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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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10/18/2002

Turkey, The EU and the Kurds Jeffery Simpson takes up the cause of the formerly sick, now forgotten, man in Europe. Turkey is the only Musilim Middle Eastern democracy and, as such, a stick in the eye for the Islamofascists and the various dictators and potentates of the region.

The EU is leery about admiting Turkey for some good reasons - much lower standard of living, low productivity and so on - and two bad reasons: religion and size. But at this point in the evolution of the Middle East any Muslim nation which has made the secular strides Turkey has should be given some hope it will get a seat at the table in the West.

The Kurds are a more perplexing issue. Yes, a big chunk of Turkey might succede were an independent Kurdistan to emerge in Northern Iraq. So what? What the Busshies seem to have on their agenda at the moment is the complete and radically reording of a region which, to date, has not worked very well. The Kurds and an independent Kurdistan cleaved mainly from the carcass of a defeated Iraq is not at all a bad idea. The Kurdish areas of Turkey may wish to join such a state. That would not be the end of Turkey; rather it would bring international borders into conformity with ethnic ones.

At some point the legacy of WWI, the mandates and the settling of colonial scores on the map of the Middle East will have to be rectified. We can wait another few decades but that will likely lead to even greater conflict. Let the Kurds have a bit of Turkey, a bit of Iraq and good luck to them.


Tax Breaks for Health I suspect we are going to be seeing a lot of this sort of proposal as the Health Care system is revised. Reuber and Poschmann’s proposal, like many other similar proposals, is a way of keeping public health care and financing it while also creating financial incentives not to overuse.

It has two problems. First, it suggests people pay for health care out of their own pockets and keep the receipts. Lovely if you happen to have a credit card or cash; but what about families who have neither and have very limited reserves. Poor families will simply not have the cash to take little Billy to the doctor for that earache. Most of the time this will make very little difference to Billy's health outcome; but in a fair number of cases poor Billy's outcome will differ significantly from rich Tommy's because his parents were too cash poor to get treatment.

Second, the authors propose a provincial tax credit against personal tax payable. If Billy's parents are poor they may not have any tax payable. So they are going to bear the cost of their care without any offsetting credit.

Messrs Reuber and Poschmann are far too sophisticated to have been unaware of these consequences. So one is left to conclude that they intended them.

A more workable approach would be to create a refundable tax credit at the outset and to exempt individuals and families eligible for the GST rebate from the system altogether.

Not much ado about Giller Noah looks for the usual suspects and a few unusual ones in his attempt to figure out why no one is wildly interested in the Giller Prize.

A suggestion he does not canvass is that the concept of literary awards is getting more than a little tired. Picking the "best" works of fiction in a given year is an odd occupation. The Giller, GG and Booker reflect the tastes of their judges and provide a snapshot of the current literary climate; but books take more than a few months to find their way in the world.

One of the many ways the Canadian publishing industry has crippled itself is adopting the attitude that if a book has no buzz within a few months of publication it is pretty much destined for the remainder table. By treating books as essentially disposable the industry has lost the sense its work is of some lasting importance. Prize days do nothing to recoup that sense if they become mere marketing exercises.

Noah's father wrote a funny anecdote - which I unfortunately do not have on my shelves - in which he expresses his astonishment that the GG involved being given a copy of your own book signed by the Governor General.

Canadians have developed a strong, varied and national literary culture. Prizes may or may not help; what does help is the commitment of writers, readers and reviewers to taking Canadian books seriously. Buzz is not the same as commitment.

The root cause? We're all infidels Mark Steyn is one of the real features of the National Post. He has a striking way of saying the obvious and drawing the necessary conclusions.

I have argued elsewhere that the islamofascist agenda is the imposition of 13th century values in a modern world. Not 13th century Muslim values - rather the values of a world in which theology was the only thing which mattered. 13th century Christians were no better. "Kill them all, God will recognize his own." Arnald-Amalric, 1208,when asked by the Crusaders what to do with the citizens of Beziers who were a mixture of Catholics and Cathars.

Halifax tries to legislate healthy living The idea of trying to legislate healthy living is one of those notions which is good in theory and mixed in practice. Once you begin to ban smoking, riding without a helmet, zero-tolerance on pesticides the result will be bans on perfume, aluminum containing deoderant and all you can eat breakfasts. No doubt good ideas in themselves but invasive when any level of government gets involved.

But what really intrigued me about the story was the mention of the emigration of 10,000 Buddhists from Boulder Colo. That is just plain strange. Who knew there were that many Buddhists in Boulder and how did they manage to get past Canada Immigration - not that there is anything wrong with Buddhists - rather it just seems like a lot of folks arriving in Canada.

10/17/2002

Salon.com News | "I'm not sure which planet they live on" General Zinni on War, If the American miltary leadership learned one thing from its war, Viet Nam, it is that wars are essentially political. They are fought for political ends and those ends have to be clear from the outset.

Zinni's concern with the Iraq question seems well thought out. Beating Saddam should be relatively easy in conventional terms; but the questions of what happens next and who is going to set the goals and priorities are political and very, very tough.

"Expectations grow rapidly. The initial euphoria can wear off. People have the idea that Jeffersonian democracy, entrepreneurial economics and all these great things are going to come. If they are not delivered immediately, do not seem to be on the rise, and worse yet, if the situation begins to deteriorate -- if there is tribal revenge, factional splitting, still violent elements in the country making statements that make it more difficult, institutions that are difficult to reestablish, infrastructure damage, I think that initial euphoria could wane away. It's not whether you're greeted in the streets as a hero; it's whether you're still greeted as a hero when you come back a year from now."

There is a compelling case for regime change in Iraq - and Iran, Saudi, Libya, North Korea.... - but the need for change begs the question of what sort of change and how it is to be accomplished.

Salon.com News | U.S. backs down on Iraq demands to U.N. Not a huge surprise but it will be interesting to see what "full cooperation" translates to on the ground. In essense the question will be just how seriously the Iraqis take the threat of US invasion with or without UN sanction.

Past performance does not suggest Saddam will open up his country in the way which "full cooperation" suggests; but I'd love to be surprised.

10/16/2002

TCS: Tech - South Park Republicans This link did not seem to publish with the Buchanan piece.

Boston Globe Online / Sunday | Focus / The red and the brown Pat Buchanan has always struck me as the bombastic, know-nothing, sort of conservative who gives the entire tory notion a bad name.

As soon as I read that "he believes that the '' war party'' is being manipulated by the Israeli government, which hopes that war with Iraq will provide an excuse to return to Lebanon ''and settle scores with Hezbollah.'' Buchanan goes on to claim that the Israelis are ''tugging at our sleeve, reminding us not to forget Libya.'' my hackles go up.

The oddest thing about the war on terrorism and the projected war in Iraq are the left/right conpiracy theorists who insist 4000 Jews had prior warning of the WTC and that the Israelis hold the United States government in the palm of their hand. A mildly bigoted look at the casualty list suggests that more than a few people with strikingly Jewish last names went down with the Arabs, Armenians, Chinese and plain old WASPs when the towers fell. And the Israelis can barely manage to keep their own hyper democratic government running much less the sprawling factions and competing interests of the American political world.

Buchanan's new magazine will certainly appeal to a fraction of the American polity. The lustre of the neo-cons has warn off. For people afraid of the future Buchananism offers the promise of a better yesterday tomorrow. For the rest of the overwhelming majority of Americans - and the rest of us - the future is fraught but exciting.

Long before anyone takes Buchanan seriously he will be left in history's ashcan by what the clever Stephen W. Stanton describes as posted by jay at 10:37 PM |

Amir AczelI spent a delightful hour on the phone this morning with Amir Aczel. speaking with him I can see why his science books are so readable and popular. His own curiosity is infectious.

His new book, Entanglement, is about what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance". It is a state in which two entities act in concert regardless of distance. And that action is not predetermined. When one entity changes the other changes instantanously. Einstein thought there could be no such thing and that any theory which implied there was had to be incomplete. Einstein turned out to be wrong.

He told me the story of giving the finished mss to Abner Shimony, physicist, mathematician and self confessed curmudgeon. Shimony had given Amir 60 pages of dense comments on a preliminary draft and told him to take the next two years working his way through the foundations of quantum mechanics. Amir waited with some apprehension for Shimony's reaction - he'd made the suggested changes in a little over three weeks.

The phone rang and Amir's wife took the call. "He sounds very serious. I think he's going to yell at you." she said handing over the phone. Shimony didn't yell and the book went to press.

Aczel told me his next book, already in draft, will be on Foucault's Pendulum which is another instance in which experiment and relativity seem to be at odds.

U.N. Chief Backs New Resolution to Toughen Inspections in Iraq (washingtonpost.com) "Annan said Iraq's announcement that inspectors can return without conditions "is a first step, but only a first step."

"Full compliance remains indispensable, and it has not yet happened," he said. "Iraq has to comply. ... The inspectors must have unfettered access. This council will expect nothing less. It may well choose to pass a new resolution strengthening the inspectors' hand, so that there are no weaknesses or ambiguities."

"I consider that such a step would be appropriate. The new measures must be firm, effective, credible and reasonable. If Iraq fails to make use of this last chance, and defiance continues, the council will have to face its responsibilities," Annan said."

This is pretty hardcore coming from the Secretary General. At a bet he knows that France is coming into the Bush camp and that neither Russia nor China will use their vetos. Kofi didn't get to where he is today without a keen ability to count votes.

Chicago Tribune | Blogs drifting into mainstream A surprising number of my email receipients came back with "What's a blog? This article from the Chicago Tribune covers the topic pretty well.

One of my projects is to go and see if I can find a few Canadian blogs. I know they are out there.

10/15/2002

Amir Aczel
Up tomorrow to do a phoner with Amir Aczel. OK, I'm a fan. Even though he makes my brain sweat he is one of the most interesting popular science writers in the business. His new book, Entanglement is as fascinating as it is challenging. For those of us who are substantially math challenged it is a struggle; but Aczel makes it as easy as poccible by repeating the basics of quantum mechanics several times. Each time I thought I had it; but ten minutes later I was baffled again.

Quantum mechanics is more than a little weird. I'll be posting the long version of my Vancouver Sun review posted by jay at 9:23 PM |

Amir Aczel Up tomorrow to do a phoner with Amir Aczel. OK, I'm a fan. Even though he makes my brain sweat he is one of the most interesting popular science writers in the business. His new book, Entanglement is as fascinating as it is challenging. For those of us who are substantially math challenged it is a struggle; but Aczel makes it as easy as poccible by repeating the basics of quantum mechanics several times. Each time I thought I had it; but ten minutes later I was baffled again.

Quantum mechanics is more than a little weird. I'll be positng the ong version of my Vancouver Sun review here posted by jay at 9:18 PM |

Behind US-France rift: their roles in world | csmonitor.com The French?! That the natural impulse of the weak is to try to restrain the strong is old news (cf. Robert Keagan's much cited piece Keagan ) but it really begs a more important question.

Why not get right in and support the Americans as the English have done? Islamofascist terrorism is actually a potentially greater threat in France with its large and unassimilated Muslim population than it is in many other countries in the world.

The French have a very clear interest in alligning themselves with Bush. There is far more room for private influence inside the Bush corral than there is circling that corral like a perplexed city slicker.

The French have the capacity to simply say "Terrorism is unacceptable." and mean it. Putting more, rather than less, pressure on Iraq by falling in with the single stage UN resolution would reduce the likelihood of a shooting war. The more Saddam is restricted the more likely he is to take the slim chance that full scale inspections offer him.

If, on the other hand, the French insist on trying to restrain the Americans with the Lilliputian rope tricks of a Security Council veto, they simply sideline themselves in the war on Terror. While the delights of Cartesian logic may suggest the perfect link has not yet been established between Saddam and bin Laden, this sort of logic chopping will get the French nowhere.

One way or another, with or without the blessings of the United Nations in conclave assembled, the Americans are going to disarm the Iraqis and be satisfied that this is a complete and long lasting disarmament. The French rue will just have to get past that singular fact.

Really sophisticated diplomats would figure out a way to make this fact work in their own interest. But let's not talk about the English.

Bacteriophage I just finished the draft of a review of The Killers Within which is as well written as it is terrifying. The rise of multi drug resistant bacteria means that even routine surgery or a short hospital stay can be fatal. Outbreaks of multidrug restistant infections in hospitals is still headline news; but it is likely to become matter of fact in a matter of a few years.

A bright hope for a more ecologically sophisticated approach to bacterial control lies in the adaptation of bacteriophages to human needs. Phages are weird little viruses which take over bacteria. Every bacteria seems to have a phage which seems to have evolved specifically to feast on that particular bacteria. The feast is odd in that the phage injects its DNA directly into the cell. Its DNA takes charge of the bacteria and forces it to make more phages instead of more bacteria. These daughter phages go and colonize more bacteria.

The action of phages was discovered by a French Canadian named Felix d’Herelle around 1915. He published his results in 1917 to the amazement and frank incredulity of the scientific world.

The intriguing thing about phages is that they are likely to mutate right along with the bacteria which they are in the business of taking over. they have, after all, been doing just that for 3.5 billion years.

The Evergreen College website above has lots more details....

The Register
Eldred v. Ashcroft
This analysis of the arguments before the US Supreme Court seems pretty fair if a bit depressing.

The Mickey Mouse copyright extension act may, in fact, be within the power of Congress. Obnoxious but intra vires. The question will come down to how deferential the Court will be in the face of such a blatent abuse of Congressional power. Keeping Mickey out of the public domain for a century less five years is not what the idea of copyright and intellectual property is all about. But the Supreme Court is there to interpret the law not correct the corrupt lunacies of Congress.

10/14/2002

mediabistro: content: featuresWise words for my freelancing friends Carolyn See seems to have it right. Having sat on the other side of the freelance desk the subtle judo of her approach makes sense.

Yet another tweak

Have a smoke At last I can smoke at my desk. (via andrewsullivan.com)

Hacktivists Against Censorship The idea of using peer to peer to get around Chinese, Iranian, Saudi and various other doubtful government's web censorship is worth following up. I am off to Google the Canucks and see if there is not a story in it.

www.AndrewSullivan.com - Will Blog for Cash
A webby lament
Good free market man that Andrew is, this article misses a couple of key points. First, with minimal (and my site shows it) HTML skills you can set up a website and a blog pretty much for free. Your sunk costs are a weekend or two's hard work.

Second, as Andrew's career suggests, having a blog gets a writer work in the old line media. Simply being able to point an editor to a URL beats the heck out of stuffing bad Xeroxes of old clips in an envelope.

Third, the race in media has hardly begun. As more and more people read their New York Times and a dozen other papers online the old-line pundits will retain less and less authority. Partially because they simply are too much creatures of print - 800 words is an eternity reading a screen. Partially because it has become so very easy to publish instant commentary on the commentators. And, I suspect, because the old media have not figured out how to make a buck on the internet either.

Establishing a brand, as Andrew has done, takes time and investment. All those hours add up; but the payoff arrives when the Washington Post calls and invites you to do a well paid weekly column - on line and in print.

ajc.com | Opinion | Legalization only ineffective weapon in drugwar My readers will find that I get very cranky about the Drug War in America. In this article, Asa Hutchinson, DEA director, manages to commit so many errors of logic it is frightening to think he heads one of the largest multi-national police forces in the world.

His point seems to be that there is some connection between pot, crack and heroin. "In this working-class neighborhood, residents weave in and out of crowded sidewalks, trying to avoid making eye contact with dealers who openly push heroin, marijuana and crack."

He goes on to suggest: "Maybe it's time Europeans looked to America's drug policy as their model. Our approach -- tough drug laws coupled with effective education programs and compassionate treatment -- is having success."

The overall effect of America's war on drugs has been to criminalize large numbers of relatively innocent people and to impose mandatory minimum sentences beginning at ten years for trivial drug offences.

In Canada I can tell my son the facts about pot, including the fact it remains illegal, but I do not have to worry about him being arrested and sentenced to barbaric prison terms for simple possession. Pot becomes a matter of responsibility rather than terror. Like drinking or smoking.

I find marijuana the world's dullest drug. Partially because even a whiff of a joint makes me drowsy, partially because stoners tend to make little or no sense in conversation. But to be "tough" on pot makes no sense at all.

Legalize it immediately. Proclaim an amnesty for all the people who are rotting in jail for trivial charges. Mr. Hutchinson's prescription will simply fill the jails for no good reason.

Google News I used to log on to Reuters for a quick news hit. No more!

Google has managed to create a meta news site which is untouched by human hands. That's right, no editors on the site; instead Google uses an algorithm to sort through the news on the web and post the important bits.

There are a few kinks in the system - today one of the leads was the shuttle blast off which took place days ago - but the service is generally spot on.

Plus Google lets you put a tool bar in IE and a link in Netscape so the news is always a click away. These guys are very smart.

Hi Chances are you got my email and decided to take a look at the blog.

Here it is. There are a few construction messages in the way which I will edit in due course. But the substantive pieces are roughly what will appear here daily.

Enjoy!

What I am trying to do is get rid of the irritating "posted by Jay" which is annoying in the same way as waiters who intoroduce themselves are annoying.

Now the interesting thing about configuring a blog is to try and keep a sense of simplicity. Which I do not pretend to be much good at.

The Spectator.co.uk
AMONG THE BOHEMIANS: EXPERIMENTS IN LIVING, 1900-1939
"Following directly on the joyless heels of the Victorian age, the bohemian experiment introduced lots of excellent things which we take for granted today: divorce, homosexuality, drug-taking, abortion and promiscuity. But it wasn’t all good. Garlic and surrealism were more unwelcome by-products of la vie en rose, not to mention a fetishisation of all things French which made the beasts even more conceited than they were already. The old saying, ‘Everything changes but the avant-garde’ is also true of bohemia, and if one avoids bohemians these days it is usually because they are too dull for one’s tastes rather than too exciting."

Julie Burchill reviews an interesting sounding book (I wonder if it is out in Canada and the US yet.). Burchill is always worth reading and the boho moment seems to exist in every interesting life.

The Spectator.co.uk "Conservatives must advance beyond the confining concentration on material self-interest. After too long a silence, it is time to articulate the case for a Conservatism that is idealistic, socially cohesive and romantic. We must once again be the champions of politics on a human scale."

The British Tories, like our own, are trying to find a way to get past the Third Way embrace of Mr. Blair. I am not sure that romance is the answer but it beats the endless 80's free market rhetoric which characterizes what passes for thought on the right.

An Uphill Battle in Copyright Case
Here is the copyright case in a nutshell. While protecting creators is a great idea it is not at all clear why a corporate copyright holder should have a 95 year hold on its intellectual property.

Delightfully, the extension was the crowning achievement of Congressman Bono's political career.

Site for the Truly Geeky Makes a Few Bucks The clever folks at www.slashdot.org make the Times. I can't understand about half of what they put up but it is not at all surprising that they survive while Fast Company and the like bite it.

Slashdot is actually about computing and the net -- the glossies were about how to make money from computing and the net. Once the bubble burst that was no longer a quick option.

globetechnology.com: How not to succeed on the Internet Jack Kapica has the pathetic record companies dead right. And remember, these are the same people who want to extend their copyrights into the year 2100. Time for an old industry to die....

A Word-Slinging Spat, Invoked by Stalin's Sins
"It has always been possible to joke about the Soviet Union, just as it has never been possible to joke about Nazi Germany," Mr. Amis wrote. Mr. Hitchens, of course, defended himself against the assertion that the left had never examined Stalinism's burden, arguing that "there exists a historical tradition of Marxist writers who exposed and opposed Stalin."

While it is relatively easy to suggest that Amis and Hitchens are simply irrelevant nattering on about Hitler and Stalin, the idea of such a debate commanding national newspaper attention is refreshing. It is difficult to imagine who in Canada would manage this sort of thing - Naomi Klein and ???. The catch all would be David - Axis of Evil - Frum; but that would be a straight left/right dust-up with predictable consequences.

The difficulty is in thinking of two well matched Canadian debaters on either the left or the right.

My poor video card is dying here, I want my second monitor back!@!!!!

So there is a way to create the full html fun house on the blog. And I can just import code from dreamweaver saving myself the bother of trying to remember tags.

so there was just one little problem...ho, ho

Still lots of bugs to fix but a cigarette and bed with the slightly disappointing Mr. Eco.

And here is the table a bit fixed up

nOW i WONDER IF THIS PRIMATIVE NAVIGATION BAR WILL WORK

10/13/2002

So now I strip the alignment tags

Well it didn't, damn

And I hope this pulls the left table up

And this should put everything inside the tables

Which should put the blogger logo on the right

And still more changes

And them a bit of coding on the table itself

I'll se if I can set the tables in action

Now this may look pretty odd

So html works but inside the blog code....ah hah

Text is still wrong and I need to kill the spacing

A couple of cells to see what happens

And now to see if we can get it to change font

So now we see if a javascript works here. As well as html formatting.

The next step is to put a bit of html into the bland template and make it possible to actually read the blog easily.

So now I have a very simple blog which my readers will be able to access by way of a link.