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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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9/27/2003

Right

There is nothing like the prospect of total defeat to concentrate the mind. The Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives are talking and balking at a potential merger just in time for the Martin steamroller to reduce them to skid marks. With the NDP burying itself in gay marriage and support for the Palestinians and the Alliance and the PC's trending over towards the social conservative right, Martin can practice his style of fiscal conservatism combined with selected social welfare and health initiative, without any serious opposition. If he can just persuade Sheila to bail and join the NDP with her half dozen Liberal supporters he would have a long and happy premiership.

Having Mike Harris get off the golf course and front the PC/Alliance reconciliation would have seemed like a good idea back in 1995; now it would just be one more tired Ontario politician trotted out to make the essentially unattractive policies of the Alliance square up with the schizophrenia of the blue and red factions of the Progressive Conservatives. While Peter MacKay and Stephan Harper are potentially excellent leaders, the presence of the fundys and the socons in each party to the shotgun marriage will ensure endless electoral defeat in urban Canada.

All of which will ensure at least one and likely two or three more majority Liberal governments. Martin to Manley? And so on. With the governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec all in nominally Liberal (or soon to be Liberal hands) the real political debates in Canada will be in the back rooms of the Liberal Party. The right will unite into a long night of feeble opposition.

9/26/2003

Sullivan on Marriage - No, the other kind

It is easy to forget what a good writer Andrew Sullivan is in a slightly longer form than the blog article. Read his Sunday Times piece on the wives of the Democrats who would be king.
Judith Steinberg represents another kind of Blue America: not the lefty plutocrats who now run the Democratic Party, but the earnest Northeastern career professionals who tend to vote for it. Steinberg is a doctor married to Howard Dean, and has kept her maiden name in her own practice, which she once shared with her husband. She has a starkly refreshing approach to the role of First Lady, which is to say, she would essentially abolish it. She has refused to go to almost any social functions with her husband as the wife of the governor of Vermont; and has said that if he won the presidency, she would simply move her medical practice to Washington and leave the White House alone. It doesn't seem to have dawned on her yet that the Secret Service detail required to vet and screen every patient would not exactly be conducive to a regular practice.

Still Laughing

Air Deccan is fisked by Paul Jané. You owe yourself the laugh over at Frozen in Montreal.

I wish I had 10K

A great example of a single purpose blog is over at GrokLaw. A paralegal working, I presume, on the SCO v IBM case is rounding up all the information on SCO's wonderfully bogus claim that it owns code essential to Linux. Now, you have to be a real geek to have the slightest idea of what id technically going on; but the geeks at slashdot have been hammering SCO's position for months.

Just reading the posts suggests that SCO at a closing price of around $17.00 a share is the most obvious short in the world. With 10K in hand you could sell 500 shares short and have coverage on up ticks to $20.00. This is the sort of situation which could easily drop five or ten dollars at a time and then swing back up. So you could cover and sell through a number of cycles before the final death spiral. If you use the tip send a bottle of scotch.

Where the RIAA is going wrong

I missed this Salon article back in February. And it quotes Tim O'Reilly making six trenchant points:
- Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.
- Piracy is progressive taxation.
- Customers want to do the right thing, if they can.
- Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy.
- File-sharing networks don't threaten book, music, or film publishing, they threaten existing publishers.
- "Free" is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service.
It's a long article but vital if you want to understand why file sharing is likely the salvation of music albeit a bit tough on the record companies.

9/25/2003

Edward Said Dead

Said, a guiding spirit in the effort to deconstruct a long and decent tradition of Western Orientalist scholarship, was at the heart of the post-modern worship of cultural relativism. He was happy to cast doubt on the motives and even the sexual profile of his opponents in order to disguise the shabbiness of much of his own politically driven work. He will not be missed by people who prefer getting their facts straight without reference to a so called cultural setting used to explain away any facts which might be unpleasant. For more on Said check this out.

Only in the Blogosphere

Chris Taylor, the San Francisco bureau chief for Time, whose Daily Blah has been a Blogger Blog of Note, says Calacanis shouldn't be overly confident that his magazine-publishing experience will easily translate to the blogging arena.
link wired
A sentence that only a blogger could love. But the article itself is a key read for bloggers. (via BlogsCanada

Silly

It says that every time a dentist or other health care practitioner plays music for its patients, he's stealing. The group wants the doctors to pay up for the right to play their songs.
link ctv
There may well be a legal basis for SOCAN's claim that every dentist in the land who plays music in his waiting room must pay a licence fee. In which case add another item to the list of things to fix in the Canadian Copyright Act.

But what Socan's argument amounts to is that when you buy a CD you are limited to playing that CD in your own home for your own enjoyment and prohibited from making any other use of it. Again, a sense of proportion is fairly vital here. Dentist offices are not discos and the music is not the draw.

In fact, the argument can be made that people who hear a CD in a dentist's office might even go and buy their own copy. Yep, it's called marketing. Something which SOCAN is apparently allergic to.


9/24/2003

Ever Helpful Hamas

In a news conference, Yassin said Hamas would not agree to a truce with Israel. A unilateral cease-fire declared by Hamas and other militants on June 29 collapsed in a burst of violence after several weeks.

"There is no place to talk about a truce because the enemy is continuing his aggression, killing and settlement activities," Yassin said. He added: "He who carries a bomb and blows himself up" is destined for paradise, referring to suicide attackers who have killed hundreds of Israelis.
link yahoo news
It is difficult not to think that the only solution for the Israelis is to conduct a campaign aimed at eliminating the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and, frankly, the current PA leadership. The workd hates them now and progress is not being made waiting for the next suicide bomb to go off.

Classical?

Kevin Michael Grace, late of Alberta Reports, writes a wonderful piece on the dumbing down of classical music.
CIN removed born from the classical chart, and bond got a lot of free publicity to add to the million dollars worth bought by their manager Mel Bush, who had earlier given us the classical stylings of Queen ("Bohemian Rhapsody") and Vanessa-Mae (the half-naked jailbait fiddler).
link american prowler
KMG is so mean....and right.

RIAA swings....and misses

he recording industry has withdrawn a lawsuit against a Newbury woman because it falsely accused her of illegally sharing music -- possibly the first case of mistaken identity in the battle against Internet file-traders....
The lawsuit claimed that Ward had illegally shared more than 2,000 songs through Kazaa and threatened to hold her liable for up to $150,000 for each song. The plaintiffs were Sony Music, BMG, Virgin, Interscope, Atlantic, Warner Brothers, and Arista.

Among the songs she was accused of sharing: ''I'm a Thug,'' by the rapper Trick Daddy.

But Ward, 66, is a ''computer neophyte'' who never installed file-sharing software, let alone downloaded hard-core rap about baggy jeans and gold teeth, according to letters sent to the recording industry's agents by her lawyer, Jeffrey Beeler.

Other defendants have blamed their children for using file-sharing software, but Ward has no children living with her, Beeler said.

Moreover, Ward uses a Macintosh computer at home. Kazaa runs only on Windows-based personal computers.
link et seq. boston globevia politech
While Trick Daddy will, no doubt, be relieved not to have his outstanding contribution to popular culture played without pay, the RIAA is looking more than a little dumb.

It may also illustrate the real hole in the RIAA strategy - if a defendant refuses to settle, the RIAA will likely have a hard time in Court.
Jonathan Zittrain, an associate professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School, said the dismissal shows that the record companies may find it tough to prevail if their lawsuits go to court. Their legal strategy assumes that most defendants will settle rather than fight, and the lawsuits are so damaging to their public image that they cannot afford protracted legal battles with alleged file-swappers, he added.

''This is a very high-stakes strategy for the record companies,'' he said. ''It's either going to work in the short term, or they're going to have to pull the plug on it.''
Pulling the plug now would be smart. Unlikely, but smart.

The Kofi Doctrine

"But until now it has been understood that when states go beyond that and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations," he said.
link reuters
Well, let's see. You go to the UN and get a resolution authorizing serious consequences for non-co-operation with the arms inspectors. Non-co-operation occurs. You go back to the UN for a resolution re-affirming its earlier authorization of serious consequences and you're blocked.

Gee Kofi, guess you'll have to do a little better enforcing your own resolutions if you want to keep that prized "unique legitmacy" brand name going.

Read Paul Jané who has more on the Kofi Doctrine.

Double Think at the Guardian

The Guardian's coverage of the Hutton Inquiry has, to my mind, been balanced and realistic. While the paper itself would love to see Blair exposed as a liar, if the evidence did not point that way then the Guardian as a whole was prepared to go where the evidence took it.

Not so columnist Tom Bower. Today he writes a piece notable for two things. First, he accuses Blair, No. 10 generally and John Scarlett of failing to turn over material documents to the Hutton Inquiry.
Yet, can anyone really believe that Blair, Campbell and Scarlett would allow seriously incriminating documents to be surrendered voluntarily to Hutton?
He has no actual evidence of this concerted deception. Nor does he note that if Blair or his staff was discovered failing to put forward material documents he'd be out of office faster than you can say "Liar". No, our Tom's reasoning seems to be that because sensible people know Blair is a liar it follows that Blair is hiding the documents which would prove those sensible people right.

But better than this, Bower manages to write an entire piece without ever once mentioning Andrew Gilligan or the BBC's backing of Gilligan. As faithful Hutton watcher will remember Gilligan has admitted he was sloppy with the facts and that, er, poor Dr. Kelly really did not provide him with the immortal line that No. 10 was "sexing up" the dossier. Instead it was Gilligan who sexed up his own story and happily outed David Kelly as the source for one of his colleague's stories.

I expect that Lord Hutton will write a report which suggests that, in so far as there can be a proximate cause accertained for a suicide, it was the fact Kelly found himself so stunningly mis-quoted and mis-represented by one A. Gilligan and Kelly knew that Gilligan's reporting had dropped him in the shit with his superiors.

How Bower can point the finger at Downing Street while utterly ignoring Gilligan is a perfect example of complete self deception. After all, no sensible person would believe that the BBC lies even if one of its reporters admits that that is exactly what he did.

9/23/2003

Are you listening Jean

``There is no neutral ground. All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization,''
link cnn
All the multi-culturalism in the world is not a substitute for clear thinking. I am hoping Paul Martin, if no one else, is planning on making it clear that the majority of Canadians are on the Americans' side in this war. Because the current Prime Minister seems to have trouble with the concept.

Oh, Please Just Go

Jean Chrétien yesterday held up Canada as a model for combatting terrorism, telling an international conference in New York that Canadian multiculturalism has provided a channel for the country's peoples to work out their differences.
link et seq. canada.com
It is hard to believe that Chrétien is on the same planet as the rest of us. On one hand we have Osama binLaden and the mediaeval mullahs chanting death to the Jews and the Crusaders, on the other we have Chrétien praising the ever looney non-policy of multi-culturalism. Arrrgh!
"As a country founded on diversity, Canada has adopted policies of inclusiveness," he said. "We are intimately aware of the challenges associated with facilitating dialogue between different groups -- and we have learned that differences do not have to be divisive."

He added: "Canada has much to share with respect to its rich and peaceful heritage of multiculturalism."
On this model the real way to have proceeded in Iraq would have been to sit Saddam down with the Kurds and the Shi'ite and respectfully suggested that, well, this killing, torture and all that bad stuff was just going to have to stop and then "facilitate dialogue". Now remember, Uncle Cuddles once shot a guy at a Cabinet meeting.

The sooner Chrétien goes the better, next week looks good, tomorrow better.


What the RIAA should hear

A common analogy ? downloading music is like stealing a CD ? does not sway students. Many argue that they are spending more money on music.

"I never went out and bought CD's; now I go to concerts, because I know what kind of music people play," said Kristen Lipski, 20. "If you can get your music out to a big group of people to listen to, they'll go to your CD, go to your concert, spend money on posters. It's really expensive, especially for college students, to buy the whole CD."

Mr. Langlitz was on his way to a concert downtown by Taking Back Sunday, a band he said he would never have heard without downloading. "A lot of the bands I know about aren't that well-known," he said. "Before I saw their CD's, I had them in my computer."
link nyt
Downloading low quality MP3s is not the end of the world for the music biz; rather it is an entrance into the new world. There is no reason record companies should not be flooding P2P networks with 128 bit versions of their hits and new bands with a ten second commercial at the beginning. Use the medium!

9/22/2003

Ghost of the Post

Pace Colby Cosh but Mark Steyn nails the coffin lid tight with his adieu. I only had a chance to read it today and it sums up the drive to the boring bottom which the Aspers seem to think is what the National Post needs to survive. And, frankly, they may very well be right and Steyn quite wrong.
Its feeble Sheila Copps happy-face maple-boosterism would be just as fine for promoting the CBC, The Toronto Star, the Juno Awards, or any of the other lame props of the Trudeaupian state. Canada already has a national paper for the establishment, and, given that The Globe And Mail has a century's head start, the Post by definition has to be the anti-Globe - the non-establishment paper. The Globe has sewn up the market on conventional wisdom. Therefore, the Post has to be scrappy, insurgent, provocative, livelier. This is a commercial logic as much as an ideological one. When you look at the writers who've left - me, Frum, Blatch, Wells, Coyne - we're ideologically all over the map but what we have in common is a skepticism about that reflexive Jeffrey Simpsonian Anglo-Canadian conventional smugness.
The weakness of the post-Whyte Post lies in the fact its edge has been and is being blunted to the level of the hard hitting world of Global television. Steyn can not stand it and neither could the columnists he lists.

But the Aspers know their market and they know that dumb, conventional and cheerful attract more readers/viewers than smart, challenging and incisive. For the majority of Canadians hearing that everything is going ok and that we are not going to war and that we should be proud of our country is more comforting and attractive than jeremiads, allegations of corruption and warchat which the Whyte Post served up. Izzy has never pretended he is in business for truth's sake; he's in it for the money and no one makes money without becoming popular.

Frankly, I think Black sold Canwest a bit of a pig dressed up in flimsy but attractive convergence chat which had a best before date of midnight 1999. But Asper pere has turned around situations as bad or worse than the post Internet bubble Southam empire and the Post. He's done it in the time honoured fashion of business - cut costs, increase revenues. Increasing revenues means going to where the market is rather than hoping the market will find you camped out on the high ground.
By staying with the Post as it relocates to the great wobbling blancmange of Canadian conventional wisdom, all I’d be doing is providing a bit of cover for the abandonment of its identity. Helping to make a Martinized Post profitable would outdo any good I'd accomplish in the column.
The sad truth about Canada is that the bit that matters - all visible from the top of the CN tower on a clear day - did not want to have its cherished assuptions about the divinity of the Liberal Party, Trudeupia and the importance of being very, very nice - nearly as nice as Mike Pearson - hammered week after week. For a wannabe national newspaper that did not matter that much; but the Aspers are far too smart to keep the Post National. 406 and the 401 runs through it are the way to make money and Izzy knows it.

Delusional

While she did not expect to get the majority of the weekend's votes, she said she entered the race on ideas of "inclusion and empowerment" and intends to head into the November convention on those same ideals.

Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte, a Copps supporter, told CBC Newsworld on Monday, "Sure we're disappointed" [about the low number of delegates who supported Ms. Copps].

But Ms. Bulte said that by remaining committed to the November convention, Ms. Copps is allowing debate within the party to continue.
link globe and mail
Grace has never been one of the shrill Ms. Copps' trademarks. Were I her I would be chatting with the NDP and preparing to unite what's Left. With a bit of luck Sheila will coral the rest of the anti-American, anti-business Liberals into a mini van and drive over to the nearly vacant NDP phone booth. It will be one of those very odd political parties that has more seats in the Commons than actual dues paying members. But not for long. Martin should pretty much roll up the NDP as the Tory/Alliance vote collapses in the next election. As for debate, surely 90% pretty much puts an end to any sort of significant policy discussion at the Liberals convention.

Warren ought to know

Political Rule One: don't shoot the messenger, particularly when your wounds are self-inflicted. Political Rule Two: when in a hole, stop digging.
link warren kinsella
While I find Kinsella's anti-war gloat and $ cost meter on his site naive - what is the price to get rid of Saddam; or, put another way, as someone said, shouldn't the body count meter be running in reverse now that Saddam and the boys are not running the plastic shredders. But Kinsella knows more about politics, particularly Ontario politics than anyone I'm aware of. If you've been reading his blog you'll have known that Ernie Eves has a fight on his hands in the current election. And, if you read it closely, it was clear Kinsella thought that Eves was very vulnerable indeed.

All it really took was the "reptillian kitten eater remark" and negative advertising to toss the Tories into freefall.

Kinsella's feel for the Ontario electorate let him gauge just how badly the Conservatives have misread that electorate even as the Tory backrooms were buying more air time to say nasty things about Dalton McGuinty the Liberal leader. Nasty does not work in Ontario. Your would have thought the debacle when the Tories ran an ad alluding to Jean Chretien's facial tick would have taught the backroom something. Apparently not.

So, for the edification of that backroom I'll add Currie's corollary to Kinsella's rules: "Nothing that works in the United States will work in Ontario." Negative advertising is risky anywhere in Canada, but Ontario is full of people who really do wait at pedestrian crossings for the little man to shine at 3:00 AM where there is no traffic. They apologize to bank robbers, they are polite to answering machines: they do not like rudeness. They don't like the hard sell and they will punish a lack of political manners in kind.

Farewell to Saudi

In part, Pentagon officials say, the shift is a logical outgrowth of the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. Thirteen years after it began, the officials say, the American base's original Iraqi mission had been accomplished.
link nyt
The last American troops and pilots are out of Saudi Arabia. While some uber hawks suggest this clears the way for regime change, the Pentagon's assessment makes more sense. What the end of the engagement does signal is the end of the need to pussyfoot with the Saudis on terrorism, oil pricing, human rights or any other issue.
Securing Iraq as a friendly nation and potential ally proceeds apace. With Iraq comes vast reservoirs of oil and, potentially, a first rate army. (Two, in fact, an Iraqi national army to secure internal peace and defend the countries borders, and a mercenary army which may bear the same relation to American Special Forces in the Middle East and Southern Asia as the Gurkas did to the British.)
Saudi is, unless radically reformed, on its way to petro dollar fuelled bankruptcy. It has created a vast and very expensive class of Royal princes, an expensive welfare and medical structure and a hilariously overequiped military which, even having had the latest in modern gear forced upon it, is as likely to desert as shoot. All of which was sustainable when the world demand for $25.00 a barrel oil was insatiable and the easy Saudi reserves seemingly inexhaustible. World oil demand is still growing, but non-Saudi, non-OPEC reserves are coming online. The less expensive Saudi pools are shrinking. The Royal family is getting larger. Saudi has been running a deficit for nearly a decade.
All of which would be manageable if Saudi had managed to create some sort of business and manufacturing capacity in addition to its oil. But, despite sending ranks of princelings to the best technical and business schools money can buy, it is difficult to find a single Saudi technical or business success story. There have been some shrewd investors; but such business as there is in the Kingdom is usually run day to day by Palistinians, Westerners or non-Arab Muslims. Wealth creation is not a top priority in the Saudi royal family unless you count the occasional lucky night in Monte Carlo.
By withdrawing now the Americans leave the Saudis to their own devices. Which is as it should be. bin Laden and his followers want to end the House of Saud's reign and replace it with something even more medieval. Ugly, and if the House of Saud cannot reform itself and its nation, a real danger. One which America, and I hope a well trained mercenary army out of Iraq will be able to prevent, but only so as to allow the ordinary Saudi people a chance to live in the 21st century rather than a faction fight between the 12th and 13th.