Let me make it clear, first of all, that I have no desire to save the music industry. The music industry consists largely of blood-sucking vampires who abuse, deceive, and exploit raw talent. A pox on all of their houses.

But, I do want artists to be paid for their work.

It is clear that there is no way to stop people from using the internet and their computers to freely copy music. It’s too easy. Even if you wanted to pay for the music, it is easier to download a copy from the internet than it is to buy a CD at your local record store.

But if the music industry can no longer sell enough CD’s to pay their artists, how will the artists be paid?

Here’s my solution: the government should impose a surcharge on all personal  internet accounts. The surcharge will be collected by all Internet Service Providers and remitted to an organization managed by representatives of the musical artists community. All artists who wish to be paid for their music will have the option of joining or not joining. This organization will find a way to track the volume of downloads for each member artist. Based on these numbers, each artist will be compensated directly from the fund.

The amount of the surcharge will probably only have to be about $2 or $3 a month or less.

The beauty of this plan is that the government is not required to monitor anybody’s downloads, or try to regulate internet usage. All it has to do is impose the fee and ensure that the money is funneled directly to the artists (and not to the parasitical music industry itself).

The only problem with this proposed system is that someone will have to develop a way of monitoring downloads and tabulating the numbers for each artist. I rather think that the makers of Napster, faced with multi-billion dollar law suits from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) would be more than happy to comply. As for all those people who are paranoid of government intervention, it should be stressed that the monitoring is done by the proposed artists’ agency and not by the government or the recording industry.

There. Done. A remarkably simple and effective solution. I hereby copyright it.

All I ask is mere .01% of the take.

Squeegee Kids

I’m a flaming, bleeding-heart liberal, so, for you redneck conservatives out there, that means I am in favor of the government spending our hard-earned tax dollars (why is it that people who always use that phrase rarely work hard for anything at all?) to make life better for everyone.

One of these programs that is supposed to make life better is this program that takes squeegee kids off the streets and trains them to find jobs.

The program cost $600,000 for one year. In that year, more than 110 kids were helped. The organizers of the program spent some of that hard-earned money to have some genius come in and “assess” the program. This means, he or she sat around and chatted with people and then wrote something up on the computer and put his or her credentials beside it. The assessment always recommends that the program be continued. I don’t know of any consultant who, when hired by a social service agency to evaluate their services, miraculously came to the conclusion that the public needed less of that particular service.

Actually, I do know of one, from personal experience. A consultant from Windsor informed a Children’s Mental Health agency that their “catchments” area was over serviced and under-utilized. He returned to Windsor and was never heard from again.

If you took the $600,000 and gave the cash to the squeegee kids, you would have about $6,000 per kid. I always wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just give them the money. But then, I suppose they wouldn’t spend it very wisely, and then soon they’d all be back on the streets squeegeeing cars again.

If I had $600,000, I think I’d hire about 15 Squeegee Kids part-time (maybe one day a week) for a year, provide them with decent apartments downtown, train them myself, and send them back on to the streets to watch out for the other Squeegee Kids, and young girls running away from home, and homeless alcoholics, and all the other people down on their luck. They could see that they stay safe, out of the cold, and get a bowl of soup once in a while.

Bill’s Top 10 Albums

I don’t believe in top 10 lists, generally. If a song or movie or book is great, you should hear it or see it or read it, regardless of whether or not it is anyone’s top 10 list.

Still, it is useful sometimes to have a list of “essentials”. These are works of art that almost certainly will prove rewarding, if you haven’t yet experienced them. You could argue all day and all night about whether “Citizen Kane” is #1 or #10 on your list of all-time great movies, but few people would dispute that it is very worth seeing.

So granted that valuations and rankings have very limited value, they do have that one particular virtue.

A few years ago, in 1992, the London Free Press published a list of the top 1,000 popular songs of the rock era. These songs were chose by a bunch of DJ’s, I believe, and reflect some bizarre criteria. What on earth is Bryan Adams doing anywhere near the top 100? And Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” at #12? Weird!

Here’s my own list. I don’t put much significance in actual position. Do you think I care if “Like a Rolling Stone” should be first, or “Satisfaction”? The point is that both of them are great songs.

One thing I do care about: you will notice that not a single twisted, pompous, over-blown, mannerist “magnum opus”– like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” or “Hotel California” or even “Stairway to Heaven” is on my list. Sure, these songs do have their virtues, and I can enjoy them once in a while. But great artists are economical with their material. Sometimes the greatest talent is that of knowing what to leave out. That’s the difference between the Beatles’ White Album– a disaster in many respects– and Abbey Road, a masterpiece. That’s difference between the brilliant Blonde on Blonde and the abysmal Self Portrait, both by Bob Dylan.

There’s great music in both, somewhere, but only one of each pair is a great album.

Anyway, let’s start with a list of best singles, of all time:


1. I Fought the Law Bobby Fuller Four The greatest most complete compact piece of music ever created.  The Clash’s version is pretty impressive too, but Bobby Fuller’s lean and mean Fender strat takes the cake.
2. Like a Rolling Stone Bob Dylan Lyrically and musically, a masterpiece of it’s time– a vitriolic indictment of everything superficial and phony and materialistic about our society.
3. Suzanne Leonard Cohen A beautiful, moody, and mystical tribute to the essence of feminine grace.
4. (I can get no) Satisfaction Rolling Stones The greatest riff in rock’n’roll.
5. Good Vibrations Beach Boys I am not a fan of Brian Wilson and company, but there is more invention and musical imagination in these three minutes than there are blondes in Malibu.
6. Eleanor Rigby Beatles Inspired by Bob Dylan, the Beatles raised their music to a new level with the albums Rubber Soul and Revolver.
7. Sultans of Swing Dire Straits Mark Knopfler’s amazing lead guitar punctuates this crisp, driving paean to musician’s musicians.
8. All Along the Watchtower Bob Dylan Or Jimi Hendrix.  Both versions are excellent, but Dylan’s is more compact and efficient.
9. Anchorage Michelle Shocked Weirdly evocative punk-country tune that never ceases to tickle.
10. Runaway Del Shannon During the lean years between Elvis and the British Invasion, this was one of the few marvels.

Honorable Mentions

11. Sweet Jane Lou Reed  
12. Twist and Shout Beatles  
13. Reelin’ in the Years Steely Dan  
14. Layla Derek and the Dominos Okay– so it’s a bit pompous and self-indulgent.  It’s also one of the greatest guitarists ever at his best.
15. Won’t Get Fooled Again Who  
16. Go Your Own Way Fleetwood Mac  
17. Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen  
18. London Calling Clash  
19. Norwegian Wood Beatles  
20. Hallelujah Leonard Cohen  
21. Psycho Killer Talking Heads  
22. Money Pink Floyd  
23. Me Myself I Joan Armatrading  
24. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend T-Bone Burnett  
25. Heart of Gold Neil Young  
26. Stage Fright The Band  
27. Down by the River Neil Young  
28. Rip in Heaven Til Tuesday  
29. Don’t Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult One of the most chilling songs ever recorded.
30. Frederick Patti Smith  
31. Lucy Al Stewart  
32. Joey Concrete Blonde Hmmm.  Maybe.
33. Criminal Under My Own Hat T-Bone Burnett  
34. Tokyo Bruce Cockburn  
35. This Wheel’s on Fire Band  


Bill’s Top Ten Albums

Whenever I do this sort of thing, I almost unconsciously start thinking, well, gotta have a woman in there, and a black, and, geez, you can’t leave out this band or that band or whatever. That’s not the right way to choose your favourite albums of all time. So I tried to simply stick to the best 40 minutes of music, period. I have also excluded collections and greatest hits albums. If I did include them, Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume II would be the winner, hands down.

1. Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan
2. Rubber Soul Beatles
3. Brothers in Arms Dire Straits
4. New Skin for the Old Ceremony Leonard Cohen
5. Harvest Neil Young
6. Born to Run Bruce Springsteen
7. Exile on Main Street Rolling Stones
8. Rumours Fleetwood Mac
9. Déjà vu Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
10. Music From the Big Pink Band

Honorable Mentions:

11. Songs of Leonard Cohen Leonard Cohen
12. Bookends Simon and Garfunkel
13. After the Gold Rush Neil Young
14. Blood on the Tracks Bob Dylan
15. Blonde on Blonde Bob Dylan
16. Aja Steely Dan
17. Ghosts that Haunt Me Crash Test Dummies
18. Trinity Sessions Cowboy Junkies
19. Songs of Love and Hate Leonard Cohen
20. Everything’s Different Now Til Tuesday (Aimee Mann)

Disagree? So do I. Lists are stupid. But they get you thinking about great songs and about what makes a song great.  More importantly, they help you decide on what to load up onto your music player.

Little Piggies

At the end of the celebrated novel Animal Farm by George Orwell, the farm animals look from their revolutionary leaders, the pigs, to their former oppressors, the farmers, and begin to see that they are both essentially alike. Orwell’s point was eloquently made: under the enticing delusion of liberation, the animals replaced one set of thugs with another.

Orwell has been widely interpreted as inferring that capitalism is okay, because he so obviously illustrates how communism betrayed humanity. Most people miss a very important point: the farmers (capitalists) are as bad as the pigs.

George Orwell died in 1950. The CIA’s Howard Hunt (who later helped burgle the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Richard Nixon’s Re-election Committee) dispatched some agents to Britain to buy the film rights of the book from Orwell’s widow. In the subsequent animated version of the movie, the farmer-capitalists in the conclusion were deleted.

And here, of course, the wonderful incidence of enemies ending up behaving like each other.  The U.S. government lied to encourage Americans to believe that the Communists are liars.

[When you think about it, that’s quite an admission. It’s as if the CIA was admitting that the “good” capitalists it was defending were intent upon slaughtering and eating the “workers”. But that was okay, because the Communists were going to do the same thing anyway. 2011-03-04]

The Animal Farm revisionism was only part of a concerted campaign by the CIA to try to discredit communism by sponsoring a steady stream of propaganda against it through cultural agencies, exhibitions, writers, and academics.

Obviously, the very means by which the CIA tried to prove that the capitalist west was “free” powerfully undermined the very notion that the U.S. and it’s allies were substantively more honest, truthful, or ethical than their communist enemies.

Among those who were compromised by this campaign: Nicholas Nabokov (the writer’s cousin), Stephen Spender, Isaiah Berlin, Encounter Magazine, James Mitchener, and Mary McCarthy.

I recall a piece in Reader’s Digest by James Mitchener in which he essentially argued that the students at Kent State deserved to be shot by the National Guard because some of the female protestors used obscenities, and this was an extreme provocation to the National Guardsmen who were largely effete southern gentlemen who were shocked that ladies would use obscenities. I wonder if that particular piece was subsidized. Perhaps it should have been.

These and other gems are recounted in a book by British writer Frances Stonor Saunders, in “The Cultural Cold War: The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and Letters”

Trust no one.

McCaine Mutiny

There is a lot to be learned about the Republican Party from the failed candidacy of John McCain.

First of all, there is the bizarre logic of the primary process. The object of the primaries is to nominate a candidate who can represent the values of the Republican Party and win an election against the nominee from the Democrats. But you wouldn’t know it from this primary.

There is a certain percentage of the electorate who will vote upon party lines regardless of who the nominee is. But in order to win the election, you must appeal to more of the undecided, moderate voters than your opponent does. It was rather hysterical, in this context, to hear George Bush Jr. complain bitterly about John McCain appealing to Democrats and independents in order to win the Michigan primary. In other words, the outrageous John McCain actually positioned himself well to win the general election. Is that the kind of candidate you want??? Well… it is, sort of.

But the larger lesson is that the Republican Party really is, baldly and absolutely, the party of Big Money. Bush and McCain did not disagree on any major policy issue except what to do with the budget surplus (Bush wants to give it to the rich in the form of a tax break, while McCain wants to use it to pay down the debt and fortify Medicare) and campaign finance reform. McCain wants to eliminate the notorious “soft money” from election campaigns; Bush doesn’t.

The fundamental difference between the two men is that George Bush Jr. understands and likes the symbiotic relationship between the wealthy and Republican politics, and McCain does not. Bush understands that, in exchange for the millions of dollars in campaign financing he has received, he will enact certain policies and agendas that will generously benefit his rich sponsors, including, especially, his mammoth proposed tax break for the rich. McCain sees that relationship as something that essentially corrupts the political process. Instead of making decisions based on what is best for all Americans, Bush Jr. will be making decisions based on the best interests of his generous buddies.

The Republicans would have you believe that the Democrats do the same thing. But even the Republicans admit that the special interests that the Democrats are generally beholden to are groups, like the labor unions and the NAACP and teachers’ associations and so on. So at least the Democrats are beholden to large numbers of people, instead of a small minority of wealthy capitalists.

Gore has smartly positioned himself right behind McCain. He has offered to forego the use of all “soft” money if Bush Jr. also agrees.

Fat chance, and Gore knows it, and Bush knows it.

Cherry Pie in the Face

Hockey Night in Canada should fire Don Cherry.  The man is a complete fraud.

Don Cherry is a former NHL coach.  I emphasize the word “former”.  After short tours with the Boston Bruins and Colorado Flames, nobody wanted him anymore.  He was offered a post on Hockey Night in Canada.  He’s been there ever since, telling everyone else how to run their hockey teams.

His one virtue is he speaks his mind without thinking– if you can call that a virtue.  It is entertainment, but I wouldn’t call it a virtue.  For some reason (well, the reason is obvious– it wins viewers), Don Cherry is allowed to speak his mind on HNIC when nobody else is.  Remember Dave Hodge was fired for flipping a pencil when HNIC declined to switch to the last few minutes of an important game in Montreal instead of going to advertising.

Cherry lambastes coaches, referees, and players– especially European or Russian players–during the intermissions of hockey games.  You get the impression that if only Don Cherry were in charge of the Leafs or the Flyers or the Canadiens, the Stanley Cup would be a sure thing.

But wait a minute!  Don Cherry is in charge.  Don Cherry owns an Ontario Junior “A” hockey team called the Mississauga Ice Dogs.  Wow.  This team must be doing really great, right?

The Mississauga Ice Dogs are currently on pace to set a record all right.  It has about 8 wins.  It is about to set a record for the fewest points ever for a Junior “A” franchise.   The Ice Dogs have one of the top positions in next year’s OHL Junior “A” draft sown up.  But the most talented eligible players don’t want to play for Don Cherry’s team.

One of the biggest problems with the team is that many of the employees are members of Don Cherry’s family.  Another problem is that Don Cherry hires a coach, puts him in charge of the team’s performance, and then second-guesses all of his decisions.

And, of course, Cherry doesn’t want any Russian or European players on his team.

The result of these policies is that the Ice Dogs are the worst team in junior hockey.  Cherry should admit he doesn’t know anything about hockey.  He just mouths off at every opportunity.

It’s time for Hockey Night in Canada to bring in an expert analyst instead.

Time Magazine’s Big Lie

Time Magazine recently released an issue devoted to movers and shakers of the 20th century. I found an interesting little item on Bill Gates:

gates_txt.jpg (29609 bytes)

This is a lie.  It’s not a difference of opinion held by the editors of a popular news magazine: it is a lie, plain and simple.

Interesting, isn’t it? “..together they designed the breakthrough software to run the first microcomputers…”

A few points:

1. Gates was kicked out of Harvard for stealing computer time– he didn’t “drop out”.

2. Gary Kildall designed “DOS”, or CP/M as it was then known. Bill Gates and Paul Allen did NOT. When Kildall and IBM were unable to reach an agreement on the use of CP/M for the new IBM PC, IBM went to Bill Gates. Gates realized that a version of Kildall’s CP/M– called “QDOS” from Seattle Computer Products could do the trick, so Paul Allen licensed it and he and Gates turned around and licensed it to IBM. Kildall later discovered that QDOS was a virtual copy of CP/M, sued, and then settled out of court with IBM.

IBM does not settle out of court if they are right.  They settle out of court to mitigate their losses against the likelihood of losing in court.

History is so enamored of material success that it begins to re-write itself. Suddenly, not only is Gates greedily, madly, insanely rich– he must deserve it in some way!

2. The software they didn’t create– DOS– was as much of a “breakthrough” as the Edsel, especially as the years went by and it was solely in Microsoft’s hands.  It was a piece of dated, inadequate code that couldn’t even address memory above 640K for more than 10 years. The “breakthrough” was the Macintosh OS from Apple, which Gates shamelessly pillaged for Windows, and which itself stole from the Xerox lab at Palo Alto. Breakthrough? Geosworks was a breakthrough, and unlike Windows, it worked. Breakthrough? The 80386 chip was a breakthrough. But Windows still runs as if it’s on a 8088– it can’t multi-task or multi-thread. Breakthrough? On the same machine, Linux hums and 0S/2 throbs.

3. Microsoft software “humming”??? “Humming”???? “Humming”????? The person who wrote this little blurb was insane. Was Time soliciting new advertising from Microsoft at the time this little piece of shit was written?

Let us pray that “history” has more regard for the truth than Time Magazine or Bill Gates.

The Diagnosis

It is so important to give it a label.

You feel tired. You are bored. You are frustrated. Maybe you’re also not very bright or ambitious. You don’t want to tell people you are tired and bored and frustrated and not very ambitious, because that would make it sound like it’s your own fault. So, instead, you have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Maybe your two-year-old is really active. He climbs up everything. He’s loud and noisy and eager and excitable. You find this annoying. But you can’t tell anyone that you find your own kid annoying or that you are too impatient to be a good parent, so, instead, you say that he has attention deficit disorder and pop some drugs into him to slow him down.  Sure, it takes away some of his energy and curiosity, but, hey, you have to get your sleep.

The diagnosis, in our society, is essential. We need that label. We need an identifier. We have to generate public belief in and enthusiasm for conditions that might be nebulous, vague, or invisible.


Well, almost every time you hear the diagnostic label being propounded, it’s by someone who makes his or her living treating it. This is why the bible of psychotherapy, the DSM III or IV or V or whatever it’s at now, always gets bigger and bigger. It never shrinks. They almost never remove “syndromes” from it. (It caused a bit of nudging and winking when they did finally remove homosexuality from their list of morbidities not all that long ago.)

And that’s why pharmaceutical companies are determined to get your kid into their slimy clutches. They are promoting the idea that a four-year-old who wont go to bed nicely when asked has some kind of mental disorder and needs to be drugged. Once your kid is used to those colorful little pills twelve times a day, they know he’ll never, ever again feel that he can handle life without some kind of narcotic assistance.  His “baseline” is obliterated.  Whatever he feels from now on will be partly due to the drugs and partly due to withdrawal from the drugs.  The perfecta of pharmaceutical self-sufficiency.

The magic of the diagnosis is clear. Some people will deny that feeling tired or frustrated or depressed is an illness. Some people might think its just part of life. You put up with it. You endure it, and get on with the things you have to do.

But it’s easy to convince people otherwise. If you have the proper label for something, people will assume that adequate research and scientific analysis has determined that this condition really exists. We trust doctors. They’ll assume that a doctor made the diagnosis, and everyone knows how smart doctors are. They’ll assume that everyone thinks it is a real condition because it has become part of the language. It becomes shorthand, to a lot of people, for complexities that are too hard to explain quickly.

When I was a lot younger, if I heard someone say something like, “he has attention deficit disorder”, I would just assume that there was such a thing as “attention deficit disorder”, and therefore we better do something about it. Now I’m a lot more skeptical, but I can remember how easy it was to accept sophisticated-sounding terms like that as if they referred to clear, objective realities.

When you look at the “symptoms” of chronic fatigue syndrome, you realize how utterly subjective and arbitrary labels can be. Tiredness. Depression. Loss of appetite. Headaches. Difficult to get up in the morning. And so on. Sounds like just about anyone’s rotten little life. Label it, and we can blame someone or something else. Label it, and we can talk multi-million dollar lawsuits. Label it and we can make a drug that fixes it. Then we are not “doing drugs”. We are doing “therapy”. We are taking the “wonder drugs”, Lithium and Prozac and Paxil, and whatever. It’s okay– we have to take these drugs: we have a condition.

The drugs, of course, don’t really fix anything. They give you a sustained high. It is one of the great myths of our society that drugs like Lithium and Prozac actually treat real conditions. That is utter nonsense. They simply make you feel good. But we have to believe in the myth, or else we would have to admit that we’re really not much better than your average drug addict or alcoholic.

Well, we’re not.

I heard some parents on the radio recently (the CBC) talking about their “hyper-active” child. The parents of this child were at their wits end. They didn’t know what to do. They went to the doctor. He prescribed Ritalin. They tried it. It worked! Hallelujah. However, their child just didn’t seem to be herself anymore. She lost her sense of insatiable curiosity. She lost her spark, her zest for life. They took her off Ritalin and tried different parenting techniques instead. From the details the father gave on the air, it was clear that he and his wife simply got better at parenting. They learned to anticipate when problems might occur. They planned ahead for family outings. They became more flexible and adaptable. Amazingly, the problems seemed to go away.

Was their child ever really “hyper-active”? If you read the definition of hyper-activity from the DSM, it is an amazingly accurate description of just about any two-year-old.

Beware of labels.

Update 2022-04-26

And I will concede that this will not a popular post.  I am regularly astounded at how many people I know are taking psychotropic drugs, and obviously I am very skeptical of their use.  I am wary of hurting people’s feelings.  But there is good reason to voice my dissent no matter how small a minority I represent.  We in danger, as a society, of building a world in which we continually anesthetize ourselves against our deepest anxieties.  We have good reason to be anxious: we are melting the ice caps.  We are promoting intolerance and bigotry.  We are more divided than ever before.  We should be anxious and the worst solution is to address our anxiety with palliatives.

Robin Sharpe and the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court Handles a Tough One

Is it possible to consider this issue, soberly, and intelligently?

You are probably familiar now with the Robin Sharpe case that is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nobody is saying that Robin Sharpe is a nice man. Sharpe was arrested by the police in Vancouver for possession of child pornography, an offense punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada– Federal Law. Newspaper accounts are rather sketchy about the details of the arrest, but we know what it is that the law said was illegal: he had, in his possession, images and texts describing sexual acts involving children.

Sharpe did not argue that people should be allowed to create child pornography and sell and distribute it. Most people don’t care about the distinction, but I do. He did argue, in court, that the law as worded was too broad. He argued that the law appeared to make it a criminal offense to even think about having sex with children. The law certainly made it a criminal offense to record such thoughts on paper, even if nobody else ever reads them, or sees them. Robin Sharpe, and his lawyers, and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, believe that this part of the law restricts his freedom to think and imagine. It infringes on an individual’s right to have an unfettered imagination. It opens a Pandora’s box of interpretation and analysis that cannot possibly result in just actions by the police. It is not the business of the government, or anyone, to make thoughts illegal.

You have to think carefully about what the law is trying to prohibit here. It prohibits the expression, in any form, of specific imaginary experiences (as well as real experiences). In this case, we are talking about a man who likes to fantasize about having sex with very young boys. But the law is never specific. It doesn’t tell you in advance what kind of person to arrest. Conceivably, a girl having dreams about being molested by a teacher could be arrested for writing them down. Well, we know that we would never arrest such a person, would we? For one thing, in practice, we always assume that the girl, in this instance, is the victim, even if they are her fantasies.

The law, however, should never make assumptions. And the law doesn’t help us make the kind of distinctions that might be required: what is imagination? Who is the victim? What is a dream? What is poetry? What is documentation? What is fiction? What if the girl imagined herself as the teacher that was molesting her? There is a raft of issues that could complicate the process of deciding if possession of this particular document or image is a crime. Is there a way to ensure that all of these issues are addressed in a consistent, convincing manner, to ensure that the right person is always punished? In a society that can’t even agree on what the rules are for political secession?

Two lower British Columbia courts have ruled in favor of Sharpe. They have ruled that the law goes too far. They have argued that if the principle is allowed to stand, then it will also be legal to arrest people for thinking and writing other things. It is a bedrock principle of our legal system that all of our citizens have the right to hold personal opinions no matter how unpopular they are. You cannot disobey most laws, but you can criticize them all you want, and advocate for changes to them.

The problem with discussing the issue with anyone is that people find the very idea of child pornography so repugnant that they react very emotionally to the issue and quickly pronounce themselves in favor of any law, no matter how ill-considered, that makes child pornography illegal. The courts, of course, cannot afford to be so cavalier.

Ironically, some of the groups most enthusiastic about keeping the law are the ones who also constantly rant about getting the government off our backs. They claim the government plays an excessive role in our society, when they advocate for the poor, or homosexuals, or other minorities. In this instance, however, they want to give the government extraordinary latitude in dealing with a particular type of activity.

You may recall the hysteria surrounding allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse in the 1980’s. Similar emotions were at play. The result was a massive “witch-hunt” of mind-boggling proportions, in which dozens of innocent men and women were imprisoned, and hundreds of innocent lives were destroyed. After a few years of sober, second thoughts, and a re-analysis of the way the investigations were conducted, almost all of these cases were tossed out of court. Just a few months ago, charges against Bob Kelly, who was at the centre of one of the most infamous of these cases (the Edenton “Little Rascals” case) were finally dropped. (In spite of the fact that superior courts consistently ruled that these investigations were almost criminally sloppy and ill-conceived, no one, to my knowledge, has apologized for destroying the lives of the innocent men and women caught up in these events.)

Why did these cases go forward in the first place? For the same reason many people wish to see the Supreme Court uphold the child pornography laws: because they hate child pornography and they are willing to make compromises in order to believe that we are actually doing something about it. These people, including the Reform Party, believe that if the Supreme Court upholds the lower court appeal decisions, then Parliament should invoke the “notwithstanding” clause of the Bill of Rights and enforce the law anyway.

But if the Supreme Court rules that it can be made illegal to possess images and texts that describe illegal acts, it will have established that, in principle, the government can arrest people for what they think and say, instead of only for what they do.

In fact, that principle is already at play in Canada in our hate laws. A person can be arrested for publishing documents that promote hatred or contempt for people based on their race, nationality, religious beliefs, or ethnic origin. Many people think that these are good laws too. I don’t. I despise racism, but I believe that freedom of expression is the very foundation of freedom and democracy and should never be compromised for any other principle. Without freedom of expression, we cannot even guarantee that discussions about the law, including the pornography laws, will be allowed to take place.

For the same reason, I abhor the language laws in Quebec. Yes, it would be a tragedy to see the French language in North America die. But it is a greater tragedy that people can be arrested for saying something in the wrong words. It is absurd. If French deserves to survive, it will survive for the right reasons. If not, we should mourn it’s passing.

Right now, most of us think we have a reasonably fair and just government. But if we didn’t, the government could use this case as a precedent to justify arresting people who disagree with them on other things.

It is always a challenge to persuade people that it is important to fight for the rights of people we don’t like. We’d rather, often, just bash them in the teeth. We are short-sighted and stupid sometimes. We forget that every time we chisel away at these rights even a little, we establish the conditions under which our own freedoms can eventually be suppressed.

The Supreme Court should uphold the appeals courts and invalidate the child pornography laws. Then Parliament should enact a new law that omits the offending portions. It’s really no big deal. The law can continue to make it illegal to create or sell or distribute child pornography. The police can still arrest molesters and abusers. No stores will be allowed to display, for sale, the forbidden items. We will still be able to read the Bible (which, under certain circumstances, could fit the definition of “pornography” that some would like to see enacted into law).

I don’t know if people imagine that this one particular part of the child pornography law goes very far in terms of prevention anyway. It doesn’t.

It merely allows the police to arrest people for thought crimes.

Microsoft Word Still Sucks

Normally I sit down and collect details for this kind of rant, but I’m too enraged to do it right now.

The subject is Microsoft Office and Front Page 2000.

Microsoft has had a monopoly on office “suites” since they intentionally destroyed Word Perfect for Windows by finagling the settings on the links to the operating system so that Word Perfect crashed frequently. Word Perfect never recovered. (Does anyone still remember when Word Perfect had a huge margin on MS Word, in the DOS world?)

Office has a lot of nice functions, a fairly nice interface, and some intriguing capabilities. You can’t avoid using it because almost every office has standardized on it. Employees request it. And it does have some slick features.

But it has a number of very, very large annoyances, all of which serve to profit Microsoft at the users’ expense.

1. What kind of idiot wants to store all his documents in a directory called “my documents”? Well, an idiot. You get a computer. You don’t understand anything about directories or files. You create something in “Word”. Where is it? Where is my document? Oh! Eureka! It’s in “my documents”. How convenient. Convenient, of course, until you have about 200 documents and you need to sort them into logical directories.

And guess what– Microsoft is carrying this absurdity even further! I just noticed there are two new directories on my computer called “my photos” and “my web pages” and “my music”.

And, after reading Bill Gates’ personal web page, I now understand what the meaning is of “my” in those directory names: your files belong to Bill Gates.

2. I have a lot of documents. I store them in many directories. In order to find what I want quickly, I have a list of “favorites”, which narrows down the search considerably, and quickly. Then I installed Front Page 2000 and Internet Explorer. You know what these incomprehensibly stupid programs did? They added my internet bookmarks to my “favorites” list. Does Microsoft honestly think that I now want to keep all my files on web servers all over the globe? And just try to get rid of the extra “favorites” that refer to web sites like “Amazon” (just where I want to store my personal letters, of course). Does anyone know how to get rid of them?

3. I used to create a certain file in Excel and then save it and then import it into Front Page to convert it to a web page so I could adjust the décor, install some images, and fine tune it for my web page. Well, after installing Front Page 2000, whenever I open the file, it opens Excel! Look, you morons, I want to open it in Front Page, not Excel! You can’t even “import” it into Front Page. Are you people incredibly stupid or what?

4. We have an application in the office where I work that runs on Access 95. When we installed Access 97 (as part of Office 97) on our computers, the application could no longer run. So we tried to install Access 95, while leaving the rest of the Office suite alone. Access 95 killed off Access 97. For what reason, pray tell, can you not run both Access 95 and Access 97 on the same computer? Well, the obvious reason is Microsoft’s desire to bully you into upgrading everyone in your office to Office 97.

5. For that same application, we needed some kind of module from the Developer’s Tool Kit for Office 95, which cost about $1000. We bought it. We installed it. Then we found out the application will not work with Office 97. So we went looking for the Developer’s Toolkit for Office 97. Microsoft didn’t offer it anymore. Tell you what though– if you upgrade everyone in the office to Office 2000, you can buy some other combination of stupid modules for $2000 that might give you the same functionality. But then again, it might not. Nobody knows for sure. And just think: right at this very moment, Microsoft is probably hatching their next evil plan to make your life miserable until you buy some new, expensive Microsoft application, which only make your life even more miserable.

6. I invest a lot of work in templates. They save a lot of time, if you create web pages that essentially require similar formats and images. So where are the templates for Front Page? Where are they hiding? In a directory called “templates”? Damned if I know. Where are the Office 2000 templates now? Here’s a history of where templates used to go:


  • Word 6.0 c:\msoffice\msword\templates
  • Office 95 c:\msoffice\templates
  • Office 97a c:\program files\msoffice\templates
  • Office 97b c:\program files\Microsoft\office\templates
  • Office 2000 c:\program files\Microsoft\office\templates\??????

When I tried to find my Front Page templates, I ended up in a directory called:

..\..\..\windows\application data\Microsoft\chromehorse\images\rotw.jpg

Now the “chromehorse” and “rotw.jpg” are mine. They belong in c:\chromehorse. What is this file doing here? Why is Microsoft continually hiding stuff all over the place on my humungous hard drive, so it is almost impossible to figure out what files belong where and what they do? Well, it’s not some weird sort of complex system of preserving your data. In fact, this ‘system’ is designed to embed defaults into Windows that make you wholly and utterly dependent on the operating system (Microsoft) to manage your data. And the aim of all of this is to make it less and less conceivable or possible for you to use any product that doesn’t understand these secrets intimately. In other words, any product other than those made by Microsoft.

7. Do you use the power save functions of Windows? Then your system has probably crashed. It probably went into power save mode and wouldn’t “wake up”. It went into a coma. And guess what? If you shut off the power switch on the back of your computer so you can reboot, you might very well lock the system into a permanent coma. You might have to pull the battery off the motherboard to get it to wake up again. If they can’t make the power save functions work properly, why do they even bother to put them in?

8. Wow. Even as I was writing this, I discovered a new incredibly irritating “feature”. In order to get around the other idiotic defaults of Office 2000, I decided to import my favorite Front Page template into Word and save it as a Word template. Then I can use it to write my rants in Word and save them in HTML for transfer to my web page. But guess what? When I try to import the template, Office opens Front Page instead of Word, even when I try to open the document in Word!

Whoa nelly! I just found out where Microsoft is really storing my Office templates! It’s in:

c:\windows\application data\Microsoft\templates

So we can add this to the list.

And you can think about how efficient it is to keep moving your files around like that. It’s as if every six months, your company moved their head office to a different building in a different town, and hid all the office supplies in various new locations, and changed all your user names and passwords, and won’t tell you where the parking garage is.


As for my templates….

I’m not sure where my templates are actually. There are some bizarre file names at the tail end of that directory, none of which tell me where my laboriously designed and crafted templates are.

So, never forget that Microsoft’s goal is to put a computer into every trailer in every trailer park in America. Never forget that customers can be broken down into three categories.

10% all smart people

44% all educated people and smart people

90% people who live in trailer parks and smart people and educated people

And Microsoft probably understands that 90% very well.

“Honey, where the hell are my documents?”

“You don’t have any documents, dear. You are illiterate.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot.”

By the way, Microsoft isn’t the only evil empire out there. Netscape stores your precious e-mails and bookmarks in a directory called:

c:\program files\communicator\users\mail

And your e-mail files are huge. Why? I don’t know. What are they storing in there? One of my email files is about 80 megabytes and contains about 500 messages. What on earth are they storing in there? Every address of every web page on the face of the earth in every message? Details of the merger with Warner Brothers?

Folks, it’s like TV. When TV started, in the 1950’s, we had some first-rate plays and dramas sponsored by Hallmark and other corporations looking for prestige.

Within ten years, we had “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “Green Acres”, “Mr. Ed”, “Petticoat Junction”, and “Gomer Pyle”.