September 30, 2008

People Running for Public Office Should Think Twice Before Making Threats Online (Still Waiting on the NDP to do the Right Thing)

This morning the following article appeared on Metroland's website:

Sep 30, 2008 - 08:16 AM

AJAX -- A classroom outburst aimed at a teacher has led to criminal charges against an Ajax teen.

Other students had to be moved to another classroom when the 15-year-old girl launched into a diatribe that included abusive language and threats of physical violence, Durham police said.

Police said the incident occurred last Wednesday when a high school teacher attempted to get students in her class to quiet down and pay attention. A 15-year-old girl took exception and began swearing at the teacher, police said.

The situation escalated when the girl threatened the teacher with physical harm, police said. High school liaison officers arrested the girl and charged her with uttering threats and mischief.

The girl's identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and police withheld the name of the school.

She uttered threats, only once, and she was immediately arrested and charged. The Durham NDP candidate makes several threats to several people and he is allowed to continue running for public office. Is the difference because he did it online? Well that can be addressed as well. One only has to look to refer to a Toronto Star article written last year.

Nov 20, 2007 02:48 PM

Justin Piercy Staff Reporter

A high-school student accused of threatening fellow students and staff online has been arrested.

A witness told police that someone had posted threatening messages about Eastdale Collegiate in Oshawa on the social-networking site Facebook last Friday.

The messages included threats against staff and students and also outlined a 'hit list' of people the author would like to kill.

Investigators received calls from concerned students and parents over the weekend.

The accused was arrested at a home in northeast Oshawa on Sunday night without incident.

The teenager, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with threatening and was held for a bail hearing.

While it is admirable that Krystalline Kraus was able to accept McKeever's apology, unfortunately this issue isn't ultimately about her (or the candidate's stance on war resisters). It is about the words and actions that the candidate placed on an online, public forum. It is about his attempt to hide his words by deleting them before anyone found them. It is about how his apology only came after he was caught. And it is about how he has yet to take responsibility and be accountable. His own words and lack of accountability truly show that he isn't mature enough or responsible enough to be running for public office.

The NDP candidate for Durham's words were vulgar, derogatory and threatening in nature. His words may have been directed at several specific people, however they were placed in a public forum and therefore are offensive and derogatory in general. This also doesn't exclude the fact that there is precedent set for a person being charged for the type of things this candidate said. Precedent has also been set by federal candidates stepping down or being removed for comments that are at least on par with his comments.

This is the truly unfortunate part in regards to Layton and the NDP. At a time when the education system is making strides in its combat against bullying, even as it moves to the internet, and we are asking for civility amongst those that are supposed to be leaders within Canada, it is sad and a backward step that Layton would shrug off his own candidate's actions. In turn, this inaction shows that Layton and the NDP are at least trying to play politicswith the situation. However, by doing nothing they have indirectly sent the message that it is okay for someone who is supposed to be held to a higher civil standard and represent the values of the party and their constituents that it is okay to to threaten and bully others (as long as you apologize two months later and only after you were caught).

That isn't good enough.

If a student can be charged with uttering threats for making those comments in person or online, then at the very least a grown man who has aspirations for public office can step down and admit that at this time he isn't ready. But he hasn't done that, so at the very least he should be have been removed by the party. The NDP have shown they're not willing to do that. Then by my accounts this is a matter for which the police should maybe investigate. If the candidate isn't willing to accept responsibility or the consequences of his words and actions, then maybe he should be forced into that position.

This wasn't a smear job by the Liberals or others who have expressed their disgust here at my blog or on the Rabble message board. This has been about holding someone accountable for their derogatory and threatening statements. And that has yet to happen.

September 26, 2008

NDP Displays Hypocrisy Involving Questionable Candidates

How can the NDP even consider keeping this guy around? His apology was obviously lacking and was more of an (poor) excuse. So what kind of message is the NDP sending? At what point is it okay for someone who wants to enter public life to hold these views and make threats? At a time when there is a issue with cyber-bullying amongst students, what kind of example does this set? It's possible that if these type of comments were made in person he could be charged with uttering threats.

However the NDP seem more bent on playing politics rather than doing the right thing. More specifically they are supporting they're candidate while at the same time they are calling for the heads of Gerry Ritz and Lee Richardson? The misogynistic and threatening comments of their own candidate are at least on par with Richardson's immigration remark and much worse than the extremely poor joke from Ritz. At least Ritz's joke only involved jokingly wishing someone was dead rather than offering to do it himself. This smells of hypocrisy.

There is precedent set in this type of situation. Earlier in the campaign Conservative candidate Chris Reid was forced out from running just because he had some controversial conservative (small-c) views. Furthermore, the Liberals and the Greens both had a candidate quit over offensive remarks. Meanwhile the NDP candidate expressed views that contradict those of the NDP, along with his offensive and derogatory comments, which are obviously in contrast with NDP values. The Durham NDP candidate should be bowing out or he should be getting tossed. Immediately.

Update (09/26/08, 12:39pm):

Only minutes ago Dion announced that he has canned Winnipeg candidate, Lesley Hughes, for expressing controversial comments she made about the 9/11 tragedy. Hughes painted the tragedy with conspiracy theory overtones. Meanwhile, Jack Layton at his press conference earlier today took questions. One question at the end of the conference touched upon several NDP candidates having their pasts coming back to haunt them. Layton responded by saying something to the effect that candidates were let go because the NDP are only interested in providing "quality candidates".

Quality candidates, eh? Does that quality involve misogyny or uttering threats? If Dion is going to boot a person for questioning the official 9/11 story then it shouldn't be much of head-scratch to boot someone for derogatory and threatening remarks.

I'm not alone...

'Heated Online Debate' a Really Bad Excuse for Unacceptable Behaviour

The Durham NDP candidate can disagree with war resisters all he wants. That's his right. Calling them "crybabies" is just a petty and poor way of expressing that opinion. However, my real concern lies with his misogynistic and threatening remarks. I have an even greater problem with his apology - that only came after he was called out - and the excuses that are being made for those remarks.

More specifically, my problem lies with the 'heated online debate' excuse.

There is an obvious problem with using this excuse for extremely offensive and derogatory remarks. When personally involved with a heated debate people may make offensive comments because they're 'in the moment'. Your brain has failed to filter the content somewhere in the nanoseconds it takes to think it and say it.

Being 'in the moment' doesn't apply online (unless you're involved with a live chat and even then that's pushing it). For one thing it's not like you're just blurting out some random comment. You actually have to think it, process it, type it, see it, and make the effort to click on the send button. You're internal filter at some point should have kicked in and threw up red flags. To proceed indicates that you're consciously knowing what you're saying and putting out there for others to read.

My second concern with this excuse is that online debates take time.

Comments and responses in a personal debate happen within seconds and minutes. Online debates generally take time to make responses and comments. With the exception of a few, the Durham NDP candidate's comments generally came hours after the post he was responding to. His comment about making someone "squeal" and called someone a "cunt" came more than nine hours later. His threatening comment came more thirty minutes later. His "fuckwad" response came was more than five hours later.

So how do comments such as constitute a "heated online debate"? And how is this an excuse for misogynistic and threatening remarks?

This is about being accountable for your words and actions, and to the people you want to represent. You cannot use the veil of the internet to say whatever you want and pretend it doesn't matter. If you cannot say those things in person than you should not be saying them online. Putting that type of hate online is just as bad as saying it in person, if not worse. There is a greater degree of mental processing that goes into posting than just blurting something out and the words are not only available but they are visible and on record. That record is now out to the public and all credibility has been lost.

In this case, the candidate hasn't taken responsibility for his words. He only apologized after he was called out and made a (poor) attempt to delete all his offensive comments. Had he been successful at deleting all the evidence I don't doubt that he would denied making the misogynist and threatening comments. He would have never taken ownership of his words. Unfortunately for him he didn't delete them all and therefore taking responsibility in this case means admitting you're not fit for public office at this time and stepping down.

September 25, 2008

Getting to Know Your Candidate the Wrong Way

Several days ago I wrote a post that did two thing:

  1. I questioned the state of the Durham NDP; and
  2. I questioned their candidate, Andrew McKeever, after three NDPers implied concern about him following his nomination.

The post made reference to McKeever's family connections, which was provided by the concerned NDPers. Following that post I had my character attacked by the likes of Harry McAlister (under the name Wireless), the president of the Durham NDP and Andrew Reese-Taylor, under the pseudonym, Wilfrido. Reese-Taylor was also defending Andrew at his facebook group. I reviewed my post and I came to understand that there is a fine line between raising legitimate questions based on hearsay and guilt by association. Rather than be subjected to their continued abuse and having confusion about which side of the line I was on, I altered my original post to this; only questioning the state of health of the Durham NDP.

Shortly afterword someone named Amy Brown posted a comment that contained a series of questions that she had posted at Andrew McKeever's facebook group.

I saw the earlier version of the post, and honestly wish it was still up, as I wished to bring it to the attention of the NDP campaign staff. I have some serious reservations about Mr. McKeever as an NDP candidate. To give you an idea of my concern, here is a posting I put up tonight on Andrew McKeever's NDP Facebook page:

"Andrew, I don't know you personally, but I've followed many of your Facebook postings and comments. So I have some questions for you.

1. Why have you removed postings and groups of yours from all over Facebook? Don't you want people to see all the (unsanitized) comments you have been making over the past year or so?

2. How can you, with any integrity, run for an NDP posting, given the the apparent conflict between your personal views and the NDP's positions?

3. Are your constituents aware that you've been stirring up *$&% on Facebook groups related to the peace movement, from at least Toronto to Newfoundland, over the past year or so?

4. Are your constituents aware that you have often cursed at, derided, defamed and even threatened other people in publicly-viewable forums like Facebook?

5. Are you just planning to run for NDP, then (if you got a seat) cross the floor to a more right-wing party or go independent? (That's my prediction.)

Serious answers, please."

This led me to look into his facebook group where Amy's above comments were also posted. Other people began to respond on the wall including friend's of Andrew. Several of them kept making the point that they didn't support the NDP but would support Andrew because of their friendship. That's fair. As more posts were made more people began to question Andrew and were calling out his comments from other facebook groups. One post in particular asked Andrew to speak his real opinion on "Iraq war resisters".

With several people calling Andrew out, curiousity got the best of me and I went to several groups that supported the war resisters that were in Canada. In one group there were posts left by Andrew McKeever under several topics. I was taken back by the extent of Andrew's offense. Andrew's comments involved calling one woman a "cunt" and eluding to beating and assaulting a person if he ever saw them in person. All because they disagreed with him.

Now Andrew did provide a half-assed and only semi-public apology. This apology tried to justify his comments however and is only posted on his facebook group. But how do you justify being that derogatory and violent? Now I think I understand why there is concern from certain NDPers about Andrew being the candidate in Durham. He doesn't seem to support the NDP stance against Iraq or the NDP position to support the war resisters in Canada.

Andrew's derogatory and violent remarks are definitely against the principles of the NDP. And since some of his positions seem to contradict NDP views and principles, I now think that there is justification to ask whether or not he himself has another agenda for running under the NDP banner. And how he could be representative of Durham's residents whether or not they sympathize with the NDP. I will now ask again, could his real views be more in line with his supportive but non-NDP friends and his apparent family members, Cathy McKeever and Paul McKeever. I'm not saying you can't have a difference of opinion from the party you support - I don't always agree with my party - or that guilt by association is a valid claim, but Andrew's comments made within the last few months warrant a deeper look into his other views and whether or not he is suited to be representative of the NDP or candidate for public office in general.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, it is only fair if Durham residents and supporters of the NDP to know more about Andrew McKeever. So will the real Andrew McKeever please stand up and tell us what you really think?

September 02, 2008

Durham NDP in Disarray? (v2.0)

I've decided to change the original post and ask a straight forward question in regards to the the Durham NDP:

  • How does the Durham NDP provide representation when it is not election time?

I'm asking this question because in the few elections I've been around for they seem to have little representation in the riding - lack of attendance at local events, last minute candidate nominations, no explicit representation at rallies, etc.

For me it's a question based on my principles and views of democratic representation. I'm involved politically because I believe that standing up and providing a voice for those that share my views, at all times is important. I make the continued effort to hold what I see as unjust, undemocratic, and non-transparent accountable because it is necessary. That is the principle I hold. I also believe that a healthy democracy needs all views represented and defended. No one party has all the answers and I know not everyone shares the same views as I or the Liberals do - I don't even share all the same views as the Liberals. These people deserve to be represented and need that voice if democracy is to be justly served. Go here for further discussion.

Note: character attacks, insults, etc. will no longer be allowed in the comments. Old comments were removed because they weren't constructive - in any way. Starting fresh...

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)