Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Political Minders are back

By BJ Bjornson

There�s a conference under way in Montreal to celebrate the recent International Polar Year, under whose auspices there was a major amount of scientific work completed in the Arctic. Given Canada is the host of said conference, I can�t help but be more than a little embarrassed by the antics of our Republican North party�s efforts to avoid having Canadian scientists say anything that might put the Canadian government in a bad light. Which, given we are talking about the Republican North party, would be just about anything the scientists say, so better to make sure they can�t say much of anything.

Government media minders are being dispatched to an international polar conference in Montreal to monitor and record what Environment Canada scientists say to reporters.

. . .

�If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for (an) interview,� the Environment Canada scientists were told by email late last week.

�Send a message to your media relations contact and they will organize the interview. They will most probably be with you during the interview to assist and record,� says the email obtained by Postmedia News.

It was also noted that recordings of the scientists� interactions with the media will be forwarded to the media relations office in Ottawa.

There is more than a little bit of threat implicit in these instructions. As is the case most everywhere these days, austerity and spending cuts to offset the tax breaks our Conservatives lavished to their supporters were part of the budget the Conservatives are pushing through. Though they�ve been often tight-lipped about just where all of these cuts are coming, they do seem to be concentrated in areas such as environmental monitoring, food safety, support for minorities and the disadvantaged, and pretty much any other of the regular Con hobbyhorses that may interfere with their vision of a Conservative utopia by presenting unwelcome facts to the mix. Not all of the pink slips have gone out to the civil service quite yet, so the Environment Canada scientists performance at this international conference just may mean their jobs.

Although it is important to note that this latest outrage is part and parcel of the pattern the Cons under Harper have been implementing since they first came to power.

Last week, the Ottawa Citizen reported how a reporter�s simple question about a Canada-U.S. study on snow generated a blizzard of paper at the National Research Council. 

While a NASA scientist was free to pick up the phone and answer questions in a simple 15-minute interview, the NRC declined to let anyone speak with the reporter about the snow study. Instead 11 people in the Canadian agency eventually produced a list of equipment used in the study � information of little use in the story.

Environment Canada�s media office also often takes hours if not days to answer reporters� questions, and to decide whether interviews will be granted.

I�ll leave the last word to Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria.

�It�s going from bad to worse,� says Weaver, a vocal critic of the way the federal government has been silencing and muzzling scientists in recent years. He describes the email instructions to the polar scientists as �unbelievable.� 

He also says the instructions are also �absurd� since anyone � including a journalist � is allowed to ask questions after presentations at scientific conferences. It is also common for the media to conduct impromptu interviews with speakers immediately following sessions to clarify details before filing stories on tight deadlines.

Having media minders take charge of arranging interviews and sending recordings to Ottawa is reminiscent of the way the Soviets used to send KGB agents to conferences with scientists during the Cold War, says Weaver. �It�s an affront to democracy.�

But then democracy is such a bother when an ideological agenda is at stake.

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