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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Registering political speech: Harper welcomes new Commissioner of Lobbying

Stephen Harper Prime Minister Stephen Harper today welcomed the appointment of Karen Shepherd as Canada's new Commissioner of Lobbying.  The appointment was recently approved by the Senate and House of Commons and is effective immediately.

In its Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, the Conservative Government introduced specific measures to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.

A key component of the Federal Accountability Act, the position of Commissioner of Lobbying was established July 2, 2008, under the Lobbying Act, to ensure that lobbying is transparent and ethical.  The Commissioner enforces the lobbyist registration law, conducts investigations and reports to Parliament.

In a Western Standard report in April 2009 titled “Don’t restrict lobbyists; restrict government,” I wrote:

It’s easy to hate lobbyists. Most voters think lobbyists sneak around representing the interests of either big business or big labour, undermining the democratic process.

Lobbyists, of course, proliferate directly in correlation to the size and scope of government and the corresponding opportunities to rent seek, free ride, curry favour, and generally live at the expense of others.

So the Federal Accountability Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act and other government measures to restrict and monitor lobbyists address a symptom while ignoring the disease. These measures also expand the power of government to restrict political activity, much like the draconian campaign finance laws, all in the interest of democracy.

If Harper is interested in creating accountability, transparency and oversight in government, he should start by making it smaller.

(Picture: Stephen Harper)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Saskatchewan trespassing legislation to bypass criminal code

The Saskatchewan Trespass to Property Act takes effect on Canada Day.

The legislation allows police to issue a ticket for trespassing, rather than charging people under the federal Criminal Code.

"Police forces and municipalities asked us for legislation to let them deal quickly and easily with simple cases of trespassing," said Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan "Now, police can issue a ticket, instead of having to go to court with a more complex Criminal Code charge."

Under the Act, police can issue a ticket for a fine of up to $2,000 to anyone who refuses to leave private or commercial property or who ignores posted "no trespassing" signs.

Apart from Quebec, Saskatchewan is the only province that did not have trespassing legislation.

Will this new law better protect property rights in Saskatchewan, or simply decriminalize trespass?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Lively discussion upcoming on Roadkill Radio

Listen live tonight to Roadkill Radio, as Kari Simpson and I are "on the air" once again with a great lineup of opinion, insight and news.

We'll start by interviewing Dr. Scott Lively, a pastor, lawyer, human-rights advocate and author of the book Redeeming the Rainbow. Controversial? Only if you consider an expose about the gay-rights movement to be so.

Next, we'll talk with the great conservative columnist Don Feder, who is now spokesman for World Congress of Families V, which is being held in Amsterdam Aug 10-12. Listen and discover why this year's meeting is so important to everyone with conservative values.

And finally, we'll talk with blogger Hugh MacIntyre about last weekend's Ontario conservative leadership race and about the deteriorating state of the province.

All this and Roadkill Radio's Warrior of the Week too. Listen live from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Pacific at www.roadkillradio.com, or log on and listen to the archived show later.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on June 30, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Al Franken declared winner of Minnesota Senate race

CNN is reporting that Minnesota's Supreme Court has declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of the state's disputed U.S. Senate race.

Western Standard editor Peter Jaworski has some background on this story here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Smart grids and alternative energy: a plan to bring power production to the people of Manitoba

Brian Doherty Rather than watch Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government develop massive new hydroelectric dams and transmission lines, Les Routledge with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy wants to see power production brought to the people with smart grid technology and alternative energy.

In a recent column provided by Troy Media and published on the Western Standard here, Routledge lays out a plan for decentralized energy production including small scale alternative energy schemes, an idea made possible by smart grid technology that allows even the smallest energy producer to sell excess power back to the grid.

Routledge writes in “Moving Manitoba towards smart energy” that:

At the very minimum, to move to smart grids and distributed energy (i.e. energy generated from many instead of a few locations) would: improve the security of supply of energy across Manitoba; distribute benefits associated with electrical energy production more equitably throughout Manitoba; encourage the adoption of combined heat-and-power energy systems in agricultural, commercial, industrial and institutional settings; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental impacts associated with energy mega-project development; create a platform to implement demand-side energy management systems and time-of-use rates; more fully utilize existing electrical transmission and distribution assets throughout Manitoba.

That’s a lot of upside for an “at the very minimum” case.

Decentralized power production feeding into a smart grid could make the promise of alternative energy a reality and inspire an army of engineers and inventors to develop small scale power generating processes. These innovations could even improve large scale power production processes.

The real attraction for libertarians in all of this is the potential to shift the balance of political power from state-owned or state-mandated monopoly power producers to smaller, even community-based, private providers.

In a story titled “Power from the people” in the May 2008 print edition of Reason Magazine, Brian Doherty asks the question “What happens when creative consumers decide to generate their own energy?” You can find the complete answer to that question here, but, in short, you get innovative energy solutions ranging from the bizarre to the brilliant.

There is nothing inherently wrong with large scale power production, of course. In fact, there are likely economies of scale at work that will secure a place for mega-projects in the power market into the foreseeable future. The problem with mega-projects, however, is that they attract, perhaps necessitate, government involvement, which attracts waste, incompetence and corruption. And the end result of a government-sponsored mega-project is often a regulated, protected and distorted market for power in which no room is made available for innovation and entrepreneurship.

(Picture: Brian Doherty)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Milke follows Levant down a dangerous road in his review of Shakedown

Milke_Mark9_6 Mark Milke with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy opens his review of Ezra Levant’s powerful new book on Canada’s so-called human rights industry with this:

It has the makings of a joke: What do you get when Canada's premier gay rights organization gets into bed with a conservative pastor from a small city in Alberta? Here's the non-funny answer: The birth of an unnatural alliance, one born from an attack on free expression.

The recounting of how Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (Egale) came to the rhetorical defence of a socially conservative Red Deer pastor, Stephen Boissoin, in his fight with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, is chronicled in Ezra Levant's new book, Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights.

Milke goes on to write a largely excellent review of a largely excellent book, but while he starts with a roar, he finishes with a whisper.

Milke concludes his review of Levant’s devastating critique of the censorship powers of Canada’s human rights commissions with this recommendation:

Instead, let the real courts deal with claims of discrimination, and not the fake/pretend bodies with their wide-ranging and too-often abused and unchecked powers.

To be clear, what Milke is arguing is that while Canadians should not have the right to complain to human rights commissions when they are offended by hateful language or other forms of expression, they do have a right to complain to the police and the courts when they feel discriminated against by private sector employers or landlords.

He is also arguing that the courts are better suited to handle these cases than human rights commissions as these commissions do not respect the rules of evidence or other procedural safeguards of the justice system.

But the answer to Canada’s out-of-control human rights industry is not to find fresh victims for human rights bureaucrats, nor is the answer to saddle these fresh victims with the crippling cost of defending human rights complaints in the courts. I have expressed this criticism before here and below, as Levant makes the same arguments as Milke:

But are bigoted landlords any different than bigoted publishers, which is not to say Levant was ever a bigoted publisher? Which is more dangerous to the public order? Why should human rights laws apply to one and not the other?

I wonder, for instance, if a Jewish landlord shaken profoundly by the events of 9/11, who refuses to rent to radical Islamists, preferring to rent to fellow Jews, would be an appropriate target for human rights commissions by Levant’s standard of justice.

Would Levant defend this Jewish landlord’s right to exclude Muslim tenants with the same vigour as he defends the right of Maclean’s magazine to exclude certain Muslim columnists from its editorial pages? Western Standard readers may recall that the four students at Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School who brought a human rights complaint against Maclean's over an article titled “The Future Belongs to Islam,” by the legendary Mark Steyn, demanded access to the editorial pages of this magazine in the interest of balance and diversity. The management team at Maclean’s said “no,” exercising their property right to exclude. Did Maclean’s restrict the free speech of these Muslim student activists? Of course not. As Ayn Rand wrote, free speech “does not mean that others must provide [you] with a lecture hall, a radio station or a printing press through which to express [your] ideas.”

If we can restrict the landlord’s right exclude, why not the publisher's?

It might be unfair to ask of Levant that he take on the entire human rights industry, but in ignoring the importance of property rights he is creating weaknesses in his own argument and is making future reforms of these laws more difficult.

It might also be unfair to ask Milke to take on the entire human rights industry, but suggesting that the police and the courts investigate and prosecute the thought crime of discrimination is a monumental injustice that sets back the fight for free speech and expression and strips this concept of any meaningful legal and philosophical foundation.

Milke and Levant need to be careful not to provide legitimacy to these unjust human rights laws.

(Picture: Mark Milke)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (17)

Canada West Foundation dismisses New Royalty Framework impact on energy sector

Paul Hinman - 2 In April 2008, the Western Standard reported on the first of many attempts by the Alberta government to undue the harm to the energy sector caused by the New Royalty Framework. In a post titled “Unintended consequences: Alberta slow to learn basic economic lessons,” I wrote:

In a press release today from the Alberta government on new royalty programs for high cost oil and gas development, the term “unintended consequences” was thrown around liberally.

In economics, an unintended consequence is typically defined as a negative outcome that is not intended and normally unforeseen. The slowdown in Alberta’s oil patch as a result of the New Royalty Framework announced in October 2007 is being called an unintended consequence, and the Alberta government is now scrambling to undue the harm it has done.

To its credit, the government announced today that it is creating new tax programs in response to declining investments in high cost oil and gas development projects. The tax reductions are expected to leave $237 million more annually in the hands of oil and gas investors. That’s great. What’s not great is that Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight is essentially admitting that he was surprised by an oil and gas industry slowdown resulting from the higher taxes announced last year.

Knight is not the only one pleading ignorance these days to the well-established relationship between high taxes and decreased economic activity, something most common-sense fiscal conservatives take for granted. Jacques Marcil, senior economist with the Canada West Foundation, wrote in a recent report on the state of Alberta’s economy that “who knew” the new tax scheme would kill jobs and investment?:

In the middle of 2008, the one significant issue in this area was the introduction of a new royalty regime on natural resources. Following a study it commissioned, the government decided to hike the royalty rates to provide Albertans with a “fair share” of the exploitation of their natural resources. The industry viewed this initiative as a job and investment killer. With hindsight about energy prices, the government’s timing could have been better, but who knew then? In any case, the global recession turned out to be the industry’s biggest foe, not necessarily the new royalty regime.

The comment “who knew” is strange coming from an economist whose job it is to make economic forecasts. It is especially strange given the well-documented economic truism that “taxes kill jobs,” a favourite conservative campaign message. In fact, most free market political observers and pundits saw this slowdown coming the moment the new taxes were recklessly proposed by Alberta premier Stelmach. No other outcome was possible, with or without a global recession.

Also, the comment by Marcel that “the global recession turned out to be the industry’s biggest foe, not necessarily the new royalty regime” is equally hard to reconcile with the facts. With oil prices at US$70 and once crippling labour costs now under control, Alberta’s energy economy should be robust. What’s wrong? Blaine Maller, President of Calgary-based White North Energy, helps explains the situation for Marcil, Knight and others:

The latest tweak to the royalty and drilling incentive program is simply an extension of the 1 year program for one more year. Nothing else has changed and the New Royalty Framework (NRF) has not been rolled back in any way, shape or form.

....

Many companies have already moved their focus to BC and Saskatchewan and internationally, many will totally leave here now and the rush will be on in those provinces; they are more competitive jurisdictions and we don’t need a long drawn out chin wag with the government as CAPP and SEPAC continue to do and accomplish nothing. The government has totally misunderstood the entire industry and how it operates with respect to risk and reward, the costs, the compliance, the regulations and environmental costs, the demands of the capital markets, the potential profits and potential liabilities for the companies involved. And the service sector get’s crushed in the process.

They do not understand the damage they have done to their own reputations as credible, reliable, stable Ministers of the Crown. They have no more credibility in the eyes of a growing number of influential people from all sectors of the economy.

So when the Premier says wait for gas prices to increase and things will improve rig activity wise, he is wrong again. Ten (10%) of the rig fleet is working. Oil is already very economic to drill and produce in other provinces at US$70. Why has activity not picked up in Alberta on the oil side? Because their cash flow has been severely reduced by the royalty increases on oil. The returns are greater and the costs per barrel are less in BC and Saskatchewan and the red tape is significantly less. There is only so much money to go around in these days of reduced budgets and major restrictions on access to capital so they have to get the best return possible for the investors. And that is anywhere but Alberta.

While the Canada West Foundation report seems to dismiss the serious impact of the New Royalty Framework (NRF) on oil and gas activity, the Calgary Economic Development (CED) State of the Economy report for the first half of 2009 released on June 22nd fails to even mention the NRF. The report acknowledges that Calgary’s energy sector drives the rest of the economy, but blames the recession on the global reduction in demand for energy, never mentioning the radical new changes to the tax framework for the sector.

The only organization less willing to accept the negative impact of the NRF than the Alberta Tories, Canada West Foundation and Calgary Economic Development is the Alberta NDP. In response to the Stelmach government’s decision on June 25th to again extend drilling incentives, NDP MLA Rachel Notley said:

“Minister Knight has just tacked $1.5 billion onto next year’s deficit, and he can’t justify it,” Notley said. “This government continues to dole out cash to the oil and gas industry, but it’s done nothing to help out-of-work Albertans get back on their feet.”

Allowing energy entrepreneurs to keep and invest more of their income can only be described as “doling out cash” by people who believe Alberta’s energy sector properly belongs in government hands, a position not far removed from Tory policy these days.

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance leader, is the only provincial politician to consistently oppose the new tax scheme.

(Picture: Paul Hinman)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Ignatieff tries to win the west by demonizing Calgary

Michael Ignatieff has long been a proponent of the Liberal Party reaching out to western Canada. I remember in the first leadership race that he ran in, he would often say that the party should do more to bring westerners into the Liberal fold. In a recent Globe & Mail article Michael Ignatieff had this to say:

“The big issue for me is I don't want to be a party of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, which is what this party is,” Mr. Ignatieff said in an interview. “Because you can't be a good prime minister unless you represent all Canadians.”

This is true. The great weakness of the Liberal Party is that they have become the urban party. They even elected an urban intellectual elite as their leader (I hope to become an urban intellectual elite one day), though Mr.Ignatieff had a response to this:

“Frankly,” he said, “I think it's condescending to westerners that being a so-called intellectual is some big liability. People out here are as devoted to the life of the mind, and the life of culture, as anybody else in the country. So I don't think that's going to fly. It's just stupid.”

This at the very least shows that he doesn't think of all westerners as dumb rednecks. He sees that there is an intellectual life beyond Toronto and Montreal.

He is even willing to put down the anti-oil sands 'stick':

“I think sometimes we tried to establish our environmental bona fides by running against the oil sands,” he said. “And I just think: This is a national industry. It's pumping something like $8-billion into the federal treasury. So it's slightly bad faith to beat the goose that lays the golden egg over the head with a stick."

Then he said this:

“The alternative [Mr. Harper] is a politician formed and shaped in the radical conservative ideological world of Calgary and Calgary think tanks,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

I don't really understand the political strategy of trying to win over a region by bashing one of its major centres. Of course Calgary is not the be all and end all of all there is in western Canada, but as an outsider to the region is it really such a good idea to take such pot shots? He is demonizing Harper because he comes from a western city, is that really the way to gain new western support? It makes the rest of his fine words ring rather hollow.

Put this together with the recent Liberal activity to prevent a vote to abolish the gun registry. I think Mr. Ignatieff needs to realize that if the Liberal Party is going to have any success west of the Great Lakes he needs more than fine words. He needs to change his and his party's attitudes.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 30, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (22)

With a Thud

Iggy hits the ground, hard:

The Liberals cannot expect a rookie politician to turn into a seasoned leader overnight. The bigger problem is that there could be more at work in their tepid poll numbers than just a mishandled parliamentary showdown. In central Canada, Ignatieff is fast losing the momentum generated by his successful honeymoon.

On that score, his last visit to Montreal earlier this month was a triumph for the Quebec Liberal organization and a bust for the leader.

Presented with a large, mostly francophone business audience, Ignatieff threw out the economic notes his handlers had prepared (it's nice to know such a speech actually existed) to serve up what are becoming familiar bromides.


What is that strange power that takes hold of politicians?  Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff were once esteemed public intellectuals.  People who came up with interesting - though perhaps not always very sensible - ideas.  You got a sense that the wheels were spinning between the ears.  My belief is that once a man declares himself a candidate for public office advisors appear.  They congeal from the shadows I think, armed with long lists.  The lists are of various groups.  Lesbian basket-weavers in Mississauga, Portuguese cleaning ladies in Kamloops, hockey dads and so forth.  Don't say that, they tell the poor candidate, now strapped into a hard wooden chair, it will offend Group X.  They then run their fingers down the magic list and read off the ridings now put into jeopardy by the candidate's ill-considered moment of independent thought.  Bland and empty pleasantries are all that are left.  They are the political equivalent of musing about the weather.  Blander and blander.  

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Understanding the Great Recession

Unlike the Great Depression, which occurred over 75 years ago, the global recession is a mystery to most. It’s understandable, as the Great Recession is happening now, taking away the hindsight the Great Depression now provides us. Even still, many people falsely blame ideology for these financial crises, when it is many reasons that all tie into each other, none of which lay claim to any particular ideology.

Some reasons are “conservative” or even libertarian, while others are “liberal” and left-leaning. In the end however, one can only blame humanity and accept -– and learn -– from this event.

The first point we need to understand is the housing bubble and it’s inevitable burst. From that comes mortgage securitization and the complexity of large insurance firms that fooled the banks and subsequently the world. Finally, the lack of regulations surrounding foolish financial activity was the green light for the Great Recession. In a darkly hilarious manner, even the U.S. government, for better or for worse, helped speed up the Great Recession. Clearly it was for the worst.

Putting it all together, one will see how the term “bad” in macroeconomics is not very subjective, and that it’s that way for a reason. Macroeconomics is not about theory or ideological origin –- it’s about using history and our amazing capability of reason to our advantage to predict the future of the worldwide economy and to educate how it works. Why is this fact overlooked in most aspects of every day human life? In the end, it’s not about who to blame but how it really happened and why we must fix it. Never creating a severe recession would be a bonus, but humanity is far too short-sighted for that.

In the past, the main cause of housing crises has been reduced demand due to declining domestic investment in the housing market. This time, while that effect is still there, it’s a minor issue compared to the latest housing market collapse, which kick-started the Great Recession. Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), among others, has been warning against and predicting this exact crisis for several years, perhaps even for more than a decade. Of course, the media payed little attention and so the public knew little of the matter. The short recession of 2001 in the U.S. was triggered by a sharp decline in domestic investment, mainly in telecommunications infrastructure. As a fall-out, the stock market assets of households declined, but housing assets held up, cushioning the normal decline in consumption that comes with recessions. This event isn’t that well known compared to what’s happening now, perhaps because it happened to be minor or that it worked itself out. Unfortunately, it’s not the case with the Great Recession.

A popular metaphor for crises of this nature is to call it the “bubble bursting”, and for good reason. In this case however, the balloon works much better. Consider the imaginary balloon represents the housing market, and sub-prime mortgages to be the air inflating the balloon. Sub-prime mortgages occur when banks lend to un-credit-worthy customers –- that is, handing out loans to people who want to buy a house that they can’t actually afford. This may seem obvious to us all now, but at the time people of all types -– bankers, potential home owners -– were disillusioned by the notion of housing prices continuing to go up.

The idea was that although it wouldn’t pay off now, since houses and property are long-term assets, when they are ready to turn the home over to new owners, the supposed increase in the value of the home would compensate for the lack of income in the household. As one can imagine, the idea was popular for both bakers and for eager to-be homeowners. Bankers lend more (which means more return for them in the long-run if the market goes well), and average folks get a better house than they could have otherwise -– a win-win situation, right? So the inflation of the balloon begins, filling up with lending amounts close to and exceeding equity (what one owes compared to what one owns), and eventually the rubber wears thin enough to burst.

So now you’re wondering “Where did the banks get all this capital that they’re lending out from?” The answer is one that’s overlooked but played a crucial role in the development of this recession. Simply put, many mortgages during this time of ballooning credit were packaged and sold as financial security instruments by banks to other institutions in exchange for additional capital the banks could then lend out (to those with bad credit, no doubt). The institutions that bought these packages benefited by being guaranteed a repayment. If they don’t receive the repayment, they have the legal right to take back their capital or assets worth an equivalent amount, hence the use of the word “security”. Since security is rarely seen as bad in any context, it seemed like yet another win-win situation. The fact that the American currency was the global common currency helped it make sense financially as well. As icing on the cake, the two institutions that were the lead buyers were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created in 1938 and 1970 respectively, were government created.

These institutions weren’t the only thing the government created in the 1900s. In the early 1980s the government deliberately created a severe (relatively speaking) recession to control inflation using contractionary monetary policy. In other words, the money supply was reduced and interest rates were increased in order to reduce aggregate demand in the economy. A decline in demand means a decline in prices. At a time when inflation was on the run, the result was prices staying more or less the same while the nation’s output and income dropped. It’s bad, but the fear of hyper-inflation, which was a legitimate fear, would have been worse.

An economy that as a whole is generally strong, for example the U.S. economy, is able to recover from the recession along with slowly lowering interest rates speeding the recovery up. Although not necessary, increased government spending and tax cuts (expansionary fiscal policy) could have also sped it up –- which it probably did considering in 1986 the deficit rose to be well over five per cent of national GDP. Believe it or not, that was considered a huge deficit at the time. Currently, the U.S. deficit created to end the Great Recession is about 12 per cent of national GDP. and don’t think for a moment that it’s going to stop growing any time soon. Either way, the “severe” recession of the 1980s focused on expansionary monetary policy.

This time, strong expansionary fiscal policy is being used worldwide as it is much faster and more effective than the monetary policy used in the 80s. It leads to staggering deficits which are never good, but it does lead to an a strong enough increase in aggregate demand to ride of the recession without the world coming to a screeching halt. Milton Friedman is probably turning in his grave, especially with the mass amounts of bailouts to major insurance companies and banks –- many of which created this mess in the first place.

The bailouts were accepted by policy makers much easier than in the Great Depression of the 1930s. They let the banks fail and the money supply contract. At a time when 100 per cent free markets was extremely popular amongst major economists, it’s understandable why the government let them fail. In an ideal world, the free market should have corrected it all itself, but in a world full of foolish people, it just didn’t happen.

This is not a defense of government bailouts, especially to the culprits of the Great Recession, but simply an explanation of why they were done. It’s interesting when people pay attention to certain aspects of history and ignore others –- selective attention anyone It must also be said that the wrong monetary policy was used during the Great Depression. Unlike in the 1980s where contractionary monetary policy worked, in the 1930s it was a total failure by the Federal Reserve. Milton Friedman named this decline in income, prices, and employment the “Great Contraction”, as much of this was caused in the tight contraction of the money supply. Like the 1980s recession however, the government at least partially created this recession as well. At the very least the government ensured that the recession turned into a depression. Interesting enough, current Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has been quoted as saying:

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton [Friedman] and Anna Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.

Back to the present, one might now be wondering “Well, why didn’t the banks know of the huge risks of securitization”. Great question! Complexity is the culprit; whether intentional or simply the result of mass bureaucracy, it’s often been at the root of many people’s problems skimming over the fine-print. Those pesky security instruments were further packaged in complex ways as derivative security instruments and sold again to other financial institutions, including back to the banks themselves. In simpler terms, these are bought for lower levels of risks such as interest rates or to help determine whether underlying prices will increase or decrease. This occurred because of foreigners trying to exchange cash for American securities (negotiable items that represent financial value), allowing banks and other buyers to increase returns. That was what was thought any way, but some large insurance companies such as AIG insured the packages without capital backing them up, calling them “credit default swaps”. As expected, the packages ended up being worthless. When this creates a ripple throughout the entire world in terms of mass amounts of assets going bad, we know this isn’t a normal old recession that’s expected to occur every once and a while. Although weak regulation in general was not the cause, the lack of regulation surrounding banks’ mortgage lending, banks’ capital requirements, and insurance “swaps” secured the collapse of the financial system, and can now be looked back upon when creating new policies regarding lending and capital requirements so that a crisis such as this cannot happen again.

Of course, not all of this happened spontaneously. Recall that foreigners bought up a lot of those security instruments because the U.S. dollar was so stable and strong. When the mortgages went bad, the security instruments that were held globally also went bad. The huge amount of bad assets in the bank’s financial books ceased the credit market, resulting in an unusually large recession that was and still is felt worldwide. From here, it can be said that asset prices normally decline in a recession as a result of the wealth effect (less household income, less consumption, and vice versa). This fact certainly doesn’t help fix the problem – if anything, it makes it worse. The real reasons -– sub-prime mortgages, securitization, complexity, and the lack of regulation –- pulled the world down into a sever recession. The government policies used to curb recessions (and those that help create them) differ from the past, mostly because of the sheer severity of this problem. Hopefully the world will learn from its many mistakes and get past this human flaw of over doing things; hopefully we understand more, look at the long-term more, and listen more. As Edmund Burke wrote over two centuries ago, “[e]very thing human and divine sacrificed to the idol of public credit, and national bankruptcy the consequence”.

[Cross-posted at the The Right Coast and the Campus Free Press]

Posted by Dane Richard on June 30, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Smell of Statism

I live in a condo.  We have private garbage collection.  It's very nice here.  How about where you are?

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he won't be legislating a quick end to Toronto's civic workers strike.


McGuinty told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning after shuffling his cabinet that as a Toronto resident he is inconvenienced by the garbage strike, but he will let negotiators do their job.
''I think it's right that we hold our fire and let the two sides do what they're doing,'' he said.


The premier added, however, that he would be happy to send a provincial mediator to help, if that's what the city and the two CUPE locals want.

A while back I called for declaring the TTC an essential service.  Depriving people of the right to strike is not Publius' first option in any situation, but the TTC is a government monopoly.  More to the point, it's a government monopoly that's hard to replace - you can't dig up a subway system over a long weekend. How long would it take to privatize garbage collection in Toronto?  Weeks?  Hours if the price was right?

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hysterics

"Do you think any of your predecessors would have dropped everything and gone up to London because a bunch of hysterics carrying candles needed help with their grief?"  The observation of the Queen Mother, or in any case the character of the Queen Mother in Stephen Frears and Peter Morgan 2006'sThe Queen.  The hysterics then were mourning the death of Princess Diana.  The hysterics are back, perhaps some of the same, mourning Michael Jackson.  Regulars will note that Old Publius is not much of a fan of modern pop music.  The audio equivalent of bubble gum.  Then again I'm a snob.  Yet even a snob can see talent.  Fred Astaire said of Michael Jackson: “I didn’t want to leave this world without knowing who my descendant was. Thank you Michael!”  Frank Sinatra  said: “The only male singer who I’ve seen besides myself and who’s better than me – that is Michael Jackson.”  

Who is Publius to quibble with the Greats?  The talent is beside the point.  So is the bizarre personal life, and the traumas that drove the most famous black man in the world, the weak excuses aside, to transform himself into a pale looking freak.  The death of strangers, even of strangers who impact our lives deeply, is a removed experience.  Most of us can remember being saddened at the death of a person, within our own lifetime, we have never met  Yet weeping uncontrollably at the news of the death of a stranger is something else.  We live in an emotionally incontinent age.  To question the public wailing is to be cold and callous, the only sin left.  Which turns the mind to the public institutions that once managed public grief:

If decline continues, Christian Research has estimated that in five years' time church closures will accelerate from their present rate of 30 a year to 200 a year as dwindling congregations find the cost of keeping them open too great.


Perhaps the most worrying set of statistics for the Church of England is the decline in baptisms. Out of every 1,000 live births in England in 2006/7 only 128 were baptised as Anglicans.


The figure rises by a small amount if adult baptism and thanksgiving services are included but it is hard to see the Church of England being able to justify its position as the established church on the basis of these numbers.


By way of contrast, out of every 1,000 live births in England in 1900, 609 were baptised in the Church of England. Figures for church marriages show an equally catastrophic decline.

In between the crusading and witch-burning, organized religion did find time for other things.  Coming from the "warts and all" school of amateur historians, albeit its infidel branch, the torture and terrorizing was balanced by the emotional solace and moral guidance religion provided.  It gone, people turn elsewhere.  C.S. Lewis observed:

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

Honouring people of genuine talent and accomplishment isn't gobbling poison.  Lewis' deeper point about the need for spiritual food remains.  Celebrity culture, where the vicarious thrill becomes all consuming, is the gobbling of poison in large doses.  The doppelganger Queen Mum thought it was just a bunch of hysterics carrying candles.  As we are finding out this week, the hysterics are beginning to form a critical mass.

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Those were the days . . .

So which prominent Canadian recently said this?

“When I studied Canadian history in my last year of high school, we concentrated a good deal on the evolution of our system of government from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 through the Quebec Act of 1774, right up to the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and the Letters Patent of 1947. This last document – the Letters Patent – is of vital importance and set in place the contemporary powers of the governor general which it transferred from the monarch. Yet it is virtually unknown to the general public. We also focused heavily on the King/Byng crisis of 1926; our entire class, contrary to most current opinion, thought that Lord Byng had done the right thing!"

If you want to know the answer, head over to Janet Ajzenstat's always interesting blog.

But before you do, please pause to marvel at the fact that once upon a time Canadian high-school students actually received a rigorous education.

Posted by Craig Yirush on June 30, 2009 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ayn Rand never missed an episode of Charlie’s Angels with Farrah Fawcett

Farrahfawcettposter Dying on the same day as Michael Jackson, the passing of actress and American sex symbol Farrah Fawcett at age 62 became somewhat of a secondary story.

Amy Wallace with The Daily Beast, however, produced an excellent story on the beautiful Texan that should interest Western Standard readers.

In an email exchange with Fawcett just months before her death, Wallace discovered that novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand was a fan of the actress. Wallace wrote:

But here are a few things that almost no one knew about Fawcett:

1) Fawcett and the writer Ayn Rand shared a birthday, February 2.

2) Rand, the inventor of the philosophical system called Objectivism, never missed an episode of Charlie’s Angels. She was such a Fawcett fan, in fact, that she sought to cast the actress as the lead in a planned TV miniseries version of her best-known work, the gargantuan novel Atlas Shrugged. (NBC later scrapped the project).

3) Rand, perhaps better than anyone else, helped Fawcett understand her place in American culture.

Would Farrah Fawcett have made a good Dagny Taggart, the tough and able railroad executive in the novel Atlas Shrugged?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14)

DEW line clean-up project a $580 million Cold War legacy

National Defence offers this background on the origin of the DEW line:

During the Cold War, North America relied on radar networks to provide an early warning of airborne attacks inbound over the North Pole. From the early 1950s, a series of isolated radar stations were constructed in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland to identify unfriendly aircraft and direct fighter planes that would intercept them.

The most northerly of the networks, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line of radar sites, was established in the late 1950s and extended along the Arctic coastline (roughly along the 69th parallel) from northwestern Alaska to Iceland. The DEW Line was planned, built and largely funded by the United States according to an international agreement. Out of the 63 sites which comprised the DEW Line, 42 were located within Canadian territory.

In the early 1960s, 21 of these sites were decommissioned and became the responsibility of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The remaining 21 sites continued to be operated by the Department of National Defence (DND) until they were replaced by the North Warning System in 1993.

With DEW line infrastructure now obsolete, the Department of National Defence today announced a $580 million demolition and clean-up project of the 21 remaining sites. This “busy work” for local Aboriginals will no doubt be counted among the jobs created by federal stimulus spending, but it is difficult to see how this project will add to the wealth of the nation. It may, however, be part of Prime Minister Harper's "use it or lose it" Arctic sovereignty strategy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

BDC survey shows recession fails to dampen entrepreneurial spirit

Entrepreneurs are more optimistic about their business's prospects than they are about their industry or the economy as a whole in the current recession, a Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) survey has found. The poll also found that tight credit conditions remain a problem for a significant number of Canadian businesses.

The BDC survey shows an impressive 86% of Canadian entrepreneurs were very or somewhat optimistic about their company's growth potential. But they were less upbeat when asked about the potential for growth elsewhere. Optimism fell to 75% when the entrepreneurs were asked about their industry's potential for growth and 60% for the economy as a whole.

"Entrepreneurs see opportunities where others may see only difficulties," said Edmée Métivier, Executive Vice President, Financing and Consulting at BDC. "The SME [small and medium enterprise] sector has always contributed the lion's share of economic growth and, as a result, it will be pivotal to an economic recovery. More than ever, lenders to the SME market need to bring a flexible approach to their financing and investment decisions."

In other findings, entrepreneurs pointed to tightening credit as the number one factor that may adversely affect business growth in the near future. Fully 70% of entrepreneurs identified tight credit as a negative for growth, followed by the recession (65%), increased fuel costs (45%) and material (40%).

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Ontario PC Party goes 'right' but that isn't enough

The Toronto Star and other Liberals have delighted in the last couple months in accusing the PC Ontario Party of 'moving to the right.' Perhaps this is an accurate description, though it doesn't have the negative connotation that the Star seems to think that it does. Christine Elliott was hailed as the moderate candidate and she was promoting massive tax cuts in the form of a flat tax. That is to say, the moderate candidate was 'right' of Stephen Harper.

Tim Hudak has definitely claimed the mantle of 'blue Tory.' He has invoked Mike Harris time and time again. Which is a remarkable change from the previous leader (who once introduced Bill Davis as the greatest living Premier). Indeed if the results of this election tells us anything it is that the grassroots desire a more conservative party.

I despise labels such as 'right' and 'left.' They are the tools of dim witted journalists and intellectually lazy academics. I try to avoid using such terms as much as I can, though I admit I am sometimes trapped into the habit and ease of simplifying political discourse into a two dimensional spectrum.

So it is not enough for me to say you are 'right wing' or to invoke Mike Harris or Ronald Reagan as your personal heroes. We don't need a 'right winger' we need someone who is dedicated to shrinking government, cutting taxes, and desisting the constant state interference in our personal choices. If you want to call that 'right wing' then so be it, but you can't just say it you have to do it.

That is my message to Tim Hudak, the new leader of PC Party of Ontario.

Anyone who has been reading my posts know that I wasn't a fan of his candidacy. I found his rhetoric to be disheartening and many of his policies were adaptations of Harperian big government ideas. But now I think that I will reserve judgement. I want to see how he acts as Leader of the Opposition and which of his policies make it pass the cutting board.

My vote has to be earned, but I do hope that Mr. Hudak earns it.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 29, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (9)

Less is More

Thomas Sowell:

The representatives of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities point to the fact that, in countries like Canada, Korea, and Japan, “more than 50 percent of young adults hold college degrees,” while only 41 percent do in the United States.

No reason is given why one of these numbers is better than another. Apparently the implicit assumption is that education is a “good thing” that it is always better to have more of. But, if that is the case, why 55 percent rather than 75 percent, 95 percent, or 100 percent?

Even food is not a “good thing” categorically, without limit. We can’t live without it but, beyond some point, it causes obesity and shortens our lives.

A certain amount of education is undoubtedly very beneficial for some people but, at some point, enough is enough, even for geniuses. For each individual, depending on that individual’s interests and dedication as well as ability, the time comes to leave the classroom and go out into the real world.

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

The Best We Could Hope For.....Until Later

10%. Not an overwhelming number to be sure. Randy Hillier finished fourth, a weak fourth on the first ballot trailing behind Christine Elliot's 26%. Some moderate conservatives will interpret this as the end of the Hillier phenomenon. In some quarters of the once Big Blue Machine, Randy is not mentioned in polite conversation. His "decisive" defeat will be brought forth as prima facie evidence that the libertarian wing of the party is too small to count. A fringe element of a minority party.  Hopefully the redneck will return to he backwoods. In Toronto-centric Ontario politics you can't get much more backwoods than Lanark. Besides he never went to Queen's or U of T. He didn't even go to university. How can he be expected to understand the sophisticated world of modern politics? 

Randy didn't embarrass himself, he embarrassed the choir invisible of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The Bill Davis-Hugh Segal faction. Some hick from nowhere isn't suppose to do a bit less than half as well as a slick lawyer from the GTA, whose husband is the Minister of the Finance. Old political hands like Elliot, Hudak and Kless should have wiped the floor with a novice like Hillier. They didn't. If the libertarian-classical liberal elements of the party are simply blue Tories on steroids, then Tim Hudak should have neatly folded this bunch into his camp. You can't get any bluer than Michael Dean Harris, and guess who the Mike was voting for?  

In a few months the Man from Lanark has demonstrated that a principled and essentially pro-freedom voice can be heard. Much of party politics, particularly for a leadership campaign, is driven by organization. Experience and connections count in leadership battles. Hillier had little support outside his regional base, less because of his radical views and more for the simple reason very few people know who he is. While his presentation skills are unpolished, though they have improved dramatically since the campaign began, his voice is remarkably soft. It will be difficult to portray him as a raving right-wing mad man on television. He sounds too reasonable and well meaning. I'd get the teeth fixed though. Mr and Mrs Average Ontario notice this stuff. Pierre Berton once observed that you could get away with saying anything in Canada - he was a socialist and atheist - as long as you wore a bow-tie. Lester Pearson, the most radical Prime Minister in Canadian history, certainly proved that in politics. Bow-ties are out. Suspenders are in. Hopefully Tim Hudak remembers that.  

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 29, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

One step forward, two steps back: Day signs trade agreement, Cannon signs tax agreement

Stockwell Day Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today signed four new agreements to increase trade and investment between Canada and Jordan.

“Following the visit by King Abdullah II to Canada in July 2007, our countries have made significant progress in strengthening trade and investment,” said Day. “Our efforts have led to the signature of four agreements that will help open doors for Canadian and Jordanian business.”

This free trade agreement with Jordan will eliminate tariffs on the majority of Canadian exports to Jordan, directly benefiting Canadian exporters in sectors including forestry, manufacturing, and agriculture and agri-food.

On Monday, Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will sign the Convention between the Hellenic Republic and Canada for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital.

International tax treaties like this one limit competition among tax jurisdictions while promising to harmonize tax law, reduce barriers to trade and prevent double taxation. When there is less competition for a tax base, there is less pressure on governments to keep taxes low.

(Picture: Stockwell Day)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Did the military act justly to restore constitutional democracy and rule of law in Honduras?

Peter Kent Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), today issued a statement condemning what the Canadian government is calling a coup d'état in Honduras. But is Canada rushing to judgement in criticizing military action to preserve constitutional democracy and the rule of law in this Central American country?

In response to military action that saw Honduras President Jose Manuel Zelaya driven from office and the country, and replaced by provisional president Roberto Micheletti, Kent said:

 “Canada condemns the coup d'état that took place over the weekend in Honduras, and calls on all parties to show restraint and to seek a peaceful resolution to the present political crisis, which respects democratic norms and the rule of law, including the Honduran Constitution.”

It has been debated on the Western Standard here and elsewhere as to whether or not countries should meddle in the affairs of other nations, even when it comes to issuing statements condemning violence. Putting aside this debate, are the Harper Conservatives right in describing the actions of the Honduras military a coup d'état?

Here’s a review of the facts from a CNN story:

Ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya was pushing forward with an illegal referendum in search of a mandate to extend his presidency beyond constitutionally set term limits. The Honduran Supreme Court ruled the referendum illegal, but Zelaya pledged to proceed in violation of the law. The military intervened to stop Zelaya and Congress voted to strip the president of his powers, naming democratically elected Congressman Roberto Micheletti provisional president.

According to CNN, “The political developments that swept Honduras over the past weeks and led up to Sunday's coup had the makings of a crisis, but the situation in the Central American nation of 8 million people was calm.” The news outlet also reported that Roberto Micheletti was “sworn in as provisional president to the applause of members of Congress” and that protests are “limited” and “mostly peaceful.”

If these facts can be relied on, Kent’s comments may be needlessly inflammatory and could fuel violence and instability in the country. If the Harper Conservatives are genuinely interested in improving the political, and thereby the economic, situation in Honduras, they should look to colleague Stockwell Day. As Minister of Trade, Day has been working hard to liberalize trade with Honduras and other countries in Central and South America.

(Picture: Peter Kent)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Peter Kent on the situation in Honduras: Canada condemns coup

Peter Kent Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), today issued the following statement on the situation in Honduras:

Canada condemns the coup d'état that took place over the weekend in Honduras, and calls on all parties to show restraint and to seek a peaceful resolution to the present political crisis, which respects democratic norms and the rule of law, including the Honduran Constitution.

“Democratic governance is a central pillar of Canada’s enhanced engagement in the Americas, and we are seriously concerned by what has transpired in Honduras.

“We will continue to closely follow developments on the ground. Through our mission to the Organization of American States (OAS), we are also working with hemispheric partners to determine what role the organization can play to help diffuse the situation.

“The Government of Canada encourages Canadians in Honduras to exercise prudence, and for Canadians considering travel to the country to consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s travel report, which will be kept updated.”

The government is warning against non-essential travel to Honduras.

(Picture: Peter Kent)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

Now that the Ontario PC Leadership Race has ended, I figure we can follow the rest of the media by getting on our knees and paying homage to Michael Jackson.

While the coverage of this event has been a little excessive (CTV News Channel seems to have been all Jackson all the time for the past few days), he was certainly an influential figure who many of us grew up listening to. He also exhibited lots of strange behaviour, including changing his skin colour, dangling his child from a balcony, as well as being accused of reprehensible acts of child abuse. Yet, it is likely that he will be remembered for his glory days when he was on top of the world:

What are your thoughts on the media coverage of Jackson's death and the man himself?

Update: The following video has been brought to my attention. I think it's hilarious and raises some good points, but I'm posting it against my better judgment, as it contains strong language and is not safe for work.

Posted by Jesse Kline on June 27, 2009 in Music | Permalink | Comments (19)

Will the economy recover and what will it look like if it does?

The American Thinker has an interesting article that questions whether or not the U.S. economy will ever recover from the current recession:

Haven't they heard? The America that always recovers is not in anymore. Any assumption of a recovery fails to consider the idea that we now have a government run by people who ignore American history and who are hell bent on changing America's future.

Obama has done more than apologize for America's greatness and generosity while abroad. He is wreaking havoc on the economy that paid for that greatness and generosity at home. Don't you remember? He is "the one" we've been waiting for to finally do something right around here.

Thus the conviction that Americans always bounce back and bring their economy with them is not necessarily relevant anymore. The rules for business have changed and continue to do so daily. Incentive has been devastated. The reliable motivations of the past do not matter, because most of those dynamics have been targeted as what is wrong with this country and they are systematically being removed at a stunning pace.

In reaction, Atlas is shrugging. And who can blame him (and her).

We cannot be on the verge of any meaningful recovery because we are in a downward swirl of liberal policy consequences -- and we have a government determined to correct this by getting more and more liberal.

Likewise, a recent report from Sprott Asset Management looks at the question of who is going to buy the massive amount of new debt the American government is creating and comes up with some troubling conclusions:

As we hope the breakdown above has revealed, the future solvency of the United States as a nation state is currently in jeopardy. It is in far deeper trouble than the mainstream press cares to admit. There are simply not enough new buyers of debt on this planet to support the spending programs of the United States government - and it appears that current holders of debt are beginning to sell. Because it is impossible to balance the budget from outside sources of capital, the only source of funds left for the US, in all reality, is continued money printing.

The Federal Reserve's policy of Quantitative Easing is failing. The US budget is ludicrous, spending is out of control, spending promises are out of control, the world knows it - and we know it. For all the pundits who see the economy improving over the next year, we invite you to explain to us how this debt crisis will resolve itself without significant turmoil. We've tabulated the numbers above - and they do not lie. As we wrote this past January, welcome to 2009.

While these are troubling signs, I think there's little doubt the American economy will bounce back eventually. As just about any economist will tell you, the business cycle is cyclical, rising and falling every ten years or so. This is one reason why I was surprised by all the fear mongering talk of "the next great depression" when the recession first hit. The bigger question is what the economy will look like when this is all said and done.

I think that a lot of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about the economy was largely created by the media. The tangible effect of this fear was a global recession and a willingness on the part of world governments—including Canada's Conservative government—to implement Keynesian economic policies. Despite the fact that Keynes claimed he was trying to save capitalism, I would argue he's actually a socialist, as is anyone who is now trying to blame the recession on a failure of the capitalist system. The argument might hold some weight if we had a capitalist system to begin with.

The legacy of this worldwide shift to the left will likely be an economic system that bears little resemblance to capitalism. Capitalism is the most efficient economic system known to man. Granted, it is not always fair, but life in general is not fair either. The role of government should be to help people deal with economic shifts, rather than try to ensure they don't happen in the first place. Capitalism achieves its efficiency by weeding out inefficient companies and industries and shifting resources to more efficient sectors. In this respect, recessions are not only expected, they are necessary.

Capitalism operates in the same manner as evolution, the dodo birds go extinct, while humans thrive and conquer the Earth. By trying to bailout inefficient industries through government intervention, we are managing the economy as though it were communist. This, history has shown, does not work. Now that Bush and Obama have spent trillions bailing out the banks, is there any reason to expect they won't make the same stupid mistakes again? None whatsoever. This is like giving a dog a bone every time it pees on the carpet. How can you expect it not to repeat the same bad behaviour, when it actually has a disincentive to do so?

Likewise, when North American governments bailed out the auto sector, they ensured that land, labour, and capital would continue to be tied up in an inefficient and uncompetitive industry, rather than being shifted to industries that could help the North American economy thrive in the long-run. So what will the economy look like in the future? I worry that our children will by left to deal with the effects of an inefficient socialist economy and a massive debt load, all because our politicians made the politically expedient moves, rather than the economically sound ones.

Posted by Jesse Kline on June 27, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (15)

Ontario PC Leadership Race: Tim Hudak wins the leadership

Here it is, the final result:

Hudak: 5606 (55%)
Klees: 4643 (45%)

Congratulations to everyone who worked on Tim Hudak's campaign. I'm going to reflect upon this for a while and come back with an analysis.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ontario PC Leadership Race: John Laforet comments on Liberal tactics at the convention

John Laforat is a Liberal Party activist that I met when I attended the University of Toronto. I found him to be a well meaning liberal without an overly partisan attitude. He demonstrates this in a video posted by United and Strong:

Here is the press release that he refers to.

*update*

I have been told that he is no longer a member of the Liberal Party, but he was active in the Liberal Party a couple of years ago when I knew him.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ontario PC Leadership Race: Randy Hillier on the first round

Stephen Taylor has posted this video of Randy Hillier:

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ontario PC Leadership: second round shows Tim Hudak as likely winner

Hudak 4128 (40%)
Klees 3299 (32%)
Elliott 2903 (28%)

Christine Elliott is now out of the running. It is a little unclear who most of her supporters will pick as a second choice, but it is unlikely that Frank Klees will recieve enough to put him over the top. Frank Klees would require 1866 of the redistibuted electoral votes to defeat Tim Hudak. That represents around 64% of Christine Elliott's electoral votes. The high of a persentage didn't even go from Hillier to Hudak.

There is now no question in my mind. Tim Hudak is going to be the next leader of the PC Party of Ontario

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ontario PC Leadership Race: round 2 results

With 60 of 107 ridings reporting:

Hudak 2306 (41%)
Klees 1808 (32%)
Elliott 1503 (27%)

*Update*

Here are some more preliminary numbers:

Hudak 4000 (40%)
Klees 3233 (32%)
Elliott 2800 (28%)

*Update 2*

Final results:

Hudak 4128 (40%)
Klees 3299 (32%)
Elliott 2903 (28%)


Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ontario PC leadership race: Randy Hillier endorses Tim Hudak

Stephen Taylor is reporting on the website United & Strong that Randy Hillier is endorsing Tim Hudak. I wonder if Hillier decided to do that before he saw the first round results or afterwards.

Hudak: 3511 (34%)
Klees: 3093 (30%)
Elliott: 2728 (26%)
Hillier 1013 (10%)

Here is a press release from the Ontario Liberals also reporting this endorsement.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ontario PC Leadership Race: Tim Hudak likely to win on the 3rd ballot

Tim Hudak reacting to the first round (from Stephen Taylor):

First ballot results:

Hudak: 3511 (34%)
Klees: 3093 (30%)
Elliott: 2728 (26%)
Hillier 1013 (10%)

Randy Hillier is now out of the running for leadership. He got into this race to push forward an agenda of ideas, and on that score I think he succeeded. It is unlikely that issues such as the Human Rights Tribunal would have been addressed if it wasn't for Randy Hillier.

An important thing to note about Randy Hillier supporters is that a significant portion of them voted for Randy Hillier and for no one else. Of all the candidate's supporters they are the least likely to completely fill out their preferential ballot. I predict that the second round vote total for each candidate will look very much like the first round.

This is very bad news for Christine Elliott, I do not expect her to survive the next round.

Christine Elliott voters will then most likely be split evenly between Mr. Hudak and Mr. Klees. I do not think that either remaining candidate has particularly strong support among Christine Elliott voters. As things stand now, I predict that this will be Mr. Hudak's night.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hotel room human rights

There are different kinds of human rights, positive and negative;

In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms set-out the rights that the government says you have. I looked through it, and nowhere did I see anything about a right to a hotel room in Neepawa, Manitoba.

A wheelchair bound woman who lives in Winnipeg, Arlen Ursel, was going to Neepawa to visit her ailing father, about a three-hour trip. The Bay Hill Inns and Suites in Neepawa has one handicap suite, which she tried to reserve, but was already booked.

As a result of this, she made a human rights complaint against the hotel and was awarded $3,000 for "injury to her dignity and self respect".

Hotel owner Tom Sung has said the only wheelchair accessible room was occupied every time Ursel tried to book it and there had simply been a miscommunication when she called.

Ursel was forced to make the five-hour return trip to her home in Winnipeg on the same day each time she visited her dad because no other wheelchair accessible rooms were available in the Neepawa area.

May I point out that she was not forced, there was no force involved. It was her choice to go to visit Neepawa, it was her choice to return back to Winnipeg the same day.

The second largest city in Manitoba, Brandon, is about 45 minutes away from Neepawa. Could there have been a possibility of finding a room there? Or in Gladstone (20 minutes east), or in Minnedosa (20 minutes west), or in one of the other three motels in Neepawa? Was there any effort made in having the personal responsibility of taking care of one's self?

The hotel has been given an order to restore wheelchair access to the room within 60 days, and the human rights commission will monitor the situation for the next two years.

What this sort of ruling does is give less incentive to other hotels/motels to provide rooms for people with special needs; if the result of them being booked full and having a conflict is a human rights complain and fine, then they may be discouraged from providing that service.

This growing sense of entitlement in Canadian society is disturbing.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on June 27, 2009 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (40)

Ontario PC Leadership - First Ballot Results

After the first ballot in the Ontario PC Leadership, here are the results (Note: these are electoral votes, not individual votes):

Tim Hudak - 3511 - 34%
Frank Klees - 3093 - 30%
Christine Elliott - 2728 - 26%
Randy Hillier - 1013 - 10% (will not be advancing to the 2nd ballot)

Here is my quick analysis:

Tim Hudak is in a very strong position to win this. It will be impossible for Hudak to not advance to the 3rd ballot, even if he does not receive a single 2nd place vote from Hillier voters.

Christine Elliott needs to make up 365 electoral vote gap on Klees to advance to the 3rd ballot. This means she needs to get at least 36% more of the total Hillier vote than Klees. This seems unlikely to happen.

Tim Hudak will not be able to win on the 2nd ballot even if he takes 100% of Hillier's 2nd place vote, as that would put him at 44%.

This means there will be a 3rd ballot, which will have Hudak against either Klees or Elliott. It will likely be against Klees. If I were betting, I would put a lot of money on Hudak winning the leadership now.

Posted by William Joseph on June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ontario PC Party Convention results

This post will be updated as the results come in.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m.): With 107 of 107 ridings reporting:

Hudak: 3511 (34%)
Klees: 3093 (30%)
Elliott: 2728 (26%)
Hillier 1013 (10%)

First ballot voting has ended. Klees is surprisingly strong on the first ballot, Elliott in third place is surprising. Hillier will, alas, be off the ballot, and his voters' second choice will be considered.

It is likely that Hudak will pick up the majority of Hillier's voters' second-choice votes, followed by Klees, followed by Elliott.

If that's right, this will go to a third ballot, with Elliott dropping off after the results of the second ballot. I'm not sure how her voters' choices will break after that.

EARLIER: With 91 of 107 ridings reporting, here are the outcomes thus far:

Hudak: 2995
Klees: 2736
Elliott: 2243
Hillier 944

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 27, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Toronto Strike Solution

Garbage5 Earlier this week 24,000 Toronto municipal civil service employees walked off of the job. Some of the services that have been interrupted are garbage pickup, city-run daycares, swimming pools, summer camps, museums, some libraries and others.

This has caused a lot of turmoil for Toronto residents; garbage is piling up in the streets, closed day cares are forcing people to stay home from work, etc. Regardless of the reasons that the civil service employees are striking, the core problem here is one of economics; supply and demand.

Since the city are the ones that pick-up garbage, when they go on strike there is no-one left to provide that service. Whether it is city employees themselves on strike or a private company with a city provided monopoly, there is no one ready else to step in cases where there is an interruption of service.

Imagine that there was no government garbage collection service, what would people do? They would do what they do with other services they want, hire a company to provide that service. Just as there is competition with cable providers, in a free market there would be competition with garbage services. You could pick and choose between a variety of providers, especially in a large market like Toronto where there would be several companies competing for your dollar. If one company goes on strike, you can hire another to take over.

Strikes would be resolved much quicker, since company owners know that everyday that goes buy while their employees are off the job, they loose customers; they would have an incentive to resolve these strikes quickly. In the current situation, there is no one else that can step in and take over because it is a government enforced monopoly.

By moving these services into the free market situations such as this would be less likely to arise.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on June 26, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (45)

Forced Blood Transfusions

If you expect to have religious freedom for yourself, then you have to allow it for other people, whether you agree with their choices or not. That is how liberty and fairness works.

There are many religious practices out there that I disagree with, that I think are harmful. When we talk of harm, we talk of consent; where there isn't consent, there is harm. So the question becomes, if a person capable of understanding consent, are they allowed to harm themselves?

4 years ago, a 14 year old female in Winnipeg was forced by the government to have a blood transfusion, something against her religious convictions as a Jehovah's Witness. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that decision by the Manitoba Court that allowed for the forced transfusion to take place.

The unidentified girl, now 18 years old, reacted.

"I don't want to die, which is why I went to the hospital for treatment. I just wanted the best medical treatment without blood …" the young woman, who is now 18, told CBC.

"There almost are no words to say just how brutal of an act [blood transfusion] is. I once compared it to almost being raped. There are no options for you, there's nothing you can do about it and it's very hard to deal with."

This girl compares her experience to being raped; rape sanctioned and enforced by the government.

Those are very strong words, that should not be taken lightly. To her, this was a violation of her body, a body that she owns and is in charge of.

Three psychiatrists who assessed her all concluded she understood her medical condition and the consequences of not getting a transfusion.

If this is the case, if she truly understood the consequences of such an action, then she is free to decide what to do with her body. Her body, her choice.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on June 26, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (52)

Winning the war of ideas

Non-Michael Jackson related news: I have a column in today's National Post based on a speech I gave yesterday at a Fraser Institute event.

It's about why Canadian conservatives must focus on asking themselves one simple question: Is it right?

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on June 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (24)

Michael Jackson teaching God to moon walk

Michael Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (21)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where's the Hot Room been?

On a bit of a vacation.  The hosts have been all over the world the past few weeks, and now we're in the process of fixing some technical issues in the studio to return to an operative state.   We are currently planning to re-launch the Hot Room next week on Thursday at 8:00pm Eastern.  


Stay tuned.

Posted by Mike Brock on June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Economic recovery for Alberta a year away: Canada West Foundation

Alberta's economy was hit by a rare combination of negative factors, but recovery is on the horizon, according to a new report from the Canada West Foundation.

"A Rough Patch: Alberta Economic Profile and Forecast," written by Senior Economist Jacques Marcil, says that while oil prices have begun to recover, lower employment, reduced investment and a still-struggling global economy mean that the news is more bad than good. According to Marcil, this downturn is an anomaly in Alberta's history: the combination of low energy prices and global recession.

“Alberta is being hit harder than in previous recessions,” says Marcil. “In past economic slowdowns, either the energy industry kept Alberta growing while the national economy was struggling, or the energy industry took a hit while the national economy stayed the same. The one-two punch of global recession and plunging energy prices mean that Alberta will be hit worse than the rest of Canada this year.”

Economists currently predict that the United States, the largest market for the Alberta energy industry, will begin to recover in 2010. While it is not known how dynamic this recovery would be, if it does take place it will be an important first step towards economic recovery in Alberta.

“Many signs point to a rebound in energy prices, which will be of great benefit to Albertans,” says Marcil. “However, last year's contraction, the first since 1986, came as a bit of a shock to them.”
You can download the Canada West Foundation report here.

This report follows in the heels of a Calgary Economic Development (CED) State of the Economy report for the first half of 2009, which concludes that Calgary is in a recession that will last well into 2010.

Both reports stress the importance of Alberta energy sector as the primary driver of economic activity in the province.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Police investigation of voter suppression in the PC leadership race

Stephen Taylor of BloggingTories is reporting that the RCMP have been called in to investigate a possible case of voter suppression in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race. Frank Klees signed up a diverse group of Ontarians, many of whom appear to be new Canadians. Such people are particularly vulnerable to tactics of intimidation or fraud. Stephen Taylor included a letter from party president, Ken Zeise, the Klees campaign informing them that matter is now under investigation.

I truly hope that these allegations turn out to be false. If it is true it would represent a black mark not just on the PC Party, but on Canadian politics in general.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

PC Leadership Race: How I voted

With today as the last day of voting in the PC Ontario leadership race, I thought I would share with my readers how I voted and why I voted that way (I voted on Sunday). The ballot is a preferential ballot and so I was faced with the question of not only who I want to win, but who my second, third, and last choice would be.

1. Randy Hillier
2. Christine Elliott
3. Tim Hudak
4. Frank Klees

Randy Hillier:

First choice was the easiest choice I had to make on this ballot. Randy Hillier doesn’t just call himself a libertarian, he talks and acts like a libertarian. With a background in fighting for property rights and the best list of policies I’ve ever seen in Canada, I am proud to say that I voted for him. Many complain that he is rough around the edges, but he deserves my support for staying true to his ideals throughout this campaign. It should be noted that this supposed ‘rural anarchist’ has the best Toronto oriented policy seen in this race.

Christine Elliott:

At first glance you might think that this is an odd second choice for a radical such as myself. She has been touted throughout the election as the moderate candidate. I would rejoice if the flat tax was hailed as a moderate position, but the truth is far more complicated. Everything I know about Christine Elliott from before the leadership race says that she is a fiscal conservative, and nothing has happened to really dispute that. She is the lightest on policy but it is important to note that none of her policies are truly bad or objectionable. Indeed the centre pieces of her campaign is a grassroots policy process (which is often associated with the more ‘conservative wing’) and a flat tax. She has been called moderate for preaching ‘compassionate conservatism.’ At the same time when talking about her policy for increasing tax credits for charities, she said “This measure would strengthen the volunteer organizations and community groups who do the things that are very challenging for governments to accomplish. At the heart of our communities are men and women devoted to helping one another through a variety of charitable organizations,” If this isn’t music to a fiscal conservative’s ear, I don’t know what is.

Tim Hudak:

Those of you who are familiar with my postings may have detected a certain amount of hostility towards Tim Hudak. This would be a fair observation but I think this hostility was deserved. I have long been a fan of Mr. Hudak’s and I have become bitterly disappointed. It is not just my annoyance at his rhetoric; I find many of his policies to be offensive. The idea that I could have my possessions taken away for a mere suspicion of a crime is abhorrent to me. Anyone, no matter how virtuous or base, can be suspected of a crime. His defenders have basically said that such a policy will only be used against the ‘bad guys.’ I am uncomfortable with the state defining someone as a ‘bad guy’ with no due process.

Another objection I have is his long list of tax credits that amount to demand side corporate welfare. He has preached against corporate welfare so much that you can almost call him a hypocrite. He believes that consumers should pick winners but that the state can encourage them to pick the ones that the state wants. Perhaps hypocrite is too strong, better to say that he is inconsistent in his faith in the free market.

So why third place and not fourth? Partly it is because of who the remaining candidate is, but I will get to that in a moment. Tim Hudak does have several saving graces. His attack on the Human Rights Tribunal has been criticized as a ploy to win Hillier supporters, but I believe it to be sincere. His good policies may not outweigh his bad, but he does have policies that I hope will not disappear from the marketplace of ideas.

Frank Klees:

I think that the best way to describe Frank Klees is as a big government conservative. He may talk about the value of the free market and individual choice, but he doesn’t really believe it. He has been the most consistent member of the PC caucus for the support of policies that regulate the day to day lives of individuals. I have heard him talk about the role of government in ways that make me shudder. If it is the smoking bans, youth driver laws, and other such policies that anger you about the McGuinty Liberals; Frank Klees should not get your vote in this leadership race.

I grant that not much of this has come out in this race. My opinion of Mr. Klees is not based on what I have seen in the last few months, it has been formed over the course of years of observation. But if you do want something more, consider his ‘Ministry of long term planning.’ What does it say about the leader’s faith in individuals when he expects the government to be able to plan for the long term? It says that he views government as society’s leader, not as the protector of law and order.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Facing extradition and jail, Marc Emery plans “farewell tour”

Marc Emery Libertarian publisher and activist Marc Emery has been under an extradition order since 2004 when U.S. authorities, assisted by the Vancouver Police, arrested him on charges related to selling marijuana seeds. In May, Emery announced he would be pleading guilty to the charges in order to secure a deal that would see him face five years in a U.S. jail.

Today, Emery announced his “farewell tour” that will take him through Alberta in what could be his last heroic effort to legalize marijuana.

Marc Emery's Farewell Tour Calgary

July 5th /  6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Location: Scarboro Community Association
1727 14th Avenue SW
Free event sponsored by The Next Level Inc.

Marc Emery's Farewell Tour Banff

July 6th
Sponsored by Hempire Canada (Banff & Canmore)

Marc Emery's Farewell Tour Lethbridge

July 7 / 6:00 PM
Sponsored by Southern Alberta Cannabis Club
Tickets $10.00
Location: University of Lethbridge Ballroom B

Marc Emery's Farewell Tour Edmonton

July 9th
Sponsored by Edmonton 420 Cannabis Community

(Picture: Marc Emery)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 25, 2009 in Marc Emery | Permalink | Comments (217)

Wildrose Alliance officially welcomes candidates to leadership race and announces candidate for Calgary Glenmore by-election

Paul Hinman Although the deadline for fulfilling the requirements to become a leadership candidate is September 1st, the Wildrose Alliance today announced two official candidates for the leadership of the party: Mark Dyrholm and Danielle Smith

The Leadership Convention will be held in Edmonton on October 17th. In order to vote, a person must be a member of the party two weeks prior to the vote. The vote will be a mail-in ballot but members can also be cast their vote at the Leadership Convention.   

The party also announced that outgoing leader Paul Hinman will represent the Wildrose Alliance in the upcoming Calgary Glenmore by-election.

At a packed rally in the Haysboro community hall last night, Hinman said “for the first time in memory, Alberta is losing people to Saskatchewan, a province that under Premier Brad Wall is experiencing record economic surplus while Alberta, under Ed Stelmach, is experiencing economic deficits. This isn't market failure. This is government failure. And it's Alberta's government, with Ed Stelmach at the helm, that has failed us."

The party believes that Hinman's prior experience as a southern Alberta rural MLA, and the benefit of growing up in the community of Haysboro, make him a good candidate for the riding.

Not everyone agrees with the choice, however. While Hinman is universally respected among Alberta conservatives, two prominent party supporters told the Western Standard today that they had hoped Smith would contest this seat. According to the sources, Smith is the best available candidate for a strong showing, or even a win, in the by-election, which will be seen generally as either a repudiation or an endorsement of the Tory government, without consideration for any local political dynamics that might exist in Calgary Glenmore. If Hinman, with his rural mannerism, can’t resonate with urban Calgary voters, the party could get off to a bad start.

Smith, of course, still has a leadership race to win, and Dyrholm, who hosted events today in Edmonton, is in this campaign to win. So perhaps Smith is making the right choice by staying out of the by-election and focusing on the leadership vote in October.

(Picture: Paul Hinman)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First they took our guns, then they took our cars

In yet another flagrant attack on personal liberties in the province, the Alberta government announced a series of measures to remove armoured vehicles from the roads:

As of July 1, gang members will be hit where it hurts with a new law that removes their illegally armoured vehicles from Alberta roads.

An armoured vehicle is a motor vehicle constructed or adapted to protect its occupants from weapon assault such as gunfire, explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades. After-market modifications generally add significant weight to a vehicle and if the weight is not offset by an enhanced engine, suspension, steering and brakes, the vehicle is unsafe and poses a risk to public safety.…

The amendment to the Vehicle Equipment Regulation under the Traffic Safety Act allows peace officers to require an armoured vehicle to undergo a safety inspection. If the vehicle does not pass the inspection, the vehicle can be removed from the road and the driver(s) can be charged. Charges require a mandatory court appearance and the individual could face a penalty of up to $2,000 and six months in jail.…

Legitimate uses for compliant armoured vehicles such as military, policing, and transportation of valuable goods are not impacted by this legislation.

I am against gun control on purely libertarian grounds, but I understand where the other side is coming from. It is beyond me, however, how anyone could think it's a good idea to take away our means of protecting ourselves from these weapons. This is the nanny-state at its finest, big brother is watching out for you, so there's no need to protect yourself.

The government is, apparently, taking these steps to help combat gang violence. To be sure, innocent civilians can be caught in the crossfire of the gang wars that have permeated Alberta streets. Yet, an armoured vehicle would seem like a good way to ensure that stray bullets don't end up hurting you or your family while you're on the road. Forgive me if I don't want to rely on the state to protect my right to life.

Government will always come up with reasons to outlaw things it doesn't like. I, for one, am sick of governments impeding on my liberties in the name of protecting children, or cracking down on gangs. "I'd like to protect children too, but… is everything worth sacrificing to that? I mean, drugs have done a lot of good… lot of great songs, you know?… I think Dark Side of the Moon is worth 100 dead kids," said comedian Bill Maher. Just because these regulations will piss off gang members, does not make them good.

Even if these measures help prevent armoured vehicles from falling into the hands of gangs, will it not just lead to more dead people? Shouldn't our public policy be focused on saving lives, rather than making it easier to get killed? Can anyone give me a good reason why I shouldn't be able to drive an armoured vehicle if I choose to do so?

Posted by Jesse Kline on June 24, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (19)

SC Gov. Mark Sanford was cheating on his wife

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

In a story that seems to get stranger by the day, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has admitted to having an extramarital affair.

The odd series of events began developing over the weekend when it became apparent that the governor's whereabouts were unknown and news surfaced that he did not spend fathers day with his children.

The media circus intensified when he failed to show up for work on Monday. The governor's office later issued a statement saying that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

However, this morning, the governor was found at the airport on his way home from Buenos Aires. He initially told reporters that he had been vacationing by himself, but later admitted to having a long-running affair with a woman he met in Argentina.

While I don't generally think that a politician's sex life should be any of our business, the fact that he was caught in a series of blatant lies could be a career ending move.

This is really too bad because Sanford, a small government libertarian, was a rising star in the Republican Party and a potential 2012 presidential candidate. The Western Standard previously reported on Sanford here and here.

The moral of the story? Make sure you have an air-tight alibi before skipping town to have sex with your mistress. I thought this was cheating 101.

The governor held a press conference on this matter, which can be seen via the player below.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Posted by Jesse Kline on June 24, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Lemieux: The real systemic danger is Barack Obama

This week, Pierre Lemieux takes on President Barack Obama's plan to bring "systemic regulatory reform" to the U.S. financial system. Obama proposes

"a set of reforms that require regulators to look not only at the safety and soundness of individual institutions, but also -- for the first time -- at the stability of the financial system as a whole."

Drawing on history and economics, Lemieux argues that the real blame for American's shaky financial situation lies in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats who now claim to be able to salvage it. Not only that, but instead of bringing "stability" to the U.S. financial system, these new government reforms are likely to make things worse.

Why is the government so inept at managing the economy? In an interesting passage, Lemieux endeavors to answer this question.

Why is government intervention so expectedly inefficient in promoting economic growth and stability? The short answer is two-pronged. First, politicians and bureaucrats don’t have the incentives to fix, or not to break, the economy. Second, there is an insuperable information problem, which Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek’s work put in clear focus: the state (the whole apparatus of government) simply does not have the information necessary to intervene efficiently. The business cycle is a complex phenomenon on which generations of brilliant economists still don’t agree. How could we expect that campaigning politicians and bureaucrats in committees will resolve the problem?

What I found interesting about this passage is how Lemieux brings to bear both public choice economics (in his observation that politicians don't have the right incentives to fix the economy) and Hayek's work on the role of dispersed knowledge. Both these issues make it highly unlikely that the government's attempt to impose "systemic regulatory reform" will succeed.

In some sense, President Obama is like a blind man suddenly put behind the wheel of a speeding car. There are several things he could do to "fix" the economy, and almost all of them would be bad. That's if you assume that he's well-meaning, with the right incentives, but stymied by Hayek's knowledge problem.

If Obama's incentives are more like the incentives of other politicians, the problem is even worse. His attempts to "fix" the economy will either fail, or succeed only in lining the pockets of a few special interest groups.

For example: who do you think is going to benefit most from the billions Obama plans to invest in high-speed rail? According to Cato's Randal O'Toole, the price tag works out to about $1,000/taxpayer, at a minimum, but California is likely to get most of the money. Perhaps that's a nice reward for a big blue state.

As Lemieux consistently points out, this pattern is not an aberration, but the rule. Systemic regulatory reform to the financial system will be no exception. We can expect the regulations to either make the situation worse, or to be tailored in such a way that special interest groups, and not taxpayers, benefit from them.

Read all of Pierre Lemieux's column here.

Posted by Terrence Watson on June 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

O' Brother Where Art Thou? The Apparent Musical Death of Bruce Springsteen

While enjoying a solid lunchtime meal at the Palomino in Calgary recently, a familiar song came over the weathered sound system - Bruce Springsteen's "Countin' On A Miracle" from his fantastic 2002 album The Rising.  Suddenly, all of the other great songs from that album ("Lonesome Day", "Nothing Man", "Worlds Apart" and the title-track being the best among them) came flooding back into my mind, followed by the classics ("Thunder Road", "Badlands", "The Promised Land", "My Hometown", "Brilliant Disguise" among many, many others) and the less obvious, yet outstanding, tracks ("Valentine's Day", "With Every Wish", "My Beautiful Reward", "Downbound Train" and the list goes on) that Springsteen has penned.

Then, between mouthfuls of pulled pork, the fleeting and wistful memories of great times and great music in my mind were washed away by the grim recollection that since The Rising, Springsteen's albums have been progressively worse, peaking with Working On A Dream and the Superbowl soul-selling that followed before a worldwide TV audience.  Don't get me wrong, the Superbowl show itself was solid, as are all of his live shows, and it represented a refreshing departure from the usual halftime lip-syncing that goes on at the Superbowl or Grey Cup (I still remember Shania Twain's guitar player "playing" with ski mitts on - embarrassing), but the post-Rising material released out of the studio has been nothing short of wretched.  However, every grim, formulaic, unimaginative cloud has its silver lining - the Magic album had "Last To Die", "Long Walk Home" and "Devil's Arcade", but apart from those songs, few have warmed Knox's heart or have even started his toe a tappin'.

All of this begs the question - what happened? Where did it all go wrong? Or has it? Do Devils & Dust, The Seeger Sessions and Working On A Dream truly represent the fall, burnout or sellout/cashing-in of a legend and one of the greatest singer-songwriters and performers of all-time? Or will we see a Johnny Cash-esque late-career resurgence? While I certainly go back to the Springsteen well often, and have plenty of old material to keep me quenched for probably the rest of my life, it would sure please me if there was another offering, or offerings, from one of the all-time greats.  A guy might die of thirst if the current drought continues........

Posted by Knox Harrington on June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

The retweet seen round the world, the shocking death of Neda

Neda In the past few weeks there have been two revolutions going on, both with profound implications for the future of our global society.  The first has been the large and sustained democratic protests in Iran in response to the sham election results that had the unpopular incumbent president scoring an extremely improbable 2 to 1 victory over a rival that had been surging ahead in election polls in the final days of the campaign.

The second revolution has been that of social media sites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter that have been able to keep the increasingly tragic news events in Iran reaching the outside world.  Thanks to these sites, as well as the now ubiquitous cell phone camera, the outside world is able to bear witness as the Iranian autocrats shed any pretense of decency and assault and murder their own citizens.

In what has been dubbed the retweet (RT) seen around the world the shocking murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, has generated worldwide anger and contempt for the theocratic thugs who are in charge of Iran.  Neda who was a young philosophy student at the University of Tehran was shot in the back.  The shocking images of her death posted on Youtube and linked to on twitter have galvanized and united the civilized world in a way not seen since September 11, 2001.

In a speech given on June 23rd, US President Barack Obama called the video of Neda’s murder “heartbreaking” and said it made clear the violence against the protesters was “fundamentally unjust.”

President Obama then went on to state that, “In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice.”  In this regard Obama was not referring to the mainstream media outlets whose reporters in Iran have been arrested, intimidated, or ordered to leave the country.  The President was instead referring to those brave Iranian citizens who were continuing to video with their cell phone cameras the brutal crackdown by Iranian police on peaceful protestors, Twitter the location of upcoming rallies and get their videos and comments posted onto the worldwide web through a variety of proxy sites.

The brave efforts of these democratic protestors are all the more impressive given the increasingly desperate measures the Iranian government is enacting to try and prevent the world from seeing these images.  Thus the sudden importance of Twitter – which cancelled a scheduled shut down of its site for routine maintenance in response to an urgent request from the U.S State Department.

Technology,  once the feared ally of despotic communist and fascist regimes, has now advanced to the point where it is now the ally of democratic citizenry the world over. Whether it is four RCMP officers Tasering a man to death in a Vancouver airport or a young women shot to death by police in the streets of Tehran, the age old police policy of lie and deny is no longer working because people around the world will be watching, tweeting and posting.

Posted by Mike Geoghegan on June 24, 2009 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nixon supported abortion in cases “When you have a black and a white”

Peter Smith with LifeSiteNews.com reported today that US President Richard Nixon supported abortion in extreme cases, like preventing mixed-race babies.

Smith wrote:

Although US President Richard Nixon remained silent on the landmark 1973 Supreme Court rulings that legalized abortion on demand, newly released tapes show the disgraced President actually believed legal abortion was “necessary” in certain cases, such as when the baby was of mixed-race or conceived through rape.

The information has come to light thanks to the Nixon Presidential Library releasing today over 154 hours of tape recordings from the Nixon White House that were recorded in January and February 1973.

Although the quality of the recordings are poor, Nixon and an aide held a conversation recorded on January 23, 1973, discussing that day’s Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

“This in effect shows the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional state laws” on abortion restrictions, Nixon says, adding that any 14-year-old girl who “gets knocked up” would be able to get an abortion for “five dollars.”

“I know that there are times when abortions are necessary. I know that,” Nixon tells an aide, then adding, “When you have a black and a white.”

The aide interrupts, “or for rape,” to which Nixon quickly responds, “or rape."

However, Nixon and the aide express their reservations for allowing abortion on demand. The aide says it promotes “permissiveness” and “promiscuousness.” Nixon replies that “it breaks the family.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)