Thursday, February 9, 2006

A day in the life of the London Free Press

I always enjoy Raskolnikov's exposes of the florid rationalizing in the Winnipeg Free Press. Although my daily reading of London's own Free Press usually seems to me a much drearier duty, in part because its rationalizing is so much more banal and poorly written, I would like to reciprocate with a selection of the editorial choice of stories in one issue, February 8, 2006, of our local newspaper. Residents of London will be all too familiar with the local journalistic slumming, but for other readers, consider this post to be an ecological tourism junket — as useful as the recreational sort for learning anything about real life.

Item No.1: The Free Press published the findings of a poll conducted last month for the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment that found that 74 per cent of Londoners favour the suspension of the peaceful enjoyment and use of private property in response to the suggestion of fear prompted by insubstantial and inconclusive research — or, to be more precise, 74 per cent of Londoners favour the regulatory phasing out of the use of pesticides. The poll could have only been prompted by the spectacular and eventually unfruitful dithering on the subject of a pesticide ban by London city council in the past year in a classic example of the democratic authoritarian dilemma of choosing between competing short-term political interests — in this case, between appeasing the present vocal prohibition-happy environmentalists on one side and the wherewithal to conduct business unfettered by arbitrary restraints by the lawn care industry on the other side — with nary a polite suggestion of deference to the individual — who in this case are the property owners whose own proprietorship hung in the balance. One will recall — or won't, perhaps — that in the previous attempt to ban pesticides, the proponents admitted that there is "no scientific proof pesticides pose a health threat" to humans. The only purpose behind the commissioning of this poll and its publication in the Free Press is to persuade the fragile balance of council's dithering toward the one side in the spurious debate.

"They see the complete phase-out of cosmetic pesticide use as protecting the health of Londoners," Laura Wall, manager of the Elgin-Middlesex unit of the cancer society, said yesterday. […] Council should heed those studies and their constituents and act before their attention turns to the November civic election, she said.
It would seem that the Cancer Society should have no more need of government funding if it already possesses the facility to lobby governments. Wouldn't that be a conflict of interest?

Item No.2: A part-time editorialist in the Free Press, Julie Ryan, suggests that an understanding of economics is limited if it fails to recognize that the owners of wealth — dare I say it for her, the capitalist class — are quite distinct from the producers of wealth — er, the working class. From Fair trade for all will save jobs here:
Jobs have been hemorrhaging from Ontario over the last few months.

[…] Competition and the rising Canadian dollar are usually blamed for the job losses, but these don't tell the whole story. Freer flows of trade and capital — things that allow greater global competition and mobility — have fundamentally weakened the position of those who produce wealth in Canada and strengthened those who own the wealth.

Unfortunately, the worldwide imbalance of power between labour and capital cannot be solved simply by retraining workers or increasing productivity. To save jobs here, we must work to make labour conditions fair throughout the world, or we'll continue to watch the "competitive" race to the bottom of the labour market suck the life out of our country.
The London Fog awaits Ms. Ryan's prescription — informed at the very least, it would appear, by a Canadian university education — for how "we" may make labour conditions fair throughout the whole world. Presumably, from the title of the piece, this would include applying the proclamatorily philanthropic ideals of the Fair Trade mystique to Canadian industry.
"When you buy Fair Trade Certified automobiles you are enabling assembly-line workers to live with dignity and invest in their families, communities, women's rights and the environment. We only sell automobiles purchased directly from the factory workers whose own labour crafted these machines with love. By eliminating the capitalist middle man, your purchases help provide the Southwest Ontario manufacturing working class with a living wage."
Item No.3: Today's Free Press also includes an interview scrounged up by reporter Peter Geigen-Miller to make the current controversy over the cartoons of Mohammed more relevant to the more parochial concerns of Londoners.
The cartoons that ignited outrage in the Muslim world have increased the dangers for peace activists working in Iraq, says a Southwestern Ontario man paying his third visit to the troubled country.

In an interview Wednesday from Baghdad, Allan Slater of Lakeside, a member of the Christian Peacemakers, said publication of the cartoons made life more difficult and dangerous for many in Iraq. Slater, who has acted as a human-rights advocate and election observer with Christian Peacemakers, returned to Iraq in late January.

[…] His organization has reacted to the controversy by issuing a statement denouncing the cartoons and it is getting some play on radio in Iraq, he said.
Slater, encumbered by the modern substitution of symbology for reality and correspondingly unencumbered by the necessity of discriminating agency, would have the rest of us believe that it is not corporeal people wielding material weapons that pose a threat to his physical body, but a bunch of silly cartoons. The article does not note Slater's particular denomination, so the question cannot be asked, "is this what Christianity has wrought?" Obviously not… except for possibly the United Church of Canada. In any case, I would suggest that Slater and his band take their appeasement somewhere where their efforts would be more appreciated.
One small example of how the cartoon controversy has impacted members of the team is that they no longer eat butter, most of which came from Denmark.
And, finally, Item No.4, from the department of "Would we care if it weren't a Londoner in the news?":
Upset yet another MP has bolted a party that helped elect him, a Londoner has launched an online petition urging such party-jumpers be forced to resign and byelections called.

[…] "When does the next domino fall?," [Jason Menard] asked. Such actions in mid-term "undermine the electoral process," he insisted.
It's an urgent metaphor suggesting an around-the-corner, any-day-now collapse in democracy, but since political parties have no actual constitutional standing in our system of government and partisanship no actual equivalence to moral rectitude or authority, and since the conscience of representatives should be no more confined than those of their constituents, I feel that I am justified in getting a good night's sleep over the whole affair. Now seems like a good time…