Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Minister of Industry responds...

I sent my MP a message last May regarding Bill C-60 (an Act to amend the Copyright Act). I got a copy of the Minister of Industry's response to him in the mail a week or so ago. The letter is dated March 1, 2007 and reads:
Mr. Pierre Poilievre, M.P.
Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Colleague:

Thank you for forwarding copies of recent letters from several of your constituents regarding possible amendments to the Copyright Act (the Act).

In my view, the Act must continue to be supportive of innovation and research while reflecting current technological and legal realities. To this end, a balance between adequate protection for copyright holders and reasonable access to copyrighted material is critical.

With this in mind, I am working closely with my colleague, the Honourable Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage, to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to copyright reform.

Please be assured that I am very mindful of the concerns expressed by your constituents, and will take these into consideration as we move forward.


Maxime Bernier

c.c. The Honourable Bev Oda, P.C., M.P.

I'm pleased. It isn't practical to expect more from a politician, I would suggest. Notice that he used the word 'balance' to describe his view on the matter. I would go so far as to call that encouraging, save that it's only words at this point.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chimps: Hauser vs. Heinlein

The brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules, similar to the neural machinery for learning language, according to Harvard evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser... Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others.

That's a very different picture from the pivotal scene in Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, where Valentine Michael Smith finally groks (fully understands) humour as he witnesses chimps in a zoo being cruel to one another.

That's the first thing I thought of as I read the article, and it isn't noteworthy for any other reason.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dion, The Consummate Politician

Dion said it was parliamentary tradition for MPs to follow party line on confidence votes such as budgets.

"A vote on the budget, like a vote on a throne speech, is a vote of confidence. You cannot vote against the caucus on it."

Spouting tripe about traditions, party lines and what MPs cannot do is no way for a former academic to argue his position. Comuzzi's position - that he was supporting his constituents - wins hands down.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Indoor air pollution

Coincidentally, I was reading Michael LeGault's Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye when a story about air pollution in Canadian ice rinks hit the press. According to LeGault, this sort of thing is quite serious:
Fear causes flaws in our perceptions, which leads to erroneous thinking and conclusions. For instance, a study conducted by the EPA found that the public's top environmentally related health concerns included radioactive waste, radiation from nuclear accidents, industrial pollution of waterways, and hazardous waste sites. Yet, when the EPA polled its own experts it got an entirely different list of concerns. Radioactive waste and radiation from nuclear accidents were not even ranked, and some of the public's lowest concerns, for example indoor air pollution, were ranked "high" by experts...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Toward objective journalism

It seems that every other day I'm reading overtly biased reporting in Canadian newspapers (e.g., coverage of Fredericton MP Andy Scott's resignation and our work in Afghanistan). However, the subject interview gives me some hope for the future, as Jooneed Khan has been writing about the facts for about as long as I've been breathing. Of course, you could look at it as a last bastion, but I'm feeling optimistic today. Here are some highlights from the interview (the emphasis is mine):
My concern has always been that before one can form an opinion, one needs facts--as wide a spectrum of facts as possible. I’ve found that mainstream media selects the facts to bring people to think and look in a certain way; and that was not only incomplete, but a disservice to the reader... I’ve tried to bring those facts which were selected out, and put them together in a coherent way...

[A] very recent example is Lebanon. The hue and cry in the western media... that Hezbollah is radical, that it’s a proxy for Syria and Iran, that it’s threatening Israel, threatening Lebanese democracy. The statements that I’ve heard out of the White House, from Ottawa and Paris constantly reiterate democracy, democracy. I thought, this is a totally artificial debate, which can have dangerous consequences, so I did a piece last week, called the “Democractic Deficit in Lebanon.” I just brought the facts to show that when you have a dictated arrangement--dictated by the US and Saudi Arabia--on the Tyre Agreement, where they have allotted 64 seats to Muslims, 64 seats to Christians on a sectarian basis and you haven’t had a census in the country for 75 years... [E]veryone who has done estimates based on the official figures has come to the conclusion that the Christians today are about 35 per cent of the population. Even the sectarian democracy that they’ve imposed does not reflect the true sectarian makeup of the society...

I wrote about Palestinian rights and Palestinian suffering at the same time as I wrote about South African [a]partheid, and the legitimate rights of the South African majority. I suppose the South African consulate in those days did call my editors once in a while, but since I could not be silenced on my facts, what the paper did was allow colleagues of mine to peddle the official line. So on one page--mostly in the business section--articles [there] were praising the [apartheid] system as a free economy and a bulwark against Communism and an outpost of the free world[, while] I was writing about the Freedom Charter... about exclusion, which was also part of the reality. So you had in the same paper... two views. And I appreciate that. I think newspapers in a free society should reflect the diversity of views.

His anecdote about reporting from Iraq is less hopeful, but doesn't take away from the fact that La Presse's policies do more to promote objective journalism than any other paper's that I've read about.