23 May 2017

The Newfie Thing #nlpoli

Facebook has become hugely popular in Newfoundland and Labrador and, not surprisingly, some creative and enterprising fellow came up with a running joke - these days called a meme - featuring a fellow in a sou'wester.

You will find it called "newfie word of the day". The text that goes with the picture involves a joke based on some mispronunciation of a standard English word or phrase and out of that comes some sort of joke.

The one above is an example.  There are dozens more.  The thing is quite popular as you can tell by searching the Internet for "newfie word of the day".

Memorial University's political scientist slash sociologist Jamie Baker has discovered that the guy in the picture isn't a Newfoundlander.  He's actually Czech.  The picture came from a post on a Northern Peninsula blog by cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore.  It's about a Screech-in ceremony in the Czech republic that Mitchelmore ran during a visit there on one of his numerous globe-trotting ventures.

Baker posted the link on Facebook and asked folks to give them their thoughts. Feel free to do so by sending him an email:  jbaker at mun dot ca.  Baker's also written about about nationalism and racism, if this interests you. He got some notoriety last week not for this "newfie" meme story but for one on a paper he wrote about young people's attitudes to the word "newfie." He interviewed 30 university students and found that among the young people, the word is either an insult or no big thing.  You can find a CBC story about it, one from Radio Canada, and one from NTV.

15 May 2017

The unbroken machine #nlpoli

The Unbroken Machine coverThe best little book on Canadian politics and government in a long time.


Starting with the basics,  Dale Smith describes how the Canadian political system works and why things are like they are.  The language is plain and that makes the idea understandable for as wide an audience as possible.

Every politician, pundit, and plumber should have a dog-eared copy of The unbroken machine close at hand and check it before speaking about any current issue in Canadian politics. Smith's focus is on the federal system but the basic ideas - responsible government,  the role of the Crown and so on - apply in the provincial sphere as well.

Available in paperback,  pdf, and ebook editions from your local bookseller or online from Dundurn Press.

-srbp-



12 May 2017

Junk reporting of medical research

The Telegraph is a major conventional newspaper in the United Kingdom.

And it spreads fake news.

There's nothing surprising in that. Most conventional news organisations produce some amount of pure nonsense in the course of a year.  The crap content level varies from outlet to outlet and the people who work hard in pretty well every conventional news outlet also work diligently to get stories right.

But excrement seeps through.

It's a Law of Averages thing.

Anyway...

24 April 2017

Plain language, power, and politics #nlpoli

In the midst of a political controversy over recent fishing quotas in Newfoundland and Labrador, two people are talking about the need for better communication about science and the fishing quotas.

Jacqueline Perry is the regional director of fisheries management for the fisheries and oceans department of the Government of Canada.  "This is difficult stuff,"  she said, referring to reductions in quotas that the decisions that flow from the scientific information on fish stocks will have an adverse impact on people in the fishing industry.

"We are doing the very, very best that we can with the information that our science colleagues are able to provide to us with the input of industry. Are we getting it 100 per cent right? I don't know if we will ever know [about the precise size of fish stocks]."

In related comments,  the head of the Marine Institute's fisheries science program told CBC that the "fact that there is so much controversy is indicative that communication is a necessary component … If we're going to find a way forward, we're going to have to keep talking."  Brett Favaro said the Marine Institute will include course work in the master's and doctoral programs aimed at teaching scientists how to communicate their research findings more effectively.

He's talking about plain language, among other things.  Plain language or Plain English establishes some simple rules about the way you use words and sentences in order to ensure the greatest number of people will understand what you are saying.

14 April 2017

Monchy-le-Preux #nlpoli

Very few Newfoundlanders and Labradorians let alone very few Canadians have ever heard of Monchy-le-Preux.

People from St. John's might know of Monchy Street,  in the city's Rabbit Town neighbourhood. It is there alongside Suvla,  Cairo,  and Edinburgh Streets and a few others that seem to people unaware of Newfoundland's military past to have very little in common.

The streets are all connected to the Newfoundland Regiment during the Great War.  Suvla is where he regiment landed during the Gallipoli campaign.  Cairo is where it spent some time training before landing in Turkey.  Edinburgh is the city in Scotland where the Newfoundlanders mounted guard at the famous castle.and Cairo.  Hamel, another street in that neighbourhood, refers to Beaumont Hamel, of course.

And Monchy is Monchy-le-Preux.

03 April 2017

Ray and Robert #nlpoli

With the release of Ray Guy:  the final columns, 2003 - 2013,  almost every column Ray Guy ever published is now available in book form.

This compilation is edited by Brian Jones,  published by Creative,  and contains a decade's worth of writing Guy did for The northeast Avalon Times.  The topics are all familiar fodder:  provincial politicians.

Let's be clear about one thing up front.  You will buy this book to fill out your collection of Ray Guy's work.  You will not be buying it as a penetrating insight into a decade's worth of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sure the cover blurbs are effusive in their praise - "brilliant writing"  and "unequalled style" - but by the time Ray was clacking out his opinions on Danny,  Jerome or Roger,  he was clearly tired.

What's more evident is that his touchstones,  his go-to references had become cliche,  stale and lifeless through overuse.  And what's worse, his writing lacked any sign of crispness, clarity, deftness of phrase, or any of Guy's other hallmarks.

27 March 2017

The Andrew Potter Affair #nlpoli #cdnpoli

For those interested in the controversy caused by an opinion piece in Macleans,  here are some useful links.

1.  "How a snowstorm exposed Quebec’s real problem: social malaise"  Sub-head:  "The issues that led to the shutdown of a Montreal highway that left drivers stranded go beyond mere political dysfunction"  Andrew Potter's original piece,  with some alterations and editorial notes that have been added since it first appeared.

2.  "This is not how a liberal society responds to criticism"  -  Andrew Coyne's typically cogent and eloquent criticism of the response to Potter's column article.  From the Montreal Gazette.

3.  "It was shoddy journalism that cost Andrew Potter his job"   - Chantal Hebert's typically cogent and eloquent examination of the response to Potter's column.  From the Toronto Star.

4.  From Joseph Heath, an academic's perspective on what he calls "l'affaire Potter".

5.  Many people have incorrectly stated that the vitriolic reaction to Potter's opinion piece is unique to Quebec.  Those people either are not aware of or have forgotten about the string of attacks perpetrated in Newfoundland and Labrador between 2003 and 2014 against individuals who were accused of pretty much everything folks have said Andrew Potter did or failed to do.

Here are a few stories and relevant SRBP posts:

2005:  "A vast and scenic welfare ghetto"  - Margaret Wente's original column in the Globe and Mail sparked some loud and widespread condemnation.  To find some of the reaction, you have to search the Internet Archive.  Other reaction will cost you a subscription to the NewfNat's newspaper of record, the Toronto Globe and Mail.

2005:  For others,  you need look no farther than Rex Murphy in the Globe whose entire argument is based on the premise that while others presume to be victims,  Newfoundlanders really are.   Rex becomes the Fifth Yorkshireman.

Various:  Quislings and traitors

2013:  "On bigotry and prejudice"

2016:  Margaret Wente, again,  only this time knowing how to provide the stimulus to get he neo-nationalist knees in Newfoundland jerking wildly. SRBP:  "Through others' eyes".

2016:  "Poor Russell's Almanack"

-srbp-


20 March 2017

Queen's Counsel and other things that sound alike #nlpoli

"The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced this year's appointments to Queen's Counsel by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."

That's the lede from a news release issued in January about appointments for lawyers.  On Friday, there was a little ceremony at Supreme Court in St. John's where the lawyers appointed as counsel to Her Majesty received their new robes.  They are made of silk instead of ordinary material, hence the phrase "take silk"  when one gets a QC appointment.

Anyway,  the sticklers may have already noticed the problem with the government news release.

One is appointed *to* a council, which is a group of individuals, but one is appointed *as* counsel, meaning that one is an advisor.  So yes, one can be counsel to a council, which is what the Attorney General is, for example.  He or she is the government's chief legal advisor and so is the law counsel to the Executive Council.  The correct sentence would have been "announcement of lawyers appointed as Queen's Counsel" or something to that effect.  If there was a simple explanation of qualifications for getting this disctinction - like say, long service, it might have gone there as well.

The error in the government news release the sort of detail that is like nails on chalkboard to folks whose business it is to be accurate about such matters. Feel free to come up with a more modern simile for irritation.

-srbp-

When did it start?  Update:

The always annoying labradore produced a list via email this morning comparing every QC email issued since 1996. That's the year the government website went live.

The provincial government issued seven news releases between 1996 and 2003 announcing QC appointments. They described the appointment of individuals as Queen's Counsel.

Started in 2004,  someone decided to call them appointments *to* Queen's Counsel, which is wrong. 

There have been 11 such releases since 2004.










03 March 2017

A change is as good as a rest #nlpoli

After 12 years and two months, we are going to make some serious changes at Bond Papers.

For one thing, we'll be going from daily posts to weekly ones, most likely on Monday mornings. 

For another thing, there'll be a change of content.  There are some book reviews that have been in the works for a while. Those will appear over the next few weeks.  General political science and history posts will appear as will notifications of events. I may need to make some observations about public relations now and then. SRBP has always been a very personal thing for me and, as such, the truly personal stuff will stay.

Fans of the policy analysis and commentary will find it at aims.ca.  Long-time readers will know that the original idea for SRBP was for longer, detailed policy analyses. It turned into a blog, went through a number of changes of style and form, and has still been evolving up to and including these changes. In that respect, this next evolution - of doing policy research and analysis for an independent think-tank - makes perfect sense.

AIMS does some other regular public commentaries through conventional media and I will be producing those for Newfoundland and Labrador. Don't be surprised if you see some other efforts to make more people in Newfoundland and Labrador more aware of AIMS and the work we do.

Many of you have sent good wishes via Twitter, Facebook, and linkedin.  It has been truly gratifying to know that all this work has had an impact.  There are thousands of people I have gotten to know online. You have all made an impact on me, in return, in more ways than you realise.  Thank you for that and thank you for the good wishes.

Many of you have told me you want SRBP to continue. The simple truth is that it cannot keep going as it is, under the circumstances. Hopefully you will continue to follow the policy work I will be doing through AIMS and will check in at SRBP for your fix of Newfoundland and Labrador history that will turn up as time allows. If you feel so moved, you can always reach me by email at ed_hollett at hotmail dot com, the address I have been using since hotmail started.  I will try and answer as much as I can. Of course, if you see me anywhere around town,  you can always come up, introduce yourself, and say hello.  Contrary to rumours, I don't bite. You know what I look like.

After all that, look at it this way:  it is not like I am disappearing.  And, if other plans work out, you will have a book or two to read in the near future that have come out of SRBP.

Take care and keep an eye out for me.

Ed

 

01 March 2017

Barry Inquiry Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Commission of Inquiry respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy will take place on March 9.

It is a one-day symposium to discuss issues about public disclosure of information during a major investigation, use of force by poe, and investigation of serious incidents involving police officers.

There will also be a session on the use of social media and the potential for an infringement of civil liberties by police and government. Your humble e-scribbler will be participating in that portion of the discussion as part of the Ad Hoc Coalition of Civil Liberties.

-srbp-

28 February 2017

AIMS hires dedicated policy analyst for Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ed Hollett as a senior research fellow with a focus on policy analysis, public affairs commentary and general outreach for Newfoundland and Labrador.

“At this pivotal time, we believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should set their course for the future informed by entrepreneurial values like creativity, frankness and adaptability,” said Leo Power, AIMS vice-chair for Newfoundland and Labrador. “We want to present fresh ideas and stimulate discussion and debate in a way that embodies the values that we believe in.”

Power said that the new position serves two purposes. It establishes an AIMS presence on the ground in Newfoundland and Labrador to better serve the needs of the province. At the same time, it gives AIMS the opportunity to bring the unique perspective of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to a wider audience across Atlantic Canada and throughout the country.

Marco Navarro-Génie, AIMS’s President and CEO, said that since its founding in 1994, AIMS has provided a distinct perspective on public policy issues facing Atlantic Canadians. The Institute publishes peer-reviewed policy studies, intended to inform policy makers and citizens. It also supports public discussion by publishing fact-based commentaries, having AIMS fellows appear on television and radio to discuss policy issues and hosting public events to disseminate its research.

"Mr Hollett’s communications experience, his policy expertise, and his love of his home province are tremendous assets for AIMS,” said Dr. Navarro-Génie. “We are very excited about this new initiative and the perspective he will bring. In the weeks and months ahead, you will be hearing and seeing more of what AIMS is about throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.”

-srbp-

Escape Hatch #nlpoli

Escape HatchHistorian Gerhard bassler's new book from Flanker  examines efforts by the Government of Newfoundland to develop local industry by recruiting immigrants from Germany, Latvia,  and Austria between 1950 and 1970.

Based in large part on interviews Bassler conducted for other research on Germans in Newfoundland,  this is a personal account of the men and women who came to Newfoundland and who, in many instances, stayed despite their initial impressions of the place and its people.

Bassler documents each of the industries created and, as such, this is a welcome companion to Bassler's biography of the architect of the program - Alfred Valdmanis - as well as Doug Letto's Chocolate bars and rubber boots.

Escape Hatch is available in book stores or online from Flanker.

-srbp-

27 February 2017

Davis' paranoia #nlpoli

Perhaps one of the most disconcerting aspects of former Premier Paul Davis' testimony at the Barry Inquiry last week is the clear evidence that he still lacks a level-headed, rational perspective on the events of April 2015 and afterward.

In response to questions,  Davis said that "very quickly [after the shooting] there were rumours that I had ordered an assassination and that was a concern."   As CBC noted in its story on Davis' testimony,  Constable Joe Smyth earlier had testified he was concerned about the conspiracy theories bandied around on social media.

One can only wonder why such lunatic ideas - obviously, insane notions unsupported by any evidence - would even cause Davis a second thought.  Most people would dismiss them immediately for the idiotic drivel they are.

But, by his own account, Davis gave them credibility and continues to do so.

One can only wonder why.

25 February 2017

A week and a verdict later #nlpoli


Last Saturday, this headline (left) in the Telegram prompted a storm of outrage from people who thought that it placed the blame for a sexual assault on the victim.

The words were essentially what the victim had said during her testimony in the trial.  They were also a more blunt version of what both the Telegram story and CBC's story said.

If the victim had been too drunk to recall details of what had happened the night of the assault, then logically she was too drunk to consent.

The jury of five women and six men delivered their verdict Friday.  They found accused attacker - a police officer, on duty at the time of the assault - to be not guilty of the assault.  A group gathered on the steps of the courthouse on Friday night protesting the verdict.

One of them carried a sign that was astonishing in light of the screams of outrage the week before at the Telegram headline.  The sign read "Too drunk to consent."

The headline and the subsequent controversy didn't have an impact on the verdict but the headline and the sign make an interesting contradiction.


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