Saturday, May 31, 2008

Transit safety

Ottawa just voted for a $4 billion light rail plan (though I'll believe it when I see it). Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver have already made some serious improvements to their public transit system. One problem remains, at least in Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto: dealing with the various scum who prey on transit riders. Recently, someone has taken to pushing people into the Toronto subway. It's a repeat of attacks about twenty years ago that caused the death of a woman. In another attack at about the same time, a friend of mine, Danielle Crittenden, was pushed onto the Toronto subway tracks but escaped before a train arrived. In Ottawa, one of the main bus transitway stops is on Rideau Street at the centre of the little drug and killin' zone that was exposed recently by Toronto Sun writer Christina Blizzard. Calgary has the same problem at one of its important transit hubs. I doubt the potential of public transit will ever be known until people believe they can ride it in safety and comfort.

Time to clear the air at CHRC

There have been enough details of allegations of entrapment by Canadian Human Rights staff to justify an investigation. I would like to see one that is honest and effective, since I'm very leery of the "proof" put that's been put forward by various bloggers. Essentially, the conservative bloggers claim that's exactly what's been done by the Human Rights Commission to drum up "business" under Section 13(1), a provision of the Human Rights Act that should be abolished anyway as an affront to free speech rights. Human Rights Commissions have no right to be censors.
But these are very serious charges. The planting of "evidence" by government employees and the goading of people into committing crimes is outrageous, if true.
The Tories have asked the Justice Committee of the House of Commons to examine the allegations. It makes sense to have Parliament look into this. People will be able to testify without fear of libel suits and there will be plenty of media coverage.
Now, to get Press Gallery paranoid. This may be a very, very, very empty promise, a meatless bone tossed by the Harperites to the knuckle-draggers. The chances of any hearings are slim to grim.
This committee hasn't met since early April. Its members are deadlocked and simply will not get into a room together. Once they work things out -- if they do so before the next election -- they have a big backlog of work.
There's also the issue of expertise. If the committee does meet and deals with this problem, it had better find objective witnesses -- or, even better, hire staff -- who can sort through the facts and fictions of the very complicated technological evidence at the heart of these allegations. That would be a first for a Parliamentary committee, as anyone who watched the circus of the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings at the Commons ethics committee will verify.
Our committees are far weaker than those in the US Congress, which have investigators and full-time legal staff. Canadian Prime Ministers and the governing political parties have made a conscious effort to keep Canadian committees weak and stupid.
So, while these hearings, if they happen at all, may just end up being yet another fool-fest. That would be a shame. We need to know the truth.


(HT to Ezra Levant for item and the PDF)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Blame the Internet

Canwest stock hit another all-time low today, trading at noon at $3.70, down about 5%on the day.

Maybe shareholders read this piece of art by National Post-it chairman David Asper and threw in the towel.

Next stop, $3.50?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Today in Muslim-bashing

In some places, old news is a cover-up.


UPDATE


I posted a very civil comment at Small Dead Animals basically calling "bullshit" on the claim that the story had been covered up. Kate MacMillan is moderating comments these days and mine didn't make the cut.
It's not just Human Rights Commissions that act as censors these days, is it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I can reed good.

Sixteen per cent of Ontario Gr. 10 students are illiterate.
Canadian Press says this is good news.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Don't let the bedbugs bite.

So Max Bernier's wonderfully sculpted girlfriend says evil persons unknown planted a bug in her box spring to evesdrop on her various bed pets, including, but not limited to, Canada's absent-minded Foreign Affairs minister.
As Ernst Stavro Blofeld said to Tiffany Case, "If only those were brains..."




Myriam Bedard, call home.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Three hundred measley bucks?

I get tons of scam e-mail on my Yahoo account. Today's is priceless:

From: "Johnson Dan"
Subject: Assassination Notice


Hi friend,

I have been paid by someone to assassinate you and also ensure that your family is hunted down. It sounds like a joke, right? But I must tell you that my boys are watching every move you make and are ready to execute but are only waiting for my orders.

I have been giving every information about you, so if you run away, your family will have no place to run to.

I assassinate to make money not necessarily to kill people. As a business man, I am only alerting you to see if you can buy your life with just a token of US$300 (three hundred US dollars).Only then will I reveal to you the person that sent me and every other detail about him.

This is not a trait, it is real and any delay from you to reply will mean giving me a quick order to my job.

This should be kept confidential, for any attempt to inform anyone will mean putting yourself in a bigger risk.

My dear, if I were you I will pay this little sum for it is nothing compared to losing your beloved family. Think about it or face me.



Dan Johnson

UPDATE


How much? I am so afraid. How do I pay?

M Bourrie



To: M Bourrie

I like you for being reasonable and because of that I will spare your life and reveal to you the person that sent me this if only you follow the following instruction on how to make the payment;

Send the money through Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram.



Receiver's name .. Jumbo Okechukwu P.

Address 14 Chukwudara, Port Harcourt

Rivers State

Country Nigeria.



Send me the control number from the bank and every other detail on how I should make the withdrawal.

Do this immediately for my boys over there are hungry for blood and remember that delay is dangerous. Remember you must keep this confidential.

Good luck.

To Dan Johnson

Can I send you $200 and you can have my 32-year-old son who has never worked a day in his life and is too ugly and stupid to get married?

Mark Bourrie




From Mr Bobuma
Abidjan,Cote d'ivoire
West africa.


Dear One,
l am introducing my self,l am bobuma Rosomaka,the only son of late Chief and Mrs Edward, I wish to request for your assistance in a financial transaction. And I wish to invest in Manufacturing and real estate management in your country.

I have Fifteen million Five houndred thousand united states dollars.USD($15,500,000) to invest in your country, and I will require your assistance in receiving the funds in your personal/company account for investment,

I will compensate you with 20% for your effort in assisting me.
please it is very important you contact me immediately through me for further explanation and conversation on how we will proceed. Awaiting your immediate response. Thanks and God bless.

Best Regards
Bobuma


Dear Mr. Bobuma

Can you send $300 of that money to:



Receiver's name .. Jumbo Okechukwu P.

Address 14 Chukwudara, Port Harcourt

Rivers State

Country Nigeria.





UPDATE

To Mark Bourrie from Dan Jonson

The only way I could consider you is to allow you pay what you can afford, this will show you that I really want to spare your life but anything less than paying what you can afford will mean giving me the power to unleash my boys. Whatever you wish to pay, pay it now or you face me. I like you for being reasonable and because of that I will spare your life and reveal to you the person that sent me this. Follow the following instruction on how to make the payment;

Send the money through Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram.



Receiver's name .. Jumbo Okechukwu P.

Address 14 Chukwudara, Port Harcourt

Rivers State

Country Nigeria .



Send me the control number from the bank and every other detail on how I should make the withdrawal.

Do this immediately for my boys over there are hungry for blood and remember that delay is dangerous. Remember you must keep this confidential.

Good luck.



To Dan Johnson

The national currency of my country is the Timbit. There are 20 Timbits to the US dollar so, since we have agreed upon a price of $200 plus the useless son, I will send you 4000 Timbits. You may need to find a bank that will convert this to the curency of Nigeria.

thanks fo not killing me (yet).


To Mark Bourrie


All I need from you is to send me the information on how I should receive the money from any bank,using the information I provided you.You are delaying me from my job.Send the information fast.

Dan Johnson.


To Dan Johnson


I still need to know whether I can pay you in Timbits.

Mark Bourrie

follo-up

Dear Dr. Johnson,



I have sent you, in the Currency of My Country, Canada, one large Double-Double and Twenty Timbits. That should prove satisfying to your demands.



Western Union Number is:



GO4IT4URNA-0#1 CLass A



To Mark Bourrie

You are toying with your life.

Dan Johnson

Friday, May 23, 2008

Free Dominion's Defence in the Warman Lawsuit

This is a very interesting piece of legal writing. It's the Fournier (Free Dominion) statement of defence in the lawsuit filed by former Human Rights Commission employee Richard Warman against Ezra Levant, Free Dominion, Small Dead Animals and the National Post. There are some challenging ideas about free expression on the Internet that I doubt an Ontario court would agree with. There's also a lot of information -- allegations, for now -- about Warman's "work" on the Internet. If that stuff can be proven, it would be devastating to Warman's case and career. If not, well, the defendants are out $50K and costs. So far, they're pretty low but that will change as time goes on.
It should make for an interesting trial, a real winner-take-all, loser-is-ruined experience. Like I said, it should. But the more I think of this case, the more I wonder about the common sense of the parties involved in getting into this mess in the first place.
One thing to keep in mind: Richard Warman wins if he simply says "prove it" and they can't. The onus is completely on the publishers to prove the statement complained about is true. If they try to prove the claim and they can't, it makes things very much worse for the defendants when the issue of costs somes up.
The work done by Buckets still convincingly calls into question Klatt's IP evidence against Warman. I've run Buckets work past one of my computer nerd friends in Ottawa and he says Buckets is right.
The Fournier statement of defence is much more complex, dealing both with Warman's mischievous behavior, including the pie incident in BC, and with other Internet postings. The bloggers seem to have Warman dead to rights in the pie attack on the poor demented British writer who thinks the Queen is a space alien. They also raise Warman's regrettable attempt to pressure libraries in BC to remove certain books, the reaction of the libraries involved and the decision by the BC government to amend the Libel and Slander Act to protect librarians.
This statement of defence is a much better piece of writing than the National Post defence, which boils down to an attempt to pass carelessness off as sound journalistic practices.

The great shake-up

Canwest hit another one-year low today at $3.83.
Update: Ooops. Spoke too soon. At 12:30 it's at $3.75
With the Bell deal effectively dead -- the banks want out, the bondholders have won in court, and the stock market has voted with its wallet -- the only way to re-work the divestiture is to break up the company into its constituent parts. Content-driven, as opposed to service-driven, convergence is dead. Bell is a natural for telephone, wireless, satellite and Internet. It's a dud in the TV and newspaper business.
Canwest does alright in TV. It's the newspaper side that is dragging Canwest stock down. The Aspers simply do not know how to run them. I'm sure the Aspers are having a very grim day wondering how low it can go before the banks call.
And, with all the inflation in the system, the interest on Canwest's debt isn't going down.
There are several possible end games here. Canwest can be broken up, with Rogers buying the TV side or, in a similar move to Bell's, Telus could pick up the network. I'm not sure Telus' people would be that dumb. They'd be smarter to try for Rogers.
Canwest could quietly lobby the feds to allow US ownership of Canadian papers, something the Conservatives might go for if they win a majority. That would mean some huge slash and burn in newsrooms, probably finishing off the newspaper business as we know it.
There could be new players like St. Joseph and Transcontinental. St. Jospeh's knows the printing business well and might look at the papers in terms of print media horizontal integration: huge, centralized presses going 24 hours a day putting ink on paper.
Whatever happens, expect it sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Glad to hear it

Correction

The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar is still alive. Incorrect information appeared in a story on page A8 Sunday.

Fun with figures

Who in the world are these people trying to kid?
There's a very good piece in the last Harper's on how inflation and unemployment numbers in the States are cooked. I'm sure StatsCan uses the same methodology.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can't argue with this

"Ted Kennedy is a man of strength and powerful spirit," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with Senator Kennedy and his family during this difficult period. We join our fellow Americans in praying for his full recovery." (George Bush, May 20, 2008)
Soon, the last Kennedy will be gone. A strange and remarkable family that somewhat redeemed the sins of the founder, Joe Kennedy, but could have been so much more.

Today's column from Ward 05

Sometimes, words fail me. What can I say about that?!?
Canwest , Warren's employer, came within six cents of its 52-week low today and is worth less than half what it was this time last year.
The TSX hit a record high today.
The guy who kept David Warren on the Citizen payroll these many years is Canwest's new VP of Content, Scott Anderson.
But the Internet is to blame for the state of the newspaper business. Yup. The Internet. Just keep saying it, guys.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sibley on Intolerance

Ottawa Citizen "deep thinker" Robert Sibley writes a near-unreadable defence of nativism in today's Ottawa Petfinder. Sibley strings together a rather sad-assed case with second-rate sources. Knowing Sibley's earlier troubles, I can see why he wrote a bibliography, but it still isn't very good research.
The mess could have been whittled down to a quarter of its length, but what the hell.
My own critique: George Grant's world, the provincial life of Queen's University, is not the world of today. And I note Sibley is so poorly versed in Canadian history that he missed the fact George Grant was Michael Ignatieff's grandfather.
What Sibley and so many other hacks seem to fail to understand is that there are as many types of Muslims as there are Christians and deep divisions with the Muslim community. Some Muslims are quite Orthodox. Some come to Canada and adopt Western culture and values as quickly as they can. The main squawk in all this Muslim bashing has come from non-Muslims. It wasn't Muslims who recommended sharia civil law in Ontario, it was big-hug NDPer Marion Boyd. Muslim women were the most vocal group in opposition to it. One big blowhard like Elmarsy gets more ink that 500,000 Muslims working and paying taxes and making car payments. Whatever would happen without him? Mark Steyn would certainly sell fewer books. And what about domestic Muslim terrorists, all those al Qaeda moles hidden in Canadian cities? So far, we have a couple of people under house arrest, precisely one guy in the "Guantanamo North" in Kingston, and a rather ludicrous "plot" involving the storming of Parliament and the beheading of Paul Martin. How many actual attacks in Canada? Er, none.
We need to have a serious talk about Canada: what we want it to be, how to make education and employment opportunities truly equal for all, how to re-develop manufacturing, instill national values in all parts of the country and establish a real, transparent democracy. But twaddle -- whether a few hundred words of it or several thousand -- is still twaddle. Robert Sibley is what passes for an intellectual at the Ottawa Citizen. It's like being the smartest kid in summer school.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Today in perv

Ok. I don't know what to make of this. Darwin Award candidate? Karma's a bitch? Some people are too stoopid to learn from their mistakes? All of the above?
When in doubt, pick (c).
Since the reporter really buried the lede on this, you'll need to read through about five paragraphs to connect the dots.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My take on the Warman vs. National Post, Small Dead Animals, etc.

First, a couple of things I'd like to get out of the way. I don't believe Human Rights Commissions are the places to deal with libel, such as the recent cartoon in the Halifax Herald that tags an identifiable person as a terrorist. Nor should they regulate "hate speech" in the media.
(Though if I was defamed in a cartoon and had access to the Human Rights system, I'd use it. Libel actions are priced out of reach of ordinary people, while the Human Rights system is free for plaintiffs. Can you blame anyone for using the system when it's right there, waiting for them?)
I'm also deeply distressed by the apparent use of entrapment techniques of staff of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the possibility they engaged in the stupid and illegal practice of using a private citizen's Internet connection to do so. While Richard Warman did not engage in these tactics, it's pretty clear others did. I'm eager to see what the Privacy Commissioner has to see about the complaint filed by the woman whose connection was hijacked for the posting of entrapment material on hate sites.)
But I'm afraid Richard Warman has the National Post and several bloggers dead to rights. If you print anything about anyone, especially something negative, you must be able to prove what you are saying. My old sparring partner Bucketsofgrewal, who is very smart, has blown big holes in the Internet speculation that Richard Warman engaged in disreputable behaviour on the Internet. In fact, Buckets' research actually goes very far the other way. Warman's computer has considerable dissimilarity with the one that was used to post offensive material about Senator Anne Cools on a fascist web site.
Warman has sued the National Post and several conservative bloggers for the comparatively nominal amount of $50,000. I know to most of us and to the bloggers $50K is a lot of money. To a newspaper, it's an amount that can easily be justified as "screw off" or settlement money. It's much cheaper than litigation, especially when your case is as weak as the National Post's and its editorial page editor Jonathan Kay. I'm sure their libel insurers will see it that way.
Kay did everything he could to drum up data for a case against Warman while studiously avoiding anything that might have disproved his (and the bloggers) theory. Why do I think that? Because he didn't do one of the most basic acts in fair journalism: seek a response from Warman.
The Post's defence, posted on Bucket's blog, argues Kay was simply in error. Carelessness does not mitigate damages. In fact, it works the other way. Pleading stupid is a very poor move in libel law. The Teskey, Heacock and Ferguson vs. Canadian Newspapers Ltd and Midland Free Press case that went to the Ontario Court of Appeal in the late 1990s dealt with the issue of retractions. They are somewhat useful, but they have to be complete and heartfelt. (The newspaper in the Teskey case had used weasel words in its retraction. The suit cost over $2 million and could have been settled early in the game with a $3000 donation to charity). This is where the Post has a problem. How can you have a complete and heartfelt retraction when the Post continues to make common cause with people who have not retracted the allegation and, from what I've seen at Small Dead Animals, continue to make them? Steyn, too, has been on the road making the same claims about Warman. Recently, he and Mike Duffy talked at length on TV about this stuff. I was shocked to see Duffy adopting Steyn's cause and leaving himself open to be sued.
I do wonder why Warman did not sue. As I've said, this is not a simple case and there are many hidden agendas and varying shades of grey.
I think a court would look at the suit as a whole: several defendants who show blatant malice and refuse to seriously consider a retraction and a newspaper that carelessly adopted their cause with the most cursory "investigation", then tried to escape from the situation with a pro-forma retraction. The new "honest mistake" rule from the recent Ottawa Citizen case at the Ontario Court of Appeal won't wash, because the "honest" aspect has to be clean as a hound's tooth. This is not an honest mistake made by "objective" journalists who were somehow misled in the course of a normal news-gathering operation. This was the Post chiming in during a malice-driven blog attack on Richard Warman's personal and professional reputation. I think Kay did it to get right-wing cred. The telling point, the really fatal one to the Post's case, is Kay's recklessness and callous disregard for Warman's reputation. And it certainly won't help the Post's case that Kay's a lawyer. He should have known the law and he certainly should have understood the situation he was involved in.
The Post also claims the damage, if any, was temporary, since the Post retracted the article. This defence relies on the assumption that people believe retractions. They don't. Most educated people know that news retractions are usually made simply to save the cost of litigation. As well, the Ontario courts have ruled that there's nothing "temporary" on the Internet. If you want to find the Post's allegations against Warman, they're still on the Internet. They always will be, for the whole world to see. Damage to reputation committed on the Interent, with all of the caching systems available, is far more permanent than damage on TV, in newspapers and magazines. TV signals tend to go into the ether. Newspapers go to recycling. But the Warman posts will be in Google's cache system, available to anyone with any computer skills, anywhere in the world, for the long foreseeable future.
The downside for the people who would like to see Kay and the Post fry is that the Post has libel insurance, so it won't directly cost the apper much money when it throws in the towel. I've recently seen some cases settled by insurance companies for around the figure that Warman wants. I think he should have asked for more. (My wife learned a little saying at law school: a settlement costs a car, litigation costs a house). He may quite easily end up with his $50K and an apology from the Post. It will be much more interesting to see what happens with the bloggers.
The lesson of this is to be careful. If you are going to try to take down a lawyer, you better have your facts straight. You better look at every "fact" the same way a judge would. You better have good documents and witnesses who are solid citizens. And the defendants in this lawsuit aren't even close.

Breaking News

al Qaeda has had enough of 9-11 conspiracy theories.

Ironman

Unreal. Robert Downey Jr. is the best actor alive today. I thought he proved it in Zodiac, where he was so convincing as a newspaper reporter of the 1970s that I gave copies of the DVD to my students.
Ironman is the best movie I've seen in years. I hope they make a whack of money and do a sequel.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reading the Goose Guts

The Supreme Court just sent the Harper government a message: don't waste your time tightening juvenile crime laws unless you're willing to make prosecutors work harder to prove that the li'l buggers deserve no breaks.

They're still cursed.

Billy Penn is just messin' with the Flyers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hillary: The Last Ten Days

This has been posted at a number of my favorite blogs, including Enjoy Every Sandwich. IKf I wasn't such a technopeasant I'd know how to embed the YouTube image in the blog page. But I don't, so click the link.
It's probably the funniest satire to come out of the 2008 campaign so far, but does have lots of dirty words so govern yourself accordingly.

Update:

The "Steiner isn't coming" scene from der Untergang seems to have become a bit of a YouTube plaything. Here, it's got subtitles showing Hitler's reaction to being cut off from Microsoft's online gaming system. There's also a clip showing the generals telling the Fuhrer his car has been stolen and suggesting he buy a Mustang, a recommendation he does not particularly agree with.

Keith Martin on Human Rights Commission Censorship

From a scrum today in the House of Commons foyer


Question:
What did you think of the Justice Department's intervention on the Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 13?

Keith Martin:
Well, I was very disappointed with the Justice Department intervention. I think they made a significant error. They were confusing hate crimes with the stated intent of the Human Rights Commission which is -- particularly Section 13-1 which refers to dealing with statements that are made that could offend a group of people. In the Justice Committee's -- in the Justice Department's missive, they spoke a lot about hate crimes but they also spoke about the issue of writing things that could offend people so they were very confusing in their submission and I think it'll be wonderful if the Justice Committee here in Parliament actually does a public examination of the Canadian -- Canada Human Rights Commission. That's what I've written to the Justice Committee to do and I hope that the Justice Committee members have a public hearing on the Canada Human Rights Commission so that those who are for it and those who are against the status quo will have their day to express their views on the Commission which I think that the Canada Human Rights Commission has gone far beyond and away from what its original mandate was intended to be.

Question:
Were you shocked to find out that the Justice Department's own filings said truth and fair comment are no defence?

Keith Martin:
Well, there were a lot of things in the Justice Department's missive which I find absolutely shocking. Not only that but about blithely talking about restrictions on freedom of expression. That has absolutely nothing to do with hate crimes, nothing to do with hate crimes and nothing to do with hate speech whatsoever. So the Justice Department's missive really was a trampling of basic human rights, human rights that are enshrined in our Charter and I was very disturbed by their intervention. So I'm hoping that our Justice Committee actually reviews the Commission and hopefully they'll be able to -- that we'll be able to bring in members from the Justice Department to be able to account for their statements.

Question:
The first thing that happened when you raised the issue of repealing Section 13-1 of the Human Rights Act was you were linked with white supremacists and you were out there for people to support the KKK. Do you think the Conservative government is afraid to even touch this issue because they're afraid of being associated with the same thing?

Keith Martin:
I think Mr. Harper has told Mr. Nicholson, our Justice Minister, to put a muzzle on their MPs. But the Conservative MPs, as many members in my caucus, have expressed deep concerns about where the Canada Human Rights Commission has gone. They have expressed a great deal of support for my motion to remove Section 13-1 from the Act. And I think that's a fair thing to do would be to have this out and open. Have a public hearing through the Justice Committee and televise it so that Canadians coast to coast can hear those who believe that the status quo is acceptable and those of us who believe that the Human Rights Act has to be amended to ensure that we have freedom of speech because in my view freedom of speech is being trampled in Canada right now.

Question:
What are the chances that the Justice Committee will take a look at this because they've been a pretty dysfunctional committee up until now?

Keith Martin:
I think -- I've spoken to members on the Justice Committee and there's a great deal of support across party lines to deal with this because members on the Justice Committee recognize that the removal of Section 13-1 and an investigation of the Canada Human Rights Commission is in support of that fundamental human right, the right to freedom of speech. And they recognize that it is our responsibility to defend this right, a right that Canadians bled for and fought for over two world wars and that it is our responsibility in this House of Commons to defend that right.

Question:
Now at the very end of the Justice Department brief it talks about how the law is settled as if to even inquire about this or to take it up to go to the Supreme Court again would be an abuse of process. What do you think of that?

Keith Martin:
Well, laws can be changed and the Human Rights Commission, Canada Human Rights Commission came about at a time with very laudable goals. The goals were to ensure that people had recourse if they were being discriminated against, against employment -- in employment or in housing. Those are laudable goals that we embrace and fully support but over time their actions and mandate have changed and some of the actions that they've been taking of late have been very disturbing I think to a lot of us and to a lot of Canadians. So that's why I put forth the motion to remove Section 13-1 but I think taking it to the Justice Committee, having a public and televised assessment of the proceedings, having an examination of the Canada Human Rights Act and the Commission will serve the Canadian public and serve the fundamental rights that are the pillars of our democracy.

Question:
Whatare you going to be also -- hope that the Justice Committee will invest some of their abuse of process as well, for instance the way they handle evidence, their allegations of (inaudible) going on line to entrap people and make (inaudible) comments themselves that are hateful, the whole idea that you're guilty until proven innocent. It's almost like a reverse of the judgment. Are you going to take a look at that if you're successful in getting this (inaudible) committee?

Keith Martin:
All these things are very disturbing and that's why I'm bringing this up so that we can take a look at the Canada Human Rights Act and also the Canada Human Rights Commission and the committee is a master of its own destiny. It will do what it feels it should do and it's up to the members. But I'm almost certain that they will take a look at all of those and do a very profound dissection of the Canada Human Rights Commission, of what they're doing, of what they're not doing in the defence of the true rights of our country.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Comment moderation

Now that the krazee who was posting crap on the blog and sending me psycho e-mails has either fled or been moved to a ward without Internet privileges, I can take comment moderation off.
I'll give it a try, anyway.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bugs

Neil Young may have a spider named after him, but I'd rather be John Coltrane:




This is Coltraneae oufenensis.

(NT: National Newswatch; Picture: Extinctions Fossils Ltd.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The pot examines the kettle

The Toronto Star's David Olive looks at the New York Times and finds bad management, lack of imagination and intellectual stagnation.
Read the piece and replace "Times" with "Star".

Last week, the TorStar hit yet another 52-week low, fuelled by what one poster called a "capitulation trade", a huge (for this stock, as a 100,000 share day is the norm) offer of 500,000 shares at the bottom of the market. Yes, someone threw in the towel, believing the Star's situation was going to get worse, not better.

If you want an example of dumb thinking, nepotism, bad judgment and poor use of journalistic staff, you certainly don't have to go to New York. All four Toornto English dailies suffer from those malaise, and there's very little likelihood of improvement until the proprietors, present and future, are rattled enough to look inside the newsrooms and the executive suites and separate some sheep from some goats.
Unfortunately, the proprietors of the papers aren't any smarter than their employees or their expertise is somewhere other than newspapers.
The questions: why do the best and brightest young hires pay with their jobs in recessions while the deadweight, the wimps, the newsroom politicians, the dinosaurs and the huge bureaucracies of unproductive sub and assisting editors survive, age and entrench? In what other industries do such under-performing and non-productive executives hang on, year after year, while the equity of the company evaporates?

My prediction: the recession and the bankers will sort it all out. Toronto will end up with two or three very good newspapers owned by newspaper companies. And you won't get free local news on the Internet, if the owners have any clue at all about what they're selling.

David Warren Watch

For those of you who were amazed at Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren's piece on the state of newspapers, here's today's offering on Mother's Day/Pentacost, Or something. See if you can make heads or tails of it.*

Read it with your best fake English accent.

Canwest stock hit another 52-week low this week, but there's always room for David Warren on the payroll. And Janice Kennedy. And a whole whack of other people who can barely function in society, let alone enlighten any other person.






*I must confess, I could not actually read it all the way through. I did try. It is too early, I have not had enough coffee, and well, life is short. I will give an autographed copy of my last Great Lakes shipwreck book to anyone who can actually get through the mess and give me 100 words on what it's about.
E-mail submissions to mbourrie@yahoo.com or post them as comments.

Toronto the Good

Friends, especially those in the media, marvel at how, since I was 24, I've avoided living and working in the media capital of Canada. I save this kind of headline for those brief coversations. (When they ignore that reality, I toss in the cost of living and the sheer ugliness of the place).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

He haunts is still: the Mafia hitman who plays politics

Let me tell ya a story.

Long ago, back in 1984, two vermin from a Montreal crime family decided to go freelance and brought a big bag of cocaine to Toronto. Vic Cotroni, the don of Montreal, put out a contract on these two clowns. Real Simard, a full-time Cotroni hit man, went to Toronto to take care of it.
The victims, guys named Heroux and Hetu, were ambushed in the old Seaway Hotel, out on the lakeshore. Heroux died immediately. Hetu took three slugs in the head but survived.
Hetu recovered, cut a deal with the RCMP, and was given help under the witness protection program. The cops picked up Simard and tagged him with six hits, with many more -- perhaps well into the double-digits -- suspected.
Here's where things start getting weird.
Hetu was given a new name and sent to live in a Francophone enclave in Central Ontario. I'd sometimes see him walking around with that big scar on his face but I didn't know who he was until he started molesting children. He was arrested and, it turned out, continued to collect money from the feds in the years in which he was awaiting trial. I covered the case for the Globe and Mail and, later, the Toronto Star. His defence? Simard's bullets had scrambled his brain. Hetu has since done his time. It would be interesting to see if the Mounties are still looking after him.
Simard, the hit man, cut a deal, too. He ratted out Vic Controni in return for his charges being dropped to manslaughter. Simard was given a really nice cell, with a great view, exercise equipment, state of the art audio-visual system, the works.
By 1994, he was out. I heard he was living at Jay's Peak, in Vermont. How in the world he got into the States legally is beyond me. And he's been seen many times around Montreal, even running into Cotroni a couple of times before the old crook pegged out eight years ago. Yet he remains unslain. Go figure.
But the story's not over yet. Just after his release, stories, certainly untrue, circulated that he had a crush on Sheila Copps and was organizing the Eastern Townships for her prospective leadership run. After a few years in the community, Simard was picked up for welfare fraud and had to fight like hell to keep from having his parole revoked and being sent back to prison.
Today, I received an e-mail from Prime Minister's Office press guy Dimitri Soudas with a reprint of a November, 2000 piece by Michel Vastel, presumably in the Journal de Montreal that talks about Simard's work as a campaign worker for Bloc Quebecois candidate Nik LeBlanc in the suburban Montreal riding of Verdun.
Gotta love Quebec. Only a province like that could produce a Hetu, a Simard, a Central Casting-style Mafia boss like Cotroni, an outfit like the Bloc, and Dimitri.
Distinct society indeed.

Today's nugget

Can Maclean's and Ezra Levant use the Alberta Press Act Reference as a precendent to show provincial regulation of the press via Human Rights legislation is ultra vires?
I'm researching Oliver Mowat Biggar, who represented the SoCred side (and lost). The Aberhart government essentially wanted to establish a press censorship system. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that regulation of the accuracy of the press was a federal responsibility.
The Wikipedia entry is sparse. The real meat is in the Supreme Court decision that's linked.

Pile this on top of the Charter arguments and I suspect the provincial Human Rights complaints would be tossed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Zap!

I read Maclean's magazine's very convincing piece on why the Leafs suck. I, too, blame it on the fans.
But while visiting Laurier House the other night, I hazarded to consult Mackenzie King's crystal ball (yes, tourists, it's in the third-floor study for public display. Laurier House is on Laurier Street about four blocks east of the University of Ottawa). The ball showed me interesting things: two previously unidentified sports curses.
The first, The Curse of Stafford Smythe, was placed on the Leafs by Smythe as he lay dying of a bleeding ulcer in 1971. Smythe was up on charges of income tax evasion and looting Maple Leaf Gardens. He was only 50 years old. The ball says Smythe, whose visceral hatred of the Leafs showed itself in 1968, when he fired Punch Imlach (Imlach laid a powerful pre-curse at that time) put a hex on the Leafs, the terms of which were that the Leafs would not win a Stanley Cup while Harold Ballard was alive. The curse would have been lifted at Ballard's death in 1990, but, instead, was supercharged by Yolanda Ballard, who hexed a Lanny MacDonald action figure and surreptitiously buried it near the creek at the back of Ballard's Thunder Bay Beach cottage. Yolanda, who had been Harold's sin-eater and punching bag, was cheated by Ballard's will. The curse will expire when a statue of Yolanda is erected in plain sight in Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Ottawa Senators, according to the crystal ball (and remember, this ball won six federal elections), were cursed by the ghost of One-Eyed Frank McGee. McGee, a member of the Ottawa Silver Seven, scored 14 goals in a Stanley Cup final, a record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. The game was held Feb. 7, 1905, at the old arena near the corner of Bank and Gladstone streets in what is now a seedy part of downtown Ottawa but was, back then, on the outskirts of town.
One-Eyed Frank somehow got into the army during World War I and was killed at the Battle of the Somme. Frank McGee apparently cursed any Ottawa hockey team that falsely claimed a link to, or ownership of, the Stanley Cup championships of the Ottawa Silver Seven and the original Ottawa Senators. That hex was automatically attached to the Palladium/Corel Centre/Scotiabank Place/Ugly Arena in the Car Lots.
The only way to lift the curse is to remove the offending pennants.
I'm just telling you what the ball told me.
Pass it on.

Today in Dreck

The other day, I wrote a piece about the decline of newspapers. I put the blame fairly squarely in two places: leveraged buyouts that have encumbered formerly profitable newspapers with hefty debts; and on managers who have strangled the papers themselves as a way to cover the payments on that debt. It is a self-perpetuating cycle: the papers can't cover debt costs and pay dividends at the same time, they cut staff, people say there's nothing in the papers and stop buying them or turn to free news sources, newspaper profits decline, staff is cut, more people stop reading, more profit slippage, more staff is cut...
I was too kind to mention editorial deadwood, except in passing.
For instance, there are the various head cases and pals of editors who hang like barnacles on the newspapers of the country. The Ottawa Citizen's David Warren is one such place-holder. His former publication, the Idler, was unread by the public but was a darling of the troglodyte right in Canada. When the Idler deservedly succumbed to the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, Warren was very much between opportunities. His pal Neil Reynolds set him up with a very comfy gig at the Ottawa Citizen, where he's been a mainstay of Frank Magazine's "Drivel" section for some time.
In a piece in today's Petfinder, Warren babbles on about the decline of the newspaper trade. His two targets: newspaper unions and journalism schools.
I want you to read the piece.
Here are some comments I'd make if I marked it:
First, the intro sucks. It is pedantic, not particularly connected to the argument, not original, and it doesn't answer the age-old question: "who gives a shit"? Most readers would be gone by the third or fourth sentence.
Second, the column has holes as grotesque and obvious as a sucking chest wound. The first obvious one is Warren's disdain for the union. Why mention it? Is it to maintain right-wing cred or tag it as part of the problem? You can't leave stuff like this dangling.
Third, if J-schools are the problem, do tell us why. Is it because the students went to a university? Is it J-school curriculum? If so, why? Would you prefer history majors? English majors? Sociology majors? I look among my circle of friends in journalism and find them all. The column falls down because the writer does not seem to understand that a degree in journalism in not a mandatory qualification for journalism. Daily newspapers hire people from college papers, from journalism schools, sometimes from community colleges. Even half-bright people with intellectual pretensions who are too lazy to get a post-secondary education can make a decent living in journalism. If Warren seeks an example, he should look in a mirror.
Fourth, Warren talks about the situation of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Its troubles are the nut of the column, yet there is far less description of the Star-Tribune's travails than of the dinosaurs. David, the readers do know what killed off the dinosaurs. They don't know why the Star-Tribune is on the ropes. And you didn't tell them.
Did an inordinate percentage of Star-Tribune reporters and editors go to journalism school? Um, we don't know and neither does Warren. What Warren does know is the paper was sold twice recently. I'd say that might be the genesis of its business-side problems. At least it's a solid fact, unlike the rest of the smoke tossed around by Warren.
My last question: If a paper is filled with copy like Warren's, written by someone pulling down $100K a year, is it in trouble? Does it have any business offering buy-outs and cutting staff while running dreck like Warren's? Does it entice people to lay down a buck, rather than get their news and commentary online for nothing? Surely there's a libertarian writer who can do research, structure a column properly and make words sing. And I bet there are cheaper ones.
(And I'm not offering myself. I'd rather work at Little Ray's Reptile Zoo out in Greely than in the Baxter Road snakepit).
Again, when a company is asking people to spend a dollar on a product that is offered elsewhere for free, there has to be a certain amount of value-added. So my last question: would you pay a buck to read that column? And don't forget, the Citzen let you read it for free.
I would have failed the column with the words: "Looks too much like a rush job or first draft".

Meanwhile:
Canwest touches a 52-week low and probably an all-time low before doing a dead cat bounce and rising a few pennies. Torstar stays at a new 52-week low.

The Star is tumbling toward 40% of its value in 2004 and is down 10% in a week. I wonder how long before the Honderich, Thall, Campbell, Atkinson and Hindmarsh families start howling and Lenny's bankers call.

I vaguely remember a mantra of sorts: "Content is king... content is king..."

Denver: Will Hillary and Obama Join the Mile High Club?

Because I'm still willing to make a side bet on a second or third ballot and a Gore-Obama ticket. It wouldn't be a big bet. Still, the way things are shaping up, it's well within the rules. And right now, the old pols -- all of them Gore adorers -- who have control of the outcome must realize that Obama and Hillary are too damaged to beat John McCain.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If Parliament's an institution, why do the inmates get paid?

I took a handful of my former first-year students to the House of Commons and the Senate. It was an interesting choice of days. The Tories had got the hang of blowing smoke over the In and Out election financing scandal, deflecting questions with a lame half-assed Greek chorus led by John Baird and Pierre Poliviere.
Today, the auditor general's report came out. Maybe the Liberal research office missed that memo. The Liberals and the Bloc never mentioned it in QP. But the NDP was ready. Its caucus raised questions about air safety and the treatment of immigration detainees. That's how you win debates.
I don't understand the Liberals. They have some top-notch researchers (most of whom used to be Press Gallery reporters, but that's for another day). Yet the Liberals are one day behind the news cycle. When the prime minister and every minister have written answers to your questions, it's time to re-think how you're coming up with those questions. And that's where the Liberals were at.
The Tories scored a big point when one of the cabinet ministers listed the number of days, the number of questions and the number of House votes wasted by the Bloc, a party that now keeps about 50 Quebec seats in mort main.
But that point was forefeited by Peter MacKay, who said the Minister of Patronage would soon be looking at the reconstruction plans for the lovely old Quebec armoury that burned down some weeks back. Er, that was supposed to be Minister of Heritage.
There was enough truth in the statement that everyone who wasn't in CPAC's shot got a good laugh from it.
My students lasted longer than Michael Ignatieff, who was gone by the halfway mark. I guess he has other fish to fry.
Perhaps the best line of the day came from Clare, a brilliant student who is going to be running a newsroom some day. When I told her how Stephen Harper's goon squad zip him around to different entrances of the Parliament building on different days (supposedly to shake off any press that want to steal his soul with a camera), she quipped "Sort of a Chevy shell game."
Yup.
And the House always wins.

Nerd Wurld

This is the height of the fossil season. Warm, with enough rain to clean off dusty rocks in quarries. No mosquitoes or black flies.
On Sundays, my hunting partners and I have been playing hide and seek with gravel quarry owners as we try to rescue trilobites from rock crushers. We go very early
with concrete saws, climb over blast piles, find the fossils and cut them out. As theyears have gone by, more and more quarry operators have become fearful of lawsuits and clamped down on collectors. A few others have the good sense to accept a release that absolves them of any risk or they simply turn a blind eye.


The spiny bug above is a Gabriceraurus, a 450-million-year-old, fine-inch water bug that lived here when Ottawa was 150' under sea water, part of the continental shelf of "Laurentia" at about the same latitude as Peru. Back then, we were still, sort of, connected to Europe and North Africa. I say "sort of" because there are chunks of continents that have come and gone.

My friend Marcus Martin in upstate New York, an ex-Marine, is beavering away on sites where trilobites are found preserved with soft body parts:



Soft body part trilobites are very, very rare. Marcus pulled at shale for years until he found a new locality.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the St. Lawrence, the hunt for Paleozoic life continues. Here's a fossil crinoid, a "sea lily", an animal related to starfish and sea urchins. It's from Arkona, between London and Grand Bend:




But not all of us are out in the field. My friend George Kampouris is putting the finishing touch on a giant Devonian fish fossil. He's very carefully chipped, ground and sandblasted a huge nodule holding the front-end of the nastiest fish that ever lived. This guy, a Dunkleosteus, ate sharks. The fossil George is working on is about the size of a stove. It was found embedded in a ravine in Cleveland, Ohio. Here's what it would look like re-assembled:





The beast's skull was on the outside of its head. It had 10" fangs that were used to hack through the flesh and armour of similar Devonian fish. This animal was so tough that even its eyes were armoured. Full-grown, it was 30' long and could have bit through a Volvo.

But a fossil doesn't show you everything. Here's a great YouTube clip of a couple of guys fishing in the Devonian and meeting up with a Dunkleosteus. It is an incredible piece of animation.

Steyn being set up?

On Mark Steyn's web site, the Great Man says he's been invited to go mano a mano on TV Ontario's Agenda tonight with three of the sock puppets who are often incorrectly cited as the authors of the Human Rights Commission complaints against him. In fact, according to the TV Ontario web page, Steve Paiken is going to interview Steyn, then, after that's over, chat with the three sock puppets of Mr. Elmasry, the man holding the strings.

My advice, which I'm sure our chirping-voiced free speech hero will ignore: Tell TVO to screw off.

Monday, May 05, 2008

See one, play one

Kate at Small Dead Animals has a posting about Lawrence Solomon's recent Financial Post column of the doctrinaire Marxist shenanigans at Wikipedia.
Old news, sez I.
This is in the real news.

Connecting the dots dept.

Can you name one former editor of the Toronto Star?
You can read this story about a former Star editor and find no mention of the fact that he's one of the paper's former editors.
Not that it's connected to his recent fame, but surely it's worth a few words.
(He also wrote the definitive arse-kreep bio of Pierre Trudeau back in '78).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Charles Caccia

I just talked with him a week ago in the foyer of the University of Ottawa law school, still very dynamic, bright and urbane.
Now, Charles Caccia, one of the more able members of the Trudeau cabinet, is dead of a stroke. He was a long-time MP, holding the then-predominantly Italian-Canadian riding of Davenport. While Trudeau made use of his enthusiasm for the environment, Chretien did not. I don't know why. Possibly Chretien was overwhelmed by the high number of top-tier, high-profile Toronto MPs who just had to be in cabinet, including people like Allan Rock and Art Eggleton. Unfortunately, there are only so many seats at the cabinet table.
Caccia was a decent man who cared about Canada and its environment. He was a smart, civil debater and a man with deep commitment to his constituents, his party and his country. I'm very sad to hear of his passing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Where will the axe fall next?

Torstar hit yet another 52-week low Friday, down 38% from its one-year high and more than 50% off its all-time high, reached in 2004.
So, what's wrong with Canada's largest newspaper company?
I bet they blame the Internet again.

I am still marvelling at the Ottawa Citizen, which killed off its lame-o Sunday feature section to run TV listings. Yes, TV listings are cheap. But TV Guide went out of business last year for a good reason: anyone with cable or satellite has easy access to TV listings on their TV. Anyone so impecunious that they don't have cable or satellite is unlikely to pay a buck for a paper. If the Citizen wanted to fill the pages with useful copy, maybe they should have published hundreds of sudoku puzzles. More people would have bought the paper.

Yes, the Citizen's Sunday features were boring. Multi-page series on the great pilgrimage routes of Spain, self-congratulatory crap written by boomers who never left the office, eyesplitter columns. Even the body language in Citizen column pictures -- bland-looking, badly-dressed boomers with their hands aggressively placed on their hips or slovenly slipped into their pockets -- is off-putting.

Like I said earlier this week, the Internet is the best thing to happen to stupid media managers. It gives them an easy out. But here's my question: why are magazines doing so well? And book publishers are still doing relatively well, considering they, at least in this country, nearly priced their products out of the hands of the middle-class.

You ask anyone from a 13-year-old to a 90-year-old what's wrong with newspapers and you get the same answer: there's nothing in them.
What that means is there's nothing that they care about.
But are newspapers addressing that issue?
What happened to local journalism? Where are the journalists who are willing to take on power and influence? Where are the publishers who give a damn about informing the public?
They're few and far between.
And the numbers reflect that.

Here's my tip to the Aspers and TorStar: fire any editor who wants to run celebrity news, wine columns, stories about menopause, anything about Kingsley Amis, columns about wonderfully wonky kids doing the darndest thing, TV highlights, the Cannes film festival, and cottage decorating. Cut most national political coverage, especially poll-based stories and "who's hot, who's not" dreck. Stick to telling people about new laws. If there are no new laws, policies or taxes of note, maybe there's just nothing going on on the Hill.


Hire people who are eager to leave the office and talk to real people to get real news. Run unfashionable stuff like obits to get older readers back. Get more reporters into the courts and city hall. Cover the surrounding rural area a bit. Tell people ways they can save and make money. Be hyper-local. If you see stuff on the 'net, you don't want it in the paper. Run the stuff that you can't get on the Internet. No one can read about local people, local politics, local issues, and local crime on the Internet. Don't post that kind of material. Make people pay for it.
If people think your web page sucks, great. Make them buy the paper.

Comments

I haven't allowed unmoderated comments for a while because I have received a large number of threats and harrassing comments from an anonymous poster. I have his IP number and I'll be handing it to the police soon.
I hardly need the aggravation. My dad is sick and my wife has been extremely busy with law school exams. The head case began sending me crap after I posted the remark about Maclean's using content provided by an employee of the Dept. of National Defence.
There are some real winners in the world. And some real losers.
I'm gathering examples of bad reporting, the sort of stuff that crops up when you do news on the cheap. Below is an excellent case of prejudicial pre-trial publicity in which a newspaper, the Midland Free Press, takes a press release from the cops and prints it without editing or vetting it for potential legal and ethical problems.
Note that the paper states categorically that the charged man, whose name I removed, is guilty of armed robbery of a Subway restaurant, a charge that could easily result in a penetentiary term.
Quebecor is the company that owns this newspaper. A good lawyer woudl ask for a jury trial and argue the newspaper has limited the suspect's right to a fair trial by an untainted jury. Quebecor risks a fine for contempt of court. Sometimes "cheap" can be awfully expensive.
This is a great example of a case of "cheap" and "lazy" impacting on the civil rights of some ordinary person who may or may not be a robber. That determination belongs to the courts, not the newspapers.



Arrest Made in Subway Robbery

The Southern Georgian Bay OPP Crime Unit has been following up a number of leads, which have lead to the arrest of the person responsible for an armed robbery at the Subway Sub store located at 188 Main Street in Penetanguishene on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 13 2007.


Charged with one count of armed robbery is 31-year-old XXXXX XXXXXXX XXXX* of Orillia. He appeared in court and was remanded in custody to a later date.


(Name removed to prevent legal hassles)

Remember the Curse of 1940

For all my friends who play ProLine, keep this in mind: The New York Rangers have been cursed since 1940, when they burned the mortgage to Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup. Foolishly, they renewed the curse in 1994 when, after winning their first Stanley Cup in 54 years, members of the team took the Cup to Belmont Park to let the winner of the Kientucky Derby eat oats from it.
So beware. BEWARE!!!

Good move

Fourteen years ago this summer, my wife and I moved from Midland to Ottawa. Money Sense magazine says it was a great decision. Midland, it turns out, is the worst city in Ontario to live, while Ottawa is the best city in all of Canada.
Now, Midland's not all that bad of a place, especially if you have money. There's about 30 miles of nice sand beaches in the area. Some of them are public. There's also some great boating in the area. It's also very close to the recreation areas of Muskoka and not far from Toronto (although too distant to conveniently commute, and it lacks decent public transit out of the region).
The Money Sense people did not take those things into account. If they had, Midland should have been able to beat Cornwall, one of the ugliest places I've seen in this country.
On the down side, summers there are short and can be wet. Winters are extremely snowy. It is the only region of the province without a university or community college. It has been dreadfully misgoverned and mismanaged, with collapsing infrastructure and relatively high taxes.
Most of the industry in the region is long-gone. The summer tourism season is brisk but far too short. There is no winter tourism.
The hospital facilities are dreadful and, for the most part, the medical community is inept. Major employers in the region are a psychiatric hospital and a super jail, which are not particularly delightful places to work and give you a fair idea of the cultural level of the local populace.
There are no decent newspapers, no writers of any note, and just a couple of artists. There is no decent concert venue, no good libraries, and just a couple of second-rate historiacl attractions. One is a silly representation of the old naval base at penetang (nothing happened there), the other is a reconstruction of Fort Ste. Marie, a 17th century Jesuit headquarters that dares not delve into 17th century Jesuit life or the rather gruesome fate of the place's more famous inhabitants. (You won't find, for instance, any mention of "ritualistic cannibalism".) Great place for kids!
Still, I'd love to spend my summers there again. But until some of the beach ownership issues and environmental problems are solved, I'll stick to the Gatineaus and the Eastern Townships.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Public's Right to NO

The Accountability Party government has shut down an important database that tells people what material has been released under Access to Information requests.

Blame the Internet

I used to buy the idea the Internet was killing newspapers. I don't anymore. I believe the real killer has been a combination of bad management, out of touch newsrooms and the profit demands of publishers, who need the money to pay for their mergers and acquisitions. In April, I told the story of the Midland Free Press, once the best weekly paper in Canada, that has been asset stripped from a business with its own downtown office and press and a group of six very good reporters and editors to a one-person newsroom using rented a rented office and a printing contract. It wasn't the Internet that killed the Midland Free Press, it was four successive leveraged buy-outs headed by people who know nothing about newspaper publishing and saw journalism solely in terms of "cost".
As I've said, this recession will likely drive Canwest and Quebecor out of the newspaper business.
Here's a great piece. I see some managers have added the recession and the credit crunch to their list of things to blame for their failure to cover their communities and serve their readership. Readers of the Ottawa Citizen and New York times don't need or want wine columns, celebrity news or "me" joyrnalism by 55-year-old boomers. They want news that's really news to them.
Meanwhile, Torstar stock bounces along its 52-week low, worth half of what it was in 2004. Canwest, at just under $5, is worth 40% of what it was a year ago.

HT for the article to Small Dead Animals.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gonna have to get me one of these

Recently, I chastised Maclean's for taking copy on Afghanistan written by an employee of the military. It was a gaffe that not only was a sin against journalism but undermined the magazine's case vis a vis the Muslims who want Human Rights Commission-enforced rebuttal space for 22 articles Maclean's ran. The rather unpleasant plaintiff in those HRC complaints is a jew-hater named Elmrasy found offensive. I still believe Human Rights Commissions are no place to deal with complaints against the media. If you have a libel issue, you sue. If you think a paper or magazine has published hate literature, you ask the attorney general to lay charges. Therefore, I will be willing to be caught dead in this, even though I'm sure the thin-skinned Mr. Steyn does not, in fact, own a beret with a maple leaf front and centre.