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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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4/17/2004

Good Shooting II

The leader of Hamas, the militant Islamic movement, was killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike on his car in Gaza City last night, bringing thousands of angry Palestinians on to the streets clamouring for revenge.
telegraph
Yes, the Arab street is no doubt seething. At Haaretz this headline " Analysis / Why Hamas may prefer not to choose a new leader". I'll bet.

4/16/2004

BlogsCanada and Freedom of Speech

If you have been reading Canadian blogs you'll know that the valuable Jim Elve has been told by the Government of Canada to cease and desist from using what the GoC believes is their wordmark and the overall "look and feel" of the GoC' websites. Lots of bloggers have commented that the GoC should have something better to do than harass a perfectly innocent and rather helpful parody site. Which they should.

But there is also an interesting legal issue.

In the United States copyright law had to take account of the 1st Amendment's protection of free speech. Part of free speech is parody and so, under the doctrine of fair use, infringement in the nature of parody is exempted.

Copyright law in Canada is rather different. Here we have a notion of "fair dealing" which is considerably less driven by free speech considerations.

So far as technical legal issues go, while the BlogsCanada site is certainly a rather clever parody of the Government of Canada's none too original website, it takes more than that to make a “look and feel” case stick. Legal questions of “fair dealing” and the fact there is no attempt to “pass off” the BlogsCanada site as being a Government of Canada site will keep copyright lawyers very busy indeed. So will the words “Definitely NOT the Government of Canada” which appear on every page of the site. (Web developers have also pointed out that Elve developed all of the code himself and it bears no resemblance to the GoC code.)

BlogsCanada may take comfort in the Canadian Supreme Court’s view enunciated in its ruling CCH Canada Ltd. v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, is that copyright is not an absolute entitlement but is to be balanced against other interests. “In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users' interests, it must not be interpreted restrictivel….User rights are not just loopholes. Both owner rights and user rights should therefore be given the fair and balanced reading that befits remedial legislation."

This ruling has already been cited in the Federal Court as grounds to interpret the private copy right for music widely enough so as to allow full scale file sharing and there is no reason to believe it does not extend the concept of fair use.

There is little question that a website which purports to be the Government of Canada and uses the look and feel of the legitimate GoC site to attempt to gull people is engaged in fraud. Criminal law and trademark law can each be used to prosecute such fraud. Obviously, a parody site gulls no one. However, unlike the United States where parody is a protected activity – being a manifestation of First amendment protected free speech – under the “fair use” rules; in Canada parody has never been used as a successful defense to a copyright or trademark infringement suit.

So the question which the GoC is opening is whether a rather mild parody of the GoC can be shut down using copyright and trademark law. In light of the Supreme Court's decision in CCH this may well be an excellent legal moment to ask if parody should have the fair dealing exemption extended to it. An argument made all the more compelling by the jurisprudence which has developed around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This would be a dandy case for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to take through the Courts.

Update: To get an idea of just how easy it would have been for Elve to directly copy the GoC site take a look at this version of the BBC

4/15/2004

Japanese Electric Motor

something very close to perpetual motion is being claimed in Japan. /. is on it.
No, no, no. See, you just don't understand. He's using magnets. They have powers that you just don't understand.
slashdot comment

Hundred Dollar Click update

My piece on mesothelioma ads is up at Tech Central. I am pleased to report I am closing in on $10.00.

Weird sights at Blogspot

If you are reading this you arrived by leaving the "www." out in front of reviewing.blogspot.com.

This is very odd indeed.

Well the Conservatives are doing fine without my advice...

Besides, its fun confusing my rightish readership by writing in the Tyee. This time on a Red/Green deal for BC.

Svend Out

Admitting he 'pocketed' jewelry at a recent public sale, veteran NDP MP Svend Robinson has announced that he's taking a leave of absence from his political duties.

Struggling to choke back tears at a Vancouver news conference, Robinson told reporters that he has been suffering from "severe stress and emotional pain" since a near-fatal hiking accident in late 1997.
ctv
Politically I have less than no time for Svend. But this is a tragic way to be leaving politics and I am sorry to see anyone who has devoted twenty five years to public service go out on such a sad note.

4/14/2004

Posting the Jewels

Of course the near blog at The National Post is probably not a response to Shotgun or any other external event. Rather, I suspect that the editorial board, being just a little swifter than the business boffins at the Post, realized that their net presence had dropped to zero. The genius of the subscriber only model is that it ensures that no one on the net links to the Post.

At a guess, the editorial board - a fairly forward looking crew - looked for a way to bring the Post's web profile back up and hit on the blog idea. With the "high value" content - wire service rewrites and sports - safely locked behind the sub-wall, the business boffins figured, what the heck - and silently wondering what the hell a blog was, relieved not to have to find out.

What the boffins don't know is that the quick takes of their editorial board are the premier high value content on the paper. The raw concentrated product which is then diluted and swilled out in endless, often padded, column inches to the subs who like their papers thick.

Neuman on the Grits

"This sickness will not be cured until the Canadian people win back parliamentary government," declared constitutional critic Eugene Forsey at the time. "The first step in the cure is to turn the Liberals out."
Mcleans

Campaign Strategy for Dummies

"People were asked a lot of questions about sponsorship, and that led them to think more negatively about the Liberals. In the second poll, where the Liberals and the Bloc were neck and neck, there were no questions on sponsorship."
the star
This is a private Liberal poll conducted only in Quebec and leaked to the Toronto Star. Sooooo. If you are the Bloc or the Conservatives what do you think you'll be running on in Quebec?
via paul wells

Dr. Spook

Joining the blogosphere is Dr. Norm Spector, variously extremely senior civil servant, publisher of the Jerusalem Post, Globe and Mail columnist and generally very brainy guy.
the difficulty in the real world is that you create more terrorists by fighting them—as Bush is doing--and you create more terrorists by not fighting them, as in Bill Clinton’s time. The difference is that the terrorists created under Clinton pulled off the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.
the spectator

Thugs

The US Fox network reported that the video showed a hooded man being killed by a shot to the head. The hood was then removed.

The dead man was named last night as Fabrizio Quattrocchi, 36, from Genoa. The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, confirmed during a live chat show that an Italian official had seen the video of the execution.

Al-Jazeera's spokesman said: "They slaughtered the hostage because of Berlusconi's last remarks refusing to withdraw troops from Iraq."
the guardian
In cold blood. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was determined:
. "They have cut short a life. They have not damaged our values and our commitment to peace."
He has learned the essential rules: you do not negotiate with terrorists, you do not alter national policy when terrorists strike. You do not give into thugs.

National Post Blog

Welcome to the future. The Editorial Board of the National Post has put up a blog. Apparently not behind the subscriber wall.

At a bet this has been coming for some time and has nothing at all to do with the arrival of Shotgun. However, there is little doubt that this is a breakthrough for major media in Canada.

I've written about the inevidibility of blogs as the web face of major media for some time. The National Post's effort, clearly modelled on The Corner, lacks a few of the standard blog features: no comments, no blog roll. But it shows that the idea of a constantly updated conversation is catching on.

(Of course they may simply be responding to their columnist Andrew Coyne's attempt to convert a blog into an entire newspaper.)

Random Passage



From Caterina via David Chess via Edward Champion

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

RESULTS: Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces: "Immediately I put down whatever I held; scaulded by time."

4/13/2004

Didn't get the Memo

The poll was the latest in a series which this overwhelmingly Shia province has held in the past six weeks, and the results have been surprising. Seventeen towns have voted, and in almost every case secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties did better than the Islamists.

This week sees the biggest event in the Shia calendar, the annual pilgrimage to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf, and thousands of people were making the 10-day walk along the main road west through Nassiriya and its surrounding province of Dhi Qar. But in the march to the polling booths the secular democrats were showing the greater strength.

"This is a free election," said Jawad Khadum, a teacher in Tar. "We want more of them, for example in our teachers' union and for the mayor."
the guardian!?
I missed this. Of course it was before the fat little bastard, al-Sadr, launched his uprising. But it might explain why.

Meanwhile, at CBC headquarters....


"Cue the attrocity footage"

"This is Peter Mansbridge. Disturbing images are emerging from the smoking rubble of the once proud city of Fallujah and the holy city of Najaf.

American Marines shot their way past resistance units in a show of unrestrained military force.

Philip Graham is with the resistance, Philip...

Cue shot of exhausted Shi'ite.

'There is no difference between Falluja and Sadr City,' said Nassir Salman, a barber who was working late. 'They are fighting and we are fighting. Inshallah , there will be jihad. But we are jealous of Falluja. We are waiting for our leaders to declare jihad. Now, it is worse than Saddam. He killed secretly - but the Americans kill us on the streets.'

"Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Iraqis are dead in the streets of Fallujah. Some fighters but most civilians so far as the authorities in this war ravaged city can tell."


And so on. The spin cycle will be reversed and the bumbling American military of last week will be turned into all too efficient killers of women and children. Blunderers to bullies in one news cycle.

[note: while I've been watching the hockey game I am making this up...at least for today.]

Perfect

A classic "ouch" moment over at Shotgun provided by Sean:
"Muslims are trapped into insensibility when they try to reconcile their religion with the modern world."

It's not just Muslims. I was in Red Deer in 1997 when Stockwell Day claimed that human beings and dinosaurs co-existed 6000 years ago. Who knew that carbon dating was a Satanic plot?
shotgun

Filtering

A couple of people have written about my library filtering blog. Basically the question is how a hard core libertarian like me could be involved with sleezy, free speech destroying, filter merchants.

First off the guy I am working with, Bob Turner, is a much harder core libertarian than I am. Which is odd as he is also a socialist/jazz musician/artist/anarchist. He has just set up his blog which is a quirky mix of art, filtering, lefty politics and general strangeness.

How strange? Well I defy you to find another filter maker who has produced a five minute mixed media art piece which combines an original score with a reading of the "A's" from the porn block list and the titles of banned books. You can hear Banned Width here. And, no, it's not safe for work.

Bob and his friend Jeff Koftinoff developed IF2K back in the day that filters blocked breast cancer sites. They thought they could build a better filter and they did. But, and this is critical, they had no agenda other than making a bit of money. They still don't.

When the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act, with the proviso that the CIPA manadated filter be easily turned off to protect the 1st Ammendment rights of adult library patrons I saw an opportunity. In that marketplace were companies like Websense, Dynacom, CyBlock and a host of others.

All fine companies but each with a particular, usually corporate and sometimes more sinister agenda. With 16,000 public libraries potentially forced into the filtering market, these vendors all were drooling at the prospect of selling filters. So, frankly, were we.

However, what we wanted to sell was the "least worse" solution. Something which met the CIPA requirments, was easily configured, easy for a patron to "click through" and, we thought best of all, cheaper by approximately 50-80%.

My end of things was to look carefully at what the librarians said they wanted and to use the blog to engage in the debate over intellectual freedom which has taken place in the last nine months inside the library community.It has been a fascinating debate with smart, articulate people arguing that any filter was, effectively the spawn of Satan and others convinced that the whole thing was a plot of some sort. Librarians are a pretty bright bunch and they really know how to "fact check your ass off".

So far we are not rich. But our marketing effort has really been to stir the pot and there we have richly succeeded. The next five months will tell the business tail; but for now librarians at least have a choice. Which makes the work worthwhile.

4/12/2004

Somewhere in Iraq

"Honey, you're home! I thought you'd vowed to fight the Americans to the bitter end."

"Well, you know, we forgot to bring any food, we're not allowed to drink beer, and some of the guys got kind of lonely, and I mean what's the whole point anyway, since the rest of the country didn't rise up with us. Why should we be the only ones out there getting shot in the head?"

"You're nothing but a bunch of worthless cowards! What my father ever saw in you, I have no idea!"
"Shut up!" *smack*
bastard sword
The Washington Post is reporting that al-Sadr's militias are standing down. Bastard Sword is having a little fun:
So much of Islamist ideology is bound up in this idea that if you just can kick off the big apocalypse, Allah will intervene and smite down all the unholy enemies of Islam. This happily keeps them from ever needing a plan B, since as long as plan A works, i.e. doing something really violent, frightening, and stupid, Allah will step in and take care of the rest. Being Westerners, we would assume that they'd never kick off plan A without a plan B, plan C, and plan D, all well orchestrated, complicated, and unfathomable. In truth that's often not the case. The Islamic radicals are one of the small subsets of humanity that lacks the gene for plan B.

Most reasonably smart people, or even most people who aren't just incredibly stupid, won't intentionally initiate any type of guerrilla campaign by getting themselves surrounded, pinned down, and outgunned at the very beginning of the fight. Usually that stage is reached about a week before the bitter end, which strangely, seems to be the exactly the place where these "al-Sadrones" started out. For all those who like to compare this to Tet, the difference should be obvious. The VC in the Tet offensive were striking the cities, and the survivors were going to melt back into the jungles. In Iraq they're trying to strike from the cities, and melting back into a city that we're going to level just seems like a bad plan, now doesn't it?
Strategy, tactics and a mocking sense of humour. What fun after the endless predictions of quagmire.

Good Call

Prime Minister Paul Martin will meet with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Canada, which begins next week.

Martin will become the first Canadian prime minister to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, even though such a meeting will undoubtedly raise the ire of China.
http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/04/12/canada/dalailama040412
As a general matter of policy it would make a good deal of sense for Canada to keep a quiet, but clear, pressure on China regarding human rights. Seeing the Dalai Lama sends the right message.

China is going to be changing a lot in the next two decades as wealth brings increasing resentment of the "Party's" political control. In Hong Kong there are already signs of what is in store as people who are used to having control over their lives chafe under the antique apparatus of the Chinese state.

It would be a good thing for Canada to be on the side of reform even if it does hurt our trade a bit.

The Pun also Rises

But in the end, Ferguson's beef is not that Washington is ignorant of British imperialists, but that they have no wish to be British imperialists. As radical as the Iraqi ambitions of George Bush the Younger are when compared with his father's, the son isn't set on the British Empire.
mark steyn, telegraph

Voice of Authority

Nice to see York University is maintaining its program of encouraging the insane to speak on campus,
Zafar Bangash, director of the Toronto-based Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, also spoke about 9/11. The institute is described on its website as “an intellectual centre of the global Islamic movement.”

“There was Osama bin Laden sitting in a cave plotting these fantastic events and no one in the United States knew about this?” Bangash asked.

He also challenged the audience to consider whether bin Laden disabled the entire U.S. Air Force.

“It is standard policy that as soon as a plane goes off a flight path, the air force is mobilized to intercept the plane. Where was the U.S. Air Force?”

Bangash spoke about several conspiracy theories, including allegations that Canadian corporations defrauded Canadian taxpayers out of $2.5 billion in order to make banks Y2K compliant.

“Now this happened in Canada. You can imagine what goes on in the United States,” he said.

Bangash also complained about the lack of leadership in the Muslim community in Toronto.

“Any screwball can get up… [and] give their two-bit opinion about Islam.”
canadian jewish news
You can say that again.
via Shotgun via The Flea via Daniel Pipes

The Logic of War

Victor Davis Hanson suggests a general policy of no more Mr. Nice Guy for the United States in Iraq and with respect to Iran and Syria. He doesn't forget the Troll of Ramallah (TM):
We should inform the Palestinians that they are now analogous to Albanians circa 1970 or, better yet, contemporary North Koreans, who now stay out of the United States and vice versa. No aid whatsoever, no travel, no direct ties until barbarism ceases on the West Bank. Americans can accept war, but what tires them are enemies who lob a bomb, scream on television, assassinate an occasional American, and then seethe, claiming that they collectively hate the United States—and yet want its attention, money, and aid. It is time to accept their animus and assume that in this war against fascism in the Middle East, Arafat and Hamas too are quite logically our enemies and should be put on notice concerning the dangerous wages of that new reality.
victor davis hanson

How much Mesothelioma?

In the April 8th edition of the Wall Street Journal Overture reported that Mesothelioma Attorney had been bid up to $100.00 USD per click. No wonder people are optimizing to attract those wee spiders. Given that the average Mesothelioma Attorney can get his client one million dollars and take a 40% contingency it makes sense for the mesothelioma bar to be bidding hard.


Mesothelioma Experiment

"Mesothelioma", a form of lung cancer induced by asbestos exposure, is apparently a top selling ad keyword. It seems there's an eBay-like effect where prices are bid up, at least according to a recent article making the rounds, on search engine ads and Mesothelioma lawyers. And this leads inevitably to "interesting" search engine optimization:

The high price of mesothelioma ads has had some unintended consequences as firms try other means to land mesothelioma patients. In particular, some firms are attempting to boost their Web sites' spot on search engines' so-called algorithmic, or nonpaid, listings by tweaking the content and links to get a higher ranking. These efforts can include using the desired keywords (like "mesothelioma") frequently near the top of their home page, and including them in the Web address.
seth finkelstein
There are vast numbers of unintended consequences from the various pay per click programs on the net. For example, if you go to my Library Filter site any of the possible clicks you might make is worth about thirty times as much as a click on this site.


4/11/2004

Whose News

As the reports of the al-Sadr uprising, the Marine retaking of Fallujah and the kidnappings pour in a couple of influential bloggers have taken as look at the way news is being reported. Steve den Beste writes a longish piece on The Fog of War" in which he takes the media to task for headline spinning and reporting Iraqi stories with maximum negatives. His post is full of examples and needs to be read in full. He suggests,
In this war, our enemies know they have no chance at all of defeating us strategically, tactically or logistically. All attempts to divert us from our objectives have failed. They perceive our greatest vulnerability to be morale, though not the morale of our troops.

They perceive our greatest vulnerability to be morale on the "home front". Even if they can't defeat us militarily, they can win if they convince us as a nation to surrender. If we come to believe we've been defeated, then we are defeated no matter how well or badly things are actually going.

That's how our enemies hope to win this war. But they can only gain such a victory if we citizens permit it. We are now and have always been their primary target. Each and every one of us is fighting this war inside their skulls, and that is where we have the greatest risk of losing. In this war, our enemies know they have no chance at all of defeating us strategically, tactically or logistically. All attempts to divert us from our objectives have failed. They perceive our greatest vulnerability to be morale, though not the morale of our troops.
den beste
He also points out that the anti-WAr folks who are trying to paint al-Sadr and Fullujah as the Iraqi equivilent of the war ending Tet offensive in Viet Nam have grabbed precisely the wrong end of a thorny stick.
there is a very clear lesson to be learned from the Tet Offensive (which was only reinforced by the 1991 Gulf War): civilians can give away politically what soldiers have won on the battlefield.
There is, I think another lesson to be learned from Viet Nam which needs to be hammered into the heads of the political side of the Iraq generals and administrators: don't attempt to manipulate the news.

Wretchard at Belmont Club goes a step further and details how the need Western journalists have for guides and translators combines with a significant degree of media savvy on the part of the jihadis to produce a highly spun version of events.
he enemy capacity to mould the news takes on particular significance because Hizbullah operations in particular, as well as terrorist actions in general, are aimed at conveying political statements through violent acts. With his power over news coverage, the enemy is not only in a position to choose the nature of the terrorist act, but is increasingly free in choosing how to portray it. Many of the recent events in Iraq, such as the murder of the Blackwater contractors, the abduction of American truck drivers, the demonstrations, the hostage takings and so on are literally made for television. If left unchecked, it will create a major collapse in the civilian intelligence system -- the system you and I employ to determine the state of reality -- that is, the news. No one without access to classified information has any alternative except to read the papers or switch on the TV to check on the progress of world events. Even analysts at the CIA rely to a large extent on "open" sources, which means the news. What happens when the "open" sources become polluted?
belmont club
His conclusion?
Ultimately, the Islamist strategy of spinning news is a self-defeating one. It portrays a false reality upon which they will ultimately founder. How many young Arab men in Fallujah are dead because they believed Al Jazeera? The real problem with lies is that ultimately, one lies to oneself. As a consumer of news like anyone else, the Belmont Club must flail away at the layers of disinformation, bad reporting or plain egregiousness that encrust the reportage. This is the fog of war.
belmont club
The problem which den Beste finds produced again and again in the Western media, namely a strongly negative cast to virtually every story coming out of Iraq, is partially explained by Wretchard in so far as the jihadis have penetrated the logistics operations which big media believes it needs to field reporters in battlezones. If the penetration is as significant as Wretchard suggests then the stories will suffer first from relentless negativity and second from an increasing divergence from any sort of reality.

In Viet Nam there was a concerted effort to control the news directed more or less openly from the American Embassy in Saigon and the American military headquarters. For a variety of reasons, this media operation became less and less plausible as the war went on. Daily body counts were used as a metric and began to bear less and less resemblance to the truth on the ground. While American casualty numbers were usually pretty accurate, the estimates of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese casulties crept away from accuracy. Right down the chain of command there was a subtle pressure to goose the numbers of enemy dead.

Fairly quickly, this and a variety of other sytematic lies undermined the willingness of first the press and then the american public to believe much of what was being "reported" by the American government or the american military. (A view which to this day dominates the belief systems of the Left - if the government says it it can't possibly be true.) By the time the Tet offensive was launched and throughly defeated by the Americans, that defeat was seen as pure spin. The government's credibility gap had grown so large victory became another excuse to cling to defeat. The battle for the hearts and minds of the American people had been lost before the first shot of Tet was fired.

The hunger for defeat which is informing much of the anti-War left's reading, and realistically, writing, of the news is not going to go away. Iraq is a highly partisan war and one which the anti-Bush people in the United States have shown no scruples about losing. If this war was being waged in 1968 there is next to no doubt large media would declare defeat and begin to pressure the Administration to bring the troops home. In fact, the examples den Beste cites are of exactly this sort of defeatist spin.

The difference is that major media have ceased to have a monopoly on the news or on opinion formation in the United States and in the rest of the world. The internet has meant that virtually anyone can drill down to relatively unspun reporting and contrarian analysis.

The 1960's saw the emergence and growth of the alternative press. "Alternative" in the sense that while the Washington Post and CBS reported the Administration of the day's line pretty well straight, the alternative press was in the business of calling that line into question.

Much the same thing is happening on the internet. With Iraq, with the Clarke testimony to the 9/11 Commission, with the Spanish bombings and the war against terror, mainstream media has tended to follow a fairly strongly negative and anti-Bush line.

To the Finland Schoolhouse

The Straits Times reports that Finnish Schools have been ranked best in the world by the OCED. How? Money? Class size? Extra years in school? None of the above.
If one trait sets Finland apart, it is the quality and social standing of its teachers, said OECD director for education Barry Macgaw.

All teachers must have a master's degree, and while they are no better paid than those in other countries, the profession is highly respected.

In a recent survey asking teenagers to name their favourite job, 'teaching was No. 1', said English teacher Outi Pihlman at Suutarila Lower Comprehensive School.
http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4386,245175,00.html?
The finns have a few more rather clever ideas. Children do not start school until they are seven, the schoold drive towards a mastery of basics and the school day is run with a 45 minute class followed by a fifteen minute break. Oh, and no one wears shoes inside.

Sounds civilized to me.