CBC vandalizes Wikipedia too

One of the stories raging in the Canadian blogosphere today is the Toronto Star’s Wikipedia edit of Rob Ford’s Wikipedia page linking readers to a parody site of the candidate for mayor of Toronto. BCF has the run-down.

I decided to check up on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to see what sorts of edits their staff have made.

First, the IP address 159.33.10.92 belongs to the CBC.

Someone at the CBC has edited an article on George Soros to make the following changes to the text:

It seems that the CBC employee doubts the “official” story.

Further, what does a CBCer think of CTV’s Ben Mulroney, son of Fifth Estate star (and former PM) Brian Mulroney?

Ouch.

Upcoming political books

Today I received a list of upcoming books from Random House Canada for their fall season. The list is sent out to potential reviewers to provide publicity for the upcoming titles.

Here are a few that you might be interested in,

by George W. Bush (11/9/2010)
George W. Bush’s presidency in his own words. From rallying a nation after 9/11 to bringing it’s troops across the Tigris river in Baghdad. From tax cuts that stimulated the economy (and debate) to the continued growth of government and the banking sector bailout, this presidential account is sure to cause discussion.
by Ezra Levant (8/17/2010).
Ezra will do a multi-city tour to promote this book which makes a case for the Alberta oil sands against environmentalists who turn a blind eye to oil extraction in places such as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan where from it’s wars and genocide, Ezra calculates that each barrel of Sudanese oil has a tablespoon worth of blood spilled for its production. While the world inevitably continues to use cheap energy from oil, diminishing Canada’s production share only supports unethical alternatives.
by Tarek Fatah (10/19/2010)
Canada’s most famous ‘moderate Muslim’ voice speaks out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world held strongly among some of his co-religionists.
by Bob Rae (10/26/2010).
I’m going to read this book so I can figure out what the Liberal Party may be proposing in their platform on the foreign policy front (under Ignatieff or Rae as leader). We wonder if the book will rehash many of the guiding nuanced soft-power principles of the DFAIT establishment or if Rae (like Ignatieff used to) now believes in certain cold hard facts about the modern world and the actors now bent on destabilizing it.

This ain’t your hippie father’s NDP

The New Democratic Party is meeting in Halifax this weekend for their federal convention where they will discuss policy, hand out literature and hit up Pizza Corner at 3am.

The NDP is looking to, among other things, rebrand itself as a more palatable alternative to the Liberal Party on the left.  It’s going to be a tough slog for the dippers (we’ll still be able to call them that if they rename themselves as the Democratic Party) and many observers note that this will be Jack’s last chance if he doesn’t deliver tangible gains during the next election. They’ve been given a gift in that the Liberals have the most right-wing leader in recent memory, so some re-configuration may be on order along with seafood this weekend. However, are they selling out in order to make their policies easier for Canadians to swallow?

First, let’s look at Jack Layton’s obvious flip-flop on sweaters.

Jack’s party has been particularly guarded on releasing draft policy resolutions from his party’s EDAs this time around.  This is likely a result of what happened last time the NDP had a convention.  But, it allows us to ask if there’s some platform sweater stuffing going on here.

Next, we can’t help but notice that the NDP is leaving those hard-working families™ behind and showing a strong nod towards those that sit around boardroom tables rather than kitchen tables as the rich fat cats in Jack’s party can pay $300 for a chance to sit in the “winner’s circle” and attend an “exclusive” (read: exclusionary) reception with Betsy Myers, the COO for Obama for America.  According to her agency, Betsy’s fee is between $15-$20k per gig.  Let’s hope that enough NDP “suits” fill the Bluenose room at the Delta (my, oh my) to pay her fee.  It is unknown why the NDP is cozying up to an American political party that is currently pushing for two-tier healthcare in the US, and one that supports increasing troops in Afghanistan.  For those outside of the “winner’s circle” (read: drum circle) there’s an alternative event for $10 where they’re be some traditional Maritime music.

If you’re thinking about lighting up some of the green stuff while you listen to another rendition of Barrett’s Privateers at the Lower Deck, think again.  Word from the convention this weekend is that the NDP has barred Dana Larsen from attending Dipperfest this year.  Some will remember that Larsen was the NDP pro-drug candidate that was dumped during the last election.

But more seriously, is the NDP shifting the the centre-left to fill a perceived vacuum left there by Michael Ignatieff? Remember, if Ignatieff supported Bush, it might as well be safe to embrace for the NDP to embrace Obama (as a majority of Canadians still do).

Science and politics

As with most election campaigns, science is never on the top of the minds of voters. Perhaps it is because elections are geared towards appealing to emotion (the irrational) rather to that which is inherently rational: science.

Aberrations can occur when emotion drives science, but since advocacy taps emotion, channeling emotional appeal can be effective for lobbying for or against political action with respect to certain areas of scientific study.

Three such issues are global warming, embryonic stem cells and outer space. Al Gore (of all people) got a number of people passionate about the weather (of all things). However, is climate research the best pursuit for elusive research dollars? Or are people too “hot headed” about the topic? According to its emotional advocates, the “debate is over” and one could conclude from such a conclusive declaration that further research is unnecessary and that it is action which is needed.

Does politics hurt science? A lot of scientific study is accomplished using tax dollars, so politics will inevitably get involved. I spent a year doing malaria research in the United States in 2002. At the time, less than one year after 9/11, I was told that when professors made grant applications to federal funding agencies, they would try to find a link between their research and counter-terrorism in order to secure funding. Now, researchers tie their projects to climate change.

Malaria is an infectious disease and certain infectious diseases could be used in a biological terrorist attack. Similarly, malaria is de rigeur in the climate change debate as warmer swampy areas are breeding grounds for the malaria vector. Unfortunately for our funding, malaria is a highly unlikely infectious disease for use in terrorism and studying new ways of combating the malaria parasite directly (which is what we were researching) has nothing to do with climate. Research dollars are more likely to go to projects that find evidence to support the theory of anthropogenic climate change, not to fund research that treats its theoretical effect. Public money instead more broadly targets climate change to reduce the incidences of malaria by reducing the atmospheric concentration of CO2. This is akin to hitting an infectious mosquito with a proverbial sledgehammer. Governments will spend billions on climate change when lives can be saved at $10 per net and relatively few research dollars to develop new treatments.

Further, money is redirected into projects that are sometimes only tangentially support the theory of human-caused global warming. What do the mating songs of the American Tree Sparrow have to do with climate change, you may ask? Are their songs sadder this year compared to last indicating a warming Earth? Get some research dollars behind that project!

Emotion can also inhibit scientific inquiry. Embryonic stem cell research has proven to be a political hot potato in the past. There is great potential for therapeutic advances derived from such research. Advocates with or without a strong grasp of the cellular basis of life (and/or what constitutes human life) constitute both sides on the debate regarding research involving these cells. In many cases, emotion informs their position on the science rather than their scientific position. George W. Bush took a mediating approach on the issue when it crossed his desk earlier in his term of office: while allowing for research to be conducted on the cells, federal funds would not be used. Did the conciliatory approach cause unnecessary scientific stagnation because the emotional element? Or, as some would argue, were emotionally-driven second thoughts necessary to preserve ethics in science (or at least that which is funded in part by people morally opposed to such research)?

Scientists must always be mindful of ethics as they proceed, yet a populist balancing of complicated scientific understanding and ethics has the potential of being regressive in its emotive and sometimes ignorant reactions on a variety of research topics.

On the other hand, emotionally-driven science can deliver research dollars for tangible and measurable benefit. Consider the amount of resources used pursuing cancer treatment options and even potential cures for certain forms. Certainly this is a better pursuit than spending eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers (which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers)*.

Should science policy discussions be limited to the experts since they are more likely to understand the parameters of rational scientific pursuit? Or should the process be influenced by the general public who possess real (even if uninformed) concerns often times driven by irrational emotion? Politics, often a product of emotion, causes aberrations in the scientific process. Where can we can find the ideal?

The Iowa caucuses are being held tonight. Here are the positions of the visible US Presidential candidates on science (or at least that which intersects politics due to emotionally driven undertones). (graphic from Nature.com)

*apologies to Swift

Thoughts about Live Earth

Yesterday, on seven stages around the world over 1 million people attended a mega-concert event geared to raise awareness on the issue of climate change or the “climate crisis” as billed by event organizers.

News reports claim that the event had a reach to about 2 billion television watchers around the world.

Despite the disputed logic of the cause by some, it was heartening to see so many people interested in attending a rally for what they truly believe to be a good cause. It is good to know that there is a lot of positive energy out there ready to be channeled to fight for good causes whatever they may be.

However, it is unfortunate that these concerts do not do much to raise “awareness”; often participants of such mega-concerts are the most aware of these issues. I’m not sure how many people tuned in and said “Global… warming? Really? Thank goodness for John Mayer or else I would have never known”. On a more useful note, Billy Corgan made me aware that his new Smashing Pumpkins CD is about to be released. Thanks Billy.

Despite the good intentions of these mega-concerts, the problems that they purport to address still exist and for the most part, have not really advanced along a good track. Live Aid, and most recently, Live 8 meant to raise “awareness” of poverty in Africa. Despite the collective efforts of our mothers (“eat your vegetables, there are children starving in Africa”) and the calling upon the power of rock to solve the world’s ills, poverty still exists in Africa.

Often, the logic behind such efforts is paradoxical. Dumping money and aid on Africa, according to some economists, is exacerbating the problem there. Further, the music industry is the vanguard of consumerism. How does flying Madonna’s 100 member entourage from New York to London on her private jet to express a message of conservation ring true to anyone? Media is to be consumed and the music industry cranks out a lot of plastic, puts a lot of rubber on the road (and CO2 in the air) while musicians tour, and demands terawatts of electricity to power countless speakers and to illuminate hundreds of millions of TV screens.

As for the Live Earth mega-concert, the worst moment was at Giants stadium in New Jersey (billed as New York), when Petra Nemcova, the supermodel that survived the Asian tsunami took the stage to help raise awareness about our “climate in crisis”. I would never shrug aside Ms. Nemcova’s harrowing ordeal, however, no serious scientist would ever link that particular tsunami with climate change as the 2004 tsunami was caused by an earthquake, not by CO2. It is unfortunate that the tragedy of that event would be used erroneously to advance such a debatable call to action on a debatable cause.

There were a few ironic moments including rap superstar Ludacris telling the audience (in song) that “if you ain’t got no money [sic], take your broke ass home”. Of course, this lyric is a part of a song that he sings on with Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame) which also includes the songstress singing “We [sic] flyin’ first class / Up in the sky / Poppin’ champagne / Livin’ my life / In the fast lane / And I wont change / By the Glamorous, oh the flossy flossy”. The video pictures Fergie flying in a private jet, ironically the vehicle of choice of some of the Live Earth performers. Irony is being told by some of this world’s greatest CO2 producers to cut our consumption. Ludacris’ other credits include a starring role in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Was it a movie about plug-in hybrid cars? Not likely. The film has inspired a generation of nitrous-infused street racers. Oh well, I’m sure he got some carbon credits in his gift basket to help offset the guilt. Ludacris! [sic]

Finally, if the intent of the mega-concert was to be a massive information campaign to finally bring everyone, united, onside to fight climate change, why the divisive elements? Melissa Ethridge chastised Bush’s ‘with us or the terrorists’ refrain by saying that in addressing the world’s problems that there is no “us and them”. She proceeded to drive a wedge between left and right by calling both Nixon and the current Republican president “criminals”. In fact, Ethridge’s performance was more of an anti-war screed than a call to unite against climate change. Macy Gray’s appearance also sought to alienate a significant proportion of the American population by having her stage performers wear anti-Bush and anti-Cheney t-shirts. The concert became an appeal to the left and had the effect of preaching to the choir while it did little to reach out to what should have been its intended targets: the skeptics on the right.

Were you one of the “2 billion” that tuned into the Live Earth concerts? What are your thoughts? If Al Gore runs for president (and wins) will we be fighting a costly war on warming AND a war of terror? Will Gore have any better luck bringing China and India into the Coalition of the Cooling? Will you be buying the new Smashing Pumpkins album when it comes out on July 10th? Consume, but don’t consume!

Bush coming to Canada

Dust off those bongos, young progressive agent of change! In a news release from the Prime Minister’s Office today it was announced that US President George W Bush is coming to Canada on August 20th/21st for a North American leaders summit.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that Canada will host the North American Leaders� Summit on August 20 and 21, 2007 in Montebello, Quebec.

“We share a continent with the United States and Mexico, and our people, our economies and our security are closely interconnected,” said the Prime Minister. “This summit provides an opportunity to discuss issues of shared concern with my Mexican and United States counterparts and to promote cooperation on measures that are central to the quality of life of Canadians and all peoples in North America.”

U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon will join the Prime Minister in Montebello, Quebec. The last meeting of the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico took place in Cancun, Mexico on March 31, 2006.

Within the context of the summit, the leaders will review progress in their ongoing cooperation under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which was established to foster collaboration for a more secure and more economically dynamic North America. In Cancun, the leaders identified five priority areas for special attention in the coming year: strengthening competitiveness in North America; North American Emergency Management; Avian and Pandemic Influenza; North American Energy Security; and North American Smart Secure Borders.

In other news, Canadian patchouli oil futures experienced heavy trading today.

CBC misuses images of Canadian soldiers

The following story was aired during The National last night on CBC. The story describes U.S. President George W. Bush’s veto of Democrat legislation limiting funding for the Iraq war.

Here is the story (video contains full report):

As I’ve pointed out in the video, CBC uses video footage of a Canadian soldier (with flag patch on his gear) and what looks like Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan (the clip after the one I point out). While the “file pictures” do initially show American marines in Iraq, the ambiguous use of the images of Canadians in the same report does raise concern.

Some observers have noted that some Canadians do not discern the difference between the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Consider the NDP, a party which would lump the conflicts together and set its communications strategy to speak to these particular Canadians:

“Mr. Speaker, Canadians recognize that this government is too close to George Bush, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Incredibly, the U.S. Congress is passing a law that will give the President the power to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva conventions.

Documents show that this government is fully aware of the fact that prisoners we hand over to the Afghans can be given to U.S. authorities.

What assurances is this government seeking that prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities are not sent on to Guantanamo Bay or to secret U.S. prisons?”Dawn Black, NDP Defense Critic

“Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

One week ago his colleague, the Minister of National Defence, said, with respect to the prisoners taken in Afghanistan, “They have every right, though, for a tribunal to determine whether in fact they have status as a prisoner of war or have status as an unlawful combatant. Canada stands by that determination process in accordance with international law”.

One week later the United States has still not set in place any tribunals. I want to ask the minister, will Canada refuse to turn over any prisoners to the Americans until they have given us an assurance that these tribunals will be established? Or will we show total contempt for the law under the Geneva conventions and simply let George Bush run Canadian foreign and defence policy?”Svend Robinson, former NDP MP

and consider the role of the CBC in reflecting a difficult, troubling and complicated world to Canadians:

“Canadians are increasingly uncomfortable with Canada’s role in Afghanistan. On the nightly news we see growing destabilization, growing counter-insurgency on our part, insurgency on the part of the Afghans, more civilian deaths and increasingly more Canadian deaths.”Peggy Nash, NDP MP

Canada and its allies are experiencing successes in Afghanistan. The NATO mission in Afghanistan is different from the American war in Iraq. To lump the two together and deem collective failure is irresponsible and misleads Canadians.

As for the CBC, the ambiguity in the report doesn’t help.

PMO’s letter of complaint to the CBC

This letter’s been floating around among a few reporters. I received the following text in my email’s inbox this morning.

Dear Mr Gilbert,

To be sure, freedom of the press is one of the foundations of our democratic life and the vitality of public debate in Canadian democracy. In that respect, we are fortunate in Canada to live in a political and media environment characterized by a lack of political interference that might undermine the credibility and impartiality of our media institutions, including public broadcasters.

I must admit that I was perplexed by Mr Guy Gendron’s report on the program ” Zone Libre Enquête” on Friday, January 19, 2007, which covered the oil sands industry in Alberta. Indeed, at times, Radio-Canada indulged in unacceptable innuendos, the most striking of which were as follows:

“…the day after the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Canada, U.S. oil industry leaders met in this hotel in Houston, Texas, together with promoters of major oil sands projects in Alberta.”

“Talks, sometimes secret deals, as discovered by our colleague from ‘Zone Libre Enquête,’ Guy Gendron. “

“The Radio-Canada program ‘Zone Libre Enquête’ reveals that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President George Bush cut a secret deal last year .”

“So far, the Conservative government, as you know, has withdrawn… Canada is the only country to have withdrawn from Kyoto among the 35 signatories.”

Finally, I would draw your attention to the following statement:

“The oil-sands have a road map to a production level of 5 million barrels a day,” A “Current projections are more like 2-to-3 million over the next ten years.”

That quotation dates from September 8, 2004, and was made by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources under the former Liberal government.

By beginning with the election of a Conservative government, the report neglected to highlight the decisions by the former government.

The “secret” report, “Oil Sands Experts Group Workshop Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America Houston, Texas January 24-25, 2006 Oil Sands Workshop SPP Report,” which is also available at http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/publications/oilgas_generalpubs/oilsands_spp_report.pdf , says that:

“President Bush, Prime Minister Martin and President Fox officially announced the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North American (SPP) agreement in March 2005. The energy activities of the SPP encompass a trilateral effort among Mexico, the United States and Canada, to create a sustainable energy economy for North America. The Canadian oil sands are one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon resources and will be a significant contributor to energy supply and security for the continent. As such, the three countries agreed to collaborate through the SPP on the sustainable development of the oil sands resources and an ad hoc Oil Sands Experts Group was formed that includes the U.S., Canadian and Alberta Government representatives. The first deliverable for the Group consisted of the following: ‘By January 2006, building on joint discussions with key stakeholders and scientific experts, issue a report that discusses the mid- to long-term aspects of the oil sands product market development and the infrastructure and refinery implications for increased oil sands market penetration.’ To meet this deliverable, the Group convened a workshop in Houston, Texas, on January 24-25, 2006, that was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). […] The workshop brought together experts representing the oil sands industry, refiners, marketers, pipeline companies, and government.”

On several occasions, the SRC blamed the current situation on the Conservative government. As you know, the situation is much more complex, and goes beyond the election of a Conservative government on January 23, as suggested by Radio-Canada.

It is noteworthy that the report by Natural Resources Canada is made up of recommendations, whereas the reporter implied that it is binding and that the Conservative government approves the recommendations from the outset.

The SRC story contained a number of factual errors, including one regarding the appointment of the former environment minister, Ms Rona Ambrose. The story indicated that Ms Ambrose was appointed on February 16, when in fact she was appointed minister on February 6, 2006.

The report took a sensationalist tone and sought to draw a direct link between oil sands development and the election of the Conservative government, a link that is more than dubious.

On the program “Tout le monde en parle,” host Guy-A Lepage stated that the report might bring down Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government. How could he make such a claim when most of the facts occurred under the Liberal government led by Paul Martin?

The wording used suggested to viewers that there was a link between the two events. How can any kind of link whatsoever be drawn between that meeting by oil industry leaders in Houston and Prime Minister Harper’s election the day before? There is no link between these two completely separate events. The timing angle, by which the events were depicted as occurring together within a broader environment, was unacceptable as worded in the report. There was no further clarification that would enable viewers to realize that these two events were completely separate from each other.

If the reporter felt it was important to indicate the timing of the meeting in Houston, a more nuanced wording -notably with regard to syntax- such as “Incidentally, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was elected on January 23,” would have had the advantage of dispelling any ambiguity. And as you know, the meeting of oil industry leaders was convened under the Liberal government of Paul Martin.

Furthermore, Radio-Canada spread misinformation that Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President George Bush met secretly. That information is completely false: no secret meeting or deal took place between Prime Minister Harper and President Bush.

A lot of things happened on January 24 and 25, 2006. I hope that not all those events that took place the day after January 23 have a direct link with our election. That would be rather bizarre timing.

I also want to clarify once again that our government was sworn in on February 6, 2006, which means that on February 6, 2006 , the Liberal Party of Canada was still in power.

This incident in no way diminishes my confidence in the excellent work carried out by the Société Radio-Canada. Media impartiality is essential in the knowledge and information society. The quality of our media institutions depends on it, as does the maintenance of the high degree of journalistic integrity that characterizes the SRC. We acknowledge that we are at odds with the SRC’s position. We are calling on you to consider the facts properly, so that the truth can come out of this misunderstanding.

I hope this meets with your expectations.

Yours sincerely,

Sandra Buckler
Director of Communications
Prime Minister of Canada

Brockback conservatives…

Here’s the controversial propaganda being handed out by the Young Liberals.

Are the Young Liberals insulting gays and lesbians by using homosexuality as an implied insult?

Here’s Macleans take:

Liberals love to brag about how open they are toward homosexuals.

Tough to explain, then, the printed gay joke some are handing out at the expense of George W. Bush and Stephen Harper.

Riffing on a poster promoting “Brokeback Mountain,” a movie about two cowboys who fall in love, the small sticker shows the U.S. president and Canadian prime minister striking lovelorn poses in cowboy hats.

Under the title “Brokeback Conservatism,” the sticker describes “a story about two friends who share ideas, ideologies and long walks on the beach.”

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