Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Farewell, Sir Arthur

Arthur C. Clarke died today (actually "tomorrow" in Sri Lanka where he has lived for 52 years). Strangely I was wondering only this past week if he was still about but the departure of the man who predicted geosynchronous satellites twenty years before the 1965 launch of Early Bird (Intelsat I) and who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey was unlikely to be a small ripple. A quick glance at my bookshelf tells me I own about twenty books of Clarke's but I think more remain on the "to follow" shelf in my family's house in Ireland.

Although most renowned for The Sentinel/2001, Childhood's End and Against The Fall Of Night, I would urge someone who has never read Clarke to seek out first his short stories in collections like The Other Side of the Sky, The Wind From The Sun and Tales From Ten Worlds. He had a few weaker works, particularly his later collaborations such as Cradle which I felt were a vehicle more for his co-authors than representative of the solo writing of earlier times, and the 2001 series dwindled with the last two volumes in particular.

For how many years will people shudder at the thought of man's interference with one of Jupiter's moons - "all these worlds are yours - except Europa. Attempt no landings there" and how fascinated were so many of us with the Eye of Iapetus which Voyager 1 blurrily hinted at until Cassini laid it finally to rest with its superior images.

Here is Clarke's 90th birthday broadcast, where at the end he quotes Kipling:

"If I have given you delight with all that I have done, let me lie quiet in that night which shall be yours anon. And for the little, little span the dead are borne in mind, seek not to question other than the books I leave behind."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ontario Court of Appeal rules on police access to a press source, declines to take bait on bloggers

I was vaguely kicking around a notion to blog about this ruling in R. v. National Post since the pressing by the police on the boundary of press privilege has become more urgent and more widespread in recent years but fortunately for me (and potential readers of my half-assed take) Dan Michaluk had got there first.

Both of the following issues are not going away, however, and I suspect one day soon a Court is going to be forced to tackle them:
[98] The Crown submits that in so finding the reviewing judge made two errors. First, it contends that in today’s society we have no principled basis to distinguish between those journalists who are entitled to confidential source relationships and those who are not. Today, many persons, especially by using the internet, may be called “journalists” or “the press” because they disseminate information to the public, yet may not merit the journalist-confidential source privilege. Second, the Crown contends that we should not sedulously foster a relationship that the respondents are using to shield a possible wrongdoer from investigation and prosecution for a serious criminal offence. Promoting this relationship between McIntosh and X does not advance the public good; indeed the Crown says that doing so is antithetical to the core values underlying s. 2(b) of the Charter – using the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press not to get at the truth, but to subvert it.

[99] We reject the Crown’s first contention. The case-by-case approach to privilege does not require us to establish the boundaries of legitimate journalism. The National Post is a recognized national news organization and McIntosh is a respected journalist. It can hardly be disputed that they fall within the class of persons who may be entitled to the benefit of journalist-confidential source privilege.

[100] The Crown’s second contention raises a difficult question, but one that we do not need to resolve to decide this appeal. Essentially, the question under the third Wigmore criterion is whether the relationship should be characterized broadly as a journalist-confidential source relationship, or more narrowly as a journalist-criminal wrongdoer relationship. The reviewing judge used the broad approach; the Crown advocates the more narrow one.

At least they didn't say the Post is a respected organisation just as McIntosh was a respected journalist. Ascribing "respected" to the Post might have gotten some people very cross. More seriously however, the Court offered no guidance as to what constitutes "recognised" and "respected" apart from perhaps "we know it when we see it".

Liberals could attack Harper over Kosovo - if they could figure out their own policy first

The way things are going, Stephane Dion will be supporting a constitutional amendment to extend the current Parliament indefinitely. Swamped under the current Cadman fiasco was any reaction to a February 19 blog post by Paul Wells noting Harper's delay in recognising Kosovo as independent (or declining to do so) and theorising that this was while a delay can be seen as dissuading unilateral secession, openly explaining the delay would endanger Adequiste votes for Tory federal candidates.

Well, the only thing worse than a party not declaring a side is to pick both. Jim Karygiannis (from the so-con wing of the Liberal Party) sided with his Serbian constituents and declared opposition to recognising Kosovo. The problem is that his Leader wants to recognise Kosovo - and Karygiannis can hardly say he missed Dion's take since Wells knew about it 12 days ago and the Montreal Gazette the day before that.

That said someone should explain to M. Dion what "unanimous" means, if the Gazette reported in any kind of context. I suppose that compared to the percentage required to rule like a majority in Canada (36.3 percent as of 2006), the proportion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo might seem quite overwhelming.