Exchange on CJAD with Neil McKenty.
On today’s program, Mayor Drapeau. Did Mayor Drapeau mismanaged the Olympics. Neil talks with Montrealers on the mayor at the time. Enjoy!
The 'McKenty Books' forum on life and current events. Join the debate.
Exchange on CJAD with Neil McKenty.
On today’s program, Mayor Drapeau. Did Mayor Drapeau mismanaged the Olympics. Neil talks with Montrealers on the mayor at the time. Enjoy!
Right-wing talk show hosts feed anger to their followers
For many years, I have spent part of the summer with close friends in Maine. As a good many Montrealers know, Maine offers a cornucopia of goodies in the summer – ocean swimming (cool-ish), blueberries (pricey), up-scale scenery (the George Bush estate) and lobster (along with champagne, in my view, both vastly overrated.)
As for me, a long-time political junkie, when I’m not playing golf near Old Orchard Beach (once a frequent haunt of René Lévesque) or watching the Red Sox on television, I’m twiddling the dial looking for political talk shows.
Rush Limbaugh is at the top of the list for several reasons. Limbaugh is an entertainer and a good one. But he violates most of the rules I tried to follow when I hosted a Montreal talk show, first on radio, then television. Rush is the center of his show. His callers are just disembodied props. Unless their opinions coincide with his, he has little time for them. Rush uses his callers like cigarette butts: to light up another harangue of his own.
Many of Limbaugh’s views are outrageous. He wants US President Barack Obama to fail. He says again and again that Canada’s health system kills people and is socialism at its worst. He forthrightly advances his view that Sarah Palin, George Bush in a skirt, would make a fine president in 2012, when Obama must be defeated or the Republic will fall.
When I first began to listen to Limbaugh, especially on the car radio, I often had to stop the car for fear of driving off the road in a rage. I believed then that Limbaugh was an ignorant racist who spent most of his time whipping his huge audience (20 million) into a frenzy of hatred.
But I no longer think that. I now believe Limbaugh (and the legions of other right-wing, conservative talk show hosts) are not creating hatred, they are tapping into hatred that is already there. That is the most remarkable thing about the United States this summer, the scary amount of anger and hatred stalking the land. This phenomenon is most visible on the Fox News network, not in its treatment of news (the network has some very able and balanced commentators, like Chris Wallace, the son of Mike Wallace) but in the talk show hosts that take over, mostly in the evening.
You need a strong stomach to watch these people (my wife leaves the room when I turn on Fox.) There are four of them, unleashed by Fox every night like a quartet of Doberman pinschers, snapping and snarling at all things democratic and liberal.
First there is Glen Beck, followed by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. You need to hear Beck to believe him. He is a teetotaller whose commentaries are so dyspeptic that he seems to be suffering a dry drunk. He charges that Obama is a racist and says his government reeks of the excesses of Nazi Germany.
Bill O’Reilly is a smoother operator than Beck and he has the ratings to prove it. But O’Reilly’s treatment of many of his guests is simply appalling. After inviting them to come on, O’Reilly proceeds to bully and berate them so that the viewer, who already knows what O’Reilly thinks, has no idea what the guest thinks.
When O’Reilly had on an informed Catholic nun who supported Obama’s health care plan and tried to show how it related to Catholic social doctrine, O’Reilly cut her off and bounced her the way Ted Tevan did with his radio callers years ago in Montreal.
Sean Hannity is the poor man’s Bill O’Reilly, and not nearly as well informed as his master. I have not heard Hannity say a positive thing about Obama since he was elected eight months ago. Hannity’s idea of deep analysis is to keep throwing Rev. Wright’s name around; his idea of penetrating questioning is to state his own opinion (“I think Obama is a dangerous radical”) and ask his guests if they agree with him. They invariably do, because most of the guests on these programs are chosen precisely because they hold the same rigid conservative views as the hosts.
Which brings us to Greta Van Susteren. For a lawyer who spent time in the criminal courts, Greta’s questions are about as crisp as wet spaghetti. My guess is that this is because she often does not understand the issue under discussion. She spends much of her time criticizing people in Congress because they do not carefully read bills, like the current thousand page health bill. Apparently Van Susteren does not realize that it is the broad thrust of bills that are voted on, not the minute legal niceties.
So there you have it – Fox’s big four. Yet whatever weaknesses they have, apparently they are cleaning up in the ratings. Why is that? Because night after night, they cater to the anger and rage that is boiling over out there in TV land.
What is the source of this anger and hatred? If Rush Limbaugh and the Fox quartet don’t create this anger, then where does it come from? It comes, I am convinced, from changes in the country that neither Fox nor Limbaugh can control and may not even understand. But they can read the writing on the wall. Before mid-century, the conservative yahoos who make up the Fox audience will be a minority in their own country. They are losing their place in the sun. They look at the White House and they see the first black president. They look at the Supreme Court and they see the first Latin woman.
This is not the way it was supposed to be. They are confused. They are angry. Limbaugh and Fox give voice to their anger and that may well be a good thing. But the game is up and they know it.
The Senior Times Sept. 2009
Exchange, with Neil McKenty.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall. Do you like classical music, have you been to the new and improved concert hall they’ve just built in Montreal, should tax payers feed the new mayors plan. ( Drapeau then, Coderre now).
On today’s episode of Exchange, Neil touches the subject with live callers.
What language debate? Blog comments reflect a peaceful Quebec.
About three years ago I began blogging. This means I got myself an address on the Internet (anyone can do this in three easy steps) and started to post daily comments.
The major themes of these comments usually involve politics, morality and religion. I usually put these comments in the form of a question: Is Michael Ignatieff ready to be prime minister? Should lesbians conceive children? Is religion a hoax?
The records for my blog show that about 300 people check it out every day. But fewer than five per cent actually leave comments on my original postings. The most comments I ever had was 90 on whether Dr. Morgentaler should have received the Order of Canada.
I have had comments from as nearby as my neighbors in Westmount and as far away as South Korea and Latvia. The comments are generally informed and civil even when they deal with contentious subjects. Two of the most contentious are the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the language tensions in Quebec.
Because of the PQ’s language policies, one of my blogmates left the province and moved to the United States. He is still bitter and whenever Quebec comes up on my blog he makes no bones about his contempt for the province.
I bring this up now, not because I think this expatriate is typical of Quebecers on the language issue. The point is, I think he is atypical.
As Hubert Bach recently pointed out in a comprehensive article in The Gazette, there are signs all over the place that language peace has broken out in Quebec. One current example of that was the banning of two anglo bands from a Fête Nationale concert. Several artists in the sovereignist camp spoke out in protest. As a result, the two anglo bands participated in the concert. What a change that is from the time there were fights in the street about the Eaton’s apostrophe.
What seems to have replaced the bitterness in the language war of the late ’70s and ’80s is a realization that the accommodation between the two groups is working well for both. The French are more secure in their majority. The English are more comfortable as a minority.
This language peace is visible in the two national holidays that begin our summer. In both the Fête Nationale and Canada Day there is more fun and less politics. Instead of two duelling communities there is a sense of welcome all over the province.
Just imagine if Howard Galganov were to return from his exile in Ontario and tried his old game of fanning animosities. I don’t think he’d get far. That kind of demagoguery just doesn’t cut it here any more. There are, of course, a small group of angryphones remaining in the province, but they operate on the political fringes and are largely irrelevant.
Having said all that, the PQ option of separation for Quebecers is still on the books. PQ leader Pauline Marois has been doing her best to inject some life into that option. She has outlined a program to chip away at the federal system in the province by fighting to take various powers back from Ottawa, specifically in cultural affairs.
No sooner had Marois outlined her program than former premier Parizeau weighed in. Wouldn’t you know it. Parizeau has become a kind of frenchified Colonel Blimp. He told Marois she might provoke crises with Ottawa on a series of contentious issues.This would put the sovereignist troops on their metal.
So what happens? A few days after Parizeau’s ill-chosen remarks, the PQ was shut out in two by-elections, one of which they thought they could win.
Now we can take a break from politics at least until Labour Day. There are no constitutional questions buzzing around Ottawa, no referendums on the horizon in Quebec.
The Gazette caught the mood in a recent editorial on June 26: “Look around the world. There might be no place anywhere that manages diversity-in-unity as well as Quebec-inCanada. Where is it as easy to understand that there’s no need to choose between one sense of belonging and the other? In fact we do so well that we really need two days – or even the whole week in between – to celebrate how lucky we are.”
Have a great summer.
Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.
What’s on your mind? On today’s show, a medley of different subjects being debated and discussed with live callers.
The Blackbird of Derrycairn
by Austin Clarke
Stop, stop and listen for the bough top
Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God’s own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sound, Patric, as well at nightfall.
Faintly through mist of broken water
Fionn heard my melody in Norway.
He found the forest track, he brought back
This beak to gild the branch and tell, there,
Why men must welcome in the daylight.
He loved the breeze that warns the black grouse,
The shouts of gillies in the morning
When packs are counted and the swans cloud
Loch Erne, but more than all those voices
My throat rejoicing from the hawthorn.
In little cells behind a cashel,
Patric, no handbell gives a glad sound.
But knowledge is found among the branches.
Listen! That song that shakes my feathers
Will thong the leather of your satchels.
The poem is about the dominance the Catholic church held over the government in Ireland.
Here’s Neil with his column in the Senior Times
Look to Northern Ireland for a way to peace in Middle East
The recent outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland seemed at first like a black cloud threatening the fragile peace process. Until the silver lining appeared.
What happened after two British soldiers and an Irish policeman were murdered by a discredited IRA dissident group is almost unimaginable. The forces that had been at each other’s throats for decades came together to publicly denounce the killings.
Thousands of people, Catholic and Protestant alike, took to the streets to express their outrage and abhorrence. And the republican splinter groups who have claimed responsibility have been roundly condemned by the mainstream republican organization, Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister in the power-sharing executive, stood shoulder to shoulder with the protestant first minister, Peter Robinson, to condemn the killings: “We were elected to lead and, through democratic institutions, deliver for everyone throughout the community. We will not allow a tiny mindless minority to set our political agenda or divert us.”
McGuinness called those responsible “traitors to Ireland” and urged Catholics to cooperate with police in catching the culprits. Such an unambiguous display of support for the Northern Ireland Police Service from the leadership of Sinn Fein is unprecedented. As the London journal The Tablet wrote: “Twenty years ago they would have been plotting the killing of soldiers and policemen themselves.”
Those responsible for the bloodshed plainly intended to destroy the power-sharing structure of the Assembly at Stormont and escalate sectarian tensions across the community. However, the response from politicians and even more importantly from ordinary citizens, who took to the streets in significant numbers at short notice to support vigils and peace rallies, made clear that any attempt to turn back the clock on the peace process would not be tolerated.
These public displays were followed by the unprecedented image of Catholic republicans and Protestant loyalists attending the funeral of Stephen Carroll, the murdered Ulster police officer. In a highly personal address at the end of the service, in the presence of Carroll’s widow, the head of the Police Service, Sir Hugh Orde, told her:
“He will not be forgotten, Kate. I promise you. My staff and officers will not forget what he did. I know the community will not forget what he did.”
The hard fact is there will be no united Ireland for the foreseeable future. But the blinkered IRA dissidents refuse to recognize that. They first demonstrated their hostility to the peace process when they planted a car bomb in Omagh in August 1998 that killed 29 people in the main shopping street. (I walked on this street in a trip to Ulster a couple of years ago. The Omagh blast is still fresh in the minds of the citizens there).
Undeterred by the hostile reaction, pockets of disgruntled republican activists throughout Northern Ireland vowed to defy majority public opinion, re-arm and revive “physical force” republicanism as the traditional and only effective means they could see of ever achieving a united Ireland.
For a time there was nothing much more than propaganda stunts with armed, hooded figures on manoeuvres in remote Irish boglands. From time to time police on both sides of the border intercepted arms and explosives in transit to a planned atrocity. The dissidents suspected that the mainstream IRA was double-crossing them by infiltrating its own people into their ranks to betray them.
But several well-planned ambushes over a year ago, in which police officers were wounded, underlined the growing dissident threat. Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde warned that the dissidents were intent on killing a police officer, a grim prophecy that has now been fulfilled.
Still, tragic as the killings were, what remains is the virtual universal condemnation of them in Ulster by the ordinary people and their elected leaders. Remember these same leaders had been fighting each other for decades. Now they are united for peace, an extraordinary accomplishment and a way forward for others.
It is no coincidence that U.S. President Barack Obama chose as his new envoy to the Middle East the very man who played a large role in bringing the warring Irish factions together in the Good Friday Agreement. Former democratic senator George Mitchell now brings his negotiating skills, honed in Ulster, to building peace between Israel and the Palestinians, whose enmity is perhaps the most dangerous in the world.
But the peace process in Ulster is a paradigm for a similar development in the Middle East. There are dissimilarities of course, but if the hard men in Ulster can unite for peace, so can those other warring factions – the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The peace process in Ulster points a way to peace in the Middle East.
The Senior Times
Pit Stop April 2009
Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.
On this episode of Exchange, Neil talks with a former Russian military officer and asks the question: Should we be worry of the Soviet Union?
Exchange on CJAD with your host Neil McKenty.
This episode of Exchange is on Alliance Quebec. A Quebec political party at the time.
A reprint from 2012 from Neil’s archives
Repealing Obamacare legislation is no winning ticket for Republicans
If President Barack Obama never passes another piece of legislation, he will go down in the history books as the president who brought universal health care to the American people.
For more than a century, Democratic presidents like Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson had been trying for universal health care. They all failed until Obama found a way to reshape the country’s social welfare system. Obama delivered the goods and he delivered change to believe in.
This change will bring health insurance to 32 million Americans who now don’t have it. And that’s just the beginning: Starting this year, insurers are forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions and cancelling policies because someone gets sick. In 2014, insurers will be forbidden from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more.
Not a single Republican voted for this health bill. The party of “No” has fought the legislation every step of the way. (It is fighting in the Senate as of press time.) The Grand Old Party has cozied up to the yahoos in the Tea Party movement to derail health care, if not now, then at election time.
Still, there is the odd conservative voice that rejects this knee-jerk opposition to health care or anything else that Obama tries to do. (Senator John McCain boasts that the Republicans will not support Obama on anything for the rest of this year.)
One conservative voice that I have a lot of time for is David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times. Brooks is informed, balanced and knows that if the Tea Partiers take over the Republican Party, then the party is done. It is telling that in the run-up to the November elections, the Tea Party is trying to back right-wingers who will try to knock off moderate Republicans. It they succeed, the GOP will become nothing but a Neanderthal rump.
Another conservative voice that I respect is that of our own David Frum, who lives in Washington. Frum is one of the very few on the right who think the Republicans all-out opposition to Obama’s health care bill has been a disaster. Instead of working with the Democrats for a bi-partisan bill, the Republicans decided to bring down the whole house of cards. They almost succeeded.
The Grand Old Party has cozied up to the yahoos in the Tea Party movement.
David Frum tries to explain the Republicans’ hysterical opposition to one of the great pieces of social legislation in American history: “There were leaders who would have liked to deal with Obama. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and on talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother?”
Yet the Republicans, egged on by the Tea Party, are determined to keep on fighting. They say they will make repeal of health care the centerpiece of their campaign for the off-year elections and argue the new health law is so unpopular that they will take back control of Congress.
It’s true that the party in power almost always loses seats in the off-year elections. And there is no doubt the Democrats will take a drop in the House of Representatives.
It would be a shame if Nancy Pelosi, the best speaker in American history, lost her majority. The chances of Republicans taking over the Senate is pretty much nil. Still, I hope the GOP goes all out against Obamacare this fall. I hope they promise to repeal it. How many votes would they get if they promised to repeal the law’s lower prescription drug prices? Would they argue that pre-existing conditions should prevent one from getting insurance? Would they try to bar children from using their parent’s insurance coverage? Would they repeal a cap on medical expenses? I don’t think repealing the health bill is a winning ticket for the Republicans. And when some of these health “goodies” kick in, I predict support for Obamacare will grow right across the country.
But suppose the Republicans won back both houses of Congress in November and proceeded to repeal the bill. Would Obama sign the repeal or veto it? Not much doubt there.
After a short break for the holidays, I hope the Obama administration will turn to tighter regulations on the financial industry. Then we can all watch the Republicans defend the bankers, investment dealers and hedge funds, the very people who got us into the financial mess in the first place.
Some of the pundits, especially on Fox, are predicting that Obama will be a one-term president. They also predicted his comprehensive health care would not pass. The Fox-bomb throwers will probably be as wrong on the first prediction as they were on the second.
The New York Times featured two stories on the priestly sex abuse scandal exploding across the Catholic world. For the first time, the sex scandal is beginning to envelop Pope Benedict himself. What did he know and when did he know it? A priest in Wisconsin, Lawrence Murphy, sexually abused upward of 200 boys at a school for the deaf. Catholic Church authorities in Milwaukee, including Archbishop Rembert Weakland, wrote to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was in charge of dealing with abuse cases. Ratzinger did not respond.
Finally, canonical charges were brought against Murphy. He then wrote to Ratzinger, asking to be spared. Suddenly all action against him was halted. This scandal is the biggest crisis in the Church since the Reformation. Will the pope be able to lead the Church out of this quagmire? And if he cannot, will he resign? The jury is still out.
What do you think is really going to happen under Trump’s administration ?