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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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2/21/2004

Coyne and Cosh on when the writ should drop

Andrew Coyne has written a fine column urging the real Paul Martin, a man who he believes has a sense of shame, to postpone the next election.
Which means, finally, that a spring election is out of the question. This is no longer a matter of being fair to the opposition - though once upon a time fairplay was considered important, even in politics. It is in the public interest that the voters be presented with a choice of candidates, and parties, that are at least to some degree known quantities. Yet all three federal parties have, or will have, new leaders; one isn't even a party yet. And, after the Adscam affair, Mr. Martin has a lot to prove.

Another six months - a year would be better - would give us all time, not only to get to the bottom of the scandal, but to form an assessment of who is best suited to the task of cleaning out the Ottawan stables: whether to renew our trust in Mr. Martin, or whether it really is "time for a change."
national post
His National Post stablemate Colby Cosh disagrees:
I did notice immediately, with raised eyebrow, that Coyne has set aside the consideration that the present ministry has no electoral mandate to govern; traditionally it is considered good form for a new prime minister to "go to the country" as quickly as possible. But we could argue all day about what's "possible". The real genius of this concluding turn of phrase is that Coyne has made Paul Martin's inherited difficulties an argument for delaying Canadians' chance to choose "who is best suited to the task of cleaning out the Ottawan stables". Somehow, using ordinary English, he has presented an ostensibly convincing argument that Liberal-created troubles require us to give the Liberals a chance to correct them; and he has stood in for the electorate in requesting that we not be consulted during a crisis.
colby cosh
As the Post's titans battle it out in Coyne's comments section, the fact is that the Liberal Party has not been as successful as it has been by timing elections with anything but the main chance in mind. At this point Adscam is looking like a huge, but not terribly interesting, scandal. No one who follows this sort of thing is the least surprised that firms in Quebec have been paid for doing nothing in the name of national unity. For the general public the idea that the Liberal party, particularily in Quebec, might be corrupt is not news. So where is the problem?

Dropping the writ for a May election has not a thing to do with Colby's happy notion that the present ministry has no mandate to govern. While this is a laudable sentiment, and one which Bagehot would certainly have endorsed, the truth is that th only mandate a Canadian Prime Minister needs is the votes of his party at convention. Martin could postpone the election for another year and a half and suffer no significant backlash. But he won't.

Martin won't because he knows that Adscam is just going to get bigger. He won't because he knows the Supreme Court of Canada is going to rule in favour of gay marriage. And he won't because you only get one chance to run against a Conservative Party at war with itself, a New Democratic Party obsessed with one liners and creating an even bigger government, and an electorate which is still under the impression that the Martin broom sweeps clean.

Coyne is absolutely right to suggest that the right thing to do would be to pospone the election for a year and get Abscam investigated and resolved. But if Martin sees the numbers coming back up and the economy perking up he is going to drop the writ to catch the wave. He's been a Liberal from the womb and no Grit will turn down the opportunity to win an election.

Sunny Days

The sun was out yesterday and, once the fog burns off, promises to brighten up this afternoon. The point of living on Galiano is to take ruthless advantage of good weather which means blogging will be light as Sam and I go for a hike up to Bodega Ridge.

I am working on two pieces at the moment: the first is about "Democratic habits". Various people have commented here and elsewhere on the difficulties the Americans have been having creating democracy in Iraq. Now some of those difficulties are, I think, the result of poor planning and the impossibility of planning for a post Saddam Iraq; but I am also inclined to think there are more basic issues.

We tend to take the habits which make for a democracy for granted. Voting is the least of it. After all the Soviet Union and Saddam's Iraq often had elections. And the leadership received 99.99% of the votes. In fact, elections are as much an outcome as a habit. Some of the habits I think make for a democracy include - respect for the law, equality before the law, the assumption of non-violent dispute resolution, a commitment to predictable process, the presence of secular community, an absence of tribal or kinship ties, the free flow of information, free speech and association, the seperation of church and state, a concept of corruption - and a number of others.

The key part of the argument is that these habits are not all things which find their way into constitutions or legal structures. For example, the assumption of non-violent dispute resolution means that the law of the school yard is not the law of the land. Similarily, the idea of non-corruption ensures that public officials and the public both know that bribes are the exception rather than the rule.

These habits create the conditions in which a democracy with all the trimmings of personal rights, an independent judiciary, an honest civil service and a deep sense of personal security can exist. But if those habits are not in place or have fallen into disuse it can take a very long time to establish or re-establish them.

The second piece is on the growing disconnection between younger, hipper conservatives and the social conservative/religious right agenda. In many ways the gay marriage argument in Canada and the United States is bringing this to a head. As well the war on drugs, pornography and abortion are all cleavage issues.

The argument is that for many younger (and urban) conservatives the essential conservative ideas are about limiting the size of government, reducing taxes and pursuing the War on Terror relentlessly. But these same people have homosecual friends, have been known to smoke a little pot once in a while, are unconcerned with pornography and committed to the idea of choice in the abortion debate.

Various people have tried to describe the phenomena: Andrew Sullivan calls them "eagles", and another commentator calls them "Southpark Republicans". The interesting aspect of this emerging political group is that it manages to resolve the inherent contradiction in conservative thinking - namely the tension between maximizing personal freedom and the desire, on a subset of issues, to exercise remarkable levels of social control - by dumping the social conservative agenda.

In Canadian politics it is not obvious that any of the contestants for the Conservative Party leadership are willing to lose the social conservative agenda. In the US Bush is playing to his social conservative core support. But in both cases there is a strong possibility that in the next election cycle candidates espousing strong urban conservative values - and largely ignoring social conservative litmus issues - may emerge.

While part of this is a phenomena of right of center politics, it also has something to do with the inability of the left and center to get away from iidentity politics. While the NDP is arguing about how many black lesbians are required for diversity, and the Liberal party is mired in its endless give aways to professional ethnics and Quebec, some supporters are wondering if these are the right issues to be addressing.

So long as the right retains its socon agenda it is not going to attract disgruntled Liberals or NDPers. The question is whether conservatives will be able to let go.

2/19/2004

Firebird

If you, like me, are cursed with a 56K connection immediately start using Firebird as your browser. On broadband the difference in loading speeds is not really significant; but on 56K it is like having cable.

Up at TechCentral

Big Cash incentives for organ donation. You can read my modest proposal over at TechCentralStation.

Let the Fun begin

The Canadian record industry association is seeking the names of 29 "uploaders" in Federal Court. Presumably it wants to sue the bejesus out of the rascals. (Though, under Canadian copyright law it is hard to see the CIRA making much money - they are likely to have to prove actual damages. There is no DCMA set penalty per violation.) The big ISPs are not going to make CIRA's life easy:
Shaw, a Calgary-based TV and Internet services provider, was the association's harshest critic in court yesterday. Charles Scott, a lawyer presenting Shaw, described the motion as "a civil search warrant," claiming the rights of the recording industry run "contrary" to the obligations Shaw has to its clients under privacy legislation.

In addition, there is "no certain way" to identify the alleged uploader, Mr. Scott said. IP addresses are "dynamic" and change frequently from user to user, he said.
globe and mail
The hearing is adjourned for a month. It is great to see the ISPs taking the privacy of their customers seriously. And it could well be fatal to CIRA's attempt to enforce its alledged rights. The problem being that, as Shaw's lawyer points out, identifying the "uploader" is pretty tough.

To take one example: before I stepped back into dial up land I had a small network with my son Simon and Susan both on line and sharing the cable connection. So far as I know we only had on IP - but I could be wrong. But what I do know is that when we moved in Vancouver our IP changed. I also know that, as I write about file sharing, I do not share files. No point in being vulnerable. On the other hand, my son is 13. Did he, as I asked him to, turn off file sharing on his computer? But, in a networked situation, who is CIRA supposed to go after? If it is the owner of the account then there is a rather pernicious form of vicarious liability at work. And nothing in the Copyright Act suggests that I am to be my brother's keeper. But if it isn't then getting my phone number and address will be of little use.

It will be worse in group situations where a bunch of adults share a connection.

Unless and until the law is clarified as to who is responsible for the connection and its use, this is pretty much a no win for CIRA.

2/18/2004

What Naomi doesn't know

As she whines, Naomi Klein is in denial of the more salient facts facing America and the West at the dawn of the 21st century. Charles Krauthammer is not. In his lecture to the American Enterprise Institute last week Krauthammer detailed the challenges and the potential actions which face the world's first unipower.
Similarly today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we can see clearly the two great geopolitical challenges on the horizon: the inexorable rise of China and the coming demographic collapse of Europe, both of which will irrevocably disequilibrate the international system.

But those problems come later. They are for midcentury. They are for the next generation. And that generation will not even get to these problems unless we first deal with our problem.

And our problem is 9/11 and the roots of Arab-Islamic nihilism. September 11 felt like a new problem, but for all its shock and surprise, it is an old problem with a new face. September 11 felt like the initiation of a new history, but it was a return to history, the twentieth-century history of radical ideologies and existential enemies.

The anomaly is not the world of today. The anomaly was the 1990s, our holiday from history. It felt like peace, but it was an interval of dreaming between two periods of reality.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and settle in to read the whole thing. When you are done you will know what Klein doesn't.


Whining with Naomi Klein

Poor Naomi. Having lost the argument against going to war, having watched a coalition of nations subdue Saddam's thug regime in a couple of weeks with barely a civilian casualty, having watched the Iraqi rejoice at their liberation and celebrate the capture of Saddam, what's a girl to do?

In the Globe and Mail today you can, if you've the stomach for it, read Klein's marvelously inventive, not to say fanciful, attack on the United States and every single one of its politicians including the now departed Howie Dean.

Klein's first premise, so far as I can make out is that either the war was simply illegal or it was fought on false pretenses. No matter, according to Klein that makes it wrong. And because it is wrong it follows in Kleinland that the US - no mention of the British, Australians, Poles, Japanese.... - needs to make things right in Iraq. And the only way to do that in Kleinland is for the United States to pay the Iraqis reparations for the destruction of their infrastructure and the - according to the expert musicologists who run Iraq Body Count - 10,000 plus Iraqi civilian deaths.

The best part about Naomi Klein is not what she writes, though she does do a good line in incoherent indignation, but rather what she leaves out.

She leaves out the United Nations resolution authorizing serious measures if Saddam did not comply with the inspection directives. She leaves out all of America's partners in the coalition of the willing. She leaves out the thousands of people a month who were directly killed by Saddam's regime and the hundreds of thousands who were hurt as he scammed the UN's Oil for Food program to support himself and his henchmen at the top of the torture apparatus.

She leaves out the literally tens of billions of dollars which the Americans and other nations have committed to rebuilding Iraq. She leaves out the Americans having sent Jim Baker out to seek, and get, loan forgiveness from the nations which had lent Saddam billions in palace building money.

Most of all, she leaves out the singular fact that had the Americans, British, Australians and other coalition partners not taken out Saddam his regime would still be in place killing the civilian population of Iraq at the rate of thousands a month. Of course, to Klein and her ilk that can't matter - if it did then America would have done a good thing and that would be impossible.

2/17/2004

Paul Berman on the Left's Anti-Iraq War Rants

Writing in Dissent Magazine Paul Berman has a drink with an old fashioned Leftie friend...
"The left doesn't see because a lot of people, in their good-hearted effort to respect cultural differences, have concluded that Arabs must for inscrutable reasons of their own like to live under grotesque dictatorships and are not really capable of anything else, or won't be ready to do so for another five hundred years, and Arab liberals should be regarded as somehow inauthentic. Which is to say, a lot of people, swept along by their own high-minded principles of cultural tolerance, have ended up clinging to attitudes that can only be regarded as racist against Arabs.

"The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course."
Read the whole thing.

Clicking

Now that I am back online it's time for the friendly, and conditioned by Google's Terms of Use, reminder that over at James Bow and Blogs Canada there are little strips of ads. When you read one of those fine blogs rememeber to click on one of the ads on your way out. Make it a habit. I am sure that, were they not precluded from doing so by the terms and conditions, James and Jim would thank you.

Wimps or Hawks

Decision time for the Democrats argues David Brooks in today's New York Times:
Now, in the midst of the war against Islamic totalitarianism, the crucial question is this: Is the Democratic Party truly set to reclaim the legacy of Truman and Kennedy, or is it still living in the shadow of Vietnam?

If you talk to Democratic foreign policy elites in Washington and New York, you come away convinced that the party has recovered from Vietnam, and is ready to assert power, albeit in multilateral guises. If, on the other hand, you attend Democratic primary rallies, you come away convinced that the party is still, at its base, the Jimmy Carter party when it comes to global affairs.


I think Brooks has it mostly right; but I also think that he discounts the influence of what might be described as Marin County Quakers who for reasons having more to do with lifestyle choices cannot imagine ever, under any circumstances, using American power. While these folks are a tiny minority of Democratic Party supporters, they have about the same influence as Pat Buchanan isolationism do in the Republican Party. Scant but present. The main difference is that the MCQs do have a good deal of influence in the academy and the media simply by assuming that the Martin Sheen worldview is "what people like us" have a duty to believe.

From the MCQ perspective Jimmy Carter was a bit of a hawk....imagine sending troops in to try and rescue hostages....the nerve of the man violating Iran's sovereignty.

2/16/2004

Ritual Humiliation in La Belle Province

What do the billion-dollar flag fraud, the dog puppet and Don Cherry have in common? Answer: Quebec. All three “scandals” are breaches of the official Federal etiquette regarding the province. Modern Federal bilingualism is, as Pierre Trudeau understood, a form of affirmative action. It starts at the top: the Governor-Generalship alternates between anglophones and francophones. In America, anyone can grow up to be President. But, if you’re a francophone, your chances of growing up to be viceroy are three times those of an anglophone. Maybe there are arguments to be made in favour of that, but, after three and a half decades in which (except for two brief interludes) the Prime Minister’s office has been held continuously by Quebecers, it shouldn’t be surprising if there are one or two voices a mite resentful of the system’s built-in bias. My old friend Paul “Inkless” Wells frets that the flagging-federalism scandal may have the unfortunate result of confirming “redneck Francophobes” in their prejudices. Old Inkless is a shrewd judge of the political scene, but I have to say this comment reminded me of the European Union’s decision to shelve its report on the growing epidemic of Continental Jew-bashing lest it provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.
mark steyn
The interesting thing about Quebec is that the long term strategy of appeasement didn't work; but the Clarity Act and the possibility that the Cree would sue for partition (taking all those lovely generators at James Bay with them) brought soft sell seperatism to a dead stop. At which point, to punch in the last spike, the Montreal economy revived. Cree to the North, Dion in Ottawa, Montreal digging out from two decades of economic collapse - seperatism is dead. Not even Triumph the Insult Dog can revive it.

Martin's Offer

Paul Martin on Cross Country Check Up said something rather interesting:
Anybody who is found to have known that people are kiting cheques, that people are falsifying invoices - me or anybody else - should resign," the prime minister said on CBC's Cross Country Checkup. "Anybody who knew that kind of thing was going on and let it happen, they don't belong in public life." cnews
Martin admits he heard rumours
"Did I hear rumours, were there articles in the newspapers that obviously I read about this? Clearly, yes, I did hear rumours. I read the articles in the newspapers.

"If the question is, did I know that people were kiting cheques, that people were making payments that were inappropriate, did I know all of those things? . . . The answer is absolutely not. I did not know that."


So here's the question, you're the Minister of Finance and you hear rumours that 100 million dollarsis being stolen, what should you do? It would be lovely to think Martin brought this to the attention of Chretien and was told to mind his own business and resigned as a matter of principle. But that is not the case here.

Just a thought but if a hundred million dollars was being stolen on my watch I might, say, call the cops. Or the auditors. What Martin did or didn't know is largely irrelevant in light of what he clearly didn't do.



Scandal and the Liberal Party

I posted this comment over at the Blogs Canada Election E-Group in response to an interesting post from James Bow. I think it stands on its own:
Mercifully moving has kept the sordid details of the scandal from my pristine consciousness; but the reality is that the Quebec ads, the looney 2 billion over run on a 25 million dollar gun registry and the like are simply business as usual for the pure politics Liberals.

Both iniatives were purely cosmetic. Spin as it were. Plastering the maple leaf logo all over Quebec was a remarkably lame way of beating the Seperatists - the relative success of the Canadian economy and the resurgence of the economy of Montreal were far more significant facter. (That and the Cree.) The registry is a 2 billion dollar attempt to avoid the fact that a realistic gun strategy would involve search and seizure in ethnic communities and that is too sensitive an area for the Grits to dig into.

The sting of the scandal is not the money - the Liberals can waste a billion as soon as look at it - rather it is the sheer cynicism with which they water their patch.

Martin is very wise to shift the blame to the Chretien administration. But the real question is whether he will be able to resist the temptation to practice the politics of cynicism. He might; but it would mean resigning himself to a single term.

Were Martin willing to simply dedicate his mandate to the complete reform of the Liberal Party and the federal government he would be doing Canada and the Liberal Party as great a service as a Prime Minister and a Party leader can perform.

But I bet he won't.

Puppet State

Colby's up in The American Spectator:
Now, of course, it's all gone pear-shaped. The halfwits who denounced a plastic dog-shaped glove have put a brand-new weld in the sealed American conviction that the gay-marrying, pot-legalizing, military-hating, gun-registering, socialized-everything Canadians are completely bughouse -- a freakish bastard admixture of Yippie and commissar. Even the Kucinich voters with braided beards and BUSH KNEW tattoos are looking north and going "Dude... it's a puppet. Chill." Given the uproar, who wants to visit Toronto and possibly touch off some kind of international incident by saying the wrong thing? Aren't there dank, fungal Turkish-style prisons up there for people who make ethnic jokes? (Answer: not yet, but check back in ten years.)


Blogapalooza

So here's what I'm thinking....There are a bunch of BC bloggers - not to mention travel hungry Easterners who will still be waiting for Spring in May (yes Colby and Kathy and Jim and Paul and Debbye, you guys) whereas here in Paradise thoughts will be turning to summer. So I thought it might be fun to invite the blog community over to Galiano Island for the May 24th weekend (make ferry reservations now). Hiking, drinking, talking and, with luck, dancing may break out. Lefties, righties, old, young and just plain cranky: we have a biggish house on a decent sized piece of property which is pretty much built for a party.

Comment below if you are interested. Your ticket is an actual blog - but if you really want to come you can always start a blog. More details to follow.

Scandal!

I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you. Imagine, advertising contracts granted without bidding turning out to provide no actual value to the poor old Canadian taxpayer. And in Quebec of all places. Andrew Coyne has the roundup. Myself I am still reeling. My faith in Liberal government has been shattered, shattered.

One Word: Audit

Ariel Cohen writes a valuable precis of the sheer corruption of the Iraq/UN oil for food program over at Tech Central Station today.
So far, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has bucked calls for an internal investigation, and the U.N. bureaucracy has circled the wagons, stonewalled, and resisted an external investigation of the oil-for-food program.
It seems pretty evidnet that the UN did nothing to stop Saddam from diverting oil to his buddies and the money away from the Iraqi people and into his own and his supporter's pockets.

As the pro-Saddamite folks, both paid and unpaid, kept withering on about how the sanctions were killing Iraqi babies it mightn't be a bad idea to see exactly how far the UN was implicated in the real scandal of the Iraqi sanctions. An independent audit would be a start.