Letter to cbc.ca about archive format

I just sent the following note to cbc.ca regarding the file format of their archive material. Maybe this is a pointless rant but it would be nice not to have to funnel their WMV content through some other tool before being able to watch it. The "At Issue" segments tend to be worth catching if you want to stay on top of what's what in Canadian politics.

I noticed this awhile ago but I've never thought to mention it until now. I am gradually moving to a Microsoft-free computing life at home and all the video at www.cbc.ca/national/archive is only playable on Microsoft Media Player.

What would prevent the CBC from using a user-platform independent format for this archive footage? I would really appreciate it if it were some technology (flash? like youtube and google video) that didn't require me to use a particular supplier's software in order to view it. I do have MS-machines in the house. I would just rather not have to use them for this if I didn't have to.



Good-bye Bertie

So the on-going scandal of dodgy campaign financing in Ireland has come to an end that could have been predicted ages ago. How corrupt was Mr. Ahern, really? And if he was corrupt, how corrupt was he compared to other politicians whose career started at the same time or before as Mr. Ahern's career?

I have the handicap and advantage of not actually being from Ireland, so I can't continue either of those conversations except as a listener -- and I'd love to hear some pithy, non-polarized opinions from people who know better than I on either of them. I feel happy for Bertie that he can still have his little jaunt to the States before he goes. I think I have a small notion of how important that is for him and for his country. I'm even gladder that the Good Friday accords don't look like collapsing just because one of the leaders' hands appear unclean.

But in listening to this story unwind, I couldn't help wondering if he's no more than a victim of surviving from one era of accountability standards into the next? I'm not denying that Bertie was corrupt. The details from the Mahon Tribunal has made this much clear: corruption happened. And worse, he was consistently economical with the truth and forgot too many of the details, whether inadvertently or not (the old "Incompetent or Crooked?" question rears its head).

My mixed feelings on the outcome lead me to wonder if, when financial/political accountability measures become more concrete, more rigorous, if the people would be better served (with the longevity of their most senior, most experienced leaders) if such laws included riders of amnesty and/or some kind of owning-up commissions -- with penalties like this only exacted for those who don't make a clean breast of the past. I have little faith that the laws are capable of keeping the politicians and their funds honest -- but I am sure that without the freedom to own-up with amnesty I feel they are likely to be even less effective. Further, I fear that the more stringent the measures are, the more creative corrupt politicians and power-purchasers will get in the buying and selling of influence.


Bernanke gives color to J. R. Saul's analysis of economy

Within the last few months, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the now 16-year-old Voltaire's Bastards by John Ralston Saul. I had begun to see hints of one of Saul's central assertions echoed in the rescue of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase with the help of the American Federal Reserve. I don't have my copy to hand right now but let me reiterate the thoughts:

In 1992, Saul wrote that we had then been in a near-20 year depression that was being hidden and shuffled out of view by pushing it around through manipulations of currency exchanges and interest rates. He went on to support that statement with a lot of facts which, all taken together, made a startling picture. I found that picture to correspond closely enough with reality that it has made sense to keep watching events in order to see if the evidence continues to pile up in its favour, or in contradiction. For myself, it also seemed to be a compelling interpretation of the on-going movie: rollicking cascades of currency crisis here; market "correction" there; and any number of other dashes of the Electronic Herd of stampeding gnu. Thomas Friedman called them just a commonplace of globalization in The Lexus and the Olive Tree. But if you look at the forces that keep the gnus running it soon becomes apparent that few of their movements fail to be started, turned or stopped by the acts of various governments and regulatory bodies. Who wants the malaise to set in where you are? Keep it moving with interest rate changes, tax cuts, import concessions, anything! The facts have continued to fit Saul's picture better and better all the time.

Now it struck me that the way in which Bear Stearns had been prevented from collapsing looked like another case of the hiding the depression and that force of déjà vú just came crashing down with this story. In it, Bernanke is reported to admit that preventing the US from slipping into a depression is exactly what he had in mind when he made the deal to rescue Bear Stearns. That rescue was made possible only by very deep manipulations of the Bear's value and by moving the remaining sub-prime risk on its books around in a most creative fashion. Suddenly this story has moved from being a hint that Saul was right to a full-blown case in point. What is now a nearly 35 year malaise has just been shoveled around for another swing about the pole.

I'm just not sure anymore whether to hope that the problem is like a tetherball, capable of endless swinging about the pole, or a maypole that will eventually wrap itself around the pole with nowhere left to swing. Can we stop the ball in ways that are non-destructive and re-invent things, or will things really have to get to a destructive "no-rope-left" state before this situation can be put on some other footing? And will we find out before or after I've retired? before or after my kids are up to their eyeballs in mortgage, marriage and parenting? Time goes fast, learning goes slow...


The Penny: "It's not a priority for us now" Whaaa...?

Dear Mr. Flaherty,

Regarding Private Members Bill, C-531.

Sir, I was stupefied by the summary dismissal the press is reporting you gave to the idea of discontinuing the one cent coin. "It's not a priority for us now," sounds alarmingly like, "We didn't think of it, so we won't consider it now."

I am not an NDP voter, so I have no party-axe to grind. This is an issue of common sense. The thing that will attract the voters your party will need in order to gain majority status is an ongoing exhibition of common sense, which in this case will lead to a lack of common cents.

Save our money! Don't spend any more on circulating a coin that has become entirely annoying and totally pointless. Let wire transactions continue to the nearest cent but let our pockets grow a little lighter -- and release a little bit more copper for the whole world to benefit from. (see this article from Scientific American as referenced at slashdot).

Good ideas are worth looking at no matter who had them first. Please give this one more than passing notice.


Arthur N. Klassen etc. etc.

cc: Hon. Pat Martin, MP for Winnipeg Centre,
Hon. xxxxx xxxxxx, MP for my home riding