Conservative party MPs not immune to lobbying

The Conservative party of Canada has been making a big deal out of accountability during this election campaign. The following quote is from Harper Makes Commitment to Clean Up Government.

Stephen Harper said today his first piece of legislation as Prime Minister will be to introduce a new Federal Accountability Act designed to end the influence of big money in Ottawa and crack down on a lobbying culture that has thrived under Paul Martin.

To their credit, the Conservatives do outline some good ideas for dealing with this problem in the quoted article.

However, it would appear that at least one current Conservative MP is not a stranger to accepting money from lobby groups. From The Sad Reality of Copyright Policy in Canada:

In fact, notwithstanding the Conservatives’ claims of accountability, new research indicates that Oda is no stranger to funding support. According to her 2004 riding association data, she accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from the broadcast lobby. Corporate supporters included Alliance Atlantis, Astral Media, Canwest, and CHUM.

TV News in a Postmodern World

Doc Searls has been writing about markets being a conversation for quite a while now. Despite reading a lot of his stuff, (minus the Cluetrain Manifesto which I have been meaning to buy) I never really understood what he was talking about until I read TV News in a Postmodern World which Doc recently linked to.

Comment on hospital funding

Searching for stuff on Technorati is quite interesting.

I discovered an article in the Globe and Mail written by a London doctor. He discusses how hospitals are funded in Ontario. The post that led me to the article is called More on a rational view for healthcare and wait times.

Lobbying Canadian MPs

Like a lot of Canadians, I would like to believe that somehow our elected officials are immune to being overly influenced by special interest groups.

Unfortunately, I now know of one example where this is not the case. I find it incredibly hard to believe that Ms. Bulte thinks this is acceptable behavior.

An interesting comment on medical patents

From The nose cells that may help the paralysed walk again found via Slashdot.

This is not the most popular way of attempting to heal spinal injuries. That would be to produce patented chemicals, which drug companies can make and sell. What we’re proposing could be carried out by any very modestly equipped hospital with neurosurgery. There are no patents. It makes it a very unpopular form of research.

We’re producing a procedure where the patient is their own cure. You can’t patent a patient’s own cells, thank God.

— Prof Geoffrey Raisman

Software analogy

Inside Risks is the last page column in Communications of the ACM. The Inside Risks column in the September 2005 issue, written by Barbara Simons and Jim Horning, discusses how hard it is to get non-technical people to understand why writing bug-free, and more importantly secure software is so hard. The article offers a nice analogy with the following caveat, “Analogy is a poor tool for reasoning, but a good analogy can be very effective in developing intuition.”

One possibly useful analogy is the U.S. Tax Code. Americans have some sense of its complexity and of the large number of people employed in its interpretation. Tax loopholes are analogous to hidden malicious code or Trojan horses in software.

The tax code resembles software in other ways as well:

  • It is intended to be precise and to interface with messy realities of the real world.
  • It has been developed in multiple iterations, responding to changing circumstances and requirements.
  • The people who wrote the original version are no longer around.
  • No one understands it in its entirety.
  • It can be difficult to infer intent simply be reading a section.
  • There are people who actively seek to subvert it.

Of course, there are also major differences between the tax code and software. The tax code is relatively “small” – although it runs to several thousand printed pages, Windows XP has 40 million lines of source code.

The Collapse of Globalism

A few days ago I finally finished reading The Collapse of Globalism by John Ralston Saul. Unfortunately, I only had time to read it at the rate of about a chapter a day so I didn’t give the book as thorough of a reading at it really deserves.

Despite the somewhat sensational title I found this book to be much more balanced than I thought it would be. At several points Saul explains some of the good that has come with globalization but make no mistake, this book is about what has went wrong.

Saul believes that the ideas which drive globalism are based more on ideology than fact. This book does great service to society by tearing apart a simple ideology that will supposedly solve all of the world’s problems. Saul does not argue that all aspects of globalism are bad. He simply argues that one economic model cannot work in all situations. Pretty common sense when you think about it.

Here are couple of links to reviews of this book that are much better than mine.

http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2005/08/04.html
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-1616368_1,00.html

When Open Standards Really Matter – The Katrina Factor

When Open Standards Really Matter – The Katrina Factor from Groklaw.

Software patents

For an interesting opinion on software patents check this article out. I really like his conception of the line between what is patentable and what is not.

Terror and Liberalism

I just finished reading Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. The primary thesis of this book is that the current wave of Islamist (Berman is careful to distinguish between Islamist and Islamism) extremism and terrorism is a continuation of the anti-liberal movements of last century. Basically, Berman argues that the same instincts that drove Mussolini, Hitler and even Stalin are at the heart of the terrorist Islamist movements. Also interesting is the idea that communism and fascism, opposites on the left-right political map, are actually two tendrils of the same beast. Both are reactions to liberal societies.

Berman also spends considerable time discussing the prominent thinkers of the Islamist movements including Qutb who believed the truly dangerous part of American life was not capitalism but the separation of Church and State. I would love to provide a summary of this section and many others but I doubt I could do the book justice.

I really enjoyed this book and would happily recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

Below are a few quotes from the book that may be of interest.

Fascism and communism were violent enemies of each other – bitter opposites. But, caught in a certain light, the bitter opposites looked oddly similar. . . . Was it possible that fascism and communism were somehow related? Mightn’t both of those movements have evolved out of some other, deeper, primordial inspiration?”
— Page 22

On the liberal ideals of Europe and North America before the First World War.

It was an insistence on freedom of thought and freedom of action – not on absolute freedom, but on something truer, stronger, and more reliable than absolute freedom, which is relative freedom: a freedom that recognizes the existence of other freedoms, too. Freedom consciously arrived at. Freedom that is chosen, and not just bestowed by God on high.
— Page 38

On the results of World War I.

Every last thing that people in the nineteenth century had believed about human advancement, the conviction that progress was inevitable, the satisfied belief that Western Europe and North America had discovered the royal road to wealth and freedom and that everyone else was bound to follow sooner or later, the grand optimism, the feeling of certainty on behalf of all the world – every brick in that magnificent edifice came tumbling down.
— Page 41

Totalitarian movements always, but always, rise up in rebellion against the liberal values of the West. That is their purpose.
— Page 99

In the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, everyone has thought about the First World War and its aftermath. For those were the years when the liberal project of the nineteenth century finally went to pieces – the years when the simpleminded principles of rational thought and inevitable progress began to look, in their ingenuousness, grotesque and mendacious. Those were the years, in the immediate aftermath of the world war, when the new mass movements arose for no other purpose than to declare the old liberal project of the nineteenth century a lie – a gigantic deception foisted on mankind in the interest of plunder, devastation, conspiracy, and ruin.
— Page 118

The suicide bombings produced a philosophical crisis among everyone around the world who wanted to believe that a rational logic governs the world – a crisis for everyone whose fundamental beliefs would not be able to acknowledge the existence of pathological mass political movements.
— Page 143

What do the citizens of a proper liberal society feel in their hearts? A passion for solidarity and self-government. What do those citizens do? They devote themselves to those principles, until the last measure, if necessary. Liberalism is a doctrine that, in the name of tolerance, shuns absolutes; but liberalism does not shun every absolute.
— Page 170

The whole purpose of totalitarianism, Schlesinger wrote in 1949, was to combat the “anxiety” that is aroused by the lure of other, better ideas.
— Page 190