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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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12/27/2003

Very smart Dutch People

All this is made possible by an ‘in-wheel' electric engine, in fact nothing more than a normal electric engine turned inside out.

The outer wall of a traditional electric engine is a cylinder lined on the inside with copper wire. If electricity is fed into the copper wire, the current will circle the cylinder on the inside at high speed. Cylinder and wire together are called the ‘stator' (because it doesn't move).

To change the electricity running along the inner wall of the cylinder into movement, another part of the engine comes into play: ‘the rotor'. This is in fact an axle, mounted in the centre of the cylinder, with permanent magnets attached to it. The electrical current in the stator pulls the rotor magnets along and the axle starts to turn.
radio netherland
Possibly the most fascinating element of this application is that the "electric wheel could be retro fitted to the grim old diesel buses and dump truck pumping out the soot on our roads. And, a 50% fuel efficiency gain is worth talking about and investigating. That is not merely a pollution issue, it could radically alter the fossil fuel energy future and with it the world's dependence on cheap oil. Cool. And so simple.

Carnival of the Idiots

The coveted Andrew Sullivan lunacy awards for 2003 are up. The overall winner, or should I say whiner, is none other than Margaret Drabble with her runaway rant winning Sontag honours,
"My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world. I can hardly bear to see the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld, or to watch their posturing body language, or to hear their self-satisfied and incoherent platitudes. The liberal press here has done its best to make them appear ridiculous, but these two men are not funny. I was tipped into uncontainable rage by a report on Channel 4 News about "friendly fire", which included footage of what must have been one of the most horrific bombardments ever filmed. But what struck home hardest was the subsequent image, of a row of American warplanes, with grinning cartoon faces painted on their noses. Cartoon faces, with big sharp teeth. It is grotesque. It is hideous. This great and powerful nation bombs foreign cities and the people in those cities from Disneyland cartoon planes out of comic strips. This is simply not possible. And yet, there they were."
margaret drabble
I commented on Drabble droolings at the time. Fisked the cow. You can read it here.

Citizens Centre/Report Magazine

The distractions of a new baby/3 year old/Christmas have meant I have not been keeping up with the blogs. Jeremy Lott, who is worth reading any time, has an update (at least to me) on the strange situation with Report Magazine/Citizens Centre. At the very least, the Alberta Labour Standards people are not buying Link Byfield's bogus claim that the Centre is legally and financially distinct from the now defunct magazine.

Interesting to see how the good people who contributed to the Centre (and another Foundation Byfield set up) in hopes of supporting the magazine react to this development. And, big surprise, the Citizens Centre has nothing on its website about its assets having been seized.

Building a Mystery

Even at its most transparent, Pakistani politics are difficult to decode. The shifting domestic and international alliances made by its leaders do not always turn out to be what they seem. Right now, things are even murkier than usual. Large numbers of radical Islamists, military officers and secular democrats are furious with General Musharraf. Other members of these same groups are making tactical alliances with him. He has been America's ally in Afghanistan, for which Washington has rewarded him and Pakistan well. Yet he has been unable to secure Pakistan's borders against a resurgent Taliban and has been equivocal toward Kashmiri terrorists.
nyt
Musharraf is, I think, one of the most interesting leaders in the War on Terror. Not only does he have to deal with the issue of Taliban and Al Qaeda in his Northern Provinces, he also has to manage a security service and a nuclear research establishment which have been heavily compromised by the Islamofascists. Right now, he, like a number of other Arab and Islamic political leaders has to decide whether or not to throw his cards in with the West and risk the wrath of the Islamic radicals, or to continue to appease both sides and hope for the best. Two bombs in two seeks would, I think, suggest that appeasing the radicals will not work. But whether Musharraf can bring the Army and the Security Services along with him in an all out bid to eradicated the Taliban/Al Qaeda strongholds in the tribal areas is another question. One which a great deal of sophisticated bribery and the fall out of what are sure to be interesting Libyan nuclear revelations may make easier.

Update #1Paul Jané has some sage advice for Musharraf here.
Update #2 For a look at just what Musharraf is up against, Ahmed Rashid's article in the Telegraph, gives a pretty complete and dismal picture.

12/25/2003

'Tis the Season

I was going to post an amazingly cool, bright red, giant font....but I am much too tired to start playing with CSS, so
Merry Christmas!

A sort of Charlie Brownish effort, but heartfelt...

12/24/2003

And at Home

The average visitor gives not a moment’s thought to these Cités of Darkness as he speeds from the airport to the City of Light. But they are huge and important?and what the visitor would find there, if he bothered to go, would terrify him.

A kind of anti-society has grown up in them?a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, ?official,? society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust?greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years?is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them.
Theodore Dalrymple, city journal
A long and hard look at "la zone", the violent suburbs of virtually every major French City. It appeared in 2002 but it is unlikely that these incubators of anti-Western/anti-mainstream hatred have got a great deal better in the year which has followed. Dalrymple describes a world divorced from the modern, Western, French world. And it is a world which is well armed,
No one should underestimate the danger that this failure poses, not only for France but also for the world. The inhabitants of the cités are exceptionally well armed. When the professional robbers among them raid a bank or an armored car delivering cash, they do so with bazookas and rocket launchers, and dress in paramilitary uniforms. From time to time, the police discover whole arsenals of Kalashnikovs in the cités. There is a vigorous informal trade between France and post-communist Eastern Europe: workshops in underground garages in the cités change the serial numbers of stolen luxury cars prior to export to the East, in exchange for sophisticated weaponry.
And this,
The French knew of this possibility well before September 11: in 1994, their special forces boarded a hijacked aircraft that landed in Marseilles and killed the hijackers?an unusual step for the French, who have traditionally preferred to negotiate with, or give in to, terrorists. But they had intelligence suggesting that, after refueling, the hijackers planned to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In this case, no negotiation was possible.
For France the question of security begins with retaking the high rise slums which ring its cities. The question is how and Chirac is not the man to answer that question....headscarves are not the problem.

UpdateThe New York Times has an interesting article on French Arabs in a small French town...no more encouraging.

Je ne sais quoi

There's something about the French. Something kinda pathetic. They keep missing opportunities to get onside. Not for the Americans sake - for their own. And this is a fact that even the French are beginning to realize. Being left out of the loop on Libya stung. The ever valuable Amir Taheri shows what a hole the French have dug for themselves and describes how much it bothers the French elites to have been rendered a diplomatic laughingstock.

Uneasy Christmas Eve

Cancelled flights to LA suggest that there is more than chatter to the latest Orange+ terror alert. A mortar shell hit a hotel in Baghdad. Missiles were fired at other hotels. There are anti-aircraft missiles mounted in Washington and jet fighters patrolling.

Iraq, and now Libya, have been triumphs for the Coalition against Terrorism. It may well be that Gaddafi has his own terrorist problem.

What is uneasy about this Christmas Eve is that victory over Saddam or concessions by Gaddafi are steps on the road to the defeat of Islamofascist terrorism. However, they are also victories which Al Qaeda is likely to feel must be answered. At this point, al Qaeda has most recently demonstrated it is rather good at blowing up Muslims. Not a trick likely to enhance its reputation in the Islamic world. To regain its stature it may well need to hit a Western target or targets. There is the hope that such a hit can be thwarted. But it is only a hope.

So long as Al Qaeda retains the capacity to cancel flights and have anti-aircraft missiles mounted because of "chatter", the war on terrorism not yet won. Maybe next year.

12/23/2003

Wired

Tech-happy Shanghai, the most wired city in China, has a problem: wires. Telephone wires. Fiber-optic wires. Electrical wires. Wires no one can seem to identify. Black wires. Blue wires. Magenta wires. They're everywhere, and they're gumming up the works.

"Shanghai has a long history of development, and it wasn't all consistent. It would have been a lot easier if it was," says Gong Jiehua, who oversees the Shanghai Roads and Pipelines Office. Then he sighs loudly.

So China is doing what China usually does when confronted with such dilemmas, be they economic, political or technological: It's mounting a campaign, asking the masses for help ? and unrepentantly yanking down wayward wires as it goes.
the toronto star
There is something encouraging about a country which went from literally next to no phone service in the 1970's to having overhead rats nests of cables. I cannot imagine the decrepit folks who supposedly run the country having a clue about just how powerful the networks these wires represent actually are.

My own belief is that politics follows economics and there is a degree of wealth required for democracy to really take hold. Or at least the desire for wealth. China, twenty years ago, began with the desire for wealth and a thousand flowers of entreprenuership blossomed. Well, more like several million. Now the dollar stores of the Western world, the Pier Ones and the little gift shops and Pottery Barns are crammed with the extraordinary abundance China produces. Her politics lag her economy; but China's politics, in many ways, have ceased to matter. The democracy is in the random wires which mar the Shanghai skyline.

High Life

The Supreme Court majority said Tuesday that the constitutional guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person is an intensely important value which touches the core of what it means to be an autonomous human being blessed with dignity and independence in matters that can properly be characterized as fundamentally or inherently personal.

"This does not include smoking marijuana for recreation," it said flatly.

The majority was also unimpressed by arguments that the possibility of a jail sentence for marijuana possession amounts to unconstitutional overkill.

Most offenders are granted discharges or conditional sentences, especially where the amount is small and clearly intended for recreational use, the majority said. They said that if a particular judge imposes goes overboard in imposing a stringent sentence, it can be appealed and reversed.
globe and mail
I can't imagine anyone is terribly surprised by the Supreme Court's ruling. So long as there is any harm associated with marijuana the Court is not going to bar Parliament from regulating or outlawing purely recreational use. To what degree and with what sanctions is, rightly I think, seem by the Court as a political matter. So now it really is up to Parliament to determine how far it wishes to go decriminalizing pot. It is, however, interesting that the Court noted that most offenders are granted discharges or conditional sentences. This suggests the Court might well be open to reviewing a law which imposed significant penalties for recreational use. And it is also significant that three judges dissented.
?The state cannot prevent the general population, under threat of imprisonment, from engaging in conduct that is harmless to them, on the basis that other, more vulnerable persons may harm themselves if they engage in it, particularly if one accepts that imprisonment would be inappropriate for the targeted vulnerable groups,? Judge Arbour said.

12/22/2003

Dads at Christmas

We also had a Dance Recital at the neighborhood community center; like the church concert, it’s one of those events that defines a community, and is completely off your radar if you don’t have kids. Ever see those pictures of how insects perceive flowers, how they see structures and colors we don’t? That’s what having kids does to you. Or, to put in other terms, it’s like finding yourself in another country and discovering the community of people who speak your language and eat your foods. You become aware of a world that lives side by side with the one you knew, and you fall into it without effort or complaint. There’s a vast difference between remembering Dad coming to your recital and being Dad at the recital. The first is a memory that dead-ends with you; the latter connects you to him and to all the kids and dads to come.
james lileks
Part of the strangeness of fatherhood is the connection a man feels with his own father. Lileks, as ever, gets it. The invisible connections to other Dads and your own Dad. I can't imagine knowing my father as well as I know him now without having my boys - and my father died before the first of the boys was born.

More Iraq Fallout

To do this, Cairo first needs to warm up, at least rhetorically, its cold peace with the Jewish state, the analysts say. "It is difficult to play the mediator if you do not have relations with both sides of the equation," says Hala Mustafa, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo....She predicts Maher will return to Tel Aviv. With the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime, "we are seeing a kind of defeat of the old extremist ideologies and of pan-Arab ideas that dominated Arab political thought for a long time," she says. "Maher's visit shows Egypt is willing to deal with any party in Israel, including Ariel Sharon."
christian science monitor
Not that this will stop the barrage of shoes from the peaceloving Palestinians. However, a swift dose of realism seems to be arriving on the heels of the Coalition troops. Egypt is talking to Israel, Saudi has acknowledged that it may have a tiny terrorism problem, Pakistan is wondering if nuclear weapons and Islamic fundamentalism are such a good mix, Iran is agreeing to snap inspections of its nuclear program.

The neocon argument has always been, "never change a winning game, always change a losing one". The middle east and the Islamic world have been on a losing streak since the 13th century and shaking up the game could not hurt. In fact it seems to have helped. There are still players who are stuck in the old mindset - the Troll of RamallahTM is not likely to change merely because the chief patron of homicide bombers has been dragged out of his hole. But people like Assad in Syria have to make a choice: stick with the old, failing, game or learn new tricks. And they have to make the choice fast because as Iraq democratizes, a new message is going to blow through the middle east - confrontation and intransigence don't work. The Americans don't give up. Terrorism doesn't work. The Americans don't give up. The only thing which works is co-operation and a reasonable amount of good will. After all, if Gadaffi can be redeemed there is hope for virtually every Arab dictator.

The clearest message is "don't support or even seem to support terrorism"; but wrapped inside that message is the stinger - inciting terrorism, murdering your own people, creating WMDs are all equally likely to attract Washington's attention. Iraq, as the neocons suspected, has been more than sufficient to capture the Arab's attention and create the conditions for real change in the Islamic world.

Super Grass

No, not what you're thinking,
Dictators, spies, arms dealers and militants throughout the Middle East and beyond will be bracing themselves for any revelations by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

"He's the first one to squeal. He's turned state's evidence and everyone else is going to hang in the wind," said Alex Standish, editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest.

"I think there will be a number of people within the Arab world or the Islamic world who will be watching carefully and listening to what the colonel is prepared to disclose."

Libya has already allowed U.S. and British experts access to its nuclear and chemical weapons programs and missiles and has agreed to allow snap U.N. arms inspections.
reuters
If anyone knows where the bodies are buried it is Colonel (and, I repeat, why doesn't he take the bump to general) Gaddafi. Even his passive co-operation with Western intelligence could provide huge benefits. Particularily if Uncle Cuddles begins to sing in Iraq.

Gaddafi's long involvement with terrorism means he has a unique perspective on the terrorist threat to the West now. Whether he will share it is another matter. However, I cannot imagine that the diplomats, sensing their advantage, would not have put some riders on the WMD deal.

Traffic

OK, delighted as I am to have surging traffic - and don't be shy about hitting the Adsense ads to your right - I am baffled. So, could one or two of you comment on this message and tell me where you are coming from. The referral logs say "unknown". Bizarre...

No Peace, Never!

Visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher collapsed after a crowd of Palestinians assaulted him as he entered the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City yesterday, witnesses said.

He had come to pray at Islam's third holiest site when a small group of extremist worshippers started shouting at him and tried to assault him.

Bodyguards hustled him out of the compound, supporting him briefly as he appeared to lose his balance.

Witnesses heard him saying, 'I'm going to choke, I'm going to choke,' as Muslims threw shoes at him both inside and outside the mosque.
straits times
The Palestinians simply cannot figure out who their friends are. Egypt has been one of the strongest proponents of a) the roadmap, b) letting the Palis off the hook on their side of the roadmap. So when the Egyptian foreign minister kneels to pray you would, of course, hit him with a barrage of shoes....I would build that fence very quickly indeed.

DVD Jon's Aquittal Upheld

An appeals court Monday upheld the acquittal of a 20-year-old Norwegian man who posted a program on the Internet for cracking DVD security codes, a setback for anti-piracy proponents in the entertainment industry.

Prosecutors appealed after Jon Lech Johansen (search) was acquitted in January of violating Norway's data break-in laws with his DeCSS program (search) for DVDs last year. Johansen's lawyer, Halvor Manshaus, tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed.
fox news
While this case is Norwegian and therefore of no applicability in the United States or Canada. The reality of the internet means that so long as an activity is legal in one jurisdiction it is effectively available worldwide.

The unwillingness of Courts in the United States and other jurisdictions to enforce the more draconian elements of intellectual property law means that it is likely time for the studios, software houses and record companies to come up with other solutions to the problems of copying. Likely the best of these solutions will look at blanket licences with permission to copy combined with niche directed premium products. To give one example, imagine a record company selling a one time licence to its entire catalogue in 128 bit MP3 format for, say, $10.00 or included with the purchase of a CD. This would essentially let people download to audition songs. Attached to the licence would be the right of the record company to pitch material, pay attention to your listening patterns, sell you concert tix/merch/boxed sets and generally market the hell out of you. Good deal? Maybe. But the record companies and the rest of the intellectual property producers are getting nowhere with the idea of rigorous enforcement of existing laws - time to rethink.

Just How Smart Blair was (And how dumb, Chretien, Graham, Chirac, Putin, Shroeder....)

the Libyan deal is a major achievement for the British specifically and a direct consequence of Blair's foreign policy. Blair's government was able to make this deal with Libya precisely because of Blair's deliberate decision to ally with and support the US. It was that commitment, fighting beside us in Afghanistan and in Iraq, working with us in the UN and other diplomatic arenas, and paying a big price for doing so, which ultimately made this all possible. It made British claims of influence in Washington credible, especially after the abject failure of the French.

Blair's decision to strongly support the US was a contentious one around Europe, in the UK and especially within Blair's own party. Blair's position all along was that it was better to support America and by so doing to earn influence over American action than to actively oppose and alienate America, as the French ended up doing.

And with this achievement, Blair is now proved to have been totally right. What is clear is that only the British could have done this, from their position as #2 power in the coalition.
denBeste
As ever, Steve denBeste's analysis is worth reading in total. The lesson for incoming Canadian Prime Minister Martin is you can have more influence walking beside a friend than you can by sitting on the sidelines. As denBeste points out, the Libyan deal is certainly a triumph of diplomacy; but it is diplomacy in a world where the conditions and the calculations have radically changed. Claiming that this was all diplomacy ignores the abject surrender of Uncle Cuddles and the total destruction of a relatively large Arab army in a couple of weeks by a compact, lethal and inconceivably dangerous American military. While the Americans might have planned the Peace a bit better, the war was a truly smashing, and largely terrifying, success.

Conventionally well-equiped armies are simply no match for the combination of training, electronics, intelligence, armour, munitions, air power and combined operations doctrine which the Americans bring to the field. If the American President want you gone you are going. Which makes diplomacy a rather delicate dance in which the target tries to save a little face and the diplomat lets him. But they both know where the conversation will end.

12/21/2003

Night Art

Go and look at Raymond Thériault's night paintings here. Thanks Kevin.

Talking 'bout my g..g..g..generation

And not saying anything very nice. Kevin Michael Grace
as Pete Townshend famously declared, "Hope I die before I get old." Strausbaugh quotes the novelist Will Self, who avers that rock is a "teenage art form," but this cannot be taken literally. After all, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were already out of their teens when they recorded "Love Me Do" in 1962.
american spectator,the ambler

Scary Christmas



It completely amazes me how many people go nuts decorating their houses...for more of this strange and bizarely fascinating Holiday tradition go to Planet Christmas. Wear sunglasses.

Max Hastings loses his logic

I usually like what Hastings writes. There is a sense of balance in much of what he says, but he seems to be willing to abandon logic in the course of a single paragraph when it comes to hanging Saddam,
Now, they want to execute Saddam. My wife, whose liberal instincts are normally much more reliable than mine, is bemused by my scruples. She believes the case is unanswerable for the dictator's cheap, permanent removal. But I cannot swallow either the principled or pragmatic arguments for yet another act of government-directed violence.

The allies rightly executed the leading Nazi and Japanese war criminals in 1945 and 1946. That was in another age, after the victors had fought the greatest war of national survival the world has seen. Bush's intervention in Iraq, by contrast, represented a war of choice, with the limited purpose of changing the nation's government. the guardian
You do not have to like capital punishment, which I don't, to recognize the illogic of Hastings' position. No one is proposing that Saddam be executed because of the nature of the war which was fought for his ouster. Rather, the suggestion that he be executed after a trial conducted by Iraqis, is based on his presumed responsibility for directing the executions and genocide and aggressive wars which have characterized the thirty years of his misrule of Iraq. If the Iraqis themselves had been able to overthrow Saddam he would have swung faster than his statue was toppled. The help of the americans and the rest of the Coalition in destroying the regime has not one thing to do with the justice to be given Saddam - other than guaranteeing that that justice will not likely involve running a gauntlet of Kurds, Shias, Marsh Arabs and Iraqi women - more's the pity.