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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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It's the Readers Fault

As newspaper circulation tanks Evan Cornog, publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, writes a long and deeply nuanced piece on the root causes of the decline of newspaper circulation in America (and, by extension, Canada).

But perhaps the problem, and therefore the solution, has broader and deeper roots. Perhaps we should, to an extent, blame the readers. Perhaps the old notions of an engaged and virtuous citizenry, upon which the founding fathers’ hopes for the republic were based, are archaic concepts.

Gourmet’s editor, Ruth Reichl, when she was still the restaurant critic of The New York Times, once launched a review of Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley restaurant, the French Laundry, with the observation, “The secret of the French Laundry is that Mr. Keller is the first American chef to understand that it takes more than great food and a great location to make a great restaurant: it also takes great customers.” The greatest danger to American journalism in the coming decades is not commercial pressures or government regulation but the decline of public interest in public life, a serious disengagement of citizens from one of the primary duties of citizenship — to know what is happening in their government and society. Americans know a lot about a lot of things, but when only 41 percent of teenagers polled can name the three branches of government while 59 percent can name the Three Stooges, something is seriously amiss.
columbia journalism review
While he cites television addiction, the loss of community, gated communities, suburbanization and a host of other reasons for the public's apparent lack of interest he does not mention the elephant in the room.

In America, and to a an even greater degree in Canada, the news media's politics have remained mired in the 60's fixations of their boomer cohort. The public, meanwhile, has moved on. Not necessarily to a more conservative position; rather to one which is far less tolerant of the offical cant which passes for analysis and news coverage in MSM.

The revolt against poltical correctness, the nanny state, taxes paid so that unionized public employees can make ever more money for ever less work has been gaining momentum while the media sleeps.

Worse, the media itself exercises a startling degree of group think as to what constitutes acceptable oppinion. Ask yourself this question, when did you last read a new idea in a MSM publication. Or even an old idea written in an original voice?

In the CJR article there is considerable discussion of just how far it is possible to go with celebrity journalism before some invisible line is crossed. The editors quoted, more in sorrow than anger, suggest that celebrity journalism is one of the few things which brings in new readers.

Here's a hint - hire some writers. You know, people who don't give a rat's ass about Paris Hilton's underwear malfunctions, but really are willing to call Heather Mallick on just how dumb she is and make fun of the Leah's pretensions. People who will fisk Antonia Zerbiass and mock Jeffery Simpson. (Update - Hi Instafolks! - Translated into American read Maureen Dowd for Heather Mallick, George Will for Jeffery Simpson. Leah and Antonia are simply too strange to have American counterparts.)

Make the pages themselves interesting instead of relying on star power. Hell, have real arguments and, hey, go nuts and run reviews which are not puff pieces...There you go. Now you are back in business.

Oh, and drop your subscriber walls and hire bloggers.


The Beginning of Revolution?

From a great story in Macleans (which is less of a stretch than it used to be) on the ongoing CHOI fight from Jeff Fillon, the shock jock who got the licence pulled,

Filion himself describes les X as follows. "They're an interesting animal -- you can't describe them by their look or their age, though there are a lot of thirtysomethings among them. It's more an attitude. They're people who have become allergic to the sacrosanct consensus, they're fed up with the inertia and the complacency, they're people who have realized the years ahead will be a load of shit and they're the ones who'll have to clean up the mess. They're people who are fed up with the Péquiste view of the world, tired of living in a society where the real premier is union leader Henri Massé, no matter who gets elected. Tired of a society where I can take my dog to a private clinic, but not my mom. If the old gang that lives in the past with retrograde ideas and referendums could go away, we'd be a bit less angry already."
And here is reaction,
Mira Falardeau, an author in her 50s who used to teach at a local junior college, says she understands Radio X's appeal -- especially to the young. "They like what they hear, and it's not just the music," she says. "Youth has changed. It used to be that CÉGEP students were leftists, and idealistic. But the kids today don't believe in much. It's the end of utopia, that of the sixties, of May '68 in Paris, of Jane Birkin, the feminists, all that."
and analysis from a marketing pro,
"We call them the nihilists, and they're quite a large group, maybe 20 per cent of the population," says Céline Berre, who works for CROP, the polling and marketing firm in Montreal. "In a nutshell, they are people who have stopped believing, in politicians' promises, in the social contract. They're Darwinian: you look after yourself. They live in the here-and-now, and are not afraid of mild civil disobedience."
Were I young and in Quebec, well, I'd move...but without that option, I would be sick to death of both federal and provincial politicians fighting 1960's battles one more time. And I would be outraged at a federal Commission which for reasons of taste - theirs - wanted to shut down a radio station which was to my own taste.

Best of all, these folks are not deferential in the slightest. Grand!

hattip: Let it Bleed

CBC Snark Alert

Playing with the kids before dinner I listened to the CBC 6:00 news. (Why, oh why, do I bother?) The announcer tossed this lovely line, "part of what the US Government calls The War on Terror".

The implication being that there is no actual worldwide War on Terror; just a US government program name. Which will be news to the Australians, Russians, British, Spanish, Italians, Pakistanis, Iraqis and assorted other nations who seem to be fighting this war. I gues that's why they call it "The news".

A run around my blogroll

I have a couple of weeks of decent internet access ahead so I can blog a little more. time to check out the good people to your left.

Bree is excited, as only those of us on the West Coast can be, with the couple of centimeters, call it an inch, of snow which has fallen in Vancouver. Here at the top of a hill on Galiano we - well Sam and I - are hoping for at least a foot...none so far.

serves up his National Post column on the Leader of the Ontario NDP's apparent conversion to libertarianism. And then offers a link to the sad tale of the only Kenyan tsunami fatality.

Kevin Grace gives his readers the wonderful Chirstmas gift of the Tolstoy short novella, What Men Live By. If you have never read it or want to read one of the very best stories of faith ever written The Ambler is the place. KMG also remains unimpressed with Canadian immigration policy and its defenders:

Massive immigration transforms native Canadians into foreigners in their own country (particularly in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal), cheats high-class Canadians of government (and government-regulated) jobs and placements in the professions. It not only cheats lower-class Canadians of jobs but also dramatically lowers the wages paid by those jobs still available to them. Massive immigration has transformed Canada into a linguistic Babel, corrupted our politics, introduced terrorist enclaves into this formerly peaceful land and engendered a Canada where it is perfectly acceptable, even praiseworthy, to hate white people for the colour of our skin.
No one has ever accused Kevin of political correctness.

Religion collides with culture over at Relapsed Catholic where Kathy is avoiding snarkiness and linking furiously. I have often thought Kathy could become the linker Canada needs but she is more interested and, perhaps interesting, at the messy intersection of faith and society.

I read Winds of War as much for a decent take on international news as anything else. Joe Katzman and his troop of precision bloggers understand the WOT, get what is at stake but avoid sensationalism or taking too partisan an approach. Worth the long reads involved.

Here are the first four topics at Mirabilis, Cat Scanning King Tut, Whistled Language of Spanish Shepherd on the island of La Gomera, an astonishing kayak video, tribesman fires arrow at tsunami rescue chopper. Of course you want to read more.

More later or tomorrow...


"US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was dissolving the “core group” of nations it formed last week to expedite aid for victims of the disaster.

The group — comprising the US, Japan, Australia and India — would now work under the United Nations after having “served its purpose” in catalysing relief efforts, he said.

The group had been criticised by some for usurping the UN’s relief coordination role, but Powell said Annan “can count on our full support”."
times of oman
No doubt, in about a month, the UN will be set up to take over the day to day administration of aid in Asia. But ceding control at this point, for no particularily good reason other than the fact the UN bureaucrat asked, is dumb. And ceding it without iron clad rights of audit and the capacity for the US and Australia to place their people at the very top of the emerging UN organization is dumber.

New worlds to conquer for the Toyota Taliban.

Traditional Family: Pay Up

Quick question: who pays less taxes, a person earning $80,000.00 a year and supporting a spouse taking care of kids at home? Or a couple, each working for $40,000.00 per year? According to Neils Veldhuis and Jason Clemens writing for the Fraser Institute, the single income family is dinged for $14,000.00 in taxes while the two income family pays only $11,256.00. (2003 numbers) But wait, there’s more, the dual income family could deduct a portion of the child care expenses they pay to a third party which, on Veldhuis and Clemens numbers, drop taxes paid to $9027. The stay at home parent family pays $5000.00 a year in extra taxes.

Now, of course there is the little matter of getting to 80k...

Academic Freedom

A young Kuwaiti Arab Muslim writes a disturbing article in Front Page Magazine today. Here's the gist:

I wrote an essay defending America’s Founding Fathers and upholding the US constitution as a pioneering document, which has contributed to extraordinary freedoms in America and other corners of the world - including my corner, the Middle East.

Professor Woolcock didn’t grade my essay. Instead he told me to come to see him in his office the following morning. I was surprised the next morning when instead of giving me a grade, Professor Woolcock verbally attacked me and my essay. He told me, “Your views are irrational.” He called me naïve for believing in the greatness of this country, and told me "America is not God's gift to the world." Then he upped the stakes and said "You need regular psychotherapy."
front page magazine
Unbelievably the Professor has filed a grievance against Mr. Al-Qloushi for, as Dean of Students Don Dorsey put it, ""Professor Woolcock feels harassed by your having mentioned his name to the media.""

I wrote the following to Dean Dorsey. I suspect his inbox is filling up as the Front Page story was picked up by Powerline.

Dear Dean Dorsey,

I have had the rather unpleasant experience of reading the Front Page Magazine account written by Ahmad Al-Qloushi . (

It appears Mr. Al-Qloushi has a rather clearer understanding of the principles upon which your Republic was founded than does his professor.

Writing as a Canadian I am more than a little dismayed that any college would entertain a grievance from a professor about a student exercising First Ammendment rights.

What your professor's actions have done is put Foothill in the eye of the same sort of media storm which overwhelmed Dan Rather. Somewhere at Foothill there must be someone who can recognize the Alice in Wonderland quality to this story.

I am hoping it will be you and that you will use your office to protect Mr. Al-Qloushi's right to dissent.

Years ago, when I was an undergraduate, an Eastern European professor of political theory assigned Alexandre Solzhenitsyn's "Warning to the West". It was very clear the prof thought the book the best thing since diced beets. I did not. In fact I thought it was an exercise in proto-fascism. Which I wrote and failed the essay. I protested the mark and there was a perfectly reasonable, academic discussion. I made my points, he made his; we disagreed but my mark went to an "A".

In the academy people disagree; that disagreement is not about therapy, it is about the respectful exchange of ideas. A professor who does not understand this has no place in an academic institution.


Jay Currie

(I am posting this letter to my blog

Taking Heart

It may just be that long time heart disease culprit, cholesterol, is about to be joined by a blood borne C-reactive protein. You can get more information about CRT at Wikipedia.

Ridker's team analyzed the cases of 3,745 patients in a comparison of cholesterol-lowering drugs Lipitor and Pravachol. Ridker said the drug used is not as important as reducing LDL to below 70 for high-risk patients, and reducing CRP to below 2 milligrams per liter of blood. Even when you hit the LDL target, you reduce the risk of recurrent heart attacks or of dying from a heart attack or stroke another 50% by lowering the CRP to 2.
usa today
So here is my question - is there a relationship between CRT and the amino acid homocysteine which some believe is also a precursor indicator of a potential "cardiac event"?

One thing which was interesting in the USA Today report is how it very quickly went to the possibility of using drugs to control CRT. It would be interesting to know if there are means other than drugs available. (I am a huge fan of drugs when they are needed; but there are often measures as simple as ensuring adequate supplies of specific vitamins and getting lots of exercise, which can postpone the need for drugs.)


Anti War in Iraq

So it came as a shock to us when millions of people began demonstrating across the world against America’s build-up to the invasion of our country. We supposed the protests were by people who had no idea about the terrible atrocities that the regime had inflicted upon us for decades. We assumed that once they learned what had happened in Iraq, they would change their minds, or modify their opposition to the war.
front page magazine
The article goes on to describe how the anti-warriors have not changed their minds one bit...Which comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent any time with left opponents of anything. The issue is never situtation for the poor folks living under Uncle Cuddle's boot, it is all about those "American bastards".

And it always will be because the opposition is not to war, it is to America.


UPDATE: More on "The UNcredibles": WFP (World Food Program) has "arrived" in the capital with an "assessment and coordination team." The following is no joke; no Diplomad attempt to be funny or clever: The team has spent the day and will likely spend a few more setting up their "coordination and opcenter" at a local five-star hotel. And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24hr catering service. USAID folks already are cracking jokes about "The UN Sheraton." Meanwhile, our military and civilians, working with the super Aussies, continue to keep the C-130 air bridge of supplies flowing and the choppers flying, and keep on saving lives -- and without 24hr catering services from any five-star hotel . . . . The contrast grows more stark every minute.
the diplomad
Following up on the brilliant "stingy" remark the UN seems to be digging a little deeper hole out in the field. Part of it is, of course, systemic - the UN has no carriers or C-130s or helos; but part of it is a mindset which has been repeated in failed mission after failed mission.

No question, a radical reform of the UN, led by people who see it as a "can do" organization, is needed or the plug should be pulled.