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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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1/31/2004

Bless me Father for I have Sinned

Nice to see motive for the apparently inexplicable. Wonder why the Holy Father met with Tariq Aziz just prior to the Iraq war....It's all about oil.
(thanks Kathy)

Hutton aftermath

I have been too busy to really follow up the Hutton report and the truly weird reaction on the part of the British press. Essentially, Hutton's report is being branded as unfair and unbalanced because while it found that the BBC behaved with what Hutton was too polite to call "reckless negligence" but I will, it did not find that Blair and company behaved badly. It follows, according to the Brits, (including Boris Johnson editor of the Spectator who should know better), that this was a whitewash.

Of course, it could just be that Gilligan lied and Blair didn't....

Belinda Martin

The socons are not happy about Miss B. Belinda Martin
would be a great parody site if conservative Christians had any sense of humour whatsoever. They don't. Which is, unintentionally, rather droll. (via jackson murphy)

Grrr!

Didn't get the Galiano house. Which, while truly hideous, was large and had a wonderful waterfront studio. In real estate there are always "the other people" who pump up the price or are a day ahead on the rental agreement. The other people got this one; but the general point about where to live stands.

A day on Galiano lifted my spirits. It is where we want to be. So we will get there.

1/30/2004

Galiano

A glorious day to see a house which would actually make economic sense. Of course it does not hurt that there is a perfect old boathouse to convert into a writing and design space.

Climbing on the ferry there is a sense of simply stepping out of a world which has lost its way and into one where it may be possible to find out own. Updates and pictures later. (If we get it.)

House Hunting

I'm off to Galiano Island in the morning to take a look at a house....Yes, despite Saskatoon's many charms the -40 C has put us off just a bit. And we'd miss the ocean.

1/29/2004

Whack a Mole

I have been following my own prescription of hitting the wee ads I see on other peoples' blogs. Of course google's rules preclude me from suggesting you hit mine or disclosing the pennies a day trckling into Sam's college fund. But, here's a good rule...if you see the wee ads hit one or two on your way out. Make it one of those habits like smiling or tipping or saying thank you that mothers and waitresses the world over approve of.

Quamire

One should welcome the gradual emergence of a normal political life in Iraq after nearly half a century of brutal despotism, including 35 years of exceptionally murderous Baathist rule.

The central aim of the war in Iraq, at least as far as I am concerned, was to create conditions in which Shiites can demonstrate without being machine-gunned in the streets of Baghdad and Basra, while the Kurds are able to call for autonomy without being gassed by the thousands as they were in Halabja under Saddam.

It is good that Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani can issue fatwas, something he could not have done under Saddam Hussein. It is even better that those who disagree with the grand ayatollah could say so without being murdered by zealots.
arab news
Amir Taheri acknowledges the facts of democratic life. Not everyone will agree. Yup.

And Stay Out

Hundreds of BBC staff today staged walkouts in protest at the departure of Greg Dyke, their Director-General over the Kelly affair.

A small demonstration outside Broadcasting House in central London began shortly after 3pm, a little over an hour after Mr Dyke made his resignation public. The protest lasted about an hour in freezing temperatures.
times online
I can't help but think of Canada's own CBC. If all the bodies walked out....who would notice? But the BBC is a bigger deal and the walk out signifies the denial that Glen Reynolds alludes to. The employees simply cannot imagine that a report which underscores their implicit bias and unprofessionalism could be anything other than a whitewash.

Impossible Vancouver

Bruce Grierson writes over at The Tyee:
At some point, shouldn't we all to step back and ask, Is Vancouver really worth it? There’s a case to be made that it isn’t. Like its beloved hockey team, Vancouver is good, but not quite as good as it thinks it is. There are plenty of sawoffs: great mayor, appalling premier. Great airport but no way to get to it. Great sailing and skiing but no time to do these things because you’re working so that you can afford to look at the ski hill and the sailboats out your office window. For the same effect at a third the price, you could buy a trickle-fountain and a poster of Mt. Fuji and move to Saskatoon.
the tyee
I commented,
Bruce, I often think, given what we each have done and built and, apparently contemplated, that I have a doppleganger wandering about. I just looked at housing in Saskatoon. $700/month for a whole nice house, 200K for a character, four bedroom in a nice area...Hello...

OK. It is -40C and they have stopped picking up garbage for fear the hydraulic on the trucks will freeze up...but, hey, why not.

The other element of the insanity of Vancouver housing prices is that it really does effect every aspect of Vancouver life. People cannot afford to both live here and have much of a life.

Of course, the answer would be to start building a little serious density in the vast under developed areas of the city. Say twice the density of False Creek. And build tall - 40 stories is a silly limit for a real city. And get rid of the antique industrial zoning which has inflicted such blight on so much usable land in Vancouver. And, flatten all those awful one story, thirty years past best before date immediately post WWII buildings along stretches of Streets like Broadway and Kingsway. There is lots of room - but it has to be built not left fallow.
The big issue in Vancouver is always the density/height versus affordability trade off. People who already own property see their property's value as adversely effected by changes in zoning and so oppose it. With a remarkable lack of foresight I might add as upzoning tends to increase the value of property. The problem Grierson describes so well is the product of a virulent NIMBYism.

Coyne on the Mother of Parliaments

Notice, too, how small it is. Result: members tend to speak to one another, rather than just hauling off and bellowing into space. The absence of desks is critical, not only to the intimacy of the place, but also the tone. Who sits in rows of desks? Schoolchildren. Bureaucrats. Prison-workers. Who, by contrast, sits on benches? Judges. Councils of elders. Church congregations. (Also hockey teams - ed. Okay, I didn't say they were saints.)
andrew coyne
It has been noticed before, but the initimacy of the British Parliament, members standing two sword lengths apart, creates the cockpit in which the tradition of Parliamentary debate was created. The asides, heckling which is witty and not loud, the capacity to hold the House in the palm of an eloquent speakers hand. My spam is right, size doe matter.

Debbye Says it all

Commenting over at Andrew Coyne's on the Hutton Inquiry:
As I said months ago, things are at a pretty bad state of affairs when you realize that you can trust your government (I'm an American) more than the media. debbye

Deanophobe's Work is done

First, obviously, Dean is finished as a potential nominee. He's blown all his money, his campaign is in disarray, and he's turned to an inside-the-Beltway Democrat to run his campaign. Dean may well play a potent spoiler role, but it's almost impossible to see him winning. Even if he somehow pulls out a plurality of delegates and goes to a brokered nomination, the other candidates will pool their delegates and select a non-Dean.
tnr
When your own personal nemisis say's you're done, you're done. Yeaaaaah!

Back on Air

Who knew there was that much traffic.

It's About Oil

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.
upi

Global Warming Watch

It is so warm in England that,
Blizzards blanketed most of the country with snow. In East Yorkshire there was 16in in some places and severe weather warnings were issued by the Met Office for the Midlands, Scotland and northern England. the telegraph
Maybe the Gulf Stream has stopped.

Nice Work if you Can Get It

Pakistani investigators told The News, a Pakistani daily, that two key figures in the nuclear programme received millions of pounds in Dubai-based bank accounts at the same time as nuclear hardware was delivered to Iran.

One senior scientist was said to have tens of millions of pounds' worth of financial and property assets, mainly in Dubai.

The News said he also paid a Pakistani newspaper editor to run a favorable publicity campaign and organise seminars to praise the scientist.

Pakistani officials have not identified the scientists but they have done nothing to dispel reports that Abdul Qadeer Khan, hailed as the "father of Pakistan's bomb", and a close aide, Mohammed Farooq, are at the centre of the investigation.
the telegraph
There has to be a certain satisfaction to selling the nuclear secrets you developed for one state to a few more states. After all those hours in the lab, dabbling in Dubai real estate would be so relaxing. Takes your mind off the fact the technology you created and then sold is capable of killing millions if not tens of millions of people. Were it up to me I'd lock the culprits in a sealed room with lots of food and water and several low intensity, lethal radiation sources. Set the clock for irreversible radiation poisoning in, say two weeks. Lots of time to think about the really horrible deaths they will suffer for potentially inflicting millions of such deaths on the innocent. Bastards.

Steel at the American Spectator

A large part of my brain finds the Arar case troublesome. And it became more troublesome when Juliet O'Neill had the Horsemen ransack her files in their search for the nasty leaker who fed her the facts for her story on what the RCMP had on Arar. Kevin Steele lays it all out in an American Spectator two parter.

1/28/2004

Anti-Hutton spin

Having lost the argument on war, and the war on the peace, the anti-warriors are now reduced to this sort of falsity:

"While Andrew Gilligan wrongly impugned Tony Blair's integrity, Alastair Campbell, remember, impugned that of many BBC journalists, describing them as having "an anti-war agenda".
jackie ashley, the guardian


Would anyone seriously wish to claim that the BBC's reporting of the Iraq war was neutral or even pro war. Gilligan was running an anti-American spin from Baghdad which went to the point of his having to be corrected, on air, by a fellow BBC journo.

The defence corespondent of the BBC felt moved to write his managers protesting the anti-war tone.

Face it: the BBC lied and got caught, Blair and even Campbell told the truth. Even the British public will get that right.

Blair on being vindicated

"The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this house or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD [weapons of mass destruction] is itself the real lie." the guardian

Wente on Hutton

From the start, the inquiry was really a proxy for the bitter fight over the war in Iraq. The BBC (and most of the British press) was on one side, and Prime Minister Tony Blair's government was on the other.

During the war, I sometimes tuned in to the BBC for news. One night, I saw Mr. Gilligan broadcasting from Baghdad. He was openly contemptuous of the U.S. military, which he insinuated was dishonest and inept, and he was ridiculing its claim (which was accurate) that it was in the process of securing the Baghdad airport. Later, after Saddam's fall, he told viewers that Baghdadis were experiencing their "first days of freedom in more fear than they have ever known before."
globe and mail
One of my readers wrote me to suggest the fact the Hutton report was so damning of the BBC and said nary a negative word about the Blair government meant that it would be seen as a whitewash. I suspect he's right because the antis just do not have it in them to say that the exercise of American, British and Australian power to defeat a ruthless tyrant is a good thing. For the Clare Shorts, Vanessa Redgraves, Margaret Drabbles and the Harold Pinters, not to mention the French and the BBC, the single most important thing is that the Americans and their supporters must not win.

Hutton was having none of it and he has torpedoed the BBC for its incompetence, lack of responsibility, inability to follow basic journalistic and editorial norms and, ultimately, its recklessness with the truth.

Blair 1, BBC 0

I have just started reading the Hutton Report. But the news that the Chairman of the BBC has resigned is first rate. Gilligan has been found to be a liar and the BBC has been found not to care.
"What the report shows very clearly is the prime minister told the truth, the government told the truth, I told the truth. The BBC, from the chairman and the director general on down, did not," Campbell told a news conference.

"The BBC will have to decide itself what action to take to restore its reputation and integrity."
reuters
Being lectured by Blair's spin doctor has to hurt. More a bit later.

Saskatoon

Ok, I am really, really fed up paying $1100.00 a month for a ground floor (read basement) suite in ever lovely Vancouver. So is my sweetie. Who is from Saskatchewan and went to university in Saskatoon. Despite the fact it is, apparently -40C there right at the moment, she is suggesting a two or three year sojourn. So, blog readers, is there anywhere that would be fun to live in Saskatoon? Let me know in the comments. Saskatoon readers are particularily encouraged to contribute....there is a beer in it when and if we get there. (On the particulars, one teenager (Oh God, how did I offend thee?) and two little ones, one of whom graces this page.)

1/27/2004

Hutton Leak

The Sun claimed that Lord Hutton, who will publish his findings formally today, has exonerated the Prime Minister of "dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous" conduct over the naming of the Government scientist David Kelly and the handling of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Despite an unprecedented security operation, the Labour-supporting tabloid managed to obtain a copy of the lengthy document. It published detailed extracts, claiming that the inquiry had also cleared Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, and Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former spin doctor.
the telegraph
If this is true then the anti-war left in England will have suffered a tremendous blow. So will the BBC (if that is not redundant) which is apparently castigated for allowing Andrew Gilligan to sex up his reporting. More later.

Beating Bush

the Washinton Post reports:
One vivid lesson from yesterday's exit polls was the determination among Democratic voters to unseat George W. Bush. Asked about the most important quality in deciding their vote, 20 percent cited the candidate's ability to defeat the president, second only to the 29 percent who said "he stands up for what he believes." The issue of electability mattered far more to Mr. Kerry's supporters, 60 percent of whom put that quality first, than to Mr. Dean's backers, just 9 percent of whom said that was their priority.
washington post
For committed Democrats who is elected to the White house may be less important than ensuring George Bush joins his father as a one term President. Which may well explain why Bush is touching base with the fundys and the paleos in his own party and generally trying to keep the fences mended within his own core voting group.

If Bush looks even slightly beatable, the Democrats can and will rally their forces and voters to the anybody but Bush standard. Worse, the Republicans may begin to nitpick Bush's conservative credentials. If Bush can run from the Rose Garden as a President at War for a few more months whatever cracks in his support there may be can be patched. But if he has to actually go campaigning his own party may start taking deficit and Iraq potshots.

Hutton up soon

Lord Hutton is set to realease his report into the death of David Kelly sometime on January 28. The report will be posted here. Being something of a Hutton junkie. I suspect I will post one or two comments.

Feel Good Politics

I can practically see Hillary's head bobbing as I read this:
The emotional climax of his speech comes when he describes how he used to represent "people like you" against teams of highly paid, distinguished corporate lawyers. "And you know what happened? I beat them, and I beat them, and I beat them again!" The crowds go crazy, but they are not only applauding; they are applauding and smiling at the same time, a result that was not generated by all the other candidates who have used the Two Americas theme over the years.
david brooks, nyt
It's the smile. The sense that Edwars is a guy who would stand up to the special interests, to the powerful and "beat them and beat them and beat them." In the American race, anger is passe. Dean did it and it didn't work. Now the game has shifted to pushing a sense of them and us and the idea that them can be beaten by us. And, after all, aren't we all us?

1/26/2004

Sullivan on the right wing nanny state

Andrew Sullivan is writing in Time Magazine about "Bush knows best" and the politics of funding social conservative iniatives,
The President is proud of his Big Government moralism. As he put it in his first State of the Union message, "Values are important, so we have tripled funding for character education to teach our children not only reading and writing, but right from wrong." Sounds inoffensive enough. But who exactly determines what is right and what is wrong? Churches? Synagogues? Parents? Teachers? Nah. The Federal Government.
andrew sullivan, time magazine
So Sully and the rest of the economically conservative, socially libertarian, foreign policy hawks are none too pleased. But what to do? They are hardly going to suggest not electing Bush. Especially if that implies electing Kerry or Edwards. Not that anyone should be surprised at Bush's interventionalist strategy. He campaigned on it.

Silly Post

Further my last entry I went over to the National Post to see how far the subscription rot had spread.....Letters to the Editor are "subscription only. No, I really am not kidding. Mega dumb.

Good bye National Post

Colby Cosh annouces that his columns and most of the rest of the National Post will now be behind the Canwest wall - subscription only. Which means that, to the online world, Colby's material and most of the rest of the Post is invisible. Too bad. And awfully dumb.

State of the Canadian Forces

Ivan Yiu writes an outstanding piece on the sorry decline of the Canadian Forces under the Chretien regime over at the Canada Election Group blog. Go read it.

The Group blog was mentioned at Buzz Machine and The Command Post and so has hit the essential mark of a Canadian success story....Americans are paying attention.

1/25/2004

Cranks

According to the philosopher Roger scrutinies, "Reason is now on the retreat, both as an ideal and as a reality." The leaders of the counter-revolution may seem an incongruous coalition - post-modernists and primitivists, New Age and Old Testament - but they have been remarkably effective over the past quarter-century. Those who lack the courage to use their understanding "without direction from another" are easy prey for self-styled gurus, and the sleep of reason has duly brought forth many such monsters, exploiting and expanding the demand for mumbo-jumbo.
Francis Wheen, the guardian
Wheen has written a book called How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusionswhich I would very much like to review. At one point I edited Common Ground Magazinein Vancouver (I was very, very broke is my only excuse) and I could not get over the flight of reason which drove the flakes, channelers, alien representatives and "bullet point to enlightenment" wackos to the door. The range of the woowoo was remarkable, each more sincere than the last. Well, as my law school buddy Helen Kersly once remarked, "Hitler was sincere."

Vancouver is a hotbed of a particular form of self-acualiztion folks and more than a few who want you to get in touch with your inner being (child is bit, well, '80s), soul, guide....which they would be happy to facilitate for a mere thousand dollars. One of the things I noticed was that there was a distinct breed of what might be called "weekend intensive junkies." Weekend intensives are the pump and dump of the spiritual marketplace. Essentially a guru of some sort blows into town on a Friday, does a free or minimum charge workshop which is the teaser for the $600.00 full weekend experience beginning at eight sharp the next morning. Fair ball - a guru has to maximize the revenue stream same as any other service professional.

What was extraordinary was the number of people who took one of these intensives every month and spent a couple of weeks in the summer soaking up karma at a retreat somewhere. Now I figured for $5000.00 a year minimum these intensive junkies would be, er, enlightened. Ascended masters. Capable of levitating small objects with the purity of their astral projection and the sheer fineness of their chakras. Not a bit of it. These were the people who were desperate to find out when the next - and usually contradictory - guru was playing at the old Masonic Hall. Best of all, some of them had been taking intensives since the 1970's. Reason had long since left the field: desperation, doubt and denial had won the day.

At the beginning of her article, which I take to be the introduction to her book, Wheen quote Immanuel Kant:
In September 1784 a Berlin magazine invited Immanuel Kant to answer the question: What is Enlightenment? "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity," he replied. "Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another's guidance. Dare to know! That is the motto of Enlightenment."
Amen.

Update: Kevin Michael Grace writes to point out, "Francis Wheen is a man." Thank you.

If only the Good guys would wear the right Hats

The new company bylaws came into effect on Friday and effectively disbanded the Hollinger International committee, which was set up by dissident executives to oversee an auction of the group's assets to secure the best return for shareholders. Lord Black is believed to have changed the rules because Hollinger International was working on a "poison pill" defence due to be implemented early this week.

The defence - known as a "shareholder rights plan" - would have prevented the Barclay brothers gaining control of Hollinger International when they bought Lord Black's 78% stake in Hollinger Inc by raising the holdings of International's other shareholders to dilute the Barclays' influence.
guardian
The shareholders' rights plan being contemplated here would give shareholders who hold a minority of the voting rights in the company the ability to exclude Directors who represent a shareholder holding 78% of the voting rights, from preventing the sale of the subsidiary company's major assets. To which the dissidents shareholders will say, but we put up most of the money and, besides, differential voting rights are oppressive and alien to the highest ethical standards expected from American corporations. Besides, Lord Black and his cronies have misappropriated monies and perks from the subsidiary. To which Lord Black will expensively say, "So what, the Board of Directors of Hollinger International have never objected and if they did I'd fire their butts off the Board. And you viperous ingrates, you are trying to steal the assets of a company which I control."

A Hollinger International spokesperson said,
"The corporate review committee believes the company can sell major assets without the approval of the company's controlling shareholder and that they can execute the sale in a timely manner,"
Timely here meaning, presumably, before the contolling shareholder amends the by-laws or calls the cops.

My own money, both nickles of it, is on Lord Black.

Baseline

At this point the coming Canadian election is not so much about will Paul Martin and the Liberals win but rather about the texture of politics in Canada for the next couple of decades. Here are a couple of thoughts about the weave of that texture.

At the moment there is a re-alignment occurring with the national left forming up around Jack Layton and the NDP. (From my perspective: all the nuts in one bin.) But what is happening on the right?

In a sense the Conservative Party is as much a generational shift as a political one. A fact Belinda Stronach's candidacy tends to confirm. The deal was done, with the support of the party elders in both the PC and the CA, by two men in their forties. And it is a deal designed to patch over an historical division between the prairie populist strain in Canadian politics and the old time Conservatism of Ontario and the Maritimes.

The old time conservatism was constantly riven with the conflict between the establishment business class - first based in Montreal and later in Toronto - and what was, for many years, the religious element of Canadian politics. A protestant in Ontario or the Maritimes was not inclined to vote for the Liberal Party which was often perceived to be the Catholic church's chosen vehicle. What united these wings was a shared hatred of the Grits and a mutual incomprehension of the West and French Canada.

Religion, with the exception of the fundamentalist Christians who hijacked the Alliance for their own, doomed, social conservative agenda, has largely ceased to signify as a critical determinant of voting behavior. But what has replaced it?

In urban areas ethnicity has become a marker for Liberal support. Heavily immigrant ridings tend to support the Libs. But this is by no means a hard and fast or unchanging rule. Family background - how your parents voted - signifies as well. Urban/rural still matters; but is less important because the number of purely rural seats is declining as Canada's farm population declines.

In the last few federal elections the greatest single determinant of a voter's tendency to vote for a party other than the Liberals has been which region of the country they lived in. Westerners and the Quebecois were the most disaffected, and, looking at the Ontario returns in the last election, living outside Toronto and Ottawa tended to make an Alliance vote more likely.

Ideology, left and right, tended to be a voter turnoff. Taking a run at the Liberals for failing to deliver on Red Book promises seemed to have some traction, but going after the promises themselves? Who knows if it would have worked because not one party tried it. Whether this proves that Canadians are pragmatically rather than ideologically driven is an open question because not one major federal party offered a competing ideological vision. (And, before you propound the ideological virtues of the NDP, please name a policy on which the NDP differed in kind, rather than degree, from the Grits.)

Which is why the current election is about texture. Layton and the NDP are staking out a solid left, nationalist position. If they can attract the Sheila Copps rump of the Liberal Party they can expand that position. If they can attract the David Orchard rump of the Conservative Party they can expand it further. In Canadian politics there is almost limitless room on the left, no actual votes but lots of room.

On the right, while there is lots of room, that room is bifurcated between social and economic conservatism. This is where generational politics may really matter. For voters under 50 a relatively libertarian and pragmatic approach to issues like abortion, homosexual marriage and marijuana legalization seems to be indicated. It is not so much that these voters strongly favour any one of these issues; rather they are not inclined to vote for people who strongly oppose a libertarian position. (I note that this is not necessarily consistent across the whole spectrum of socon questions: my sense is urban conservative opposition to gun control has less to do with owning guns and more to do with the outrage at the billion dollars wasted on the registry program. And I rather suspect there is rather less support for the current immigration, criminal justice and aboriginal policies in Canada than one might suspect.)

For conservatives over 50 a party's position on the social issues may well make a difference to voting intention. How much difference, is, another question. One which Stockwell Day got wrong.

Economically it is just about impossible to see a wedge issue as between the Martinite Liberals and the Conservatives. Or, rather, an attractive wedge issue. The hoary old electoral chestnut of mortgage interest deductibility has been trotted out by Miss B. The best that can be said in favour of this idea is it would revitalize the NDP by giving them a target other than the corporate welfare bums. As a piece of regressive tax policy it is tough to find a better way of transfer wealth to people who already have higher than average net worth. Similarly, the idea of eliminating the already anemic capital gains tax is likely a non-starter.

It would be nice to think there are some smarties in the Conservative backrooms looking at a really significant cut in personal income tax rates designed to have a larger impact at the lower end; but I doubt it. There is not the same fervor for tax cutting in Canada as there is in the United States.

Which leave the Conservative Party stuck with either sounding like a slightly bluer version of the Liberals or trying to court the wrinklies with a socon agenda which has next to no appeal among under 50's, urbanites and immigrants.

If, as I suspect will, a red tide spreads from sea to sea to sea, the NDP and the Conservative parties are going to have to actually attempt to enunciate a vision for Canada. After this next election, both will have at least four years to come up with answers to questions which Canadians are actually asking.

cross posted to blogs canada elections egroup