Do you have a First Amendment or not?

Journalists in Canada are envious of their American cousins because of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Canada has no such protection for journalists enshrined in its Constitution. The U.S. amendment reads:

[The U.S.] Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And yet, though that Amendment has held fast since it was adopted in 1791, the notion of a free press is under heavy attack today.
For example, Judith Miller of the New York Times has been attacked by her peers and by the public for her pre-war reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But those attacks are nothing compared to the assault on Miller by the U.S. government.
“I could be going to jail for a story I didn't write, for reasons I don't know, for something that may not actually even be a crime,” she told fellow investigative journalist Lowell Bergman in a March 17 event at the University of California at Berkeley Journalism School.
Once upon a time, the American press was more aggressive in defending or extending the rights of the press. Or at least that's the message I got reading Anthony Lewis' review of Inside the Pentagon Papers. In that review, Lewis quotes Professors Harold Edgar and Benno Schmidt Jr. of the Columbia Law School:

The New York Times, by publishing the [Pentagon] papers…demonstrated that much of the press was no longer willing to be merely an occasionally critical associate devoted to common aims, but intended to become an adversary threatening to discredit not only political dogma but also the motives of the nation's leaders.

Later in that review, Lewis gloomily concludes:

The crucial lesson of the Pentagon Papers and then Watergate was that presidents are not above the law. So we thought. But today government lawyers argue that the president is above the law—that he can order the torture of prisoners even though treaties and a federal law forbid it.
John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who wrote some of the broad claims of presidential power in memoranda,… [said] recently that Congress does not have power to “tie the president's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” The constitutional remedy for presidential abuse of his authority, he said, is impeachment.
Yoo also [said] that the 2004 election was a “referendum” on the torture issue: the people had spoken, and the debate was over. And so, in the view of this prominent conservative legal thinker, a professor at the University of California law school in Berkeley, an election in which the torture issue was not discussed has legitimized President Bush's right to order its use.

Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative

Internet activist, privacy protector, computer geek , and hog fan Lauren Weinstein (left) is up to no good again. This time he's trying to pull opposing factions in the digital content copyright debate together to find solutions to some tricky problems. He's calling it the Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative:

Announcing EEPI – Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative Announcing EEPI – Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative

Lauren Weinstein
March 25, 2005
I'm pleased to announce “EEPI” ( ), a new initiative
aimed at fostering cooperation in the areas of electronic entertainment and
its many related issues, problems, and impacts.
I've teamed with 30+ year recording industry veteran Thane Tierney in this
effort to find cooperative solutions to technical, legal, policy, and other
issues relating to the vast and growing range of electronic technologies
that are crucial to the entertainment industry, but that also impact other
industries, interest groups, individuals, and society in major ways.
There are many interested parties, including record labels, film studios,
the RIAA, the MPAA, artists, consumers, intellectual freedom advocates,
broadcasters, manufacturers, legislators, regulators, and a multitude of
The issues cover an enormous gamut from DVDs, CDs, and piracy issues to
multimedia cell phones, from digital video recorders to Internet file
sharing/P2P, from digital TV and the “broadcast flag” to the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and “fair use” controversies.
Working together, rather than fighting each other, perhaps we can all find
some broadly acceptable paths that will be of benefit to everyone.
For more information, please see the EEPI Web site at:
A moderated public discussion list and an EEPI announcement list are now
available at the site.
Public participation is cordially invited. Thank you very much.

Canadian copyright reform initiatives released to cautious acclaim

Ottawa plans to overhaul Canadian copyright law this spring. Unlike the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which many critics believed tipped the balance too far towards rights holders, the Canadian initiative seems to strike a balance and, of some note, was written with an eye towards a peer-to-peer universe:

The rapid evolution of digital network technology, notably the Internet, has compelled a re-examination of the operation of the Act. Significant improvements in speed and bandwidth in particular have permitted the Internet to become an efficient and relatively low-cost platform for creating and disseminating all types of copyright material, regardless of their size or format (e.g., software, music, film). One consequence of this development has been the advent of peer-to-peer file-sharing mechanisms which has made it possible to share copyright material at little or no cost, often without the authorization of rights holders. At the same time, the ability to use high-quality Internet services in the educational and research context is important for Canada's future economic success and in promoting Canada's cultural presence in the world.

Both the music industry in Canada and its sometimes critics seem pleased with the proposals.
“”This is terrific news,” Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) said in a press release. “Canada is one step closer to having a copyright law that will reflect the realities of the digital marketplace and allow the music industry a chance to prosper. We want to thank the government and the opposition parties for their support in getting to this stage.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) put out this statement:
“CIPPIC is very pleased to see the government of Canada rejecting the one-sided approach to copyright we saw in the May, 2004, Interim Report on Copyright Reform of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage,” says David Fewer, legal counsel for CIPPIC. “Although it will be critical to see the detail of how the proposals are implemented, these proposals appear to represent a commitment to balance in copyright law, not just lip service.” 
Smart guys (and West Coasters) Tim Bray and Tod Maffin seem a bit nervous.
The wise Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa's law school has some thoughts at his site about this initiative. Here's one thing Michael has to say:

This is a major development as it implements a much fairer system than that found in the U.S. (or even the more draconian notice and termination system that CRIA raised last spring). The FAQ argues that this system is better suited to a P2P world, since notice and takedown simply doesn’t work for P2P.

Blogs are the norm for just 3 per cent of us

Reading blogs (and probably posting to your own or a pal's) is probably second nature to you. That's why you're reading these words, of course.
But some new surveys suggest that blogging and blogs have yet to have the mainstream impact their enthusiasts believe they will:

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released March 11 found 56% of 1,008 adults surveyed have no knowledge of blogs. Even among Internet users, only 32% said they are very or somewhat familiar with blogs. Only 3% read a blog every day..

A few days later, the annual “The State of the News Media” survey was released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism based out of Columbia University's journalism school. That report had this caution about the value of news content on blogs:

The blogosphere, while adding the richness of citizen voices, expands this culture of assertion exponentially, and brings to it an affirmative philosophy: publish anything, especially points of view, and the reporting and verification will occur afterward in the response of fellow bloggers. The result is sometimes true and sometimes false. Blogs helped unmask errors at CBS, but also spread the unfounded conspiracy theory that the GOP stole the presidential election in Ohio. All this makes it easier for those who would manipulate public opinion – government, interest groups and corporations – to deliver unchecked messages, through independent outlets or their own faux-news Web sites, video and text news releases and paid commentators. Next, computerized editing has the potential to take this further, blending all these elements into a mix.

Pico Iyer

Not the least of the ironies that lie behind this deeply serious and thoughtful book is that perhaps the greatest philosopher the Indian subcontinent has ever produced is increasingly fashionable in India because he is regarded as an icon of the West.

– Pico Iyer, “The Buddha’s cure:  A Review of An End To Suffering: The Buddha in the World by Pankaj Mishra” in The New York Review of Books, March 10, 2005, p. 4

Pico Iyer

The West, for those far away, means a haven of modern thinking, reason, and clear-headedness, qualities not always apparent at home, and a refuge from ritualism and superstition; those who long for it are Occidentalists in a hopeful sense. And though such admirers are to be found in every traditional or impoverished culture, they are especially conspicuous in countries such as India, where centures of British rule have left many people thinking of London or Oxford as the natural culmination of their ambitions, social or intellectual.

– Pico Iyer, “The Buddha’s cure:  A Review of An End To Suffering: The Buddha in the World by Pankaj Mishra” in The New York Review of Books, March 10, 2005, p. 4

Bill Moyers

There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispasstionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from teh fringe to influence the seats of power. We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis. Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion real-world solutions to otherwise intractable solutions …

What does this mean for public policy and the environment? Listen to John Hagee, posator of the 17,000–member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who is quoted in Rossings’s book as syaing, “Mark it down, take it to heart, and comfort one another with these words. Doomsday is coming  for the earth, for the antions, and for individuals, but those who have trusted in Jesus will not be present on earth to witness the dire time of tribulation.” Rossing sums up the message in five words that she says are basic Rapture credo: “The world cannot be saved.” It leads to “appalling ethics”, she reasons, because the faithful are relieved of concern for the environment, violence, and everything else except their personal salvation. The earth suffers the same fate as the unsaved. All are destroyed.

– Bill Moyers, “Welcome to Doomsday”, The New York Review of Books, March 24, 2005

National Newspaper Awards

The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star lead the way in nominations for National Newspaper Awards. I'm surprised and happy to be among the 10 Globe and Mail journalists whose work has been highlighted.
Pieces I did on the CIBC faxing customer info to West Virginia are nominated in the business category. Friend and former colleague David Olive, now at the Star, is also a finalist in the category as is Grant Robertson of the Calgary Herald.
The awards will be presented in Ottawa on June 4.

Conservative Policy Convention: Transportation; Immigration

The Conservative Party of Canada recently held its first ever policy convention in Montreal. At that convention, delegates adopted a series of resolutions on a raft of topics. These are the the resolutions adopted under the broad headings of Transportation and of Immigration. (The headings were chosen by the party and the resolutions were placed in various groups by the party.) Reproduced below is each resolution in the broad grouping as it was voted on by delegates. All of the following were adopted or carried by at the convention. The acronym EDA in the following stands for Electoral District Association.  The resolutions here are presented in the order in which they were voted on  by delegates. When the following documents talk about inserting new clauses or replacing new clauses, they are referring to modifying what's known as the “Base Document” — starting point for policy discussions put together by senior party officials in September, 2004.


Transportation and Immigration

P-37: Transportation | P-38: Transportation [Border Crossings] | P-68: International Credentials | P-69: Applications Process | P-65: Refugee Determination

P-37: Transportation

It is moved that the current Clause 31 be replaced with the following:

“i)  A Conservative government would consider expanding 'Open Skies' to promote competition and consumer choice.

ii)  A Conservative government believes a modern, efficient transportation system is integral to the well-being of Canada's economy, and essential for Canada to be competitive in continental and global markets.

iii)  A Conservative government will support public/private infrastructure investment as part of a comprehensive approach to improving and sustaining a world-class transportation system.

iv)  A Conservative government will work in partnership with the provinces to achieve an integrated transportation system.

v) A Conservative government will work in partnership with the provinces to achieve a truly 'National Highway System'.  A first-class Trans-Canada highway should be the centrepiece.

vi)  A Conservative government will reduce or eliminate federal government fees, levies, taxes and rents, hidden and otherwise, associated with Canada's national transportation system.

vii)  A Conservative government will re-evaluate the corporate governance and ensure accountability at Canada's airport authorities.

viii)  A Conservative government will ensure access to future transportation infrastructure for people with disabilities is a fundamental priority for all future public or private transportation installations.

ix)  To reduce automobile-rail accidents at level crossings, a Conservative government will encourage railroad owners to take more responsibility for ensuring consistency in level crossing markings and equipping rail cars with side reflectors.

x) A Conservative government will assume responsibility for legitimate Customs and Immigration costs for all marine ports and airports.

xi)  A Conservative Government will ensure airlines are represented on the Board of NAV Canada.  

xii)  The Conservative Party of Canada supports the retention of lightstations their personnel and their aids to navigation.  Lightstations are an important contribution to Canadian sovereignty, provide for public safety especially for recreational boaters and kayakers, are an essential presence to monitoring sea-planes and marine traffic, and assist in the interdiction of smuggling.  The Conservative Party of Canada also recognizes the historical value of the lightstations and promotes the concept that they are well situated infrastructure and personnel which can be utilized for scientific data collection and for other uses.”

Moved by National Caucus.

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P-38: Transportation [Border Crossings]

It is moved that the current Clause 31 be amended by adding a new subclause as follows:

“ii) A Conservative government will work on a solution to improve border crossings and alleviate congestion at the borders setting goals within specified timelines while recognizing the need for improving security and improved relations with the U.S. and establish a study of the feasibility of a North American perimeter.”

Moved by Windsor RJPM.

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P-68: Immigration- International Credentials

It is moved that a new clause be added in Section Q) as follows:

“Recognition of International Credentials

The Conservative Party of Canada believes in providing new immigrants with the best possible opportunity to use their education and experience here in Canada.  We see this as a matter of fairness to newcomers and their families and a means of ensuring that Canada receives the full benefit of immigration.
A Conservative government will:

i) work with the provinces to develop, in consultation with Canadian professional and trade associations, a process to evaluate standards in countries of origin in order to establish a workable system for assessing and recognizing credentials and experience;

ii) work with the provinces to develop, in consultation with Canadian professional and trade associations, criteria for obtaining equivalent Canadian professional status and transition programs for integration of immigrants into the Canadian workplace;

iii) require the credentials process to be disclosed to applicants by immigration staff overseas and on the CIC website;

iv) encourage international students graduating from accredited Canadian colleges and universities to remain and work in Canada; and

v) develop a better system to identify Canada's labour market needs and make the points system more flexible to ensure these needs can be met.”

Moved by National Caucus

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P-69: Applications Process

It is moved that a new clause be added in Section Q) as follows:

Applications Process:

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that there must be fundamental change to the applications process to minimize stress and uncertainty for applicants and their families. 

A Conservative government will:

i) ensure that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is properly staffed, trained and resourced to improve the processing of people wanting to come to Canada;

ii) reorganize the applications process so that applicants are given accurate information about what to expect, are readily able to obtain information on the status of their files, and are given service in a considerate and professional manner;

iii) reverse the Liberal policy of separating married couples while the application of the non-status partner is being processed;

iv) extend automatic Canadian citizenship to children adopted from abroad by Canadian parents once the adoption is final;

v) provide options such as the posting of a bond to allow higher acceptance rates for family visits while protecting the integrity of the system from queue jumping; and

vi) reduce the need for Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) issued by the Minister by making the applications process more fair and  efficient, and make the use of TRVs by the Minister both transparent and accountable through a process of independent review.”

Moved by Nati
onal Caucus.

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P-65: Refugee Determination

It is moved that the current Clause 81 be replaced with the following:

“The Conservative Party of Canada is proud of Canada's humanitarian tradition of providing safe haven to those who have had to flee their homeland, and we welcome refugees to Canada.  A Conservative government will promote the integrity and fairness of our refugee determination system, and will ensure that decisions are made expeditiously and with respect for due process.  We believe that the current appeals process is flawed and moves far too slowly.
A Conservative government will:

i) streamline the process of validating refugee claims;
ii) where the Immigration and Refugee Board finds claimants do not qualify as genuine refugees, ensure such individuals are escorted from Canada in a timely manner and provided with the information they need to start the proper process of applying for an immigration permit from abroad;
iii) give greater priority to refugees identified pursuant to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees;
iv) implement a fully merit-based process for Immigration and Refugee Board appointments; and
v) develop a refugee appeals process that is fair and timely.”

Moved by National Caucus.

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