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September 2007 Archives

September 5, 2007


The monster that archives posts after two weeks is devouring my entire index page! That’s obviously a signal for me to pick up some of the slack in my weblogging, which has been occurring for no real reason other than burnout from working through the summer without a vacation… my mantra is to be glad I’m busy, and mere months ago I had the opposite problem. I just hope I am piling up a massive treasury of blessedness in covering for co-workers who have families, plan excursions and adventures far in advance, and (in a couple of cases) follow the implacable Jewish religious calendar with its seemingly endless observances. I really have to bone up so these guys don’t start just inventing stuff just to screw with me (no, you can’t leave in August, have you forgotten about the Festival of Bees?).

Here, then, are links to my two signed columns from last week for the National Post: one about the controversy over the political spending of Ontario’s “Working Families Coalition”, a pressure group whose name would be more accurately rendered “Unions for McGuinty and Honest Graft”, and one on the increasing international snippiness that prevails along the 49th parallel.

One of my most interesting recent pieces appeared in the Western Standard: it’s about the still-uncertain tax and policy implications of issuing “Islamic mortgages” in Canada [reg. req’d], most of which are different from the usual Western home loan in just one big, basic, counterintuitive way. I’m not certain anymore, but I’m fairly sure I owe a hat tip to Michael Stastny for the original kernel of that column idea. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go a-hunting for the next one…

September 6, 2007

Oilers note from the new Hockey News yearbook

Shawn Horcoff“Thanks to an off-season training regimen that boggles the mind, [Chris] Chelios is among the fittest, if not the fittest, players in the NHL… Chelios began his maniacal off-season workout regimen 15 years ago when he was introduced to T.R. Goodman by former NHLer Alan May. Goodman had almost no NHL clients at the time, largely because his training regimen focuses primarily on non-stop circuit training with a heavy emphasis on cardiovascular work that regularly gets even the most athletic hearts up to 170 beats per minute… Goodman has yet to find a player, young or old, who can keep up with Chelios, and with more than 20 NHL devotees in his camp every summer, he has a good cross-section. ‘I think Shawn Horcoff came the closest,’ Goodman said. ‘He was giving Cheli all he can handle’.”

September 10, 2007

Can I get a clarification on that clarification

Here’s Friday’s National Post column about John Tory and creationism. Apparently it was a good one to finish on before I book off (from newspapering) for a bit; it’s generating a lot of mail. In a related story, the old Kettlewell experiments on the peppered moth, which lost their standing and were cited by the creationists for a while as an example of Darwinian bogosity from old-time textbooks, have apparently been rehabilitated. (It should be noted that the original field observations which Kettlewell was testing never went anywhere.) Meanwhile, Jack Chick has a new tract out; perhaps it’s timed so as to sway Ontario voters?

We stand on Gardasil

Interesting news from the CMAJ: giving 12-year-old-girls vaccinations against human papilloma virus is likely, on the best existing evidence, to prevent one case of cervical cancer for every 324 doses administered, leaving an implied cost (at about $350 per) of $113,400 per cancer prevented. But wait—that's on the manufacturer-friendly, untested assumption that the vaccine is 95% effective and lasts for life. Assume that the anticancer protection diminishes by 3% per year, and the number needed to treat increases to 9,080—an expenditure of more than $3 million. And the 95% confidence limits stretch out on the long side to infinity, meaning that if the effectiveness of the vaccine diminishes slightly with age, it's possible no cancers will be prevented at all. But don't worry, Merck will probably give us our money back.

September 13, 2007

Canada vs. Google

Girls sunbathing captured by Street View

The federal privacy commissioner writes to Immersive Media, the company that takes photos for Google’s new mapping and traffic application, Street View:

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents (PIPEDA) Act is Canada’s private sector privacy law, which came fully into effect on January 1, 2004. Pursuant to PIPEDA, businesses that wish to collect, use or disclose personal information about people generally require individuals’ consent, and they may only use or disclose that information for the purpose for which individuals gave consent. Even with consent, businesses are required to limit the collection, use and disclosure of personal information to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances. Finally, individuals have a right to see the personal information that businesses hold about them, and to correct any inaccuracies.

...Our Office considers images of individuals that are sufficiently clear to allow an individual to be identified to be personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA. The images contained in your GeoImmersive Database appear to have been captured largely without the consent and knowledge of the individuals who appear in the images. Your company is now making the images commercially available, presumably to anyone who wishes to enter into a licensing agreement. This would appear to run counter to the basic requirements of knowledge, consent, and limited collection, use and disclosure as set out in PIPEDA.

Thank goodness our federal officials are there to protect us from companies that might spend millions of dollars developing cool and useful free services for us. But doesn’t this interpretation of PIPEDA appear to outlaw ordinary freelance photography in public places? Scrutiny of the statute reveals the loophole; the privacy provisions don’t apply to

any organization in respect of personal information that the organization collects, uses or discloses for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes and does not collect, use or disclose for any other purpose.

So what’s the most credible definition of Street View that Google and Immersive Media can provide when they write back in defence of their right to take pictures from a moving car? Should they argue that it’s a journalistic enterprise? Or a work of art?

By my count, this is the new "new 'new crack'"

Can the "zero lactose tolerance" movement be far behind these headlines?

Some people call me Mao-Rice

The Far Eastern Economic Review spies self-exiled Maurice Strong hobnobbing in Dalian and gets a copy of his business card. So good to know he’s doing well despite that little oil-for-food kerfuffle. Strong is an honorary professor at Peking University, which has described him as “one of the exploiters of the global cause of environmental protection” (no argument here!) and claimed he “adds a new force to the construction of the world-class College of Environmental Sciences with Chinese characteristics.” Are those the same Chinese characteristics he was trying so hard to impart to the Canadian economy back in the Petro-Can days? (þ: SDA)

September 14, 2007

There it is in black and white, or rather #000000 and #FFFFFF

"Liberal columnist Colby Cosh".

September 15, 2007

Brow-lifter of the day

From the Shotgun, of all places:

I was watching the CBC National last night and saw the coverage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie leaving a Toronto International Film Festival event (TIFF) this week. Several women actually tried to grab Pitt. ...Pitt and Jolie could not go to any further TIFF events and had to leave Toronto the next day. Now, that is a shame. Why do the fans and the tabloid media continue to behave this way—particularly knowing what it did to Princess Diana?

Just for the record, the postmortem blood-alcohol level of Henri Paul, the driver of the fatal Mercedes, was estimated at .173% or greater (on the basis of three separate tests); he also had antidepressants in his bloodstream.

Crystal ball of the day

Headline from today’s Edmonton Journal:

30-year high, but surging loonie isn’t done yet

Apparently the Journal rim is smarter than the currency markets! Just think of it: some brilliant, anonymous sub-editor possesses the secure foreknowledge that the “surging loonie isn’t done yet,” but rather than mortgaging every asset he owns to buy Canadian dollars and bury them in the backyard for a few weeks, he remains stoically at his post, taking quiet satisfaction in his role as a toiler of the free press. We salute you, magnificent Unknown Soldier of the business section!


I suffer from perpetual mixed feelings about Canada’s highbrow general-interest magazine, The Walrus. Anything that moves money from investors to freelance writers is good news for the labour market I compete in, and the Walrus is the only venue of its kind right now. But did it really take 2,500+ words for this writer to say “Joe DiMaggio probably got a few breaks from the scorers during his 56-game hitting streak”? And why is this fact, which is not news to any serious baseball fan alive, being made the subject of such a mundane recitation now?

September 16, 2007

Another day, another cultural treasure


The Duke University Press has just introduced a free-to-the-public online version of the letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. The Carlyle Letters Online claims to include over 10,000 pieces of correspondence written by and to the supreme intellectual figure of the Victorian world and his bluestockinged wife; recipients include Goethe, Dickens, Ruskin, Emerson, Tennyson, and most everyone else you’d expect.

Curious to test the interface, and really knowing little of Carlyle, I zeroed in on an incident in his life that holds a special fascination for every writer. Sometime in late February or early March of 1836, Carlyle lent the just-completed manuscript of the first volume of his history of The French Revolution to his friend, John Stuart Mill. On March 6, Mill appeared at the door of Carlyle’s home looking pale and stricken; summoning his voice with difficulty, Mill told Carlyle that through some terrible error, almost the entire book had been “irrevocably annihilated.” The precise details are elusive, but tradition and the weight of evidence suggest that the manuscript was somehow identified as trash by one of Mill’s housemaids (probably in her own home) and used to kindle a fire.

When the mortified Mill finally left the Carlyle house that day, Carlyle remarked: “Well, Mill, poor fellow, is terribly cut up; we must endeavour to hide from him how very serious this business is to us.” The letter he wrote to Mill on the 7th is surely one of history’s most poignant gestures of friendship.

My Dear Mill,

How are you? You left me last night with a look which I shall not soon forget. Is there anything that I could do or suffer or say to alleviate you? For I feel that your sorrow must be far sharper than mine; yours bound to be a passive one. How true is this of Richter: “All Evil is like a Nightmare; the instant you begin to stir under it, it is gone.”

I have ordered a Biographie Universelle this morning;—and a better sort of paper. Thus, far from giving up the game, you see, I am risking another £10 on it. Courage, my friend!

That I can never write that Volume again is indubitable: singular enough, the whole Earth could not get it back; but only a better or a worse one. There is the strangest dimness over it. A figure thrown into the melting-pot; but the metal (all that was golden or goldlike of that,—and copper can be gathered) is there; the model also is, in my head. O my friend, how easily might the bursting of some puny ligament or filament have abolished all light there too!

That I can write a Book on the French Revolution is (God be thanked for it) as clear to me as ever; also that, if life be given me so long, I will. To it again, therefore![...]

Ever your affectionate friend,

T. Carlyle

(þ: Cliopatria. Also out there: the Darwin Correspondence Project.)

September 22, 2007

Fighting back

House, M.D. begins its fourth season this coming week: observe the occasion by reading real physicians' reviews of the first 70 episodes.

September 24, 2007

Jihad imagined

The Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin reconsiders Frank Herbert's Dune in the light of Al-Qaeda. That's probably a link strictly for those who know the book, but the comments are especially good: one interlocutor adds a spooky note, observing that the fictional Paul Atreides' revolutionary cognomen, "Usul", literally shares its meaning with the term "al-Qaeda."

@FullComment.com: Go ahead, zap him again

Dammit, looks like my holiday's pretty much over. Here's my new take for Full Comment on the University of Florida tasering incident.

About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to ColbyCosh.com in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2007 is the previous archive.

October 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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