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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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French Promises

With its economy going no where and its unions living in a utopian dreamland, France has decided as a matter of policy to ignore the stability promises it made in the Maastricht treaty. It wants to be able to run a deficit greater than 3% and pour la glorie it is simply ignoring the treat it signed.
Which leaves those countries still mulling over joining the euro with a new question. Which kind of flexibility is better? The flexibility of staying out or the flexibility of joining and then ignoring the rules?
link the telegraph
Glenn Reynolds wonders what impact this will have on the Swedish vote on joining the Euro; I am wondering why any European country would sign on to the proposed European constitution if France believe it has the option to opt out ther as well.


CRIA strikes.....

The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian Recording Industry Association is planning to send the following message to what it believes are Canadian file sharers via the Instant Messaging feature on various P2P programs.

"It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. While we appreciate your love of music, please be aware that sharing copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is illegal. When you do so, you hurt the artists, songwriters and musicians who create the music and the other talented individuals who are involved in bringing you the music.

"More than 40,000 Canadians work hard producing and supporting the music you appear to enjoy, including producers, engineers, retailers, music publishers, distributors, manufacturers, record companies, concert promoters and broadcasters.

"When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: Don?t distribute music to others on a file-sharing system like this. For further information, please go to

"Remember that you need music and music needs you."
link the globe and mail
Now this is polite. But legally rather suspect. It is pretty clear that CRIA knows that simply downloading music is legal in Canada. So they are going after "distribution". Interesting use of language "you are offering copyrighted music from your computer". While they hedge this with "it appears" it is unclear that anyone is "offering" anything in a P2P situation. At most, a person with an open shared folder is making a list available to the general public. While some members of the public may take that as an offer, many will not. And there is nothing "illegal" about publishing a list of songs and/or other material.

The notice goes on to state "be aware that sharing copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is illegal." As this has never been litigated it is a little presumptuous to suggest that all sharing over the Internet is illegal. It would be rather better phrased, "We believe that some forms of sharing copyright material over the Internet are not protected by the private copying exemption in the Copyright Act." As it reads the implication is that all sharing involving the internet is illegal and that is almost certainly not the case.

Finally, I went to check the site. Now the gloves are off and the pretence of paying any attention to the actual state of the law in Canada is dropped entirely.
Furthermore - copying music without permission is illegal. And just because it doesn't involve organized crime or knock-offs sold on street corners doesn't mean that it isn't taken very seriously.
link ten biggest myths about free music cria site
Now this is simply not true. Copying music in Canada is legal under the private copying exemption to the Copyright Act enacted at the request of the recording industry in exchange for the levy on blank tapes and CDs. A little further down this quote appears
And it's just not good enough to say if I can't get it legally, I'll steal it.
Again, a person downloading music in Canada is stealing nothing. The Copyright Act authorizes such copying. Then the nitwits go on to make this preposterous claim,
File sharing via the internet cannot be likened to copying tapes deck to deck at home. That's like comparing someone physically copying a letter to a printing house churning out hundreds of copies a minute of the same letter - and then making it available to absolutely everyone around the world for free.

CD recordable (CD-R) copying is comparable to a home version of the high-speed mass production of CDs in factories. You could burn as many as 200 albums onto multiple CD-R discs in less time than it takes you to read this web page. It's cheaper too - 20 years ago the first CD manufacturing facility cost US$1bn. Now the same capability is available to home users for less than $150.
Technically this is simply looney. Anyone who has ever tried to burn a CD-R will tell you that, depending on the speed of your computer and the burner, five minutes a disc would be blindingly fast. Unless the CRIA is assuming a reading speed of, say, half a word a minute, their 200 disc burn claim is simply silly. More to the point, there is nothing illegal about burning such a disc - assuming you pass the standard for private copying under the Copyright Act. The copying is exempt because, every time you buy a CD-R you are paying a levy to the recording industry whether you record music on it or not. And that is because the recording industry in Canada asked for the law to be changed so that they could collect some revenue from blank CDs and tapes.


RIAA abuse

via slashdot
There is an excellent interview with Glen Peterson, the lawyer appearing for "Jane Doe" who is contesting an RIAA subpoena posted at greplaw
The other big issue that didn’t get enough, if any, attention is the abuse factor. Arguably the most dangerous consequence, the subpoena power can be put in the hands of anyone willing to pretend to have a copyright claim. Without a judge's review, these fraudulent requests are easily passed of as legitimate ones, passing under only the minimum, ministerial scrutiny of a court clerk with a rubber stamp. The potential abuser categories are limitless, and include everything from annoying marketers to swindlers, child abductors, blackmailers, and terrorists.
The industry’s current anti-piracy efforts are reminiscent of 1930s era mob tactics intimidation and threats combined with the subtext: "we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you or your family," and "we’ll be watching you."

What makes the industry’s current campaign even more alarming than an involuntary meeting with a mob boss is that the industry has cloaked itself with the awesome power of our federal court in Washington D.C. The industry is exploiting federal laws, created by their considerable lobbying influence, and using "color of law" instead of brass knuckles.

No Celebration for Al Muhajiroun

Just in case you were mislead by the "Magnificent 19" banner below.
The insistence of the western media in its onslaught against Islam and Muslims, labelling them and distorting their words is not a new phenomenon, However Muslims submit to Almighty God exclusively in all our deeds whether verbal or physical. To falsely claim that the event on the 11th September 2003 is going to be a celebration, is irrefutably contradicted by the fact that Muslims only celebrate two days, Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha, any other celebration is an innovation as far as Islam is concerned.

11th September is not a celebration at all for Muslims, we have neither suggested so nor attempted to. The purpose of the commemoration of 11th September is to examine its causes, and the driving forces and motives of the 19 men in order to have a better understanding, and to discuss whether the persistence of these causes could result in a recurrence of events perhaps in different ways and using different methods.
link al muhajiroun
But, not to worry, next to this clarification is a link to this
Last week witnessed two tremendous operations by the Mujahideen, one in Palestine and the other in Baghdad. As far as Palestine is concerned there are no doubters that the Jewish occupiers of Muslim land must leave or face the consequences, fit for those who perpetrate aggression against Muslims. Surprisingly however, there are still some who believe that the United Nations (targeted in the bombing in Baghdad) is an independent organisation representing the wishes of the so-called 'international community' as opposed to a quango organisation doing the bidding of the US.

A cursory glance at the United Nations reveals thatthis tool, tongue and hand of the US had, as its first 'achievement,' giving away the Muslim land of Palestine to the Jews in 1948. Consequently every UN resolution attempting to discredit the pirate State of Israel has been vetoed by its master, the US. Indeed only resolutions which are anti-Muslim are ever seen to be acknowledged and acted upon, at the behest of the US, such as the barbaric (10 year) sanctions on food, medicine and basic needs, imposed upon the women and children of Iraq, leading to the death of millions of innocent people.
link al mahajiroun
This poison is coming from England. It must be stopped in England and the only way to do that is to expose the website. The youngest victim of the "tremendous operations" was three months old. Way to go you fat warriors for Islam.

Zero Brains

The advocates of zero tolerance for infractions of school rules against bullying, contraband, offensive language and a host of other offences are mistaking a slogan for an actual policy and it is hurting schools in Canada and the United States. For your back to school reading pleasure short woman has a well argued insightful post on the lunacy of separating discretion from authority in the schools. And I have added her to my blog list. Lots of good stuff.


The Guilty Man

But the fact remains that Mr Scarlett has gone a long way to corroborate Mr Campbell's case against Andrew Gilligan's allegations about the "45 minutes" issue - the allegations that triggered this whole obsessive and tragic affair. "It was completely untrue," Mr Scarlett claimed. "There was nobody in a better position than I was to know that, and I said so." It is hard to imagine how Mr Scarlett's language about the Gilligan charge could have been more emphatic.

One consequence is that the spotlight has now been directed elsewhere. Mr Campbell may be edging towards the clear, but the pressure for the process to come up with a guilty man has not slackened in any way.
link the guardian
While the Hutton inquiry has not yet finished, the hunt for the guilty man is surely over: Andrew Gilligan told the truth and a half on the BBC and poor, haunted, Dr. Kelly realized that his conversations with Gilligan were being used as the basis of that public lie.

Once the Blairite version of the dossier's creation was confirmed by senior intelligence operative John Scarlett two things fell into place. First, that either Kelly or Gilligan had been lying about Alastair Campbell having "sexed up" the dossier and second, the reason why Number 10 was willing to go toe to toe with the BBC on the issue. Gilligan's history of fabrication in support of his anti-Blair, anti-Iraq war, and, most importantly, anti-American was detailed in Josh Chafetz's must read piece in the Weekly Standard. Gilligan's fabrication in the dossier issue makes perfectly good sense given his willingness to play fast and loose with reporting if he could get a dig in at anyone of his favorite targets.

Equally culpable is the culture at the BBC which allowed Gilligan to get away with this sort of unethical reporting. Imagine if a New York Times reporter did this:
While Damazer graciously admitted that the BBC "make[s] mistakes," most of those mistakes were distinctly unfriendly towards the coalition. For example, on April 3, after U.S. troops had taken control of the Baghdad airport, Andrew Gilligan (remember that name) reported on the BBC World Service and on the BBC website, "Within the last 90 minutes I've been at the airport. There is simply no truth in the claims that American troops are surrounding it. We could drive up to it quite easily. The airport is under full Iraqi control." That was Gilligan's story, and the BBC was sticking to it--until another correspondent pointed out that Gilligan was not, in fact, at the airport, but U.S. troops quite clearly were.
link the weekly standard
No, wait a minute, a NYT reporter did do this. Jason Blair and he was fired and the people who hired and supported him were fired all the way up to Howell Raines the Editor of the paper. At the BBC, Gilligan, a couple of days ago was relieved of his reporting duties pending investigation of his suppressing evidence which the BBC was required to give to the Hutton Inquiry.

There is a guilty man and he works for a guilty Broadcasting Company.

The Anti-Anti Americans

Adam Gopnik at his best in the New Yorker. Reading the entire piece is a very worthwhile twenty minutes of your life but I was struck by this quotation from the French intellectual, Bernard-Henri Lévy,
ï?½The real issue, which the Americans don’t see, is that the Arab Islamist threat is partly manageable,ï?½ he went on. ï?½One can see solutions, if not easy ones, to the Israeli-Palestinian question, to the Saudi problem. The Asian Islamist threat, though, is of an entirely different dimension. There are far more people, they are far more desperate, and they have a tradition of national action. And they have a bomb. Even North Korea is less dangerous than Pakistanï?½a Stalinist country with a defunct ideology and a bomb is infinitely less dangerous than a country with a bomb and a new ideology in the full vigor of its first birth. That is the real nexus of the terrorism, and fussing in the desert doesn’t even begin to address it.

ï?½The French opposition to the war was opportunist in part, rational in part, but mostly rooted in a desire not to know. What dominates France is not the presence of some anti-Americanism but an enormous absenceï?½the absence of any belief aside from a handful of corporatist reflexes. This whole business with the intermittents is typical: it’s corporatism pursued to the point of professional suicide. All that we have to replace it with is the idea of Europe; so far, we have overcome romantic nationalism, but we have nothing left to replace it with.ï?½
link the new yorker


Gilligan is now exposed as a liar

Yesterday the BBC removed Gilligan from any reporting duties. Which, given the evidence offered to the Hutton enquiry today, Gilligan had long since abandoned in favour of his own anti-American, anti-Blair agenda:
The claim that Iraq could deploy "chemical and biological munitions" within 45 minutes was made in a classified email issued by a member of the joint intelligence committee (JIC) - but with both sender and recipient blacked out for security reasons.
link et seq. the guardian
It did not come from Alastair Campbell as Gilligan - the liar - suggested.
That revelation, presented on day nine of the inquiry by John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, appears to blow out of the water the original suggestion by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan that the claim was known to be wrong.
It may be time for the BBC to contemplate the unthinkable - firing the lying spiv forthwith.


Kathy Shaidle, with whom I had a recent spirited argument as to the moral legitimacy and constitutionality of gay marriage, runs Google Adsense ads on her site. At one point she was making a few dollars with Catholic targeted ads and the promise that if you clicked on one of the ads an angel would get its wings.

Now she is stuck with PSAs and there is no way she will make any money at all with those. The problem may, in fact, have been our spirited argument. Kathy is not, well, in favour of gay marriage and is not at all afraid of telling people that. If she loses friends or makes enemies so be it. Her position is heart felt and is not, so far as I can tell, motivated by bigotry or hatred. Google doesn't seem to see it that way and has indicated that Kathy's site is "potentially negative".

Now, in this jolly let's all hold hands and share world, having an opinion, especially a negative opinion is not very, er, positive. It isn't meant to be. Or, rather it is not meant to be positive in the sense of the word Google seems to be imposing on its advertising publishers.

This is, of course, idiotic corporate sensitivity training and dogoodism taken to the max. It is exactly the sort of lunacy which an immature company such as Google will foist upon its customers in the name of some addle brained idea of corporate decency.

In any case, Kathy asks,
Look at the mint green vertical strip of ads, click the Ads by Google hyperlink, and fill out the What Do You Think of These Ads form. But please: keep your sticks on the ice.
OK, you heard the woman....rush over and suggest that corporate censorship is a very, very bad idea...I have.


The New York Times runs a front page story on the faction fights - complete with bombings - between the older Ayatollahs and the the young bucks in the Iraqi Shiite center of Najaf. The young clerics want to get on with the job of throwing the americans out and establishing a Shiite theocracy, militia and, no doubt a Society for the Prevention of vice and the Promotion of Virtue. The oldsters want exactly the same things but are content to bide their time. Both bunches are fiercely anti-American, pro-Iranian and, allegedly, hold the allegiance of the majority Shiite population of Iraq. I do not envy Paul Bremmer's job one bit having to deal with these Muslim medievalists convinced they have a direct line to God, or, at least, the Prophet.

The problem is that the Shiites are an overwhelming majority in Iraq largely because of a few backhanders at the end of WWI which parcelled various bits of the Ottoman empire into a country with suspiciously straightlines for borders. In broad terms there are Kurds in the North, Sunnis in their triangle which includes a wedge of Baghdad, Shiites in the South and a bunch of poor Marsh Arabs who marshes were drained by Uncle Cuddles.

At the moment the US and the UN are working on the basis that Iraq needs to be kept together: Why? there are natural splits between the various sub-populations of Iraq and even the Ottomans recognized this and kept the various groups in different provinces. A unitary state is not an obvious outcome for Iraq any more than it was for Yugoslavia. Once the iron man is gone, keeping the factions together is like herding scorpions. You may get them moving in the same direction but they will kill each other en route.

A confederation or even full separate states seems to make rather more sense in the circumstances. The Kurds have been effectively self governing for several years. The Sunnis, now deprived of the power and preference which were theirs by right under Saddam, would likely be better off without having to work with the Shiites who they murdered in their hundreds of thousands. The Shiites are bound and determined to create the hell on earth which is a Muslim theocracy and, I suspect, join up with their Shiite brothers in Iran. The poor bloody March Arabs only want their water and their marshes back.

separating the scorpions will not be easy. Iraq's oil has the bad taste not to be distributed evenly across the country. But it might be a good deal easier than trying to get people who hate one another from way back to work together in a democracy which would vote on strictly ethnic and religious lines.


Civil War Watch

At Monday's funeral, Hamas mocked an operation by Palestinian security forces to close weapons-smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip.

"So what? They do not appreciate that the Qassam Brigades manufacture arms themselves, by their own hands. Let them close the tunnels!" bellowed a speaker from Hamas.
link reuters
Hamas is gearing up to take on Abbas and Yasser, by appointing his own national security advisor, is further undermining Abbas and Dahlan's already limited authority.

The token efforts of the Palestinians are in rather sharp contrast to the Israelis' arrest of settlers as they dismantled an illegal outpost and the arrest of nine settlers alledged to have been members of a terrorist group which was carrying out attacks on Arabs.

Must Read: Jessica Stern on What's next from Al Qaeda

Jessica Stern served on the National Security Council and she was the superterrorism Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. she knows what she is talking about and it is not at all encouraging.
Yet despite these setbacks, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain among the most significant threats to U.S. national security today. In fact, according to George Tenet, the CIA's director, they will continue to be this dangerous for the next two to five years. An alleged al Qaeda spokesperson has warned that the group is planning another strike similar to those of September 11. On May 12, simultaneous bombings of three housing complexes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed at least 29 people and injured over 200, many of them Westerners. Intelligence officials in the United States, Europe, and Africa report that al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment drive in response to the war in Iraq. And the target audience for its recruitment has also changed. They are now younger, with an even more "menacing attitude," as France's top investigative judge on terrorism-related cases, Jean-Louis Brugui_, describes them. More of them are converts to Islam. And more of them are women.

What accounts for al Qaeda's ongoing effectiveness in the face of an unprecedented onslaught? The answer lies in the organization's remarkably protean nature. Over its life span, al Qaeda has constantly evolved and shown a surprising willingness to adapt its mission. This capacity for change has consistently made the group more appealing to recruits, attracted surprising new allies, and -- most worrisome from a Western perspective -- made it harder to detect and destroy.
link foreign affairs

PowerPointless hits schools

Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.
link wired
Edward Tufte has been pointing out the sheer power of brilliant graphic presentation of data and the banality of crap for years. What I had not realized is that children were being asked to do PowerPoint presentations in class.

There is nothing more disastrous for a writer than a premature exposure to "point form" as anything but an outlining technique. There are dozens of reasons why schools should simply close down for weeks at a time - and I write this at the end of the summer vacation - but this is one of the best I've heard. It is bad enough to have to sit through adult PowerPoint presentations where the signal to noise ratio is 1:20 and the speed of presentation seems to assume not a single person in the room actually reads English; but to inflict this on an innocent child is indecent.

There is an article which I am making notes - in point form - for which asks the question "Why are children going to school?" The answers I've been coming up with are not encouraging. Partially because the digital/internet world has shifted the entire notion of childhood. At one point, childhood was a safe place in which children learned the things which would let them learn the things which would allow them to become functioning adults. It was a multistep process.

Those steps were required because what a person was expected to do, and could do, as an adult was substantially different from what a child could do. Things have shifted - radically. In the analog world motor skills were painfully acquired. Children played with toy tools, then small versions of real hand tools, then real hand tools before they were ever allowed to use power tools. Which made sense as power tools had serious consequences.

This logic still holds; but very little of the world's high value work is hand tooled any more. Now children have easy access to full versions of exactly the same software as adults. They have full access to Google searches for whatever information they want or need. And they have this access at very early ages.

There is no reason at all for my 13 year old not to build websites as good as anything I can make, and, with a little application, as good as anything professional web designers put together. He has the essential construction tools sitting on his machine right now.

What I am knocking around at the moment are the implications for the educational establishment of this radical diffusion of information and technology. Does it make any sense at all to send kids to school nine months a year, five days a week for six hours for 12 years? That is, after all, 13,000 hours of education time. If the end products were well versed in everything from Shakespeare to sociobiology and able to calculate change from a dollar and sales tax without a calculator, this amazing time commitment might make sense. In fact, the majority of highschool graduates have trouble with basic reading and writing skills and are flummoxed when you try to make their McJob easier by giving them $1.06 on a $.96 bill.

If the poor kids are being asked to do a PowerPoint presentation to sum up a week's work there is more wrong with the system than I imagined.


Iran extradites Al Qaeda suspects to Saudi

TEHRAN -- Iranian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ali Asghar Khaji said on Saturday that several Saudi nationals suspected of involvement with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network who were arrested in Iran in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan have been extradited to Saudi Arabia.
link tehran times
I have no idea how reliable the Tehran Times is but this would be encouraging news if true. No word on who the suspects actually are either. But the Saudis seem to have got the message that they need to clean house and any Al Qaeda suspect is a help in that process.

I note that the presence of the american Army had nothing, repeat, nothing to do with this apparent change in Iran's attitude.

In case you missed the memo

Memo from Israel to Palestine
Date: "To Be Determined"
To: The Palestinian People
From: The People of Israel
Re: Final Notice Before the Termination of Our Relationship
(To be filed in your "Permanent Conduct Record")

As you know from our repeated meetings over many years, we have repeatedly done our best to accommodate your incessant demands regarding employment, compensation, housing allowances, health benefits, and other items of mutual interest as we have endeavored to work together on "Project Peace in the Middle East."

We have, with your agreement and assurances of a better performance, given you time, money, professional help, medication and a more than reasonable offer of land for you to live in while you work out "your issues." In the course of these meetings we feel we have been more than forthcoming in our attendance to your "special needs."

From time to time we have accepted your written word that, given adequate resources, you would be working to resolve "your issues." We note, for the record, that at no time has your word proven to be worth the paper which we both so ceremoniously signed. Indeed, it has been our bitter experience that the working out of "your issues" most often involves explosive episodes on the streets of our country.

It has come to our attention, through a continuing rain of the body parts of our citizens onto our streets, that "your issues" do not seem to be resolvable through considered and mutually agreeable negotiations. The outcome of these 'negotiations' in the recent past seems to us to be one of we give and you take and then you kill us. We have decided that this is not a program that we wish to continue.
link american digest
Read the whole thing!

Ray Bradbury on Censorship

People have been trying to ban or bolderize Bradbury since Fahrenheit 451. He is more than a little angry about it.
For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmild teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" so it shapes "Zoot," may the belt unravel and the pants fall.
link rich geib
via reason hit and run Happy Birthday Ray!

Music Blog

David Janes and a few friends/fellow obsessives, has put together a group blog on music with a focus on Canadian pop music. Switching to My sense is that group blogging will be the next wave with people like Janes and Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change getting it first.