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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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12/06/2003

Euro-Constitution: Let's make a deal

I spent many a happy, if geeky, teenage afternoon playing Diplomacy. Along with giving me the ability to remember the locations of assorted Balkan states and why turkey really was "the sick man of Europe", Diplomacy also taught me how to make a diplomatic deal. Which is why watching the deals and double deals being cut in Europe are such a treat. There is England trying to keep the Euros from having much influence on British tax policy or defence posture making a secret deal with Spain to euchre the dreadful French and the awful German's plan to assure their dominance with the double majority wheeze. And Poland rallying the middle nations to avoid having their representation cut to ensure that the big nations and the midgets get disproportionate power...What fun. Of course the major powers of Old Europe, France and Germany, are beginning to resent being out manouvered on all sides,
All the same, if there are substantial and eye-catching changes to the convention text, or if (as seems quite likely) the inter-governmental conference simply fails to reach agreement on time next month, there will be much hand-wringing in Brussels, Paris and Berlin. The French and Germans might then be tempted to use a ?failure? in the IGC as an excuse to press ahead with schemes for a closer Franco-German union, which are known to beguile senior politicians in Paris in particular. If that happens, efforts to write a new EU constitution, far from marking a new beginning for Europe, might instead mark the beginning of the end.
the economist
About time too.

CertCom - Fighting to Win

But CENTCOM to the puzzlement of the media, fights to win. It has been boringly predictable. It captures enemy personnel, including key officers in the Ba'ath, seizes arms caches, intelligence documents by the truckload and ceaselessly sows informers among the enemy ranks. It has a touching belief in power of arithmetic, especially subtraction as applied to the numbers of foemen, coupled with a traditional attachment to the adage that it is better to do unto others before they do unto you.
the belmont club
The Belmont club combines shrewd military analysis with a keen sense of the hunger of the left media for US failure in Iraq. It's not going to happen no matter how much quagging goes on in the media. For exactly the reason the Belmont Club cites. Well worth a visit.

On her way

Deb at Being American in TO
just got on Steve denBeste's blogroll. Which, given that she is one of the best bloggers Canada has to offer is grand. Good to see Steve looking north and great to see him finding a blog which is so consistently interesting and passionate.

12/05/2003

Indeed

A British prison fired an officer who allegedly insulted terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Colin Rose, 53, is appealing to an employment tribunal in Norwich, England, to get his job back, reports the London Telegraph.

Officials at Blundeston Prison in Lowestoft, England, told Rose he had to go because, although he was unaware of it, three Muslims visiting the prison at the time might have heard his remarks about the al-Qaida leader, the paper said.
world net daily
Kathy Shaidle suggests this is sound evidence that England is doomed. I disagree. I have the sheer bloody optimism to believe that, somewhere, under the thick gloop of political correctness and caring and sharing, there is an England which will howl in outrage and demand Rose be reinstated. God, I hope so. Because if there isn't then there is the possibility that the nation which gave use the Common Law, Parliament and the whole notion of individual rights has vanished. Sucked into the maw of Margaret Drabble and Vanessa Redgrave, tumbled by Harold Pinter and George Galloway. The cringe of the middle classes will have become permanent and the end of England is indeed near.

My sense is that quite the opposite is true. The outrages of the Islamofascists, the idiocy of the Eurocrats, is beginning to tweak the political backbone of England: the Muggles who were initially impressed with the liberality of muli-cult but have begun to suspect that there is something just a little off with stories like this. And when Primrose Lane wakes up....watch out.

A General Tariff

For people interested in the legal arguments surrounding the possiblity of a blanket tariff on ISPs for music downloads there is an excellent summary of the arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada at lexinfomatica.

And the Winner(?) is

"She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.

'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator... "
Bunker 13, Aniruddha Bahal extracted in the guardian
Remarkable. Bahai's publisher Faber and Faber flew him in for the award. I gasp.

12/04/2003

A Pope for Islam?

In a trenchant essay Edward Feser makes the argument that those of us who suggest that Islam needs its Reformation (a position which I only mildly agree with) or its Enlightment (which I strongly agree with) are missing the mark.
To these considerations we might add the oft-noted parallels between the abstract and overwhelming Will that is Allah and the similarly impersonal and forbidding God of Calvinism, the Deity in both religions issuing orders that have no basis other than that Will itself and predestining men to a salvation or damnation whose justice they can neither fathom nor question. There is also in both religions (and in paradoxical juxtaposition to their suspicion of reason) the cold rationalism of an iconoclasm that will tolerate neither sacraments nor images, and an anti-humanism that despises the works of man even when he aspires to glorify God. The Taliban who dynamited those Buddhist carvings thereby demonstrated their kinship, not to the Medieval Catholics who venerated Plato, Aristotle, and other great writers of pagan antiquity, nor to the Renaissance Popes in their patronization of the arts, but to the Protestant mobs whose vandalism purged so many once-Catholic European churches of their stained glass, statuary, and beauty.
tech central station
Feser suggests that only within the history of the Catholic Church has there been an evolution of the idea of the separation of Church and State and a well thought out defence of the rule of law.

I am not at all sure Feser does not palm a couple of cards with respect to the Enlightenment - particularly as that Enlightenment occurred in the annals of British Constitutional history; but the thrust of his argument is well worth reading. He is able to underscore the often missed similarity between the reforming rigidity of the Calvinists and the zealotry of the Wahabis. Feser understands that fundamentalism, Christian or Islamic, is inimical to the liberal enterprise. A fact too often forgotten, particularly on the right.

Get Over it

That the Israelis and Palestinians should be reduced to negotiating virtual agreements would seem as good a sign as any that it is time for the Arab world to get on with its other priorities ? democratization, a new, mutually-beneficial rapport with the United States, economic development, reasonable demilitarization, not to mention ending the glaring anomaly of Syria’s presence in Lebanon. The invitation is not to abandon the Palestinians, nor is this morally reasonable; it is to encourage Arabs to cease contemplating their region solely through a lens dating back to 1948.
michael young, daily star
The politics of deception have ruled the Arab world, to its detriment, for half a century. Young, writing in Lebanon calls the bluff. The Pali refugees are not going back. The Arabs are not going to push Israel into the see. So long as there are suicide bombers Israel will defend herself. The solution to the problem of terrorism lies in the Troll of Ramallah'sTMhands.

Show agreements and whining, not to mention seething, have done nothing to improve the Pali's plight. The coming battle against the Zionists has bankrupted most of the non-oil producing Arab world.

Time to move on.

12/03/2003

Sick

As I ran through my spam concluding that the pitches for prescription painkillers were directed at my poor sweetie now that my penis is four inches longer and at constant attention due to the cutrate viagra I gobble by the handful, I ran across this:

The Private Videos of
UDAY HUSSEIN

The Girls!
The Parties!
The Beatings!

America's Hottest Selling Video!!!!!!!


Libertarian I may be; but this, if its real, is twisted. Clicking on the spam I was taken to the website which offers this obscenity for $29.99. Charming

Ethnic Blackmailer departs

Vancouver's own Herb Dhaliwal discovered that threatening Paul Martin with some sort of Indo-Canadian backlash was a rather bad idea. Now the lacklustre Cabinet Minister is resigning and not planning on running in the next election. As the globe and Mail points out this leaves an Indo-Canadian seat at the Cabinet table and an Indo-Canadian community in British Columbia with lots of voting power and a remarkable depth of talent Leading the pack: ex-NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

Only in Canada, Pity

Canada's songwriters will ask the Supreme Court of Canada next week to force Internet service providers to pay them royalties for the millions of digital music files downloaded each year by Canadians.
globe and mail
This beats the hell out of suing your customers. I am going to have a look at the pleadings but, in principle, this is a logical follow on to the whole idea of a private copyright and it answers the vexed question of how artists will get paid.

If the Supreme Court were to rule that ISP's did have to collect a royalty - say a couple of dollars a month per subscriber for broadband and less for dial up - the economics of music on the net would be radically transformed. It would generate several million dollars a month for the artists and let people download from whatever source guilt free. Because while it may be legal to download in Canada, taking music without paying the artist is not something most people are all that comfortable with.

A blanket licence would be rough justice - there are lots of people who, after all, don't download music or anything else; but if they were paying for it and knew they were paying for it they might well begin to download. Of course, this sort of royalty scheme would put paid to the "pay for service" music downloaders; but thems the breaks.

Tourists?

I was down at my bookseller's shop today selling a few review copies to keep the wolf another foot or two from my door. My bookseller, as is traditional, was lamenting the state of the book business and mentioned two items: first, the rumour that Chapters may file for bankruptcy as early as January 1, 2004; second, that his location which is right downtown, is there partially to cater to the tourist market - this year, no tourists.

The first tidbit is worth running down only because if Chapters went down it would take a good section of the Canadian publishing industry with it. When Ms. Reisman took Chapters over it had already stiffed and slow paid many Canadian publishers to the point that they were hanging by the proverbial thread. But with the takeover came new money and all was well. At this point, a bankruptcy after the Christmas season would be more than a business issue - it would be at the top of Paul Martin's incoming agenda.

Canada takes something of a sheltered workshop approach to publishing. There are subsidies, grants and rules which say the big, bad Americans are not allowed in. Weirdly, those rules also cover book sellers. These are rules which Ms. Reisman does not like and is more than capable of trying to change. However, she has not had much luck so far.

The end run would be to declare bankruptcy with an American equity investor standing in the wings. The sound of the rubble bouncing as publishers big and small realized their biggest client was in the dumper would tend to drown out the cultural nationalists. In rides the white knight, the day is saved.

It makes next to no sense to regulate booksellers on nationalist grounds and I suspect Martin would be delighted to change the rule to ensure the survival of Canadian publishing.

The second item is also interesting: my friend suggested it was SARS, my sense is it is Iraq. There is no way of proving either position. But my bet is a more than a few Americans looked at our lack of support and decided to vacation elsewhere.

Spy be gone

I have been plagued by a rash of spyware, dialers and all manner of other crap. My poor old computer - and if anyone has a mainboard running at 1Gig or better let me know - wheezes along at the best of times; but with the overheads the spyware was imposing it crashed if you sneezed in the next room.

Enter Spybot Search and Destroy. Ten minutes of searching and automatically deleting and, my computer is back to its old slow self. Outstanding and entirely by donation!

12/02/2003

The State of France

Christopher Caldwell writing in The Weekly Standard has a full on analysis of the politics of cultural decline in France. From falling overall employment, rising public sector employee benefits, declining productivity and an agreessively expanding "ghetto Muslim" population, France appears to be in a death spiral. Caldwell suggests parallels to the 1930's are not misplaced.

It makes for depressing reading and partially explains the desperation with which France has tried to cling to its presumed role as a great power and a founding power in Europe. But it also illustrates how hollow that presumption has rung as France's economy and birthrate have tanked since the 1960's.

Caldwell is particularily good on the politics of nostalgia which infect the largely agendaless, anti-tech, anti-globalism, left alternative - Social Forum. My sense is that a great majority of the Left, not only in France, are now engaged in politics as a nostalgic exercise. They have been left with very little more than acute, and irrational, Bush hatred and the hope that somewhere a new Soviet will emerge to counterbalance the Americans.

Boomers are just as capable as their parents were of longing for a better yesterday tomorrow and declining into a fusty romantic toryism fossilized in long lost "good old days". While there are still people under thirty who are hooked on the feel good, anti-corporate slogans of the Naomi Kleins and Michael Moores, there are not very many of them.

Here, again, the old story that demographics explain 2/3rds of just about everything kicks in. The Boomers - and I speak as a trailing edge boomer myself - ensured that youth was in oversupply. Now, the baby bust and the relatively small size of the boomers echo cohort means there is a scarcity of youth in virtually every Western nation. Youth is in demand for everything from entry level retail jobs to universities to innovation in business.

Being in demand means sub thirty people are having a vastly different experience than their parents did and that changes the terms upon which politics are conducted. Rather than a yearning for the good old days where life was rendered meaningful by the politics of protest and group identity, for many young people right now is as good as it gets. There are jobs, there is money and there is mobility.

For France, locked in a social contract which is geared towards providing pensions for every member of a generation which has not worked very hard and has not worked very long, the real political cleavage is likely to be about the wrinklies' unaffordable future burden. At some point, likely sooner than the French currently believe possible, their economy will no longer be able to borrow enough money to meet the commitments the politicians have made. (The first sign of this pending collapse was the French (and the Germans) demanding and getting an exemption from the euro deficit requirements.)

The democratic Left in France, as in most Western nations, is caught between its romantic idealism and its complete incapacity to create meaningful and actionable alternatives to a capitalist system which seems to work rather well. While the Left can beat the distributionalist drum, it has had to come to grips with the fact higher taxes do not lead to re-distribution of wealth to the poor but rather to the entrenched interests in the public service. And the fact the major succcess stories for the poor tend to be situations in which the demand for labour rises rather than those in which taxation or regulation are used to remove inequality.

Blair's New Labour got this. But Blair is alone in the western social democratic tradition in that "cool Britannia" is as much about the legaccy of the Thatcher cuts as it is about any brilliant new thinking on the left.

For people of a left tilt, the real challenge in France, England, Canada or the United States is to present a vision and an agenda which recognizes the critical success of market economics in generating wealth as an axiom. Which, in turn, means genuinly re-imagining what a humanistic social and economic program looks like when the primacy of the marketplace is taken for granted.


11/30/2003

Getting Steel Right

The WTO's ruling against the tariffs was finalized three weeks ago, clearing the way for the retaliatory levies, and Bush's economic team concluded unanimously that the tariffs should be scrapped. The source involved in the negotiations said the consensus in the White House was that "keeping the tariffs in place would cause more economic disruption and pain for the broader economy than repealing them would for the steel industry."
washington post
The steel tariffs were economically, diplomatically and politically a mistake in the first place. Getting rid of them clears another barricade to Bush's reelection and has the benefit of being the right policy in the first place. While there is almost certainly dumping in the steel industry, the remedy should be selective rather than wholesale. (There is some hope grownups have become involved in Bush's economic policy. It would be even more helpful if they explained in words of very few syllables why deficits are problematic.)

Spinning the Wall

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority seem to be in jeopardy yet again.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected his Palestinian counterpart's demand that, as a condition of peace talks, Israel stop its construction of a separation barrier through the West Bank.

Sharon said at a cabinet meeting that "no condition shall be accepted regarding the cessation of the fence, dismantling of the fence and other fabrications."

A day earlier, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia threatened to pull out of peace talks with Israel unless it halt construction of the controversial barrier.
cbc
A defensive wall built to thwart suicide attacks is being spun by the Palis as a deal breaker on the so-called peace talks. This sounds ill coming from people who simply refuse to disarm and dismantle the infrastructure which creates the homicide bombers in the first place. And, not that it matters, the dismantle of the terror is a Pali responsibility under the roadmap. The wall is unmentioned.

EU Army

The European defence policy, backed by Britain, France and Germany, would see the EU develop a small military planning unit capable of running operations independent of Nato.
financial times
This is just one of the moves towards the proposed Euro consitution which would entrench the power of Old Europe at the expense of the emerging European nations. Given the performance of the EU in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq the idea of a planning unit seems redundent: after all, how much planning does doing nothing take?