Thursday, March 30, 2006
For the most part, Duceppe's federal campaign was worryingly professional. The hairnet consigned to history, ethnic candidates attempting to reverse the image of the nationalists as "pur laine", sensible on religion. Fortunately, we can rely on some within the separatist cohort to rage against Canada in a way that reminds Quebecers and other canadians of what life would be like "en Québec libre".
The Quebec Sovereignty Council, a tax exempt organisation funded by the Parti and the Bloc, has published a teachers manual for sovereigntist educational activities. The provincial Liberal government has declared that it will not be taught - as indeed do the opposition Péquistes and the teachers unions - but it is clear based on the reaction of current and former Quebecers that both the main school system and the services for new immigrants contain people who deliver education not merely with a pro-Quebec but an anti-Canadian stance and therefore would have no problem with slipping it into normal teaching.
In a typical "never saw a federal cheque a separatist wouldn't cash" episode, the book acknowledges the assistance of federal grants received by the publisher - these grants may not have been per book so it is unlikely that grant wielding bureaucrats subvented the book, but hasn't stopped the blogosphere from demanding sackings in the Canadian Arts Council and withdrawal of Bombardier subsidies. Even separatist bloggers reject it.
It is also amusing that after Michaelle Jean got in trouble for sharing toasts with nationalists, the office of the GG is a prime target for Quebec "savings". Those "savings" are themselves nebulous since many of the institutions proposed for the chop will be replicated in sovereign Quebec, especially since Duceppe broke with prior assumptions and declared that Quebec would have armed forces.
- I wonder how they chose the "Jews". I doubt they picked from the popular kids, more likely the kids already having a hard time.
- Please tell me someone's keeping these teachers away from shoe polish next Black History Month or MLK day.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Flaherty should learn from Toronto and Ontario, both of whom have encountered money they didn't expect and are showing an unwillingness to reduce unpopular planned TTC hikes in the case of Toronto or reducing the province's deficit in the case of Ontario. Ontario is stashing money for the subway from York to nowhere rather than reducing the regressive health tax.
If there really is $1.6 billion beyond previous revenue estimates for 2005 and $3 billion this year, it would be utter foolishness to roll back the Liberal cut unless the Tories see themselves going to the country before July 1st, when the clawback is expected to begin. Any strategist who thinks someone isn't going to resent less money in his paycheck when the opportunity was there to avoid it should have his/her head examined, especially just as a way of sticking it to the Liberals.
The best incentive for work is to be able to keep most of what you earn, which is why reducing personal income taxes was a huge part of reducing Irish welfare rolls in the late 90s. However, taking people out of the tax net entirely (as opposed to a very low minimum tax) is unwise - when you're a direct taxpayer you have a visceral connection to government which getting a seeming free ride doesn't replicate.
It's even more so when as a non-citizen resident you pay taxes at all levels of government and have a vote in none of them, of course. I really understand what those people in Boston were so riled about now.
Nope, Hizzoner says no fare hold, no property tax freeze - not with the province's money or last year's $80m surplus. Instead we must replenish "reserve funds". I hear about those every year, the hidden piggy banks Toronto raids. Personally I can't understand how there are several of these funds, instead of one overarching one as the Feds seem to use for contingency.
Watching 45 minutes of the debate was painful. Toronto Councillors, most of them with years, even decades in post, are dreadful public speakers in a chamber whose standing orders are ridiculous (and which invariably involves hours of debating points of order over nothing). Denzil Minnan-Wong completely fluffed "zero budgeting", Ford needs a new line as "free money" has probably got him as much Toronto Sun coverage as it ever will and Cowbourne was just embarrassing as she rambled on about arts groups. My local guy, Ootes, pitched for contracting out but his heart isn't in it these days as the lefties, most of whom seem to be ex school board trustees, have the votes. Miller gave it away in the last collective agreement anyway.
Most of all, the bit I saw was dominated by various councillors wanting to get away to some unspecified event. First Miller proposed a 6.30 adjournment but failed to pass it by 2/3. He then left anyway, leaving the City's biggest masochist David Soknacki in the chair. Pitfield then got worried that Hizzoner would clean up at whichever dog and pony community event was going on and Michael Walker tried to get her a 7.00 adjournment (failed) or then an earlier speaking position. At that point I remembered we had taped Boston Legal. Hallelujah!
For all those organising these community shows - the Budget, all $7,500,000,000 of it, is the most important thing Councillors need to be doing at this time of year. Stop putting pressure on them to come, because if they come to your thing it almost always involves shutting down the budget discussions ahead of time.
The City should also stop scheduling budget discussions on Friday as there is invariably a request for early adjournment due to the Sabbath as I seem to recall there was last year or the year before - it's a fair request but people always seem surprised when it comes up, you'd think someone would remember Monday to Thursday would work better??
Saturday, March 25, 2006
To wrap Aer Lingus in the national flag and pretend the aviation market will be thwarted is to guarantee its end. The example of bankrupted airlines like Sabena and Swissair, the continuing basket-case status of Olympic and Alitalia and the dubious policies at South African should be loud warnings to those like me who actually wish to see Aer Lingus succeed while remaining an Irish airline. What are the factors which have hindered Aer Lingus to date?
1. Government regulation means that investment in Aer Lingus will only occur when the national finances permit it. Private airlines like Ryanair can raise finance whenever they have a commercial need to do so. Investment in State airlines is highly political and circumscribed by regulation. Investment in Ryanair is limited by Michael O'Leary's ability to persuade fund managers of his business case. This is why Ryanair now operates 101 737-800 aircraft with orders and options for 317 more (although some of the older aircraft will be sold as new ones arrive). Aer Lingus operates 27 aircraft in the shorthaul market (with 12 orders and options) and 7 long haul aircraft with 2 on order.
2. The Irish market - Ryanair's expansion to Europe following deregulation means they are less exposed to economic shocks in individual market and can redeploy aircraft to rapidly growing markets. Aer Lingus is focused on the US and the UK and events such as foot and mouth in Ireland can cause a massive drop in all markets. Aer Lingus did consider setting up European and British bases but it would never, er, "fly" politically.
3. The unions. While Michael O'Leary's jackboot tactics get what he wants whatever the cost, leading to a climate of fear in Ryanair, Aer Lingus goes too far in the opposite direction. SIPTU in particular refuses to understand that the market has changed. A successful Aer Lingus will be bigger and fly to more destinations - just now employing the same number of employees per passenger and thus the total workforce, a legacy of when Aer Lingus was operating seven aircraft types as opposed to the A320, A321 and A330 that Willie Walsh retrenched to, must reflect the simplification of operations.
4. Aviation policy. The deregulation of European flying did not happen on the transatlantic market. Shannon airport actually saw an increase in traffic once airlines were not forced to stop both east and westbound en route to Dublin. However, much service to Ireland is seasonal because of the additional costs involved in serving two airports - there is zero service between Ireland and Canada between October and March. The existing bilateral constrains Aer Lingus to certain airports and the US airlines regularly object to any expansion which does not give them the right to choose the airports they fly to in Ireland. The shuttling back and forth of long range planes between Dublin and Shannon decreases the life of Aer Lingus' fleet (which is measured in both flying hours and takeoffs/landings).
5. Dublin Airport. Aer Lingus is in a good position to be a hub for transatlantic traffic en route to Europe and western UK cities like Cardiff. The provision of US immigration preclearance in Dublin helps with this, but only recently has Dublin built a facility to allow transferring passengers to be able to go directly to their flight rather than going out into the public zone and back through security. The airport is badly laid out and has poor public transport. The main runway is comparatively short to get the maximum range out of long range planes and there is no sign of a go-ahead for the new, longer runway which would alleviate Dublin Airport's peak time congestion. In addition to the poor direction, funding and management at Dublin, the workers oppose efforts to introduce internet check-in to reduce queues.
6. Ireland can still be emotionally invested in a private Aer Lingus. The example used of British privatisation, British Airways, is a good example here. When BA created the ethnic tailfins, it suffered a drop in custom from both home and abroad because their British logo was part of what people felt about the airline, and the antipathy was crystallised by Thatcher's draping of a handkerchief over a model's fin, saying "We fly the British flag, not these awful things." The critics would say "well they sold it so that's it" and yet soon after BA started repainting their fins in Chatham (Union Flag), not least when Richard Branson painted Union Jacks on his Virgin aircraft. While in State ownership, it was Willie Walsh who moved Aer Lingus away from the shamrock to the dot.com livery, which evoked a similar annoyance in passengers.
7. Heathrow. The Heathrow slots are valuable but arguably not critically so. There are five "London" airports. Aer Lingus has operated to four that I know of at one time or another (I don't recall Luton) and only serves Heathrow. Much of this traffic feeds British Airways and Qantas' long-haul operation to places like Canada in winter when that traffic should be in Aer Lingus aircraft out of Dublin. Therefore, if Aer Lingus stopped serving Heathrow, sold its slots and started serving Stansted or Luton or City, BA would be in like a shot to protect its feed like it did when Aer Lingus stopped serving Gatwick.
To allow Aer Lingus to raise money is not to say the Irish Government should sell completely. However, the Government stake should be transferred to the NTMA as an investment arm (like Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec) with a mandate to manage Irish assets to remove them from the dead hand of the Departments. It looks like the unions are protesting and waving the flag but now the chequebook is out and the SIPTUites will gobble it up as they did with the maintenance arm.
UPDATE: changed the first para to reflect the original posts more accurately and correct a silly editing error :)
Now, Vaughan may have big plans for a city centre effort in that area, but surely this is overkill when the rest of the city (where there are passengers already) needs additional transit provision - Kipling extension to Square One/Mississauga boundary, Sheppard extension to Downsview and Scarborough, the SRT replacement project and the provision of modern LRT in downtown and along Eglinton. Vaughan has only just got into the high end bus transit market and now feels they are ready for a subway?
Furthermore, will this now be held up pending an Environmental Assessment when the one for the Downsview-Steeles line just finished?
Let's call this what it is - a votes grab which will saddle Toronto with another low density subway which and which fails to exploit the existing GO Transit infrastructure. Meanwhile, the "$200m for transit" will not be spent on transit but to keep Miller's 3pc property tax increase promise so the price increase will go ahead as scheduled. Bah!
Friday, March 24, 2006
Speaking of illegal brickies, they're looking for an amnesty when the developers who exploited them cry that the city can't survive without them (strange how that doesn't seem to be the way it works in Fort McMurray, Newfound... er... Alberta where they seem to be able to fill the jobs with Canadian residents.)
An Afghan man runs a Canadian checkpoint in Kandahar and is shot - his widow wants 30 grand in US dollars (amazing how the lucre of the great Satan is acceptable everywhere) and maybe Canadian residency too.
The Peacemaker hostages are rescued and they and their mates can't bring themselves to thank the armed forces personnel who made it happen. Their supporters claim they didn't want rescuing anyway.
Meanwhile a guy renounces Islam and is sentenced to death in a country Canadians are giving their lives to stabilise and we're not going to send in JTF2 to bust him out and bring him here where he will enjoy something more fundamental than cash in hand wages or blood money or moral outrage at the Bush agenda - life itself. For Karzai to fail to act on assuring no death sentence for Rahman and to work to eliminate religious offences from civil law will surely do huge damage to the much needed help from Western countries for any kind of long term hope for that country which has suffered so much. Sadly if the likes of Saudi is any guide people like Rahman will simply be diplomatic collateral damage, and after his execution the government of Canada will send a strongly worded letter... and nothing will change.
I especially love his bureaucratic counting, "Second notice!" "Third correspondence to this location" especially when the quotes are taken from the third and fifth emails respectively. I also like the "safety vest fluorescent" colour scheme from the website he was so keen to resurrect. The problem was eventually traced to a crash and rebuild at the City's webhost.
Here's the full exchange of emails from CentOS' forum. One can only presume his "22 years" were counted as dog years or something.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Shabina Begum, a pupil at Denbigh High School in Luton, a state maintained school with 79% Muslim enrolment, was contesting the school's right to enforce its dress code. The school, whose Head is a Bangladeshi woman of Muslim belief and which had several Muslim governors, had devised a dress code in consultation with local Islamic leaders for which the suggested dress for female muslim students which would conform with Islamic norms was the s(h)alwar kameez(e), a long tunic and trousers, together with an optional headscarf of specified type. Her father was deceased and her mother spoke no English at the time. On the first day of the autumn term (3 Sept 02) she attended the school wearing jilbab and accompanied by her brother and a friend who has not been identified in the documents I have so far read in the case. The Head being absent, the Deputy Head instructed her to change and return to school in uniform but she refused. According to Lord Bingham of Cornhill's judgement she considered it
the only garment which met her religious requirements because it concealed, to a greater extent than the shalwar kameeze, the contours of the female body, and was said to be appropriate for maturing girls. The respondent then left with her brother and the other young man. The young men said they were not prepared to compromise over this issue.The school involved the Education and Welfare Service in trying to resolve the issue, as well as consulting again with local Islamic authorities. In the meantime, disquiet appears to have been expressed within the school community of the possibility of division within the Muslim community in the school, those continuing to opt for the current uniform being open to the charge of "not being modest enough".
However, a recurring theme in the case not only in the Lords but in the High Court seems to have been the insistence of "suing" for "rights", delivered in such vehemence and perceived aggressiveness that the school requested at one point that discussions not be had in person. Article 9.1 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as incorporated into British law via the Human Rights Act 1998, was the principle ground on which Ms. Begum and her advisers chose to seek redress.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.The case was lost in the High Court but won in the Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Brooke). The school appealed the latter judgement and Ms. Begum was represented in the Lords by Miss Cherie Booth QC. In their judgement today, the Lords unanimously reversed the Appeal Court. They relied heavily on Article 9's second section:
Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.The Lords pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights has generally upheld public-interest basis for state action in accordance with 9.2, such as in dress in Turkish universities (Şahin v. Turkey), working at times of religious prayer/obligation when other work is available and bans on religiously mandated animal slaughter in France when the meat could be sourced from Belgium where the method was legal. If you enroll, you accept the rules beforehand and must follow them thereafter. If you have alternatives, you use them.
In contrast, the Court of Appeal was deemed to have worked out it's own dispute resolution method and when the school failed to use the resolution the Court would have used they lost the appeal - a usual approach in judicial review. Lord Bingham's comment:
the focus at Strasbourg is not and has never been on whether a challenged decision or action is the product of a defective decision-making process, but on whether, in the case under consideration, the applicant's Convention rights have been violated.Begum's appeal also failed on Article 2 grounds (right to education), the court accepting that the choices were with Ms. Begum - adhere to school dress or transfer. She opted to do neither until enrolling at another school two years later. Baroness Hale's concurring judgement contains some interesting background on female Muslim dress and its implications.
From a Canadian viewpoint, it is interesting that the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada in Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, (2006 SCC 6) in respect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was brought to the attention of their Lordships after the hearing of argument (the unanimous upholding of a Sikh student's right to carry a religious symbol in the form of a knife - kirpan - in his Quebec school) but did not cause any change in the judgement (at para 34).
There seems to be some controversy in respect of alleged links between Ms. Begum and Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic group. (Sunday Times, 20 June 2004) This also involved the sacking by the Guardian of a trainee reporter who interviewed her (original article here) but did not disclose membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
A reader of headlines would take a far more radical view of the judgement - for example the International Herald Tribune's "British Court rules against Muslim attire" which looks more like the school secularisation in France than the upholding of a school dress code agreed with the local community. Indeed, this is the interesting part of the affair - multiculturalism assumes the answer to state/minority friction in areas such as crime, poverty, marginalisation is working with community leaders who will mediate on behalf of citizens who feel they have no access to the State directly. In this case, the community leaders' agreement with the school, and their role in its governance, was ignored by Shabina Begum and her family.
RTE (Realplayer) have a clip of Ms. Begum after the judgement, unable to understand the fuss about "six inches". Fortunately, the Lords realised that the taking of miles often follows the taking of inches.
The guy who's all "well I don't have good class notes" just wants to run Naturally Speaking to transcribe them. Boo hoo - it's not enough to transcribe, you have to interpret and extend them which you're more likely to do if you're involved in the act.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
After a London Underground map was anagrammed, a similar map was done for Toronto and now one for Ottawa. All the transit authorities in question experienced sense-of-humour failures and released the legal hounds with their "cease and desist" notices.
The TTC says anagram maps could confuse visitors - this would be plausible if they didn't use puzzles as promotions in their vehicles last year. The slavish adherence to whatever their marketers of the moment are push them close them off from suggestions from the public, as happened with the Spacing buttons - 50,000 of which have been sold, the revenue from which could have gone in part to the TTC if they were willing to participate. TTC's lack of outreach to the public is the reason NIMBYs have any traction, like the St. Clair ROW lawsuit fiasco.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Richard then noted that it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc. so I thought about it awhile and did some googling. I find Slashdot has received a bloggie this year and the wikipedia entry says it "resembles a blog in many ways" so I am happy to retract. Still seems weird though.
However, a few new snags have arisen -
- the lease on the Hearn (currently to a film studio) does not permit power generation.
- the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (which includes Toronto Hydro as a member, ironically) says the current Hearn plan, a simple cycle non-co-gen station is less efficient on a pollution per watt basis than the PEC combined cycle bid. It does mention that with steam for district heating (co-generation) the TWCEC would be more efficient than the PEC, but that implies the PEC would not be able to do likewise, for if they did the PEC is back in front. The PEC previously claimed Enwave were not interested in the steam but it would be a good thing if a way was found to use it during the redevelopment of the waterfront precincts.
Here's the OCAA release. (PDF, 3 pages)
Seriously though, is there any other country in the world where the Prime Minister would spend every National Day in another country?
Two years ago Bertie did come up to Ottawa after his Washington trip (the usual bowing and scraping to Shrub) but that was in connection with Ireland's EU presidency.
Personally I would have preferred to see GO Transit given that route, with a stop at Bloor to access the subway rather than non-stop to Union.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Not sure I agree with the conclusions, but thought-provoking all the same.
First - I haven't seen either movie yet so I hope I can be objective in respect of the column. I found the Guardian article ridiculous. The Oscars are a cliquish contest, just like they say about the Golden Globes and every other award show. Funnily enough the one that claims to be most democratic (People's Choice) no-one much cares about, while Annie wants us to choose the Independent Spirit Awards which no-one's much heard about - and they gave Lost in Translation best picture, a movie which everyone I know who saw it and myself considers a pile of manure.
The column would have been more plausible if submitted before the opening of the Best Picture envelope, and it is all to easy to believe the spin such a petty personality would have put on the "right" result.
Crash did have the advantage of being a local movie - that's what happens when you shoot the competition 2,000km away in Alberta. Crash had a decent cast and a writer with pedigree (as Million Dollar Baby showed). But he's a Scientologist so the fix was in. If I believed Scientology was a religion (it's a business) I'd consider that assertion a far worse slam on religious belief than "Trapped in the closet" which prompted Isaac Hayes' own hissy fit. She also sarcastically compared BM's three Oscars to King Kong's three technical ones, though I doubt Peter Jackson was worried with his personal three from Return of the King and the film total of 17 from the three Rings movies.
It is not compulsory to enter the Academy Awards but Brokeback Mountain did and in doing so you accept the rules of the game. Fahrenheit 9/11 showed how risky it can be to demand the Academy to play a political game for you. If BM's distributor wasn't willing to work as hard as Lions Gate in the ridiculous games that are played to get the notice of voters, that is hardly Lions Gates fault but BM's backers for not going the extra mile.
It was also a bit much to take when the two leading men had been quick to distance themselves from their roles - for such a great movie and a great cause you'd think they'd have been all too comfortable with their choices?
The most stupid thing about Proulx's ranting is that it doesn't matter that Brokeback didn't win. Brokeback is all over the internet in spoofs, in the Awards prologue... Crash had weird dance while Andi Wyatt from the West Wing crooned. It only matters what the public remembers, and that you respect other choices - oh wait, what was Brokeback Mountain about again?
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Harper's rhetoric is still Republican-esque so he uses lame Bush catchphrases which is pretty dumb as it just gives people an excuse to ignore the message and, well, shoot the messenger. The usual stuff "God bless Canada", "we won't cut and run", etc. etc. It is pretty impressive though that (a) he flew in on a Herc - which I suppose is less risky than a Sea King but not by much and (b) he overnighted with the troops. Bet the travelling handlers just loved the accomodations.
The point of the title is following on from a comment I left on talk talk talk, which was that the guy who should have been with him is Paul Martin, Prime Minister when the troops were committed to the operation. He should be reminding the troops and the country that he was the one who sent them there and explained to them why that was necessary. Martin could also remind the Liberals who are apparently worried about "escalation" of the strategic decision making his government made in sending the troops out - interim leader Bill Graham (then defence minister) could weigh in too... they did think about it before right?? Harper could then tell them why it's right for them to stay.
Then they could ask Jack Layton what problem he had with that, especially when he was supporting the Liberal Government at the time... but that was when he was more interested in how much pork spending he could extract from Ralph Goodale.
Parliamentary debate is all very well (or in the case of Question Time, pretty appalling) - I agree with Rick Mercer when he said Harper's speech was worth 1,000 speeches on Canadian soil.
To be honest, when I read the Star's special section on Sunday, I thought to myself that surely some of the objections to the mission would subside with this excellent piece of journalism. Two Toronto Star journalists doing a piece which took up the entire Ideas supplement, closely following Capt. Schamuhn and Lt. Greene in their meetings with village elders. I learned that Lt. Greene had previously suffered a concussion due to an attack on the armoured vehicle he was travelling in. Then came the attack which left him gravely injured. (MP3 of the radio calls after the attack).
Greene, now a Captain (he had been awaiting promotion at the time of the attack) has been returned from Landstuhl to Vancouver, apparently he is improving but largely in a drug-induced coma.
markpeters.ca linked Rex Murphy's Viewpoint from the CBC website. Here's Murphy's conclusion:
Two governments and two prime ministers now, one Liberal and one Conservative, have signed off on this U.N.-authorized, NATO-led mission. We may discuss, refine, and articulate the cause we're serving, but it's past the moment to debate the cause itself. If we wish to have a debate, we must end the mission. A debate on the validity of the mission cannot be subsequent to the decision to undertake it. That's a question that goes to honour when, as there are in Afghanistan, lives are at stake.
This is due to Caribana being warned to have an audit ready by end of February or there would be no city money. CCC had missed four deadlines by the end of February and the city has now pulled the plug, but magically an audit has appeared which may lead to a police investigation. As far back as 2001 the CCC had problems with their audits.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, liaison to Caribana for eight years, is now being called a racist. Plus ça change... The CCC are crying "over our dead bodies will someone else organise Caribana" - given the number of violent deaths in the Toronto Caribbean community you'd think they wouldn't remind us. This is the local version of "we're entitled to our entitlements" - now if we could only get MLSE's hands out of the city's pockets we'd be doing even better.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Questions about the use of garda drivers over the years have been numerous (including their adherence or lack thereof to speed limits) and previous reports had suggested civilianising the cabinet ministerial drivers and "courtesy" drivers such as those for ex-Taoisigh and retaining police drivers only for security needs - there was also controversy about provision of a driver for the State Pathologist.
While the swiftboating (albeit belatedly) of Mary McAleese is ongoing, now her daughter will pay for it. One hopes the other abusers of Garda drivers will be similarly outed, as one officer is quoted in the Sindo article:
"These guards are doing menial tasks that could, in most cases, be done by civilians. And there is no accountability. If the taxi meter was running the bill would be massive. The garda drivers work long hours and their health and safety doesn't even come into it.
"Ministers particularly love having a €70,000 car under their backside and a monkey behind the wheel to drive them around. No matter what Government has been in power they have never done away with that privilege, and they are never likely to."
Saturday, March 11, 2006
The attitude of the diehard Milosevic sympathisers is understandable if misguided - if he had gone to Russia I doubt he would ever return. It sickens me to be honest when some are deemed too old/sick to stand trial when they reached that old age walking over the bones of those they murdered.
As the BBC obit points out, until the Dayton accords Milosevic was still untouchable, swanning around the world signing peace accords while sizing up his next target. Is it too much to hope that rather than obsessing over Milosevic's supposed martyrdom, Serbia can move forward towards an open society, as Croatia did with the death of Tudjman? Is it too much to hope that tonight Bob Mugabe sleeps uneasily, and that Mbeki and the others in South Africa propping up his regime and planning their own landgrabs?
According to Mitsou Gelinas who interviewed them (Windows Media) the families were happy to divide the prize and go to Disneyland but when the claim form only had space for one prizewinner they decided to think about it overnight. The father of one then decided he didn't want to share and the mother of the other emailed Mitsou, since obviously the best way to resolve these types of disputes is to involve a talk show host, right? She did have one insightful point - it will end up in court and the lawyers will get the car!
Now apparently a guy who claims he threw it away has retained a lawyer (Real Player) - surprisingly, not publicity hound Tim Danson but his local Quebecois equivalent - who has demanded a DNA test. Quebec has some unusual competition laws (which is why a lot of North American competitions are "not valid in Quebec").
The cup may also be the property of the municipality also - certainly Toronto is claiming to lose millions from people who take "city property" (recyclables) from blue boxes and sell it to recycling companies.
Obviously all the kids in the school are getting a lesson in what it really means to share for adults having been told by their parents all along that sharing is what you do. Hopefully Tim Horton's will also stop offering gas guzzling SUVs sometime soon too - especially now the Prius is the ride of choice to Hollywood ceremonies. They must surely be annoyed at losing all the press from the opening of their branch in Kandahar.
The same article notes the original Memphis crypt of Elvis (prior to his removal to Graceland) is available. Personally I'm hoping that flashfreezing is an option wherever I am by the time I go.
Friday, March 10, 2006
I noticed the judgement first at Mental Meanderings in a post headed "Can't stop them now" which referenced SCOTUSblog's coverage. Somewhat irritated, in comments I pointed out to Fiona that Chief Justice Roberts had said quite the opposite -
The Solomon Amendment gives universities a choice: Either allow military recruiters the same access to students afforded any other recruiter or forgo certain federal funds.I cut back a later comment on Fiona's reaction (think of the poor law schools, the impoverised creatures that they are) as the length was getting out of hand, with the intention of expanding on it here.
Despite Fiona's assertion that "all experts appear to be happy" with such a down-the-line reversal, it's hard to find them unless you're talking about people like Roger Alford who (at point 3) favour military recruitment of lawyers (and therefore probably didn't support Rummy v Fair at all). On the other hand, ACLU is certainly not happy. Nor is the Human Rights Campaign.
On Insidehighered.com's coverage, John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University is quoted:
"One interesting part of today’s ruling," Banzhaf wrote in an e-mail message, "is how so many nationally known law professors at top law schools like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia (and my own law school) could have been so very wrong in putting together this lawsuit to challenge the Solomon amendment, and in asserting that the statute violated the First Amendment under no less that four different constitutional theories. Every single justice who participated — liberal, conservative, and middle of the road — ruled without exception that all of the legal theories they advanced were without merit."Alford argues in favour of allowing recruiters to boost the degree of legal knowledge in the military in respect of the scandals such as Abu Ghraib and Gitmo citing the brief from the Judge Advocates Association. Recruiting military lawyers with a human rights background may also bring forward the day when the military itself requests removal of Article 125 of the Uniform Code - this article argues dissuading lawyers from joining JAG will not help achieve that.
As for "however will they manage without Uncle Sam's dollars" - boo hoo. Principle is fine until it costs some academic funding. I find it amusing that while independent law schools like Vermont Law School, New York Law School and William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota were willing to forgo the funding prior to the SCOTUS ruling, the head of Stanford Law says refusing fed dollars would close Stanford's medicine and science faculties - not the law school though?
Some of these colleges have enormous endowment and alumni funds and could probably have fought it out on behalf of their poorer fellows for a while but instead have caved at the thought of forgoing the fed money which would hurt their budgets and pay. Harvard has a $25,000,000,000 endowment, for example. But that would have involved persuading the other faculties to share the pain - harder than a Supreme Court brief seemingly.
The law schools have an 8-0 decision to hide behind instead of pressing forward with their convictions. "Oh well we tried", if SCOTUS won't impose a solution too bad. As an ordinary person I used to feel bad when I discovered a service I used (like Sandals - which rescinded their hetero-only policy in 2004, but don't publicise it) or intended to use wasn't equality-friendly and avoided them where feasible (no more Domino's pizza for me) - I guess if it costs me more money or other hassle to avoid them I need not worry and can say "the best law schools in the US take the same view".
Worst of all - the law schools have yielded liberty in preference to monetary security (to invoke the over invoked Benjamin Franklin quote) when the Solomon Amendment is a possible precursor to a future No Undergrad Left Behind Act, with implications for turning student information over to recruiters. The sight of Ivy League schools sticking to their principles at a cost could have sparked a national debate on federal mandates in education, but that ship has sailed.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
"Swiftboating" was not yet in the lexicon when Marilyn Churley associated Greenpeace founder and Liberal candidate Bob Hunter with paedophilia because of a book Hunter had written about child prostitution in South East Asia which he claimed was in the "gonzo journalist" tradition - if only James Frey had thought of that.
Now during the current by-election to replace Churley, while the NDP haven't stuck Ben Chin with anything similar yet, they do seem to be trying to get something (see also here) from Chin's less than clear bio. (Apparently the Tories care too - maybe they should worry more about the really small number of lawn signs in the riding - I've only seen one so far, at Donlands and O'Connor).
Chin had mentioned in separate bios being the son of Korean diplomats and a refugee from a dictator. Liberal blogger Jason Cherniak has decided to help us all understand - apparently when the diplomat parents were working for General Park, the road from bureaucrat to refugee is short indeed - as is probably being said on Parliament Hill these days.
Rick Ducharme, General Manager of the TTC doesn't want it right now.
Transit advocates like Steve Munro don't want it.
Scarberians are wondering how they got left behind when the SRT's days are numbered (another fiasco mandated by the Province btw) and the Sheppard line isn't long enough to be of help to them or anyone else.
But the government of Ontario is apparently flush with cash and wants to spend it so they can "announce" the elimination of the deficit in 2007. Greg Sorbara, a big supporter of the project while Ontario Finance Minister before resigning in the face of an RCMP probe of his business dealings, is alleged to have leaked the Province's intention to commit funding to the Mayor of Vaughan - he denies this.
Here's what I wonder about though: these capital programmes are usually tripartite - City, Province and Feds throwing in a third each. What if Harper and Flaherty say - sorry guys, we're cutting the GST this week?
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Both Nicole and I are "bookish" and some painful decisions had to be made when I moved to Canada - and even after that a good two or three shelves of books remain back home to be transported in the luggage of various family members when space permits. Some tastes we share (J.K Rowling, Roddy Doyle, John B. Keane) some we don't (she reads Frank McCourt, I read P.J. O'Rourke). We started our relationship buying each other books - she bought Scott Russell's Ice Time for me, I bought Aaron Sorkin's West Wing Script Book for her. We had a lot of time apart to read them in the beginning.
Like Fiona I expect eventually I'll end up owning a library with attached living quarters.
Vibes and Scribes just north of Patrick's Bridge in Cork was a frequent stop for me in assembling my collection, not least because it lay between my apartment and the city centre. It also played a role in disassembling it, since that was where I sold many of them back to when thinning out my stock. I couldn't kid myself that after 10 years I was going to actually use my Industrial Chemistry books again and there was no second hand value so I donated them to the University of Limerick library while on a visit to my alma mater - even older books can be a help as I knew when I was an undergrad on a budget. I'm a sucker for knowing how it ends which is how I ended up with the entire Jack Aubrey saga by Patrick O'Brian - 18 books in all I think.
On my bedside at present is Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. (I like his UK editions better just because the artwork is nicer than the North American ones :)
On deck for when I've finished it is Under a Sickle Moon about which I wrote recently and which reminded me that it's been a long time since I last read it.
Yes, it's d'illegal emigrants again. RTE has some stories on this but I can't watch the RealPlayer clips as their website is being stupid.
I was listening to the Dunphy podcast (look, I know there was that thing with John Waters but there's nothing else podcast wise! RTE used to lead in internet stuff but now they're lagging desperately) and hearing him kick off a debate between a planetologist and a guy who thinks the moon landings were faked. Surely there's more people believe in creationism than believe that???
Google believes they landed, so it's true. Cop on Eamon.
What really bugs me is that Apple seem to like annoying its Windows users - every so often iTunes advises you to update to the latest version, like today's notice to update to 6.0.4. Like Google Earth, these updates require downloading the entire installer rather than a smaller incremental update as Mozilla, Adobe and Lotus provide for their products. This is very bloody annoying - since Google employ most of the Firefox team these days (or so it seems) perhaps someone there can introduce them to incremental patches.
However, while my "patch" was downloading from Apple I came across this. No shortage of cheek in the Apple "intellectual property" department it seems. Attempting a patent on RSS should send a chill through blog hosts, RSS readers and podcasting applications. Hopefully Research in Motion will decide to put RSS into Blackberry, because once their IP lawyers really get cranked up, no patent stands in the way. Except for RIMs, naturally...
UPDATE: oops! Forgot a hat-tip to EirePreneur for the RSS story.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
The New York Times (rego required) has an article on a Brooklyn imam, Sheik Reda Shata, who was brought up in a remote area of Egypt and how he adjusted to life studying in Cairo, then serving as an imam in Germany and now New York. The questions his parishoners pose are often ones he had never anticipated answering before living in the West, such as the morality of oral sex, mortgages, or serving pork or alcohol as an employee, not least because in Middle Eastern society there is no discussion of the imam's decisions but Western Muslims often question his pronouncements.
One comment of his struck me in particular:
"I try to be more of a doctor than a judge," said Mr. Shata. "A judge sentences. A doctor tries to remedy."Some of the challenges he faces are interesting (and somewhat amusing) in how some Western norms affect Muslim worship:
Mr. Shata was shocked when a tone-deaf man insisted on giving the call to prayer. Such a man would be ridiculed in Egypt, where the callers, or muezzinin, have voices so beautiful they sometimes record top-selling CD's.The imam has also had training in psychology since some of his congregants refused to seek mental help following the events of 9/11, seeing such aid as weakness when such problems were to be faced with prayer and fasting. All in all, I found it a fascinating read.
But in the land of equal opportunity, a man with a mediocre voice could claim discrimination. Mr. Shata relented. He shudders when the voice periodically sounds.
That said, if he had said "tribunal" rather than "march" I doubt many could disagree. The slightest thing, either in Ireland and Canada and people (and their learned friends) are demanding tribunals. Whether it be the current Ipperwash tribunal here in Ontario or the various planning inquiries in Ireland, people want their cake and eat it, demanding tribunals to "get to the truth" but raging when the results of such tribunals by their nature rarely are usable in criminal trials.
Greene, an infantry reservist on a six month tour, was not working for Joint Task Force 2 or any other anti-AlQaeda unit. A writer and former naval officer, his post in Afghanistan was with Canadian Forces Civil Military Co-ordination (CIMIC) where he had meetings (called shura) with local elders in areas devoid of running water, education, medicine or roads. It was at one of these meetings, 70 kilometers north of Kandahar that he was attacked by a man who stepped out of the crowd carrying an axe, who struck Greene in the head - on which he was not wearing a helmet in a sign of openness and acceptance of local hospitality. The attacker was killed by Greene's fellow soldiers, and then the unit was attacked by others. With the assistance of air support the attack was repelled and at time of writing he is in critical condition at the US medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany.
The meshing of civil reconstruction and the military is of course a tricky subject in any conflict zone but it is the violation of traditional hospitality that I can only hope other Afghans will find sickening. All of the adult men disappeared from the shura after the attack which is not a good sign of their good faith in this incident.
Greene had spoken about plans to continue the work after his reserve tour, telling the Toronto Star journalists attached to his unit that he knew of western Canadians who had made money in the oil boom but were sceptical of the UN's ability to efficiently help and who could finance direct efforts to improve the lives of Afghans.
Afghanistan is of particular note to me as I was six when the Soviets invaded in 1979 and thus it was the first international conflict I was aware of. Later I was fascinated by Peregrine Hodson's book "Under a Sickle Moon" which was an account of the writer's journey there in 1984 during the occupation. As a country it has been written off as ungovernable since Kipling's time, and now intervention there is dismissed as a springboard for oil-mongering. People like Greene could have offered something better. Fortunately, the unit leader has committed to continuing the meetings, albeit with security modifications.
(Update: the CBC report has been updated to note that Greene has been promoted to Captain).
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Of my latest 100 browser agents registered, 58 have been IE6, 37 have been Firefox/Netscape/Mozilla, 4 Safari and one unknown. No Opera but some Opera users report as IE to get around websites which reject non-approved browsers so it's possible there's some in there.
I've added buttons to get Firefox 1.5 and Thunderbird 1.5 to the sidebar - 21 of the 35 Firefox hits are from versions 1.0.7 or earlier. The automatic update feature in Firefox 1.5 makes it a worthwhile upgrade for home users and the 1.5 installer can also be modified for corporate/silent install needs.
I also note that Firefox 2.0 (due later this year) may have the "close tab" button on the active tab rather than off to the right which moves Firefox nearer my work mail client (Lotus Notes 6.5.5) in ease of tab management. At home I've been using Thunderbird since version 0.9 or so and am very happy with it, especially for spam filtering, but I don't really need it to do more than the basics and it means I don't have to fear Outlook Express flaws any more.
No doubt the RIAA and the MPAA will be handing out "Skype for stalkers, BitTorrent for pirates" buttons.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
It's about the steaming pile of excrement known as American Idol. There were many protestations from "her indoors" during the version for grown-ups (Rock Star:INXS) that she'd never watch the teenybopper crap produced by the same people that bring you Faux News, yet here we are again and American Idol's on telly, Paula Abdul's still a pandering fool and Randy Jackson still can't speak English.
The least I can do is promote the efforts of those who would subvert it.