Sunday, June 30, 2013

Look at any newspaper, watch any newscast, and compare the amount of space and time given to actual hard news (breaking events, politics, court, natural disaster, policy, war, events of community and/or global significance, local crime)  opinion (arts reviews, political punditry, letters to the editor, columnists),  useful practical information (recipes, DIY tips, travel stories about places you might actually go, restaurant reviews, community calendar listings), pure entertainment (the comics, serialized fiction, humour columns and feature stories of  and the amount of absolute junk - film studio advertising thinly disguised as 'entertainment news', bullshit advice columns, stories based on bullshit polls or worse - dodgy 'scientific" studies based on a test group of 17 people, celebrity gossip, clothing ads thinly disguised as 'fashion news', product placement stories ("According to the cornstarch marketing board, cornstarch can be used to help you lose weight and improve your car's gas mileage!", new product stories, 'business profiles", new business openings, almost all investment news, anything to do with the internet, especially internet memes, horoscopes (what century is this?) - and worst of all, second hand stories about any of the above ( Our newspaper has learned that London's Daily Mirror is reporting that Princess Kate will give birth to quintuplets! Oh those wacky Fleet Street papers!").
I think features and practical information have their place in a newspaper. I think opinion deserves its own section and I'll buy one newspaper over another on the strength of their columnists, arts reviewers and comics. I'll even concede that in our sports-obsessed society, the case can be made for sports deserving a few pages of its own.
But the junk news, celebrity gossip and other garbage that originally began running in newspapers to attract a broader readership among the great unwashed no longer attracts readers. No one buys a newspaper to find out what happened to the goddamned Kardashians. No one buys a newspaper to find out how their stocks are doing or what company they should invest in. No one buys a newspaper to find out how healthful and tasty new improved lo-fat sugar-free Soylent Green might be. No one needs to read about how 8 out of ten people are potential serial killers base on a study of fourteen federal prisoners  and two jail guards. Nobody buys a newspaper to find out what Selena Gomez said about Justin Beiber's vestigal tail in People Magazine or which starlet Maxim thinks is the most "do-able" --- Maybe they did, once upon a time, back when the daily newspaper or suppertime daily new hour was the quickest way to get information and the only source of information.
Now, people who want celebrity gossip can get a steady drip of it from TMZ, Entertainment Tonight and the other more specialized arms of the entertainment industry PR machine. People who want the score and the stats from the big game right away don't wait for the morning paper, they watch the game on their smartphone or download the scores-and-stats app and get the information seconds after the final buzzer. No one -- and I mean no one who cares how their investments are performing-- relies on the 24-to-48-hours-old stock price information in the newspaper. People looking to buy a car don't suddenly go out  and buy a newspaper for the driving section to read about how every single car "reviewed" by the marketing stooges automotive journalists has its charms - when was the last time you read a car review that called a vehicle a complete lemon? Even in the unlikely event that such an article were to be written, no newspaper whose driving section is paid for by advertisements for car dealers and carmakers, is likely to run it. Even stories about product recalls usually run in another section.

Not everyone who writes for a newspaper or who stands up in front of a camera with a microphone is a journalist.

Sometimes I lament for my profession. Nobody goes to journalism school because they idolize Walter Winchell or because they want to get stuck writing thinly-veiled advertising copy, but too many embrace the easy path to a paycheque and write what the marketing department thinks people want to read. ("Hey, this Justin Beiber kid is selling a pile of records and has a million twitter followers -- we should carry a Justin Beiber story every day! Our sales among ten-year-old girls will skyrocket and we need that youth market!) Most people going into journalism dream of breaking the next Watergate, not sharing the startling and important information that a study by the National Cocoa Research Council of 27 laboratory test subjects found that eating chocolate will enhance your sex drive.

But just to keep the ink pumping in our veins we cater to the whims of the market, thinking that will save us as all the eyeballs of the great unwashed migrate to infotainment television and the internet. The crowd has moved on to the latest pretty thing and they are not coming back. The newspaper industry and journalism in general need to ask our collective selves why people get angry about the press. Do you hear them bitching about how we don't run enough sport analysis, hollywood gossip or stories about how 45% of people claim to have had a prayer answered by their guardian angel. No, you don't. You will never hear complaints about that shit because no one paid their $1.50 at the news stand for that crap. They get mad because we missed the story about the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary cheating in the last election. They get mad because we didn't tell them about how that company covered up that pipeline leak. They get mad because their third cousin in jail for backsassing a cop and no one from the press is interested.

 If newspapers and journalism want to survive, we need to get back to afflicting the comfortable and provide the afflicted with more bread and less circus. We need to stop trying appeal to people who want infotainment and cotton candy and won't read a newspaper until their particular ox is gored on the front page, and start concentrating on covering a few more ox gorings  in a more comprehensive and meaningful way. We need to do our jobs a little better and try giving readers more of what they really buy the newspaper for --- NEWS.

We need more signal and less noise.

Crossposted from The Woodshed

Saturday, June 29, 2013

We are a nation of immigrants

The Pier 21 Immigration museum in Halifax commissioned a Toronto production firm to collect about 100 immigrant stories. This is my son's.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ping Pong Balls . . .

PING PONG BALLS are incredibly flammable. Something irrelevant to ponder on this Canada Day.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another RCMP success story . . .

Eyewitnesses note this woman was punched in the mouth by RCMP.
PUNCHING A WOMAN seems to be RCMP best-practice, when they don't have a Taser handy. Halifax Media Co-op has a report by Miles Howe, "12 more opposed to shale gas arrested as RCMP turn violent on National Aboriginal Day". Apparently the locals don't like exploration for shale gas and are protesting to stop it. Grrrrrrrrr . . .

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Standing Man . . .

Erdem Gunduz (center) stands in Instanbul's Taksim Square early Tuesday. — Petr David Josek/AP
THAT PROTEST SHALL NOT PERISH, from the creativity of the human spirit embodied in a chap name of Erdem Gunduz, who went to Taksim Square, and just stood there, passively, staring at the Ministry of Culture.

According to NPR's "The 'Standing Man' Of Turkey: Act Of Quiet Protest Goes Viral", it's catching, big-time.  Ghandi would be so pleased with the creativity of the human spirit.

For more than six hours Monday night, Erdem Gunduz stood motionless in Taksim Square, passively ignoring any prodding or harassment from police and people passing by.

His unusual form of protest has inspired activists in Turkey and around the world to assume the same pose. He's even become his own meme, as "standing man" (duran adam, in Turkish) supporters upload their own protest photos to Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Oops . . .

— Hybrid Sons of Tifton 85 —

THE INQUISITR has an article you should check out: Genetically Modified Grass Begins Releasing Cyanide, Kills Texas Cattle. Really.  That bears repeating,

Genetically Modified Grass
   Begins Releasing Cyanide,
   Kills Texas Cattle”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Political Science 101 . . .

Yup, that pretty much sums 'er up.

Two years ago . . .

AS THE PERSECUTION of Julian Assange was getting organized, things were in their early stages, and on 23 of June, 2011 a secret five hour meeting took place between Julian and Eric Schmidt, who is the CEO of Google. Wikileaks has the complete transcript. It gets a bit technical, but you can get through that, and ponder.
This meeting discusses the current state-of-things, and gives an interesting look at the facets of the Wikileaks effort around the world. It discusses the power and the vulnerability of the surveillance state, and what concerned citizens might do about it. Mobile phone network freedom may be the key to freedom in the future:

During these revolutionary periods the people involved in the revolution need to be able to communicate. They need to be able to communicate in order to plan quickly and also to communicate information about what is happening in their environment quickly so that they can dynamically adapt to it and produce the next strategy. Where you only have the security services being able to do this, and you turn the mobile phone system off, the security services have such an tremendous advantage compared to people that are trying to oppose them. If you have a system where individuals are able to communicate securely and robustly despite what security services are doing, then security services have to give more ground. It's not that the government is necessarily going to be overthrown, but rather they have to make more concessions.

Well, Julian wound up in the London embassy of Ecuador, as US pressure built up. A key component has been to deny Wikileaks access to the banking system, especially credit cards. This means that you can't support Wikileaks, because you can't donate any money. Well, according to NPR, that's changed:

Iceland's most recent move that lent support to WikiLeaks was an April Supreme Court decision that "ordered Valitor hf, the Icelandic partner of MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc., to process card payments for [the] anti-secrecy website ... within 15 days or face daily penalties," Bloomberg News says. So, as other nations have tried to put roadblocks in WikiLeaks' way by cutting off its access to funds, Iceland has gone the opposite direction.

Maybe getting one of those mobile phone base stations might be a worthy consideration, but even passing them a few bucks might be crucial; these guys have some heavy lifting to do.

Like it is, like it is . . .

Friday, June 14, 2013

Women in space . . .

FIFTY YEARS NOW, women have been in space, starting with Valentina Tereshkova, who went to orbit on June 16, 1963. You can find out all about it at io9. And there are places on the planet where women aren't allowed to drive?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bradley vs the Beast . . .

THE AMERICAN STATE has become a mutant, vicious beast, beyond its own laws. Julian Assange posted a letter on Wikileaks, commenting about the persecution of Bradley Manning:

Statement by Julian Assange

As I type these lines, on June 3, 2013, Private First Class Bradley Edward Manning is being tried in a sequestered room at Fort Meade, Maryland, for the alleged crime of telling the truth. The court martial of the most prominent political prisoner in modern US history has now, finally, begun.

It has been three years. Bradley Manning, then 22 years old, was arrested in Baghdad on May 26, 2010. He was shipped to Kuwait, placed into a cage, and kept in the sweltering heat of Camp Arifjan.

"For me, I stopped keeping track," he told the court last November. "I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages... I remember thinking I’m going to die."

After protests from his lawyers, Bradley Manning was then transferred to a brig at a US Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, where - infamously - he was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of his captors - a formal finding by the UN. Isolated in a tiny cell for twenty-three out of twenty-four hours a day, he was deprived of his glasses, sleep, blankets and clothes, and prevented from exercising. All of this - it has been determined by a military judge - "punished" him before he had even stood trial.

"Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched, I believe, in our nation’s history, as a disgraceful moment in time" said his lawyer, David Coombs. "Not only was it stupid and counterproductive, it was criminal."

The United States was, in theory, a nation of laws.
But it is no longer a nation of laws for Bradley Manning.

Do click on the link to read the rest. The meanness of spirit reminds me of a similar persecution, 109 years ago, in 1894, when poor Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent, was charged with treason and wound up on Devil's Island. Like today's "I am Bradley Manning", concerned citizens protested for the captain.

Monday, June 10, 2013

By George . . .

THE ORWELLIAN NIGHTMARE seems to be with us, as we regard the "processing" of Bradley Manning, the hounding of Julian Assange and now Edward Snowden.

There's good news, bad news and really bad news. The good news is, eventually the Fourth Reich will be overthrown. The bad news is, Hollywood will create "The Bradley Manning Story". The really bad news is, the actor who will play Bradley hasn't been born yet. Sure hope I'm wrong.

Schadenfreude super-size me . . .


“My fellow Canadians, we have all just witnessed a sad spectacle, a prime minister so burdened with corruption in his own party that he is unable to do his job and lead the country, a party leader playing for time, begging for another chance. This is not how a prime minister should act.”
Stephen Harper, April 21, 2005

And did you know, Stevie's chimps have been middlefingering us for a long time, now? According to a 2007 report by Shane Dyson at the Langley Free Press, the Harper pizdobols refuse to follow the rules. Six years later, and it's on steroids. But check out Shane's article, these weasels have a consistent track record, all the while crying how they're gonna bring accountability:

In a November 8, 2005 news release, Langley MP Mark Warawa said: "People who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules have been let down by the Liberals. Canadians deserve nothing less than accountable government. The Conservative Party has a plan to renew faith in government; to instill a culture of accountability in Ottawa."

Glad I don't live there . . .

A CAR-JACKING in Venezuela. Citizens 1 Carjackers 0, it seems.  Violent, to be sure, but perhaps this might help see how the NRA and Tea Party types regard owning guns and the right of self-defense. Where they live, you see, sooner, rather than later, you'll probably need one.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Stevie's last obstacle . . .

HUPACASATH FIRST NATION battles China-Canada FIPA in court. So says the VO, aka the Vancouver Observer.

Photo via @Lyacksongirl
Closing arguments began Wednesday for the historic Hupacasath First Nation court challenge of a FIPA, or foreign investor protection agreement between Canada and China. The Hupacasath's case against the Harper government says that Canada has a duty to consult First Nations before entering into international treaties.

Canada holds FIPAs with 14 countries, and is in talks to establish a dozen more. But the Canada-China FIPA is the first to position Canada as a capital-importer rather than a capital-exporter country.

It's all about Chinese money: Stevie wants to give its owners entitlement, and the First Nations are rightly concerned. IF the Hupacasath  win, this goes to the Supreme Court, who won't rule on it until after the next election, when FIPA may be toast.

A map of Stevie Crime . . .

THE ELECTION FRAUD ATLAS of Canada: a site that proclaims itself to be

A comprehensive public source for materials pertaining to the electoral fraud that dominated the 2011 Federal Election, created through crowdsourced funds and data.

Each phone icon represents a riding-specific report of fraud, pulled from publicly available court documents, blog posts or newspaper articles, signifying hundreds, if not thousands, of unreported voter suppression calls.

Zoom in, select from the list or click on the map to explore individual ridings. Toggling the icons at the top of the page will allow you to drill down and filter the fraud reports by source.

In the 2011 National Election, there were complaints of voter fraud in 247 of Canada's 308 ridings, currently under investigation by Elections Canada. Three major polling companies estimate that 690,000 voters got fraudulent calls telling them to vote in the wrong place. That's almost 3% of all Canadians in an election ultimately won by 6000 votes, and does not include the widespread harassment calls, where political parties were impersonated and voters were repeatedly called at inappropriate times.

This is more than just a few silly prank calls: it's the biggest case of electoral fraud in Canadian history. Ever.

The Fraud Atlas of Canada currently incorporates materials from the Council of Canadians,, Sixth Estate, Saskboy, and countless local and national newspaper articles, including the work of Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, recipients of a World Press Freedom Award for their coverage of the scandal.

Check it out — and get very, very angry.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Don't buy from fascists . . .

NOW YOU CAN AVOID buying stuff from companies controlled by fascists like Nestlé or the Koch brothers. Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. According to Forbes, "You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries."

Information is power.

Monday, June 03, 2013

For the next G20 protest . . .

HARD TIMES IN TURKEY. People are fed up with encroaching fundamentalism of the current government, as civil rights are being whittled away. So, a protest against the demolition of a park has become much, much more.

Tarihinde Yayımlandı has a blog post you should read, "What is Happenning (sic) in Istanbul?", which outlines the situation. Do check it out. Oppression can bring out true creativity, as you see by this brilliant home-made gas mask, used this weekend.

Four days ago a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines. No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out. But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening the number of protesters multiplied.