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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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The Guardian???

Just as it was 190 years ago, Britain was fighting France for the future of Europe: Wellington's dislike for the Napoleonic dream of a Very Big France foretelling (well, almost) Mr Blair's dislike for Chirac's vision of a protective, backward-looking EU aimed purely at preserving an outmoded socio-economic model.
the guardian!
No, really, the Guardian. "backward-looking EU aimed purely at preserving an outmoded socio-economic model" Yup. When push comes to shove the Guardian knows the "social model" is a dead letter. Silly French people may not; but the lefty Guardian does.

Now Iran could be interesting

As polls closed four hours late Friday on Iran's most closely fought presidential election in the 26 years since the Islamic revolution, it appeared that none of the seven candidates would win a majority, resulting in an unprecedented run-off vote likely to pit pragmatic ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani against reformist candidate Mostafa Moin.

It would be fascinating and very encouraging if the mullahs were challenged directly in a run off. At that point the boycott would be lifted and the more reformist elements would have a chance to express their determination to come back to the 21st century. No doubt a Moin win would be voided by the Council of Guardians - in which case get out the whistles and the banners - green for Islam!

Fixing the Lottery

And there is a larger issue here: the woes of Chaoulli's patient are, unfortunately, all too common in Canada. People wait for practically any diagnostic test, surgical procedure, or consultation with a specialist. The doctor shortage is so severe that, in Norwood, Ont., winning the town lottery isn't a ticket to material wealth. With just one family doctor to service the entire town, the physician will take only 200 new patients over the next four years. As a result, the town held a lottery, with the 200 winners getting an appointment with him.
david gratzer, macleans
Lorne Gunter pointed me to this troubling story. The distortions created by a purely public healthcare system replicate the town of Norwood everytime a person actually needs that system.

Allowing private provision of medical care, or, to be more accurate acknowledging that this is already happening as Canadians go south for needed medical care at a price, would go some distance towards altering the harrowing lack of choice patients face in the current system. Being told that a) you have cancer, b) that it is treatable, c) the line for treatment is three months long and forms to the right is not what Tommy Douglas had in mind.

Critically, in looking at what comes next for Canadian healthcare, we need to look at the entire equation. Not just the provision of critical care but also ways of reducing demand for such care.

Ian Welsh at Tilting at Windmills makes interesting points as to where the bottlenecks are in the present system and suggests that allowing a parallel private system to evolve will not deal with those bottlenecks. In my view he has his facts wrong but, even granting his facts, it is not clear that a private system would not, in principle work to reduce those bottlenecks.

Where there are a lack of facilities and equipment private providers could easily bring more equipment online. Hell, they could lease the hours that MRI machines are not being used by the public system because it cannot afford to pay the public service union overtime rates and the operating rooms which stand idle for want of funding for the overtime of nurses and techs. Simply using what we have efficiently, and at realistic wage rates would go a long way to reducing rationing.

As well, the existence of a parallel private sector could improve the situtation with respect to a percieved scaricity of trained people. Canada loses nurse and doctors, as well as the highly skilled respiratory techs and profusionists, to the US and the Middle East because they can make tons more money working there. (Make and keep as the tax rates are significantly lower.) However, if those professionals could find additional work in the private sector they could boost their incomes and have a greater incentive to stay in Canada.

What the Supreme Court recognized in Chaoulli is that the present system is broken badly enough that it constitutes a threat to the security of individual Canadians. So now the challenge is to fix that system. And the first step in fixing the public system is recognizing the potential of a parallel private system.

Good News on Oil

Oil prices shot up to a record high of $58.60 (U.S.) a barrel Friday, extending a week-long rally driven by what one analyst described as irrational fear that global demand is outpacing supply.
globe and mail
Worries about oil supply are driving prices up which will in the nature of free markets, tend to ensure that the worries about supply will turn out to be wrong. Wrong in the short term because the rise in prices will have a direct impact on demand which will ensure there will be enough gas and oil to cover essential uses. Wrong in the long term for more encouraging reasons.

As I wrote when oil prices hit $54.00 higher oil prices are a huge opportunity. Essentially they provide the market incentives for more oil exploration, increased consumer demand for more fuel efficient cars, a realistic way of reducing carbon emissions and a reason to reconsider the ongoing economic waste we call suburbia.

$58.60 is good, $80.00 would be better. The sooner oil is priced to reflect its increasing scarcity, the sooner projects like really, really efficient cars, safe nuclear power plants, household geothermal and many other energy alternative and conservation ideas will make sense.

Slice Boys

Koby pointed this out at the Liberal Underground. Sporty Slice makes it all worthwhile...

Chirac's new clothes

The French role in the EU has often been fraught. As a matter of self perception, France's political classes believe that they should be Europe's leaders. Unfortunately for the French their decades long experiment in the social market and truly massive farm subsidies has created a strikingly uncompetitive, unproductive and increasingly stagnant economy. So the French, in their wisdom, having lost the fight to get their own people to pass a constitution whose (French) author said that it should not be given to the people because "nobody can understand it", are looking for a scapegoat. And who better than those nasty English people?

The EU summit was plunged into a new crisis as simmering Anglo-French tensions over Britain's rebate finally erupted into open warfare.

French President Jacques Chirac threw down the gauntlet in a hard-hitting and bitter address to fellow leaders on the summit's second day.

He said the rebate could not continue and he attacked Mr Blair's attempts to point the finger at lavish French farm subsidies from the EU budget as ripe for cuts.
Mrs. Thatcher, no stranger to French perfidity, negotiated the British rebate to reflect the fact that British farming had modernized and that far fewer Englishmen than Frenchmen worked on the land. A situation which exists today largely because the French refuse to even discuss cutting back the agricultural subsidies which distort the entire structure of the EU.

The extraordinary thing is that Chirac, in attacking the English rebate rather than actually reducing the farm subsidies which make it necessary, is currying favour with the French electorate which is convinced that the EU constitution was nothing more than a sneaky attempt by the Anglo Saxons to impose capitalism, globalization and competition on Europe. Such attempts, true or not, are to be reisted by the doughy French famers, labourers and government. Without, of course, proposing any alternative.

While the more progressive members of the EU are, for the moment, remaining polite in the face of Chriac's bluster knowing full well that it is purely for domestic consumption, there comes a point where France is simply in the way. That point is rapidly approaching.


How much is denying gays equal rights worth???

4.5 billion...

Canadians will get more money for housing, education and public transit, but no same-sex legislation — at least not yet.

That's the likely result of jockeying between the Liberals and the Conservative party. It means the Tories will drop their opposition to an NDP-inspired spending package worth $4.5 billion in the expectation that legislation approving same-sex marriage in Canada will be delayed.

The Tories say the scenario is the subject of talks with the Liberals, though Liberal officials deny there are any such negotiations in the works. But shifting political priorities suggest that Bill C-48, the Liberal-NDP budget package, will be approved by MPs before the House of Commons adjourns for the summer next Thursday.
the star
It is difficult to imagine anything which underscores the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the CPC more completely than if this story turns out to be true. Frankly, it is enough to make me think of joining the Flea and voting for the corrupt bastards in the Liberal Party simply so that the Tories are not just denied my vote but might actually lose a seat to the Liberals because of that vote.

Fiscally irresponsible and against equal rights...Perfect.

Right and Left in the Blogosphere

My lefty friends - both of you - will be interested in this article at MyDD,

The left-wing blogosphere is beginning to decidedly pull away from the right wing blogosphere in terms of traffic. This is largely a result of the open embrace of community blogging on the left and the stagnant, anti-meritorious nature of the right-wing blogosphere that pushes new, emerging voices to the margins.
chris bowers
Bower's argument is somewhat disingenuous in that what Kos and others do is bring the long tail inside the sitemeter thereby driving up the Daily Kos rankings. But it does reflect a difference in style between right and left: in Canada we have had the pleasure of Rabble for what seems like an eternity and I've no doubt that it consistently outranks righty sites like Free Dominion (but I have no numbers on that.)

There are over 1000 people who post regularily at Kos and probably ten times that number post comments on the endless threads. There is no question that Kos is a community. Indeed, part of the left's approach to politics is about creating community; part of the right's approach is a wariness of community lest the values of that community overwhelm the individuals within it.

It makes perfectly good sense to a libertarian to have a his or her own blog with 200 readers (on a good day)rather than hooking up with an Alliance or, in the case of Kos, a Borg in which his or her voice will only be one of many and subject to community values and norms.

However, because of the top-down nature of right-wing blogs, new conservative blogs remain almost entirely dependent upon the untouchable high traffic blogs for visitors. In short, the anti-community nature of right-wing blogs has resulted in a stagnant aristocracy within the conservative blogosphere that prevents the emergence of new voices and, as a result, new reasons for people to visit conservative blogs.
mydd, bowers
This is another manifestation of what Seth Finkelstein and others are talking about when they point out blogging hierarchies and the inverse power curve out towards the long tail.

In the next few weeks I am going to be launching a rather fiendish plan to flatten that curve a little on both the right and the left (where the tail is just as long but fluffier). Just as soon as I can get a tiny PHP problem solved. (And yes, if you are a PHP God I do need help.)

Because what Bowers does not mention, and what is actually rather worrying, is that people on the left and the right in the blogosphere have almost entirely stopped reading each other.

Short Europe, Buy Canada??

Consider some contrasts with the United States, as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. With high unemployment benefits, almost half of Western Europe's jobless have been out of work a year or more; the U.S. figure is about 12 percent. Or take early retirement. In 2003 about 60 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 had jobs. The comparable figures for France, Italy and Germany were 37 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent. The truth is that Europeans like early retirement, high jobless benefits and long vacations.

The trouble is that so much benevolence requires a strong economy, while the sources of all this benevolence -- high taxes, stiff regulations -- weaken the economy. With aging populations, the contradictions will only thicken. Indeed, some scholarly research suggests that high old-age benefits partly explain low birthrates. With the state paying for old age, who needs children as caregivers? High taxes may also deter young couples from assuming the added costs of children.
robert samuelson, wapo
One of the issues which the CPC should be making more of but isn't is the question of which model, Euro or American, Canada should be looking at.

We have an aging population, social benefits which are generous in comparison to the US, miserly compared to France, a declining birth rate. So the question is whether or not we want to make the structural changes which will allow us to retain at least some of our social programs while increasing our competitiveness or if we are more interested in hanging on to a radically statist, interventionalist, European outlook and policy.

It is pretty clear that Quebec's politcal class is opting for the happy contradictions of the "social market" (its burgeoning business and entrepreneureal class may have other ideas.) But what about the ROC?

Can Harper be convinced that actually telling the Maritimes that the pogey is going to stop and the regional development is going to end and that when you have the money to be disqualified for equalization you are, er, disqualified?

Can the CPC bring itself to say that it would be a really good idea for Canadians to try to have three or more children - (yikes, an actual pro-family as opposed to anti-gay message, oh what will the feminists say?). Can it grit its teeth and promise to cut taxes for families and make the cuts in government spending which will be occassioned by those cuts?

Only if the CPC and Harper are willing to lose with style. Lose so that, next election, the CPC has reinvented itself as a party committed to individual rights, decentralization, real families and a real, growing economy.


Iranian Mysteries

On the eve of the Iranian election the BBC reports,

United Nations nuclear monitors say Iran has admitted to misleading them over its experiments with plutonium.

The UN's nuclear watchdog is expected to confirm later that Iran continued experimenting with plutonium - a key component of atomic bombs - until 1998.

Iran had previously told the body it had ended its experiments in 1993.

Correspondents say these latest inconsistencies in Iran's account will fuel suspicions about the real aims of its nuclear programme.

Iranian presidential favourite Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has told the BBC that Iran did not report all nuclear work.

"It's possible that at times, Iran has not reported its activities," Mr Rafsanjani told the BBC's Newsnight television programme.
This is worrying simply because the EU has been proceeding as if Iran is prepared to keep the promises it makes. Now it turns out that, rather as the Americans and Israelis have suspected, Iran has been "fibbing".

The election in Iran, while largely stage managed by the mullahs may be important purely at a symbolic level. A close race will suggest a growing dienchantment with the Islamic state. The problem is that, after twenty five years in power, the mullahs are not about to give up the perks of office without a protracted fight. There are already reports of the fundamentalists beating reformists.

However, Rafsanjani, who is billed as a pragmatist but whose support from the mullahs is significant, faces the prospects of failing to gain the 50% of the votes requred to elect. The somewhat liberal Dr. Moin from the left and former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf from the right are poised to deny Rafsanjani an outright win.

Which makes it even more interesting that Rafsanjani is admitting that Iran might not have been entirely forthright about its nuclear program. Why admit this? And why admit it now?

Yeah, this is sure to work

Stephen Harper will travel the country this summer in an effort to buff his image, which the 46-year-old economist himself reluctantly conceded Wednesday could use a levity implant. "My wife said to me recently: 'You do need to have more fun,' " Harper recalled following a national Conservative caucus meeting.

"She said: 'You're not having enough fun, even by your standards.' So we'll do some of that."

The Conservative leader maintained, however, that outside the national capital "fishbowl" his astringent public persona is "not much of a problem."
Yes, Stephen is going to pull on the khakis and the golf shirt and look jolly. At which point the whole of Ontario will go, "Got it, jolly, not scary....silly us."

21 songs per iPod

Are all those iPods empty?
APRIL 28, 2004 - Today is the one year anniversary of the iTunes Music Store. As of April 15, Apple had sold roughly 60 million iTunes and 3 million iPods (sources below). That's about 21 songs per iPod. For perspective, the smallest iPods hold 1,000 songs, and some hold 10,000 songs. So, when people fill up those iPods, where does all the music come from?
I've written about this various places. The folks at itunesperpod have a decent idea of how to get money to the artists by way of, well, an ISP levy of $5.00 per month. while people can argue about the actual amount, the reality is that artists do need to be paid and this would do it. (hattip boing boing)

Dithers digs in

To say that my French is rusty implies that it exists at all, however, does this mean what I think it means?

Un plan B pour les libéraux?

L'existence de cette lettre a mis le feu aux poudres à la Chambre des communes. À tour de rôle, le Parti conservateur, le Bloc québécois et le NPD ont soutenu que le gouvernement Martin n'avait nullement besoin de donner de telles garanties à l'ancien premier ministre. Que cette lettre soit demeurée secrète jusqu'ici prouve à leurs yeux que le gouvernement a conclu une entente en catimini avec Jean Chrétien.

Ils ont aussi dit croire qu'en permettant à Jean Chrétien de reprendre ses démarches contre le juge Gomery là où il les a laissées en mai, les libéraux minoritaires de Paul Martin se sont ainsi ménagé un plan B dans l'éventualité où le rapport du juge sur le scandale des commandites serait trop sévère à l'endroit du Parti libéral.

Car une nouvelle attaque de Jean Chrétien en Cour fédérale pourrait retarder la publication du second rapport du juge Gomery, prévu en décembre. Ce faisant, Paul Martin, qui a promis de déclencher des élections générales 30 jours après la publication de ce deuxième rapport, pourrait se dégager facilement de cet engagement.
la presse
Essentially this is the Kreaver Inquiry gambit. Chrétien waits in the weeds until the preliminary report of Mr. Justice Gomery. If it looks as if Gomery is going to be really damaging, Chrétien revives his bias allegation and takes it all the way to the SCC thereby delaying the release of the final report and, of course, letting Dithers off his 30 day promise. (As if the slime bucket has ever intended to keep that promise.) What's cure about this, as Maisonneuve's Media Scout points out, is that Martin's office has written a letter acknowledging that Chrétien has the right to do this,
The Post goes ahead and prints The Letter (not available online), which states, in part: "We understand that your client has reconsidered his position and is now prepared to discontinue his judicial review application. We also acknowledge that, in the event that your client were to seek judicial review of the commission report … he would not be stopped from raising the bias argument if he so wishes." The government denies there is any secret deal, claiming to be simply outlining Chrétien’s rights as a citizen. Right. This still doesn’t explain why the letter needed to be written in the first place, though it is nice to know the PMO is now running a legal-aid clinic on the side.
In principle, there is really nothing the PMO could do to stop Chrétien or any one of the other thugs from going the appeal route - something which Dithers most certainly knew at the time he made the 30 day promise. (You don't set up your own publically funded, inhouse inquiry law shop not to know exactly what the longer term legal issues are going to be.) In practice, the PMO could have written that the Government of Canada would take every step necessary to ensure that the integrity of the public inquiry process was protected and would vigorously oppose any attempt to impugn the Commissioner's conduct of the inquiry.

As it turns out, Gormery himself is going to the Federal Court to deal with the bias allegation even though Chrétien has suspended his action in the matter.


In Which Mr. Trebuchet Meets Pooh for the first time

footnote 3: *I* deleted the comments from "The Invisible Hand". (I am assuming it was Jay Currie who was posting) I did it, because I had been asked to delete any comments from people who were not there to add to discussion about Grewal gate, but there to engage in stupid ad-hominem attacks. I deleted the comments from "The Invisible Hand" on the grounds of, "ad hominem tu quoque". I am well prepared to defend myself from charges of hypocricy put forward by Jay Currie. But it's got nothing to do with Buckets, or the proof of the lies, deceptions and fraud perpetrated by the CPC in this affair.
pooh, blank out times

Well Pooh, being prepared to defend and defending are, indeed, logically rather different.

So why did you delete the comments and, pray, when did Buckets hand you the keys to the kingdom and make you Blogspot's version of a site admin.

By the bye, the hypocrisy I am interested in is the deletion of comments and posts without acknowledgement of there ever having been there in the first place. I am quite willing to countance changes to blogs to maintain focus; my point being that if you are in the business of suggesting that tapes are being edited in a particular manner it behoves even a bear of very little brain to make a note of his elisions. (Else that bear will be compared to the incomparable Kate which is a fate I rather suspect our bear would prefer to avoid.) Indicating the elisions, or, indeed, not making them at all, would have saved Grewal rather a lot of bother and kept the focus on the stench of corruption emanating from the regions infernal of the PMO.

Harper Agonistes

The Tories have fallen precipitously in the polls in the past two weeks because the Grewal mismanagement has merely confirmed for voters sceptical about them that they aren't ready to govern.

And fair or unfair, when coupled with voters existing doubts about Harper's personality, the conclusion is it is time for Stephen to think long and hard about his future.

I hope he stays. I hope he decides to clean house in his communications office and also dedicate himself to developing a more amenable media persona.

I think general public disgust with the Liberals gives him a chance to remake himself and push the Conservatives to victory. But he has to think about what he is prepared to do.
Lorne Gunter
Gunter is writing about the National Post Editorial today which largely came from Gunter's own pen. In it the Post's editorial board says,
we imagine the trouble lies with how the message is being delivered. Mr. Harper is a glum, moody figure who has shown little enthusiasm for the rituals of mass-media politics and for the simple glad-handing expected of party chiefs. And instead of hiring communications staff who make up for these weaknesses, he has hired glum, clannish people who reinforce them.
national post
If only it was this simple.

In fact, the roots of the CPC's inability to attract voters do not begin in the communications office of the Leader - no matter how inept that office appears to be. Rather they run much deeper: the communications office has nothing to communicate because the CPC has decided it has no policy other than yelling "Me, too!" whenever the Liberals say something particularily idiotic.

If your policy is to ape the Governing party then your choice for differntiation in the voter's minds is all about style. No one with the least sense of political saavy would accuse Harper of having any style whatsoever. His entire presentation screams wonk.

Problem is that wonks want to talk about policy and are only animated by substance. So long as the Tories remain afraid of alienating Ontario voters with, well, conservative policies, there is nothing for a wonk to talk about.

Certainly Harper should think about his role in the CPC. But his thoughts should be conditioned by the fact that the "Me, too!" strategy combined with finger pointing on corruption and utterly inept message management have left the Tories miles behind in the polls. The content free, corruption all the time, strategy has actually lost Harper support in Ontario.

Maybe it is time for Harper to let loose his inner wonk and start talking about his vision for Canada. Time to ditch the politics of exclusion embodied in the anti-SSM position, time to embrace individual rights as the cornerstone of a conservative philosophy, time to demand real change in the shoddy delivery of public healthcare, time for an articulated version of a decentralized Canada with a postive platform to include Quebec rather than merely bribing the Quebecois. Time to say that Canadians should be allowed to spend an increasing amount of the money they earn.

If Harper comes back from his summer willing to tell the spinners in his own party to stuff it and a willingness to attack the absolute lack of any Liberal vision for Canada, then he should stay on as leader. But, if he comes back with the determination to "developing a more amenable media persona" he may as well stay home because that is not going to win the next election.

Take that!

It is always nice to see your friends hard at work bringing useful information to the masses.

The Flea is kind enough to share a website which offers detailed plans to allow you to build one of these Trebuchets in your own backyard. Ideal for dealing with the neighbours' noisy dog...

As Nick indicates Heinlein's influence in the comments to the post below, I would not be at all surprised if, along with the moat, Flea Towers has one or two of these scattered about the place to provide the opportunity to goe medieval with unwanted visitors, Jehovah's Witnesses, socons and other riff raff...


So that's what happened...

I was influenced a lot by Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, but more by their entire body of works than by any particular book.
I know Heinlein was a huge influence in my youth. I wonder how many other bloggers, right or left, were touched by this trinity of hard science fiction writers.

I note that it would be awfully difficult to extract the sorts of messages Heinlein et. al. offered from the works of J.K. Rowling or Phillip Pullman, both of whom I throughly enjoy.


Are We Ready Yet?

Since then, the credibility of the tapes has died the proverbial death of a thousand cuts, as media organizations have gotten forensic audio experts to weigh in on whether the tapes were sliced and diced to make Grewal look better and the Liberals look worse.

Any professional political outfit would have had Harper hold the press conference with Grewal, release the entirety of the tapes, unaltered, untranslated and unedited, and then announce that the master copies were going into the hands of a respected, independent third party who would be responsible for turning them over to law enforcement officials.

But obviously we're not dealing with a professional political outfit here.
edmonton sun
No, indeed we're not. It is difficult to imagine a more inept manner in which to treat potentially incriminating evidence. The bright sparks at CPC headquarters surely realized that there would be material on the tapes which made Grewal look like a slime bucket. Which should not have been the point because the import of the tapes lay in the fact they prove - and continue to prove - that the Liberals are so desperate to cling to power that they were more than happy to lay on the comfy fur for any CPC slime bucket who might be thinking of defecting.

A point which the Liberal would have had a hard time answer had the CPC simply released the tapes.

Nice to see the Sun is picking up the idea the CPC should have turned the tapes over to an independent person...wonder where they heard it first?