Saturday, 19 August 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Aug. 19

Captain Ed thinks that Hamas is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They kidnap Israeli soldiers as a part of their policy and then scream like crazy when Israel does it right back to them. Make up your minds - either kidnapping is legitimate or it isn't. And if it is, then the other guy had the right to do it too.

The same argument could perhaps be leveled at Israel, but there are a couple of differences. First of all, everybody knows where Israel is keeping its captives and what their state of health and care is. Second, Israel is targetting people who actually bear some personal responsibility.

Greg at Sippican Cottage looks at life through a wonderfully lyrical lens, and shares the view with us. Today's homage to childhood baseball games turns into an ode to the dignity of work. He has the gift of making remarkably readable prose feel like poetry, the kind you read because you want to, not because it's in the text book. Absolutely wonderful stuff.

Tim at tells a sweet story of his son wanting to repay his Christmas gift and turns it into a parable of the grace of God.

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"Absenteeism" in the Blackberry age

The Ottawa Citizen has its knickers in a knot because Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, did not sufficiently interrupt his PEI family vacation following the terrorist arrests in Britain. I'd link you to the article but it's for subscribers only and nobody else seems to care enough to publish an article on it. Telling.

Could somebody please let them know that in the age of Blackberries and telecommuting, physical presence in the office is no longer requisite? The poor guy did fly back for a day, and has been in electronic contact with the office several hours a day on his now rather compromised vacation, but the Citizen is trying hard to sound shocked anyway. On the front page, not in the editorial section.

To be fair to the Citizen, they did pillory Liberal minister Pierre Pettigrew for his lengthy stays in Paris too, so at least they're bipartisan in their indignation. But I think they should drop it altogether. First, it makes them sound like dinosaurs, and whiny ones at that. Second, it begs for an investigation into how much time their reporters and columnists actually spend in the office, and how much time they're only in contact electronically. Because we all know that you can't do real work when you're away from the office, right?

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Friday, 18 August 2006

A brawl with hardline Buddhist monks

How's that for a set of words you don't often see together? I had to rub my eyes and reread it, too.

Not only were they brawling, but they were on both sides of the fight. A peace protest in the capital of Sri Lanka turned violent when monks in favour of cracking down hard on Tamil Tigers mounted onto the stage where other monks were part of the group pleading for peace, as the island's old civil war revives itself.

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Gleanings from the blogosphere, Aug. 18

Callimachus at Done With Mirrors looks back.
Back at the beginning, between 1945 and 1952, when the new world was new and unsettled, the Soviet Union was Israel's friend and the Americans were allied with the aspirations of the Arabs and opposed to the fading colonial power of Britain.

Hard to believe, eh? European leftists and socialist Israel on one side, Arabs and Americans on the other, Britain harrassed by both.
How times have changed...

Omayma Abdel-Latif at Al-Ahram examines the looming debate over disarming Hizbullah and how it might impact on the Lebanese political scene. This is written from an Arabic point of view (not surprising), and I choked rather badly at the term "Israel's war" but the reporting is mainly factual and worth a read.

Pat at Stubborn Facts is worrying about the coming war in the Middle East and making a pitch for citizen journalism.

Janet over at Janet's Garden (hmm, that lady looks vaguely familiar) is inordinately pleased to discover that the health benefits of a garden have been recognized. OK, I confess. This is shameless promotion of my gardening blog. I won't do it often, promise.

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Thursday, 17 August 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Aug. 17

Larry Elder is protesting the fact that Mel Gibson has apparently been classified a greater anti-Semite than Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hat tip to Booker Rising.


Jack Whelan at After the Future is making an impassioned plea for moderates to radicalize and become centrists instead. If he corrects the typo, the link may change. If so, look for the post "Robust Opposition Postscript".

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Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Aug. 16

I managed to miss this post the first time around, but I'm glad I took another look, thanks to Ambivablog. Bobby at Stubborn Facts spouts so much good sense it's frightening, as he goes from the Connecticut primary to the war in Iraq, putting his finger on the dangers of "True Believers" on both the right and the left over-simplifying and radicalizing issues and listening only to those opinions that agree with theirs.

McQ discusses the phenomenon of purging the ranks by true believers - in this case libertarians - who arbitrarily try to decide who can stay in the shrinking tent. I am not a libertarian, so the specifics of this argument mean little to me, but I think his illustration of the dynamic is downright illuminating and a useful caution to anyone who has a cause they passionately believe in.

At Booker Rising, Shay is emphatically rejecting "victomology rhetoric" for the high rates of AIDS among blacks and claiming that rampant promiscuity has more to do with the problem than poverty, ignorance, and prejudice. Does she really think she's going to get an audience by advocating personal responsibility? I'm cheering her on, personally, and I hope there are a lot of non-blacks listening too. Good sense is colour-blind.

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In search of an honest politician

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

Huh? How did she get from honest politicians to the Sermon on the Mount?

Patience, Grasshopper, all shall be explained.

I've had some fairly emotional arguments on the possibility of the existence of honest politicians. What really gets me going is the offhand dismissal of shenanigans by elected representatives with the cynical observation that "they're all like that." The subtext (and far too often the open text) of this is that we should vote for them anyway, because NOBODY is going to be any better, so we might just as well line up behind the one who fills our trough the best.

This just about drives me frantic, although I do my best to keep my composure, because yelling at somebody has a pretty poor track record as a technique to change people's minds.

But I reject this argument wholly and completely. I don't believe for a minute that they are ALL like that. Granted, I'm considerably more cynical than I was three decades ago, and yet I still hunger and thirst for righteousness, or if you prefer, uprightness, first and foremost in my own life. Not only that, I've got a husband who might just as well sign integrity as his second name, which was not a small part of what attracted me to him in the first place.

So why should you give two hoots about my morality, or attempts at it?

Because I am not alone.

While I may often be overly and unjustifiably impressed with myself, I'm not foolish or arrogant enough to believe that I am all that exceptional. We may not be a thundering majority, but people who honestly believe in and strive for integrity, however imperfectly, are out there and it stands to reason that every so often, one or two of them run for public office and in spite of everything, that they occasionally even get elected.

I'll go even further. I believe it's possible for a more or less corrupt politician to sometimes choose to do the right and honest thing just because it is the right and honest thing, if only as an infrequent sop to his conscience.

So I will continue to hope for and even demand integrity of my elected officials. I have every right to, and now and again, I will actually get it.

And when I don't, I'll feel entirely justified in throwing the bum out on his or her ear. The last thing I want is recognized crooks perfecting their corruption techniques at the public trough.

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Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Gleanings from the blogosphere, Aug. 15

Thomas Sowell has some interesting thoughts on discrimination and gay marriage. He contends that laws exist precisely to discriminate against certain actions. And that the laws on marriage are a restriction of individuals' rights, not an expansion of rights to be aspired to. Some very tight, interesting reasoning here. Hat tip to Booker Rising.

Eteraz makes a plea for a "regular Islam", distinguishing between theological Islam, with which he has no argument, and social Islam, about which he has plenty to say.

Previous post on the topic of Homosexuality

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The CBC responds [Updated]

Practising what I preach, I contacted the CBC last week about my concerns with misrepresentation on The National news broadcast. I also emailed Vince Carlin, the ombudsman for CBC, who forwarded my email to Jonathan Whitten, Executive Producer of The National, asking him to address my concerns. I got a rather lengthy reply (quite honestly, more than I was expecting). Seeing as it was funnelled through a Communications Officer, I strongly suspect it was a form letter, all the more so, since he got much more specific about my concerns than I did myself. I am not offended by this; it means that he's being called on this issue by a good number of people.

In essence, he refutes the charge of misrepresentation of the Prime Minister's position, but does concede that "The construction of the piece did make it appear the Prime Minister was responding directly to the woman protester, and that was not the case."

I do believe he is understating the degree of distortion. People retain overall impressions much better than they do words, and the overall impression was misleading and quite emotive.

But to be completely fair to the CBC, I am reproducing his response in its entirety. One last thought before I do:

It would appear that one of the greatest contributions that the blogosphere can make to public discourse is aggressively fact-checking the mainstream media.

Dear Ms. Di Giacomo:

Thank you for your email to CBC regarding a report aired on The National. Jonathan Whitten, executive producer of The National asked me to forward the following to you:

Thank you for your e-mail of August 12th addressed to Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. As you know, Mr. Carlin asked me to reply.

You wrote to draw our attention to a report on the August 4 editions of THE NATIONAL that you feel is inaccurate and misleading. Specifically, you wrote that by juxtaposing a comment by a protestor with what you feel is an unrelated statement made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a news conference, the report misrepresented the Prime Minister’s views, and made him appear insensitive.

The report on THE NATIONAL on August 4th concerned the Prime Minister’s reaction to questions he was facing about the Middle East. The report began with protestors outside the Conservative caucus meeting in Cornwall, one of whom was seen saying that both sides killing innocent children is wrong and has to stop.

The Prime Minister, meeting behind closed doors, did not hear her message (although, as we reported, she was invited to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs), but reporters did ask him about civilian deaths in a news conference held after the caucus meeting. He did not reply to the question directly, but he told reporters – including the CBC’s Christina Lawand – that his policy on the Middle East remained the same and would not change because of public opinion surveys or protests. He said that Canadians are not neutral on terrorism and that he would not call for a cease-fire until the right conditions were in place. And, he said, when properly understood, his views represent the views of most Canadians. Ms. Lawand clearly stated those views in her report.

She also included a statement from the news conference – the one to which you referred – where the Prime Minister said he is "not preoccupied in any way with reaction within individual communities."

This statement was in response to a reporter who asked specifically how he felt about what seemed to be growing support in the Jewish community for his government and ended his question by asking whether he was concerned about the negative response among some in the Arab community. Mr. Harper replied that he agreed the Middle East conflict had a pretty strong resonance in some cultural communities, but that the government “can’t take positions based on polls, we can’t take decisions based on reactions within certain domestic communities.”

In the bulk of his answer, however, he explained that the issues were far larger than the concerns of some communities. These are “serious international issues, he said, “there are not only many lives at stake, there are a lot of long term strategic interests of this country and of the world.…” He talked about two major elements of the Canadian policy, about terrorist groups, both in Canada and abroad. He talked about humanitarian concerns, including evacuation and re-construction as being among the “focuses of our activity.”

Then he returned to where he had started his answer and repeated: “I’m not concerned or preoccupied in any way with reaction within individual communities. I think that reaction is very predictable.” That was the clip included in the report following the protestor. It is logical to conclude here that the reaction he is “not concerned” with, is the kind of reaction personified by the protestor seen at the beginning of the report. Mr. Harper was talking about predictable reactions in general of which the protestor was a specific example. Some have argued that he was talking about polling within the Arab and Jewish communities, and while that's possible, he was also discussing, in addition to polling, "reactions within certain domestic communities." Far from being unrelated, as you suggest, the two are directly related.

Later in the news conference, the Prime Minister was specifically asked about the protestors outside the meeting. While he did say that it is important to listen to members of the various communities (as we reported, his Ministers met with two of the protestors) he also said “they can’t guide all of our decisions at the same time.” Far from being contradictory to his response to the earlier question, this was restating the government position that we faithfully reported throughout the piece.

I do, however, agree with your concern about the structure of the report. The construction of the piece did make it appear the Prime Minister was responding directly to the woman protester, and that was not the case. We should have taken the time to make it clear that the Prime Minister was responding to a general question, and not a specific question about the woman's concerns, and I regret that. While this does not constitute a misrepresentation of Mr. Harper's position, or the position of his Government, the program could have, and should have, taken the time to be clear about what prompted the response.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman, Mr. Vince Carlin. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies. Mr. Carlin may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Whitten
Executive Producer

Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

I hope this information is helpful to you, and thank you again for


Jamie Richards
Communications Officer
CBC Audience Relations

I do find it rather peculiar that he refers me to the Ombudsman, seeing as it was the ombudsman who forwarded my email in the first place. Yes, I know it's a form letter, but if I pursue this further, I would expect the ombudsman to do more than just send my concerns on. I specifically asked him to investigate and to make his findings known to the Canadian public. I fully recognize that he doesn't march to my orders, but still... one has to wonder if the ombudsman has any teeth.

Previous post on the topic of CBC, Media

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Update: Yup, it was a form letter! I wasn't the only one...

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