Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

CRTC abandons position on regulating Internet

The CRTC retreated from an indefensible position today. It will not attempt to regulate an Internet content company.  It told Netflix that their comments are being struck from the record and that the Commission can decide the future of Canadian television without their participation. The letter is sniffy and tries to make it look like Netflix was rude, but the substance is that the CRTC is backing off the threat of ordering them to provide data.

I do not know whether to congratulate them for doing getting off a losing position so quickly, or reproach them for getting into trouble in the first place. On balance, Canadians who understand the issue appreciate that the war has been called off. If I were the Chairman of the CRTC, I might like to review the legal advice I was receiving about whether the Commission can regulate the Internet as “broadcasting”, and if I were acting as my own chief legal counsel, I would remind myself about the perils of a lawyer representing himself.

And maybe something like that imaginary call from the Clerk of the Privy Council to the Chairman of the CRTC did occur.


Flogging a dead horse, episode 582: climate change

I was reading a few moments ago the confessions of a Joseph Boutilier, of the Loonie Politics aggregator site: “When it comes to climate change, we must all be leaders “.

Boutilier meditates on the issue of how to get people motivated when so much cynicism pervades the public. {Hold your nose -purple prose alert}

The pitfalls of the quest for climate action can also become our strengths.  Now that a real groundswell of awareness surrounding the need for urgent action has been translated into some effective, visible, exciting campaigns, the activist arm of the climate movement will mature with more bravado, empowerment and recognition than we’ve seen since the Al Gore bubble burst close to ten years ago.  Combine that with the undeniable passion of many climate-concerned opposition politicians and the high level of guidance and expertise offered through the same scientists and educators who first raised the issue to the public’s attention – smart, moral, dedicated people like James Hansen, George Monbiot, Andrew Weaver and David Suzuki – and the potential for a grassroots movement in Canada with pinpoint ambition, poise and influence is unparalleled among global causes.

Boutilier writes better than he thinks.  Apart from the reasons he cites, there are several reasons (note the word reasons, and not just causes) why interest in “climate change ” has declined.

Global warming is at bottom a scientific proposition. It asserts that by far the preponderant cause of observed global warming is carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Being a scientific proposition, it can be falsified. Humans have been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere steadily since the industrial revolution. The proportion of CO2, while still minuscule, is rising towards or has surpassed 400 parts per million. According to the theories of the warmists, there ought to have been a steadily observed increase of global average temperature to accompany the rise in CO2, since the causal relationship between CO2 and global warming is the core of the theory.



The warming has not been observed for something like 17 years. Climate change is basically a computer-modelling game, in which one matches a theory of climate against observed historical  data, and makes projections into the future of what will happen if the model is true.

There is a rough but not exact  correspondence between most computer models and the recent past. To say this rudely, the models do not even “predict” the past very well. There has been no correspondence between the predictions and the observed facts for the last 17 to 26 years.

Accordingly, it can be concluded that the scientific basis of global warming has been significantly damaged by the failure of models to correspond to observations.

 cmip5-models-versus-temperatur The black line above shows the mid-point of computer model predictions; the blue squares show what has been observed.

So let us return now to the credal statement of Joseph Boutilier and observe the poor fellow’s passion:

I realized that what the climate movement needs isn’t more extraordinary people.  It needs more ordinary people with extraordinary passion.  Like the first time I learned how to ride a unicycle, I had to let go of my own expectations and reservations to gain the impetus for action.  I had to see that I wasn’t especially capable, creative or resilient to discover that none of that mattered.  To realize that my heart wouldn’t be silenced by any logical excuse not to learn how to balance on one wheel.  And that my heart couldn’t possibly beat stronger than it does when I imagine the slim chance for a dramatic shift in our approach to climate justice.

What’s more, if such a shift does occur, if such a movement could be sparked by any number of ordinary folks like me, it wouldn’t just save the human race from famine, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, ocean acidification, desertification, heat waves, war and conflict, societal – and possibly species – collapse.  It could also restore our faith in the potential of our political system.  It could demonstrate the value of our parliamentary democracy.  Better yet, it could transform government through a process of peaceful, consensual, fundamental shifts in influence, aim, and connectedness with citizens to reflect the needs and desires of the rising generation.

How many tropes are touched upon here?

  • saving the world
  • saving the human race
  • justifying parliamentary democracy
  • getting right with the younger generation
  • achieving climate justice

Boutilier’s  screed is the expression of the romantic spirit in man, the quest for authenticity, the desire to transcend and also perfect the Self. All very German Romantic circa 1820. Global warming or climate change is just the cover for an essentially religious desire on his part to merge with the creative possibilities of the Spirit moving through history.

All very Hegelian. All drivel. He will be embarrassed by what he wrote within fifteen years.

I would like there to be a new ice bucket challenge: I challenge Joseph Boutilier and his band of Romantics to blather on about the horrors of global warming while having a large bucket of ice-water  dumped over their heads in freezing temperatures. There will be no sauna or fire to warm them afterwards, lest CO2 emissions increase. They will then be offered the microphone to urge us to climate action. Most coherent sermon wins. It should be a hoot on YouTube.

Then we will see how well “smart, moral, dedicated people” like Mr. Boutilier continue to enthuse about climate change and political engagement.


Since the decline of Bourque Newswatch, Loonie Politics is doing a reasonable job of aggregating the headlines and the columnists.


For once I would like to record that the Globe and Mail editorial board and I seem to be dwelling in the same universe. Which is to say that anyone concerned with preserving broadcast television is in the same place as those seeking to preserve bookstores and music record stores. A noble cultural goal for some people perhaps, but not for enough of us to sustain the commercial model.

About ten years ago, I recall the son of Sam the Record Man of downtown Toronto fame talking about why people would always want to browse through physical  records. Just the other week in Ottawa, one of the best and last record stores, CD Warehouse, closed its doors. I mourn its loss, but I buy from Amazon now, and I am a dinosaur for still buying physical media like books and CDs.

Do we really care that we get our news from an advertizer-supported television channel? Are we not informed enough?  I go occasionally to Law Society conferences where broadcasting lawyers and regulators grin and talk of broadcasting’s mission civilatrice, whistling past the graveyard. Moreover, do we need to subsidize this particular form of news dissemination at the cost of:

  • the CRTC declaring that all full-motion video content is “broadcasting” and therefore subject to licensing?
  • that we can exempt ourselves from their licensing by
    • obeying their general directives as to taste, range of acceptable attitudes, and decorum, and
    • sending to the Canadian broadcasters a little mordida in the form of a “broadcasting exemption order fee”

I am surprised we have not yet heard from OpenMedia? was the group that led the charge against usage-based billing in 2012. If usage -based billing was the outrage to Internet freedom because it priced bandwidth too high , what is this, which makes uploaders obliged to get a broadcasting licence, or obey an exemption order?

Apparently Google – that tiny little California hippy commune – considers the issue sufficiently important to protest the CRTC’s attempt at extending its jurisdiction to the Internet.

Michael Geist has some good articles on this dispute here.

Here is an interview with a former CRTC Commissioner on this issue by Don Martin of CTV’s “Power Play”.

There are billions of IP addresses, and millions within Canada. By contrast, the number of regulated broadcasting entities in Canada is in the low thousands. When you speak, or blog, or write an email or novel, you do not have to clear your work with the CRTC, the Jesuits, the Conservatives, the Department of National Heritage, or any authority whatsoever. You write or speak under laws of general application, and not because you hold a licence from the state. With broadcasting, you need a licence.

In the 20th century, the limited number of people who could occupy airwaves justified some control over them and what they said, because they held extremely valuable rights to “speak” to the many. That licence has become progressively less valuable as the number of speakers has risen to number in the millions and tens of millions, thanks to the Internet. No scarcity of voices, or Canadian voices, needs to be fixed or requires artificial protection on the Internet.

I keep wondering whether this conflict between the CRTC has been a deliberate provocation in order to offer the Harper government a convenient excuse to do something about the Broadcasting Act and the CRTC which implements it.

While I do not entirely discount this possibility, it is far more likely that the CRTC’s chairman just got sucked into a fight with stroppy little rebels like Netflix and Google. In any case, it is probably serving Harper’s interest to have this fight erupt at this time.

While we are on the subject of drinking

The news of Gérard Depardieu’s heroic alcohol intake prompted Duggan’s Dew to do a little research. Our intrepid reporter came up with this chart. It is a power curve of alcohol consumption by population decile. A shocking 30% of the population drinks nothing at all. (I did not know we had so many teetotallers, Mormons and Muslims) The fourth, fifth and sixth deciles might have a drink or two at Christmas or on an anniversary, and nothing in between. The seventh and eighth deciles might have one before dinner. The ninth decile goes through a bottle of wine nearly every day, maybe letting their wife and kids have a glass or two- which is pretty generous of them really.  And the people you want to know and with whom you can have a good time before they die are in the tenth decile.

The top ten percent of drinkers account for over half the alcohol consumed in any given year.


For more information, see the article in the Washington Post.


Marcel Masse, Quebec politician and traitor, dies

Marcel Masse was a Quebec nationalist politician. He worked in the Mulroney cabinet. He was variously Minister of Communications, Energy Mines and Resources, and Defence. He was born in 1936 and died last week in 2014.

I think pride in being French Canadian is normal, and to a degree, admirable. But when you accept a position as a Minister of the Crown in a federal government department, different and broader loyalties are expected: to the Constitution of Canada, to the nation (or nations) as a whole, and to the Crown which you serve.

I draw a line at the deliberate destruction of federal departments by the ceaseless oppression of English speakers and the vaulting upward of incompetent French-Canadian civil servants to replace them. I draw the line at the real racialism of French Canadian bigotry, which is so casual, unthinking and against which no one dares to raise one’s voice. Masse exemplified and acted upon this privileged anti-English racism. Marcel Masse’s tenure as a senior federal cabinet member in the Mulroney administration was a standing disgrace to his Prime Minister’s judgment.

We have not lost a great man, Mr. Mulroney, contrary to what you say. We have lost a traitor to this country, who went unpunished and highly rewarded by his true masters in the Quebec government. The Globe reports:

The nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste praised him as “an exemplary patriot” and former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Jean-François Lisée wrote that even when Mr. Masse was in Ottawa, “We could talk almost as if between fellow independentists.”

It was not “as if” – Marcel Masse was a separatist and campaigned for the Yes side in the 1995 referendum. Support for Quebec separation does not make him a traitor, that just makes him line up with his convictions. The treason lies in being a federal cabinet minister and acting upon those convictions.

I hope to piss on his tombstone one day.

Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

The last of six Mitford sisters died recently. She was Deborah, sister to Rebecca the Communist and Unity the Fascist, and three more eccentric and achieving females. The Duchess remained sane, rural, and focused on earning money to pay for the upkeep of Chatsworth, the home of the Dukes of Devonshire. She raised hens, wrote intelligent letters and books, and left her part of the world in better shape than when she found it.

Do yourself a favour and read her obituary in the Telegraph.

I quote this from the Daily Mail’s obituary:

On December mornings, with the sun coming up over the frosted Cotswolds and the breath of the bloodhounds rising as steam, Lord Redesdale would mount his horse and, hounds barking, hunt his children across the fields.

Starting soon after breakfast, the girls would be given a head start before the horn sounded and the dogs and hunter gave chase. When the hounds caught up, rather than sinking their teeth into the children as they had been trained to do with the local hares, they covered the girls with slobbering kisses.

It was a great regret of the youngest, Deborah, that she was always considered too little to be hunted. By the time she was old enough, the bloodhounds had gone and her father had lost his appetite for the sport.

Maybe being chased by hounds being whipped on by one’s father on horseback across the countryside is a good beginning to an education in politics, after all. You decide either to run with the hares (Jessica the Communist) or with the hounds ( Unity and Diana, the Fascists). Or you just love dogs and nature (Deborah and Pamela).


Duchess of Devonshire

The peasants are revolting

The Telegraph reports a new party, Alternativ für Deutschland, has won significant (10%+) voting share in various German Länder. The new party is called “Euroskeptic”, meaning that the German voter is tiring of bailing out corrupt Mediterranean economies.

Says the Telegraph, citing a ratings agency:

There has long been anger in Germany over the direction of EMU politics, with a near universal feeling that German taxpayers are being milked to prop up southern Europe, but dissidents were until now scattered. “AfD appears to enjoy a disciplined leadership, and is a well-funded party appealing to conservatives more broadly, beyond its europhobe core,” it said. “This shift in the partisan landscape could have implications for euro area policies by diminishing the German government’s room for manoeuvre. “

Why is it always such a surprise when the natives tire of supporting Muslim aggression internally and slacker nations externally?

An imaginary conversation about Netflix

News that the Chairman of the CRTC had ordered Netflix to tell him by Monday afternoon how many subscribers it had in Canada, sparked this imagined interchange.

The phone rings at the Chairman’s house. It is today, Saturday morning, September 20th, 2014. The caller ID reads “PCO”.

-Bonjour? Hello?

-<a woman’s voice> Good morning Mr. Blais, it is the Clerk calling. Can you hold while I put him on?

-Certainly {Jean-Pierre Blais straightens his dressing gown and stands up from the breakfast table. His heartbeat accelerates}

-JP! it’s Wayne. Thank you for taking the call. How are you?

-Surprised to get your call Mr. Wouters. To what do I owe the honour?

-JP I won’t beat around the bush. The PM is apoplectic about your move on Friday.

– You mean telling Netflix they owe us a statement of how many subscribers they have in Canada?

-Exactly. The PM is very concerned. You recall the storm that the Commission created when it imposed usage fees on the Internet?

-How could I forget?

-Yeah, well I know that wasn’t under your charmanship but the PM believes that any attempt to regulate the Net will provoke a shit storm of opposition.

-But the Internet is within our jurisdiction.

-Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. The PM is heading into an election in 2015. Do you think he wants the CRTC to be raising cable rates to feed the Canadian television industry? He does not want an immense court case to get in the way of his agenda.

-Mr.Wouters, I am not sure this call is entirely proper. Is this intended as a direction from government the decisions of an independent regulatory tribunal?

-Not at all Mr Chairman. This is a friendly encouragement to lower the heat on this issue. We cannot afford another earthquake like the usage based billing thing.

-I will pretend this conversation never happened.

-Do as you please, JP, but the PM will not back you if you raise this issue again.

-Thank you Mr Wouters.

-Good day, JP.


The second call goes from the Clerk of Privy Council to the PM.

Wouters <Prime Minister, I just spoke to JP. It is done>

Prime Minister Harper <Did he get the message?>

Wouters < I gave it loud and clear, Prime Minister. He is a clever man. I think he can respond to a clear statement of your concern.>

PM Harper < Will he raise a stink about regulatory independence?>

Wouters <He will pretend it never happened>

PM Harper <Thank you, Mr Wouters. Well done>

Wouters <Your’e welcome, Prime Minister>

PM Harper <Let’s talk Monday. It’s time to revisit dismantling that place>

Wouters < Yes, Prime Minister


Scottish referendum

I grew up with a severely distorted view of the Scots because my mother’s side were of Highland origin generations before and well integrated into Montreal’s economic elite. Indeed they constituted a portion of it. That side of the family included successful people: corporation presidents, university professors, stock brokers, lawyers  and accomplished sorts for generations. So my view of the Scots was of a world-embracing commercial tribe who delighted in good taste and thought art was the proper adornment of that taste. A bourgeoisie in short. Educate to make yourself rich, and embrace those who acted on the same principles.

Then in my thirties I met a Scottish newspaper reporter working for the Montreal Gazette. What a wee man! A professional whiner, and complainer about the English [of England], essentially no different from the Péquistes from the small towns of Quebec’s backward minds. It was quite a come-down. I then speculated that all the Scotch with any gumption had emigrated, populating Canada, the United States, and New Zealand in the past centuries, leaving behind the less enterprizing, the duller, and that the tipping point had been reached some time ago.

My concern about Scottish independence is that what they may want is more welfare, and they want it on the basis of grievance-entitlement, and that, win or lose, England has entered upon or is maintaining a province of grievance rather than a setting up a new zone of enterprize, thrift, brain-power, and accomplishment.

My experience tells me that Scotland is on a path downward into more pettiness, idleness and grievance. Anyway, if it results in David Cameron leaving politics, it will not be an entire loss.

On further thought, the great benefit of Harper’s regime has been his encouragement through every policy of the kinds of people the Scotch used to be, and his steady discouragement of the kinds of people they may have become.