I bet you thought politics was boring…

Latest slew of scandals – though entertaining to most politicos – probably contributing to more pessimism 

Whether you’ve been following the Vikileaks affair, the unfolding robocalls scandal, or just trying to avoid these things altogether, onlookers will certainly reach the conclusion that the Canadian political scene has become far more interesting in recent weeks – though, these ongoing developments will probably contribute to growing pessimism.

The robocalls scandal is in its relative infancy, though it has the potential to drag federal political parties into long, drawn-out squabbling.

This all comes hot on the heals of allegations of fraudulent robocalls misdirected voters in Guelph, Ont. during the last federal election – the calls coming from a Virgin Mobile disposable cellphone registered to Pierre Poutine, of Separatist Street, in Joliette, Que. Opposition parties are claiming the calls came from the Conservative Party.

Misleading robocalls allegedly also occurred in other ridings across the country.

This kind of underhanded – not to mention illegal – tactic is not good for the Canadian political system. That somebody got away with it speaks volumes to the lack of oversight in the electoral process, and will undoubtedly contribute to growing pessimism.

As Andrew Coyne, a popular national columnist, noted in the National Post:

“This is dispiriting. You needn’t be convinced of the Conservatives’ involvement to harbour some serious concerns, and with reason: as I’ve said before, the presumption of innocence does not require us to be deaf, blind and stupid. Yet the institutions we trust to hold government to account in this country are so weak — well, do we trust them any more? I’m not convinced that there are such systemic issues raised here as to warrant a public inquiry, and I’m not sure anyone has really made that case. Rather, it seems that people have so lost confidence in these other institutions that a public inquiry becomes almost their fallback response.”

And in the end, this is the problem.

Pessimism, and more importantly a lack of trust, is the most obvious outcome of these recent developments. Whether we find out who is responsible for the slew of calls or not – and let’s be clear we deserve to find out – Canadians will look upon politicians with even more scepticism and scorn.


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University degrees fail to provide competitive edge

– big surprise there, I know. 

In a recent article in the National Post written by Matt Gurney, the writer chronicles his encounter with disaffected university students who are approaching their graduation. He noted that the students were realizing that their arts degrees might not be enough to land a job, and postulated that perhaps that explained the rising trend of Canadian college courses for a particular skill or trade being attended by students who already have a university degree that gave them no competitive edge in the job market.

As an individual who spent years obtaining a arts degree only to quickly realize it really doesn’t provide very many meaningful employment opportunities, the move to study specialized courses in college was an absolute no brainer.

The opportunity to study courses in a hands-on environment, with the added bonus of work placements, has proven to be invaluable. For the first time in my post-secondary career – and let’s face it, I’ve been in school long enough to call it a career – I feel optimistic about the job market because of the training I’ve received.

And therein lies the major distinction between: university provides you with the training to think critically, but it doesn’t necessarily give you any specialized skills that will help you land a job or help you distinguish yourself from every other post-secondary graduate with an arts degree.

That being said, do I regret going to university? Absolutely not – my university degree helped me get into college.

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Protest not effective

The vikileaks protest relies on public, rather than private information  

Details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews‘ divorce were made public yesterday on Twitter. Using the account @vikileaks30, an individual or group posted details of his messy divorce battle.

Presumably, the move was a response to Toews’ proposed bill – the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act – which would require Internet providers to give police information about their clients. But, in the long-run, the protest will probably prove ineffective.

To be frank, it’s a bit of a strange protest. Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with intrusive legislation, but the details of Toew’s divorce aren’t sealed. Divorce documents are public, so anybody with a bit of time on his or her hands can walk into the law courts and dig these documents up. Frankly, it would’ve been a far more effective protest had this anonymous individual or group dug something up which is truly private.

As Margo Goodhand said in a recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press, mainstream media knew about the details of his messy divorce, but decided not to run anything in the paper regarding it. “We made a decision several years ago, after careful review, not to publish the details on the grounds that Toews’ personal relationships appeared to have no bearing on his ability to do his job,” she said.

In other words, this isn’t the first time people have seen the court records, but it’s the first time somebody has decided to post them for the world to see. All it took was somebody with a motive (political or otherwise), and a complete lack of any kind of journalistic integrity (and let’s face it, there is no such thing as journalistic integrity in the mostly anonymous online world) to post these details.

So, how effective is this protest? Let’s review:

Is the publication of his divorce records a breach of his privacy? Yes, kind of, but not really.

Is it embarrassing? Absolutely.

Is it going to dissuade Toews from pursuing this kind of legislation? Most likely not.

And I think that’s the ultimate effect of this anonymous protest: it’s embarrassing, but not that effective in the long-term. Though it was the individual or group’s intention to show how detrimental the new legislation would be, the effort ultimately falls flat precisely because the “private” information it displayed is quite public.

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Shock and Awe

Who knows, maybe M.I.A. just wanted to show off her new manicure…

A crude display of my Photoshop "skills"

Singer M.I.A.’s half-time show performance at the Super Bowl stirred up controversy when she was caught flipping television viewers the bird. Predictably, many were offended by her action. More shocking however, was Madonna’s stance on the issue.

Madonna criticized the action, noting that “it’s such a teenager… irrelevant thing to do … there was such a feeling of love and unity there, what was the point? It was just out of place.”

The fact that she was shocked and appalled by the whole situation is rather amusing, mostly because Madonna built her career on shock and controversy.

It seems clear that M.I.A. will take the heat for her actions – really, there’s nobody else to blame. Though, there were things happening on that stage that were probably more offensive… But, who am I to judge – I’m not the FCC…

This photo's been floating around Facebook - by Miguel Ro

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Cash Money not-quite-Millionaires

Radio station’s promo effective way to advertise itself using social media

92 CITI FM's online promotion didn't rely on giving away an elephant either, which - if The Simpsons taught us anything at all - is probably for the best...

As I checked my Facebook account last week, my news feed was inundated with an advertisement for 92 CITI FM. Normally, I’m quick to dismiss pictures posted on other people’s walls as spam. But, this case was different – it had a picture of a lottery ticket on it.

Naturally, I was a little curious, and decided to check the picture out. As it turned out, the radio station bought a lottery ticket and was prepared to share the $50 million prize with anybody who liked or shared the picture.

It was an incredibly clever promotion that provided the radio station with an abundance of inexpensive (it did cost them a grand total of $11 to purchase the lottery ticket) advertising. By the cut off time over 17,000 people shared the picture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if virtually everyone in the city saw it pop up on their news feed.

It’s a perfect campaign because it cost them peanuts, and had the ticket won the jackpot it would’ve certainly made national – if not international – news. I can’t think of many things more newsworthy than a radio station sharing the spoils of a $50 million jackpot with people who liked an ad on Facebook.

Despite the cleverness of 92 CITI FM’s promotional campaign, it does come with drawbacks. The most notable one is that it won’t boost the radio station’s ratings, and I doubt that it will boost the number of its online followers in the long-run.

On the flip side, the campaign got a lot of people talking about the radio station. Their $11 investment was probably one of the least expensive ads they’ve ever paid for, so in that sense it was a success.

The only thing that could’ve made it better is if the ticket won…

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Racism in football – The t-shirt stunt that went wrong

Liverpool FC’s PR misstep will exacerbate a tense meeting at Anfield against old foes United this weekend

Image from The Telegraph online.

Despite efforts to stamp out racism in English football (or soccer if you will) such as Kick It Out, a program supported by the Professional Footballers Association, the Premier League and The Football Association, the problem persists. High profile cases in recent months, including accusations against England national team captain John Terry, have highlighted the hurdles the sport still has to overcome to eliminate the problem.

While all professional clubs are united in their effort to stop racism, Liverpool FC’s reaction to the Luis Suarez – Patrice Evra affair certainly made matters worse – not to mention a subsequent incident involving a Liverpool fan.

In a game between Liverpool FC and bitter rivals Manchester United on October 15, 2011, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was accused of racially abusing his opponent, French international defender Patrice Evra. While Suarez pleaded his innocence, The Football Association promised to look into the allegations.

Following the incident, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish publicly supported Suarez, and vowed to stand behind his player while he contested allegations of racism. The support didn’t stop there.

While warming-up ahead of a game against Wigan, Liverpool players wore t-shirts featuring a picture of Suarez and his jersey number in a show of unity and support for their Uruguayan teammate. The decision prompted negative backlash from players around the league, as well as fans the world-over.

Photo from Liverpool FC

Many players throughout the Premier League thought the club should’ve been actively promoting the Kick It Out program, and charged the t-shirts flew in the face of all the work that was being done to eliminate racism in the sport.

Paul McGrath, a former Republic of Ireland Irish defender, tweeted “As x footballer havin experienced racist comments throughout my career I was saddened to see Liverpool players wear those tshirts last nite” and added “I would have been much happier if they had worn anti racist t shirts.”

However, Dalglish supported the move, and was quoted as saying “I think the boys showed their respect and admiration for Luis with wearing the T-shirts. It is a great reflection of the man as a character, a person and a footballer that the boys have been so supportive and so have the supporters.”

Liverpool FC was constantly backtracking, defending the move and having to explain over and over again that the club was against racism. But, back-peddling seldom has much success. The club should’ve had the foresight to see how this public relations stunt could backfire – and it most certainly did.

The move proved to be far more detrimental when Suarez was in fact found guilty of making several racist remarks to the Manchester United defender. The Football Association’s 115 page report on the incident concluded that Suarez had repeatedly made racist remarks to Evra, and issued an 8 match ban to the Liverpool striker.

But the t-shirt flop didn’t end there.

At a game at Anfield against Oldham Athletic, a Liverpool fan wearing the Suarez t-shirt racially abused Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi. This incident only served to tarnish Liverpool’s already battered reputation following missteps it took in the Suarez incident.

Piara Powar, the executive director of European football’s anti-discrimination body, Fare, warned over Twitter that “The LFC brand is being tarnished, but so is British football.” And that much is certainly true.

As Liverpool FC are set to face Manchester United for the first time since the Suarez-Evra incident in a cup clash over the weekend, it’ll be interesting to see fans’ reactions in what will certainly be a tense affair.

As for restoring Liverpool’s reputation, that will likely take time.

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Time to give

PR majors in the Creative Communications program at Red River College participating in radiothon

Poster by Ryan McBride

I’m happy to say that I’ll be participating in Kickin’ In for Christmas Cheer, Red River College’s first radiothon on 92.9 KICK FM, and I think you should too!

All proceeds and donations gathered during the radiothon will be going to the Christmas Cheer Board, a group that supplies food and gifts to deserving families in Winnipeg.

As part of the event, I’m working with a talented bunch of guys and one gal, creating on-air promotional material. I must say, it’s been a ton of fun producing them. Some of the promos have hit the airwaves, and the rest will air on the day of the radiothon itself.

Others have been working on social media sites, flash mobs, interviews and other on-air material. We’ve all put in a lot of work, and at this stage I can say with a high degree of confidence that it’ll be a success.

By now, you must be thinking to yourself: “Hey, this is nothing more than an advertorial!” And yes, you’re right.

But to be perfectly frank, this is the time of year to reflect, to be thankful for what you have, and to give to those who are less fortunate than you are. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I invite you all to listen to 92.9 KICK FM on Thursday, December 8 from 7am to 7pm and give generously to the Christmas Cheer Board.

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I honestly don’t get it

Is this for real? If so, these are the worst commercials I’ve ever seen…

Herman Cain.

I must confess, I knew very little about him before Gloria Allred got involved. Ever since, Cain’s been busy dodging allegations of improprieties and extra-marital affairs on a nearly daily basis.

But, regardless of alleged bad behaviour, I was always confused as to his appeal with Republican voters. He seems very aloof, and – dare I say – daft. After seeing one of his promotional commercials, I was even more puzzled.

I didn’t quite understand what to make of the cigarette ad. It seemed to be really odd for a man running for the Republican nomination. But then, I saw another one of Cain’s “commercials”, and was left even more confounded. Entitled “He Carried Yellow Flowers” and running at almost four minutes, is odd.

This man, who for a time was the front-runner in the nomination battle, produced two of the worst advertisements I’ve ever seen. I was left even more horribly confused as to his appeal.

I was confused until I saw a Rachel Maddow’s take on Cain’s campaign, in which she calls it a “performance art piece.” She references the fact that he quoted Pokemon in the debate, and used SimCity’s tax structure as his financial blueprint.

Is Cain’s campaign performance art? I don’t know, but Maddow might be on to something because frankly, I don’t have any other explanation for Cain’s zany antics.

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Work of art

The pepper-spraying cop’s been busy… 

I’ll be quite frank: I – along with many others around the world – was utterly shocked and disgusted when I first saw the video of Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying non-violent protesters at UC Davis.

Somehow, this website – http://peppersprayingcop.tumblr.com/ – kind of makes me feel better. I’m not sure if it makes light of the situation that unfolded in California or if it makes light of the campus police officer, but either way I like it.

Check it out, it’s worth a couple laughs.

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Opto Civilitas

Not a whole lot “civilized” about Pat Martin’s tweet

I’d just like to preface this post with the following: I’m not surprised in the least that Pat Martin used expletives on his Twitter account. Furthermore, I’m not surprised he’s not apologizing.

That being said, should he apologize?

Martin, the Winnipeg Centre MP used expletives when describing his anger about the Conservatives forcing an end to debate on the budget implementation bill. He tweeted:

Picture from the Winnipeg Sun

Martin was quoted as saying that he doesn’t think his Twitter outburst compromises a pledge he made last spring to “choose civility” when debating, because he is still respectful in the House of Commons.

In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, he said: “I don’t heckle. I don’t use vulgar language in the House. Twitter is speaking to your universe. I was civil in the House.”

Unfortunately, people in Martin’s “universe” might be offended by his colourful use of language.

Perhaps Conservative MP Vic Toews was right when he said:
“It’s disgusting. Nothing is going to happen. (I’m not going to get into the fact that he later went on to call Martin an idiot – so much for civility on all sides…).”

The truth is, the Tweet is essentially keeping in line with Martin’s fiery brand. As offensive as it might be to some, it’s almost trademark Pat Martin. And, as Toews said, nothing is going to happen. And for better or worse,  in a few days everybody’s going to forget anyways.

Any other politician would’ve apologized, but it would almost go against everything Martin is if he did. So should he apologize?

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