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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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6/21/2003

Steyn Update



via oscar jr's comment on Tim Blair

Steyn's very amusing FAQ page seems to confirm this:

Q: When can I read Mark’s columns each week?
A: Mark can be read on Monday in The New York Sun, Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post, Thursday (for Londoners) or Friday (for the rest of the United Kingdom) in The Spectator, Saturday in The Daily Telegraph, Sunday in The Chicago Sun-Times and The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and most Sundays in The Sunday Telegraph. These columns are linked here as they’re posted at their respective websites. The Spectator does not post Mark’s film column online but we do so here on the Wednesday following print publication. Mark’s monthly theatre column for The New Criterion is usually posted here on the last Thursday of each month – ie, the January column appears at the end of January.

Hmmmm.

et tu Report



Part of the problem with doing good work from a particular political perspective is that the crunch is just around the corner. Colby Cosh has put up the dreaded PayPal button faced with the uncertainty of Report's publication. (My suggestion is he apply at the National Post...there seem to be some vacancies.)

Not good news but a reminder that magazines and newspapers have to massage their audiences. Alberta Reports built a substantial circulation by offering a mixture of good reporting and a firmly Western perspective on Canadian and International events. But, over the years it became more and more concerned with social conservative issues and gradually more libertarian and small "l" liberal readers drifted away.Unfortunately, that was the target market for many of its advertisers.

While I hope Link Byfield can raise the 1.5 needed to keep publishing I also hope that any bailout involves a reassessing of the Report's commitment to the less attractive aspects of Canada's marginal social conservative movement. Just as voters rejected the religious undertone of Stockwell Day, readers are underwhelmed by a strident social conservatism.

Canada, especially Western Canada needs a magazine like Reports; but it has to reflect the new, libertarian reality of the West rather than a dying social conservatism which seems quaint even in small towns.

Meanwhile, send Colby a buck or two...I did.

ex Post II



Another shoe falls.

In Edward Greenspon's Editor's column in today's Globe and Mail,

We are also pleased to announce that Christie Blatchford, formerly of the National Post, will join our staff later this summer.
link globe and mail


Blatchford owns a certain sort of tear jerking, victims of crime story in the Toronto market. She pulled readers with her when she joined the Post. Lots of readers and readers who would skip Steyn, Coyne and Frum.

Losing Blatchford suggests that the Post is simply imploding. Her readers are worth actual money and her tear jerking coverage of major crime stories sells papers. Lots of papers.

No editor would let her go without a fight unless that editor was constrained by cash and on a rather contrary mission.

I wrote earlier - and it is in the archives if I can ever get them to this site - that one explaination for the Post's behaviour is the rumoured existence of a clause in the Asper/Black deal which provides for a penalty payment in the event that the Aspers do not keep the Post going. If there is such a clause it might also have an escape hatch which allows Canwest to shut the paper down in the event that its circulation drops beneath a set target.

Blatchford's departure will put a hole in the circulation. A big one.

6/20/2003

ex Post



I wish I had some idea what is going on at the National Post....A friend of mine who works there says the morale has cratered and "It was a great ride while it lasted".

Running Maureen Dowd in place of Andrew Coyne is just another, to mix a metaphor, cheese paring nail in the coffin. Subbing Dowd for Coyne is a pure economy move: Dowd's syndication fee is likely all of fifty bucks, you actually have to pay Coyne. Losing Frum was a question of principle - losing Coyne and Steyn almost certainly are about money.

As for Mark Steyn....He seems to be writing for the Telegraph but not the Post...hmmm. His editor, when contacted by Kathy Shaidle a couple of weeks ago, assured her that Mark was just on a vacation/trip and would be back. Reading between the lines I suspect management told him they were cutting his rate and he told them - by way of his website to get stuffed.

Things are no better at the other ex-Southam papers. Layoffs, budget cuts and a drive down market have been the watchwords at the Sun and the Ottawa Citizen both of which I write for. (As an example, Gordon Campbell is complaining that neither the Sun nor the Province have a full time print journalist covering the B.C. Legislature - he took his complaint to the Sun editorial board, no word on outcome.)

Bottom line: Canwest has a massive debt. The National Post is losing money and they are cutting content in order to reduce costs. This is a recipe for the bankruptcy of a newspaper and best indications are that the Post may be heading in that direction. The other papers in the chain make money, lots of money, but they are being squeezed so that the revenue can be sent back to the mother ship in Winnipeg.

Neither of the Asper kids has a clue about the newspaper business and neither seem to have any great respect for the better traditions of journalism. They seem to see newspapers as a less interesting form of television and treat newspaper readers like television audiences. This will not work and the overall quality, and, I might add, value of the Post and the Southam papers will drop.

I rather suspect, but have no evidence, that the Aspers will try to sell the whole mess sooner rather than later. Come the day!

Update Colby Cosh reminds me that Steyn, according to his editor Natasha Hassen, was supposed to be back at the end of May....

Steyn Fades



An alert reader checked Mark Steyn online and discovered that the National Post masthead is no longer on the site....hmmmmm.


6/19/2003

Dead Babies



via Tim Blair

It is now a matter of record that the Iraqis were lying when they claimed that children were dying as the result of UN sanctions. Last weekend Andrew Bolt, writing in the Herald Sun nailed John Pilger, Robert Fisk and the rest of the lefty journos who simply drank Saddam's koolaid.

Iraqi doctors now say what our intellectuals and our reporters should have felt in their bones. Iraq's children were dying not because of us, but because of Saddam. And even the parades of dead children were part of a monstrous hoax.
Dr Amer Abdul a-Jalil, the deputy resident at Baghdad's Ibn al-Baladi Hospital, has told the London Telegraph that "sanctions did not kill these children -- Saddam killed them".
"Over the past 10 years, the government in Iraq poured money into the military and the construction of palaces for Saddam to the detriment of the health sector," he said.
"Those babies or small children who died because they could not access the right drugs, died because Saddam's government failed to distribute the drugs."
As the hospital's chief resident, Dr Hussein Shihab, confirmed to Newsday: "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed. Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong -- that these children died from the fault of the UN." link Hearld Sun


What is really interesting about this story is that years ago it was obvious that the "dead baby" was being faked. John Sweeny, writing in the Guardian in June 2002 said,

Small coffins, decorated with grisly photographs of dead babies and their ages - 'three days', 'four days', written usefully for the English-speaking media - are paraded through the streets of Baghdad on the roofs of taxis, the procession led by a throng of official mourners.
There is only one problem. Because there are not enough dead babies around, the regime prevents parents from burying infants immediately, in the Muslim tradition, to create more powerful propaganda.
The taxi drivers do what they are told - as everybody does in Saddam's Iraq - to their evident disgust. Before Ali defected to the north, one friend of his, a taxi driver, explained how it worked: 'I went to Najaf [a town 100 miles south of Baghdad] a couple of days ago. I brought back two bodies of children for one of the mass funerals. The smell was very strong.'
Ali continued: 'The taxi driver didn't know how long they'd been in freezers, perhaps six or seven months. The drivers would collect them from the regions and would be informed of when a mass funeral was arranged so they would be ready. Certainly, they would collect bodies of children who had died months before and been held for the mass processions.' link the guardian


The baby funeral fakes were reported and ignored....lefty intellectuals were too busy imagining that depleted uranium leftover bullets were giving babies cancer to be bothered paying any attention to the
the facts.

Ideally we will learn a little something from the idiocy of the Left in its defence of Saddam...but I doubt it.

6/18/2003

Equality



While there is a good argument to be made that fishing on the West Coast should be severely limited to allow stocks to replenish, the idea of the "natives only" fishery has always stuck in the craw.

Apparently a BC Provincial Court judge saw it that way,

In a scathing indictment of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Judge Brian Saunderson granted 40 commercial fishermen absolute discharges for staging an illegal protest fishery last summer.
He said punishing the fishermen would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
"It would make the court complicit with the DFO in benefiting Indians over others, and entitle the public to view the court as the handmaiden of the Minister of Fisheries [Robert Thibault]."
Judge Saunderson said the department lacks the moral authority to punish the fishermen, noting that "the DFO has not acted in an even-handed way toward all commercial sockeye fishermen . . . . [and has] lost the right to demand the respect of the public."
link globe and mail



No doubt the feds will appeal. But Judge Saunderson is absolutely right - enforcing the discriminatory policies of the DFO would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. (Though, legally, I am not sure what the "moral authority" or the "respect of the public" has to do with the enforcement of the law and its regulations.

6/17/2003

Leo Strauss defended



While the National Post seems to be suffering from some sort of compulsion to drive its core readers away - I mean why replace Andrew Coyne with day old Maureen Dowd unless you are actually trying to bankrupt the place - it does manage to run interesting and challenging material.

Clifford Orwin's two part series on the perceived influence of Leo Strauss manages to give a flavour of this profound philosopher and drop several smart bombs on the people who perceive that the Bush Administration has somehow been taken over by Straussians.

The most troubling aspect of Strauss and Straussians is not their gradual rise to power - after all virtually every member of the Bush Administration has, at some point, read Paul Samuelson but no one suggests a Samuelsonian conspiracy (although Bush's reckless tax cuts smack of a radical misreading of neo-Keynesian economics) - but rather their tendency to see themselves as in possession of an esoteric truth unavailable to those who have not sat at the knee of the great man or his acolytes.

In fact, most Straussians who I have encountered do have a number of advantages over people with more mainstream degrees. First, if they have followed Strauss they have had to learn Greek and at least one other language in order to reader the great works in the original. Second, they have not wasted their time trying to learn the language games of post modern analysis. Third, they have been trained to read a text actively.

The critical Straussian insight was that philosophers do not always have the luxury of saying precisely what they mean. Here's Orwin's explanation,

Yes, Strauss did write about a certain mode of deceit, which he called "esoteric writing." Indeed he claimed to have rediscovered this practice after centuries of oblivion. But this kind of prevarication was practised not by rulers on the ruled, but by certain of the ruled on the rulers. Strauss first expounded this theme in his Persecution and the Art of Writing. The art in question was precisely a response to persecution, the resort of the powerless and unconventional (including philosophers, who as such are both of these). It was not a technique of wielding power. A recent example is the "Aesopian writing" that dissidents practised under Communism. They hid their meaning from the authorities while still conveying it to their more alert readers. Strauss's greatest -- and most disputed -- scholarly claim was that the whole history of Western thought had to be reinterpreted in view of his rediscovery that philosophers had practised this mode of writing.
link national post



It follows that the only way to tease the true meaning of a text from the ironies and fables in which it is embedded is to read it very closely, in the original language and in possession of the best possible account of the historical context in which the text appeared. This is hard scholarly work and, for those prepared to put in the effort, leads to a mastery of those texts. Being a Straussian means, first and foremost being a committed scholar.

The chatter about the "Straussians" in the Bush Administration really reflects the almost total inability of the Left's po-mo scholars to gain any traction at all against well educated, nuanced and blunt thinkers. It is awfully hard for a moral relativist to stand up against the combined intellectual firepower of Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. The vacuity of the relativists and post-modernist's positions was revealed when the first children's grave was dug up in Iraq. And they have not gotten over it.


Crunch!



Looking at my stats - pathetic - before crashing I noticed a surge from Winds of Change. I'm on a list of folks who have moved off blogspot. I am still stuck using Blogger because I am too much of a code wennie to get Movable Type up and running.

As Katzman puts it, "I'm watching in real time as a major piece of software gets its brains and future blown out, and it's fascinating."

Katzman, watching the car crash which is the Google/Blogger merger, has it about right...More servers should make the pages load, er, faster.

But what really annoyed me, and got me to switch, was that Blogger shuts down its third party api servers for no apparent reason with no notice. I am a huge fan of w.blogger as a really easy blogging tool and it is locked out at the moment. Grrr.

I suspect Blogger/Google will get the problems fixed; but it will be long after lots of their customers will have left in disgust or quit blogging altogether.

Nutbars of Europe



via Andrew Sullivan and Blogs of War

The right of reply, which only a Cartesian could believe is mandated by the right of free speech, is coming to Europe. Better still, the loonies want it to extend beyond professional online media to websites and blogs.

Pall Thorhallsson of the organization's media division explained this move by arguing that bloggers and their brethren are becoming influential enough to be regulated as are their counterparts in the offline world. A 1974 Council of Europe resolution says "a newspaper, a periodical, a radio or television broadcast" must offer a right of reply. Most European countries have enacted that right, with a German law--compiled by the U.K. nonprofit group Presswise—that offers a typical example: A publisher is "obliged to publish a counter-version or reply by the person or party affected."
"Some online publications run by nonprofessionals can be very influential and therefore damaging to the reputation of other people," Thorhallsson told me. "It may be precisely against these (kinds) of publications that there is a need to grant a remedy. It's true that it may look burdensome for a blogger to be obliged to grant a right of reply. Some have suggested that a solution could be that individuals could make a deal with their service providers to administer the right of reply."
link cnet


I hope Glen Reynolds and Charles over at Little Green Footballs are ready to go - oops, the blog world already has this...take a look at LGF's comments.

6/16/2003

John Crosbie on fish



"There's no group out there trying to save the fishery, including the fishermen," Mr. Crosbie said in an interview with the Citizen. "They don't support conservation measures. They'll argue that the scientists are wrong and everyone is wrong. There's still fish around and they'll fish until the last fish is caught, which will happen in this century in my opinion, at some time."
link national post


Crosbie, who was the first minister of fisheries to ever close the Newfoundland cod fishery nails the problem and dispairs of solution,

"All of the proper things that can be done will be unpopular, especially in the short term. And the politicians hate the risk of being unpopular in the short term, because they live in the short term. It may be wonderful in the long term, but it's going to cause a lot of political pain and difficulty while they're doing it and so they don't do it," Mr. Crosbie said. "Bullshit reigns and nothing sensible is done."


Pithy as always, Crosbie recognizes the ultimately futile attempt to run common resources politically or, for that matter, without clear and individual sense of ownership.

The West Coast salmon fishery is a few years behind the all but extinct Newfoundland cod fishery in terms of depletion; but it faces identical pressures and the same lack of political will. Similar issues arise in the rock fish, crab and clam fisheries.

One huge twist has been the arrival of significant numbers of Asian immigrants on the West Coast. Coming from cultures which, apparently don't accept conservation measures, these immigrants are over fishing a variety of species for profit. My favorite example were four Chinese gentlemen who would come up to the north end of Galiano for a day's "sports" fishing. Coming back into Vancouver we would see them on the ferry with six or eight large coolers full or rock cod. And they were there every weekend. A small thing perhaps; but this sort of reckless exploitation, multiplied hundreds of time, has caused the government to close the rock cod fishery simply to conserve the stocks.

From these gentlemen's perspective their fishing trip was a several hundred or even thousand dollar excursion. After all, the fish were free and could be sold for $4 to $5 per pound. It took two guys to lift each of those coolers so I estimate each weighed close to a hundred pounds. They'd done the math.

So long as no one actually owns the fish their effective price is zero. That price rises slightly where there is a risk of being caught fishing over limit by the fisheries folks; but that risk is relatively small and the fines imposed are negligible.

If the fish, or rather the particular fishing area, were to be owned by a given person who was allowed a set harvest, then that person would have an interest in managing and protecting his or her stock. As it stands now Crosbie's observation, "Bullshit reigns and nothing sensible is done." pretty much sums up fisheries policy on both Canada's coasts.



Mon Dieu!



via Steve Den Beste

With the United States, a EUR 97 million surplus in March turned into a EUR 202 million deficit in April.
link expatica


Both den Beste and Andrew Sullivan suggest this might have a little something to do with France's show of friendship and support for America during the run-up to the Iraq war. Both suggest that this is a sort of spontanous boycot by American of "Made in France" goods. Could be.

But another reading would be that the rise in the euro was a huge factor and, possibly, a very quiet, unreported pro-American backlash in France. In any case the poor French rank just behind Saddam as losers in the Iraq war.

Ehud Olmert on Hamas



As one of the participants in the Aqaba summit, I can testify that Israel fully expected the Palestinian Authority's newly reorganized and trained security agencies to take harsh action against the rejectionists who sought to wreck the peace process. Accordingly, it was disappointing to hear the Palestinians declare that they would not under any circumstances use armed force against those plotting attacks from within their territory. Cynically, I believe, the Palestinian leadership insisted it could persuade Hamas with words.
link washington post



Frankly, I rather doubt that Israel was naive enought to think the Palestinians were going to actually use force to stop Hamas. Instead, I think the Israelis were well aware that the most essential ingredient of the roadmap - a cessation of Palestinian terrorism - was never actually on the table. But they also knew that Bush had to be seen as attempting to bring the parties to that barren table.

The Aqaba summit was, to a large extent, a photo op which would serve as the basis for Abbas to go to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fattah asking for a ceasefire. Knowing full well that the ask would be bloodily rejected. Abbas also knows he did not and does not have the power - yet - to take on the rejectionist directly. But, a few well placed Hellfires, some covert assasination and a call for serious American intervention could tip that balance. The troll of Ramallah's last stand began with the joint attacks on Israel.

Now, Sharon, Abbas and Bush - having identified the enemy - can get on with the civil war in Palestine which must be fought and won before there is a chance of a two-state peace in the Holy Land.