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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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Sheik Yassin defended the bombing in Jerusalem on Tuesday, saying: "This operation did not come out of nothing. It came after a series of letters and statements to the world, asking them to stop the Israeli practices.

"We didn't know that this operation would lead to the killing of 20," he also said, insisting that it was conducted by the military wing of the organization, without his involvement.
link nyt
So you strap explosives and ball bearings around the fat fanatic and you get him on an articulated bus at rush hour...who could possibly have foreseen that 20 people, one of whom was three months old, would be killed.

Certainly not Sheik Ahmed Yassin, 'spiritual' leader of Hamas. (Yes, those are BBC scare quotes.) Unfortunately, so far as I know, the IDF is not taking nominations for the next Hellfire. But I am sure Sheik Yassin is somewhere near the top of the hit parade. Which is a good thing.

Gilligan Sunk

Andrew Gilligan is likely to lose his job at the BBC because his position has become "untenable" after the revelation that he e-mailed a member of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, senior executives at the corporation said yesterday.

BBC managers were "extremely surprised" when the contents of the e-mail were disclosed to the Hutton Inquiry last week and "furious" that Gilligan had not submitted the document to the BBC legal team. One manager described the incident as "an obvious sacking offence".
link the telegraph
So, while pretending that you are reporting from Baghdad Airport when you are nowhere near it and making up quotes from your sources seems to earn you the full support of management, actually withholding documentary evidence, if someone actually provides independent proof you did, is a firing offence at the BBC. Nice to have that straightened out.

6000 Escapees From the Middle Ages Rally on Parliament Hill

"I don't like the word compromise," said Robert Hurley, 81, of Mississauga. "We're here because we're pro-life and pro-family and we look at what the Bible says. The Bible refers to all other arrangements as an abomination."
link et seq.
Mr. Hurley would have said more but he had to leave early to stone his daughter for disobedience.

Surprisingly, while the demonstrators criticized the Courts, apparently for giving citizens equal rights to government benefits, they failed to denouce shellfish eaters or folks who like bacon with their eggs.
"This really is a public-policy issue. It's not a human-rights issue," said Derek Rogusky, vice-president of the 11th century cult group Focus on the Family. "Public-policy issues need to be decided either by our elected representatives ... or through a national referendum."
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley came by the religious extremists' rally and, with some tact, avoided suggesting that they were misguided religious cranks and instead said,
"We ... have decisions, including the Ontario Court of Appeal decision, which has legalized same-sex marriage in the province of Ontario," Mr. Manley said. "It's legal in the province of British Columbia. Shortly, it will be legal in the province of Quebec. That's about 80 per cent of the Canadian population. So, if we do nothing, it's legal for 80 per cent of the population."
While faggots - in the old sense of that word - were being gathered for a good old fashioned Inquisitorial stake burning, Mr. Manley slipped away into the 21st century leaving the puzzled fundys scratching their heads. "I say he's a witch" said one carbuncled yokel. "Couldn't be a witch" retorted another, "It's a man - and says right in the Bible that only women can be witches."

While the Rev. Canon Garth Bulmer, rector of Ottawa's St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, was unable to intervene in the debate regarding Manley status as a witch, he did flit in from the present to say,
"One of the reasons why there has been hatred for gay people over the years is lack of social approval. There are no social structures such as marriage that have given them credibility and legitimacy, and that is why this is so important."
Despite their best efforts, Bulmer was able to return to the present before the bumpkins could manage to attach him to their stake.

While there are reports that at least half the escapees were Chinese Chrisitians there were no indication of Muslim ("Pull a wall down on him, Aziz.") participation in this time warp and the Mullah Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary has not, as yet, issued further fatwas consigning politicians supportive of same sex marriage to Eternal Damnation. However, live communications from the Middle Ages are spotty at best and we await further developments in this breaking story of temporal displacement.

Palestinian Action?

Debka Files (50% true at all times, the question being which 50%) reports the Palestinian security forces are sealing up some of the arms smuggling tunnels running from Egypt to Gaza - rather like the ones looney peacenik Rachel Corrie was trying to protect when she dove under a bulldozer - and have begun to work at preventing more missles being fired into Israel.

Perhaps someone lent him a car.

French Demands

France dismissed an effort by the US to get more countries to provide troops for Iraq yesterday, saying an international force should be dispatched only if it had a UN mandate.

At the end of a week in which over 23 people were killed by a bomb attack on the UN's Baghdad offices, France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, whose country has veto power in the Security Council, said the Allies must switch from "a logic of occupation to a logic of sovereignty", telling Le Monde: "We can't make do with adjusting or enlarging the current plan. The right thing would be to bring into play a true international force under the mandate of the UN.."
link the independent
This is more than a little unseemly coming from Dominique "M. Veto" de Villepin. One might think that he would remember opposing the actual war in spite of the UN Resolution threatening serious consequences for non-compliance. His remarks on switching from "a logic of occupation to a logic of sovereignty" utterly ignore the fact the Americans and their Allies have already started transferring power to the Iraqi national Council.

What the French need to recognize is that after their behaviour during the War and its prelude the Americans have no interest in French conditions; if the French want to help - which I doubt - their best move would be to say so without conditions. Once they have troops on the ground they will be seen as part of the solution rather than a royal pain in the ass for American policy. Diplomacy's self published poet should have some ear for language. Conciliation and reconciliation are the music of diplomacy. particularily for the weak, and de Villepin has once again demonstrated he is as arrogant as he is tone deaf.

Astrology Bunk...Who Knew?

For several decades, researchers tracked more than 2,000 people - most of them born within minutes of each other. According to astrology, the subject should have had very similar traits.
And now, wait for it,
Researchers looked at more than 100 different characteristics, including occupation, anxiety levels, marital status, aggressiveness, sociability, IQ levels and ability in art, sport, mathematics and reading - all of which astrologers claim can be gauged from birth charts.

The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the "time twins", however. They reported in the current issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: "The test conditions could hardly have been more conducive to success . . . but the results are uniformly negative."link the telegraph
I once lived with a girl who was a certified astrologer. One night we were looking up at the sky and I picked out a couple of constellations. I turned to her and said, "But this must be old hat for you." She replied, "Not really, I don't know anything about stars." She will be a bit disappointed but I bet she'll still believe.

French wrinklies perish, Steyn is on it

There's an old, cynical formula for the weight accorded different disasters on American TV news. It runs something like: one dead American = 10 dead Israelis = 100 dead Russians = 1,000 dead Bangladeshis. But 10,000 French can die, and even the French don't seem to care ? or not too much, and not with any great urgency.
link the telegraph
France is in rather more trouble than seems to be being reported. thought there does seem to be a fairly significant degree of discussion as to whether 10,000 or 3,000 elderly French citizens were stricken from Chirac's voters rolls while he enjoyed a vacation in Quebec.

It's Only Rock and Roll

Steve DenBeste, best read when you have an hour or two and no screen flicker, is widely acknowledged as the best long form blogger on the planet and he out does himself in this essay on soft power and the rise of American Culture. Adjust your screen, stretch, read the whole thing, repeat.


The Real War

When I first saw this over at Little Green Footballs my first reaction was that it was a very tasteless joke. Then I went to the website of Al Muhajiroun. This is a hate site which should be charged under British law for the promotion of religious and racial hatred (yeah, right, that will happen.) But it should also be publicized. If you have a blog or a website please put the graphic up. Hot link it to my site if you are worried about bandwidth.

The only way a liberal society can defeat the Islamofascists is by exposing their hatred and their lies. The Magnificent 19 is a perfect place to start.

Yeah, Right

according to an aide to Palestinian Authority security chief Mohammed Dahlan, the missile strike came shortly before Palestinian police intended to launch raids on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Elias Zananiri, Dahlan's spokesman, said Palestinian security forces had been given new rules of engagement, which would have allowed them to arrest militants and confiscate weapons. He said the new measures would have stripped Hamas and Islamic Jihad of their military wings.
link cnn
This after his boss had explained that the PA security forces had not acted in the 24 hours that Israel gave them to begin cleaning up their mess because of a shortage of vehicles. I doubt even the French will believe that.


It is pretty easy to push Bin Laden to the back of your mind as the various other horrors play themselves out in the world. He is still in hiding and still able to communicate to what this article in the Guardian suggests are a dwindling number of supporters.
the single greatest task facing the Pakistanis and the Americans will be to tame the powerful elders who run Pakistan's tribal areas and who appear to have given Bin Laden sanctuary. The danger is that the longer he remains uncaught, the bolder and stronger the surviving al-Qaida elements will feel.

"With so much of the retaliation infrastructure gone or unsustainable, Bin Laden's martyrdom does not pose nearly the threat it did a year ago," Mr Ijaz said.

Yet failing to catch the Saudi now could embolden the surviving al-Qaida forces. It was like "watching a radiation-hardened cancerous tumour regenerate and proliferate even more dangerously", he said.

"That's why Pakistan must now end the charade and get Bin Laden."
link the guardian
Mansoor Ijaz provides a lot of the information for this article as he did for a recent New Yorker article as I recall. Cynics might suggest that the Americans know either exactly or approximately where Bin Laden is and are simply waiting for the right instant - defined politically of course - to grab or, more likely, shoot him. I am not quite that cynical but I am also certain that not capturing Bin Laden at Tora Bora smacked of either incompetence or rather clever scheming.

Consider: Bin Laden on the run would continue to compromise his own network without posing any more threat than he would as a dead martyr. Let him escape and then roll up the network behind him would have been a smart and very patient move. (And a move which may also be running in Iraq with Uncle Cuddly.)

The people who really run intelligence and security tend to be hard bitten realists. One thing they know is what they do not in fact know. After 9/11 the focus on Al Qaeda demonstrated that this organization was larger and more powerful than anyone had suspected. Taking out its leadership, even if there was some certainty as to who that leadership was, would not have addressed the problem of finding and eliminating the 20-40 thousand people who had gone through the training camps in Afghanistan.

As importantly, getting Bin Laden, dead or alive, would have left the impression that the war on terrorism was pretty much done. Politically, that was the last outcome which the Bush administration wanted. Assuming for a moment that the policy direction of that administration is, in fact, set by neo-con foreign policy intellectuals who are committed to remaking the Middle East, the outrage of 9/11 created a consensus in America that "something" had to be done. This was all the mandate required for the invasion of Afghanistan and the regime change in Iraq.

The glue which binds the Axis of Evil is terrorism and the brand name is Bin Laden. Capture Bin Laden and the always present, principled, isolationist streak in American politics would begin to reassert itself. Bin Laden makes a complicated idea - the necessity of a prolonged war on the many headed beast of Islamofascism - pretty simple to understand. Politically, Bin Laden at large has relatively few downsides and the tremendous upside that it puts a face on terror. Militarily, a man communicating with handwritten notes is not a significant asset. In fact, because of the cost of keeping him alive, (those warlords and elders prefer cash and lots of it) he may actually be a liability. And, from an intelligence perspective, so long as Bin Laden is sending those notes - one of which was found in Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the third man from the top in the Al Qaeda organization when he was captured in Pakistan earlier this year - the possiblity of tracking the network increases.

Given the chance to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora, the American military inexplicably left a back door unguarded which lead directly to the tribal areas of Pakistan. Fluke? Bad Tactics? A scrupulous regard for Pakistani sovereignty? I doubt it. I rather suspect that the hard men in intelligence decided to let Bin Laden think he had escaped to see where he lead them.

Paying Attention

A man enrolled in a flight school ? where training involves flying over the Pickering nuclear power plant ? is one of 19 people being held in a Toronto-area jail while federal officers investigate possible links to terrorist groups.

Police from several forces acting in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada conducted pre-dawn raids throughout the Toronto area last week, arresting some of the men on alleged immigration violations while others are now being held without any charges being laid but as a possible "threat to national security." RCMP, Toronto, Halton, York and OPP officers carried out the arrests.
link the toronto star
this is the sort of security work which will prevent terrorism. Whether or not these people are ever convicted they were well worth the effort.

From the Jerusalem Post

A decision to kill, deport, or arrest Arafat and try him for crimes against humanity in an Israeli court of law would be an immediate catalyst for a military operation that would in fact bring this country victory and the security that would ensue. Why is this? Because the only way to win a war is to identify who the enemy is. After 10 years of lying to ourselves, the blood on the streets of our capital city calls out the truth. Hamas and Islamic Jihad could never operate if it weren't for the PA and Arafat and his new straw men Abbas and Dahlan. The longer our leaders dither and deceive us, the longer our army officers will believe that their work is meaningless and the longer our lives will be at the mercy of our enemies.
link jerusalem post
It appears I am not the only person who thinks that to kill a snake you cut off its head.

Cultural Dominance

If one day our children, or our children's children, can look back at this epoch in history, and facilely conclude that al-Qaeda and Hamas did not "really" stand for Islamic culture, it will be thanks to yet another handful of courageous men, both in the West and in the Muslim world itself, who, like Dr. Pipes, have insisted that Islamic culture could not be reduced to the pretensions of terrorist gangs and their apologists.

But if, tragically, such a day should never come, it will be in no small part because of those men and women who today are attacking Daniel Pipes and his work, as well as those politicians -- like Senators Kennedy, Harkin, and Dodd -- who permit hysteria and slander to guide where reason and judgment should rule.
link tech central station
Lee Harris nails the politics of hatred which are at the root of the Islamofascist challenge.

More Time?

We acknowledge that the situation is not simple. The Palestinians asked for 24 hours to act, and the Israelis agreed to wait. Nothing happened. Still, it is far from clear what would have been lost by giving the Palestinians more time. It is true that Mr. Abbas and Mr. Dahlan have been weak-kneed in keeping commitments under the peace plan, known as the road map. But the Israelis have also failed to carry out their commitments on ending settlement activity. Both sides need to act now.

Mr. Sharon must realize that there is no alternative to Mr. Abbas, who is committed to a peaceful two-state solution. If Mr. Abbas is forced from power, it will probably be awhile before anyone else will step forward. That could be the end of the road map ï?½ and the road ï?½ for quite some time.
link nyt
Howell may be gone but the hand wringing continues. Abbas has had several months and done nothing. In fact less than nothing as the ceasefire gave the terrorists time to rearm and regroup. The settlement issue is a red herring simply because if the Palestinians honour their commitments the IDF could have the settlements down in a matter of days.

The threat of Abbas leaving the fray is not very terrifying. He has not been able to pry power away from Arafat so his utility as the moderate face of Palestine is at an end. He never had any utility as an actual leader of the Palestinians simply because he was Arafat's man from the go. He was unable to establish an independent power base because he was a straw man without Arafat's support.

The Palestinians have doomed themselves to another round of desperate, futile stuggle against a vastly superior nation. The idiots who run Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terrorist groups deserve to be killed. Not because they have blood on their hands though that is justification enough; rather because their vanity and ignorance have consigned the Palestinian people to a bleak, hopeless and violent future.

The Israelis need to spend several months ignoring the Bush administration. Putting a bullet between Arafat's beady eyes would be a good start. Taking out the Hezbolah guns in Lebanon would be intelligent. Shooting or arresting every member of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat's own terror groups the IDF can find would be justified and might lead to the emergence of a real, moderate and rational Palestinian leadership.

At the moment that is impossible simply because any voice of moderation in Palestine will be silenced by the gunmen of the terrorist organizations.

Bush should know this, Powell, apparently has forgotten.


Oh, so this might be what Blair objected to

David Kelly told a Sunday Times journalist that Andrew Gilligan's report on the Today programme was "bullshit" and said he had been "put through the wringer" by the Ministry of Defence over the affair.

Nicholas Rufford told the Hutton inquiry today he visited Dr Kelly at his Oxfordshire home on Wednesday July 9, the day the MoD press office confirmed his name to journalists.

Rufford said he had asked Dr Kelly about his meeting with Gilligan and whether the BBC reporter's account of that conversation was accurate.

Dr Kelly replied: "I talked to him about factual stuff, the rest is bullshit."
link the guardian
It is at about this point that the BBC governors should be looking for its Chairman's resignation before resigning themselves.

Gilligan's Ethics

Andrew Gilligan's position within the BBC looked increasingly isolated last night as his bosses refused to back him for telling MPs that David Kelly had been a source for another corporation journalist.

Gilligan revealed to David Chidgey, a Liberal Democrat member of the foreign affairs committee, that Dr Kelly had spoken to Susan Watts of Newsnight just before the MPs questioned him about his contacts with journalists.

BBC spokesmen and senior executives connected with the Hutton inquiry pulled down the shutters yesterday, refusing to give Gilligan public support. It is thought that most, if not all, were unaware of Gilligan's actions, and it is understood that an investigation has been launched.
link the guardian
Andrew Gilligan was certainly willing to play with his source's identity. Where the BBC was committed to keeping Dr. Kelly's name to itself and did not waiver from that position until after his death, our andrew was happy to share with a Liberal Democratic MP. Not the fact that Kelly had been Gilligan's source; rather the fact he had been one of Gilligan's colleague's sources.

In normal circumstances this breach of ethics would result in the reporter being kicked out instantly. But the BBC is deeply implicated in the Kelly affair and is taking its time to see what the spin will be. firing gilligan, while right, would be an admission that the BBC has backed the wrong horse. Which would never do would it?

Election Fodder

Zimbabwe's government banned international relief agencies from distributing food aid yesterday and demanded they hand over their stocks immediately.

Aid groups were later holding crisis talks. They say more than three million Zimbabweans need food aid, with the number expected to rise above five million - more than half the population - by the end of the year.

President Robert Mugabe's authorities have been accused of handing out relief according to political allegiance. The government denies the charges.

Local elections are due this month and critics fear that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party wants to use the food to influence the outcome.
link telegraph
via Paul Jané Chirac's best friend has come up with a way to help in his election efforts. What better slogan than "Vote Zanu, Eat" As Paul puts it "When will someone rid me of this tiresome wanker?"


New Map

Abbas ordered the detention of militants directly linked to the attack, but would not clamp down on militant groups without Arafat's backing

The Palestinian Cabinet meeting was still going long past midnight, with officials debating a proposed political statement "that can prevent internal Palestinian fighting and at the same time contain the Israeli anger" for the latest attack, Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Al-Khatib said.

Participants, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ministers made several proposals, including freezing militant groups' bank accounts and outlawing the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Several ministers said the prime minister said he would demand that all security services be united under his command, and suggested he might step down if Arafat balks.
link et seq. fox news
There are now two possible outcomes: the Palestinians clean up their own house or the Israelis do it for them. How likely is it that Arafat will give his blessing to a real clamp down on the terrorists?
Abbas' security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, arrived at the Cabinet meeting with a bulletproof vest under his blazer, the first time he was seen wearing such protection. It appeared to be an indication of growing tensions among Palestinians.
I would think Dahlan knows how to protect himself if no one else; but from what?

A real crack down run by the Palestinians would amount to civil war. Dahlan and Abbas and Arafat all know this. Rather than take the heat I am pretty sure they will denounce the Israelis from the safety of their bunkers and then cry murder when the IDF takes out the terrorists on the West Bank and Gaza. It would fit the post Oslo pattern.

L'École Nationale pour la formation des maîtresses

In response to complaints from visiting foreign dignitaries, the Government of France has introduced a series of state-run finishing schools for the mistresses of French officials.

Starting this month, 14 campuses of L'École Nationale pour la formation des maîtresses (The National School for Mistress Training) began offering instruction to both current mistresses and aspiring kept women. The schools will offer training to the extra-marital partners of France's most powerful men in such disciplines as cocktail reception banter, hair bun setting, remaining silent during important negotiations, politely declining sexual advances from drunken diplomats and demure laughter.
link the hammer
And about time....I missed this when it first went up. It explains a great deal about just what has gone wrong in France in the past several years.

Music Genius

Mr. Brooks said EMI's lawyers told the company that it did not have to allow users to make a copy of compact discs.

"It is not a person's right to make a copy -- this is sort of a grey area."

Currently EMI is the only CD company in Canada using Macrovision's software, but that is expected to change in coming months, according to industry sources.

Randy Lennox, president of Universal Music Canada, the country's largest music label, said there are no immediate plans to implement anti-piracy protection.

Garry Newman, chief executive of Warner Music Canada, the number two label in the country, said he does not plan on utilizing any copy protection on CDs until the end of the year.

Mr. Brooks said EMI's anti-piracy protection continues to improve, adding that users with older CD players have been the source of the few complaints to the company. "They should get a different CD player -- this is not going away," said Mr. Brooks.
This is from an August 18 National Post article. Jeff Keibel bought an EMI CD with copy protection and it would not play in his CD player. He is so angry he has set up a website promoting a boycott of all EMI product.

The goofy part of the EMI strategy is that it is simply annoying its customers who, in Canada, have a perfect right to hack the copy protection and/or download the songs from the internet. Now in the land of the DMCA both these strategies are thought to be illegal. But in the Great White North there is nothing at all illegal about circumventing copy protection on your own disc.

Once again the music biz is really missing the point of the digital revolution: full on digitalization means that both the law and technical fixes are almost always going to be years behind the capacity of kids to get music for free. Rather than coming up with ever more sophisticated anti-copying technology the biz could more usefully figure out what will actually generate more revenue in a free music environment. What can they do which will add real value to the product they are selling?

The old model is dead. If EMI wants to survive it needs to find a new model and quit wasting its time turning its CDs into overpriced coasters.

RIAA Article response

Interesting series of links to my Tech Central Station piece. Hit and Run over at Reason linked with comments. Most of the comments were from Americans astonished a) that 50% of Canadians who are online have broadband connections and b) that this costs about $40.00 Cdn. They were also pretty impressed that downloading files was certainly legal in Canada and that a case can be made that there is a defence available if sharing is attacked.

Fark linked to the TCS piece. According to Fark the link has been clicked 8846 times which either makes TCS very happy or has blown up their server. 198 comments which, for some reason I can't access at the moment.

The article is up - in its entirety for all you copyright mavens - over at Boycott the RIAA with more than 50 comments.

Now, the blog/internet version of the perfect storm would be for Glenn Reynolds over at and slashdot to mention the piece as well. (If it happened at the same time there really would be a chance of burning out the server.)

In any case, thanks to everyone who took the time to comment and thanks particularly to the many people who have emailed. I am looking at putting a few of the emails up on a link as there are some really smart legal arguments which might well be useful if the Canadian music biz ever decided to shoot its other foot and sue its customers.

End of the Road

Jerusalem Tuesday Aug. 19 2003


At the Edge of the Map, the End of the Road

Three hours after the bombing, a spokeswoman for another hospital, Haddassah Ein-Kerem, said no one had claimed a month-old baby boy brought from the scene, raising the possibility that his parents had been killed.

``He is a very sweet 4-week-old baby boy,'' the spokeswoman, Yael Bosem-Levy, told Israel Radio. ``He has light injuries. He has impact wounds to his stomach, and the entire time he has been here he didn't cry even once.''
link nyt

A bit of applied economics

In his piece on my Tech Central article Evan Kirchhoff makes a great deal of sense about the limitation of a copyright levy as the sheer size of hard drive doubles every couple of years for much the same price. Even with my 1/10 of a cent correction, a 350 GB drive would cost more in levy than it actually would normally sell for. A 20 Gig cap would allieviate, but not eliminate, the problem.

Kirchhoff goes on to make the following observation:
And I suspect the hard truth is that consumers are not merely listening to more songs less frequently, but, as a whole, are listening to a larger pool of artists. Which means that the efficiency of internet distribution is lowering the value of any individual artist, possibly to the point that medium-sized acts can't survive even if consumers can be persuaded to pay for 100% of their downloaded music. The worst enemy of recording artists may, in the end, be other recording artists.

In other words, no matter what anybody does, the recording industry is going to turn into the publishing industry: everybody but the top 0.001% of artists will need a day job to pay the bills. And the only systematic fix I can think of would be to raise the entry cost of making a recording and thereby lower the competition betwen artists: stop taxing storage media, and start taxing microphones.

Backing and Filling at the RIAA

"[We are] in no way targeting 'de minimis' users," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement yesterday. "[We are] gathering evidence and preparing lawsuits against individual computer users who are illegally distributing a substantial amount of copyrighted music."
link et seq. the rolling stone
It is beginning to dawn on the RIAA that their campaign of litigation in terroum is neither detering file sharers nor winning them any friends politically. The "small users" exemption is silly: what is a small user, is it someone with ten songs or a hundred? Even Sherman realizes the contradiction in the RIAA's strategy,
"We assure you that we will approach these suits in a fair and equitable manner," he said, while cautioning that his organization's lenience doesn't mean that "a little illegal activity is acceptable."

Reaction to RIAA/Tech Central Article

A couple of people have written or posted pointing out that my suggestion of a .01 cent per megabyte levy on digital media would be $8.00 per CD and $10.00 per gigabyte of hard drive space....Ooops, I should have said 1/10 of a cent. Decimals, who knew. And it might make sense to have a cap of some sort so as to avoid a levy of $180.00 on a 180 Gig drive which only costs a couple of hundred dollars. Thanks to those who wrote.

I also got an email from Mario Bouchard, General Counsel of the Copyright Board of Canada, regarding my article,

You recently wrote:
Every song on my hard drive comes from a CD in my collection or from a CD in someone else's collection which I have found on a P2P network. In either case I will have made the copy and will claim safe harbor under the "private copying" provision. If you find that song in my shared folder and make a copy this will also be "private copying." I have not made you a copy, rather you have downloaded the song yourself.

Here is what I wrote to someone who requested information on the issue.

Since no court has ruled on these issues, it is not possible to give definitive answers to your questions. Someone else asked more or less the same questions that you did. Here is what I answered.

1) The person who downloads music off the Net onto a blank CD probably is covered by the private copying provision. The person who allows others to access music from the NET off her hard drive almost certainly violates copyright on two accounts: making the copy and then sending it on the net.

2) Making a private copy of a CD borrowed from a library also is legal. The important thing is that the person making the copy is making it for herself, not whether he or she owns the original. That is the reason why it's probably OK to download music off the Net. To give another example, the law allows you to lend a pre-recorded CD to a friend, give her a blank, allow her to use your computer and help her burn the CD. It also allows you to copy the CD, keep the copy and give the original to a friend. But it does not allow you to make a copy and give the copy to a friend.

Hope this helps.

Mario Bouchard
General Counsel
Copyright Board Canada

My response was:

Hi Mario,

Thank you for your obviously well informed views on the murky state of the law regarding private copying and songs on the internet. As you say, no Court has ruled on these issues and all views must be tentative.

We agree that downloading from the net, in itself, is probably legal with the caveat that you have to do the downloading yourself regardless of the ownership of the original material.

In principle the media onto which a song is copied should not make that much difference. I note that the Copyright Board is looking to extend the copyright levy onto MP3 players which are, in fact, simply small (and getting bigger) hard drives. I find it difficult to believe that the Courts would find some copying legal because it was onto "approved media" and other copying illegal because the media had not yet been approved. Once the notion of digital copying has been accepted, where the 1's and 0's end up being stored is unlikely to matter much.

The question of "sharing" is more difficult. When I open my shared folder I am not "sending" anything. Rather I am saying, "here is my list of songs, help yourself." The actual downloading is done by the person who wants a copy of the song and who hits their download button. Technically they "get" or "fetch" a copy of the song they want. The copy on my hard drive remains unaltered and unmoved. I have not, to paraphrase, "made the copy and then sent it on the net".

So far as I am aware simply putting up a list of the songs I have on my drive violates no copyright. I have not made a copy for another person, rather they are making a copy for themselves. And, as you say, downloading from the net per se is probably legal.

All this being said, there is certainly an argument for the copyright levy to be extended to hard drives. The technology has radically changed in the past five years. Having a thirteen year old I have a bit of a window into the real world of copying and "tape" is simply an unknown concept. The kids share the songs on the internet, play them on their computers and burn them onto discs for MP3 enabled CD players or directly to MP3 player hard drives.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond,


Jay Currie
The matter awaits litigation but I cannot imagine that Canadian music companies or the branch plant operations of American companies will want to stir up this particular hornets' nest. If my reading of the private copying provisions were to be confirmed by the Courts the whole "buy don't burn" campaign of the record companies would be in shreds on the Courtroom floor.

Energy Alternatives

As the lights come back on back East assorted bloggers and pundits are writing about "what next" and "how can we prevent this" and "fixing the grid". All of which make some sort of sense to consider but really beg some essential questions.

The first of those questions is whether the energy which is being used is being used wisely. This is not a plea for radical conservation or even a suggestion that 60 degrees is just a tiny bit cool for a shopping mall; rather I just wonder if using electricity to cool buildings is the optimal use of that relatively expensive form of energy?

The second is what can be done to bring more energy online over a realistic, say ten to twenty year time line. There are lots of calls for more generation capacity but building single point high output generators is time consuming and very expensive?

The third question, now that we are fairly certain that this was not a terrorist act, is how can we reduce the venerability of the grid to the terrorists who were certainly following the action?

Fourth, what technologies can be brought to bear which exist and which would be scalable over a decade or so?

The folks at the Vancouver based Ballard Technology announced(pdf) their 1kW-20kW fuel cell emergency power backup hydrogen cells. Great timing and an interesting product but not actually a long term, large scale, solution. Nor, for a variety of reasons are nuclear plants, coal fired generation stations, a lot of really big windmills or solar power. Each will likely play a role; but each is either too expensive, too politically charge, too polluting or technically not quite here.

The one energy source which I have not seen discussed is geothermal. This is not a particularly new or very sexy energy solution. It does not provide electrical power at all. Rather, geothermal uses heat pumps to warm in winter and cool in summer. You can get the basics here. The essential science is that ten feet underground the temperature of the Earth remains effectively constant throughout the year. A heat pump system puts pipes through this layer near the building to be heated or cooled. In winter the heat from the relatively warmer ground goes through the heat exchanger into the house, in summer excess heat is put back into the ground.

At the moment the technology for doing this is well understood but little utilized because the piping and heat pumps are expensive relative to conventional energy sources. Not out of the ball park expensive; but with fairly cheap electricity and fossil fuels geo thermal has a long payback period.

The economics of geothermal could change fairly quickly if a number of things were to happen. First, a rise in electricity prices. Given the clear deficiencies in the Northeastern power grid and the cost of adding more conventional capacity, a rise in electricity prices is a fair prediction. Second, a rise in fossil fuel prices. Less certain as I write. However, because oil and gas are not perfect substitutes for electricity this may not matter as much. Third, an increase in demand for residential and commercial heat pumps and piping systems. At the moment piping systems are usually one off installations and heat pumps are very pricey. If demand, particularly in new construction, could be stimulated more of these units would be produced and installed and the price would likely fall.

Even if the price went down, geothermal would only reduce demand for electricity at the margins for the first few years. It is not a technology which is easy to retro fit so existing building stock would still be on the grid for its heating and cooling. But if an effort were to be made to bring geothermal to more homes and commercial buildings the effects would be to bring a distributed, long term, non-polluting energy source into the mix. Remarkably, the hard work of a geothermal installation, namely putting the pipe ten feet down, could be done routinely every time a foundation is dug by digging a trench or set of trenches. This is not high tech, just good sense.


Gilligan's Story

Josh Chafetz puts the Kelly affair and the remarkable ability of the BBC's Andrew Gilligan to tell a truth and a half together for those of you who have not been following this vital English story.

And Another Thing

Imagine if the State decided that it was a bad thing for Aboriginal men and women to marry outside the Native community. Now imagine that it refused to grant marriage licences to any Native who was not marrying another Native. Would this be acceptable? Would it be challengable on equality grounds? Would it be discrimination?


Kathy Shaidle fires back on gay marriage. As she says "our differences lie in competing gods" or something like that. While I am not quite so certain that my Christian God would be quite so quick to condemn gay marriage as Kathy's, (this may have to do with the fact I am an Anglican in the Diocese of New Westminster and my church, after much debate, has adopted the position that gay unions may be blessed), the issue is legal rather than religious.

This is the key difference between social conservatives and fundamentalists and the urban conservative or libertarian position. For socons the Law of God - however interpreted - trumps the Rule of Law. For urban conservatives religion, like sexual practice or choice of tipple is an entirely personal matter and cannot provide a basis for legislation. It is the great divide created by the Enlightenment. As such it ensures that Kathy and I will not agree on the ultimate question of gay marriage because we will not agree on the status of religious teaching as a guide to government action.

That said, Kathy raises a number of secondary points where neither the Diety nor Bora Laskin need be invoked to suggest a little closer look might be in order.

The Canadian Constitution v. 5000 years of Scripture and Tradition - For all of its imperfections, and there are many, the Canadian Constitution has the advantage of being limited and determinable. 5000 years of Scripture and Traditon, even within the Christian world, gives rise to endless disputes as to authority and interpretation. While Kathy, as a Catholic, can at least point at the Pope and say "Yeah, what he says." those of us who by tradition live outside the Roman Catholic Church have no such certainty. But all Christians, including Catholics, have to face the fact that the 5000 year tradition is filled with editorial, opinion and fashion. It took virtually the whole of that 5000 year history for there to emerge a Christian consensus that slavery was, er, bad. And how long did it take certain variants of the Christian tradition to get past the traditional anti-semitism of the European churches?

The advantage of the Canadian Constitution is that is sets out the major principles of the Enlightment, principally equality, freedom of speech and freedom of religion in a relatively straightforward way. Its interpretation is in the hands of intelligent, independent people at every level of the judiciary. And, if the results of their interpretation are too awful to be borne, the Constitution itself provides a formula for its own amendment and a "local option" for Provinces which are willing to invoke the notwithstanding clause. For socons Trudeau and all his works are anathema; for urban conservatives Trudeau is a more ambiguous figure. His libertarian views, "the State has no business in the bedrooms of the Nation" and his commitment to Enlightenment values notwithstanding his personal and very deep Catholicism, offset his remarkable economic ineptitude and centralist bias.

What tips the balance in favour of the Constitution is that taking its protections of equality, speech and religion seriously will tend to reduce the threat of religious zealotry infecting the legal system. No small thing. While I find the Bishop of Calgary's invocation of Hellfire for politicians who support the legalization of same sex marriage profoundly offensive, the Constitution ensures that his views will not end up as the law of the land. And, given the rates of immigration and the birthrates in Canada's Muslim community, the metaphorical fatwa of the Bishop of Calgary is not the worst that could happen if the Enlightenment project embodied in the Constitution is abandoned.

State Licences"But the State doles out medical licences and driver's licences, too. "To anyone who asks for it"?? We're so used to blithely believing that 'discrimination' of any stripe is wrong, ignoring the fact that all (sane) people discriminate every day, or suffer the consequences." My suspicion is that Kathy had not had her second cup of coffee when she wrote this. Requiring qualification is not the same as discrimination; but if we refuse to, say, grant a medical licence to an otherwise qualified doctor because she is a woman or Chinese that would be discrimination. (Don't get me started on drivers licences which are apparently included in CrackerJack boxes here in British Columbia.) The point is that marriage licences are available without any qualification other than the applicants being over a certain age and not currently married.

Homosexuality as Choice"what if it turns out that homosexuality is a choice after all?" There are two aspects to this; first, the scientific question of the causes of homosexuality, second, the philosophical issue of the status of choice. On the first element my own reading suggests, pace Dan Quayle who put the choice position rather starkly stating homosexuality "is more of a choice than a biological situation...It is a wrong choice.", a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to a significant element of biological determinism in homosexual behaviour. The research is far from conclusive but the notion of the heritability of sexual orientation is not absurd. If it were to turn out that homosexuals were "as God made them" it would seem perverse for any Church to condemn homosexuality; but let's grant the opposite premise. Let's say every homosexual has decided for whatever reason to adopt his or her sexual posture.

For Dan Quayle this is a wrong choice. For plenty of other people it is a legitimate, if difficult, decision. For others it is "fashionable" with whatever moral freight that carries. In no case is such a choice analogous, as Kathy claims it is, to choosing to have a disability when one does not actually have that disability and then seeking disability benefits. Being gay is not being in any sense impaired or disabled, faking disability to gain state benefits is simply fraud.

Whether a person is born gay or chooses to be gay does not alter their legal status as a person. And that legal status is all that the same sex marriage argument is about from the State's perspective. If two persons ask for a marriage licence and they are of age and not married to anyone else, equality before the law requires that they be given a licence. Gay, straight, confused: it is none of the State's business.

Of Bishops and FatwasKathy takes me to task for suggesting that the Bishop of Calgary's remarks as to Chretien's risking his immortal soul by supporting same sex marriage legislation amounted to a fatwa. "A fatwa is a human judgement encouraging murder (a sin) as earthly punishment for something that probably isn't even a sin to begin with. On the other hand, God judges our thoughts and deeds, and respecting the free will with which He endowed us, gives us what we've asked for and deserve: separation from Him for all eternity."

In fact a fatwa is a ruling made by a Muslim cleric in accordance with precedent and Holy Law. It need not encourage murder or any other punishment. It is made in light of that particular cleric's understanding of Sharia.

To compare the remarks of the Bishop of Calgary to a fatwa is not relativistic at all. They have precisely the same logical status: they are binding upon believers and dismissed by non-believers. The critical thing about these sorts of religious statements is that they come from the pre-Enlightenment world in which clerics routinely condemned politicians for acting contrary to the Will of God and had their words taken seriously. Post Enlightenment, clerics are still perfectly free to offer their opinions of the state of politicians' souls; but nothing substantive turns on those opinions. This is a vital, perhaps the most vital, element of a liberal, in the old sense of that word, society. Religion in all its flavours has been removed from public policy.

It is the very opposite of relativism to claim that removal is a good thing. Relativists are inclined to argue that stoning women to death who conceive children out of wedlock is a legitimate religious and cultural expression and that we must respect the differing customs of other societies. I am not.

Of MarriageI agree with Kathy that marriage is rather more than the licence. However, the question which the State has to deal with turns on that licence and the right citizens to obtain that licence. Were it up to me I would get the State out of the marriage business altogether. No licences, no authorized marriage commissioners, no involvement at all. This would leave it up to couples - gay or straight - to figure out how they were going to get married. At a guess not many gay couples would seek the blessing of the Bishop of Calgary.

I would also be inclined to privatize divorce, a private system could not work any worse than the current mess. The only area in which I am inclined to see a legitimate State interest is in the protection of children and here there is a great deal of work to be done so that children's interests are, in fact, protected rather than merely being used as a bargaining chip as between ex-partners.

The RIAA at Tech Central

I summed up the tiny problem the Canadian copyright regime poses for the RIAA

Last turn on the Roadmap

A senior Israeli security source commented to DEBKAfile: "Oddly enough, we, the Americans and the new Palestinian government are building a setup that stands or falls depending on its most determined foe, the Jihad Islami here and in Damascus. The bombing of a single Israeli bus or shopping center will suffice to blow the whole deal sky high."
link debka
I had been wondering at the Israeli response to the most recent bombings and shellings. It is not at all like Israel to offer further good will gestures.

Always remembering Debka's 50/50 track record, its explaination that these concessions are the last gasp for the roadmap makes a good deal of sense. It is time for the PA to either disarm its terrorists or recognize the end of the roadmap. By making further concessions the Israelis are painting Arafat into the corner he so richly deserves. Either his terror wings stop or the roadmap ends and the Palestinians are left stateless and with no hope for the future.

At a guess Arafat is addicted to terror and is not going to stop. Once he has proven that the Americans will have little choice but to give full backing to the Israelis as they clean up the Palestinian mess and look for other, perhaps Jordanian, alternatives to the failed Abbas government.


A Time Machine that also cuts grass

via Mirabilis The pleasures of using a reel mower to cut grass are lost to most of the power mower world. This archived Christian Science Monitor article tells part of the story. The other part is the sheer pleasure of the first cut after you have sharpened and adjusted a reel mower. The sense of a fine tool at the top of its game.

Laying Off the Gay Marriage Thing

As the long-time and otherwise supportive reader Kathy Shaidle refers to in her blog entry on gay marriage it seems important to look at Shaidle's arguments against laying off gay marriage.

Her first position is that she does not
"believe gay rights activists (as opposed to ordinary gay people) want the right to marry so they too can partake in the sacred, sacrificial union of marriage. These 'stunt' lawsuits, going back to Roe v Wade, are the Left's favorite publicity ploys, juvenile 'screw you's' aimed at "shocking the middle class" and getting back at their parents -- I mean, The Establishment."
Perhaps. It may very well be that gay activists in Canada decided to see whether or not the equality rights provisions of the Charter of Rights really meant what they appeared to mean. The only way to find this out was to litigate. If it was a stunt, so what? It established as a matter of law that Canadian citizens have an equal right to the benefits offered by the State including state sanctioned marriage. Some stunt.

If, as a by-product, the middle class was shocked - and I rather agree with Shaidle that this is not our parent's middle class - this may have been intentional but it is utterly irrelevant to the important point of law which the issue of same sex marriage has confirmed - benefits offered to one citizen must be offered to all citizens.

We agree that gay activists can be remarkably offensive; but, frankly, most activists from anti-globalists to pro-life crusaders often let their agendas get the better of their taste. The left, as Shaidle details, can be utterly foul, so can the right...again, so what? The legality of same-sex marriage did not depend upon the public relations of its supporters; rather it relied upon the skillfulness of its lawyers in pointing out that the unwillingness of the State to licence marriages between two citizens of the same sex as it does marriages of citizens of the opposite sex was prohibited by the Charter of Rights. An obvious and rather dry bit of legal argument.

Shaidle then goes on to suggest that,
There is always a deeper issue. To deny this is to be hopelessly naive. Sadly, "hopelessly naive" describes the vast majority of people who've received a "It's a Small World After All" public school education in North America... Which is why they "don't get what the big deal is."
At the risk of being hopelessly naive, it is not a big deal to recognize that the Charter of Rights demands that citizens be offered equal benefits by the State. When marriage is a state licenced activity it counts as a benefit and as such it has to be offered to anyone who asks for it. End of story. If, for whatever reason, you don't want citizens of the same sex to enjoy this benefit there are exactly two things which you can do: amend the Constitution or get the State out of the marriage business.

Shaidle then suggests that once gay marriage has been achieved - which it now has been in Ontario and British Columbia - the activists will go on to find new causes such as "lowering the age of consent laws, forcing women's shelters and rape counselling centres to hire pre-op "transexuals" as counsellors". They may. the difference being that in neither of these examples will the gay activists have a simple reading of the Charter of Rights on their side. On gay marriage they do.

"Every lesbian I have ever met was a lesbian by choice." announces Shaidle. A statement which may well be true depending on who she met; it is not true in my experience. But even if it was, so what? "And of the dozens of gay men I've sat with as they frankly discussed this topic, the vast majority were sexually abused by other men as children. Make of that what you will. Perhaps though the idea that "I knew I was gay ever since I was a kid" is true, not for the latest fashionable scientific reasons (genes), but for tragic ones." Again, my own experience suggests otherwise. But let's say that gay is made and not born, so what? What can the degree of choice involved matter? The issue in same sex marriage is legal not moral.

It may very well be that the Catholic Church will continue to condemn same sex unions of any sort. Which is its perfect right. (Though not, I would argue, a particularly well founded theological position.) It may say that chastity is the only option for homosexuals - made or born - who wish to remain in the Church. But while that position will certainly effect the rights and responsibilities homosexuals have as Catholics, it should have nothing to do with the rights and responsibilities those same homosexuals have as Canadians. Which, again, is all that the legalization of same sex marriage is about.

Shaidle takes a few shots at science and the predicative capacities of gay activists before ending her piece with,
I think we'll find that if we finally dare to mention the unmentionable, finally start pointing out that with rights come responsibilities, sure, some people will pout and whine and wave their little fists about. They say they won't be our friends anymore. They say they will have our jobs.

But no one who feels their cause is right should be frightened off by such trivialities. Standing up to a bully is always the right thing to do.
There is no more impressive bully than the Catholic Bishop of Calgary telling Jean Chretien, a Catholic, that he risked personal hellfire by introducing legislation to bring the law of Canada into line with our constitution. Compared to the often shrill gay activists, the Catholic Church swings a rather bigger political bat. Or, at least it used to. Now it has reduced its moral and political force by reaching into the Old Testament for its strictures and ignoring the message of Redemption, Forgiveness and Love preached by Our Saviour.

As I wrote in another entry, the Bishop of Calgary sounds very much like a Mullah casting fatwas in the general direction of heretics and infidels. This sort of medieval fundamentalism backed by a wealthy worldwide organization is rather more sinister than any number of gay activists who want to take the Canadian Constitution seriously.

Were Shaidle's opposition to the purely private question of whether or not the Catholic church should perform same sex marriages I would be hard pressed to offer a serious argument against that position; who knows what God actually wants. But the issue in Canada has nothing to do with the Catholic Church or God's will - it is a matter of simple equality before the law. A principle which must be defended against the fundamentalist bullies and Catholic Bishops who still have not realized there really is a separation between Church and State.

Oh Please

Kevin Michael Grace manages to confuse religion, politics and marriage in an out of character screed on gay marriage. He suggests that the Liberal Party is trying to " introduce homosexual marriage by stealth". No, the Ontario Court of Appeal "upholds a lower court ruling to legally allow same-sex marriages. "The existing common law definition of marriage violates the couple's equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation under (the charter)," link cbc. No stealth here, just the straight reading of the Charter.

So long as the State is involved in marriage - which I believe is a mistake - then the benefits of State sanctioned marriage must be availible to any two citizens who decide to embark on the voyabe matrimonial. If you want to make a rule that there has to be a penis and a vagina or it doesn't count then you have to take it outside the perview of the State. Grace should know this.