Links With Your Java

In a move that’s bound to create a frisson of flesh-crawling across the land, at the G8 Summit in Japan today, George Bush gave a un-statesman-like shout out to his homie from north of the border. “Yo Harper!” said the Leader of the Free World as he summoned Harper to meet Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua, who was attending the meeting along with several other African leaders to discuss soaring world food prices. Asked for a reaction to the “Yo Harper!” comment, Harper’s spokesbot said she had been out to lunch.

• Perhaps it’s been so long since the CAW had a contested election for president that they’ve simply forgotten how to run one — democratically at least. Some subversive union officials have even demanded a secret ballot at the caucus meeting instead of a show of hands. Imagine that! “We’re not a political party, we’re a union,” said retiring leader Buzz Hargrove in what might be the second funniest line of the day when responding to charges of aggressive tactics by different political camps, including “staff being bullied, threatened or coerced into making a decision on support of administration candidates.” Earlier, Hargrove had urged the CAW’s executive board to officially endorse his favoured successor, whom the Globe & Mail facetiously dubs as Hargrove’s “chosen one” (the boys at National Newswatch appropriately offer up an old picture of Buzz giving a mass benediction to the faithful multitude).

• Does it surprise anyone that when it comes to firing people, Harper’s minions are spectacularly gutless douches? As reported in The Hill Times (an article that’s a veritable treasure trove of potential comedy, btw) a source in Michael Fortier’s office claims that despite being told in a conference call that he would be kept on at Public Works, Claude Alain, Fortier’s former chief of staff, discovered this wasn’t in fact the case when informed that the new minister and submarine dispatcher Christian Paradis, had no plans to keep him. According to the source, “Someone didn’t have the courage to tell him something.” He goes on to describe it as “another very badly managed HR case” that he understood was attributable to “a communication breakdown.” So it would seem. “It’s just not fun,” the source said. Well, certainly not for Alain, that’s for sure.

• Wouldn’t it just be too sweet for words if Peter MacKay was upset in the next election owing to the anguish of the local Red Tories?

• And to think that it only took them four years to figure out. Oy.

Late Show: A Gentleman’s Duel

From Boing Boing:

In the 8-minute animated short “A Gentleman’s Duel,” what starts off as a sexist little cartoon about a Frenchman and a Brit vying for the attention and affection of an improbable-breasted bimbo builds up a rapid head of steam as the antagonists climb into their giant Victorian mecha suits and kick the snot out of each other, with a lot of Road Runner-esque funny gracenotes.

Full of steampunky goodness.

“A Great Little Racket”

Few things in life are as entirely predictable as the plaintive moaning of a particularly idiotic breed of online commentator about the alleged widespread “liberal bias” of the dreaded MSM. This unfortunate mental affliction owes most of its provenance to the influence of the right-wing in the U.S. that for the last quarter century has steadily yapped about the imagined perfidy of the liberal media (aka the “MSM” or as Rush Limbaugh refers to it, the “drive-by media”).

Like most political tropes accepted as received wisdom, there’s one tiny little problem — it’s largely untrue. The fact of the matter is that the number one news network on television is a virtual subsidiary of the GOP, although that seems hardly to matter to the Right. Nor does it count apparently that the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, the Wall Street Journal has always reflected a consistently conservative line of the corporate elites and as of earlier this year, like the aforementioned Fox News, is now owned by arch-conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Also not seeming to matter in the least is the fact that talk radio is heavily dominated by nattering know-nothings of the Right to the point where in many media markets there’s no voice of the Left to be heard at all. Where I live, for example, the only U.S. talk radio station in the area features a line-up comprised exclusively of right-wing pundits.

Added to this mighty partisan megaphone is the fact to that like never before, today’s media landscape is controlled by an oligopoly of conglomerates that ultimately are, as Robert McChesney said almost twenty years ago in his book The New Global Media, “politically conservative, because the media giants are significant beneficiaries of the current social structure around the world, and any upheaval in property or social relations — particularly to the extent that it reduces the power of business — is not in their interest.”

To the Right, the leader of the terrorist-loving, anti-American, leftist propaganda spewing “liberal media” is of course the much-despised, viciously maligned New York Times — a paper that has become almost synonymous with “liberal media” and representative of “bias” in all its nefarious manifestations. Incredibly, this is the very same paper that features in its daily editorial pages prominent right-wing and neo-conservative columnists such as Bill Kristol, David Brooks, John Tierney, and Tom Friedman. Most shamefully, this supposed bastion of the “liberal media” was amongst those leading the charge to war with Iraq through the now discredited reporting of disgraced journalist Judith Miller. As well, it’s an indisputable commercial reality that the NYT is utterly beholden to Wall Street every bit as much as the WSJ and like practically every other major broadsheet in the land, faithfully reflects the conservative interests of corporate America and the “investor class” of elites.

But no… despite the vast body of contradictory evidence, from the perspective of idiot bloggers it’s all a vast Left-wing conspiracy to poison the minds of the American people with anti-American propaganda. Here in Canada, such “liberal media” conspiracy theories are even more risible given the tremendous amount of consolidation in the national media.

Apart from the CBC, community broadcasters and a few regional papers like the Toronto Star and the Halifax Chronicle Herald, the media landscape is completely dominated by just a handful of companies such as CTVglobemedia (CTV, A-Channel, The Globe & Mail, Winnipeg Free Press), Canwest Global (Global TV, The National Post, Canada.com, and all the daily newspapers of the former Southam chain — i.e., most of the papers in major cities across the country), and Quebecor (Sun Media, Osprey, Canoe.ca). It would be a far stretch indeed to label any of the conglomerates listed above as particularly “liberal” in nature — some in fact are quite overtly and demonstrably “conservative” in their editorial disposition (most notably, The National Post and all Sun tabloids, for example).

Repeated attempts by various “Blogging Tories” (this one, this one and this one) aimed at conclusively “proving” their assertions of “liberal media bias” have met with spectacular failure — their hapless efforts serving only to demonstrate a combination of obtuse partisanship and profound ignorance regarding the press on the part of the respective authors. And yet the myth persists amongst so-called “conservative” bloggers, who are it seems never much perturbed by the almost total absence of evidence when it comes to claiming something to be the absolute truth. Which brings us to one of the most egregious offenders in this regard, the hilariously named “Trusty Tory” and his latest grinding of the anti-MSM, “liberal bias” axe yesterday.

The article that drew his ire this time was a Canadian Press story reporting on the kafuffle surrounding the decision of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to “up the ante” on their unprecedented defamation suit against the Liberal Party by adding another $1 million claim for “misappropriation of personality” in connection with a fundraising email and statements posted on the Liberal website last February which asserted that Harper was aware of an attempt to bribe Independent MP Chuck Cadman with “financial considerations” in return for his support during a crucial 2005 confidence vote.

According to Trusty, the article “reads like an editorial instead of a news-piece” because, he claims there’s “no objectivity to it whatsoever.” I’ve read this piece several times now in search of the alleged editorializing and supposed lack of objectivity and haven’t been able to detect any whatsoever. It’s a pretty straight reporting of what was said by both the Liberal and Conservative spokesbots about the issue with the expected background details filling in the rest of the piece. So what exactly is Trusty’s problem here?

It seems that to him, the mere reporting of the LPC’s reaction to Harper’s lawsuit translates into the media being somehow unfairly used by the Liberals to air their grievances, or as Trusty puts it, “used as a Liberal sounding board for what they see as intimidation.” Well duh. Politicians and others do this all the time. Clearly Trusty doesn’t have a clue about media relations; otherwise, what on earth does this absurdly naïve young fellow think that press releases are for?

Trusty then complains about a supposed lack of reference to “the actual reality of the slander and defamation, just about how the Prime Minister is using the lawsuit to ‘intimidate’ the Liberals.” Sadly, no. Here’s an extract from the article that provides background on the lawsuit in question:

The lawsuit stems from a fundraising email and statements posted on the Liberal website last February which asserted that Harper knew of a Conservative attempt to bribe Chuck Cadman, the late Independent MP, in return for his support during a crucial 2005 confidence vote.

Among other things, the Liberal missives accused Harper of condoning “immoral,” “unethical” and “illegal” behaviour.

The Liberal accusations were based on a tape recording of an interview with Harper by Cadman biographer Tom Zytaruk. Harper is heard saying he was aware of an offer made to the MP “to replace financial considerations that he might lose due to an election.”

Harper launched a $2.5 million defamation suit in March. After mandatory mediation failed to produce an out-of-court settlement, he amended the suit early last month to add a $1 million claim for misappropriation of personality.

At the same time, Harper sought an injunction against the Liberal party’s use of the Zytaruk tape. He contends the tape was doctored to leave a false impression he knew Conservative officials had offered Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy – as Cadman’s widow, Tory candidate Dona, alleges in Zytaruk’s book.

Just out of curiosity I did a word count on the foregoing and it represents 28% of the short article. And yet, amazingly, Trusty claims there was “no reference to the actual reality of the slander [he means libel] and defamation.” Moreover, in the “fair and balanced” fashion expected of the Canadian Press, the article goes on to present the Conservative position on the matter:

In a television interview Thursday, Harper defended his decision to up the ante.
“I don’t think you accuse people of being criminals when you don’t have proof. That’s a serious violation of the law,” he said.

In his amended statement of claim, Harper’s lawyer argues that the Liberals “have used the edited and doctored audio tape to wrongly usurp the plaintiff (Harper) of his right to control his own image and to portray the plaintiff in a false light.”

Furthermore, the statement asserts that the Liberals have exploited the doctored tape “by embarking on a campaign of vilification” of Harper.

Harper’s amended claim does not directly accuse the Liberal party of tampering with the tape. But it does note the party has disseminated the tape through links on the party website, press conferences and a recent stunt by Young Liberals, who broadcast Harper’s words from a van driven through downtown Ottawa.

“The defendants were informed that the edited and doctored audio tape was incomplete, edited and not credible but consistently ignore this fact,” Harper’s lawyer, Richard Dearden, says in the amended statement of claim.

He says the Liberal party has continued to make “defamatory statements” about Harper with “reckless disregard for the truth.”

That’s another 29% of the article, which means that fully 57% of the piece is devoted to straight reporting of the nature of the lawsuit’s background and the Conservative position. The remainder of it (a minority of 43%) simply reports on the Liberal reaction to Harper’s amended claim — which is, remember, the actual point of the news article in the first place. Unbelievably, this hollow, baseless, easily debunked claim is “proof” the alleged “liberal bias” of the MSM according to the stupendously “Trusty” one.

It really does beg the question as to whether Trusty can actually read. It seems he got half way down the article and simply tuned out, ignoring the fact that over half of it plainly contradicts his specious assertion. As for the remainder of Trusty’s asinine screed it’s nothing but the usual self-serving tripe ventilating about the nefarious “leftie” media.

Why Canadians tolerate the fact that media outlets have such a one sided stance is beyond me. Journalists, specifically within the CBC, get away with things that would see them fired in other countries. They never retract, they never apologize.

Oh really? One wonders what countries would those be, exactly? Well, don’t ever expect to get an answer because this is nothing but 100% unadulterated bullshit. Unfortunately, like many so-called “conservative” bloggers, when not being highly selective in concocting what they perceive to be some skewed “liberal bias” on the part of the MSM, Trusty just loves to make things up. Take for example his hagiographical overture that frames his post where he falsely claims that after Brian Mulroney was elected in 1984 “the media in this country took it upon themselves to become leaders of Her Majesty’s unOfficial Opposition.” Wrong again.

In fact, the media enjoyed the usual honeymoon period with Mulroney for quite some time as the new government was generally regarded with favour after Trudeau’s third term when relations between the parliamentary press gallery and the PMO had grown increasingly disagreeable. As well, Mulroney had many influential friends and supporters in the press such as his boyhood pal, biographer and former journalist L. Ian MacDonald and Toronto Star reporter Bill Fox, one of his most loyal worshippers. It wasn’t until the scandals started to pile up one after the other and Mulroney’s pre-existing hostility towards the media became apparent that relations between the press and the now frequently embattled PM became antagonistic.

As detailed by Peter C. Newman in his book The Secret Mulroney Tapes ( based on his taped interviews with the former PM), he clearly loathed the parliamentary press gallery describing them as “a bunch of idiots” and “corrupt, venal people” amongst other things. But his loathing of the press wasn’t merely a reaction to what he may have perceived as unfair treatment, it was a long held view.

“I had made up my mind that the Ottawa press gallery really didn’t have the foggiest idea of what was going on in the country,” Mulroney explained to Newman about his strategy before running to replace Joe Clark as Conservative leader in 1983. “But even more important, it would probably be an advantage to have them against me, because they are held in such disrepute,” the PM said.

Perhaps young Trusty can be forgiven for not remembering these pesky facts seeing as he would have been not long out of diapers at the time.

Sadly, this obdurately stupid fellow isn’t atypical of “The Blogging Tories” by any means. It seems that to many of them, anything short of a fawning puff piece in Chatelaine is regarded as an “attack” by the “liberal media” — especially whenever news about some controversy or other that doesn’t fit their particular worldview is reported. No need to think, just blame all bad news or anything that casts the Harper government in a negative light on the “liberal” MSM. If some inconsequential story about the Dear Leader goes underreported, blame it on the “bias” of the MSM for failing to honour his eminence.

Let me conclude by quoting David Brock from his book The Republican Noise Machine:

Commenting on the media while interviewing Ann Coulter about her book Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, right-wing radio host Sean Hannity crowed, “We’ve basically taken over!” Coulter, who’s made millions off the charge of “liberal media bias” while maintaining a career as perhaps the most biased right-wing voice in the media, laughed in agreement. A young writer for Rupert Murdoch’s neoconservative Weekly Standard named Matt Labash — whom I hired into right-wing journalism at The American Spectator — was probably laughing, too, when he was interviewed by Columbia Journalism Review partner Web site JournalismJobs.com. The interviewer asked, “Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and FOX News Channel become more popular in recent years?” In his answer, Labash conceded that conservatives reject in their own media the standards of fairness, accuracy, and unbiased coverage that they demand from the “liberal media.” He unmasked the hypocrisy at the heart of these endeavors:

“Because they feed the rage. We bring pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly but it’s true somewhat … While these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media like to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We’ve created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective … It’s a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It’s a great little racket.”

Indeed. As Linda Elerbee used to say at the end of her broadcasts (cribbing from Kurt Vonnegut), “And so it goes.”

Empire of the Ants

While sitting on a bench reading a book as I waited for the bus the other day, my attention kept being drawn to the ants on the ground that were hectically going about their business of foraging for food and whatnot. Insects have always deeply fascinated me, especially the highly organized species that parallel human societies such as bees, wasps, termites, and most especially ants. As a kid, “ant watching” provided untold hours of entertainment, and sometimes even, I have to confess, the sort of cruel amusements now more usually worked out in computer simulations and various so-called “god games” like Populous.

As I was fixed on the ants’ busy traffic across the cement pad of the bus shelter, it struck me just how amazing fast they travel relative to their tiny size and I wondered what this might translate to in human terms. It’s commonly known of course that ants perform amazing feats of strength, carrying up to twenty times their own weight if necessary; something that to us that would be like lifting a small car and then carrying it over considerable distances without even breaking a sweat. Their rate of locomotion however is less well known.

In fact, this question turns out to be surprisingly difficult to answer because of all the different factors involved such as: the size of the ant; the type of surface it’s moving across; whether there is an incline or decline involved; whether the ant is laden or unladed; the atmospheric temperature; the type of activity the ant is engaged in; and so on. One figure mentioned with quite categorical certainty by some “expert” was 2 mph (3.2 kmh). That’s quite possibly wrong for all of the reasons stated above, but it seems plausible enough. Given the average walking speed for people is approx. 3.2 mph (5.2 kmh), if we were to perform a direct comparison by simply extrapolating the ant’s rate of locomotion into human terms according to size alone, it would be like moving twice as fast as a Lamborghini!

Now, while this kind of idle speculation may be good for distracting the mind of bored commuters, it’s actually complete bunk because things just don’t work this way in nature. Ants are no more super fast than they are super strong. The reason ants can perform what might seem like remarkable feats of strength and speed in human terms has everything to with their small size — it’s all a matter of simple geometry and the characteristics of muscles. As any object grows in size its volume and weight increase much faster than its height, whereas the strength of muscles can only increase by the square of an animal’s height (a good explanation of this phenomenon can be found here).

Anyway, long story short… While attempting to determine the average speed of ants, I stumbled across the following video excerpt from the documentary Ants — Nature’s Secret Power about ant colonies that really is complete astonishing. In it, a group of scientists fill a grass cutter ant hill with 10 tons of concrete (that fact alone is extraordinary). After it dries they spend weeks excavating the site to reveal the underground ant “megalopolis” — a sprawling network of subterranean highways connecting the various chambers that comprise the complex architecture of the ants’ “city state” as its described in the film. Absolutely fascinating.

It’s estimated that an ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. By comparison, a human brain has 10,000 million, so it may be said that a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size “brain” as a human. Some colonies however can grow to the size of several hundred thousand ants, thereby giving it a rather extraordinary collective “brain” compared to that of a single human. Perhaps Mark Twain was right after all when he said that in certain “high mental qualities” the humble ant “is above the reach of any man, savage or civilized.”