIS does you must always be right and without doubt of any kind. The Nazis had a similar mentality.

You have to be morally numb to kill civilians who cannot prove they are Muslims or create refugees on a huge scale to build your new state on tension and anxiety.  ISIS adherents  must suspend their moral compass to build a state capable of withstanding the influences of the West and its leader, The United States, their Great Satan upon which they can pile all their angst and vitriol.

That is the anomie displayed by North Americans and Europeans who join ISIS. This force can justify any excess as it makes its point. It is kind of logical madness where might is always right and any other view is sufficient reason to kill. Adherents can behead journalists on TV and film their filling of mass graves with victims.

Compassion is suspended and brains are turned off. However when this kind of mentality is disciplined it can be a formidable force to stop. The SS was exactly like this in World War 2 as our troops found out in the 1943 Italian Campaign and after D-Day in Normandy.

The focus is on being superior in all things, being so radical that moral judgement is suspended indefinitely. It is unleashed disciplined terror with no appeal to any reason or justice. It is the new fascism and it requires the same answer we gave to the Nazis 75 years ago.

There is one problem however. The moral compass of the West is not clean or without blemish. This week a report was released that has the potential to fuel ISIS recruitment and can be used to justify the current ISIS activities. In short the propaganda war can now easily turn on the West and particularly the United States. 

It seems that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) clearly used torture of the most heinous kind to extract information from alleged terror suspects after 9/11. The order to do this ultimately came from President George W. Bush and others in his administration. This damning report tells that no really useful information was obtained from these torture sessions and how the information was obtained through torture was sanitized for White House decision making.

Now we face a propaganda war on top of the hot war going on in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is a fascist organization and it feeds off propaganda such as using our turned young people to denounce their own Western values. Now the CIA will be shown as an arm of the Great Satan and ISIS will justify their harsh regime with that as a backdrop.

Bombing ISIS armies is only one step to destroying this force. Fighting them on the ground through second parties will also have no real effect because they are well motivated, ruthless true believers and without any normal standards of restraint. 

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

Friday, 21 November 2014

Get ready for a Harper Government propaganda binge as we move towards the 2015 General Election.

The road to the 2015 Federal General Election is paved with unanswered political questions for the Harper Government.

by Tom Thorne

These days I keep saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s current media and the potential for positive voter responses are pretty good for a PM coming to the end of a mandate. His media relations are quite well managed at least on the international stage.

He’s had good press in China and at the G20 Summit held in Brisbane. He looks like a leader with moxy when he tells Vladimir Putin to get out of the Ukraine. Usually by this time a Prime Minister (PM) has worn out his welcome after almost five years in office. He also he won the by-elections last week in Oshawa and Yellowhead.

Fortunately for Stephen Harper the media and the public appear to have short memories about the PM’s recent experiences. It seems that the scandal pots are currently off boil but some big items now in limbo are coming up to the front of the stove.

The first one is the upcoming Spring 2015 trial of Mike Duffy. You remember him, the Senator who managed to get a $90,000 personal gift from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright.  Mr. Wright just personally decided to give Mr. Duffy the money he needed to pay back his allegedly improperly booked Senate of Canada expenses. Of course it was 100 percent a Nigel Wright decision as we know.

Whether Nigel Wright resigned or was fired by the PM after this mis-step no one is quite sure. Mr. Wright’s actions seem out of character given his heavy weight credentials in the business world before taking over the PMO. He remains unscathed at this time by charges from the RCMP investigation into this sorry affair. However he will likely be called as a witness for the Mike Duffy trial.

Who knew about all of this in the PMO still remains an open point. The PMO was  porous enough with many staffers knowing about the Mike Duffy deal as they implemented it for Nigel Wright. However, despite a widespread knowledge of the deal, the PM himself managed to stay out of the fray with an almost angelic yet strangely obscure innocence. The Duffy affair orbited the PMO and the PM for several months so was he in the know about the deal’s final cut? He lied to Parliament if the answer is yes.

The PM’s evasive and obscure answers about Duffy and Wright during Question Period still resound as an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum. Mr. Harper was probed whenever he was in the House of Commons with uncommonly hard  precision by New Democratic Leader Tom Mulcair.  He weathered Mr. Mulcair’s inquisition, but not without doubts being raised about his knowledge of the Duffy-Wright events. Those doubts remain although softened by the wiles of time.

Mike Duffy’s trial may very well open up these old questions. Answers under oath could bring the PM’s obscurities into a clearer light. The PM and PMO staffers who know the details could  summoned to appear on Mr. Duffy’s witness lists and perhaps one of them could even be the PM himself. This is one of the reasons why the election will be in the early Spring before the Mike Duffy debacle begins in earnest.

The Americans are still mulling over the Canadian built pipeline that will bring Alberta crude to refineries on the US Gulf Coast. The Republican House of Representatives and the outgoing Senate voted for the pipeline and lost by one vote for the necessary 60 percent to carry it several days ago.  

President Barack Obama may have exercised his veto had their legislation passed.  It is not over. The new Republican held Congress will likely go at it again. This situation still contains a lot of concern in Ottawa and Alberta until those elected in the US midterm elections take their seats and they try the pipeline vote again. Of course the decision about what President Barack Obama will finally do is up in the air.

Alberta can only see more difficulties to ship their crude oil in the medium term. It will mean, of course, that more crude will be shipped by railway tanker across Canada through to Eastern Canada.  The idea of a pipeline to the Pacific coast can only resurface during the  2015 election with a lot of opposition from British Columbia, native bands and communities where the pipeline runs.

A US presidential veto on this file or any procedural Congressional hold up is a lose for the Harper Government here in Canada. Also the price of crude oil is low at the moment and so Alberta and Ottawa revenues are down with a need to show a surplus for the 2015 federal general election this adds stress.  And so it is with resource-based economies.

The Conservative strength in Alberta is losing opportunity if their oil cannot get to market. On the other side until other Canadian pipelines are constructed or upgraded moving Alberta crude will remain the task of using more risky railway cars. It will be hard to defend this situation with memories of  the Lac M├ęgantic fire and 47 dead in the election equation.

Handing out election year goodies like the recent income tax sharing scheme will be harder to fund unless other departments are cut back.  This is not a good situation during an election year when the Harper Government is determined to hand out goodies and balance the annual federal government budget while doing so. 

The late Jim Flaherty, Mr. Harper’s former finance minister before he died recently, opposed this income tax sharing plan. Obviously Mr. Harper thinks its a good idea. Cutting or lowering taxes always makes a right wing government look as if it hasn’t strayed too far off the less government in your life path.

The Harper Government has also been waffling on green house gases and climate change since 2008 and again in 2011. With the US and China recently signing an  agreement on this file it means that Canada now must to get into step. 

The Harper Government’s lack of action on this file has been linked to the argument that while the US does little or nothing to stem green house gases there is no way Canadians can make a difference. That is about to change and it is a vulnerable spot on the 2015 campaign trail for the Conservatives. 

Generally this government is the most secretive in recent memory. Ministers of the Crown are sparingly available to the media or the public to explain themselves because the PMO sees the media as an enemy to be diligently managed like bad children. 

The PMO considers it can only master political events by issuing as little information as possible and controlling the Conservative caucus and what they say and do. There is really only one voice for this government and that voice emanates from the Prime Minister and his office.

They usually use Friday afternoons to launch policies and then take no questions after the announcement so the whole idea can lull through a weekend. They continually deal with unpleasantries that could embarrass the government without any clarity or shame. They answer questions in the House of Commons with contempt for the institution. 

Earlier this year Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra went too far by answering a question from Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair with an response that had nothing to do with the original question. 

After an irritated exchange through the Speaker from Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, Mr. Calandra apologized the following week in tears to the House of Commons for his behaviour after thinking it all through during the weekend. It was one of the only acts of contrition by this government influenced Mr Calandra said by his father’s standards which he had forgot in the rough and tumble of adversarial Ottawa politics.

Paul Calandra is a master of obscurity and when he often represented the government and the PM on CBC’s Power and Politics program he would shamelessly skate around issues and obscure them continually. The Harper Government has not learned that by trying to control their message to the extent they do, it is ultimately counter-productive to their credibility. It is hard to think of this government as being forthright, open and candid. And  please notice they are never, ever wrong.

The Government’s Economic Action Plan media advertising keeps reminding us that the Harper Government is a great fiscal manager of public funds spending wisely to create jobs yet youth unemployment remains stubbornly high despite their promotions. 

The truth the Harper Government has been running a deficit and spending since their re-election in 2011. To balance the books and have a $1.5 billion surplus for the election means that funds are being reallocated or cutbacks made through the ministries to make the Harper Government appear to be great fiscal managers for the 2015 general election.

Watch now for an intense media advertising barrage by the Harper Government, all done at public expense rather than Conservative Party expense as we go into 2015. This government will use every means to get its propaganda out masquerading their political message as federal government services advertising. That is one of the prerogatives of the party in power but remember who pays for it all.  

Finally the record of this government with our veterans is appalling. Services and help are withheld in many cases or veterans are put through insensitive rounds of bureaucracy when they apply for benefits, or fight funding cuts and the lack of help. Veteran’s service offices are cut back and yet the stops are pulled out for Remembrance Day. There is a distaff between the reality and the action on this file that resonates very loud.

© 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved  
© 2014, Tom Thorne, Harper Cartoon, All Rights Reserved

Monday, 17 November 2014

Harper Government may have tight race in the Oshawa-Whitby by-election today.

Federal by-elections in Ontario and Alberta today.

by Tom Thorne

Perhaps we will have a test of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s popularity today in the Oshawa-Whitby by-election. Two by-elections are being contested. One in Ontario and one in Alberta. The fist one is to replace Harper’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who died suddenly. This riding is Oshawa-Whitby.

Pat Perkins is the Conservative candidate this time. Celina Caesar-Chavennes is carrying the Liberal banner and Trish McAuliffe is attempting her second run at the riding for the New Democratic Party (NDP). McAuliffe came second in 2011 running against Jim Flaherty so this time the outcome could be close for all three candidates especially because the Conservative candidate is new to the party.

Probably the vote will be split almost evenly for a tight night of counting in Oshawa-Whitby. There are three other candidates in this race who may siphon off piddling numbers of votes but really it looks very even and hence a tight race in Oshawa-Whitby.

Rob Merrifield resigned the Federal Parliament as the member from Yellowhead Alberta to take up an envoy job in Washington for the Alberta Government. Mr Merrifield is a Conservative, and in 2011 received 77 percent of the vote so this looks like a safe riding for the Harper Government.

In 2011 the NDP did better than the Liberals getting 13 percent. A Green Party candidate got 5.1 percent and the Liberals almost as scarce as hen’s teeth in this region, garnered  only 2.8 percent of the vote.

It’s electoral  history seems to indicate a Conservative win. Before the Conservative and Reform parties merged the riding was held by the conservative former Prime Minister Joe Clark from 1979-1993 with about 44 percent of the vote. In one election Joe Clark went head to head with Reform’s leader Preston Manning. 

Manning got 27 percent. When you combine those votes into a single Conservative Party which is the case today, Conservatives get 71 percent well on the way to Rob Merrifield's 77 percent win in 2011. Yellowhead will remain Conservative.

The Yellowhead candidates are Jim Eglinski who is a retired RCMP officer, former Mayor of Fort St. John. He is favoured to win against teacher Ryan Mahusn for the Liberals and Eric Rosendahl for the NDP.

In Alberta by-elections are never protest elections. So I don’t expect a change of party there. However, in Ontario the protest levels against the Harper Government could be reflected in the outcome of a tight race in Oshawa-Whitby.

On the media relations front, Prime Minster Stephen Harper has been doing quite well. In Brisbane at the G20 meeting after he publicly told President Vladimir Putin to get out of The Ukraine. That plays well at home.  He helped to get President Putin shunned at this important meeting. Putin left early.

A week earlier in China he brought up the case of Canadians under house arrest. And he flew home from China for Remembrance Day in Ottawa and then flew out for Australia and the Brisbane G20 Summit. He sure looks like a doer and a man in action which may help today in the by-elections. You can sense the impending 2015 General Election in Prime Minister's every move these days.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Liberal Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne have been actively campaigning in Oshawa-Whitby. These two popular Liberals may have made a difference. Polls close a 9 P.M. local time so by 11:30 PM we should know the results for both contested ridings.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Remembering well on Remembrance Day is getting harder as veterans of World War 1 are all gone and those of World War 2 become fewer.

War Memorial Ottawa 

Remembrance Day 2014 

We are now 100 years out from the start of World War 1 and 75 years out from the start of World War 2.  There are no Canadian veterans left from World War 1. There are fewer veterans left from World War 2.  Even more sobering is the fact that the ranks of Korean War veterans are also declining.

In the past we have always been able to make Remembrance Day a very tangible event. We would see veterans marching to the cenotaphs in every town and city in Canada wearing their campaign medals and regimental berets. They were our annual tangible connection to their service and commitment to ensure we live in a democratic and free society. 

As time moves on we now face making other kinds of connections to these passing veterans. Younger people can only have remote connections to the considerable sacrifices made by their grand parents and in some cases great grand parents. Schools work to make the connection but now without any human faces of the veterans of World War 1 and 2. 

I am fortunate at my age. I have my memory connections as an officer of The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR). Our regimental service in all Canadian operations since 1883 and even earlier through our regimental links with the Canadian Fusiliers and Oxford Rifles  is welded to my very person. 

In my time during the 1960’s we had members of the regiment who were still on active duty wearing campaign ribbons from World War 2 and Korea. Tangibility was not a pressing issue for us.

Each year we would see veteran RCR old comrades parading with us wearing World War 1 medals and some also wearing the ribbons of their second round of service during World War 2. Those kind of connections are fleeting for my grand children who are all Millennium born high school students. I do my best to keep them in the Remembrance Day loop but they live in another time and place.

One of my wife’s relatives in Belgium works very hard keeping the memory of our Canadian service to his country. He does uniformed reenactments of regiments that fought in Belgium during World War 1 and 2. He lives near Ypres so he is in constant touch with the horrendous experience of that city in both World War 1 and 2. Today, however, the ruined city of 1918 that was again damaged in 1944, has been restored to pristine condition.

Touring these sites with him is an education. We went to to the Menin Gate where the names of all the Commonwealth troops who died on the Ypres Salient in World War 1 are inscribed. I saw many Canadian names and regiments on that wall but the most tangible fact was something he pointed out to me. As we examined the World War 1 names there are World War 2 bullet holes in the Menin Gate from when it was fought over in 1944.  A poignant and very tangible experience since it was members of our First Canadian Corp who fought through here again in World War 2. 

One of my private moments of remembrance also took place Belgium some years back. I went alone to site of Passchendaele on the Ypres Salient to honour Canadians who died and those who held their positions in the first gas attacks in 1915. After examining our monument, I noticed that a path led through the evergreen hedges to a gate.

I opened the gate and stepped onto a farm field where cows were grazing. In the ground were zigzag depressions running off towards Sanctuary Wood. It was what is left of the front line trenches from World War 1. 
Zigzag trench lines in 1917

Half way across the field an angry man approached me. Obviously I was trespassing. He asked me in Flemish what I was doing on his land. I answered in English that I was tracing the first world war trench lines. He answered in English. “Are you an American?” No I said I am a Canadian and a member of The Royal Canadian Regiment. “Then you are welcome!” he answered extending his hand. He phoned his neighbours so I would have clear passage.

Vimy in France is our major monument to the Canadian soldiers who survived and died during World War 1. The Canadian Corp, and of course The Royal Canadian Regiment as part of that larger force, fought here in April 1917 to push the Germans permanently off this very high point of ground. Some claim that Canada became a country at this battle.

In 1992, my wife and I had the younger members of my family, Peter and Alexandra with us. They were both preteens and I wanted to let them know about our contribution to World War 1.  We were finishing a long  car trip from Belgium to Spain and back. We landed at Vimy late in the day and found that we could not get on a tour of the site and particularly the tunnels that still exist to move troops forward or to blow up the German lines with caches of high explosives.

There was one hope that we could get a tour. An Irish group was coming after attending a commemoration for the Battle of The Somme. If they would agree to us joining their tour then we could see the tunnel.

Suddenly a bus arrived and many people got off with security men. The guide went to confer with the Irish person in charge of the tour. This person turned out to be the Lord Mayor of Dublin. In addition, the  then Anglican Primate of Ireland, Cardinals of the Irish Catholic Church and many other protestant church officials plus politicians of all stripes from the Irish Parliament formed this group.

The Lord Mayor welcomed us and introduced two World War 1 veterans from their tour who turned out to be the reason they were at Vimy. One of the veterans had served with the British Army at Vimy as a runner between the British and Canadian lines. His task was to take messages from the tunnels if phone communications went down during the battle.

We then went down into the tunnels which are 30 meters underground and therefore impervious to heavy artillery fire. As we walked through the tunnel we noticed regimental crests carved into the chalk walls and messages from soldiers who waited down here for the main attack to start. There were command bunkers and medical aid rooms. It was living history with one veteran who had been down here for the Vimy Ridge battle in 1917.

Suddenly the veteran asked the guide which tunnel we were in. I recall her saying that it was Number 9 of the twelve that were dug. The Irish veteran said that if it was Number 9 tunnel he could show us where his friend was killed on the day of the battle. A hush fell over groups as this veteran led us further down the tunnel to a room near the end. It was a command room. 

In the corner was a stairs cut into the chalk that led up to ground level. The stairwell was filled with rubble held in place by chicken coop wire. The veteran was silent for a moment as it all sunk in. Then he recounted how his friend was standing near the stairs when a German shell blast came down the stairwell killing his friend instantly.

That is the most tangible experience I can relate about war having fortunately never experienced war myself. Each time I go to a Remembrance Day ceremony I think about the bullet holes in the Menin Gate, the zigzag trench line that still exists in a Flemish cow field and those who died there in a muddy carnage. Then I remember the look on the face of an old Irish veteran who came face to face with the horror of his friend’s death in a Vimy tunnel long, long ago in 1917.

Pro Patria

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Jian Ghomeshi: a catalyst for a prolonged CBC budget crisis with the Harper Government.

Former CBC Q host Jian Ghomeshi in a no-win position.

Jian Ghomeshi, consenting adults, the public good, legal wrangles and the CBC budgets.

by Tom Thorne

Jian Ghomeshi was fired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) last weekend. Apparently the CBC administration has discovered that Mr. Ghomeshi likes rough sex and he allegedly enjoys hitting and smacking women during sex. Mr Ghomeshi, himself,  has revealed that some of allegations do have traction.

In a weekend lengthy 1586 word Facebook account of his difficulties, Mr. Ghomeshi admitted to consensual rough sex with several different women. Some of the women are now coming forward saying they don’t remember giving their consent. None ever went to police to complain or to lay a charge against Mr. Ghomeshi. Most of the women have remained anonymous except actress Lucy DeCoutere and lawyer Reva Seth.

The problem the CBC faces is Mr. Ghomeshi  is prominently in the public eye and is a poster boy for the CBC in a time of crisis when their federal government budget allocations are under intense fire. The CBC has laid off possibly 600 plus staff because of their budget crisis with more recently. CBC morale is already tapped out.

The last thing the CBC administration needs at this time is to fuel the Harper Government with a scandal that won’t play very well with Conservative’s support base, which in turn will enable Harper to cut more CBC budget to look good with his political base in an election year. That’s the 38 percent that gave Harper a majority government last time.

So when this situation surfaced CBC administrators had little choice but to confront Mr. Ghomeshi for the greater good of the CBC which is sailing some very rough fiscal seas. Of course there are problems of removing their star from the firmament and removing Mr. Ghomeshi’s 3.5 metre high poster from their CBC building hallway in Toronto.

They have deals to consider with 170 US radio outlets where Mr Ghomeshi’s program Q is now aired daily. The CBC administration may end up saving face, doing the right thing for violence against women, but lose audience and prominence in the ever shifting broadcasting and developing web based distribution models. Not a good situation during a budget crisis.

However, CBC has little choice. In addition to the obvious business problems created by the Ghomeshi firing they may be in a lose-lose situation since they will experience more federal government budget cuts and they will be facing a civil suit for $55 million launched by Mr. Ghomeshi through his lawyers Dentons Canada LLP.  Mr Ghomeshi is also filing a reinstatement attempt with the broadcast union that represents on air CBC people.

An interesting development is the withdrawal of the public relations firm Navigator from the fray. This public and media relations company was initially engaged by Mr. Ghomeshi to represent his image interests and to offer advice. Their council may have been ignored in some way because they now realize that they cannot help him.

Was Navigator involved in the Facebook 1586 word statement? It gets his story out front. After that statement Mr. Ghomeshi has only remained silent. He has let his law firm represent him which is probably his wise and only choice. 

Navigator cannot hope to counter Lucy DeCoutere and Reva Seth going public describing their sexual experiences with Mr. Ghomeshi.  Anything Navigator could say or do with be seen as supporting violence against women. It is a no win argument and hence their departure from working with Mr. Ghomeshi.

Navigator’s only defence of Mr. Ghomeshi is to say that the rough sex was consensual implying that all the women also made a kinky personal sexual choices. That is also a public and media relations situation that is also a loser.  

What appears to be the case is Navigator has cut their loses for what quickly developed into a no-win situation which can only be seen as a tactical withdrawal before their own reputation for good PR work is sullied.

Mr. Ghomeshi may very well be permanently adrift with his career in tatters and facing legal wrangles that could go on for years. This CBC case will probably never get to court and it may yet be compounded by suits launched by the women involved. It remains to be seen if they launch actions and if their cases are criminal or civil. Violence against women has no statute of limitations. 

One can only conclude that Mr. Ghomeshi is in very deep trouble. The longer outcome for the CBC is not promising. The women involved probably now know that not reporting violence is bad for all women, and mostly those not involved with the famous.

©  Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

Monday, 13 October 2014

How an Information Society digitally stores, secures and retrieves its history. History is made from what information survives time.

Papyrus scrolls are fragile preservers of history. Cuniform clay tablets preserve history very well for thousands of years. Digital media preservation may be even more fragile than papyrus because its information volume will be too intangible and large to fully interpret. 
That may very well define the nature of the history studies of a digitally-based Information Society. 

Digital content and preserving history.

by Tom Thorne

This article is the 165th that I have written for this blog. It is 100 percent captured, stored and displayed by digital systems.  As I examined the stories and articles that I have done since the blog started in 2011, I realized that the blog itself has never been downloaded as an entity or entirety by me for any possible archival survival or simply as a backup. 

Certainly I have digital copies of all the stories on the blog, but the blog itself with its presentation, pictures and comments is not backed up until today when I finally did it. But the blog is also stored digitally and is about as secure as a future hard drive crash or a scratch on a CD or DVD. It also sits ethereally on some Google host computer located somewhere in the vast digital expanse of the Internet. 

I have no real idea where Google keeps this blog. I know that when I post during the morning in Belleville, Canada it is put up somewhere in the early morning somewhere else on planet earth. My blog usage statistics has a different day ending than the one I am living in Ontario. The day where my blog viewer statistics ends is at 21:00 hours Ontario time.

So I backed it all up knowing full well that if I place it on a hard drive or digital CD or DVD it could easily be lost in the future. That act provoked thought about what using digital media really means. History is made from what media survives time or by what information can be accessed. It is also true for print and broadcasting both audio and video which are all also stored as digital files these days.

Archives that were buried or lost from Sumerian times 4000 years ago exist today on clay tablets most of which are tedious records of transactions by merchants. These caches of history are usually discovered by accident and made sense of by archaeologists.  A small number of these clay tablets record literature or art so there is always a bias of communications. The media that survive are literally the message. What that means to an Information Society is a big question.

Ideas we have of ancient Egypt are gleaned from surviving temple stones with chiselled hieroglyphic texts or from the much more fragile papyrus scroll medium. I well remember in 2010 seeing several versions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead on papyrus in the Cairo Museum. It is a major preservation job to keep them from turning to dust. History is what survives as primary sources and as a result may offer only a fleeting fragment of what actually happened in those times.

In the case of these ancient texts on papyrus, clay or the fragile paper of the Dead Sea Scrolls for example, they are now also preserved and stored digitally while the originals are carefully put away in climate controlled storage.

Archives are regularly subject to the destruction of warfare. They are also destroyed by natural disasters or buried for safe keeping only to be lost when the human in charge dies or forgets where they are.  What survives becomes history. It can never be the full story. It is a selective story or account of a small window into human time and place. Digital storage of information is even more fleeting than paper, clay or stone.

Imagine a society that is interpreted in the future by a study of Facebook or Twitter files. Imagine all the blogs including this one that become the fabric for the social interpretation of our times.  I think I need to be much more responsible using this new medium if that is the case in the future. 

I like to think that this blog has some useful ideas and content, but a family blog showing their kids activities may have more sociological value to examining the 21st century than anything I say.  But how much will any of this survive as an archival record? They can be here today and gone tomorrow. Just zeros and ones magnetically held in place or burned into a plastic surface by a laser beam.

A few weeks ago we received a letter from our family doctor. He announced that he is retiring on 20 November 2014. He asked that we make certain that we order  our medical files which are in paper file folders and get them scanned and placed on a CD. Then whenever we find a new doctor we can present our disk. He has hired a document management company to do these backups at our expense.

As it turns out our doctor who we have had for 29 years has found a replacement but he wants a CD of our files when he takes over the practice in December.  We are having the backup disks made after 20 November. My wife’s file  is quite big and mine is average sized and we will be charged by the number of pages they have to scan.

This process calls into question paper versus electronic medical files. When the new doctor gets our digital file presumably the files will be digital from that time forward. I just saw a specialist who makes digital files as he talks to you. No paper, just notes on his laptop. My dentist does the same thing and is phasing out his paper files. My Income Tax is also a digital file each year. 

Hopefully these digital doctors and professionals have good backup systems so patient and client files are not lost in a crash. It seems to me that there is a huge digital document business is developing. At the moment these files are all held by individual professionals but it a short time until they will be all connected. 

In the medical world your health insurance number will access a digital file that shows the state of your health, medicines and pharmacy, specialists you have seen and any hospital stays. Ontario bureaucrats botched getting this running but it is inevitable since it is being done at the doctor’s office level.

This database will be digital so how it is secured and how it is stored and backed up is a crucial issue for our times. It will be able to offer a profile of what you cost the health system. It should stop duplication of dangerous prescription drugs. But where will this data be stored and secured and who will get to retrieve it? A future history drawn from these files will be able to analyze data to show the incidence of heart disease and cancer in the 21st century and how many people had dental mouth guards to stop them grinding their teeth when they are sleeping.

Digital history stores much more intimate information than ever before. Therefore it is more complex than ever before to manage. How so much data will be selected for use is an issue and how that information is pulled and selected from databases will define history of our times in the future. And if a digital system crashes then history will be redefined from what has survived just as it has been for the last six millennia from other more tangible media.

© Copyright, Tom Thorne, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Scots will likely closely vote No today. However all is not lost. There has to be more power for the Scottish Parliament. In that sense Alex Salmond has won.

Salmond: Och aye, the wurst we can dae is gie yon 
David Cameron a wee scare fur his job and get 
mair devolution concessions frae him!

Scottish independence 3

by Tom Thorne

Today the Scots vote for their independence or to stay in Great Britain. Yesterday I began a review of all polls taken since the start of September concerning this issue. About 4.5 million Scots are voting as I write this article.

The polls indicate that the No side will win this referendum. It will be quite close but they will take it according to 15 polling organizations that I reviewed. The No side up to the present moment expressed anxieties that the referendum would go to the Yes side.

Traditionally the Highlands are voting Yes by a four percent margin coming in about 55 percent. Glasgow with 20 percent of the voters will go Yes. The rest of the country is below 50 percent + 1 to win. Therefore pollsters are calling a close victory for the No side.

Undecided voters through all the polls stay at about 10 percent. It is unlikely that all of these people will go to either camp. If this vote splits like the rest of the country then it will not appreciably change the outcome.

16 year olds are allowed to vote in this referendum. There is not enough of them in Scotland’s aging demographic to appreciably change the results because they will likely split almost evenly. Notions that 16 year olds are more radical than their parents is usually a pipe dream.

97 percent of Scots able to vote (4.5 million out of 5 million population) are registered to vote so if they all turn out there will be a huge vote to tabulate and count. Look to Friday morning for the results.

Will there be a swing one way or the other? Well to this point the polls taken for weeks and months have been increasing slightly for the Yes but not enough to win. When people enter the polling booth they may swing but it is unlikely.

Therefore I am calling a No vote win. The result will be close enough that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond can claim a better deal for Scotland and hold Prime Minister David Cameron to his devolution promises made this week to stem the Yes vote.

If there is a Yes vote then David Cameron is gone as Prime Minister. No wonder he was out in the final week stumping for the No side.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Scottish independence is a fight against Westminster's social and economic agendas. Is it too late?

Available from Totally Graphics on

Scottish independence 2

by Tom Thorne

Scotland has a population of 5.5 million people at this time in history. There are more people of Scottish origin living outside of Scotland today than in the auld sod itself. I am one of them. I have distant Munro and Crawford cousins in Australia and still have relatives in Scotland as well. 

One of my correspondents in family history is related to me in the 18th Century Argyll Glenaray and lives in New Zealand. When I think about this diaspora and its influence in the world I can only say that it is very influential throughout the old British Empire. 

In Australia my relatives descend from Neil Crawford who at age 17, in 1839 landed in South Australia and founded a huge Crawford dynasty. Neil is the son of my five times great aunt Grizell Munro (1793-1880) and her husband Alexander Crawford. If Neil had stayed in Scotland he would have always remained a landless tenant farm labourer like his father. In Australia his descendants are now all professionals and farmers with their own land.

In 1890 my great grandmother’s sister Agnes Munro (1855-1945) left Scotland with her husband James Broadfoot. Once they were in Australia, James who was a skilled Mariner became a ship’s captain and started a shipping business. By the 1920’s he had five ships working the Australian East Coast. Today their descendants live throughout Australia. 

In 2001 the book How the Scots Invented  the Modern World by Arthur Herman was published. The subtitle of this book was even more egotistical than its title, it reads “The True Story of How Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything In It”.*

I was naturally delighted in the prospect that the country of my origins could be so influential. This book did not rely on Scotland’s military skills demonstrated so well by Wallace and the Bruce to make its points. It didn’t stress the poverty and wretched conditions of the 18th Century Scots as the Industrial Revolution changed Scottish life. 

Instead this book relied on documenting Scotland’s intellectual skills, inventiveness and in particular how the modern university was given birth in Scotland and exported throughout the English Language World. It is a book that records Scottish innovation, skills and frankly panache.

I think that this disproportional influence of an even smaller population than there is today is profound. Today Scots are looking for a new time in the Information Age when their intellectual skills can experience a renaissance escaping the considerable right wing politics of London and southern England and the poverty that it still generates in larger cities such as Glasgow.

In a London centred universe Scotland has challenged with this referendum the right of “The City” to control their affairs. They have shaken the roots of the United Kingdom and how it has evolved into a business centred meritocracy ruled by a London parliamentary coalition of right wing politics that relies on trickle down economics as the alleged answer to everything. In many ways Britain for the moment is caught in the same right wing notions as we experience in Harper’s Canada.

The Scots have had enough of the effects of this kind of David Cameron politics. The truth is that other less advantaged areas of Britain are also looking to Scotland to innovate and build new more equitable relationships with Westminster. This is not a referendum to separate as much as it is a process to define a new Britain. Again as they did in the 18th Century the Scots are leading the way with their cultural bias which is always to be straight forward and tell it like it is.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

* How The Scots Invented The Modern World, The true story of how Western Europe's poorest nation created our world and everything in it., Arthur Herman, Three Rivers Press, A Division of Random House, New York, ISBN 0-609-80999-7, Published 2001.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Scottish independence is a restoration of nationhood and not a withdrawal from Great Britain.

Scottish independence 

by Tom Thorne

I have made two trips to the auld sod in recent memory. The first one was in 2007 and it was a general tour that took my wife and I to see the Highlands, the ancient stone rings on the Hebrides at Callanish and also the neolithic sites on Orkney.  Then in 2013  I went on a three week research trip to places where my Munro family originated in Argyllshire and later lived in Dumbartonshire. 

On the first trip as we came south to Edinburgh and Glasgow we stopped at Inverness and the nearby site of The Battle of Culloden where in 1746 the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was brutally routed by The Duke of Cumberland’s forces.

The bleak battlefield at Culloden left its mark on me since it is also the burial ground of the carnage unleashed in that battle. Here Scottish attempts at self determination 40 years after union with the rest of Britain were dashed. Here Scots tried to restore the Stuart monarchy for all of Britain.  

The aftermath of the battle was punitive and nothing short of ethnic and cultural cleansing as the defeated were hunted down and killed and their homes burned and pillaged by the victors. They were not allowed the wear kilts or tartans and could not have any arms. Prince Charles Edward Stuart hid for months until his loyal followers managed to get him away to France. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat was hunted down taken to London and beheaded for his alleged and largely unproved part in the “rebellion”.

Hundreds of rebellion prisoners were transported to Australia and America or rotted literally in prison ships waiting to sail in English ports. Prisoners were also hanged by lot. If you picked a hanging ticket out of a hat you were strung up. One in ten faced this fate. The aftermath of Culloden was horrific and to this day leaves a stain on the history of the United Kingdom. The price of the United Kingdom in the middle 18th Century has a very bloody origin.

Long before the Union in 1707 Scotland was an independent country with its own monarchy. Admittedly the aristocrats of Scotland were widely intermarried with the aristocrats of England and as a result of these unions much of Scotland was property of English lords. The Scots played England against France continually in a bid to remain independent but often when the chips were down Scottish aristocrats sided with England in self interest or played a duplicitous role in the politics of the British Isles.

Scotland, after the reign of Elizabeth I, provided King James the First of England the Sixth of Scotland. His reign was followed by the calamity of Charles I but later his son became Charles II for the restoration after the rule of Cromwell. And so there has been continual links with England and Scotland for centuries and those links have always been tenuous and fragile when faced with the real politic of English-Scottish relations. 

During the late 18th Century and early 19th Century Scots were cleared from their lands held often by aristocrats who lived in England. The land held by the people from their clan chiefs was taken and turned over to mass sheep farming. The people went to new towns to learn how to fish or take up a trade. Many found this impossible to do and without any economic base for their future left Scotland for Canada, United States and Australia in droves.

Now the Scots are to vote on an restoring their independence this week. The links as always with England and the rest of Britain are there as they have always been since the time of William The Conqueror in the 11th Century. During the 12th and 13th Centuries the Scots tried to take back their country from Norman fiefdom status with many uprisings such as Sir William Wallace executed so well followed by Robert Bruce. Ultimately the power in the south prevailed either by warfare or finally by The Act of Union in 1707 which benefitted the landed aristocrats more than the people.

What will change in this relationship if the Scots vote yes?  History tells us that the tight relationships between the English and Scots are still there. Maybe a yes vote will tell the rest of Britain that the Scots want a more equitable deal than they have experienced for many centuries. A no vote is really for the historic status quo brought about by the Act of Union. I suspect that the yes vote will be a close winner because Scots realize that they must assert themselves against a top down Conservative England that has developed under David Cameron. If Scots reflect on their history with England they may vote with their heart to actively get changes and to wake up an England that takes them for granted. 

Quebec separatists who see this referendum as useful for their cause should reflect that Quebec has never been a country with its own government like Scotland. They have only been a colony of France that was abandoned in a treaty after an 18th Century war between Britain and France. Their status is not the same as the Scots. The Scots have a clear claim to nationhood if they are willing to pay the price. 

© Copyright 2014 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond both fight 
off  Excedrin headaches as they contemplate the Scottish Independence vote this Thursday.