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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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Yankee go home....soon

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of the largest Shi'ite faction in Iraq wants Iraqi independence from any outside group. (i hope he includes Iran.) But he also is making the right noises about what it will take to achieve real Iraqi independence.

The ayatollah says the new Iraq needs a modern Islamic government that respects all groups, Iraq's majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims, as well as Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. As he puts it, Iraq is now engaged in a holy war of reconstruction and a march toward independence.
link voice of america

The key word here is modern. If the Ayatollah can manage to put flesh on the bones of a "modern Islamic state" he will be doing Iraq and the region a huge favour.

Not a shining moment

The overall looting of Iraqi nuclear facilities at the end of the war represents a huge failure on the part of the military and the intelligence community to plan ahead. It is even worse if this report in the Washington Post is verified:

According to witnesses, Allison's survey team reached both of these sites on April 10, the same day that ElBaradei cited them as the two most important for U.S. forces to protect. But because of continuing debate within the Bush administration over whether to enter without IAEA inspectors present, Allison received a hasty order to withdraw. When Allison was told to evacuate all U.S. personnel, including troops providing security at the perimeter, he grew agitated, witnesses said.

"Whoever gave that order better check his retirement plan, because if we leave this place open somebody is going to lose their job," he told an officer at the ground forces operations center of Central Command, according to two witnesses. Allison confirmed the gist of the conversation.

Eventually Central Command relented and ordered a company of the 3rd Infantry Division to guard both Tuwaitha-area sites. But the twin complexes, about a square mile each and half a mile apart, were far too big for the force left in place. Soldiers posted there permitted Iraqi civilians who said they were employees to enter freely. Looting at both places continued last Saturday, when a Washington Post reporter spent four hours at the site.
link wapo

Napoleon's Buttons

When Napoleon marched into Russia The Grand Army was fitted out with fine, warm coats. So what happened? Well the coats had tin buttons and tin, when it gets really cold, turns to a chalky powder.

This is the sort of story Penny LeCouteur just loves to tell. She has published a fascinating new book on chemistry in history called Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History.

My interview with Penny LeCouteur ran in the Sun today and you can find my edit of the piece here. The piece does not seem to be up on the Vancouver Sun website.


Google and Blogs

A really interesting article on Google getting ready to take blogs off the main search results.

I don't find blogs all that irritating when I'm searching but it is interesting to realize the density of the connections between blogs effectively overwhelms the algorithm. It is also interesting to note that this comes a couple of months after Google bought Pyra, aka BlogSpot.

for a bit of background on how blogs and Google interact John Hiller has the lowdown at Microcontent News.

Rachel Corrie: Where is the Outrage

Our story so far...hate filled idealistic young American girl goes to Palestine looking for trouble to protect any innocent Palestinians she is pointed at by the International Solidarity Movement. While protecting an arms smuggling tunnel she is run over by a bulldozer.

So where is the outrage? That's what Antonia Zerbisias writing in the Toronto Star wants to know,

Last week, Israel's Ha'aretz reported the IDF has "declared war on ISM members.'' This week it was revealed that two British suicide bombers, one of whom blew himself up in a Tel Aviv bar last week, attended Corrie's memorial service. Despite ISM denials that the terrorists ? one escaped ? had anything to do with their peace group, ISM members are to be deported.
link toronto star

To fisk Ms. Zerbisias is pointless; she has never let facts get in the way of a strongly felt emotion.

Instead her own words do the job. Two British homicide bombers somehow made their way to ISM. Why? Of all of the places you could go before blowing yourself up why would you pick ISM? Gee, where is the outrage? Could it be that the ISM and similar groups are as deeply in the pockets of Palestinian terror organizations as Galloway MP was in Saddam's. Rachel Corrie threw her life away protecting an arms runners' bolt hole. It was a military target and, when she got in front of the bulldozer Rachel Corrie was committing a military act in support of terrorists who think nothing at all of intentionally exploding bombs in civilian areas. She was protecting murders whose missiles and suicide vests are standing in the way of Peace.

Here is how she felt about it:

For more indepth material on the death of Rachel Corrie Ms. Zerbisias might want to look here or here. But why cloud emotion with facts...After all, where's the outrage?

Update: I sent Ms. Zerbisias a note regarding her column and suggesting that she get the facts on Ms. Corrie I received this email back:

Thanks but I am well acquainted with the facts of her death and you'll notice that nothing in my column is moot.
Until the IDF releases its official report, complete with its own videos of the incident, it's all hearsay isn't it?
thanks for writing

Well, no. A moot point is one which has been rendered unnecessary to decide by the effects of a decision or a change in the circumstances giving rise to the question. If Ms. Zerisias is saying that the media was not outraged by Rachel Corrie's death she is making a claim about facts. Nothing about such a claim is moot. So, in a trivial sense her remark that nothing in her column is moot is true but irrelevant. Her entire column is open to contradiction by the facts of Rachel's death.

Hearsay is a fancy lawyer's term for second hand information. Certainly the IDF report will add something to the information we have about the specifics of the incident. But there are some facts we have now:

1. Rachel Corrie died sometime after the incident with the bulldozer,
2. Rachel Corrie was attempting to protect an arms smuggling tunnel entrace when she was struck,
3. ISM lied on its website and through its press releases and photographs as to Ms. Corrie's visibility and her mission.
4. ISM was the last stop for the homicide bombers who attacked Mike's Bar in Tel Aviv.
5. Ms. Corrie's death attracted media attention from around the world.
6. Most of that attention was relatively neutral reflecting the ambiguous status of Ms. Corrie as both a "peace activist" and a combatant.

Cyber Commies

James Miller, writing in the National Review Online, suggests that P2P and the recent California decision which found that networks, in themselves, are not infringing on copyright represent communism online. His solution:

The best hope to stop copyright piracy lies in stopping the distribution of peer-to-peer networks that facilitate such theft. By holding that these networks have no liability for inappropriate use of their tools the California court has reduced the value of digital property rights.
link et seq.. national review online

He drives his argument by conflating the notion of real property and intellectual property:

The ability to exclude is the essence of property rights. If I "own" land but anyone can trespass I don't really have any property rights. Similarly, if I own a movie, but anyone can freely watch it, my rights have disappeared.

Once he slips in this conflation he is off to the races and can run the whole anti-piracy rhetoric with accusations of theft and pronouncements that there will never be another movie,song, text book or piece of software made because no one will make any money making them.

The problem with Miller's argument is that digital property is profoundly different from real property in that the costs of its replication are, essentially zero.

If I own a shovel and I lend it to you I no longer have the use of that shovel. Lending you the shovel imposes a small cost to its owner. But if I were able to digitalize the shovel and simply give you a perfect copy of that shovel for free the loan would be costless.

This would be great for shovel owners and wannabe owners but pretty damn awful for shovel manufactures and hardware stores. It would be awful in exactly the same way that the invention of the internal combustion engine was unpleasant for buggy whip manufactures. Their ability to make a living was wiped out and they had to go and do something else.

The record, movie, publishing and software businesses are all under threat from digital replication. How they meet this threat will determine whether they exist as businesses in five years. But it is important to notice that the portions of the business which are directly threatened are not the creative end; in fact, it may make a great deal more sense for recording artists to release their material directly to the web and cut the record companies out of the loop completely. Film makers are seeing the costs of their production drop radically as more and more special effects are cheaply digitalized. At some point the question will arise - Who needs the studios?. (That point will arrive when the financing and promotion of films has been effectively outsourced and - as seems increasingly likely, movie theatres will have huge, digital screens and film distribution will be done by fibre optic.)

The P2P threat is aimed squarely at the middlemen, the gatekeepers and the financiers who actively stifle creative vision In pursuit of hit records and gangbuster movie openings. If P2P can eliminate these jobs the actual market for creative work will operate more efficiently. If I like your song I pay you directly, or if you like my blog, you pay me.

This is not communism; rather it is a place most economists never dreamed of - a frictionless market.

UN - Relevant?

For Tony Blair's Political cover, maybe....but now that Clair Short is suffering from memory lapses that is not going to be a concern much longer.
The Security Council's future as a vital policy-making panel is also at risk, diplomats said. While members said the atmosphere in the council is better than before the war, sidelining the UN may revive prewar divisions, forcing the U.S. to act without UN backing.

Whether the U.S. would bother seeking council support for diplomatic goals such as condemning North Korea's nuclear weapons program is yet another question.

``The debate is going to be long and difficult,'' said Ambassador Gabriel Valdes of Chile, a council member. ``If the council is split again, there will be more bitter feelings and who knows where it will end.''

Where it may end, said Laurenti, author of the UN Association of the U.S. study, is ``back to the world of 1914, when large powers pursue their interests by force.'' The Security Council could be left to ``poke around'' in Africa, where the U.S. has no vital interests, Laurenti said.
link bloomberg

I love the idea of the UN reduced to "poking around" in Africa.

At some point a bright light on the Security Council is going to suggest that "the facts on the ground" suggest that the UN offer its assistance and good offices in whatever role the "occupying powers" and the Iraqi people ask for. This bright light will, of course, be roundly castigated by the French, Germans and Russians for dangerous kow-towing to the American imperialists and be none the less right. I wonder if anyone will have the wit.


Go Fish

cod - gone but not forgotten

The sports fishermen of Newfoundland, having wiped the cod out, are now looking for a way to manage the eleven fish which are left in consultation with the Federal government. If they don't get their say they are going to, well, blame the federal government for their woes and a few are discussing secession.

Some 40,000 fishermen and other industry workers were put out of work when the bulk of the fishery was shut down a decade ago, and the new closure will increase job losses.
link yahoo news

The fact is the cod are gone. No longer there. Over fished. Time to move on.

1Million songs a week

If P2P relied on truely dedicated folks like this one in Germany, file sharing would be over in a matter of months.

The distributed models used by WinMx, Grokster, Morpheus and Kaaza are a little less overt. If I leave my share file on with it's paltry number of songs people amble up and take a listen to old Collectors. I cannot imagine the RIAA will come after me and the, say, 100,000 other folks who have a couple of hundred songs on their machines. (If they do I'll be delighted to see them in Court.) So the one off busts like the super hub in German are really not very important in the general scheme of things.

I note, however, the German guy was giving away the same number of songs per week that Apple is delighted to be selling.

The Guardian begs to differ

Al-Qaida has restructured itself and is planning spectacular attacks against the United States, according to an interview obtained by a London-based Arabic magazine which has previously reported contacts with the organisation.
In the latest edition of al-Majalla, published today, a spokesman for al-Qaida denied it had been rendered inoperative and explained that familiar faces had been replaced by newcomers "who have a very good security cover".
link the guardian

This, unfortunately, tends to pour cold water on The Scotsman's piece cited below. And for the reasons that a really good terrorist organization would, in fact, be likely to have:

"The Americans only have predictions and old intelligence left," the magazine quoted Mr Bin Qais as saying. "It will take them a long time to understand the new form of al-Qaida."

The organisation remained "way ahead of the Americans and its allies in the intelligence war; American security agencies still are ignorant of the changes the leadership has made".

It would make sense for Al-Qaeda to have considered the American reaction to 9-11 and to have planned for an evolution after that stroke. The question is whether or not they have been able to actually manage the evolution and if, as a consequence, they remain able to conduct jihad. If so, on what scale?

This is why the ultimate answer to Al-Qaeda is likely the creation of conditions in the Arab world which marginalize the Islamofascist impulse. Of course, it may well be that, as part of its evolution, Al Qaeda will look to Muslims in the West for it "martydom" operations. The recent outrage at Mikes in Israel was carried out by British Muslims.

Al Qaeda on the Ropes?

AL-QAEDA’S failure to launch any major attacks during the Iraq war is adding to a mood of cautious confidence that the organisation’s back has been broken.

"They have suffered a number of absolutely crushing blows," said Nick Fielding, a journalist and the co-author of Masterminds of Terror, published this month by the Edinburgh-based Mainstream Publishing .

In US intelligence circles, the belief is growing that al-Qaeda is "nearly crippled", the Washington Post newspaper reported.
link the scotsman

Let's hope.

I suspect the end of Al-Qaeda is several relentless years away; but the absence of any significant attack during the Iraq war is suggestive. The ability of the Americans and their allies to capture senior Al-Qaeda people and their electonics - computers and cellphones - has meant that there has been a good deal of intelligence created. None of this is routine, all of it has had to be improvised and it will contain holes and mistakes; but the fact is the pursuit of Al-Qaeda has been as successful as the Iraq war.

The question is whether or not the liberation of Iraq will begin to chip away at the conditions which Al-Qaeda grew out of.

Yosri Fouda, a chief investigative reporter with the al-Jazeera television network and co-author of Masterminds of Terror, agreed that "to a great extent, al-Qaeda has been broken down", but added: "By no means should we write it off".

Bin Laden, he noted, was still at large, along with his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Qaeda "the idea", appealing to alienated Muslims, was far from finished.

And, no, not the bogus argument that somehow Israel or the existence of America somehow created Islamofascism; rather the hundred years of Arab delusion and denial. If Iraq can somehow come alive as a prosperous, civil, democratic Arab society the major prop under the edifice of defeat which constitutes Arab ideology will have been kicked away. The blame game, the notion of the Great Satan as responsible for all that ails the Arab world, will cease to signify. binLaden will rot in his cave.

I wonder if we can dispatch Margaret Drabble to rot with him....Perhaps she could read him one of her novels....Naw, too mean.

Anti-War Tab, Circulation Slump

Shareholders attending the group's annual meeting asked the board for its opinion on Mr Morgan, who has admitted that the Mirror's anti-war stance contributed to its circulation crashing below the 2m barrier in March.

ABC figures for April are published today and are expected to show a further slump in sales, from 1.99m to 1.92m. Trinity Mirror chairman Sir Victor Blank gave qualified backing to the out spoken editor, who has given showbiz stories more prominence in the Mirror over the past month.

"Piers Morgan we regard as a very good and capable tabloid editor and he's not, at the moment, on the way out," he said.

However, Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror's chief executive, would not rule out further senior management changes at the group following a series of high-level departures since her arrival in February. She will report the results of a strategic review at the end of July.
link the guardian

Delightful to see the Daily Mirror spanked for its beligerent anti-Iraq war stance. Galloway MP wrote for them. 'Nuff said.

But What really struck me was the name of the Trinity Mirror Groups CEO: Sly Bailey. She must have been a very knowing little girl.

Here's her pic Sly


via Kathy Shaidle
John Derbyshire writing in the National Review Online fesses up to his apostasy:

To get it back from the institutional to the personal: look at me. I have not the slightest doubt that I am a conservative by thought, feeling and instinct, yet on a lot of the issues that define American conservatism, I barely move the needle from the zero mark on the dial. I have guns but only fire them down at the range once a month, for the satisfaction of it, and to develop confidence in handling them. I have never hunted with guns. I am only feebly religious ? feebly Episcopalian, in fact, which is feebleness squared! Homosexuality? I don't like it, and have got myself in a lot of trouble for saying so rather bluntly, but I wouldn't criminalize it. Abortion? Pretty much the same. Creationism? Sorry, I think it's pseudoscience. I'm fine with evolution.

So ? What kind of conservative am I? Taking a cue from my dinner-table accuser, I think the answer is: I'm a metropolitan conservative. Of all the ways humanity can be divided into two distinct subspecies, one of the oldest and most persistent is the metropolitan-provincial divide.
link national review online

Derbyshire has the difficulty that he is far too intelligent to buy into Mencken's provincial boobacracy. Not being a provincial he hasn't the stomach for stoning homosexuals or forcing rape victims to term or toting a gun as a matter of manhood. But he recognizes that the heart of American conservatism is in the heartland.

Looking across the pond at the country of my birth, where there are no powerful conservative lobbies ? no Second Amendment warriors, no Christian conservatives, no Right-to-Life chapters ? I see what happens when conservatism becomes a merely metropolitan cult: conservative politics becomes marginalized and impotent. That's not going to happen here; and it won't be me and my big city pals that prevent it, it'll be the legions of real, authentic conservatives out there in the provinces. God bless them all for keeping America strong, free, and true to her founding principles. If the price to be paid is a sodomy law here, a high-school Creationism class there, well, far as I am concerned, that's a small price indeed. People who don't like those things can always head for the metropolis, after all.

In fact, Derbyshire isn't actually a conservative in the American sense at all: he is a libertarian who can't quite get used to the idea that liberality means telling the boobs they are not allowed to use biblical methods to enforce behavior. Pity he is fighting the hook so hard.

One word: Audit

OFFICIALS SAID John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Security Council members on Thursday that Washington could accept the conclusion of contracts already approved in a $10 billion ?pipeline? of goods for which oil receipts had been earmarked, although with important caveats.
One administration official said Washington had made no promises but would ?look? at the contracts, and concentrate on those given priority under a recent limited rollover of the program. ?Dual-use? items and component parts would be closely scrutinized. Neither does the proposal appear to cover a further $7 billion worth of contracts that had been approved, but for which funds were not allocated.
?Not every single contract will be approved,? stressed one U.S. official. Nevertheless, other Security Council diplomats ? who were slightly taken aback at the move ? said it could prove an important bargaining chip in discussions on an ?omnibus? U.S. resolution on the future of Iraq, expected possibly at the end of next week.
link msnbc

If the contracts are going to be honoured then they should also be very carefully audited. Who got cheques? What was delivered? What was really delivered? Where did Saddam get several billion dollars in US currency? How much was George Galloway paid? Were GPS jammers purchased as food or medical supplies?

A good, deep, audit - are there Arabic competent forensic auditors - on behalf of the Iraqi people and paid for, but not conducted, by the United Nations would go a long way to answer these questions.

Icy Breeze

The Hollywood mythology machine does not appreciate having its demigod feet of clay exposed. When started quoting the beautiful morons' dumber anti-war remarks William Morris - an agency ensuring you are paying $10.00 for mediocre movies - did what any self respecting business does to protect its clients from themselves. It called in the litigation lawyers.

The weasels at Dotster got a letter alledging libel and other unspecified "civil and criminal acts" and they pulled boycott-hollywood's administrator Lisa S.'s website's domain registration.

She is up and running at her site at
but her tale at Front Page Magazine pretty much sums up the heavy handed crushing of dissent when it threatens the dream making machinery in Hollywood.

Free speech is not a luxury and when the bullies at William Morris sic their lawyers on a website for merely quoting its moronic clients you have to wonder how long free speech is going to last.


I have not managed to make my way through any of Margaret Drivel's last few books. Now she is writing about her very personal reaction to the toppling of Saddam...of course it isn't about toppling a murderous thug - it's about her anti-Americanism.

I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world.
link et seq telegraph

Those bastards went into a hostage nation, freed the hostages, ran the bad guys - and they were very bad guys as the discovery of mass graves is proving - out of town and, worst of all, are trying to set up a democracy. Dogs!

I detest American imperialism, American infantilism, and American triumphalism about victories it didn't even win.

Ms. Drivel now moves into the incoherent part of her piece where she shows that she has no more comprehension of the real world than she has mastery of her fictional ones.
On April 29, 2000, I switched on CNN in my hotel room and, by chance, saw an item designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. The camera showed us a street scene in which a shabby elderly Vietnamese man was seen speaking English and bartering in dollars in a city that I took to be Ho Chi Minh City, still familiarly known in America by its old French colonial name of Saigon.

"The language of Shakespeare," the commentator intoned, "has conquered Vietnam." I did not note down the dialogue, though I can vouch for that sentence about the language of Shakespeare. But the word "dollar" was certainly repeated several times, and the implications of what the camera showed were clear enough.

The elderly Vietnamese man was impoverished, and he wanted hard currency. The Vietnamese had won the war, but had lost the peace.

The Vietnamese, or rather the North Vietnamese did not win the war - the Americans, far too late, realized they could not win without using weapons which they could not justify using in that particular cause. As for losing the piece, the Vietnamese, despite their leadership, are trying to make it in a world where the American dollar represents stable value compared to the doubtful currencies issued by tyrants. I note that Saddam took an American billion on his travels.

America is one of the few countries in the world that executes minors. Well, it doesn't really execute them - it just keeps them in jail for years and years until they are old enough to execute, and then it executes them. It administers drugs to mentally disturbed prisoners on Death Row until they are back in their right mind, and then it executes them, too.

A dispicable habit to be sure. And one which a great number of Americans are working very hard to eliminate. But I have not heard Ms. Drivel on this topic before. Nor does she seem to notice that Uncle Cuddles in Iraq had a nasty way of torturing children in front of their parents, jailing children for their parents' political beliefs and, if all else failed, chopping children up and delivering a bag of body parts to their parents' doorstep.

They call this justice and the rule of law. America is holding more than 600 people in detention in Guantánamo Bay, indefinitely, and it may well hold them there for ever. Guantánamo Bay has become the Bastille of America. They call this serving the cause of democracy and freedom.

People who fly airplanes into buildings or support people who do or are in anyway associated with people who do are likely to have a long stay in Cuba - of course (to be as non sequiteur as Ms. D.), if they were actually in Cuba they would be shot summarily). That is in the nature of jihad. Tough.

I hate feeling this hatred. I have to keep reminding myself that if Bush hadn't been (so narrowly) elected, we wouldn't be here, and none of this would have happened. There is another America. Long live the other America, and may this one pass away soon.

Reading Ms. Drivel anyone to the right of Michael Moore, which I rather suspect is 98% of the American polity, would instantly ask "Am I part of that other America she is talking about?" Gore supporter, Nader supporter: to a man or a woman those Americans would say no. No if being part of that "other America" put them on the side of a woman who can hate so deeply and so well.

Perhaps Ms. Drivel can join forces with Galloway MP and the egregious Harold Pinter and move to France.

Here's her picture...You can cross the street to avoid her. Margaret Drabble

Updates and Style

It is difficult to say enough good things about w.blogger. Not only does this lovely bit of software make blogging a pleasure, it even makes updating your template a treat.

In the next couple of days I am going to be launching a wee surprise which may make blogging and reading blogs a more friendly experience. Watch this space.


I was flipping through a few of the better Canadian blogs for a project I am working on and had the pleasure of reading Winds of Change for the first time in a few days. they are having a conversation about the Liberal/Conservative cleavage to which I added this:

The liberal/conservative debate is greatly complicated by the fact a great deal has happened since the terms were last revised - which, I'd argue, happened shortly after WWII.

Andrew Sullivan suggested that there were a group of Americans hawkish on foreign policy but appalled by the religious right's social conservative agenda. He suggested these folks be referrred to as "eagles" to distinguish them from hawks or doves. The bird didn't fly.

The religious right in the US and, to a lesser degree Canada, has hijacked the social agenda of traditionally conservative parties. Similarily, the identity politicians of the interest group left have all but eliminated liberal, civil discourse by dint of pushing for politically correct rhetoric and outcome.

In both instances these are profoundly radical and marginal positions; but in the States, where the nation is divided right down the middle, mainstream politicians have no choice but to pander to the noisy fringes of their support.

What is emerging in Canada, and, I think in the States, is a profound generational cleavage between the wrinklies on the far left and the far right and the sub-40's who like their pot, porn and partners without too much hassle from the State.

At the moment these are lazy libertarians; but the growing backlash against the inanities of the War on Drugs, the futility of net censorship and widespread acceptence of, as the fundamentalists would have it, "unmarried lifestyles" may get these people more actively involved in politics.

It may not, however, get them involved in mainline party politics. There is not the same sense of attachment to political parties that there was in the last century. And there is a general disgust for the carryings on of politicians of left, right or centerist inclination.

The liberal/conservative dicotomy is just as likely to collapse under the weight of its fringes as to carry on governing. And from the rubble assorted, loose, alliances of the willing will likely begin to set agendas which reflect the real world of the new century rather than the forgotten world of the old one.


Not all the boobs at Hooters are serving

After years of fending off banner-waving NOW protesters in Midwestern malls, Hooters of America finds itself in its most compromising position yet: It has inspired imitators. The purveyor of Barbies and bar food is getting a black eye from a most unlikely source--a Hooters wannabe.

So it has done what any red-blooded American corporation would. It filed a lawsuit for "trade dress infringement."

The complaint, filed in an Orlando federal court, alleges that itsy T-shirted waitresses at Ker's WingHouse present "unfair competition" to Hooters girls, known for their inspiring presentation of otherwise ordinary menu items. Ker's filed for dismissal this week, maintaining that sex appeal predates Hooters.
link wall street journal


Another little experiment in traffic. Of course, at the moment all those Google servers at Pyra can't seem to actually display the blog...time for Jane Austin, the climax of Sense and Sensibility.

Head Cold

Local scientists have turned a cold virus into a kind of "smart bomb" that may be able to destroy the deadliest form of brain cancer.

In experiments with mice, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers are reporting that a genetically engineered version of the common cold infected and killed malignant glioma cells that resist other therapy. The virus doesn't harm normal tissue.

"Viral therapy like this may be just what we need to treat a complex disease like cancer," said Dr. Frederick Lang, a professor of neurosurgery and primary investigator of the study. "Cancer can be devious the way it does everything possible to avoid destruction, but viruses are equally tricky and may be able to outsmart brain tumors."
link houston chronicle

The idea of using biological agents to attack cancer and anti-biotic resistant infections is likely to become more important over the next few years. the reason being that the selection and adaptation process which biological agents undergo in the body will, in principle, lead them to becoming specialists at finding and destroying the cancer or the infection very, very quickly. for more take a look at my review of The Killers Within by Michael Shnayerson and Mark J. Plotkin.


Le Merde may be about to hit le Fan

As always with Debka, a heaping tablespoon of salt, but,

DEBKA-Net-Weekly has been reliably informed that the nature of the relationships the French president and members of his family wove with Saddam Hussein and members of his regime is due to be revealed quite soon, drawing on the materials in the secret Iraqi files. Some sources say that the ties linking the two families were deep and ramified. Their exposure is likely to raise a storm.
link debka

Given the apparent irrationality of the cheese eater in chief it would be interesting to know if the President of France is, directly or indirectly, another Galloway.

As well, it appears that Blix sidekick Dr. Mohammed ElBaradai may have a few undisclosed Sadammite ties.

Debka is saying American intelligence is not releasing much for the moment preferring to use the documents to smoke out the various deep cover Saddamites in assorted Middle East Cabinets. But truth will out.

Scary Religion

Reading the NYT piece on Wal Mart's banning Maxim, FHM and Stuff (oh joy now I can go and get the links, back in an hour or two....) I ran into this quote from a chap called Arthur Ally who is President of a family of mutual funds called The Timothy Plan,

The Timothy Plan, a mutual funds management firm that invests in companies based in part on whether the companies share its values, has been pressing Wal-Mart to pull women's magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour from checkout lanes and put them back into the magazine rack. Arthur Ally, president of the Timothy Plan, said that he saw magazines like Maxim and FHM as "a level worse."

"It is soft-core pornography," he said. "It's very addictive and leads to harder stuff."

Going to The Timothy Plan website I came across its mission statement,

The Timothy Plan® is a family of mutual funds offering individuals, like yourself, a biblical choice when it comes to investing. If you are concerned with the moral issues (abortion, pörnography, anti-family entertainment, non-married lifestyles, alcohol, tobacco and gambling) that are destroying children and families you have come to the right place.


The Timothy Plan® avoids investing in companies that are involved in practices contrary to Judeo-Christian principles. Our goal is to recapture traditional American values. We are America's first pro-life, pro-family, biblically-based mutual fund group.
link the timothy plan

I have no objection to people investing on their principles - it is just as economically efficient as tossing darts at the stock pages and has some significant externalities. What worries me is the breadth of the issues - what the hell is a non-married lifestyle? - and the interpretation of Christian values without the love and forgiveness which is at the core of the Christian message.

Feeling good about banning Maxim strikes me as a pretty narrow view of What Jesus would do.

Festive Nuptuals

I had not really thought about writing about gay marriage even though it seems it will be a done deal in Canada sooner rather than later.

But Michael over at discount blogger asked for comments from Canadian Bloggers and I wrote hime this:

Out here in Vancouver the entire issue of gay marriage is really a non-issue.

There are a few Anglican churches in the parish which are none too happy with the fact the church here has decided to bless gay unions. But the United Church has been doing this for donkey's years.

Politically it is really a non-event. Our fundamentalist family values crowd is pretty marginalized.

I have not even bothered blogging on the subject. Coming from a libertarian perspective I would like the State out of the marriage business entirely. There is no real reason why the State should be involved and I can't imagine what business it is of the state if two citizens decide they are going to commit to partnership.

Rather like the pending decision to decriminalize pot, gay marriage is coming to Canada because the opposition to it is either too old, too crazy or too marginalized to matter politically.

As to the American attitude towards gay marriage when it comes to immigration matters: in general if the country from which the individuals are coming recognizes the marriage that is good enough for the immigration folks. If they are smart they will simply let gay Canadians who are married fly well under the radar. If they are dumb they will create a giant headache for everybody by recognizing every sort of union except Canadian gay marriage. this would be a political headache the Bushies likely don't want.

The fun one will be two American gals - Dick Cheney's daughter and a friend for example - run off to Canada for a pot smoking weekend and, just a bit stoned, get married. Does that count in America. Oh the fun we'll have, the things we'll see.

On double negatives

Andrew Coyne in today's post takes Post columnist Andy Lamey to task on a number of points of common English usage. One of those points is the use and misuse of the double negative.

Coyne uses this simple example,

Why, then, should we accept the Pinker/Lamey conjecture with regard to double negatives -- that "I didn't buy no lottery tickets" is on a par with "I didn't buy any lottery tickets"?

In each case, they reason, the sentence could simply have been written "I didn't buy lottery tickets": the "no" and "any" are extraneous, put there only to agree with the negated verb. "The slim difference," writes Prof. Pinker, "is that non-standard English co-opted the word 'no' as the agreement element whereas standard English co-opted the word 'any.' "

A reasonable example and one where the Lamey thesis falls apart. These are not equivalent sentences. Coyne shows the distinction,

Nonsense. If I say I didn't buy any lottery tickets, it is because I want to impress upon you the absoluteness of my abstention. You think maybe I bought one or two? No: I did not buy so much as one. I did not buy any. Number of tickets bought: zero.

If I say, on the other hand, I didn't buy no lottery tickets, the meaning is the exact opposite. Or at any rate, it is one plausible meaning. If I did not buy no tickets, it means I bought some. That's not snobbery, it's simple logic.
link national post

The other way of making the point is to remove the "didn't". The absolute "I buy no lottery tickets" (shades of Orson Wells, "We sell no wine before its time.") versus the incoherent or over inclusive (and possibly interogative) "I buy any lottery tickets."

The double negative is actually a wonderful and very subtle tactic.

"Her looks were not displeasing." is importantly different from "Her looks were pleasing." With the double negative the speakers' own response is woven into the structure of a sentence. It is a very delicate effect which is lost when the negative is doubled in slang.

The master of the double negative is none other than Andy Lamey's reviewing icon, Anthony Powell, whose natural narrative voice in The Dance to the Music of Time - alas packed away or I'd quote - is the double negative.

Frum Gone, Post Next?

Well, no. While Frum certainly was a draw for the National Post no columnist makes a paper.

However Frum comments on the rise of the Post make interesting and important points as to Canwest's newspapering abilities.

One critical point,

Random mass layoffs, the closing and reopening of entire sections of the paper confused and frightened both staff and readers.

Unlike television where change is a given, successful newspapers deliver a consistent product to loyal readers. If the product is degraded, switched around or fails to maintain a point of view, hard won readers begin to defect. Unlike television, when a newspaper reader defects to another newspaper it will take them a long time to come back.

To give one example: Noah Richler built a first rate book section under the Black/Whyte regime. As Black withdrew the book section was degraded. Now, under the Aspers, books and authors are tossed into the dog's breakfast known this week as the Saturday Review. Once in a while there is a big push for Spring or Fall books. Meanwhile Martin Levin is left undisturbed at the top of the Canadian book heap. Which means the few dollars Canadian publishers spend advertising books are vacuumed into Globe Books.

The readers the Post had - and there were half a million of them - were acquired by an incredibly expensive process of giveaways, advertising, subscription deals and ruthless promotion. After all, no one will advertise until the numbers are there. But the numbers were there for a very specific product. Once that product began to degrade the numbers started falling away. At the start up Black was willing to invest millions to get readers. Given the losses, each one of those 500,000 readers probably cost the Post $20.00 to $100.00. That was a sunk cost and what, in fact, the Aspers were buying when they got the Post.

When readers begin to drift away the value of that sunk cost is lost. In many cases for good.

Now the Post has degraded to the point where its editors think someone gives a rat's ass about Rebecca Eckler being pregnant. It is a sad sight.


Iraqi hash

Writing in the Guardian Jonathan Steele has several anti-American observations to make. His lead pretty much sums up his position"

American efforts to foist new rulers on the people of Iraq are becoming increasingly grotesque.
link the guardian

There will, no doubt be errors as the Americans withdraw combat troops and replace them with better equipped military police. There will, no doubt, be decisions made which will exclude certain factions of the Iraqi opposition and include some very rough characters from the Saddamite regime. Local populations will be irritated and clerics ignored. So what?

The American game plan seems to be to turn civil authority over as quickly as possible to reasonable, if not pure, Iraqis who are not actively hostile to America. While I am not at all sure that this is the best strategy - there are strong arguments for a six month to two year transition during which the Baathist element in Iraqi society can be sorted out and dealt with - but that is the policy of non-occupation the Americans are adopting. It certainly will give the now dormant Arab Street something else to be silent about.

For Steele, as for many of his ilk, the solution is the now thoroughly discredited looters at the United Nations:

But the UN should come in, with a short-term mandate, to convene a genuinely representative conference of Iraqis which would choose an interim government and an assembly to draft a constitution. Only the UN can give legitimacy and impartiality to this process. Instead of supporting Washington as Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, did when he joined Gen Garner in co-chairing last week's highly selective meeting of Iraqi politicians, Britain should work with the security council to give the UN the same kind of government-brokering role as it had in post-war Afghanistan.

leaving aside the obvious fact that bringing in the UN would bring in the nutbar French and their veto, there is no evidence at all that the UN is any good at this sort of mission. Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia - it is not a set of battle honours which can be worn with pride.

If the Americans can manage to find safe hands for the bulk of the civil administration in Iraq - water, light, roads, hospitals, elementary schools - it can then give the Iraqi politicians time to come up with a workable politics for Iraq. Which might take quite a while.

Arafat Ignored

US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns was yesterday criticised for ignoring Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on his tour of the region ahead of next week's visit by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"America Determined to Ignore Arafat," said the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram Al Messai in its evening edition.

Burns met Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, yesterday after having held talks with Israeli officials on Sunday.

"Arafat is not a demon to deserve this ferocious campaign to weaken and eliminate his direct role as the main negotiator," the daily said.
link gulf daily news

Arafat is, in fact, a demon. He will be until he ceases to promise to end terrorism while having his own supporters launching terrorist attacks. You cannot negotiate with a liar and Arafat is nothing more than a liar. The US and Israel - as well as Egypt and Jordan - are under no illusions.

Paper War

The recent personnel changes at the National Post suggest that the Aspers are beginning a process of shifting their newspaper assets. similarly, cuts in arts and entertainment coverage at a number of the Southam group of papers suggest retrenchment.

Matthew Mallon - occasional Mix contributor and now editor of Vancouver Magazine, pulls no punches:

The future of the paper's entertainment coverage. After a Toronto Star story claimed that national arts critics would be replacing local staff, the newsroom-a workplace so rife with paranoia that no employee approached for this story felt able to talk on the record-became a minefield. "The Mix [the Sun's Saturday arts section]is basically dead," says another source. "It'll be nothing but in-house writers and wire copy from now on. And Queue [the Thursday arts guide] has been eviscerated. It's a shell now."
link vancouver magazine

While I write for the much reduced Book section of the Sun, I have to say I am not terribly sorry to see the Mix die.

When the now departed David Beers more or less invented the Mix he was trying to liven up a Saturday section which had ceased to be attractive. But Beers, for all of his talk about juxtaposing heavy metal with fine art never really managed gain the Mix a reputation outside already committed Sun readers. Jim Sutherland, who took over from Beers, is actually far more suited to his current job editing Western Living. (Rumour has it he is responsible for the excretable Angela Yanor for which he should have to do two bathroom editions a year.) The Mix languished. And now, poor Denise Ryan has been handed the poison chalice. No budget and no real point. I do not envy her a bit.

At some point the Sun will realize that rather than being a burden to the paper and the place to chop when Winnipeg calls for cuts, a Saturday feature section can actually attract readers.

As Arts organizations tirelessly point out, the arts -- from rock concerts to poetry readings - actually out draw professional sports. A real feature section which had excellent arts coverage, real reporting and brilliant book and author material (plug) will draw people to the paper on Saturday and for the rest of the week.

More importantly, a really well done weekly could steal the Georgia Straight's lunch.

but a really well done weekly would have to be something other than the tired hipster routine which has come to characterize the Mix. To really work it needs hard core columns - not George Fetherling for another 2500 words....Real politics. Sean Rossitter where are you when we need you. A point of view. Short sharp articles. Actual critics and a really smart attitude.

It also, frankly, needs a gimmick. And I have one.

Over print 50,000 copies a week and distribute them free.

The Mix and Queue are beaten up every week by the Straight simply because it is on the stands where people can get it and use it for free every Thursday. And there the Straight stays through the week. The Mix is recycling on Monday morning, the Straight is being picked up by people on the way to work.

With Canwest short of cash, (see Colby Cosh) there will be about a million reasons why really pumping up a Saturday feature magazine is a non-starter. None of them will be right. The Sun's competition for the younger demographic it is so eager to capture is the Georgia Straight. Going free on 50,000 would nail the Straight.

African Stand off

Chirac pal Robert Mugabe, leaned on hard by Nigeria, South Africa and Malawi, has agreed to start talks with Zimbabwe's opposition.

Just one thing: the Opposition has to agree to drop its legal challenge against Mugabe's stolen election. Fat chance.

An MDC official said there was strong opposition in the party to dropping the legal action:

"Our whole case is that the presidential election must be re-run under international supervision.

"If we drop it, we effectively recognise Mugabe's legitimacy."
>link financial times

Mugabe has, apparently, learned very little in the last couple of months. What he has really missed is that the world at large is getting fed up with the petty tyrants: Arafat, Castro, Jong, Iranian clerics and little men trying to claim democratic mandates after campaigns of intimidation. No doubt he will seek coaching from Chirac and fall further behind the learning curve.

New Europe arrives

Warsaw announced over the weekend that the 10 mostly European nations could have their forces in Iraq within several weeks. Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told reporters at a European Union meeting in Greece that "the idea is to have all the countries ready to engage there by the end of the month."

The size of the force, which is to be led by the United States, Britain, and Poland, has not been determined. The United States, Britain, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Albania have offered troops for the effort.

As the Lefties decry US occupation, the coalition of the willing gets ready to take over policing duties in Iraq.

You can hear the cries of "merde" all the way to Vancouver.

French Peacekeeping up Close

And as for France and the UN, we should recall the events of 1994 in Rwanda. Let’s face it, the UN Security Council didn’t become irrelevant on the eve of the latest war. It proved how superfluous it was when it stood by and did nothing to prevent the genocide in Central Africa nearly a decade ago. While covering the war from the rebel Tutsi side in Rwanda I remember being attacked by helicopters piloted by whites. Who were they? Well, soon afterwards I covered the conflict from the other side, where I saw numbers of French troops at the Hutu frontlines. As we all know, the French-financed and trained Hutu extremists went on to massacre up to a million civilians. What did France do? They got UN backing to launch Operation Turquoise, which involved the unilateral invasion of French troops into southwest Rwanda, which covered the retreat of the Hutus from advancing Tutsi forces. The killers were then spirited into safety abroad. When we got to Goma, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scenes of French troops and Hutu leaders in backslapping conversations were sickening to see.

Of course the French went on to regroup and train the Hutu genocidaires in the jungles of Mobutu Sese Seko’s kingdom. This in turn sparked the Congo war, which has killed up to 3.5 million people to date. The violence in Central Africa continues. And France poses as peacemaker in the UN when we come to the Iraq war, where civilian deaths appear to be still well below 2,000.
link the spectator

Aiden Hartley has covered assorted wars in Africa. He has seen how the French behave and how they intervene. He is rather hoping they stay out of Iraq.

They will.

Record Industry Criminals

Orin Kerr provides an interesting analysis of just what laws the recording industry would be breaking if they use "more aggressive methods" to target file sharers. This is normally called hacking and is illegal under a variety of American laws.

The RIAA is perfectly aware hacking is illegal.

As I wrote back in early 2002:

The RIAA, the lobby group of the American Music Industry, clearly contemplates using hacking in all its forms to fight what it calls the anti-piracy battle. In the wake of September 11, the American Congress passed the USA Act aka the Patriot Act. In it, some computer hacking was effectively made a ?terrorist? offence and the scope of the privacy intrusions authorized by government in cases of suspected computer fraud or abuse was broadened. As well, civil liability for the destruction of property and programs held on hacked computers was increased.

The RIAA proposed an amendment to the USA Act which would have immunized all copyright holders from the civil law rules against hacking.

"No action may be brought under this subsection arising out of any impairment of the availability of data, a program, a system or information, resulting from measures taken by an owner of copyright in a work of authorship, or any person authorized by such owner to act on its behalf, that are intended to impede or prevent the infringement of copyright in such work by wire or electronic communication; provided that the use of the work that the owner is intending to impede or prevent is an infringing use."

The amendment was not passed. The RIAA believed that without this change its members attempts to break into and disable pirate websites or peer-to-peer networks would be illegal In Wired News, Mitch Glaizer, an RIAA lobbyist, is quoted as saying, "We might try and block somebody, if we know someone is operating a server, a pirated music facility, we could try to take measures to try and prevent them from uploading or transmitting pirated documents." For the moment this sort of electronic self help remains illegal.
link jay currie


Indymedia punts

The lame idiocy of many of the Indymedia posters needs no real comment. No conspiracy is too deep, no motive unsuspect.

They have bitten off a rather big chunk by labelling Charles Johnson, blogger at the popular Little Green Footballs site and the people, including yours truly who comment on that site, "Zionist supremacists". They compound the libel by posting a photograph of Charles with a little Hitler moustache.

The Indymedia problem is that they realize that the Left's position on Iraq and Israel has simply been eclipsed by events. It was fun to posture as pro-Palestinian and to lament Ms. Corrie's lunatic end trying to block an armoured bulldozer from revealing an arms smuggling tunnel entrance. The fact is that Indymedia has lined itself up with terrorists and tyrants and there is very little it can say in its own defence.

So, instead of re-examining their positions, the folks at Indymedia are resorting to childish, and likely actionable, slur against the people who have disagreed with them.

Amusingly, most of the comments posted on the relevant page are from Charles legion of supporters. Leave aside the politics, the spelling divides the Left from the Right. Ignorance often extends over several fields.

Democracy in Iraq

There is no question getting the Iraqis to embrace democracy after thrity years of dictatorship and fascism is going to be difficult. And it will take a subtle combination of force, confidence building and autocracy.

Charles Krauthammer gets it right on at least one issue in his Friday WaPo column,

What the administration has done right, on the other hand, has been to exclude all the foreign latecomers and meddlers who want to get in on the reconstruction. The administration gave the perfect response to the United Nations' claim that it alone can confer legitimacy on the running of Iraq: It ignored it.

It does not even merit a rejoinder. The idea that legitimacy flows from the blessings of France and Russia, Saddam Hussein's lawyers and suppliers, is on its face risible. Legitimacy does not come out of U.N. headquarters in New York; it will come out of the ground in Iraq, as more and more factions join in the construction of a provisional government.

link washington post