Nunc Scio
Friday, March 31, 2006
  Tory MP Wants To Jail Journalists; May Also Be An Idiot
Sometimes certain people display such a profound misunderstanding of democracy, it's a little disturbing.

When that person is a Member of Parliament, it becomes downright terrifying.

Conservative MP for Okanagan-Shuswap, Colin Mayes has advocated jailing journalists who write 'distorted' or 'inaccurate' articles. “Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens,” he said. If you listen carefully, you can actually hear his brain collapsing under the weight of its own stupidity.

Let's be clear on what Mr. Mayes is advocating. If we start locking up journalists for bad reporting, somebody will have to decide what constitutes 'distorted' news. If Mayes gets his way, the government will be making the call. Did you see that? George Orwell started spinning in his grave so fast, his coffin is now somewhere over the North Atlantic.

Journalism is not a profession in the conventional sense. It is the exercise, by occupation, of every citizen's right to freedom of expression. So really, what Mayes wants to lock up citizens for expressing opinions and stories he doesn't agree with. Has he even read the Charter? I mean, I know he's in the Conservative Party, and the constitution isn't exactly required reading over there. But he's been around for a while. He must have picked something up about inalienable human freedoms.

For all his proto-fascist bluster, Mr Mayes is not optimistic about the success of his plan. As he told the Globe, it will never happen “because the media would cry ‘censorship' and ‘authoritarian state'".

No Kidding, Sherlock. And I bet it won't be just the media, either. But I'll let the last word here go to the Vernon Daily Courier's editor David Wylie:

“If members of his government are trying not to paint themselves as extremists or fanatics, this is not the way to go about doing it.”

UPDATE: Mayes retracts his statements "without reservation". Apparently he does, in fact, respect the freedom of the press. Guess you got an angry phone call from Steven, eh Colin?
Thursday, March 30, 2006
  Portraits of My Youth
My extremely violent, pro-American youth, that is.

Man, and you thought Al Qaeda was trouble. Cobra has a frickin' airship and rocketpacks! And what's up with Cobra Commander's voice? Ah, so many memories.
  Jill Carroll Released

Now here's a piece of good news.

The WP is reporting American freelance journalist Jill Carroll has been released. She said in an interview:

"I was treated very well. That's important for people to know....They never hit me, they never even threatened to hit me. I'm just happy to be free, and I want to be with my family."

It has been a good few weeks for hostages in Iraq. Also nice that this journalist had her own happy ending, especially since so many reporters have died in the line of duty this past year.

Let's just hope no one else goes missing, and this particularly ugly aspect of the Iraq conflict is winding down.
  You want to put who in the where now?
Poor, poor Iffezheim.

The hapless residents of this scenic German town are now grappling with the prospect of hosting 5,000 British soccer fans during the World Cup. That would effectively double the population of the village.

I can empathize with these folks. If I was told that 5,000 drinking, cursing and fighting football fans were showing up in my town, I'd go on an extended vacation to Brighton. And I'd bring A LOT of friends.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
  "The War on Christians" AKA "The Religious Right's Vaguely Insane Persecution Complex"
Wow...I mean,

Are you sitting down? Because this is like sweet, glorious music.

Absolutely hilarious/disturbing piece in the WP today on a conference in Washington unambiguously titled "The War on Christians".

Guess who was the guest of honour? None other than disgraced Republican Congressman and former House Leader Tom DeLay. Apparently, his ignominous departure had nothing to do with, oh I don't know, being indicted for money laundering and conspiracy, or his ties to the grand sketchmaster himself, Jack Abramoff.

No. DeLay is a victim of a war against Christians! As organizer Rick Scarborough said:

"I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ....God always does his best work right after a crucifixion."

Holy crap! I didn't realize the United States was executing money launderers now, least of all by Crucifix.

But the magical chorus of idiocy continued. Here's some highlights:

-Scarborough's collection of literature, including "The Criminalization of Christianity," "Liberalism Kills Kids" and "Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk."

-Christians are being attacked by 'elites' (read: educated people) who believe in "a different strokes for different folks" ethic. Oh, you mean tolerance and diversity? Those bastards!

-The assault is being led by those age-old chimeras of the paranoid right- Hollywood, Gays and the media.

But the spirit and tenor of the night was best captured, I think, by Bill Fancher, an American Family Radio 'journalist':

"I don't apologize for being narrow-minded."

I could not have said it better myself.

But seriously, all joking aside, I can see why the Christian Right feels so persecuted. I mean, where are their allies? Where is their strength? They only have the president and a congress and senate dominated by a party that just loves to pander to conservative Christians. Oh, and two new supreme court appointees. Looks like persecution to me! Or possibly a crass attempt by cynical politicians to manipulate faith for political gain, or in this case, re-invent a political career destroyed by greed and stupidity. One of the two.

Bring on the crucifixes!
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
  Are Right-Wing Bloggers Smarter Than The American Intelligence Establishment?
God, I hope not.

In an unprecedented move, Congress has pushed for the release of millions of document relating to Iraq, WMD, and Al Qaeda.

The captured documents will be posted on the web.The hope is that the blogosphere will be able to find something the highly trained analysts of the CIA and NSA couldn't. Said Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra, "Let's unleash the power of the Internet on these documents."

I have one question for Mr. Hoekstra: Have you ever been on the Internet? Seriously. I'm not sure what you think is out there, but I have a hard time believing millions of porn sites, online gambling and crazy partisan bloggers are going to be able to find the 'silver bullet' linking Hussein to Bin Laden.

Of course, that's not going to stop people from trying. According to the NYT:

On his blog last week, Ray Robison, a former Army officer from Alabama, quoted a document reporting a supposed scheme to put anthrax into American leaflets dropped in Iraq and declared: "Saddam's W.M.D. and terrorist connections all proven in one document!!!"

I think Robison's use of three...yes, three... exclamation points conveys the deep analytic power of right-wing bloggers. That's why the Bush Administration's case for invading Iraq is so flimsy. Not enought emphatic punctuation!!!! Also nice to see that the primary conservative rhetorical technique- yelling something so loudly that you convince yourself its true- has found a happy home online.
  1968 All Over Again
France is hunkering down today for a massive general strike today.

The strike, following three weeks of student violence over a new employment law, is expected to draw thousands of people to Paris' downtown.

The law makes it legal for employers to fire workers under 26 within their first two years on the job.

After last week's student violence, I can only hope today doesn't turn ugly as well. France has had more than its share of unrest in the past few months. Say nothing of the fact that when protests turn violent, its usually the image of the protestors that is hurt. The students and strikers have a legitimate grievance, but if the provoke a confrontation their message will be lost in a flurry of batons and tear gas.

I'm not sure why France is having such a hard time keeping it together these days. I think part of it is 'old Europe' is having a hard time coping with the social realities of a globalized world. In any event, let's just hope nobody gets hurt.
Monday, March 27, 2006
  Russia, you've got some 'splaining to do!
Condi Rice announced last night the United States plans to ask Russia if they leaked war plans to the Iraqi government.

If this is true...what the hell? How did any one in Russia think that was a good idea? And talk about backing the wrong horse. You didn't need to be clairvoyant to guess the Iraqi military would fold like a cheap lawn chair about 24 minutes into the conflict. The dazzling array of hardware arrayed against them meant that, inside info or not, the conventional phase of the Iraq War would be over in the time it takes Bush to brush his teeth.

Why, Russia, why? If you're that mad at the USA, why not leave a flaming bag of dog poop outside their embassy? More messy in the short-term, but a whole lot less complicated 3 years down the road.
  Blair: Whoops! Guess I shouldn't have told you I was resigning
Whatever else you think about Tony Blair, you've got to admire his ability to tenaciously cling to power like rock climber in a windstorm.

In comments made to Australian reporters, Blair indicated that his election-time promise of resigning before the end of his third term was a mistake. Apparently, he was so tired of people asking him the question he just made up an answer. Sure.

No. 10 went into full spin mode shortly thereafter, claiming that Blair has been 'cut off' by the reporter. He really meant to say "It was a mistake... to believe that the announcement would kill off the speculation as to when I would resign." Blair is said to have a firm departure date in mind, but he's the only one who knows about it.

Man, this guy must be taking a page out of Chretien's book.
Friday, March 24, 2006
  Cheney May Only Be Vice-President, But He's Defintiely Diva-in-Chief.

Dick Cheney's lengthy list of hotel demands has been released.

His travel requirements, revealed by The Smoking Gun include four cans of Diet Sprite, A bevy of major American newspapers, a thermostat set to exactly 68 degrees farhenheit. He also require a map to where the ice machine is located. He's already busy enough looking for Osama Bin Laden, dammit!

Always a conoisseur of 'fair and balanced' journalism, Cheney also requires the TV to be tuned to Fox News. I'm not sure why he couldn't just change the channel himself. I guess being second banana means never having to use your thumbs.

No word yet on whether his list of demands includes a loaded shotgun and a wealthy Texas lawyer.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
  Now You'll Know...How Safe Your Airline Is.
File this in the "you don't do this already?" file.

The airline industry annoucned today they will be making their safety reports available online.

Why has nobody thought of doing this before? Did nobody think this was an important thing for air travellers to know? Oh, corporations. You hate accountability so much.

In other aircraft related news, a new jet engine that will propel hypersonic aircraft at 7 times the speed of sound, is ready for testing in Australia. That'll put you in London from Sydney in two hours. No word yet on what food will be served on hypersonic flights....early signs point to "fast".
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
  France Lays Smack Down on iPod
The French Government voted yesterday to force Apple to make iTunes song downloads work on all players. This effectively cracks Apple's effective monopoly in France, and is no doubt making Steve Jobs resort to some sort of black magic against all Gaulic legislators.

But it may not be a bad thing.

Don't get me wrong; I love my iPod like and overachieving child. But I think part of Apple's charm is that it doesn't operate like predatory Microsoft. An excellent column in Wired suggest that as Apple moves into digital content provision- not just music, but TV and movies- it may start to take on distinctly unpleasant Microsoft monopoly characteristics. Putting some cracks into Apple's dominance of downloadable content now may make for a healthier, friendlier corporation in the future. And, as a tasty peripheral benefit, I can continue to be smug about using a Mac for years...nay, come.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
  Iraqis: Well, I suppose violent sectarian chaos is a kind of freedom.
Amidst all the heartbreak, disappointment and anarachy in Iraq, there is a refreshing trend emerging in the American media- asking actual Iraqis what they think, rather than listening to the blithering head-in-the-sand platitudes of the Bush Administration.

In that vein, here's a great story in The Washington Post. It talks to quite a few 'ordinary' (if living in a war zone can be considered ordinary) citizens of Baghdad. Said Internet Cafe owner Bashar Muhammed:
"It is true that we got freedom after the war, but uncontrolled freedom -- chaos and violence."

And Newspaper Editor Fakhri Fikry Kareem:
"I am not pessimistic...But I'm upset, because the war and the occupation, which could have led to a new situation in Iraq, were squandered by the stupid mistakes committed by the American administration and military and the U.S. representatives in Iraq."

The story reveals the rock-and-a-hard-place mentality of many Iraqis, who are grateful to be rid of Saddam Hussein, but dismayed at the chaos that has consumed their country. And deeply uncertain about their future. The NYT is reporting that Iraqis are now able to buy the world's first "off the shelf" Terrorism insurance policy.

Of course, the papers are also full of stories of American soldiers and officials busily shooting themselves in the foot and/or committing war crimes. First, the US Navy has announced an investigation into the death of 15 civilians last November in Haditha was an accident or an act of vengeance by US Marines. Iraqi police near the city of Balad are reporting that Marines 'executed' 11 civilians last week. And back in the States, it looks like three years of lies might be finally catching up with Bush.

All of which begs the question: when 'democracy' looks this bad, where do you turn for alternatives?
Monday, March 20, 2006
  I am now officially more trusted than politicians, car salesmen, girlfriend.
Leger Marketing released its Profession Barometer today...and journalists are holding steady with 49 per cent of Canadians saying they trust us. That puts the fourth estate ahead of insurance brokers, real estate agents, publicists, unionists, car salesmen and politicians (who come in at a dismal 14 per cent).

I am a bit distrubed that lawyers, including my GF, are gaining on reporters, trailing now by just one percentage point. We need another Watergate to ratchet up the ol' trust level. If only a major political leader had decieved his or her population into an illegal and immoral war. Man, that would be journalistic paydirt.

Thanks to The Skwib for the heads up on this one.
  Happy Anniversary, Iraq
It has been three years since the USA and Britain stormed the fertile crescent with guns blazing and JDAM bombs kind-sorta-not really hitting their targets.

To ring in this dubious milestone, Bush is determined to continue living in a blissful dreamworld where American strategy will "lead to victory". Everyone else on the ground/who has read a newspaper is slightly more pessimistic.

It is nice to see Rumsfeld get singled out for some well-deserved criticism. Quoted in the Guardian and BBC, Retired US Army Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training Iraqi military forces from 2003 to 2004, said Rumsfeld has "shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically", and was "far more than anyone else, responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq". He also called on Rummy to resign.

Well, duh. I would classify that as a "known known".
Sunday, March 19, 2006
  Allawi: Iraq is, in fact, in a Civil War
In case you were thinking, "Hey, maybe I can believe what the Bush Administration is telling me," here's another rude shock for you.

According to former Iraqi PM, the country is in the midst of a sectarian civil war. Said Allawi:

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

Hard to argue with that. But I doubt that will stop the Bushies from trying.

Also interesting that Allawi's comments come on the Global Day of Action against the war. I think we can all agree that the invasion was a tragic result of hubris, greed and deception. Nevertheless, the calls to 'end the war' and 'pull out the troops' seem tragically misguided. To abandon Iraq now would be a profoundly immoral and inhuman mistake. Like the man said, you break it, you bought it.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
  Environmental Protection Agency's Wonderland Vacation Cut Short
I've got to hand it to the U.S. Court of Appeals- their gift for literay reference is inspired. You might think that referencing "Through the Looking Glass" is odd in a legal decision, but you have to admit its general awesomeness.

In a landmark decision, the court voted 3-0 to overturn a 'clean-air' regulation passed by the Bush Administration. Funnily enough, this regulation demonstrated the Bushies' particular gift with misnomer and unintentional irony, by allowing powerplants and industries to avoid installing expensive new pollution controls.

So, getting rid of this provision makes a lot of sense. But, just to make their point, the judges added a wry little reference to Lewis Carroll:
EPA's approach would ostensibly require that the definition of "modification" include a phrase such as "regardless of size, cost, frequency, effect," or other distinguishing characteristic. Only in a Humpty Dumpty world would Congress be required to use superfluous words while an agency could ignore an expansive word that Congress did use. We decline to adopt such a world-view.

Brilliant. One sure-fire way to keep Bush on his heels is to quote literature. "What, the liberals are using books now? Can they do that?"
Thursday, March 16, 2006
  Malcolm Gladwell on Canada and the United States

I had the chance to see Malcolm Gladwell- journalist and author of The Tipping Point and Blink -speak last night. Really interesting in general, but one point he made really struck me. Drawing on the work of sociologist Charles Tilley, Gladwell claims there are four basic ways of describing the world:

Say you saw two kids fighting. You could:

1) Refer to Convention ("Kids usually fight");
2) Tell a Story ("Billy is fighting Johnny because Johnny stole his milk");
3) Invoke a Code ("It is illegal to fight"); and
4) Provide a Technical Account (Billy's testosterone and adrenaline levels are elevated").

Divisive social conflict results when people can't agree what kinds of accounts are appropriate in particular situations. We have a more constructive political culture in Canada because people generally agree about our vocabulary for discussion. We may vehemently disagree about how best to provide healthcare, but we all proceed from a Convention: everyone has the right to have access to quality medical services. By contrast, the right and left in United States cannot find even the most basic common ground. Take the wire-tapping controversey. Bush is telling a story: we are threatened by faceless enemies, and we must therefore use extraordinary measures to triumph over this evil. His opponents (about 64 per cent of the population, by last count) are making claims to conventions and codes: you do not have the power to do this, and when you do, you violate our rights. Frustration and anger results.

In other words, we're pretty lucky in Canada to have a functional political dialogue, notwithstanding Ezra Levant. Let's try to keep it going, shall we?
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
  Mike Wallace to Retire

It will be a nice change of pace to celebrate the career of a venerated CBS newsman without being roasted by hysterical right-wingers.

Mike Wallace has announced that he plans to retire at the end of this season of 60 Minutes.

I don't need to dwell much on his amazing 43 year career- the quality of his work speaks for itself. But I'm left to wonder...with so many veteran journalists retiring/passing away/being railroaded out of their jobs, who'll pick up the slack? Who will fill the void?

So there's the question, readers. Feel free to leave your picks for "The Quality Journalists of Tomorrow" in the comments section.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
  Milosevic Kills Thousands, Possibly Self
Well, no surprises here...

In the NYT today, forensic toxicologist Dr. Donald Uges claims ol'Slobadan was deliberately taking antibiotics that interfered with his blood pressure.

Apparently, he was looking to use his health as an excuse to seek medical attention in Moscow, spend some time with his family and weasel out of jail. It now appears this little stratagem may have contributed to his death.


If this is true, its some small comfort to everyone who felt the universe just cheated them out of justice against a homicidal monster. Milosevic built a spectacularly successful career on screwing people over. Fitting, then, that the last person he screwed was himself.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
  Bloggers! Canadian Newspapers Need You!
Mark Hamilton has an interesting article about newspaper blogging in Canada over at Blue Plate Special. The upshot: Canadian Newspapers are lagging far behind the USA in using blogs to "to extend their storytelling, or to bring voice to their web sites" and few "have tapped into their local blogosphere to increase their coverage or spread the local conversation."

Hamilton does point out a few bright lights- Andrew Coyne, and Antonia Zerbisias, as well as the Toronto Star and the Edmonton Journal.

So, uh, all you other papers out there...looking for a blogger? I work for surprisingly cheap.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
  The Loch Ness Monster Elephant?
An new theory about the world's most famous monster has sparked a little controversey on the shores of Loch Ness.

Apparently, eyewitness sightings of the beast bear a striking resemblence to a swimming Indian Elephant. At least that's what Neil Clark, curator of paleontology at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, claims. And how did an elephant travel thousands of miles to the chilly waters of the northern Highlands? Through the machinations of a tricky circus owner named Bertram Mills, who funnily enough also offered a 20,000 pound award for Nessie's capture. That's about $1.8 million in today's currency, so maybe Mills knew something the other monster-hunters didn't and felt he could safely offer such a...uh...monstrous reward.

I did a mini-documentary for CBC radio on the Loch Ness monster and met a lot of the people interviewd in the WP story. A certain kind of person is attracted to Loch Ness. No, not crazy people. Dreamers and storytellers mostly. I especially liked that they talked to Adrian Shine- when it comes to monster hunters, this guy is the genuine article. As he said to me in an interview:

I'm not here to find a monster. I'm here to explain what people have seen."

And, as he says in the WP article:

"I am not a believer. I am an investigator. . . . I am still investigating."

Gold. Nice to see that there's still someplace left in the world where anything is possible.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
  Kosmix: Helping You Build Little Mental Fences
A new search engine promises to rank search results according to their political stripe- conservative, liberal, or libertarian.

Kosmix says its new 'niche' politics engine will "be great come election time....Everybody has different views, and I think it's really healthy for people to look at what the other side is saying."

Which is theory. But I wonder if Kosmix users won't just use the engine to selectively consume information that conforms to their own opinions. A tool like this seems purpose-built to allow ideologues to become even more obnoxious. Just a thought.
Monday, March 06, 2006
  Happy Birthday Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire, the plane that won the Battle of Britain and inspired the British people, has turned 70.

Sure, a lot of people will tell you that the P-51 Mustang was the superlative allied fighter of WWII. But for sheer mechanical poetry, the Spitfire has it beat. From its elliptical wing to its Rolls Royce Merlin engine, it doesn't get any better than this. And yes, I am a giant nerd.
  Cheers for Syriana

I'm glad the Academy decided to throw Clooney's oil drama a bone...this is an important film, one that has a lot to say about how are thirst for oil is causing us to support, or at lest be implicit, in some pretty horrible things.

Case in point...the growing violence in the Niger Delta. Or indeed, the never-ending srewed-upness of the entire Middle East.

Even though George only got the Best Supporting Actor nod, I suspect this was Hollywood's way of saying, "Yes, you made an excellent, controversial film. Too controversial for best picture, but we'll recognize the effort". Whatever. Maybe it will get more folks out to see Syriana. In the end, that can only be good.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
  "You Mean You Won't Shoot My Ass Off For Doing My Job? Uh....Thanks."
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) released a statement today that I'm sure has journalists world-wide breathing a sigh of relief:

UK forces on operations will never deliberately target either individual correspondents or civil media facilities".

Thank goodness. Reporting will be so much easier now that the UK Army is off our backs. The statement goes on to say:

...although UK forces will not target journalists, media representatives must recognise that war creates extremely hazardous environments and mistakes "resulting from misidentification, weapon systems failure or mal-location" may result.

Mal-location? I think I've been there once.

The announcement also claims the UK Armed forces has no special responsibility to protect journalists, other than those laid out in the Geneva Convention.

In other words, the British military is saying something roughly akin to, "I'm going to swing my arms and walk towards you. If you get hit, its your own damn fault".

Does anyone else find it odd that a western government is going out of its way to sate that it won't blow up reporters on purpose? Call me crazy, but I always thought that was more or less a given. Live and learn.
Welcome to the Nunc Scio blog. Politics. Media. Culture. Now you know.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jack of all trades, master of none, Graeme is many things to many people. Unfortunately, none of them find him very life-affirming in any capacity. He is a freelance writer, broadcaster, amateur cryptozoologist and occasional political commentator late of London, England and now based in Toronto. Most of the time, he's confused. And a little hungry. But mostly just confused and somewhat uncomfortable writing in the third person.

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