Thursday, May 28, 2009

Convergence RIP

Eight years after AOL swallowed Time Warner in the deal that engendered the worst media business plan in history, multiplatform convergence, Time Warner today puked out AOL.
Convergence was used to justify grotesque cross-ownership deals that resulted in massive debt that's now killing newspaper chains and TV networks. It was a disaster that was egged on by corporate greed and stupid academics who believed, somehow, that converged media would lead to "electronic democracy."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meanwhile, at the Volkischer Beobachter and Der Sturmer

There's lots of talk about the media, right-wing radio and even about yodelling cats but nothing about a Tory former Prime Minister who took wads of thousand dollar bills from a douchebag German arms dealer, stashed it away, waited six years to declare it to RevCan, then only paid tax on half of it.
I suspect if the PM had been Jean Chretien, they would have mentioned the matter.
Small wonder the "rightwing blogosphere" is declining.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From our readers...

Dr. Bourrie:

You are of course under no obligation to reply, but I would appreciate any insights into why the examples below are acceptable and the examples in the links at the end are not.

Margaret Wente's article, "The bad-paper trail: Where are the toxic assets?", (Sat. May 2) contains material almost identical to that found on the website of the Cato Institute.

Cato Institute: For his efforts, the Peruvian Marxist terror group Shining Path targeted him for assassination. The institute's offices were bombed. His car was machine-gunned. Today the Shining Path is moribund, but de Soto remains very much alive and a passionate advocate…

Wente: For his challenge to the status quo, the Shining Path, the Peruvian Marxist terrorist group, targeted him for assassination. His offices were bombed and his car was machine-gunned. Today, the Shining Path is moribund, and Mr. de Soto continues his passionate mission.

Cato Institute: Delivering formal property rights to the poor can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the extended order of the modern global economy.

Wente: Mr. de Soto argues that delivering formal property rights to poor people can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the modern global economy, and he has helped to carry out reform programs in 20 countries.

LA Times: Economist Hernando de Soto… has helped carry out property-reform programs for heads of state in about 20 countries.,0,5255687.story

There are similar issues in Wente's article, "Not every girl can be a winner", also May 2, 2009.

In addition to an observation apparently taken from another publication, Wente offers up a few quotes, without identifying where she obtained them. NYU’s journalism school describes why an example of an un-attributed quote is plagiarism: ‘because the way it is written, it appears the writer interviewed (the subject) and got that original quote, when it originated in (another publication)’. In other words: “Attribute any time you are using someone else’s words. Attribute when you are reporting information gathered by other journalists”.

Two of Wente’s quotes, and a summary of research from one side of the debate, appeared in a 2004 article by Frank Stephenson in Research in Review, and a shortened version, called “The Rise and Fall of Self-Esteem”, appeared in Muse, a small independent magazine. It was republished on the website of the Bay Ledger News Zone recently.

Frank Stephenson: "Or so says Martin Seligman, an outspoken critic of the self-esteem movement. Seligman considers self-esteem exercises a menace to society... 'What I think has gone wrong,' Seligman says, 'is that we now think we should inject self-esteem directly into our young people, as opposed to producing warranted self-esteem, which I believe comes from doing well with the people you love, doing well in sports, [and] doing well in school.'"

Wente: “Among the biggest critics of the self-esteem movement is cognitive psychologist Martin Seligman. ‘We now think we should inject self-esteem directly into our young people, as opposed to producing warranted self-esteem, which I believe comes from doing well with the people you love, doing well in sports, doing well in school,’ he said. In his view, self-esteem exercises are a menace to society”.

Seligman is not mentioned as one of the critics of self-esteem in the wikipedia entry listing its various adherents and opponents. But in addition to the un-attributed quote itself, the words Wente uses to describe Seligman’s views - “self esteem exercises are a menace to society”, seem to be those of Stephenson, whose article also summarizes the work of a number of other people, notably Roy Baumeister.

Frank Stephenson: "As a graduate student Baumeister had accepted claims for the benefits of self-esteem uncritically... Baumeister set out to answer the...question, ultimately publishing several even-handed appraisals of self-esteem...'People who have elevated or inflated views of themselves tend to alienate others,' the report states."

Wente: "'People who have elevated or inflated views of themselves tend to alienate others,' wrote social psychologist Roy Baumeister, who used to believe in the importance of instilling self-esteem, until he reviewed all the research".

This quote is found deep in a report authored by Baumeister. Jennifer Campbell, Joachim Krueger, and Kathleen Vohs, but is highlighted in the 2004 and 2005 articles by Stephenson. Wente attributes it to Baumeister alone, without noting the report’s other three authors, and without citing either version of the article by Stephenson (in which the identical Seligman quote also appears).

Wente’s central claim is that the Guides’ decision to introduce badges related to healthy body image is a bad idea, and that this is supported by the research. She omits, however, the most relevant findings noted in Stephenson's article (and the research) which directly contradict her claim, and which specifically note the importance of self-esteem in body image and anorexia.

Frank Stephenson: "But low self-esteem does play a substantial role in eating disorders, a big problem, particularly for young women. Today's teen and college-aged women face a national epidemic of anorexia and bulimia, two closely associated emotional disorders that can be fatal if not treated. A great deal of evidence indicates that feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing-low self-esteem-are in fact risk factors in disordered eating, Baumeister's report noted. Work by Kathleen Vohs, one of the report's authors, for example, found that bulimia is strongly associated with low self-esteem".

Wente on the scourge of plagiarism:

August 30, 2008:

When I was a kid, everybody knew the rules and the penalties for breaking them. When the teacher walked into class, you stood up. If you arrived late, you got a late slip. If you were late a few times, you got a detention. If you handed in an assignment late without a good excuse, you were marked down, and if you were caught plagiarizing, you got a zero. The teachers were expected to be fair but strict.

January 15, 2008:

Wente: “Sadly, high expectations are deeply out of fashion in Ontario. Students are no longer penalized for such lapses as plagiarism or skipping tests”.

A few examples:



On torture

I believe, after reading Christopher Hitchen's account of waterboarding (it was done with real water, not Scotch), that waterboarding is torture. I do see some of the merits raised by supporters of tough and cruel interogation, but I don't believe it works. People will say whatever it takes to get torture to stop.
As well, we need to keep a moral distance from the bad guys. Torture closes that gap. It also fouls our place in history, undermining our moral position in past wars as well as in this fight.
My old drinking buddy Mark Steyn does not agree. That's fine. Neither of us is in much of a position to do anything to anyone, nor are we prepared to soil our own hands unless we're backed into some kind of corner. But Nancy Pelosi and other senior Congressional Democrats have been in on waterboarding since the beginning. Pleading ignorance of something that everyone knew about from the beginning is dishonest. Further undermining whatever's left of the public's faith in legislators is as big a crime as waterboarding, Steyn effectively argues. Pelosi's ruthless opportunism comes from a modern political virus that is eating away at democracy. It's manifest in Stephen Harper's vicious attack ads, Brian Mulroney's pathetic attempts to explain away envelopes stuffed with thousand dollar bills, and Jean Charest's ongoing waltz with Quebec separatists.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boo friggin' hoo

Sorry, but I am unmoved by Brian Mulroney's tears.
I want to know why he took three envelopes stuffed with thousand dollar bills from a German arms dealer. I want to know why he admittedly took $75,000 in cash while he was still a member of Parliament. And I want to know why he didn't declare this income to Revenue Canada for six years. I also want to know if he paid GST on it.
The rest is all blowing smoke.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Larry O'Brien trial update

I watched some of the cross examination of Terry Kilrea, the one-time mayoralty candidate whose complaints about Larry O'Brien resulted in the Ottawa mayor being hauled into court.
Essentially, the defence, made by the able Michael Edelson (a guy so skilled that he got Margaret Trudeau acquitted on a drunk driving charge), is that Kilrea is both too dumb to really remember the nuances of whatever pitch O'Brien made to him, and too devious to be counted on to give an honest version of what happened. And toss in media whore and desperate serial candidate for good measure.
I don't think it's working. Yes, I would not want Kilrea to perform brain surgery on me or fix the transmission on my car, but he is not yielding much ground. He does come across as a bit intransigent and very cautious, but he doesn't seem to be a liar. He also seems like the kind of guy who uses people, especially political supporters and discards them, but that's not much of a defence for O'Brien.
Strangely, Edelson, knowing Kilrea had testified O'Brien threatened to "ratfuck" Kilrea, brought in evidence that suggests precisely that: e-mails about the Kilrea campaign's reaction to an alleged attempt by someone possibly vaguely connected with O'Brien's campaign to con Kilrea's people into giving up information about Kilrea's fundraising.
Kilrea will probably stay on the stand through the rest of the week. Most reporters see him as uncommunicative, but I don't think that undermines his testimony or shakes his story. Kilrea is a rock. Maybe he comes across as being dumb as a stone, but I think that actually gives his story an air of credibility.
In fact, I think no one involved in whatever happened -- if anything -- believed what they were doing was illegal. People make political deals all the time: Peter MacKay and David Orchard made a deal about the Conservative leadership, though no jobs or cash were involved. Many a leadership candidate has tossed in the towel on the third ballot for a cabinet seat. And this town is full of wanna-be kingmakers and political fixers who believe the shortest distance between two points is a tunnel. So I'm not surprised we've ended up here.
Meanwhile, less than a kilometre away, Ruby Dhalla tells the world she doesn't exploit Third World women. And a short walk down the road, a former Prime Minister tries to explain that he did nothing wrong when he took envelopes stuffed with thousand-dollar bills from a sleazy arms dealer.
Not a good week for representative government in Canada. Not a good week at all.

Friday, May 08, 2009

When Journos Get it Wrong

They can be completely wrong. Or spectacularly wrong.
Cosh may be right on the law, but his history is flawed. Yes. Phoenix is hurting now because of the housing collapse, but the team hasn't made money through the entire decade, not as a novelty act or as a draw for Canadian ex-pats in the boom years. Calling the GTA-Hamilton-Kitchener area Ontario's "rust belt" is just stupid. And, by the way, the Red Wings, in a real rust belt, are doing OK.
As for Martin, he's chosen to leave out some very pertinent facts: The nannies say Dhalla herself kept the workers' passports. They say Dhalla paid them in cash under the table, and gave them pathetic wages. They say Dhalla promised to use her influence as an MP to change their immigration status.
Dhalla denies having anything to do with their employment. They were hired and supervised by her brother, Dhalla and her lawyer say.
Yes, servants can be asked (or told, I suppose) to clean things, shovel snow, and shine shoes. But that's not the point. Twelve-hour days, seven days a week for $250 a week is the point.
Whether Dhalla did something wrong or did not, there is a lot to this story that needs to be probed. It can't be brushed away as a non-story or some kind of set-up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

McGuinty Math

Invite 30 nannies to a gab-fest.
Make sure there's at least 1 picture for the householder.
Listen (sort-of) to the nannies' 30 tales of exploitation and illegal treatment.
Do nothing (i.e., 0).
Say there were too many horror stories and forget all of them.
Leave it that way until someone blows the whistle, then insist you did everything properly.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dinner's on me

We freelancers got a settlement with the Globe. The payout is $11 million.
Since I have about 250 articles in the Globe databases, this should be a nice payday.

Details of the settlement process will be published in the Globe and the National Post on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the case against Southam (via the successor companies, mostly Canwest) and the Star continues. I have more than 500 stories in their database.
Funny thing: I was so happy writing for them that I would have gladly signed over electronic rights. Now, from a financial standpoint, I'm glad they never asked. Back then, freelance budgets were always tight. I'm not up on that aspect of newspapers now, but I hear they rarely buy news, which is mostly what I sold them.
A commenter asked about pictures. I suppose there's no settlement there because InfoGlobe doesn't carry them.


The actual settlement does mention art and photographs. Send me a personal e-mail at and I'll send you a PDF of the agreement.


The guts of the trial are still a way off. Today there was a 45-minute hearing: a motion regarding hearsay evidence. The judge may rule on it next week.
Monday is supposed to be the opening statement by the Crown, but, of course, these things change without notice. Terry Kilrea is expected to be among the first witnesses. We haven't seen him around yet because there's an exclusion order on witnesses. They can't come in the courtroom until they testify. Afterwards, they can come as often as they like.
Sue Sherring, City Hall columnist of the Ottawa Sun has been subpoenaed by the defence, but Edleson asked that she be allowed to stay in court for Monday's media motions (which I was 50/50 right on. I thought Rutherford would toss it all for being late, but he gave Dearden, Canwest's lawyer, a break.) Edelson says he might not call Sherring at all, which puts her in a rotten position: she can't cover the biggest municipal story of the year until Edelson lets her off the hook, one way or another.
Interesting that Edelson has retained the services of Ottawa U law prof David Paccioco, an expert on evidence. In fact, Paccioco wrote the text on evidence that's used in most Canadian law schools.
Will the trial turn on O'Brien's supposedly incriminating statements to the police? On hearsay evidence? On he-said/she-said evidence? On some other point that we don't know about yet?
Will Mayor Larry testify? If he does, he's subject to cross-examination by a Crown Attorney who's already shown himself to be very sharp.

Monday, May 04, 2009

O'Brien trial: CBC fails to get trial on TV

The CBC's application for a Charter ruling about cameras in the courtroom was so abysmally late that O'Brien's trial judge simply brushed it aside. Twits can twitter from the courtroom. I prefer to make a couple of blog posts today.
Because of the CBC's tardiness in filing its motion, what was once going to be a two-day hearing on cameras in the courtroom has been cut to one day. So we'll hear testimony tomorrow. That may change the expected length of the trial, which is supposed to go on until the end of June (finishing just in time for the wedding of O'Brien's chief counsel, Michael Edelson.
Edelson is probably the best and most expensive criminal law specialist in ottawa. While Lawrence Greenspon takes cases that pluck at the heart strings or make you angry at some real or perceived rights violation, Edelson's the guy you go to if you have a half million bucks and your victim's blood up to your elbows.
He actually argued the judge should give drunk driver Matt Brownlee, who killed Sen. Marjorie Lebreton's daughter and granddaughter, a break because Matt suffered brain damage in the accident. He also won the acquittal of the undercover cop who ran over a kid after an afternoon of boozing at a suburban bar. One of the other cop witnesses in the case claimed he didn't try to help the victim because he was afraid of blood.

Larry O'Brien Trial Day 1

It's probably costing Larry O'Brien $2000 an hour while the CBC and Canwest argue they should have the right to broadcast the trial. Judging by the thick books of evidence and case material on that issue, there have already been many hours of Larry's lawyers' time invested.
The chance of the trial being broadcast or live blogged are slim to none. (I'm blogging from the media room). Not that Ontario's courts should not be opened to live bloggers and cameras, but in this case the media lawyers have given nowhere near enough notice to the court and counsel. I've seen Justice J. Douglas Cunningham before. He is a stickler on law, and his easy out is to rule that the applications by the media are far too late.
The normal minimum amount of notice for any kind of intervenor application is ten days. For a Charter challenge (in this case, to Sec. 136 of the Ontario Courts of Justice Act), the rules require 30 days. The CBC sent its first hard-copy notice six days ago. Its lawyers gave prosecutors a phone call ten days ago to sound them out on TV coverage of the case.
Larry looks bored. Two rows (front right) have been set aside for him and his family. The court room isn't full, and probably won't be until we start seeing some witnesses.
So far, we're looking at two days on the media motion, then an adjournment until May 11.