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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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11/16/2002

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Shadow over Craig David's US tour Yes Andrew, this is silly Andrew Sullivan has great fun with race in America. As he should given this sort of story.

What is more amusing though is the thought of the "urban" folks trying to figure out just how black black actually is....just one drop. Save us all.

More from Iran While Iraq continues the dance, Iran is in the midst of a melt down. Until now the mullahs executed who they wanted and that was that. Hashem Aghajari's case begins the process of the Iranian asking if this is the way they want to live.

If the regime backs down, as it looks as if it might, the mullahs' rule will begin to crumble. About time too.

11/15/2002

News Story - canada.com networkBlixed Interesting to see the shift. Blix essentially is saying he will take Iraq at its current word that it has no WMDs. And here he shifts the onus:

"If Iraq maintains - as it did in its letter accepting the return of inspectors - it has no weapons of mass destruction, Hans Blix said the United States or any country with evidence of secret Iraqi programs must produce it for inspectors.

"It will be the moment for those who claim they have evidence ... to put it on the table," Blix said at a news conference."

I wonder what the US actually has to say there areWMDs....


Book Awards You may already be a winnerThis is a handy site for finding books to pitch to literary editors..."_____won the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction...."

The astonishing thing is the sheer number and diversity of the prizes offered.

The Globe and Mail: Breaking NewsFree Speech It is difficult to know which way to jump on this one but legal counsel for B'nai Brith gets it about right.

"The organization strongly objects to Mr. Robinson's publicly stated views in favour of the Palestinian position and it doesn't believe the panel will be useful to the overall debate, said Mr. Slimovitch.
"But it would obviously be ludicrous for us to call for them to be forbidden to speak.""

There in the essential difference between pre and post enlightenment thinking. The baby Islamofascists and their midget minded non-Muslim supporters shouted down prevented former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he tried to speak on Concordia's campus.

But they want their side heard in the form of Svend and Judy. the fact their actions were so far beyond the bounds of civilized discourse that a moratorium was declared on any Mid-East related events on campus is to be ignored.

If ever you wondered what we are fighting for it is the sheer civility of Mr. Slimovitch.

11/14/2002

Edward R. Tufte disses the Web
Tufte is a hero of mine, along with Jane Jacobs. He has a Yankee sense of the overwrought and under-thunk. My own long look at the web has convinced me what Tufte says is dead true.....

"Toying with a fold-up pyramid he's using to demonstrate effective, economical design, Tufte remarks, somewhat boastfully, "I have a copy of Euclid's Geometry from 432 years ago, and the pop-up pyramid from that book can still be lifted today. Think your Web site will be able to do that?" He's just entered his warm-up on the cyber age. He begins with a one-liner. "There are only two industries that refer to their customers as users: illegal drugs and computers."

The knowing in-crowd laughs. "No one in ä history who searches on a computer wants a frame," he goes on. "We want content. In some cases of corporate Web sites, the time of the average download of the opening screen is longer than the average visit. As we watch the corporate logo opening . . . 'Ooh, there's some music . . . damn, I'm out of here.'"

Michael Jackson Testifies In Santa Maria Superior Court Surely there is an Ethics Committee for Plastic Surgeons

Guy Vanderhaeghe I was reading the very last paragraph of Vanderhaeghe's new book The Last Crossing when he and Gwen, my favorite publicist, walked into the lobby of his hotel. Fortunately I was in a corner otherwise I would have had to tell the author that he'd just have to wait a moment.

Spent three hours with this extrodinary man. An excellent lunch and good talk about everything from the sheer imaginative accomplishments of the Victorians to the arrogance of the English gentlemen adventurers who wandered about the world and Western Canada in particular.

He was a history buff from the time he was a child and liked nothing more than to get local history books for Christmas.

I am writing up the interview now and, if no where else, it will be on my website in the next few days. Meanwhile, get the book. It is better than The Englishman's Boy which is saying a lot.


FT.com / World The Pope Gets it David Foot once wrote that two thirds of just about everything is explained by demographics. The current decline of Europe, and with it the humanist and Enlightenment values which have illuminated the last four hundred years can be traced back to the profound drop in the birthrates of the European nations. Italy dropped below replacement rate in the 1970's.

The Pope may be no great friend to the Englightment but he can can count. And as he counts he can see that the end of European civilization is a generation or two away. Culture follows population. While clever feats of arms can hold the tide for a time, in the end if people lose interest in having children the culture is doomed.

The odd thing about demographics is that, like compound interest, once a direction has been set it is mightily difficult to change course. Japan is facing what amounts to demographic collapse in the next twenty years. Its population is aging out of reproduction. And then what? A nation without children is a nation without a future. Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe. Without immigration Israel's population will begin shrinking in the next decade.

The advent of sex selection technologies, no matter how crude, in India and China is producing an equally worrying trend: while the populations are still growing there is a large "girl gap" developing. The normal ration of male to female live births is around 51:49. But in these two huge nations the numbers for the last decade and a half has been closer to 60:40. The upper bound for reproduction is the total fertile female popluation. Where there are 120 men for every 80 women the likliehood of culturally induced population collapse is greatly increased. (And, if one is inclined to worry - what are those extra 40 young men likely to do instead of raising a family? Armies have been built on far less.)

Collateral to this demographic trend it the exact opposite in many Muslim nations. The Palestinian birth rate touchs 7.0. Replacement is 2.2. Israel's is closer to 1.2. In many other Muslim countries the birth rate is in the 3.5 range.

Perhaps the most striking example of the effects of culture and religion on birthrates is in the Netherlands. If current demographic projections hold Holland will have a majority Muslim population by 2030 at the latest. The birthrate among the Muslim immigrant population is in the range of 4.0, the indigenous Dutch are lucky to reach 1.3. Do the math.

JPII gets it. When he spoke to the Italian parliament he had two themes: preserving the glory of European culture and the demographic fact Italy - and the rest of Europe - is not creating its own future. Linked, you bet. Without children no nation and no culture will survive as anything but an artifact. The Sistine Chapel is a hell of an artifact; but it is no substitute for a vibrant, young, alive culture.

11/13/2002

Text: Letter From Iraqi Foreign Minister to the U.N. (washingtonpost.com)Six Pages to Say Yes...I think not Wacko is an over used word. It really should be reserved for the sorts of people who write letters like this.

"Go thou to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds. But speak to him mildly; perchance he may take warning or fear (Alla)."

The bin Laden tape yesterday used Pharaoh as well. But it missed calling Tony Blair a lacky....That was reserved for the British left press.

There is lots of anti-Zionist rhetoric, lots of slagging US policy as simply the extension of the Zionist entity's policy by other means; but it is, on a charitable reading, only grudgingly accepting inspection.

It is a remarkably conditional document:

"Dealing with the inspectors, the government of Iraq will, also, take into consideration, their way of conduct, the intentions of those who are ill-intentioned amongst them and their improper approach in showing respect to the people's national dignity, their independence and security, and their country's security, independence and sovereignty. We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with the international law as soon as possible."

Not a ringing welcome. And what is the "international law" regarding snap, onsite inspection.

the answer comes several wacky paragraphs later:

"I wish to inform your Excellency before I conclude this letter, that I intend to forward another letter to you on a later date, in which I shall state our observations the measures and procedures, contained in SCR 1441 that are contrary to international law, UN Charter, the facts already established and the measures contained in previous relevant resolutions of the Security Council."

Mr. Ahmed has concluded, before the inspectors set foot in Iraq that at least some, and one rather expects all, of SCR 1441 is contrary to international law. Which, on the basis of his earlier statements suggests the inspectors will be recieved and, the instant they start inspecting, will be held to have contravened "international law" and be told to stop.

Which with some Administrations would have caused a year or two delay and more hoohah at the UN. Saddam and his merry men have missed the point with Bush -- he has no intention of buggering about with this. If the inspectors are stopped the B-2 will be flying a week later.







Iraq accepts new U.N. resolution on arms inspections Either this is the beginning of a massive victory for the West or the Iraqis are setting up a longer game.

The realist in me says that the fact it took the Iraqis six pages to say yes is a bit suspicious. It rarely takes six pages to spell out unconditional acceptance of even the most convoluted resolution.

We'll see.

Reuters | Breaking News from Around the Globe Bye, bye Yasser "The first thing that must be done in the next government is to expel this man," Netanyahu told a Likud convention in Tel Aviv. "I as prime minister will expel Arafat...I think this is an essential condition to wipe out terror."

The polls suggest that Netanyahu is unlikely to replay his role as Israeli PM; but with yet more killing of mothers and children it is plain the current situation is not getting any better.

Arafat has long since reached his best before date. The Palestinians deserve much better leadership. Arafat's potency as a symbol is waning. It is time for him to go so that his people can have their own land and learn to live with, not shoot, their neighbours.

Accept UN's resolution, Hussein's son urges Iraqis So there you are working hard to rubber stamp the Great President's rejection of the UN's resolution and, suddenly, the GD's son rises up and suggests concilation. Now that's trouble because Uday is remarkably trigger happy and apparently holds a grudge.

A pretty pass. My own bet is that Saddam is going to let the inspectors in and stay out of their way. But I also suspect he has moved and hidden well whatever WMDs and their components he has on hand. There will be a few token finds and Saddam will promise to sin no more....game Saddam. But I wonder if Bush will buy it?

Reviewing Marathon I'm taking a quick break from doing a bunch of spec reviews. Some grand books. I Stand for Canada which is about the Canadian flag could have been a snore but it is beautifully done. It manages to combine a fairly dense text with these wonderfully illuminating photographs. The last big photograph in the book is of a rally which was held on Parliament Hill shortly after 9/11. A man is holding an American flag flanked by two Canadian flags. Supported really. It was incredibly moving - simply by suggesting that we have come far enough as a nation that we can and did offer support to the United States.

The second book is Letters to Harvelyn which is the diary a Major Baird kep as he was held in a Japanese POW camp in Hong Kong. My grand uncle was held in the same camp and hated the Japanese so much for what they did to him and to his men that he could never bring himself to visit the West Coast where he might run into Japanese people. I was raised on stories of how the magazines which were sent to the prisoners in Red Cross packages had to have the food advertising cut out.

Major Baird was a wonderful writer and he manages to tell the story of the imprisonment graphically but with a sense of the day to day which raises the diary to literature. he seems to have been the sort of serious, careful officer who tried to keep his own and his men's morale up in appalling conditions. He also tried to keep his own emotions carefully in check; but he could not hide his joy as air raids bombed the Japanese where they stood. A very fine book.

The third book is a collection of short stories by Oscar Martens, The Girl with the Full Figure is your Daughter. Tales of the down and out combined with secrets and a perfect sense of what makes a con man tick make the book a treat. Very much the sort of book where the tone is as important as the plot. The wistfulness of the visitation father or the conned lover is caught exactly.

11/12/2002

After Iraq, Bush Will Attack His Real Target Simplistic, but Iran is a keystone Short of taking the bull by the horns and eliminating the feckless Saudi regime, Iran would seem to be the next logical target for an American drive towards civilizing the Middle East. At the moment there is enough dissention in Iran that there could easily be a civil war or regime change by more peaceful means. If the United States can encourage this it will.

Whether or not the Americans would get into a shooting war to accomplish the unseating of the mullahs is another question all together. Unless there was compelling evidence that the Iranian regime was about to obtain nuclear capacity it is unlikely the Americans could muster the support to go in to simply overthrow the theocracy.

the interesting thing about the Iraq ultimatum is that it puts the region on notice that the Americans are willing to at least consider using force to topple really odious leaders.

Just as the American romp in Afghanistan silenced the so called Arab street, treating Saddam harshly will provide a very real example to the other nasty regimes in the region....You may be next.

ITworld.com - Intel cuts chip prices, AMD to follow How far is down? One of the ideas I am working on is the question of the economics of abundance - what happens when productivity reaches a point where price becomes irrelevant? The chip industry is rapidly reaching that point.

As I work away on my old Celeron 366 I realize I can get a machine ten times more powerful for less than $300.00. Now, if any of my editors would just publish my material a computing revolution can take place right on this here desktop.

11/10/2002

CNN.com Too much screen time can make you sick So I sit here in front of two 17" monitors seven to ten hours a day. I sleep like a baby, have lots of energy and like going to work.

The fact is, though, that what I do is only notionally work. I have no boss, no real deadlines and no guarantees. Which eliminates some of the stresses and adds others.

When old line jobs were switched over to screen driven technologies the people doing them had no choice but to deal with the computers. My jobs could not be done without computers, the internet and the entire elimination of distance which these technologies entail.

It is not just physical distance - email gives you access to anyone you need to write. No guarantee they will write back. The space between people has radically shrunk.

All of which suggest to me that the poor bastards in front of screens the Japanese scientists studied likely didn't want to be at work screen or no screen. Illness follows.

Reuters | Reformists in IranMore Interesting than Iraq Other than the question of whether or not Saddam's end game involves weapons of mass destruction, the potential for serious reformist unrest in Iran may be the key current question.

If the reformist protext over the Aghajari death sentence spreads the possibility of the destruction of another Islamofascist state increases. The Iranian revolution created a theocracy and theocracies are inherently hostile to the values of the Enlightenment. Coming up with an Islamic concept of town planning or waste management is madmen's work; but it has been the official basis of Iranian society for the last twenty years.

Increasingly there are signs that the Iranian middle class are fed up with the rule of the mullahs and the religious police. The question is whether they are ready to overthrow the conservative clerics.

Collaterally, there is the very real question of what such and overthrow would look like. At a guess it will be a shift of effective soverignty towards the relatively reformist Iranian parliament and away from the religious courts. Exactly how this can be accomplished is not obvious. Both branches have their own militas and both are convinced of their legitimacy.