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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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11/28/2003

Incoherence

"As his detractors sharpened their attacks, Mr. Harper emphasized his party's efforts to allow religious conservatives to put forward their opinions while preventing the promotion of socially unacceptable views."
national post
And religion belongs in politics because....? The fact Spencer is an asshat was obvious from the instant he opened his mouth on the subject of homosexuality. But what Harper fails to understand is that so long as the Alliance attracts this sort of profoundly anti-liberal support it may as well pitch a tent on the margins of Canadian political debate.

Nasty

Saudi Arabia's security forces found a pick-up truck packed with more than a ton of explosives when they raided a militant cell primed to launch a "terrorist operation" in Riyadh, officials said on Thursday.

State television showed footage of the truck, seized after a clash on Tuesday in which two wanted militants were killed, filled with the explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and gas cylinders to magnify the force of any explosion.

Officials say Tuesday's raid by security forces thwarted an imminent attack during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, less than three weeks after suspected al Qaeda bombers killed at least 18 people in a residential compound in the Saudi capital.

An Interior Ministry source said the truck had 2,790 lbs of ammonium nitrate-based explosives in the back when it was seized. A further a 3,036 lbs of explosives was found nearby, along with more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.
cnn
After all the scrupples the West had about respecting Muslim holy days, here is the respect the Islamofascist terrorists show for their own Eid. It is going to be a long war.

11/27/2003

Mess Call

Bush spoke with soldiers from the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division at an airport mess hall. "You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq," he said, "so we don't have to face them in our own country."

Terrorists are testing America's resolve, Bush said, and "they hope we will run."

"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," the president said, prompting a standing ovation and cheers.
washington post
Smart, brave and able. Bush got this one just right.

Not, Perhaps, the Best Plan

Al-Hakim told reporters al-Sistani had expressed "deep concern over real loopholes" in the power-transfer plan, signed by U.S. administrator Paul Bremer and the current head of the council, Jalal Talabani, on Nov. 15.

"He has shown serious concern about real loopholes that must be dealt with," al-Hakim said of Ayatollah al-Sistani. "Otherwise, the process will be deficient and fail to meet the expectations of the people of Iraq. Among the main objections is the lack of a role by the Iraqi people in the process of transferring powers to the Iraqis."

Under the new transfer agreement, members of a transitional national assembly will be chosen in regional caucuses attended by politicians and specially selected scholars, professionals, tribal chiefs, legal experts and other prominent people. The assembly will in turn elect a provisional government to take power by July 1.
the toronto star
It seems to me that the Iraqi people should indeed have some direct say in who is elected. Picking elites is a sensible alternative when it comes to drafting a constitution or dealing with the need to govern on an emergency basis; but nations as diverse and divided as India and South Africa have been able to hold democratic, full-franchise elections. Why not Iraq.

The principle argument against this sort of full on election is the danger of the nation being overwhelmed by the Shi'ite majority; but so what? Pretending that the Shi'ites are not a majority is not going to make it so.

The best way of dealing with the minority problem would likely be to split Iraq into its ethnic and religious units and then have direct elections within those units. Devolve as much of the day to day administrative responsibility to those units and decentralize power away from Baghdad.This would keep the Kurds and the Shi'ites happy. The Sunnis will be pissed in any event as they were consistently favoured by Saddam. (I think I suggested this a while ago with the proviso that the Shiite regions be divided into two or, perhaps three, units.)

There also seems to be rather more fuss about a constitution than is necessary. Until Iraq is autonomous, any constitution will smack of American interference. While that worked just fine in Japan in 1946, it is not going to work here. So there needs to be a mechanical device to allow Iraqis to shape their own government and, in time, their own constitution - Islamic or otherwise.

No nation is made ready for democracy or self rule. No nation as completely bereft of civil society as Iraq was made under Saddam is going to quite get democratic and pluralistic notions out of the gate. But the way to learn is by doing.

Killer Political Endorsement

I missed this
And, since I don't want any levels of government to work together, I will be voting for Jeff Brown for Ward 19 Councillor. As of yesterday, I'm his ex-wife and I'm still voting for him. I don't think you can get a stronger endorsement than that. >sismondo

Mullahs must be shaking in their boots

The IAEA's head, Mohamed ElBaradei, said: "It is pretty clear that the board is sending a very serious and ominous message that failures in the future will not be tolerated."
the guardian
Gosh, the UN is really mad. There is Iran running an 18 year coverup of its atomic energy program and the UN is telling it off. Quake, shake....So just suppose Iran does a test firing next Tuesday. Any bets on how fast the UN will rapidly deploy? No? I didn't think so. Toothless.

11/26/2003

2/3 of Everything

Working off U.N. and U.S. census data, Bill Frey, the indispensable University of Michigan demographer, projects that in the year 2050 the median age in the United States will be 35. The median age in Europe will be 52. The implications of that are enormous.
david brooks nyt
They don't call it Old Europe for nothing.

Next Net

Shirky argues that the essence of the Internet and early generations of software innovations like email was that they allowed groups to work together more effectively. It was not just another one-to-many broadcast medium like television or a one-to-one medium like the telephone. It did both those things and also allowed for many-to-many communications-something that could never be done before outside of physical gatherings. As Shirky said: "The Internet was the first new tool to help convene group conversations since the invention of the table."
social software
One of the pleasures of reading the blogs for BlogsCanada's Top Blogs is looking at new stuff I'd never run into on my own. No question that Clay Shirky is on top of a huge use for all that idle broadband capacity. (via Seb's Open Research)

Was the Iraqi Minister of Information telling the Truth?

Great good fun was had at the expense of the Iraqi Minister of Information as he happily announced Americans were nowhere near Baghdad and, that, if they were, they were being lured into the proverbial cunning trap. Well....here's Andrew Sullivan, arch hawk,
Saddam has played a simple, clever game: instead of fighting conventionally, he simply withdrew his forces and went into hiding; now he plays a game of guerrilla harassment until the U.S. wearies and pulls out; then he makes another bid for power, in league with Islamists and terrorists of all stripes.
andrew sullivan
I don't, frankly, think he is right tactically or strategically. And Sullivan was fairly quick to downplay triumphalism at the end of the war. But until the pack of cards is rounded up or killed the rather ad hoc, but quite cunning, plan in the Sunni triangle is causing a great deal of pain.

Old Europe takes a Pass

France and Germany have been given more time to bring their deficits under control. As this will involve political pain, more time may well turn out to be forever. Which will sink the Euro.
Four smaller European countries opposed the compromise, saying it was a victory of political muscle over economic prudence...
new york times
Frankly, the entire Euro enterprise has struck me as doomed from the start simply because the economies involved are so entirely different. Some are stagnating, some vibrant: some need deficits, others will remain in surplus. Forcing them into a corset was never going to work. And it isn't.

11/25/2003

How did the First People Get Here

Another in my series of science book reviews:
Lost World: Rewriting Prehistory-How New Science is Tracing America's Ice Age Mariners
By Tom Koppel
Atria Books hc 299 pp, $41.00

How did the early people of North America get here? The stock answer is that they walked over the Bering land bridge which existed thousands of years ago. Just one problem with that theory: recent geology has proven that the path south from Alaska was blocked by a sheet of ice up to a mile thick during the period the migration had to have occurred.

For ten years Saltspring Island writer Tom Koppel has been following the unfolding archeological puzzle of the First Peoples in North America; but his interest goes back to a cabin he rented just behind a beach at the head of a bay on a West coast island which was build on a midden, a pile of shells thrown away after thousands of years of native seasonal shellfish harvesting.

If the land bridge is out, the only other route which could explain the signs of human habitation over 11,000 years old which are found all over North and South America, is a coastal route. The problem with this explanation is that, because during the last Ice age the sea levels were several hundred feet lower than they are today, most of the likely locations of artifacts from this migration route are under water.

Koppel's Lost World leaves tantalizing hints. Up and down the Pacific Coast, archeologists have been finding indirect evidence that, while the Cordilleran ice sheet ran right down to the North West Pacific Coast, there were small areas which were not overridden by ice. And there were offshore islands, including the Queen Charlottes, where the ice never came at all. These refugium dotted the Coast and would have provided stop over places for a sea borne migration.

The archeologists in Koppel's book are a frustrated lot. The clear signs which would make the case for human habitation on the Coast and establish the sea borne migration are four hundred feet under water. Only recently has the imaging technology, swath bathymetry employing a multibeam sonar, come available to accurately examine the basic geography of likely sites for human habitations. With that technology has also come the archeological version of the Lucky Dip-dropping a clamshell bucket over the stern of a research vessel and grabbing the sea floor in a likely spot hoping for artifacts.

Koppel has a magazine writer's knack for personal detail and covers the background of the coastal digs. He lets the experts describe their understanding of just how ancient Asian peoples may have floated to America in short, well planned, island hops.

Lost Worlds can't quite prove the sea voyage version. Instead Koppel takes us to the brink of discovery and leaves us, like the marine archeologists, waiting for next year or the year after's dig.
It really is a fascinating book written by Saltspringer Tom Koppel whose last book was on Ballard and fuel cells.

The Iron Boot of the american Occupation

Stuck in the inevitable Baghdad traffic, street children loaded down with publications weave past cars, juggling wads of Iraqi dinars in one hand and dozens of new newspapers and magazines in the other. While Iraq’s official newspapers died overnight with the fall of the regime, some 230 new publications have sprung up across the country since the fall of Saddam. Some, like a tiny periodical I came across in the holy Shia Muslim city of Najaf, will not be winning any Pulitzer prizes. It was written, edited and laid out by one man in a fly-ridden backroom equipped only with an aging typewriter, a borrowed photocopier and stapler. Others have already appeared and died. But in Baghdad there are already slick, foreign-financed imports like the Azzaman newspaper, a daily colour broadsheet produced mainly in London, and the al-Sabah newspaper, funded entirely by the US-led coalition. In addition are scores of regional papers, many of them controlled by religious groups and others published by rival political parties. There are even some heroic attempts at producing Iraqi versions of Hello! by editors who have probably correctly calculated that gossip about Hollywood and football stars is exactly what many Iraqis crave after decades of politics and fighting.
the spectator
Oh when will the madness end?

Why Saddam had to go, and should have gone sooner

(via Daiman Penny and LGF) Not pretty. Just page after page of Iraqi mass graves. The Peace at any cost folks need to be reminded what the cost was. And who bore it. The supporters of Canada's surpline position should remember that these graves were not enough to convince the United Nations to act. As it was not enough in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo....

Happy News from Iraq

November 24, 2003
THE IRAQI MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AFFAIRS WILL COMPENSATE IRAQI NATIONALS WHOSE EARS OR TONGUES WERE SEVERED BY THE SADDAM REGIME. (AL-WATAN, SAUDI ARABIA, 11/23/03)
memri ticker
Sorry about the caps. Just in case anyone was wondering why it might well have been a good thing to depose Uncle Cuddles.

Hook, Line and Sinker

The Tyee is up. The new, David Beers driven, online publication wants to put a fresh spin into the rather dull Vancouver media scene. It is not going to get very far when its first media piece, written by AdBuster Associate Editor Deborah Campbell contains this bit of lefty looniness,
In the absence of a skeptical North American press, however, it was the international media which took up the task, including the BBC, the Guardian and the Arab network Al-Jazeera.
the tyee
Now the good news is Campbell is, it seems from the context, quoting ex-Post Reporter Patricia Pearson. The bad news is it is pretty clear Campbell, and by implication The Tyee, endorses those views. Lest Ms. Campbell forget: the BBC ran, unedited, the remarks of the arch fabricator Andrew Gilligan which sexed up his interview with Dr. Kelly so much the poor man felt obliged to kill himself. And the BBC also ran Gilligan's story live from Baghdad in which he happily announced he was at the Baghdad airport and there were no signs of American troops. His own colleague who actually was at the airport and more or less surrounded by troops had to correct Gilligan's completely fictitious report. Fiction was no stranger to virtually all BBC reporting of the circumstances which lead up to the war in Iraq and the war itself.

The Guardian had a better war. In fact, with the lamentable lapse of publishing a 9/11 revisionist piece suggesting that Bush knew the attack was on its way and all the rest of the conspiracy rubbish and, of course, once in a while having a Drabble or a Pinter "I hate, I really hate, America" piece, and, well, Polly Toynbee having cramps every time the US or the Brits suggested that maybe removing Saddam Hussein was a good in itself, its coverage was fairly balanced.

Al-Jazeera? Balance does not mean repeating video loops of American or British troops being brutalized as POWs. It certainly does not mean having advance notice of bombing attacks and doing nothing or bragging about facilitating (memri.org 11/11/03) such attacks.

These are certainly reasons to read beyond the remarkably banal reporting in the North American mainstream press; but intelligent opposition to the war, US foreign policy in general, Bush and all manner of other things American can be read in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Boston Globe and, frankly, CNN. All are available online.

The Post was for the war. It made no bones about that. And it was for the war for at least one reason which Pearson was unwilling to point out to her sponsors - Saddam was a bloody tyrant who terrorized his own people and invaded neighbouring states.

There were no lack of dissent merely because the Post supported the war and the reconstruction. Calling
for a return to a plurality of voices in what has become a one-note media chorus.
is simply bogus. The Toronto Star was solidly anti-war, the Globe and Mail waffled - even the Southam papers have taken a variety of positions.

There was considerable editorial support outside the Post for Canada's decision to ignore our closest friends' pleas to join them and forge a course towards the laudable goal of becoming Chirac's bitch. And there has been much self-congratulation at our cleverness as our softwood attracts tariffs and our hotels repel American tourists.

There is plenty to criticize about Canadian media; but holding Al Jazeera up as an example of a job well done suggests Campbell and Pearson are not the people to do it.

11/24/2003

An Energetic Defence

Hiring David Bois suggests Conrad Black is aware that there is a bit more than a PR problem here. Likely it was the resignation of the audit committee at Hollinger which gave him the hint.

Bois, of counsel to Microsoft - he did a deal - and one Al Gore - he lost - is not an obvious choice for a minimal stakes game. Unlike his work with SCO - where he sure to lose but gets lots of stock and cash for his efforts, Black will be paying cash on the table. And Bois charges a lot - SCO raised 50 million dollars by way of a private placement primarily for legal fees. Ouch.

Ms. James

With two seats in the Legislature the BC NDP had very little to lose when it came to selecting a leader this weekend. By selecting Carole James the Party may well have stopped the rot and turned the corner. Not because Ms. James walks on water or is particularly charismatic; rather because she is so absolutely opposite both the Liberals and the old line NDP has become - urban, disconnected from working and non-working people, elitist and in the hands of the spinsters.

Ms. James seems to have the energy and hardheadedness to do the town by town, burb by burb, work it will take to defeat a faltering and surprisingly lame Liberal government. Her only impediment at this point is NDP ideology and her apparent union support.

Thirty years ago British Columbia has a private sector union movement which had real power because it had a huge membership which directly contributed to the prosperity of the province. Now the union movement is dominated by public sector unions which are always in the business of wanting bigger government and higher taxes. The economy has shifted away from the extractive industries. The productive work of the economy is being done by people who are not unionized in environments which are unfriendly if not downright hostile to unionization.

If Ms. James can manage to sketch a vision of a socially responsive government which is not in the business of hiring more civil servants and paying them ever more in tax dollars, she may be able to capture more than a few seats. If she can back the party away from the whole human rights entitlement theory of social structure, she might win a few more. And, if Gordo is unable to deliver the Vancouver boom past the city boundaries, she might pick up a few more.

It would take a miracle for the NDP to actually form the next government; but twenty to thirty seats are not out of the question. At which point the Liberals will either dump Campbell or figure out a way to govern without seeming to be trying to screw the poor, the unemployed, the single mums, healthcare, education and a raft of other cutback targets.

Ms. James looks to be, at a minimum, a goad and Lord knows the Libs need one.


11/23/2003

O'Rourke on Iraq

If we're going to be successful in transforming Iraq, a lot of structure is going to be required. Some of it of the authority type?lots of soldiers, lots of police?but some of it needs to be social structures. Their civil society has been completely destroyed. It has to be rebuilt, or we have to somehow allow or encourage it to rebuild itself. It's not going to be easy. This is not a "laissez faire, tear down the wall to East Berlin and the East Berliners will figure it out" type of situation. Don't think Czechoslovakia or Poland or East Germany. Think Romania in terms of the chaos, or the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan. This place has really been destroyed.

In thinking of all the problems that we're having with the occupation and reconstruction and resistance, it's instructive to remember that the United States alone had more than 1.5 million troops in postwar Germany. That's not counting the French, the British, and of course, the Russians. That many troops in a country that had a lot of infrastructure?both social and civil. This, as opposed to the 130,000 troops that we have Iraq. It just isn't anywhere nearly enough.

The other thing, of course, is that soldiers aren't cops. Those are two different things, as we learned at Kent State thirty-odd years ago. Soldiers are not policemen, and it's very unfair, even for those soldiers who have some police training, to burden them with police duties. It's not what they're trained for, or equipped for.

atlantic online
I am always a bit surprised that the Bushies missed the absence of a civil society in the overall intelligent scheme to destablize the logjam in the Middle East. the strategy is, I think, sound, but tactically there should have been as much if not more thought put into the peace as there was into the war.

Plus O'Rourke knows a funny line when he hears it,
They aren't humanitarian workers. One of the colonels I talked to was describing the Army engineers under his command. He said, "My engineers are the break-it kind; they're not the fix-it kind."

Snow No Show

Drat! Turned to rain. I should be used to it but it disappoints me as much now as it did when I was ten.

Let it Snow

I just popped out the door for a smoke and was greeted with the lovely sight of tiny flakes. The forecast, unfortunately is for flurries changing to rain. Which is typical in Vancouver. But sometimes, sometimes, the temperature holds at about one degree and it actually snows.

For most Canadians snow is a fact of life and a pain in the butt. For Vancouverites it is just rare enough to be fun. The city essentially closes down if there is any more than six inches of snow. A foot or more is an actual disaster of not too Biblical proportions. Because I work at home and have a few shops in easy walking distance I think a big dump would be delightful.

One of the many ways Vancouver is utterly different from the rest of Canada is that our winter is really more a long fall than an actual cold season. We rarely have to deal with frozen locks or digging out the driveway. Which, I suspect, has long since changed the Vancouver character, shifting it a few degrees away from "True North, strong and free". Anyone who has slipped on the dirty ice of a year's snow accumulation on a cold Toronto April day knows just what a bitter country winter really is. But, in Vancouver, if we have a foot of snow we rush to enjoy it sure in the knowledge the rain will wash it away in a day or two.

So let it snow. And snow all night and all day Sunday and on into Monday. We could use the break.

Waging Freedom

He told me he had just been to the reopening of the Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem, which a suicide bomber just blew up a few weeks ago. "It was so crowded you couldn't find a seat," said Mr. Ezrahi. "Freedom is the only guardian of freedom." Which is why Israelis insist that any bus stop blown up by suicide bombers be rebuilt by the next day. Message to suicide bombers: You're dead and we're not afraid. That is the best deterrence.
new york times
I blow hot and cold on Friedman. He tends to have a somewhat simplistic view of the nature of the Islamofascist threat; but this article is worth the visit.