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Jay Currie

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6/25/2005

Private, Public Debates

No, I'm not talking about Canadian health care:

Such is the fashion for public debate in London at the moment, that two societies were debating the same subject, broadly speaking, on the same night last week. Intelligence2 debated whether sexual intercourse really did begin in 1963.
the telegraph
What a lovely idea. instead of the media spun pap which passes for debate in our House of Commons or, God help us in the leader's debate, you have a bunch of people get together, have a few cocktails and, in the spirit of a bygone age, orate, rebut and - if I was running it - win a bottle of champagne for a decent performance.

Very adult, rather fun and beats the hell out of whatever is on TV.

Lovely

They first met in the cafeteria, then later shared a prison condo. When Veronneau found out about Homolka's past with Paul Bernardo, she says was already in love.
ctv news
Karla Homolka's former lover speaks...I am not really interested in listening but thought it nice to know that Canada's prisons run to condos. Charming.

Fix was in

Every so often veteran horse bettors get a buzz. "There's stable money on the fifth." The buzz is all about the punter's belief that, despite the safeguards and the committees once in a while the trainers and the jockeys get together to ensure that a long shot wins a race. Most of the time the buzz is wrong. Sometimes it isn't.

Looks like there was a little stable money on the table in Iran.

Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a self-proclaimed ``fundamentalist,'' is leading vote counts in Iran's presidential election based on preliminary results, the Interior Ministry said.

Ahmadinejad, 48, was ahead of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 70, by 17 million votes to 9.8 million, the ministry said today in a statement. It didn't provide a total participation figure. Some 29.3 million Iranians voted in the first round on June 17.
bloomberg
Now, here's a little hint on stable money. Once in a very long while the stable miscalculates and puts enough money on the fix that the longshot's odd drop - fast. On the math it looks like turnout for the second round is 26.8 million and rising. The original number, 29 million, was almost certainly a fraud. If Ahmadinejad wins with over 30 million a lot of mullahs noses will be that much longer.

Update: Check out Publius Pundit for updates and live pics of deserted polling stations in Iran. Essentially a donkey won the Kentucky Derby...but there was no fraud you understand.
Interior ministry officials monitored polling stations for evidence of malpractice, with some 300 complaints of electoral violations in Tehran alone, the Associated Press news agency reports.
bbc
Time for Iranians to gett out the whistles and the pots and pans...Green is a great Islamic colour. Looks good on a scarf.

6/24/2005

Grrr!

Blogger seems to have forgotten how wide this blog is supposed to be or something else has gon wrong with the template so there is a big gap...I will now try to get rid of the gap...

Vancouver

I spent the day over in Vancouver yesterday. The bizarre bus scheduling in Victoria - which has the only bus to the ferry arrive seven minutes after the hourly Vancouver ferry leaves, means the entire exercise takes five hours to get over can't take away from the sheer beauty of the voyage.

Vancouver itself is looking terribly up to the minute. Lots of road construction, new buildings clambering out of the ground, growing excitment about the 2010 Olympics; but I was struck by how much of the charm of the city I grew up in has been sacrificed to its "world class" aspirations.

The first thing which hits you is just how Chinese the city has become. I was travelling by bus on the West and East sides of the city and was a white minority of one for most of my trips. Twenty years of immigration have transformed the city.

Architecturally there is not a single streetscape which does not boast a few fully built out, double front doored, fake pillared spec houses with their stucco rotting and their drapes tightly shut on a hot afternoon. These houses are stark reminders of just how dreadful design can be when the main specifications are maximum floor space ratio and construction cheapness.

I spent most of the day in and around the hip, white, ghetto of Commercial Drive. The pretty lesbians with tats and piercings, lots of young families, the old bald Italian guys who have been hanging out on the drive for forty years, neo hippies and guys dressed in black were on parade. In a sense Commercial is the route not taken in Vancouver.

Twenty years ago next year Vancouver invited the world to Expo 86. As a piece of boosterism, Expo 86 worked. It drove housing prices to the sky, it attracted flight capital and people from Hong Kong and Taiwan. It put Vancouver on the international map.

Which is terrifically exciting and all; but what it did as well is reduce a great provincial city to third tier world status. Now people could pay New York prices for housing and have a view. But what the Expo moment also did is cut of any sort of indigenous evolution of Vancouver's culture and style. More or less overnight the city became one more bland stop on the international circuit.

There is no question the city is still very beautiful. Allan Fotheringham pointed out that was virtually impossible to destroy. But it has lost so very much of what made it an extrodinary place to have grown up.

6/22/2005

This Should be Fun

But he (Blair) said that modernisation had to come sooner rather than later.

It would be too late to wait until 2014 to change the fact that 40% of the EU budget currently goes on agriculture, for example, he said.

"There is no reason for large transfers of money from countries like Germany and Britain to other rich countries to continue, as was proposed last week."

Last week France's President Jacques Chirac appeared to call the UK stance on farm spending "pathetic" as EU budget talks broke down.
bbc
Sort of like telling the sports fishermen of Newfoundland that, well, the cod are not coming back.

What is sad about Blair's position is that it has to happen at all. Had the French weaned their peasants farmers off the government teat over the last four decades of the Common Agricultural Policy there is every chance that those farmers who remained would be vastly better off.

However, much like rice farming in Japan, the economics of farming in France matter much less than the optics which means that the pathetic Chirac will be going to bat for the absurd farm policies which, without the endless willingness of the Germans, would have bankrupted France thirty years ago.

Shock and Awe? Well, Cash and Carry

Citing documents from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York, Waxman said the United States flew in nearly $12 billion overall in U.S. currency to Iraq from the United States between May 2003 and June 2004.

This money was used to pay for Iraqi salaries, fund Iraqi ministries and also to pay some U.S. contractors.

In total, more than 281 million individual bills, including more than 107 million $100 bills, were shipped to Iraq on giant pallets loaded onto C-130 planes, the report said.
washington post via the zerb
I don't see anything terribly wrong with this. But I suspect other people will not be quite so sanguine.

They must have really, really, trusted those pilots.

History

Not knowing history is worse than ignorance of math, literature or almost anything else. Ignorance of history is undermining Western society's ability to talk straight and think straight. Parents must attack the problem by teaching their own children the facts. Only fools would rely on the schools.
david gelernter, la times
Gelernter is writing about US history but exactly the same thing can be written about Canadian schools.

When the Liberals decided to ignore a confidence vote for nine days until they could lure Ms. Stonach across the floor virtually no Canadians had a clue that Dithers and crew were dumping 800 years of constitutional history down the memory hole. They didn't know because no one had taught them even the rudiments of constitutional history.

The jolly picture of the poor, disposessed Haida and other aboriginal groups as Canada's original owners and people who somehow were closer to nature than the Europeans who arrived in North America, completely ignores the slaveholding, the wars and the sheer brutality of these people. Collective white guilt overwhelms any objective appraisal of the nature of the culture North American Indians created. (Here's a hint - the praries were simply burned over deliberately once in a while to keep them open for the buffalo. Human sacrifice was commonplace with many tribes and civilizations.) History is subsumed to whatever ideological agenda is driving the school system this particular decade.

Gelernter's plea to parents to teach their kids history is important; but, in a sense, a school system which has ceased to teach history objectively and well has really ceased to teach much of anything. If parents have to spend their time filling in the facts then why are they sending their kids to school in the first place?


One Tonne Rick

It's early days but Rick Mercer has a blog...slags all political parties but, of course, does not count the NDP as political party. Funny bit on how "The Monday Report" has now been moved to Tuesday.

As ever with celebrity blogs - no blogroll and no comments. My God these people are afraid of comments. Much noise about legal liability no doubt.

Blogrolls can be fixed, comments enabled...welcome to the blogosphere Rick.

Update: This explains a lot.

6/21/2005

Damn!

An experimental solar-driven spacecraft went missing after its launch from a Russian submarine on Tuesday, but backers of the privately funded mission hoped it would be found in an unplanned orbit rather than floating in the sea off Russia.

Cosmos 1, the world's first solar-sail spacecraft, blasted off in a converted Russian ballistic missile from the Barents Sea at the start of a mission meant to show a group of space enthusiasts could kick-start a race to the stars on a shoestring budget of $4 million.

Backers at the Planetary Society in Pasadena believe the disc-shaped craft either veered off course during its rocket-propelled trip into orbit or failed to separate from the Russian-made Volna rocket that launched it into space.
reuters
It will take a few more launches....But we're on our way.

Hmm...And C-60 benefits whom??

Those interested in the bill could have saved themselves a lot of time by watching the CBC's coverage of the story last night. While I made it into the piece, more noteworthy was Graham Henderson of CRIA delight at the bill's introduction contrasted with an actual artist, the Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page, who expressed doubt as to whether the bill would actual benefit artists rather than just multinational corporations.

Most telling, however, was the appearance of Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla. The Minister picked her photo-op to discuss the bill. She didn't pick a library or a school or a university lab or the National Arts Centre or any other place that would tie copyright to the concerns of Canadians. No, she did her interview from an HMV, the foreign-owned record store. That is the proverbial picture telling a thousand words about Bill C-60.
michael geist
Geist also has a post on the new amendments' effects on ISPs which are not insignficant.

On reflection the saddest part of C-60 is just how utterly predictable and rather pointless it all is. Literally, the amendments are solving yesterday's problems tomorrow. The only stakeholders whose concerns are recognized are corporate copyright holders. The only technology which is addressed is the earliest versions of P2P.

The effect of the amendments will be to habituate a generation of music fans to breaking a law which has no relevance to how they actually function on the net.

Here is the thing: for kids under ten the internet is no a "telecommunications device", it's a toaster. An appliance. They simply have no conception that there were ever computers which did not hook up to Google. Such an idea is as crazy as a rotary dial phone or a manual typewriter: a quaint relic of an age before time. Which means they are entirely comfortable with digitial information and tend to see all digital information as the same. Playing a CD on the computer, watching a DVD on the computer or watching a TV show on the hard drive are simply things you can do with your computer.

What the federal government had the opportunity to do with C-60 is to move copyright law into the digital world where those kids live. Instead it opted for a world where you buy digital products at a store. Essentially an industrial age view.

The Liberals faced with a chance to transform copyright for a post industrial age have decided to pretend that industrial concepts still apply. Which simply dooms the entire copyright idea to irrelevance.


No Voters, No Problem!

anecdotal evidence from all over the country indicated a very low turnout, as of late afternoon. Despite this, the mullahs trotted out rosy reports of big voter turnouts, and even broadcast "live" TV coverage of voters queued up, waiting patiently to make their voices heard.

The only problem was that the pictures were from past elections. One woman called up a Tehran radio station to say that she was sitting at home watching the tube, and saw herself voting. Very droll indeed.
michael ledeen
There is strong evidence that Iran's voter turnout for the Presidential election was a rigged flop with only 10-20% of the eligible voters turning up at the polls. No surprise here.

What this suggests is that the mullahs have lost what little support they have had with the general population of Iran. This, in turn, means the mullahs may be able to fix elections with impunity but that the elections will begin to mean less and less in terms of the actual legitimacy of the Iranian government.

At some point, and that point may be quite soon, the ability of the mullahs to actually, rather than theoretically, govern may begin to crumble. While they will still have the Revolutionary Guards and the other assorted militas and thugs to enforce their will, the ability of the Iranian middle class and the young people in Iran, to effect regime change will grow.

6/20/2005

Caving on Copyright

Bill C-60 (PDF) which amends the Copyright Act was introduced in Parliament today. Law Professor Michael Geist comments:

Further, there is the notice and notice system, which obligates ISPs to send a notice if there is a claim of copyright infringement and retain "records that will allow the identity of the person to whom the electronic location belongs to be determined" but they are permitted to charge for the service (the government will set the maximum fee). ISPs that fail to abide by these provisions face only statutory damages of either $5,000 or $10,000.

Anyone who has followed copyright reform history will not be surprised to learn that individual Canadians are the big losers today. Although the bill could have been worse (the U.S. version of the law is even more user-unfriendly) and there are some provisions that permit the use of digital works in an electronic and teaching environment (filled with all sorts of limitations) that is cold comfort to millions of Canadians who find themselves with a bill that does virtually nothing to address their concerns.
michael geist
The good news is that the right of private copying remains. Which means downloading would still be legal; but there are severe restrictions on what you can do with a private copy.
There are also some new limitations on what can be done with copies made under the private copying system. In particular, it becomes an infringement to knowingly sell, rent, trade, distribute or communicate copies made for private use under Section 80(1)
micheal geist
In effect the amendments to the act, which are contained at section 15 of C-60 will make any form of sharing of a private copy an infringement. The amended section 2.1(c)is particularly broad:
to communicate it by telecommunication to the public or to one or more persons in particular
C-60
There is every possibility that this could mean that a person sharing a song from a friend's hard drive will amount to an infringement on the basis of this amendment. It will certainly be an infringement if you email an MP3 or give your friend - or yourself - access to a song via the internet.

No one is terribly surprised that the Liberals have decided to adopt this restrictive set of rules. The American record industry has hated the Canada hole from the day Mr. Justice von Finckenstein of the Federal Court confirmed that our copyright law was substantially different from American and WTO copyright norms because we had the media levy. Nothing in C-60 eliminates the media levy; rather it simply restricts the rights of Canadians to share their private copies.

At one level I am unconcerned simply because the advent of Bit Torrents and the ongoing drive towards networked peer to peer sharing means that enforcement of even this draconian law will be impossible.

However, what the Liberals have done is eliminated the possibility that Canada might evolve a copyright regime which balanced the rights of the users against the rights of the artists. There is no balance or even any hint of a balance in C-60. Once again the Liberals have collapsed in the face of special interests.

This is bad, uncreative and profoundly conservative law. It needs to be opposed and defeated.

As we do not have any serious Opposition in Canada it will be up to music users and the people who support the artists who make Canaidan and world music to work for the defeat of this cave in to corporate music and the destruction of Canadians' basic right to internet privacy.

Update: Any doubt that you may have that this set of ammendemnts is a complete cave in to the record companies at the expense of both users and artists will be put to rest by reading the FAQs put up by the Ministers responsible Read it here (PDF - because it would not do for this to get all over the net.) (Not a word about the media levy I might add.)

The Zerb...

The Zerb was made for blogging. Yes, I do hate her politics. Yes, she is the poster girl for Canaidan moonbattery....but it just does not matter. This gal can blog.

Word is that, last night at the paper's in-house awards bash at the Liberty Grand, very few editorial staffers were in evidence, despite the booze and cheezies.

Could they be boycotting the bosses over their cosying up to their merged and converged corporate masters?

UPPITY DATE: Ran into Ryan tonight at the MuchMusic Video Awards and he said this part is not true. (Monday, June 20, 2005 @ 12:16 a.m.)
azerbic
This is what Wonkette was supposed to be but isn't.

Writing "items" is a largely lost art in the newspaper world. Just bits of information which, in themselves, mean virtually nothing; but, as a body, describe a particular world far more exactly than a six part piece running 25,000 words.

The Zerb knows Canadian media and Canadian media politics. The fact she has been run over several times by guys like Bob Tarantino has not hurt her a bit - it simply taught her the ground rules of blogging.

Now she's got the rules down and she is simply flying. Fish meets water. Outstanding.

Adieu mon amies

"In all likelihood the Parti Quebecois will become the Quebec government within the next couple of years and Gilles Duceppe will cross into Quebec politics to become the Premier. There will be another referendum with a strong likelihood that it will pass.

Why do I say that?

Because no one will be able to speak for Canada in any sort of credible way. The NDP and Tories are both without influence in Quebec and the Liberals will still be in disgrace.

Let's assume that the referendum fails. Separatists will just view that (as they have in the past) as a temporary setback in the inexorable march to independence.

But that's not the whole picture. Alberta and British Columbia are becoming less and less enchanted with their place in the country. This means that to the extent the Liberals offer goodies to Quebec, far western Canadians will see this as further evidence of the fact that they have always been and will always be short changed in the Ottawa power structure."
rafe mair, the tyee
Rafe pretty much nails it. In fact, it is more or less impossbile for the Liberals to do anything in Quebec simply because, if Gormery finds nothing else, he will find that the Adscam activities were in direct contravention of Quebec's election laws. While Kinsella and Chretien may have thought that they were at war there was no excuse for breaking the law. Which means that the Liberal Party will be silenced in the next referendum campaign. If the Liberals form another government, which there is every possibility they will, there is no chance at all that the Government of Canada will be welcome in the Quebec debate.

And Rafe is dead right about Alberta and BC. There is not the slightest reason to believe that we are going to be willing to tolerate the sort of wholesale bribery which was used to keep Quebec in Canada the last time out. And this time both provinces will have the wherewithal to simply say - enough!

If the Liberals are re-elected by Ontario with a smattering of support in a few cities in the West the ability of the Liberals to claim to speak for the rest of Canada will be non-existant. Even if the Liberals win seats in the West those seats will be won in riding which are culturally disconnected from the concerns which will drive Western Canadians out of Canada.

And, what is particularily interesting, is that Rafe is writing for The Tyee which, though I occassionally write for them, is a rational lefty magazine. It is no longer just right wing "kooks" who are saying that the West will not tolerate more Quebec bribes.

Mars Ahoy

Tomorrow is the scheduled launch of Cosmos 1 the first solar sail craft humans have put into space. It will be fired into orbit by a Russian sub. Then it will deploy solar sails and ground controllers will see whether thy can tack on the solar wind.

The Christian Science Monitor covers the nuts and bolts and some speculation but for me at least the real excitement is in what amounts to a ferry service to Mars and beyond. A solar sail powered craft which never slowed down could use the Martian and Earth gravity wells to change direction. Outbound the craft would accelerate, inbound it would furl its sails and coast. Do that a few times and you would have a craft flying very fast indeed.

The point is that the craft would have a constant acceleration towards Mars and that acceleration would be increasing with each round trip. And with each round trip the time it took to reach Mars (ignoring obital issues) would be reduced. Years ago Robert Heinlein pointed out that a craft with a constant acceleration of 1/10 of Earth's gravity could reach Mars in ten days.

Now, obviously, ther would be the small matter of catching the interplanetary ferry. But designing interception trajectories which called for a brief moment of high acceleration near the Earth end of the loop is not impossible.

At the moment, the scale of the Cosmos 1 project is minimal. 50 foot sails, a two hundred pound payload; but there is no reason in principle why this could not be radically expanded so that the sails would be on the order of several miles across and capable of pulling along fairly massive objects.

The key thing here is the understanding that if the ferry to Mars was going by every month or so (and there were three of them) there would be no need to send all the equipment needed for Mars exploration in a single shot. It would be quite possible to set up an orbiting supply dump and stock that up before ever setting foot on Mars.

Coyne??

Andrew is missing...no posts since the 2nd of June. While this is good news for this site in that people come from Coyne's link pages, it would be nice if he posted once in a while. Of course, Andrew does this once in a while...but he is missed.

Alberta Bound

James Fallows writes an imaginary memo to a 2015 American Presidential candidate in this months' issue of the Atlantic. Like everything Fallows writes, it is beautifully researched and written. It is also a very bleak picture of the American future. And it is predicated on two assumptions about the world economy: first, that the Chinese are going to be in a position to seize economic dominance from America over the next decade. Second, that we are about to enter a period of radically rising oil prices which will cripple the gas dependent American economy.

The Chinese assumption is, to a degree, realistic; but it ignores the huge problems which China faces - chief among them the fact virtually the whole of China is running out of water. (Which I wrote about here.)

The oil assumption is much less realistic. The world in general is running out of cheap oil. The reserves of the Middle East have, pretty much, been discovered. However, with oil trading at $58.00 a barrel, the days of financing Saudi princes are fast drawing to a close.

The National Energy Board estimates there are approximately 1.6 trillion barrels of crude bitumen saturating the ground in northern Alberta. Bitumen -- a form of heavy, thick oil laden with sulphur and deficient in hydrogen -- can be refined into synthetic crude oil to make everything from gasoline to plastics. It is the lifeblood of every industrialized economy. According to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, about 178 billion barrels of bitumen are economically recoverable using existing technology -- enough to produce more than 150 billion barrels of crude.

If these estimates are accurate, Canada's oil reserves rank second behind only Saudi Arabia's 260 billion barrels. And there are many who believe the current oil sands assessments understate the true potential here. The AEUB has projected that rising prices and improved technology could ultimately push the oil sands yield close to 300 billion barrels, which would make it the richest petroleum field in the world. By 2015, the oil sands are expected to be producing roughly three million barrels of petroleum a day. Assuming prices will average US$40 a barrel (well below where they are today), that suggests annual revenues of close to US$43 billion.
Macleans
Peak oil enthusiasts and the folks who are convinced that america is going to hell in a handbasket tend to conviently forget that there are all those barrels of oil a few hundred miles north of Edmonton. In fact, the tar sands are so vast that the current reserve estimates, based on a $40.00 per barrel assumption may understate the reserves by an order of magnitude. Alberta may have more oil than Saudi if prices rise to $60.00 and stay there.

Along with making Alberta stupidly rich, the oil sands have the potential, in themselves, to ensure America's energy security for the next serveral decades even without the technical innovations and conservation strategies which $60.00 oil will spur.

The Macleans article quotes Barry Cooper on the effects of this mega oil wealth,
And as the gap grows between rich Alberta and the poorer parts of the country, the demands to spread the wealth are sure to follow -- especially if prices for gasoline and heating oil skyrocket, as many predict. It's guaranteed to fan the flames of western discontent, Cooper says. "It's Alberta's oil if you live in Alberta and it's Canada's oil if you live in Ottawa," he says. "Energy has become the basic fault line of federalism."
macleans
While Cooper is likely right it is difficult to imagine a federal government trying a version of the NEP again - they know that this time Alberta would be gone in a matter of months. More to the point, the nature of the extraction process at the oil sands means that there will be a huge demand for labour in Fort McMurray. The place is already crawling with Maritimers who got fed up with sitting on pogy waiting for the return of the cod. More will follow and, while it will denude the Maritimes and the more depressed regions of Ontario and the praries, the employment attractions of the oil sands and the economy which services them will rejig the balance of power in Canada. Especially after Quebec leaves.

Viewed from the American perspective, the oil sands are an economically feasible solution to the problem of national energy security. The cost of extracting the oil means that there will never be a return to fifty cent a gallon gas; but no one was seriously thinking that was going to happen.

The oil sands are, however, a stick in the eye for the happy souls whose Bush dementia has lead them to conclude that the American economy is finished. An assured fifty to one hundred year supply of oil, admitedly at a relatively high price, means the American economy has plenty of time to re-invent itself in the face of Chinese competition. Even better, the higher price means the incentives are there for the innovation necessary to wean America and the rest of the world from fossil fuels. And, as the oils sands production ramps up, the need to treat the Middle East as anything other than a minor irritant will diminish.

6/19/2005

The, er, Saudi Insurgency

Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat, gave no specific numbers, for foreign fighters as a whole or for the percentage from Saudi Arabia. He said he was told repeatedly that the totals are going up and that Saudis are ''a disproportionate number.''
....
Part of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq is to improve living conditions and security for ordinary Iraqis and thereby reduce support for the homegrown insurgency. That calculation won't work with foreign fighters, Biden said.

''If you turn on lights, get the air conditioning running and clean up the sewage, that ain't going to have any impact on the jihadist coming across from Saudi Arabia with a bomb strapped on his stomach,'' said Biden, who has made five trips to Iraq since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein a little more than two years ago.
miami hearld via harry's place
So a bunch of Saudi jihadis are blowing themselves up in Iraq. Joe Biden sees this as a negative and indicative of an inability on the part of the Bush Administration to fight the war effectively. Is it? The fact that the so called insurgency is reduced to suicide bombings strongly suggests the coalition and, increasingly, the Iraqi's themselves, are getting a handle on the situation. And, if Biden's information is correct, that the "insurgency" is using Saudis to wear the bomb belts suggests that it has run out of Iraqis dumb enough to blow themselves up in a lost cause.

So what is Joe's point? As near as I can tell it is that there are foreigners coming to Iraq to blow up Iraqis and this is a problem. Yes. Indeed. And it is a problem which the Iraqis will deal with simply because they will get sick of the carnage those foreigners inflict.

Far from suggesting that the insurgency is doing well, Biden's report suggests it is at the end of its rope. Because now what there seems to be in Iraq is an attack on Iraqis run by a Jordanian and staffed by Saudis. Hardly a popular uprising.

Mean...but fair

I'll say it again: the Conservative Party of Canada needs new strategists. The current bunch would manage to get swindled at a church bazaar.
babbling brooks