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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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I'm Stumped

Okay, maybe I am just to weird to be invited...but there I was reading the very readable Monte Solberg and he says:

On Tuesday Stephen Harper began the process of rolling out some of the Conservative Party election platform. Many of us will be helping him deliver that message this summer on the barbeque circuit. Imagine that, talking about ideas. My hunch is that the public will gobble it up.
monte solberg
So where is this barbeque circuit. Is there a secret large numbers of folks in Red Deer arrive at a pre-determined location looking for a glimpse of political leaders with their ties off? No, really, where is it?? Is it a prairie thing??

And this talking about ideas notion...has anyone told Vic??


Ferry Aground

bc ferry agroundThere are divers in the water as I write but it appears there are no injuries so far in this accident. Let's hope that stays.

Meanwhile, this could have a surprisingly large effect on the BC economy. If that terminal is significantly damaged or if the ferry itself is, one critical link to Vancouver Island as well as other locations serviced from Horseshoe Bay will be severed the day before Canada day...not good, not good at all.


An exodus from Stephen Harper's office has decimated the Conservative leader's PR team as he strives to appear more friendly and election-ready.

The Canadian Press has learned that Harper is set to lose two more communications staff as he embarks on a national trek of campaign-style whistle stops.

He has become a magnet for criticism as the Tories lag well behind the Liberals in public opinion polls despite the sponsorship scandal.

Communications director Geoff Norquay is resigning from the post less than a year into the job.

Strategic communications director Yaroslav Baran is also leaving.
No question that the CPC and Harper have had a communication problem. And the handling of the Grewel tapes simply proved that the operation's wheels had fallen off. However, the real problem is not communications; rather it is that the CPC seems incapable of coming up with anything to communicate.

N=1 has reached his tipping point.
The actions of the CPC surrounding same-sex marriage are changing my mind.

Harper and the CPC appear to be opposing SSM with a tenacity, a ferocity, that they reserve for absolutely nothing else. Not health care, property rights, war, trade, separatism, terrorism... nothing. It is easy to conclude that fighting an inevitably losing battle against allowing gay Canadians to wed one another must be the single most important thing in the CPC platform. We hear from the CPC nothing but compromise on the issues that will actually affect my personal life: compromise on taxes, compromise on medicare, compromise on fatty foods for Heaven's sake. But on a matter which will not directly affect me at all, the CPC is ready (aye, ready!) to Fight To The Death. It has become readily apparent to me that the CPC doesn't actually care about my issues at all. They evidently care about the issues of those who don't much like gay people, and who don't think homosexuality is normal. But I like gay people--at least, I like them as much as straight people, which is to say I like them as much as I like any individual. And I think homosexuality is normal--at least, it's as "normal" as any type of human predilection in which no-one is injured and in which all participants engage willingly. I accept that for millions of Canadian Christians, Jews, and Muslims, homosexuality is considered evil. They're wrong, and I no longer wish to associate with a party that acts as if it agrees with these Canadians.
I quote at length because N=1 is, I suspect, a perfect sample of the thinking occurring in apartments, condos and starter houses across Canada. People, young urban people who like Southpark and who have grown up in a largely secular society are asking themselves why they would support the CPC. What's the point when the CPC is committed, apparently, to yelling "me too" nearly every time the Liberal make a policy statement. Except of course on an issue which, to anyone under fifty - or is it forty? - is about extending equal rights to our fellow Canadians.

My friend The Ambler, arrives at much the same position for entirely different but equally valid reasons:

"Because it's being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians," Harper told CBC Newsworld.

"The truth is most federalist MPs oppose this."

Stephen Harper: political genius. The Liberals accuse him of being "in bed" with the separatists. What to do? If you're Stephen Harper, you don't instruct the Liberals on the nature of Parliament. No, that would require some allegiance to principle. What you do instead is to raise the Liberals and suggest that Quebec's votes don't really count. Well done, Stephen!
the ambler
And, Kevin being Kevin he is perfectly capable of determining the ongoing effect of Harper's hapless leadership style,
Several of the "Blogging Tory" sites come with this warning (or a similar one): "This blog not only endorses the Conservative Party of Canada but also Stephen Harper as its leader." After due consideration, I have also decided to support the Stupid Party and not only but especially endorse Stephen Harper as its leader.

This decision may surprise faithful readers, but it has long been my position that not only must the Conservative Party be destroyed but that everything it stands for must be dealt a mortal blow. And Stephen Harper is doing very nicely indeed on both these fronts. Especially of late. Especially today.

After today's little outburst, "govern" is not a verb that will appear in any appraisals of Stephen Harper's future as a federal political leader. If he had the slightest self-awareness, he'd make my prediction come true and resign by Canada Day. I know that he doesn't, and I'm guessing that he won't, and so I couldn't be happier. Another year of Stephen Harper's leadership will do to the Conservative Party what Stockwell Day's leadership did to the Alliance Party: kill it stone dead.
the ambler
The uneasy coalition of economic conservatives with socons which lies at the heart of the current incarnation of the CPC represents the triumph of hope over experience and is the single thing which is saving Dithers and his scoundrels. Regardless of whether Kevin's side or my side run the CPC the contradiction between the libertarian ethos of many fiscal conservatives and the theocratic impulses of the socons virtually ensure that no coherent, attractive, message can issue from the CPC.

So, in a longer term sense it is likely that the cure for the "stupid Party" is not the removal of Harper from office - he'll just be replaced with someone who political operatives think can win Ontario votes - and certainly not the replacement of John Norquay with Carolyn Stewart Olsen (on whom The Ambler is most instructive)but rather the end of the CPC in its present, Frankenstein, form.

The old body parts of the Progressives, the Conservatives, the Alliance and the Reform Party make a monster not a mandate. It is indeed scary. It even walks with a lurch, jigging and jagging from right to further right.

The next election is already lost. Lost because people like N=1 have had enough of the socons and lost because The Ambler would sooner have a root canal than vote for a person of so little principle as Harper. Lost because Nick Packwood cannot vote for a party which insults his friends and lost because Sean Macormick will not insult his friends and lost becauseNancy Fielding thinks that Harper's Bloc baiting in the C-38 debate is indefensible. Five votes which were Tory, or at least anti-Liberal, all lost.

[Update: And from Damian Penny, the vacationing sage of Corner Brook,
For the love of God, Steve, don't base the entire campaign around the gay-marriage issue. It's like giving the media and the Liberals a loaded gun.

Unsurprisingly, Kathy Shaidle, unmarried but loving it, weighs in,
No, see, we're all hip, urbane libertarian-type "conservatives" around here. We've got gay friends, see, and we can't let principles we never had to begin with interfere with those wild Oscar Night Parties at Seth and Raoul's. We don't want people to think we're boring and stupid like that preacher in Footloose or anything.....

South Park Conservativism has its place. We're all agreed that political correctness is a radioactive cultural pollutant that must be eradicated (and I was sure it would have been by now). Dennis Miller has lots of funny lines. P.J. O'Rourke is genuinely brilliant. And we have to kill terrorists and stuff.

So... that's what you're basing your worldview on? M'kay...

I don't see the point in being a "conservative" who isn't interested in conserving tradition, who doesn't instinctively look askance at selfish, frivolous court challenges, who suddenly develops a deep regard for "rights" and the lingo of victimology (i.e., "homophobia"). You're a libertarian. It's. O. K. Really. Say it to yourself until you get used to it. Start quoting Frank Zappa, and toss that bike helmet in the trash. You'll be so much happier.
relapsed catholic
(Note to Kathy: its about equal rights under the law, it isn't a "gay thing" at all.)

Once you start losing people of this quality, and gaining theocons like Kathy, the issue goes beyond communications, beyond leadership, right to the heart of the contradiction at the root of the CPC. Libertarians and socons have profoundly different agendas. And those agendas are politically incompatible.

The idea underlying the current CPC is that the libertarian and socon elements (as well as the "progressives") could unite in their desire to defeat the Liberals. It turns out that they can't. Nor is there much chance of the urban and the rural strains of conservatism meeting halfway in some sort of ideological suburb.

The monster will lurch into the next election. Like Strangelove's arm, assorted socons will pop up with scary remarks. Libertarians will despair and stay home in droves. Dithers will win, Canada will lose - again.

The hope in all of this is that Kevin's prediction will come true. The CPC will once more into the breech and then collapse. Dead. Stone dead.

Which will let us get on to the creation of the two parties of the right which are so badly pretending to be one. The villagers will light the torches and wave their scythes and, at least, let the monster rest in peace.


Conservative Childcare

The Conservatives will propose direct payments to all parents, combined with new tax incentives for companies to expand daycare in the workplace. Ambrose wouldn't say how much parents would get under the new social program, promising the details will be made public when Harper formally announces the scheme sometime in the next few weeks. But she defended the core strategy of giving parents money to spend however they like. By funnelling money to the provinces only for regulated daycare, she argued, the Liberals are doing nothing for stay-at-home parents, or for working moms and dads who leave young children with relatives or in unregulated care. "The only equitable way, the only universal way, to address this issue is to give the benefit directly to parents in the form of cash,"
Now, assuming for the moment that Harper does not screw this up by suddenly thinking it will spook the two Ontario voters left who might support the CPC, this sounds like a decent plan and one which could underscore the difference between the CPC and Liberal visions of Canada.

Not that this is new to readers of this blog as can be seen here.

Go Ralph Go!

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has suggested that his province may get out of the marriage business altogether in the wake of the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in the House of Commons Tuesday.

Regular readers will know that I wholeheartedly support SSM but with the ongoing proviso that the Government has no business in the marriage game in any even. Nice to see Ralph Klein at least toying with the idea.

I also like Ralph's brilliant coinage to describe his paucity of legal options: "We're out on a lurch."

This would be funny if it were not so sad

The new policy says the following types of treatment may indicate racial discrimination in work situations:

* Exclusion from formal or informal networks.
* Denial of mentoring or developmental opportunities such as secondments and training that was made available to others.
* Differential management practices such as excessive monitoring and documentation or deviation from written policies or standard practices.
* Disproportionate blame for an incident.
* Assignment to less desirable positions or job duties.
* Treating normal differences of opinion as confrontational or insubordinate.
* Characterizing normal communication as rude or aggressive.
* Penalizing a person for failing to get along with someone else, e.g. a co-worker or manager, when one of the reasons for the tension is racially discriminatory attitudes or behaviour of the co-worker or manager.

It retires the term "minority group" in favour of "racialized persons," a category that goes beyond skin colour and ethnic background.

"Racialization extends to people in general but also to specific traits and attributes, which are connected in some way to racialized people and are deemed to be 'abnormal' and of less worth,'" it says. "Individuals may have prejudices related to various racialized characteristics."
Pretty much anything which might go on in the workplace is now to be interpreted as a Human Rights violation.

And I love the invention of the term "racialized". For example, would a blonde joke qualify? Would white people applying for a job in a Chinese restaurant have a case? Is fat a racial issue? Are homosexuals a race? Do those of us blessed with surprisingly well defined - racists would say big - noses have a racialized characteristic...what about fat lips or a bubble butt, curly hair, freckles?

Appropirately enough I found this via Fark



Souter's opinion says explicitly that the Court would leave any review of Sony’s scope for another day. This means that new technology will not be illegal just because it is capable of being used for infringement. What makes the Internet file-sharing technology potentially illegal here, according to Souter, is evidence going beyond its basic characteristics or awareness of how it may be used, and revealing "statements or actions directed to promoting infringement."
scotus blog
I've not read the opinions in Grokster but it is an interesting idea - if you promote your sharing software as a means to share copyrighted material then you are infringing; however, if you build something like BitTorrents and are extremely careful not to say anything as to what it might be used for, the technology in itself, is not illegal. As Scotus points out, this leaves the ratio in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios intact.

Bram Cohen, the inventor of Bit Torrent, has been very carful indeed to avoid any mention of copyright infringment as a use for torrents. He has no advertising on the site where you can download Bit Torrent. I suspect that in light of the Supreme Court's decision today this is going to look really, really, smart.

Now, a lot of the reporting is going to protray this decision as a "win" for the entertainment industry...
The U.S. Supreme Court bolstered the entertainment industry's anti-piracy campaign, saying Grokster Ltd. and other Internet file-sharing networks may bear responsibility when users illegally download music and films.
However, were I advising a copyright holder all that I could say is that we now know what evidence we have to have to make a case for secondary liability. "Rip, Mix, Burn" is no longer a good ad jingle for Apple. But it leaves the underlying technology legal.

Establishing intent is one of the most difficult things to do at law. Particularily when you are dealing with people as smart as Bram Cohen.

Update: It's all in the footnotes as it so often is in Supreme Court opinions:
The other 3 Justices (Scalia, Souter, Thomas) take no position on this (on the grounds that it's not necessary to decide *this* case, where there is such evidence of inducement/encouragement. Though there is a footnote in which they seem to suggest that they're on the Breyer side of the line. Footnote 12 (thanks to Michael Froomkin for pointing this out to me):

"Of course, in the absence of other evidence of intent, a court would be unable to find contributory infringement liability merely based on a failure to take affirmative steps to prevent infringement, if the device otherwise was capable of substantial noninfringing uses. Such a holding would tread too close to the Sony safe harbor."

Update II: Over at SCOTUS there is an excellent discussion of Grokster. Go read it. I commented on one post:
Looking at the technology of Bit Torrents it is pretty clear that it is, in the nomenclature of arms control, "dual use".

However, Bram Cohen - the inventor of Bit Torrent - has been bright enough not to induce any infringing uses and appears not to profit from any such use.

The standard would appear to be "clear inducement" to infringe and that places a significant onus on a copyright holder.

What the Grokster decision does appear to do is provide a roadmap for people inventing P2P technologies. First, do not induce, second make an attempt, however lame, to install a user option filter which would spot copyright marked songs/movies and make them non-downloadable.

Follow that roadmap and you will have a good, if not bullet proof, defence to any charge of contributory infringement.


Mugabe Out Now

BRITISH government diplomats have held secret talks in Zimbabwe aimed at persuading Robert Mugabe to hand over power and return his devastated nation to the Commonwealth, it was claimed last night.

Senior sources in London and Zimbabwe told Scotland on Sunday that the dictator's closest allies have been pressing the British government to relax its stance against Mugabe in advance of an attempted breakthrough in the stalemate at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.
scotland on sunday
Now this would be interesting. With the assorted dictators and autocrats of Africa staying silent enough to attract the condemnation of the EU and between 200,000 and 1.5 million people left homeless by Mugabe's drive to, well, "Drive Out Trash", the Foreign Office realizes that there is not going to be tons of support for massive aid to Africa with this nasty little man still in office.

But there is a problem, fine old chaps like President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Ben Mkapa of Tanzania cannot possibly allow an old comrade like Mugabe to be deposed. No, that would never do. So the Brits are suggesting that the slime be "retain an over-arching role as the 'Father of the Nation'" Which would make a civilized country gag; but it would be better than the brutal, politcal barbarism into which Zimbabwe is decending.

I trust Dithers will be calling for the brutal old tyrant's resignation shortly...Though, perhaps, someone should get on the phone to the real architect of Canadian foreign policy, Doug Kilgour.

(For really good information on the situation in Zimbabwe head over to Gateway Pundit.)

Meeting the Terrorists

The U.S. military in Iraq has been holding face-to-face meetings with some Iraqi leaders of the insurgency there, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the U.S. commander in charge of Iraq confirmed yesterday.

The talks are part of the military's revised campaign to drive a wedge between the Iraqi and foreign insurgents, according to U.S. commanders. Pentagon officials have acknowledged the new strategy but have not, until now, spoken openly about efforts to make contact with some Iraqi insurgent leaders.
This strikes me as smart. The jihadis are all about a wacked idea of an Islamo fascist caliphate; the ex-Baathists and Sunni are more about trying to avoid being hung by their heels as the pointy end of the Saddam regime and the worry of a minority which held power for twenty years being faced with a democracy in which it is a scant minority. With the former the only compromise involves forty virgins, with the later there is every chance of coming to terms or, in the case of some of the more dispicable, cutting a plea bargain.

The end game is to deny the foreign jihadis anywhere to operate from. That means shutting down Sunni sanctuaries and that means shifting the Sunni population from a hostile neutrality to a relatively benign neutrality. Poltically this can and should be done.

[One note: I virtually never refer to the terrorists in Iraq as insurgents. They use terror, they are terrorists. And the importance of this is illustrated by the wapo grafs above. An insurgent is a person rising in revolt against a government - but a revolt is a matter for the people of a state. It may, barely, be possible to describe the indigenous Iraqi terrorists as insurgents, it is impossible to describe the Saudis and Jordanians as anything but jihadis or terrorists depending on their actions.)

Welsh's "Al-Q'aeda's State of Play"

I was cruising about looking at various blogs and found Ian Welsh writing at The Blogging of the President about how things were coming up roses for Osama bin Laden and al-Q'aeda and their various allies. Welsh takes as true the following:

The Iraq war could never be won, because, as the Downing Street memos so eloquently note, there was never a victory condition. There was never an end state which could be said to constitute a victory. Since there was no end objective, there could be no planning to reach it.

The sad thing is that while the West has foundered, failing to win in Afghanistan and busily losing in Iraq, bin Laden does have a plan, does have an end state he wants to get to which would be considered victory and has been taking steps to get there.
the blogging of the president
I could not help but post a response which I repost here with a few changes,
The victory condition in Iraq is the ability of the Iraqi government to maintain internal security without outside help. There is nothing unattainable about that and in the Kurd north and much of the Shi'ite south that condition has already been met.

Now, there are two ways this can be done. Either the terrorists and jihadis are broken by the Americans or they are broken by the Iraqis. The later will be bloodier as it will use Kurds and Shi'ites as a blunt weapon. A lot of non-combatant Sunnis will be killed, more will be exiled or driven as refugees into, primarily, Syria.

it is encouraging to read today that there have been ongoing talks with the Iraqi Sunnis thought to be responsible for some of the terror. The possibility of splitting these people from the foreigners would be ideal.

The terror itself is winding down even in Sunni held areas where the terrorists have been reduced to suicide bombings as their principle weapon. Devastating as these attacks are, they are not on a scale likely to drive American public opinion to demand an end to the war poste haste.

The collapse of the American economy in the true sense of collapse, is not a very likely possibility at present. Yes the twin deficits are worrying and yes the price of oil will tend to have a destabilizing effect and yes the real estate bubble with its associated levels of personal debt are worrying. However, the overall productivity of the US economy, the continuing willingness of foreign investors to buy US Treasuries and companies, are all buying the US time to get its house in order.

OBL is sitting in a cave with the caliphate receding into the dim recesses of the end of time. Islamo fascism has lost in Iraq, been rejected in Lebanon and is meeting stiff resistance throughout the Middle East. The Baathists in Syria (who really invented Arab fascism) have been kicked out of Lebanon with the full support of the Europeans and are issolated within the Arab world. The terrorists in Iraq are reduced to importing foreign jihadis to use as homicide bombers because they have next to no support among the Iraqis.

There seems to be some effort on the part of the Israelis to actually withdraw from Gaza - knowing full well that Hamas will turn Gaza into an even greater Hell than it is now - so that that burr under the Arab saddle will be partially removed.

Europe has managed, through the dint of French genius, to eliminate itself as a serious player diplomatically and economically by voting down the EU constitution and the EU budget. The Euro is dropping like a rock and there is strong anti-fundamentalist/anti-Muslim immigrant sentiment growing in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany and, even, er, France.

This is hardly a picture of an al-Q’aeda victory parade.
I would add to this that a realistic appraisal of al-Q'aeda itself suggests it is a largely spent force with much of its leadership killed or captured and its ability to mount operations confined to small parts of the Middle East. Even the loathsome Saudis have finally recognized that Osama is not their friend or their tool and are rolling up the networks in the Kingdom. Osama himself is still on the loose, more or less, but if one of the victory conditions is his death or capture this will certainly happen in time.

The more general question is whether or not Islamofascism is, regardless of the state of Osama or al-Q'aeda or bin Laden doing better or worse now than it was say the day after 9/11. I would argue it isn't because it is now being taken very seriously indeed by people with the means and the motive to beat it militarily and intellectually. There is hardly a groundswell of support fot fundamentalism in the Middle East. (The fixed Iranian election notwithstanding.) Most importantly, there are increasing numbers of Muslim leaders who are rejecting the very theological foundation of the Wahhabi sect which drives much of the jihadi fervour. The "Arab street" seemed delighted by the election in Iraq and the destruction of Syrian influence in Lebannon.

A conscious effort on the part of the United States to reinvent the Middle East and to rethink the conduct of American foreign policy in that region is beginning to bear fruit. Bitter fruit in the mouth of bin Laden, delicious, rich, sweet fruit in the mouths of the millions of Arabs who have been so badly lead, so deeply decieved, by their own governments for so long.

Mummy! Colby is being mean to the environmentalists again

But with Mitchell Anderson's Monday piece about cancer, the Toronto Star has transcended humbler achievements along this line, and reached the doorstep of the B.S. Hall of Fame.

Mr. Anderson's piece is entitled "What's causing cancer?" And well he might ask, for cancer is his trade: the biography line on his column describes him as "a board member of the Labour Environmental Alliance Society, a Vancouver-based charity that educates the public on cancer prevention."
colby cosh
It is well worth going to Colby's and reading the full article with the charts and stats used with precision to demonstrate Anderson is blowing smoke. But, where Colby really bears in is on the question of why someone would systematically misrepresent and misinterpret cancer statistics.
When I suggest to people that environmentalism should be regarded essentially as a religion, I sometimes meet with a raised eyebrow. But I know of no other conclusion one can reach when one examines an article of popular environmental literature and finds such an openly grotesque attitude toward the use of language. What we have here is a coterie believing itself to be in possession of final, indisputable truth; the facts can be rearranged freely in the name of making converts. It is the Church's "lie officious" reappearing in history, as it does so often. The effort to play on the emotions--and there is no more emotional topic in Western life than cancer--is so poorly disguised; the contemptuous attitude toward reason is so transparent. I believe this has become more widely known, and pieces like Mr. Anderson's are now commonly regarded by newspaper readers as mere static. And no one thinks there is any harm in having it about, right up until the moment we completely lose the ability to communicate candidly with one another, or to persuade by any means but sheer amplitude.
colby cosh
The problem with environmentalists lies in the fact they want to combine their concern for the environment with an anti-corporate, anti-modernity agenda. Sometimes this works where there is a clear link between a particular environmental issue and a bit of corporate behaviour; but most of the time the attempt to get environmental concerns to justify a run at the cosmetic makers or the corporate food requires statistical gymnastics. And those gymnastics almost always undercut whatever credibility the poor environmentalist may have.

For Colby this sort of article really is like shooting fish in the barrel because, as soon as he saw the affiliation of Mr. Anderson he knew to be on the look out for the double flip dismount. Sure enough, there was Mr. Anderson railing about the increase of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since 1976, and there was Colby blasting the fishy fact Anderson had not thought to mention non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a common diagnostic symptom of AIDS. Poor Mr. Anderson.

Not that it will matter of course. Our schools do not bother to teach the majority of their students any statistics at all; much less the idea of spurious correlation and confounding variables. Anderson's statistical manipulations will, for the vast majority of Toronto Star readers, go unchallenged and uncorrected.