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Hitch and Maher do Raztinger

America’s most lovable atheist interviews Anglo-America’s most irritating on Pope Benedict’s cover-up crisis, and though it pains Andrew Sullivan to say it, “he’s right, isn’t he?” Moneyquote:

Suppose you and I are having a martini… and I ask you [if you’ve ever been in trouble with the law], and you say, “Well, there was that thing with the joint, and that thing with the traffic light, and there was that time I was really short of money and the bank of Santa Monica…” and I think “OK, all right, we’re all human.”

But if you say, “And I had some friends once who had two little boys, and they trusted me as a babysitter, and, boy, I had a lot of fun with those kids!” And if you say, “Want to have lunch with me next Friday?” No, I don’t. It’s the one crime that no one can think of without vomiting—that’s the one the great moral church wants wiggle room for.

…The Pope, when he did his letter to the Irish on the weekend, you probably saw, everyone reported saying, “Strange he didn’t call for anyone to resign or anyone to be arrested. He only expressed regret.” Well, if he called for anyone to be arrested, or anyone to resign, he’d be starting his own impeachment process, because the reasons they’d have to quit are the reasons he has to quit.

Local lapses in CBC Radio’s iPhone app explained

sScreenshot - iconsThis month, Apple approved a free CBC Radio app that offers yet another reason to own an iPhone. It will prove a boon to radio listeners not tied to their radios all day.

The CBC Radio app will give iPhone or iPod users live audio streams from of Radio 1, 2, and 3 (the corp’s net-based, indy-oriented network). It will let users listen in any time zone, so when Atlantic Canadians miss a national program, they have four chances to catch up.

sScreenshot - network menuWant to listen to a local show in real time? Pick it off the station menu (below left), our use the “find-your-location” feature.

It also offers archived episodes of many CBC Radio shows. Miss an episode of Spark (currently contrarian‘s favorite CBC program)? It’s there on your phone, on demand, whenever you want it.

You can do most of these things on the CBC website, too, but the iPhone app interface is so much cleaner and easier to navigate than the website, many listeners will reach for the phone.

sScreenshot - station menuAs initially released, the program has a few startling lapses. There are no Maritime locations listed on the Radio One station menu, and the find-your-location function directs Nova Scotiams to Ottawa or Goose Bay, of all places.

It turns out that CBC is in the process of converting all its streaming audio feeds from Windows Media to MP3 format. (That’s a good thing; the CBC’s streaming audio files have tended to be balky.)

Jonathan Carrigan, the CBC’s  Product Development Manager for Digital Programming & Business Development, says the missing stations will be added as soon as their streams are converted to MP3. This will require one ore more upgrades to the app, and these will be coming “very soon,” he says. Once the audio stream conversions are complete, Carrigan promises more upgrades, and more features.

What the headlines missed about Donald Marshall, Jr.

When then-prosecutor Bob Lutes realized he would be speaking at the same small conference as Donald Marshall, Jr., he braced himself for the rage he thought Marshall must feel toward any prosecutor.  Instead, he found a “calm, quiet, respectful” man, who “had a presence about him.”

Lutes’s must-read letter in today’s Halifax Chronicle-Herald recalls the encounter:

He was everything that you would want your children to be when meeting someone for the first time. I watched him, listened to him, and spoke with him. He amazed me…

Working in criminal law for most of my legal career, I saw too many headlines that said nothing about the good person that he was. I wanted to say, from one person’s perspective, that weekend he served not only the aboriginal community well, but was a role model to all humanity.

Visual data: the digital revolution in graphs – feedback

One of the great things about running a blog is that when you write about something interesting that you know little about, readers rush in with a wealth of further information. Contrarian friend Andrew Weissman directed us to an extraordinary TED talk by Hans Rosling illustrating the phenomenal potential of the digital graphs we touched on this morning.

Rosling is a professor of international medicine at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet (the organization that hands out the Nobel Prize for Medicine). He discovered Konzo, a previously unknown paralytic disease associated with hunger in Africa. He also co-founded the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software that turns international health statistics into moving, interactive, and revelation-generating graphics for public use. Here’s a stunning example, from Rosling’s TED talk, “Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen.”

Notice how much data is compressed into the moving chart shown about three and a half minutes in. Each dot represents a country. The x-axis (horizontal) tracks the number of women per child in each county, a measure of family size. The y-axis (vertical) shows the percentage of a country’s children that survive to age five, a measure of health. The size of each dot represents its population, the color shows its region of the world.

When Rosling animates the chart, it brings 40+ years of history to life, starting in 1962. The dots become a beehive, moving purposefully through the decades. As they do, obscure trends in world health—many of them counter-intuitive—suddenly become obvious. Whereas the planet could aptly be divided into “developed world” and “third world” in 1962, Rosling shows that today’s world defies easy pigeon holes. Rosling’s software tools make sense of an otherwise impenetrable data set.

Well, don’t read about it. Watch the video.

Two years ago, Google purchased Trendalyzer. You can now add simple animated graphs to your website using a free Google Gadget called Motion Chart. Gapminder maintains a series of more sophisticated online tools to help people map world data they are prepared to share freely.

Rodney to the Senate? But what about Brooke?


Conservatives were furious when Premier Donald Cameron quit his Pictou East seat in a huff on election night in June, 1993. So on election night in June 2009, Premier Rodney MacDonald was careful to say he had no plans to resign his Inverness seat.

That was then; this is now. Rodney announced this afternoon that he is quitting the seat after all, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is fixing to name some Senators.

Throughout the spring, the assumption was that Nova Scotia’s next Senate seat would go to Brooke Taylor, Harper’s earliest and most ardent leadership acolyte among Nova Scotia Tories—and the only provincial cabinet minister to campaign against Cumberland-Colchester’s ousted Tory MP, Bill Casey, in his successful re-election bid as an Independent last fall.

Read more »

James Fallows assesses Rose Garden beer

Propeller logo

The Altantic’s James Fallows assesses the the Gates-Obama-Crowley Rose Garden pissup from a beer connoisseur’s viewpoint and finds it “mainly missed opportunities.”

But then, it’s hard to get Propeller in Washington, D.C.

Obama and America’s slide into a police state

Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, a British immigrant to the United States whom I would describe as a principled conservative, chronicles Obama’s failure to check the America’s slide into a police state.

I backed Obama because I believed he wanted to roll some of this back. It increasingly appears that I was wrong. The 9/11 police state is with us. Obama is slowly legitimizing it, despite being elected to unwind it. This country is no longer as free as many others in the world – and unrecognizable compared with the free country I found in 1984. And it’s getting less free every day. I expected this if Giuliani or McCain got elected. But Obama? Watching him continue their policies in so many ways is somehow even more painful.

More Sullivan posts on this issue here, here, here, and here.

The curious cultural journey of “Hallelujah”

Cohen-mediumLeonard Cohen wants fellow musicians to stop doing covers of Hallelujah.

“I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said ‘Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?’ he told CBC Radio’s Jian Ghomeshi in a live interview on Q last Thursday. “And I kind of feel the same way. I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.”

The following day, the Guardian newspaper in the UK published a partial transcript of the interview, and suddenly, Cohen’s comment about Hallelujah became a news story.

This is as good a time as any to link to one of contrarian‘s all-time favorite blog post, The Curious Cultural Journaey of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, on Michael Barthel’s

Using copious clips, Barthel traces Hallelujah‘s evolution from an upbeat, ironic, throwaway tune on Cohen’s all but forgotten 1984 album Various Positions, through a John Cale’s 1991 remake, the posthumous, dirge-like version by Jeff Buckley that most people are familiar with, and its perennial use on TV and movie soundtracks as an auditory cue that something sad is happening. Two years ago, Barthel tallied an incredible 24 soundtrack uses of this kind, and the number can only have grown since then.

Along the way, he argues persuasively, performers and listeners have missed the complexity and irony of this changeable song.

Harper: Mistakes happen, but nastiness betrays character

The fact that Stephen Harper mistakenly thought Michael Ignatieff was the author of a warning that Canada could lose G8 status misses the point. Substandard staff work? Sure. But at root, it was simply a mistake, for which Harper quickly, if tersely, apologized.

It’s the ease, nay alacrity, with which Harper slips into a nasty tone that reveals so much about Harper’s character. “Ignatieff is supposed to be a Canadian,” he snarled, implying that the Liberal leader’s patriotic bona fides are somehow less than his own. The same ugly tone plays out in Harper’s TV attack ads, a polite grilling about which elicited no contrition last month.

As the Star’s Susan Delacourt points out, the venue was as offensive as the tone. Prime Ministers shouldn’t be using international summit gatherings as platforms from which to take cheapo shots at domestic opponents.

Swine ‘flu at the Tattoo

Overheard on Twitter:

@statsgirl Swine ‘flu at the Tattoo? Sounds like a Dennis Lee book title to me.

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