The Shotgun Blog
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Happy Blasphemy Day
Today marks the first, probably annual, international "blasphemy day."
Launched by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), Blasphemy Day is an attempt to defend freedom of expression by reminding everyone that the right to express offensive opinions is just that -- a right. A genuine, honest-to-goodness, full-throated human right.
September 30th was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the publication of the 12 Muhammad cartoons in Denmark by the Jyllands-Posten. Something we here at the Western Standard know a little something about...
CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay explains:
“Preserving the right to uncensored expression is important not only because it is indispensable for an objective examination of truth claims -- it is no accident that dictatorships uniformly suppress speech—but also because it has intrinsic value. Human dignity requires the freedom to express oneself as an individual.”
International Blasphemy Day is part of the Center for Inquiry's "Campaign for Free Expression." Here's the mission of the campaign from the Center's website:
Some governments and institutions—and even some individuals—want to keep certain topics off limits. This is especially true with religion. In many places, discussions and questions about religion are discouraged, even punished. But how can we come to our own conclusions about religion if we can't freely examine and discuss it?
The Campaign for Free Expression is a CFI initiative to focus efforts and attention on one of the most crucial components of freethought: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects—especially religion.
Various United Nations bodies, including the UN’s Human Rights Council, have recently adopted resolutions condemning so-called “defamation” of religion. These resolutions lend credibility to efforts to suppress dissent and criticism, especially in Islamic countries, but Western European countries are also debating laws that would criminalize religiously offensive statements. For example, Ireland recently enacted a new blasphemy law that prohibits publication of material “insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.”
CFI believes we must increase public awareness of these threats to freedom of expression, discuss and develop plans to prevent curtailment of free expression, and demonstrate that people care about their rights to free expression and are eager to exercise them.
The Toronto Star covered International Blasphemy Day, and quoted Justin Trottier, spokesman for CFI Ontario, as follows:
Organizers are "inviting people to speak their mind on issues related to religion, free speech, censorship, secularism" and other related topics, said spokesman Justin Trottier...
"We feel there's no such thing as a human right not to be offended," he said. "We live in a democratic society, which means you get offended and you better get used to that."...
"Our point is that if people are offended, then that's something they need to learn to deal with, that's not something we're going to shy away from."
Obviously, we wish them a great deal of success in their fight for freedom of expression. So here's to freedom of expression. And Happy Blasphemy Day!
Reassessing the war on drugs: Patrick Basham
While a policy analyst with the Fraser Institute, Patrick Basham presented the following speech at a conference in Edmonton in 2000 entitled “Reassessing the War on Drugs." Basham’s remarks are part of a growing body of intellectual work opposing the war on drugs from a conservative perspective.
Basham’s remarks provide one of the best and most concise analysis of the failure of the war on drugs I have read. While Basham’s remarks are a decade old, the pending extradition of libertarian publisher and activist Marc Emery to the U.S. on charges related to selling marijuana seeds makes his insights timely for conservative readers.
Below is an excerpt from Basham’s speech, which you can read in its entirety here:
In 1998, BC's chief coroner, Larry Campbell, recently issued this rhetorical challenge: "It's time someone stepped forward and said the war on drugs is lost." Commencing with conferences held in Vancouver and in Toronto in 1998, at The Fraser Institute we've stepped forward and said exactly that: the War on Drugs is lost.
Why is the “War on Drugs” such a failure? In my view, drug prohibition has all the characteristics of numerous other well-intentioned, yet expensive, counterproductive, Big Government programs that have outlived any possible usefulness. Why? Because the drug war reflects our failure to learn from history. Because it causes crime. Because it corrupts police officers. Because it violates civil liberties and individual rights. Because it throws good money after bad. And because it weakens -- at times, even destroys -- families, neighbourhoods, and communities.
Canadian governments -- federal and provincial -- have seldom given serious thought to drug policy, preferring instead to follow whatever variation on failure is being proposed during the latest 'crisis.' It's my contention that such conventional thinking has only served to empower organized crime, corrupt governments, distort the marketplace, hinder health care, and feed into an ever-growing law enforcement and penal industry. In sum, common sense and experience have been ignored, folly has been repeated, and the War on Drugs has become a war on reason, itself.
All of the evidence -- academic, scientific, and anecdotal -- confirms that most of the serious problems we associate with illegal drug use are caused directly or indirectly not by drug use, itself, but by drug prohibition. It's only by separating drug use from drug prohibition -- something that prohibitionists carefully don't do -- that one is able to assess whether or not the harmful side effects of prohibition overwhelm the benefits of alleged lower drug consumption and the resulting lower social costs.
American economist Thomas Sowell has suggested that "Crusades are judged by how good they make the crusaders feel, but policies are judged by their consequences." I agree. In that vein, through a series of observations about the health, legal, economic, and philosophical issues at stake here, I wish to outline for you my objections to the continuation of the drug war.
Continue reading “Reassessing the war on drugs” here.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Congressman Ron Paul on The Daily Show
Libertarian Party Chairman William Redpath on reason.tv
Posted by Matthew Johnston
The case for Ed Stelmach to stay as leader
Premier Ed Stelmach dismissed rumours that as many as 10 MLAs are considering deserting to the Wildrose Alliance. At the same time King Klein has come out and said that Mr. Stelmach
requires 70% support from the PC convention delegates, in order to
retain his legitimacy as Premier and party leader. It is clear, and has
been clear for a while, that a leadership crisis is brewing in Alberta.
The Wildrose Alliance has shown surprising strength. They won a by-election recently and the Albertan and national media are taking them seriously. The Wildrose Alliance could replace the PCs as the PCs once replaced Social Credit.
That is why I hope that Mr. Stelmach gets his 70% at the convention, because his staying in power is the WA's best chance of gaining power. The WA has been getting traction by demonizing Mr. Stelmach. If Mr. Stelmach is disposed of by his own party, perhaps the appeal of the WA to long time PC party activists and voters will disappear.
I confess that what I have seen of the WA race, inclines me towards Danielle Smith. But even if Mark Dyrholm wins, I believe that Alberta would be better off with the Wildrose Alliance than with anyone that the PC party is likely to choose as leader. The PC party in Alberta has lost its claim to conservatism. I do not see how they could get it back.
So if you are a member of the PC party and you are a delegate to this convention, I implore you for the sake of conservatism, to vote for Ed Stelmach.
Canada to be exempted from "Buy American" rules UPDATE: Not so fast
According to the CBC, Canada is likely to be exempted from the "Buy America" laws passed by Congress. This is undoubtedly good news. It keeps trade free(ish) between Canada and the United States.
It does raise a question; if the buy America clause is stupid when applied to Canada then why is it not stupid when applied to other countries?
The answer is that it is stupid.
It rips off taxpayers who are forced to pay more. It harms the economy by diverting capital in inefficient ways. It also harms economic freedom, because people cannot sell products to those who demand them.
I truly am glad that it is looking like Canada will be exempt. I just wish that everyone was exempt.
Update (by KK): A Canadian exemption to the "Buy America" provisions? Not so fast, say US and Canadian officials:
Government officials on both sides of the border say they have not yet struck a deal that will see the United States exempt Canada from protectionist Buy American provisions, despite a report to the contrary.
“Canada has submitted our proposal. Our negotiators are meeting. At this time however we have not reached an agreement,” a senior Canadian official said.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk also said there is no deal.
“We don't have it nailed down, but I'm going to be talking with [Canadian Trade] Minister [Stockwell] Day this afternoon on another matter,” Mr. Kirk said.
Banning of Cigarillos: House of sober second thought?
There is talk about the Senate making crucial changes to an anti-tobacco bill that was passed unanimously by the House of Commons.
The bill is meant to rid the world of tobacco products that are supposedly geared towards 'children.' The idea is that candy flavoured cigarillos or small packs of cigarillos is a sure thing to get kids to smoke. The assumption is that the tobacco companies could not possibly think that adults enjoy candy or might want to buy their products in smaller quantity.
According to this article, the possible changes would not completely reverse these rather wrong headed reforms. Instead the Senate may ensure that some tobacco products are not covered by the sweeping language of the bill.
I am both heartened and dismayed by this. I am heartened because the restrictions on free enterprise would be less if the Senate choices to act. I am dismayed because the exemption is so narrow that it may give an unnatural advantage to one particular company or a few companies.
At the same time as being heartened and dismayed, I am surprised. The surprise is due to the Senate actually considering fulfilling its stated constitutional role; The House of the Sober Second Thought.
Though I assure you I'm not holding my breath.
Whisper the Iggy
Rex on the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition:
Manner is one part of the answer. He is cocky and uncertain almost simultaneously, aggressive and challenging one moment, hesitant and even confusing in his message the next. That message, what there is of it, is a muddle. He casts the word “vision” around like it's a talisman, but speaks in the mushy platitudes of a high school valedictorian. He seems stranded between the two models of successful Liberal leadership, caught between the saloon and the salon. He cannot, by nature, mimic Jean Chrétien's carefully crafted populist style. Neither does he have the electricity and presence of Pierre Trudeau.
Mr. Trudeau's braininess was sexy, Mr. Ignatieff's you merely gather from the résumé. Mr. Trudeau wowed on contact. You're supposed to be impressed by Mr. Ignatieff. That dreadful feeble Ignatieff-before-the-trees ad, with its anodyne “we can do better” slogan, is breathtakingly pointless. It radiates the very absence of message or point that presumably it was constructed to dispel. And here we come to the centre of what's the matter.
Rex does it well, doesn't he? The "you merely gather from the resume" is biting. Iggy has never explained, probably because he doesn't know, why he wants to become Prime Minister. Ambition is the obvious reason, though that doesn't go over so well with the electorate. Vote for me because I really, really want to boss you around. The Iggy Story runs like this: Smart guy wins all the trophies and gets a call from back home. "What? Me for Mayor? Sure, that'd be swell." Small town guy made good, comes back to the small town to be a big shot. The logic and narrative really don't go much further. While clever at making clever points, Iggy doesn't have much in the way of hard and fast principles. Works well in the graduate seminar, less well in the messiness of daily life.
Not being a career politician he lacks the instinct to know which way the political winds are blowing. Papa Jean had an uncanny knack for this. A free spending finance minister under Trudeau, he ran the most conservative federal administration since 1945, obtaining the only real peace-time reductions in the size and scope of government. A fact which should put Prime Minister Stephen Harper to shame. Even if much of the Chretien operation has backed Iggy, most famously the "Ass Kicker", he has yet to achieve traction with the electorate. It's not really the operators fault. They can do only so much with the material given.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Self Defense Against Thugs
Imagine that it's 2A.M. ad you are at home, you hear voices outside that sound very close. You go outside and discover that there are thugs trying to break into your vehicle. You chase them off, only to run into their buddies around the corner. You run back home, retrieve some bear spray and a machete in order to protect yourself, but they pull a gun and fire at you. You run into your house and call the police. The thugs and their friends start kicking and banging your door. Meanwhile you wait for the police to arrive, knowing that they have guns, and you have bear spray.
This exact scenario recently took place in Winnipeg to Dale Dubowitz, who has decided it's time to move away.
"I'm stuck in a gang war here," Dubowitz said. "Where are these guys coming from?"
There are two points to be made here.
For most people, the government makes it illegal to properly defend yourself. Possession of bear spray in most cases is illegal, Mr. Dubowitz works as a hunting guide and can legally own it, police can also legally posses and use it; for everyone else not involved in hunting it is prohibited in Manitoba. Owning a gun, while very restricted, is possible. However, being able to use it for self-defense is made nearly impossible by the government. You need to keep the gun and the ammunition in separate locked rooms, in locked cases. When someone is banging on your front door trying to kill you and possibly your family, would you have time to retrieve the weapon to defend yourself with?
What could you do to protect yourself in this situation? How can you level the playing field when dealing with violent criminals? Gun control laws and the gun registry has done very little to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, because surprise surprise, they don't obey the law! It's the peaceful, law-abiding people that are victimized by these laws.
As long as violent thugs know that people aren’t armed and won’t have the tools to defend themselves, they have less incentive to back off.
Secondly, the reason that Mr. Dubowitz finds himself stuck in a gang war is because of various government actions. The prohibition on drugs gives gangs a market to thrive in, the black market trade of prohibited drugs that much of the gang violence in Winnipeg has been linked to this. If there were no prohibition, then there would be less crime as a result.
Mr. Dubowitz, the governments of Winnipeg, Manitoba and have failed you. Thanks to the police for getting there in time before you were murdered, after all, they have guns loaded and ready to go, while by law, you can't.
I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.
Happy birthday, Ludwig von Mises!
From Reason magazine:
On this date 128 years ago was born the great economist and political thinker Ludwig von Mises, the fountainhead of modern libertarianism in the American style (not only for the quality and breadth of his own work, but for his direct influence on almost every other major American libertarian giant--everyone from Hayek to Rand to Rothbard learned their take on economics from him), though he himself was born Austrian.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Future of conservatism
One of my favorite topics is the future of conservatism in Canada.
So it was lucky that the Young Conservative Forum has invited me to be part of a panel that will address this important issue in Montreal on October 29.
Also scheduled to be on the panel will be such conservative stars as Adam Daifallah, Joseph Ben Ami and John Robson.
Believe me, this is going to be a fun and informative event, that no conservative would want to miss.
I hope to see you there.
Here are the details of where, when and why.
Cheap at half the price?
David Miller is being given $167,000 when he steps down as mayor. Sadly I think we are all becoming jaded to the excesses of political pensions, but this seems more outrageous than normal.
(I told this to my girlfriend and her only response was "I want to be mayor")
Of course the alternative way to look at is this: we are getting rid of David Miller for only $167,000.
Parliament buys wine from wineries, so should we
Parliamentarians are doing something that the rest of Ontarians can't. They are bypassing liquor control boards to buy BC wines. According to the Vancouver Sun the law is:
The 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquor Act prohibits wineries from shipping out-of-province unless it's to the Queen or her government. The Commons dining room can serve wine banned in the rest of the country.
It was my understanding that the rule of law is that we all live under the same laws. There should not be one set of rules for one group and another for another. But that isn't really my issue here.
My complaint is that the law is stupid in the first place. The fact that Parliamentarians are able to use a loophole in the law just demonstrates the stupidity of the law.
Why shouldn't Parliament purchase the best that Canada has to offer directly from wineries? Why shouldn't any of us do it? Why must we go through this governmental body to do business with our fellow human being?
Update (by KK): The Western Standard's food and wine critic Knox Harrington helpfully contributes a link in the comments to an overview of the current laws on wine shipping within Canada:
The shipping of wine from one province into another province or from another country into Canada is generally prohibited (with some exceptions noted below) by a federal law (which stems from the prohibition era) called the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (Canada). [...]
So, the short summary is as follows:
Legal: To ship wine or liquor within a province so long as the wine or liquor is "authorized" by [BC's liquor control board] the LDB. As an example, a winery that has a license to sell wine in BC can ship wine to a customer within BC.
Illegal: To ship wine or liquor from one province to another if it isn't authorized by the liquor board in the receiving province. As an example, it is not legal for a BC winery to ship wine from BC to an individual customer in Ontario without the approval of the LCBO [Liquor Control Board of Ontario].
Illegal: To import wine or liquor from another province whether a customer brings it with them personally or has it shipped. If a customer does this, they are legally required to declare it to the relevant liquor board in the destination province and pay the applicable charges and taxes.
Legal for the Winery: To sell wine to a customer located in another province so long as the terms of sale transfer title to the wine within the province of sale and the winery does not send the wine to the other province. If the customer then arranges for the transfer or shipping of the wine then the customer will be assuming the legal risk of the shipment.
Obviously, the end result of these restrictions is rather foolish in that wineries within Canada cannot legally ship their products to Canadians in provinces other than their own province. In addition, these laws are perceived to be ridiculous by the general public since it is technically illegal to buy wine while on vacation in another province and take it back home with you to a different province.
Don Martin's column in the National Post is also on this very topic, he concludes:
Mark Hicken, whose business card boasts the dream practice of ‘wine lawyer', says even the open access agreements signed by the three westernmost provinces are trumped by the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.
"The original purpose was control. Now it being used as a revenue guarantee," he says, noting its often easier to ship B.C. wines to the United States than Alberta and many vintners face onerous paperwork and regular rejections in securing listings for the lucrative Ontario market.
There's clearly no place for a law drafted 80 years ago to govern a product sold in the age of Internet ordering and same-day jet delivery, particularly one that's so ludicrous it technically outlaws someone from taking even one bottle across a provincial boundary.
There's only one retail force strong enough to prevent the good times flowing across the nation despite 15 years of promised change by prime ministers and premiers.
Drunk with their protected purchasing power, the all-mighty provincial liquor control boards have the lingering clout to tell the buying public to stop whining over sour grapes.
And the only ones who can legally raise an out-of-province drink to their continued success are the elected and appointed powers of Parliament Hill.
Fade to Bloc
Quebec, soon to be slightly less important in our national affairs:
The Harper government would face a public outcry from Quebecers that could threaten national unity if it goes ahead with a plan to increase the electoral clout of voters in Ontario and Western Canada, warn seasoned political observers and politicians.
"It's clear that, when the population increases in a province, there must be a change in the distribution of seats, but we must also maintain a good balance with Quebec," said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff at a news conference yesterday. "We cannot play partisan games with this, because it (concerns) national unity of the country."
He added that Quebec's weight in the Canadian federation "must always be respected."
The government has reportedly been exploring the possibility of legislation to increase the number of MPs around booming cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The Bloc Québécois and the federal Liberals have both warned that it could weaken the weight of Quebec voters who now control about 24 per cent of the seats in Parliament.
Which would be a horrible, horrible thing... How long must we persist in the fiction that the vast majority of the Quebec electorate is genuinely loyal to Canada? The myth that if only we come up with the right deal, then they will finally love us. The process, however, is the point for Quebec nationalism. The existence of the Bloc in the House of Commons advances the cause of Quebec independence not one iota. It does, however, serve as a useful club with which to blackmail the ROC. Those with long political memories will recall that one of the raison d'être of the Liberal Party back in the 1850s was advocating representation by population. Quebec, then as now, was over represented in the Canadian legislature.
It used its exaggerated clout to impose Catholic schools--at taxpayers expense--on the people of Ontario. Once established, they were thereafter enshrined in the BNA Act. Thus we are one of the very few free countries in the world that has a constitutional right not only to education, but a right to a religious education. Admittedly modern Catholic schools are scarcely bastions of neo-ultramonte thinking, yet their existence is galling to anyone who believes in the separation of Church and State. In his recent book Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values, Brian Lee Crowley makes the point that our country's pronounced left-wing tilt since the 1960s was, in part, the product of a bidding war between Ottawa and Quebec City for the loyalty of the Quebecois.
The Quebec Model, however, is so addicted to transfer payments from the ROC--especially Alberta and Ontario--that it could never survive actual independence. The province's bloated welfare state and record setting tax rates, have shriveled fertility well below replacement. An anemic economy, and a generally unfriendly attitude to non-Francophone immigrants, has the the province on a track of gradually diminishing demographic importance in Canada. The West is rising, and Quebec is falling. A Canada where our less statist provinces have greater clout, can only be a good thing.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Fear and Loathing on Capitol Hill
If libertarians want real influence, they need to re-evaluate the way they promote themselves.
The 9/12 Tea Party in Washington, D.C., reminded me of the contents of Raoul Duke’s trunk in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The delusional right was out in full force – a whole galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers. As I wriggled through the crowd of birthers, truthers, Beck-boosters, Wilson-drafters, and Palin-backers, I couldn’t help but lament the amount of effort that some protestors were wasting on fear and loathing.
Kalim Kassam opines in the Libertas Post/Western Standard that the Tea Party movement shows that libertarians have “acquired actual influence”. But to actually wield influence, a movement needs to be more than a populist outpouring of anger – it needs to appeal to mainstream society. Actual results require actual electoral victories and actual policy goals attained – metrics by which libertarian ideas have fallen disappointingly short.
The 9/12 Tea Parties were a Dummy’s Guide to Alienating America™. Instead of broadening their base, libertarians achieved little but the alienation of potential converts and the presentation of libertarians as a group of rabid, angry radicals. The tea parties across the United States represented the apex of libertarian achievement as a protest movement. But if liberty-lovers want their ideas to be accepted by a larger segment of the country, they will need to embrace discipline and composure – rather than bitterness and hyperbole.
Movements that have the potential to be embraced by significant portions of the country are built on reasoned points and relevancy. Instead, the libertarian movement has been hijacked by hyperbole – and those on the outside aren’t easily persuaded by the way Tea Partiers see the world. There are some alignments - for instance, there is no doubt that many Americans are feeling crushed by the weight of onerous taxation, and the libertarian movement is right to seek to alleviate that burden.
But for the most part, the Tea Partiers’ priorities differ substantially from those of other Americans. Will cries of ‘End the Fed’ motivate any, other than those already convinced? Will calls for Obama’s birth certificate move any at the ballot box? When people are worried about their jobs, will birthers, truthers, or future staffers for Joe Willson 2012 be able to hold sway?
Exaggeration is contagious, and the disease is damaging. Labelling Obama an autocratic despot who seeks to impose tyrannical measures on the country will surely strike most Americans as out of alignment with the reality of the current situation.
Many will agree that the President’s plans for health care, the environment and the economy are excessive, and many will concede that the President is taking the country on the wrong track – but few will be brought on board by the affront of speaking ill of the dead (among the most common signs on the Hill was ‘Bury Obamacare with Kennedy’), and hardly any beyond the already devoted will be found cheering on Joe Wilson’s lack of respect for the Presidency and for Congress.
The fact is, a movement is not built on ‘you lie’s and a distaste for decorum, but rather on reasoned arguments and persuasion. Yelling well above the otherwise temperate din alienates those who might otherwise be convinced by your line of reasoning.
Libertarianism is a niche ideology in the American political market – it can and will survive as it currently presents itself. But if it seeks to be more than a populist vent, changes need to come.
Those who are truly dedicated to libertarian ideas are typically passionate and intelligent. And yet on 9/12 libertarian concerns manifested itself in the least compelling of forms – as a widespread demonstration of irritation, frustration and vitriol. Libertarianism won’t move beyond the fringe until it rids itself of extremists – birthers, truthers, racists – and starts to talk with restraint about the problems facing the United States.
Excise the crazies, and halt the crazy – ‘til then Tea Party patriots and the libertarian movement are driving hysterically into the desolate Nevada wilderness, stoned on fury, at ninety miles an hour.
Tim Mak is a reporter for David Frum's NewMajority.com.
Marc Emery turns himself in to be extradited
Today marks a horrible day for those of us who have worked with, become friends with, appreciated, and looked up to a Canadian hero for individual liberty. Marc Emery, often called the "Prince of Pot," presented himself to the authorities in order to be extradited to the U.S. to face five years in prison for selling marijuana seeds in the mail to Americans.
Marc Emery was a columnist with the Western Standard, and a personal friend to all of us on the editorial board. It is shattering to see pictures of him in newspapers, surrounded by friends and fans, knowing that he's about to spend many years in a prison for a fake "crime." And it is a fake crime.
William Hopper penned a wonderful story for the Western Standard about Emery's extradition back in January of last year entitled "Seeding Sovereignty." And we've debated Emery's activities here on the Shotgun blog many, many, many times.
Instead of recapitulating a lot of the arguments that I've made in the past, I thought I'd post Freedom Party International's press statement. Marc Emery was one of the founders of the Freedom Party (which is not the same as Freedom Party International), and has had a long association with that political party. Here is the statement they issued today:
On behalf of Freedom Party International (FPI), spokespersons Paul McKeever and Robert Metz issued the following statement:
FPI is today calling upon the Canadian and U.S. governments to discard plans to extradite and imprison Canadian citizen Marc Emery.
For his entire adult life, Marc Emery has been a vocal and animated advocate of individual freedom. He has campaigned on a very wide range of issues concerning individual liberty and property rights. He has successfully campaigned to save the taxpayer millions of dollars that would otherwise have been wasted on white elephants; he has challenged the abuses inflicted by garbage collection unions upon the citizenry; he has opposed the now-repealed ban on Sunday Shopping in Ontario (he is the only man ever to have gone to jail for opening his store on Sunday contrary to the law); he has fought censorship, by importing and selling a rap music album by the rap group "The Two Live Crew", and by selling prohibited books in Canada concerning the history of marijuana prohibition. In the 1990s, he chose to focus his efforts on the prohibition of one peaceful activity that so clearly violates the liberty of every individual, and that has resulted in the criminalization and incarceration of millions of people: the manufacture, sale, possession and use of cannabis.
With his decision to oppose cannabis prohibition, Emery has strayed from his previous focus on individual rights. He has instead resorted to provocation and agitation in an attempt to build sympathy for himself and for victims of prohibition, and to provoke anger against politicians, parties, and governments that have advocated cannabis prohibition, or that have done nothing to repeal it. FPI is not a political party per se, but a philosophical organization that advocates rational governance. As such, we reject Emery's emotion-focused strategy and tactics.
However, we stand by and defend Emery on philosophical grounds. A human being's defining feature is his or her capacity to reason. In our view, it is morally right that a human being put his own survival and the pursuit of his own happiness first, and we assert that a person cannot do that if he is not free to act upon the rational conclusions of his own mind. To that end, we assert that the proper role of government is to ensure that no person obtains any values from any other person without that person's consent. We quite agree that it is morally wrong to use marijuana, or any substance, in an attempt to avoid facing reality and dealing with it. However, in a free country, the government does not punish people simply for making foolish or self-destructive decisions so long as those decisions do not involve violations of another person's liberty or property.
In early 2008, U.S. authorities agreed with Emery to a deal in which Emery would serve a five year term for violations of U.S. prohibition laws, but would serve it on Canadian soil. On Canadian soil, he would have been released on parole within a year. However, the Conservative government of Canada refused to agree to the deal. For that reason, Emery is now faced with being imprisoned in a U.S. facility for a full five-year term. FPI condemns the U.S. government's decision to prosecute Emery, and the Conservative government's refusal to agree to the U.S. offer to allow him to stay on Canadian soil. We call upon the Conservative government of Canada to revisit that decision and communicate with U.S. authorities so as to ensure that Emery never has to spend any time in a U.S. facility. We call upon opposition parties in the Canadian House of Commons to demand of the federal Conservatives that they defend the sovereignty -- and thereby, the liberty -- of Canadians by taking all necessary steps to ensure that Emery is not sent to a U.S. prison. We call upon the Obama administration to take all steps necessary to have the charges against Marc Emery dropped. And we call upon governments and legislatures in both countries to put an end to cannabis prohibition."
William Safire, R.I.P.
Time magazine is reporting today the passing of William Safire:
William Safire, who died on Sept. 27 of pancreatic cancer at age 79, was for 32 years a standard bearer of what he called "libertarian conservatism" in the otherwise mainly predictably liberal Op-Ed pages of the New York Times.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Cry Me A River, Your Worship
How to speak of Toronto, David Miller giving it up.
Flanked by his wife, Jill Arthur, and children Simon, 12, and Julia, 14, Miller walked to a familiar podium in his packed office to say he was choosing to spend more time with his family. He noted that if he won re-election, by 2014 his daughter would be in university and his son graduating from high school.
They're predictable beasts, these politician chaps. There was that Hungarian politico who was caught on tape admitting that his entire re-election campaign was a lie. Ah, old fashioned Hungarian honesty. Even in his exit the mayor was disingenuous, which is the polite the word. An utterly pointless 39 day garbage strike was the coup d'grace. He couldn't just say, I've had enough and it's time to go. Nope. It was all about the family - tearful tots included - and anyway he'd accomplished everything he'd set out to do.
Which was what? A large gapping hole in the budget in exchange for? A new subway line? Improved social services? Reduced poverty rates? The only lasting accomplishment of the Miller years is the bloated salaries of the city's unionized employees. Whenever the Left speaks of government spending being compassionate, they fail to mention the rather large overhead it takes to accomplish all that compassion. When you're being paid substantially more than your private sector equivalent, to say nothing of kind hearted volunteer, it's pretty easy to be compassionate. Give until it hurts, someone else.
Whether the taxpayers, or the poor, of Toronto or better off really isn't the point. Nor is it the reason Miller is calling it quits. Municipal elections are low turnout affairs. Winning and losing depends on getting out the vote, something unions are very good at doing. It was the municipal unions that put David Miller in power. His botched get-tough routine with the garbage workers perfectly angered both friend and foe. His weak handling of the TTC strike of 2007 also brings back unpleasant memories. Yet it is a truism of politics, if you alienate the center you may lose, if you alienate your base you will lose. So long David. Please don't let the door hit you on way out.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Libertarians and the Tea Party opposition to Obama
The American libertarian movement is the subject of a column by Jurek Martin in London's Financial Times. The claim is that libertarianism has recently acquired some actual influence in the US. Three pieces of evidence for this thesis are presented: Ron Paul, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement:
For it is becoming increasingly evident that libertarianism is a common thread in the patchwork quilt of vocal opposition to Barack Obama’s attempts to change the way America is run. Not only does it pull many of the organisational strings behind the often raucous public protests of the last few months, but its essential philosophy, that the less government the better, is espoused by some of the titular leaders of the mob. [...]
Garden variety libertarians devoted to notions of economic and personal liberty might be uncomfortable with [Glenn Beck's] combustible approach, but they are not above going along for the ride. That certainly seems to be the case with former Congressman Dick Armey and his pressure group Freedom Works, as well as more established outfits such as the Ayn Rand Institute, named after the author. Both have been active in organising the tea party, town hall and Washington protest events that marked this summer. [...]
The great question is whether all this thunder is confined to the hyperactive right or is achieving wider resonance. I suspect the former, at least for now. Even a casual look at the angry participants at tea parties and town halls reveals a collection of the disaffected and dispossessed, mostly older, whiter, poorer and less well-educated than the population as a whole, and with myriad motivations, of which belief in libertarianism cannot be high among them.
Still, a debate about the role of government has been ignited, far from the first time in American history. It may not be as intellectually elevated as that engaged in by the Founding Fathers but it bears some resemblance to that generated by the social policy reforms of FDR and later LBJ. It even has its own Coughlins and Winchells, the early radio polemicists.
To my mind, libertarianism, which embraces some attractive positions, gives the movement a respectable veneer that today’s hooligan protagonists (Messrs Beck, Armey etc) do not command in their own right.
Race for Toronto mayor is now wide open
A few days ago I called for John Tory not to run so that George Smitherman would have a greater chance to defeat David Miller. Now that Mr. Miller has dropped out the field is looking very different, though much more uncertain.
A race between John Tory and George Smitherman would be an interesting one, though I fear that in this scenario one of these two candidates might go after union support. If another mayor is elected in the pocket of the city unions, then Toronto would be doomed to another term of the narrow dominance of the union bosses.
I think it would be more likely that a third not yet named union supported candidate would appear on the field. For example it would not be impossible for Olivia Chow to enter the race as the union candidate. She has the background, connections, and name recognition to make a reasonable try at it.
All that said it is still not impossible that either John Tory or George Smitherman would back away. In Mr. Tory's case it would be very understandable if he is tired of campaigning. He has had a rough five years.
In Mr. Smitherman's case, it seems that Dalton McGuinty wants to force the issue sooner or later. The rumour couple of days ago was that Mr. McGuinty was getting ready to shuffle Mr. Smitherman out of cabinet, sighting his divided attention as his reason. Yesterday Mr. Smitherman, perhaps as a direct result, said that his mayoral candidacy was a "speculative hyperbole." This could mean that he may still decide that his future is brighter in provincial politics.
With the race wide open, we can only wait and see how things develop.
(Fellow Shotgun blogger Kalim Kassam pointed out this National Post article that I missed)
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Children singing about Obama
During the election in the United States I signed up for GOP e-mail list. Yesterday I received an e-mail (I didn't bother to look at it until today) that showed children singing songs about Obama at a teacher's behest.
This is what the e-mail said about this video:
In the video, impressionable youngsters at a public school in New Jersey, most of whom are no more than six or seven years old, have been instructed to sing the praises of "Barack Hussein Obama." One song is even set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Friend, this is the type of propaganda you would see in Stalin's Russia or Kim Jong Il's North Korea. I never thought the day would come when I'd see it here in America.
This is the type of fanaticism Republicans are up against as we fight to stop the Obama Democrats' radical leftist transformation of America. The only way our Party can defeat their liberal ambitions is by electing more Republicans in the upcoming 2009 state elections and the critical 2010 mid-term elections.
I can see the Republicans' complaint about the first song. It is actively promoting a policy agenda and no ethical teacher should be manipulating children this way.
The second song is a slightly different matter. It seems to be primarily celebrating that a black man can now become President. Though then again I don't remember ever singing about Jean Chretien when I was that age, I can see why this might be viewed as creepy.
No to ID card in the UK
Earlier today I was walking up North Bridge in Edinburgh when I saw a man holding a newspaper called "The Socialist Worker." In his other hand he is holding a petition, and so I am naturally curious.
To my surprise the cause is actually a good one. It was a petition against the UK Identity Cards. Putting aside the irony of a socialist desiring to put less power in the hands of the government, I happily signed the petition and accepted a pamphlet.
This is part of what the pamphlet says:
- ID won't stop terrorists
- ID won't catch criminals
- ID won't prevent fraud
- ID will be vastly expensive (another part of the pamphlet claims that economists estimate a cost of 200 billion pounds and the government is estimating a cost of 5 billion pounds)
- ID will waste your time
- ID will strip your privacy
You can find out more about this anti-ID organization at no2id.net.
(I also saw a man with his head upside down in a bucket)
Friday, September 25, 2009
The London Tea Party
The Facebook Event description for an "S.O.S. (Stop Over-Spending) Party" planned for October 3 at Reg Cooper Square, behind City Hall in London, ON:
Inspired by the success of the TEA Parties in the United States, it's time for Londoners -- and all Canadians -- to take a stand in the Forest City against the mismanagement of our money at any level of government, and inform Canadians on what the bureaucrats are really doing with our money.
Come and join the Forest City Institute in Reg Cooper Square for music, great speakers, and a rally against high taxes, and tell the government to stop over-spending.
Much like Sting and the Police several years ago, it's time to send an SOS to the world, and you can too by writing your note to city council and sticking it into the FCI bottle. The week after it'll be marched right into the city clerk's office!
So far, the announced speakers are FCI employee and conservative activist Andrew Lawton, former Tory candidate and FCI board member Mary Lou Ambrogio and the Queen of the Canadian right-blogosphere Kathy Shaidle, with more soon to join their ranks, the Forest City Institute says
Great Dining On The West Coast - The Farthest West Coast That Is
Having been to Vancouver Island a number of times and never being terribly thrilled with what it had to offer, I was less than enthusiastic when a trip to Tofino, B.C. was put before me. I pictured laid-back West Coast lefties, a disdain for capitalism and vegan dishes abounding. I couldn't have been more wrong. Well, about the food at least. The hippies were there - soaked in patuli oil, playing with devil sticks and the filthy kind of dreadlocks that only true neglect can bring.
Back to the food. While as I will outline there are a surprising number of great restaurants in this remote and beautiful wonderland, the first place we tried wound up being our favorite. The place was called Shelter, with its inviting contemporary wooden structure and warm vibe. We sat on the outdoor patio, just off the ocean and the main drag in Tofino. Transcendant indeed. Great service, a great menu and a great time. I had the yellow thai curry, which was chalk-full of fresh seafood and was subtly, yet perfectly spiced. My companion had the roasted free-run chicken breast, which she said was sublime. I had a bite to make sure and it was as advertised.
Then there was Sobo. A hip little joint in town whose "entirely windowed wall" made dining a real treat. We had dinner and lunch here and enjoyed everything from pizzas to halibut to pasta and it was all first rate. Fresh food, prepared by people with deft hands, able to spin together simple, yet delicious fare. If I were to have a gripe it would be that the service was a tad slow, but maybe that was just the Tofino pace that I had a tough time adjusting to, but ultimately realized was useless to fret about.
The best meal we had was at the restaurant in the Long Beach Lodge, where we stayed during our trip. The food at this joint is simply unreal, or as Lionel Ritchie would say "OUTRAGEOUS". The halibut, prepared in an apple-fennel froth with pea puree and pine nut israeli couscous was one of the best meals I've had on the planet. So much so that I had it on two consecutive nights. Again, the service is a bit slow and inexperienced, but they were extra friendly, which made up for any pace issues.
The worst meal we had was at the Schooner Restauarant downtown. Bad food, bad service, all in the "old school fancy" tradition that Knox just hates, hates, hates. They boast that they have been open for years, but have obviously failed miserably in keeping up with today's restaurants that feature well-prepared fresh food without overkill sauces, over-cooking and old school favorites like shrimp cocktail.
The worst service I had was at a coffee house near Sobo and the post office the name of which, luckily for them, I cannot remember. We were served by a young woman who appeared to have ceased an all hours drug-fueled marathon of debauchery just moments before her shift started. She could barely bring herself to make eye contact, or to lower herself to assist customers. A pox on her I say.
Anyhow, Tofino was a beautiful, inspiring place overall with beautiful beaches, surfing and a great local dining scene. Here's a tip though - maybe refrain from driving out there from Alberta if you can.
Alberta PC MLAs ready to jump ship for Smith-led Wildrose Alliance?
Apparently, that's the rumour currently circulating around the provincial capital. The Edmonton Journal's Trish Audette reports:
Paul McLoughlin, a veteran in the halls of the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery, knows what's going on.
Every week, Capital Notebook HQ receives a copy of his newsletter, Alberta Scan, and we frankly celebrate his insight. Now, you can't find Scan online because it's subscription-only. But I can tell you you have to track down today's copy and give it a read. McLoughlin is reporting as many as 10 Tory MLAs could join the Wildrose Alliance Party if Danielle Smith takes the reins. That's a big shake-up that could place the Wildrose Alliance as the new Official Opposition. McLoughlin attributes his information to credible sources.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 17, the date of the Wildrose Alliance leadership convention, when members will select Smith or Mark Dyrholm.
This is getting awfully interesting.
Urban Cowboy - My All-time Most Surprising Concert
Recently I was offered the opportunity to attend the Keith Urban concert in Calgary. Night one of two shows a couple of weeks back. I had always lumped Urban into the Kenny Chesney-esque wannabe Western cheeseball crowd, so I was not overly keen. I had really never listened to the man's music given the aforementioned bias, but I had always known that he has a penchant for covering some great songs by one of the greatest names in country/americana/alt-country music, Radney Foster (see "Raining On Sunday" and "I'm In", both from Foster's legendary and ground-breaking See What You Want To See album). Despite my doubts, that lone fact has intrigued me. While dubious, I have long suspected that given the apparent respect and admiration for Foster there may be some true talent lurking in this man. So, with that suspicion and the fact that awhile back Urban recruited one of my all-time favorite guitarists in Brad Rice (formerly of Son Volt), I decided to give the show a whirl.
Before the concert, we decided to hit an Italian restaurant near the Saddledome called Il Gallo Nero, on the basis that it had some affiliation with the nearby Da Paulo restaurant, which has always been regarded as one of Calgary's best Italian eateries (although I have not visited for some time as I understand it has changed hands). The food was pretty solid. I had the cannelloni special as did 2 of my guests, while another had the gnocchi. They were all fairly pleased. However, the IGN wine list (while perhaps not to be unexpected) is too limited, with mainly only expensive Italian offerings, and the service, while pleasant, was glacially slow. Anyway, we were fed and watered, and headed for the 'Dome.
We arrived just in time to catch the opening act--the dreadful Lady Antebellum. Here it was, the slick, over-produced Nashville tripe that I had expected would pervade the entire evening. The songs were formulaic, virtually indistinguishable from each other and lacked a perceptible soul of any kind. Not helping matters was that their fairly brief opening set included 2 covers--Mellencamp's "Hurt So Good" and Don Henley's "Boys of Summer". While the material was certainly an improvement, the same cheesy, slick delivery and the fact that the band must have been fresh out of original material eroded any value they had. I grimaced at the thought of what the headliner would bring to the table.
After a pause in the action, Urban took the stage. With a great stage set-up and fantastic sound, he came charging out of the gate. After the strong start and visits with the crowd as he played a few songs at the back of the arena and then from a small stage in the crowd on the side of the arena, I quickly determined that this guy was a showman. A showman of the highest order. My toe was tapping and I was into the show very quickly. Even the material was pretty solid. Good songs, well-played. Here's the real shocker though (at least to me)--this guy can REALLY play the guitar. I had thought that Brad Rice was brought on-board to do the heavy lifting and that Urban would simply strum an acoustic guitar upfront once in awhile a la Elvis or Bono. Wrong. Urban played virtually every solo and Rice was relegated to the back bench, playing mandolin and a host of other instruments for most of the show.
The combination of skilled musicianship and a serious, rock star-esque performance played from the heart truly won me over. It was surely the most surprising show I've ever been to and was one of the best live music performances I've ever had the privilege of attending. Get out and catch the man on this tour if you get the chance.
PS. I was so taken with the show that I hit iTunes and purchased Urban's latest album--Defying Gravity. Unfortunately, after the live gig, while decent, it was a bit of a let down. A bit too much production and vocal-layering for my taste, but I guess that's to be expected from a hot shot, new country heart throb. If you're spending your money, hit the rocked up version of his material on the tour.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The existential drama of Canadian communists
This post could also have been called, "How Canadian communists must come to terms with history", or even, "Why I have to re-post more pursuant to Gerry Nicholls' post". According to an article in Epoch Times, plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honor the victims of communism are being obstructed by due regard to the feelings of Canadian communists.
The ever-industrious National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to change the name of the monument from “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism” to something that does not demean or tarnish the self-esteem of card-carrying communists in Canada. Initially, the monument was going to be called the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism", but NCC board members found it to be polarizing, hence the addition of the term "totalitarian". Now it seems no one is completely certain about the monument, the emotional states of Canadian communists, the value of historical memory, or whether communism really deserves the bad rap it seems to have earned over the past few decades.
There are exceptions to this Canadian confusion over communism. Tribute to Liberty, one of the groups trying to get this monument built, probably never anticipated so much controversy and stalling in the naming phase. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find honest individuals arguing against naming a monument to the victims of Nazism or fascism qualifying this description with the obvious, namely, "totalitarian".
Of course governments ruled under the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, or communism are totalitarian-- in fact, "totalitarianism" (as opposed to freedom, rule of law, or human rights) might just be their original contribution to political history. Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian. In fact, adding the word "totalitarian" to qualify communism is not just ignorant--it is blatantly false and dangerous. The refusal of communists and their defenders to admit the nature of communism should not prevent the public square from being the place where a spade is called a spade and the victims of communism are duly honored.
Hot links, get 'em fresh
1. Ezra Levant: Richard Warman under CHRC hate speech investigation for last 3 years.
2. John Williamson, former federal director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation joins PMO
3. Scott Hennig, AB director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation grades [pdf] Wildrose Alliance Party leadership candidates: Mark Dyrholm A- , Danielle Smith A-
4. SFU Criminology prof Neil Boyd on Tory government's "tough on crime" legislation
5. Michael Cust on Canadians' unwarranted smugness on healthcare and firearms
6. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon discusses Canada-led walk-out from Ahmedinejad's UN speech with Fox News' Greta van Susteren
7. Terence Corcoran on lowering tariff barriers and unilateral free trade
8. The Economist explains name of their new business column: Schumpeter
Oh Shutup Lisa MacLeod (V)
Dalton McGuinty says no to a smoking ban. He says that it is up to parents to deal with teenagers who smoke tobacco.
Lisa MacLeod's response:
Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod said it's clear that more needs to be done to curb teen smoking. "As a parent, it sickens me," she said.
The LIBERAL Premier just said that it was YOUR job as a parent to take RESPONSIBILITY to raise YOUR children. No the government does not need to do more to curb teen smoking. Parents need to do more to curb teen smoking.
Dalton McGuinty says no to a teen tobacco ban
According to the Toronto Sun, the premier that has brought us more smoking bans than you can shake your fist at (seriously my fist is tired) has finally found his limit. He will not make itillegal for teens under the age of 19 to possess tobacco.
I for one am very relieved to hear this and I find myself stunned at his logic.
"You've got a 13-year-old that's smoking. If you're the mom or the dad, you've got a responsibility to act on that," he said. "You can't rely on the police to raise your child when it comes to smoking. So, no, we're not going there."
It makes so much sense that I wonder why he doesn't apply the same logic to all his social policy.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Crimes and misdemeanours
What was once considering a normal rite of passage, typical curiosity that the newly sexualized young have about themselves, their bodies, and the bodies of others, has become a heinous crime. Not long ago a curious adolescent or child, caught exploring, or playing doctor in the back yard, was given a talking-to, sent to bed early, and warned to not do it again—a warning most heeded for at least another few years, after which time warnings were useless. Today, it has been criminalized, and criminalized in a way far exceeding crimes of violence. A youth who has sex with another youth, even if voluntary, could well face legal sentences far worse than if they had killed their friend.
Nor is Classically Liberal alone. Here was The Economist's take on this issue:
ONE day in 1996 the lights went off in a classroom in Georgia so that the students could watch a video. Wendy Whitaker, a 17-year-old pupil at the time, was sitting near the back. The boy next to her suggested that, since it was dark, she could perform oral sex on him without anyone noticing. She obliged. And that single teenage fumble wrecked her life.
Her classmate was three weeks shy of his 16th birthday. That made Ms Whitaker a criminal. She was arrested and charged with sodomy, which in Georgia can refer to oral sex. She met her court-appointed lawyer five minutes before the hearing. He told her to plead guilty. She did not really understand what was going on, so she did as she was told.
She finished her probation in 2002. But her ordeal continues. Georgia puts sex offenders on a public registry. Ms Whitaker’s name, photograph and address are easily accessible online, along with the information that she was convicted of “sodomy”. The website does not explain what she actually did. But since it describes itself as a list of people who have “been convicted of a criminal offence against a victim who is a minor or any dangerous sexual offence”, it makes it sound as if she did something terrible to a helpless child. She sees people whispering, and parents pulling their children indoors when she walks by.
Mr Cab Driver
His passengers don't have a problem, but the government certainly does:
Anyone entering Arieh Perecowicz's taxi in Montreal quickly knows what's close to the man's heart. At various places around the dashboard, he's posted photos of his family, religious artifacts, a couple of flags and a Remembrance Day poppy.
The items have never sparked a customer complaint or interfered with his work, the 65-year-old cabbie says. But it did provoke a series of tickets from Montreal's taxi agency, which have resulted in a court battle that could test the line between personal and public space.
Mr. Perecowicz received six tickets for a total of $1,400 from the Bureau du taxi, a municipal agency whose inspectors ordered the cabbie to remove the offending items. Mr. Perecowicz is instead fighting the tickets and heads to municipal court next week arguing the authorities are violating his Charter rights.
"In 43 years, no one has said they were offended or opened the door to take another taxi," he says.
This being the age of big government, there is another element to our story:
Mr. Perecowicz, who has also filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, notes he starting receiving tickets only days after speaking out in the media in 2006 to complain that the taxi bureau was failing to crack down on unlicensed cabs.
So his freedom is being curtailed because he agitated to deny the freedom of others. The modern world, utterly beyond satire.
Rounding up the usual suspects
But he looked kind of suspicious:
Don Sipes, 47, launched the civil action against West Vancouver in small-claims court, suing the municipality for $24,000 in damages after he said he was illegally arrested, detained and handcuffed by a police officer as he was walking down the street.
Provincial court judge Carol Baird Ellan agreed Sipes should not have been stopped, saying the officer had no reason to arrest him as he walked to a bus stop in January 2006. In her decision, the judge criticized the police, saying Sipes was arrested "without any grounds at all."
The judge added it seemed likely the officer who actually arrested Sipes had been directed by a fellow officer who had a long history of stopping the bearded man.
I see. They took turns then.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
David Miller told an "error" that amounts to $200 million
The National Post is reporting that David Miller mislead Toronto and the media during the recent public service strike in Toronto. He claimed that the sick day benefits would cost $250 million, but in reality it will cost $450 million.
Public opinion sided heavily against the strikers, especially after people learned that the city's unionized workers get 18 sick days a year and can save up the unused ones until they retire, collecting a fat payoff. Mayor David Miller insisted the city could no longer afford such generosity, repeatedly citing the heavy cost in justifying the city's refusal to cave to the strikers.
Eventually the city did cave, letting the workers keep their sick leave (or get bought out), but eliminating it for new hires.
Now it turns out the sum is far higher than Mr. Miller admitted, even though he knew the real figure well before the strike.
The excuse given by the Mayor's office was as follows:
The city's chief financial officer blamed the discrepancy on a software error. A spokesman for David Miller says the Mayor kept mum on the gap because "the city didn't want to focus on just one aspect of the audited financial statements."
"The decision was made not to release financial results on a piecemeal basis," spokesman Stuart Green told the Toronto Star.
If the original claim was that Toronto cannot afford $250 million, then how could it possibly afford $450 million? I'm not even sure that I am upset that David Miller mislead everybody about the cost. I am far more upset to hear that Toronto is sinking into an even deeper black hole than we thought.
If there has ever been a politician that needs to be thrown out of office, it is David Miller.
Our bureaucrats are our future
The English speaking world's greatest curmudgeon takes on the "money pit" of education:
My daughter’s modest suburban high school held an orientation session for parents of freshmen last fall. There all we parents were in the school auditorium facing a phalanx of school employees up on the stage, not one of them a teacher. Administrators, Directors, Advisors, Psychologists, a Dean, five guidance counselors (under, of course, a Director of Guidance), Administrative Assistants . . . All this for 1,100 students. I cornered the Director of Mathematics, a very cordial fellow, to ask if he himself did any, you know, teaching. No, he regretted to say, he didn’t. No time!
To me, child of another time and place, it is bizarre. I got a first-class education at a good boy’s day school in England. We had about a thousand students. There was a Headmaster, who did not teach. He was helped by a Second Master, who taught modern languages to juniors. The Headmaster also had a secretary to do his typing and filing. There was a mysterious fellow called the Bursar, occasionally glimpsed scurrying from his own tiny office to the Headmaster’s. A groundsman looked after the playing fields. “Dinner ladies” came in part-time to serve the cafeteria lunches, and there was a caretaker with a couple of cleaners, also part-time. The other forty-odd adults on the premises were all full-time teachers. The place seemed to work very well.
The high school I went to was similar to Derb's in its lack of bureaucratic overhead. Like Derb's it was also a private school. The chap who was running the show, a short fellow who looked nothing so much as Super Mario, was the owner and CEO. It was his show and he made quite a lot of money educating the school's several hundred students. Since part of his reason for running the school was to turn a profit, he tried to keep the paper pushing to a minimum.
The guidance counsellor was also the history teacher. He also taught car mechanics and coached after school. I don't think he was paid all that much extra for his trouble, but he liked helping students. Imagine the unionized loopholes he'd have to jump through to do the same in the public system. It's why he, and dozens of other teachers, worked for less at a private school. They could actually, you know, teach and not have to worry about being stabbed by some deranged 11th grader, after a less than stellar performance on a chemistry exam.
The key word here is accountability. If teacher X is doing a lousy job, parent Y - the customer - can complain to school owner Z. Being a sensible businessman and professional, Z makes a judgement call. Is teacher X really that bad? Or is it that parent Y is out to lunch. What happens next depends on the judgements of Y and Z. If enough parents agree with Y the school goes out of business. If enough parents agree with Z, the school flourishes. Now repeat that scenario with a public school. You can't really.
The parent complains to the principal, who then has to deal with the union and the board. The parent doesn't call the shots. He pays, but indirectly through taxation. There isn't a straight line between the parent's paycheque and the kid's teacher's paycheque. Therein lies the problem. For all the pompous talk about education being too important to be left to the moneychangers, the public sector is far less child centred than the private. The public schools may not turn a profit, but that's just an accounting trick. Profit is revenues above cost. You can wipeout profit by increasing costs, like adding a score of middle managers who don't teach, to the payroll lists. Even the most mercenary of private school owners and administrators is faced, like all businesses, with the client. If the parent isn't satisfied, it's his money and he can go elsewhere. That's a powerful incentive to do a good job. The most public spirited of public school administrators has a far more complex job. It's more than keeping the parent happy, it's keeping the teachers from filing a grievance, or the board from forcing cut backs on programs, or deflecting yet another educational fad. The school principal is more a politician than educator.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I wish it was true
I won't bother to point out the idiocy of Michael Ignattieff's economic plan. The Globe & Mail article does it for me:
Canada has previously pursued an industrial policy of investing in winning industries, promoting regional development, protecting Canadian firms from foreign takeovers and seeking alternative markets to the United States. These were the pillars of Pierre Trudeau's approach to the economy. It would be charitable to say that results were mixed.
This is the part that I wish was true:
“Stephen Harper thinks no taxes are good taxes because he believes that the only good government is no government at all,” Mr. Ignatieff told the Toronto Board of Trade at a noon-hour address.
Everytime I hear the Liberals attack the Conservatives it makes me like the Conservatives more. My uncle onces told me that he dislikes Mr. Harper because he seems to hate government. I once supported him because I thought it was true.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The carbon tax and the triumph of green
Driving from Calgary to Vancouver reveals some stark contrasts. The vast farmlands of the foothills morph into the majestic Rocky Mountains. The ominous mountain passes lead to an oasis of sprawling lakes in the Okanagan Valley before climbing into the heavens to traverse the Coquihalla Pass. The desolate mountain landscape then fades away to reveal the lush Lower Mainland before heading into the sprawling metropolis of Metro Vancouver.
If one looks closely, however, another stark contrast can be seen. Between the rocky divide that separates Banff and Golden, one may notice a significant increase in the price of gasoline. The price then increases again when you hit Vancouver. This is because B.C. has much higher gas taxes than Alberta. Residents of Metro Vancouver pay 20.5 cents per litre in gas taxes, plus 5 per-cent GST and a six cent transit tax, compared to just nine cents plus GST in Alberta. If this wasn't bad enough, the "right-wing" Liberal government recently imposed a carbon tax, which adds 3.51 cents to a litre of gas and will eventually reach 7.2 cents by 2012. In a show of just how out of whack B.C. politics is, it was the NDP that campaigned against the carbon tax in the last provincial election.
There was a time when so-called "progressive" politicians could at least pretend their policies were designed to help people. If one promises to steal from the rich and give to the poor, it actually sounds like they intend to help the poor. And while I don't agree with these policies, I can see the rationality in electing someone who promises to give you something for nothing. The remarkable thing about the green movement is that they have somehow made it possible for politicians to implement policies that are designed to help no one.
Let's take a step back for a moment. When I was young, the environmental movement seemed like little more than a bunch of under-sexed soccer moms whining about the rain forest. Yet, in a relatively short period of time, they have managed to fundamentally alter the way people think and vote. We are now at a point where people actually think it's in their interest to vote for policies that make all of society worse off. Let's take the carbon tax as an example.
Who benefits from the carbon tax? Businesses certainly don't benefit. It now costs more for them to produce and transport goods. The poor don't gain anything either. They are now faced with higher prices at the supermarket and higher transportation costs. The policy is actually designed to help mother nature and satisfy a far-left constituency. Do I need to mention the fact that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that contradicts the theory of man-made global warming or that even if it is true, higher taxes in one province will do little to solve the problem?
The green movement has successfully devolved public policy to that of ancient times. Government is now in the business of sacrificing virgins to appease their mythical gods. No matter what you think of their politics, this is an amazing feat.
The success of the green movement can partially be attributed to the diverse coalition they have managed to build. Environmentalists who are genuinely concerned with saving the planet; communists who see this as an opportunity to increase government involvement in the economy; enterprising capitalists who realize that there's money to be made off green technology; scientists who see large swaths of government money flowing their way by preaching man-made global warming; and religious zealots who are mesmerized by stories of Armageddon are all working together to change the minds of the populace and affect public policy.
That's right, the same money interests the left usually blames for all the evils in the world suddenly find themselves in the same camp as the socialists and communist extremists. The problem is that many of the policies the green movement is pushing are downright evil. If they had their way, they would wipe out centuries of human achievement. We would be pushed back to the stone age, unable to utilize all the technologies that have brought about the biggest increase in the standard of living in all of human history. Yet, despite the dangers we face, those of us who want to push back can learn a lot from the green movement. Their organizational skills and ability to persuade citizens and lawmakers alike have been remarkably effective. These same tools can be used against them in the quest for balanced policies that protect the environment, don't hurt society's most vulnerable, and leave men free to be innovative and productive. On the eve of this December's global warming summit in Copenhagen, this is something we should all keep in mind.
[Cross-posted at jesse.kline.ca]
Randy Hillier endorses Mark Dyrholm for leader of the Wildrose Alliance
I received an e-mail yesterday letting me know that former Ontario PC leadership candidate Randy Hillier has endorsed Mark Dyrholm for Wildrose Alliance leader. The Wildrose Alliance is an upstart party that hopes to push the not-conservative-enough Stelmarch PCs out of power in Alberta.
Mr. Dyrholm commented on the endorsement on his Facebook status:
I appreciate the endorsement of Randy Hillier, Ontario MPP Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. It seems there are even good conservatives in the east who appreciate my policies.
Brian Lee Crowley: The fall of Canadian values and the birth of the welfare state
The National Post has published an excerpt from Brian Lee Crowley's Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values:
The reigning political consensus that characterized this country right up to the birth of the New Canada in 1960 took a quite different view of the role of the individual, of government and of the effects of government intervention on people's character than the one that prevails today. The view that predominates today on both sides of the border is of Canadians as kinder and gentler than their American neighbours, more willing to use the power of the state in pursuit of public goods, more welfare-minded, more socially left wing. It is also a view that could establish itself only by defeating and then consigning to a trunk in the never visited attic of our collective memory the older view that had defined Canada for almost the first century of its existence and for many decades prior to 1867.
Read the rest. And here's a review of the book by Neil Reynolds for The Globe and Mail.
I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Crowley speak at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar. I found his speech to be fascinating and I encourage you to take the time to listen to it.
Canadians are often groping for a national identity. Some point to government programs as our nationhood, others point to people with blades on their shoes and sticks as our identity. Yet most people are unsatisfied by this, we have forgotten who we were from the beginning.
Canada is free and freedom is its nationality.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The Canadian Tradition
I'm currently part way through Brian Lee Crowley's latest book: Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. So far so good. I hope to have a review up later in the week. The basic thesis is that Canada was founded as a classically liberal society, and then lost its way through a combination of changing intellectual trends and Quebec nationalism. It is the later that Crowley cites as vital in explaining Canada's higher than average level of statism compared to other English speaking nations. The Quiet Revolution, and its aftermath, sparked a bidding war for the loyalty--if that's the word--of the Quebecois. The thesis is not original, but Crowley brings a considerable weight of scholarship to bear on the issue. He also breaks the taboo among the Canadian intelligentsia of stating the obvious: In the main the Quebecois are not loyal to Canada. The book is endorsed by a dazzling array of Canadian conservatives: Conrad Black, Michael Bliss, William Gairdner, Barbara Kay, Tom Flanagan and David Frum. If we can speak of Canadian conservative establishment, the above is a Who's Who. From the National Post:
The state had been expanding on both sides of the border for years. When Stephen Leacock warned of the impending arrival of socialism in Canada in 1924, the state in Canada was spending 11% of GDP. By 1960, we were spending over 28%. Again, however, there was nothing in that that distinguished Canada; government was carving out a bigger role for itself everywhere. No one denies that the zeitgeist was there, no one denies that government in general and the social service state in particular were growing. What has to be explained is not the direction of change, but rather its speed and scope and timing.
And here the parallel social and economic developments of Canada and the United States over the previous century must be given their due weight. We were two societies with a similar intellectual, philosophical and institutional endowment. We Canadians thought of ourselves as the truer guardians of the British traditions of liberty and limited government, but the Americans fought a revolution in order to vindicate what they thought of as the rights and liberties of Englishmen. The spirit of the great liberal individualist John Locke presided over America's founding debates in the eighteenth century, just as he did over the Confederation debates of the nineteenth.
With Conservatives like these...
...who needs Liberals?
A Conservative prime minister has launched a stirring defence of universal health care, and lauded Barack Obama in his bare-knuckle political battle to extend benefits to all Americans. But it's not the current one. Brian Mulroney used a speech to 1,500 Conservative supporters to wade where Prime Minister Stephen Harper has steadfastly refused to venture: the bitter U.S. debate over health reform.
The former prime minister drew parallels between Obama's uphill fight to reform health care to his own struggles as prime minister, which may have cost him popularity but benefited the country. "Political capital is acquired to spend in great causes for one's country," Mulroney said Thursday.
"Prime ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are chosen to provide leadership. . . President Obama is fighting for a form of universal health care and is encountering ferocious resistance. "The attacks on President Obama are often bitter and mean-spirited and his approval ratings are sinking like a stone. Still, he fights on. . . "
Fifty years from today, Americans will revere the name, 'Obama.' Because like his Canadian predecessors, he chose the tough responsibilities of national leadership over the meaningless nostrums of sterile partisanship that we see too much of in Canada and around the world."Yet the bloody fool actually believes it, believes that Medicare is anything but a comprehensive disaster. Perhaps, being a former Prime Minister, he hasn't experienced the sort of health care we proles get on a regular basis. A quarter century ago he silenced his critics on the Left by declaring Medicare "a sacred trust." Sure, conservatives scoffed, a sacred something, like say a scared cow. More than a few shrugged their shoulders and said that Canadians weren't ready to abandon their cherish myth of state guaranteed care, so no point wasting political capital on it. When the time is ripe we'll just scrap the bloody thing.
We're still waiting. The Cult of Medicare is alive and well, even if its recipients are less lucky. The utterly galling thing is that a man widely regarded as the most successful "conservative" Canadian Prime Minister is portraying Barack Obama as Horatius at the Bridge. In fifty years Americans are probably going to regard Barack Obama as a cooler, and smoother, version of Jimmy Carter. There are parallels here to Stephen Harper's reading the libertarians out of the Conservative Party in March.
Mike Brock covered the PM's speech to the Manning Institute here. My conclusion then about Harper was that he just didn't get the case for free markets. There is more than enough material floating around explaining how governments provoked the current economic crisis. Nary a word of it was mentioned by the PM. He preferred to scold libertarians as naive teenagers for believing that markets actually work. Brian Mulroney's laudatory comments about Barack Obama's quest to cripple American health care - which if it succeeds will deny Canadians a ready escape route from our system - shows plainly he doesn't get it either. It's not so much political cowardice or cynicism, at some level these "conservative" leaders just don't understand freedom.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Cops Are Drug War Victims
So states a Washington Post op-ed. Here is an interview with the authors of that op-ed, one of which is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Mark Steyn heralds the demise of the CHRA's hate messages censorship clause
Mark Steyn makes my day:
Before I attracted the attention of the thought police, I wasn’t entirely up to speed on state censorship in Canada, and I asked my friend Ezra Levant what he knew about this Section 13 business. He sent me a printout with the history of every single case. Two things stood out: first, while the plaintiffs had the costs of the case paid for by the taxpayer, almost all of the defendants had been too poor to have legal representation. That’s an inversion of basic justice. Second, one man had been the plaintiff on every single Section 13 case since 2002—Richard Warman. That didn’t pass the smell test.
The list had been compiled by someone called Marc Lemire, a man who’d been caught in the “human rights” crosshairs for half a decade. You might not care for his opinions, but that, as they say, is a matter of opinion. That he has been traduced by the Canadian justice system is a matter of fact. But he’s a dogged type, and he pushed back, and he got the goods on his abusers. He demonstrated that evidence exhibits were switched in mid-trial by the CHRC. He proved that Warman and CHRC investigator Dean Steacy were themselves members of and posters on white supremacist websites under various aliases. Indeed, in a remarkable conflict of interest, Warman, as the plaintiff, was permitted to stroll into the CHRC, the investigating body, and share passwords and Internet aliases with Steacy. [...]
This month the wheels fell off the racket. On Sept. 2, Athanasios Hadjis in effect acquitted Marc Lemire of all charges but one. This unprecedented verdict is, as Joseph Brean reported in the National Post, “the first major failure of Section 13(i)” in its history. Was Mr. Lemire the beneficiary of a unique dispensation from the CHRT? No. Judge Hadjis pronounced the accused guilty of a Section 13 infringement on one narrow charge—an Internet post headlined “AIDS Secrets” that (in David Warren’s words) “went on rather tendentiously about blacks and homosexuals” and was written by someone other than Mr. Lemire. Nevertheless, the court declined to punish the defendant even for this infraction on the following grounds:
“I have also concluded that s. 13(1) in conjunction with ss. 54(1) and (1.1) are inconsistent with s. 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The restriction imposed by these provisions is not a reasonable limit within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter.” [...]
For the moment, whatever Parliament or the Supreme Court does, Section 13 [of the Canadian Human Rights Act] is dead. The camel’s nose of liberty is under the CHRC tent. Now let’s give ’em the hump.
Go read it all. Ding-dong.
Is knowingly exposing others to infectious disease, a form of violence?
I ask this very seriously, given the fear of an H1N1 pandemic. And I ask the question to myself, as I am one of those people who often feels so enamoured with his work that he'll force himself to go to work when he's sick. But I best not do that, and neither should you.
There is no scientific question (and it's also common knowledge), that going into an enclosed space with other individuals and sneezing or coughing while ill with a cold or flu is callously exposing other individuals, and consequently, individuals that they subsequently come into contact to with infection. But many of us do it all the time, as if it's just "part of life". But if that infection reaches a very young child or an elderly person, the distant causal effect may actually be the death of an individual.
But we often treat this kind of question as a matter of social etiquette rather than a matter of absolute morality. And I'm not sure that's right. After all, spreading the flu to someone could--in rare cases--do more tissue damage to someone than a bullet wound, requiring weeks of hospitalization. Really. The flu does extensive tissue damage to the body, which is why people are weak and achy sometimes for days or weeks after recovering from a bad encounter with influenza.
Now we are faced with a potential influenza pandemic, of an unrelenting strain, which is almost certainly going to claim a great number of young and elderly lives around the world, with estimates of the infection rate exceeding one-third of the global population. And considering the number of fatalities we've seen from H1N1 in the past year, from a very small infected population of only hundreds, we could be staring down the barrel of one of the worst health catastrophes in any one of our lifetimes. I don't think the average person has actual grasped this yet.
So the question is, do you have a moral duty to avoid contact with the outside world if you do become infected? And given all considerations, I think you might.
Offending Communists is OK
Yesterday's National Post ran this story about the National Capital Commission's recent decision demanding the word "communism" be removed from a proposed "Tribute to Liberty" monument as this might offend communists.
This led me to write the following letter to the editor which appears in today's paper:
So, the NCC is worried a proposed memorial to the victims of totalitarian communism (Is there any other kind?) might offend communists.
I guess it has not occurred to the NCC that communism itself is offensive.
Recall that communists enslaved nearly half the world, denied basic democratic rights to whole nations and murdered untold millions in cold blood.
That's precisely why we need a memorial. It's important to remind ourselves why our freedoms are worth defending.
And if that offends any crackpot communists still lurking about, we should just consider that a bonus.
"The attractive and charming young man..."
He's soooooo cute!
Quebec MP Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was immediately surrounded by dozens of adoring mostly female fans and teachers after his half-hour speech that centered on the need to enter politics and serve society.
The attractive and charming young man posed for photos and signed autographs for many students, who pulled out cellphones or cameras.
"That was a great presentation," beamed student Raven Kostey as she stood in line for a chance to meet Mr. Trudeau.
"He made a lot of good points and told it how it was. He’s really down to earth."
Shane Fukala said he too enjoyed Mr. Trudeau, who focused on the need to protect the environment.
"He’d be a great prime minister," he said, noting Mr. Trudeau was an inspiration to enter politics.
"That’s what I was going to do in the first place."
Since Justin has a fondness for the Bard, let us quote Julius Caesar:
Why, friends, you go to do you know not what:
Wherein hath Caesar thus deserved your loves?
Caesar had a pretty significant track record - Roman general wise - when he was made Consul and Dictator. Pierre Trudeau had a less impressive CV when first elected to parliament, but still of note. University professor, writer, lawyer and general activist. Not much in the way of private sector experience, but his father had made enough money for that not to be a problem. In the nine years - almost exactly - since Justin's overwrought eulogy for his father, we're still trying to figure out what exactly has this man done. Getting nearer and nearer to the ugly side of forty, the uncrowned Prince of Canada looks rather like an upper class slacker. One of the standard digs, well before he found himself a guest of the American government, at Conrad Black was that he was a son of privilege. Born with a sliver spoon his rise to power and influence was no more than a modest hike up. What of Justin Trudeau then? Lord Black's career in business and non-fiction make him one of the most remarkable Canadians of his generation. The third largest newspaper publisher in the world at one point, he is definitely "world class." Aside from showing up, what has Justin Trudeau done to deserve to become Prime Minister?
The Cult of Justin is something out of a Third World country, or Massachusetts. The Divine Right of political inheritance. The priest need only rise and say: "I proclaim thee, Justin son of Pierre, to be the rightful Prime Minister of Canada. Away foul usurpers Iggy and Stephen." He's still youngish - by political standards - so he needs to climb the un-greased pole slowly. Let the old men exhaust themselves. It will only make his ascension all the more glorious. For now he bides his time, preparing for the future. Delivering platitudes to school girls who swoon, so that one day he may deliver platitudes to the nation, and watch the MSM swoon.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The laissez-faire approach to the death of newspapers
It's that time of year again. Buses and trains servicing the country's institutes of higher learning are now standing room only. Campuses have been brought back to life as students fill the halls and lounge on the grass in a desperate attempt to soak up the last rays of sunshine before they are forced to face the realities of another harsh Canadian winter.
And so I found myself sitting in my first journalism class of the new semester, tense with questions of what the coming year will bring. What is the professor like? What kind of workload will I face? The professor wasted little time introducing himself and the course. This week's assignment: read a collection of articles compiled by NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen.
The articles were all written in March 2009 by a variety of reporters, technology specialists, and media types. The theme of the articles quickly became apparent: newspapers are dying and no one knows how to make money in journalism anymore. Way to go, as if I don't have enough to worry about, I'm now being forced to read about how my chosen profession is in the midst of its death throes. There's already a high rate of suicide among students. Forcing them to spend hours reading about the futility of their chosen career would not seem to be helping the situation.
Nevertheless, there are troubling times ahead in the field of journalism. The fact is that the old business model doesn't work anymore and no one knows what will replace it. There seems to be a general consensus that, despite the mainstream media's many flaws, the fourth estate is essential to democracy. The media is the watchdog of government and without them, corruption will flourish. There is also consensus that the classic business model for newspapers, which are subsidized mainly by advertising, does not work anymore.
The main problem is that advertisers have many more options nowadays. At one time, major markets had one or two newspapers and a handful of television stations. It is no longer uncommon for cable and satellite providers to offer upwards of 500 channels at relatively inexpensive rates. Newspapers no longer hold a monopoly over local markets. The Internet offers advertisers targeted audiences and cheap prices. Moreover, newspapers give their online content away for free. Even if one of them wanted to start charging for their content, they could not compete with the rest of them.
The good news is that there are many creative ideas about how to fund good journalism and how news outlets might make money in the future. The problem is that there is no magic bullet. Journalism, in the near future, will probably use a variety of models to sustain itself. We must, however, remember that news is a business like any other. In order for journalism to thrive, people have to be able to make money off it.
This is also a problem that cannot be solved by government intervention, despite what the political left will tell you. If the media is supposed to keep government honest and if money buys influence, then any government involvement in the industry would be counterproductive. This is a problem that can only be solved by the market and the nature of markets ensures that a viable business model will eventually emerge.
Let's take the worst case scenario where no one is able to find a viable business model before most of our major papers go out of business. Sure we might still have television and radio news broadcasts, but they do not provide the level of in-depth coverage and investigative reporting that have been traditionally provided by newspapers. Furthermore, local television stations are also facing financial hardship. Losing our metro dailies and TV stations would create a void in local news coverage. This situation would most certainly be bleak.
Yet, just because people don't pay for news at the moment, does not mean there is no market for it. I stopped getting the newspaper for a number of reasons. First, I rarely have time to read very much of it and I don't want a stack of unread papers piling up in my bathroom. Second, I can get all the information I need on the Internet at no additional cost. The Internet changed everything because scarcity is not much of an issue in a digital environment. A company can produce a limited number of newspapers in a given day, but a virtually unlimited number of people can consume the same stories online.
This does not mean that people no longer place a value in news. If all the free articles on the Internet were to suddenly disappear, I would certainly pay to gain access to them. I would also pay for a newspaper delivered to me electronically on e-paper. In other words, if the supply of news is reduced by a significant amount, market processes will ensure that there will be money to be made in the news business once again. There is no lack of demand for information and knowledge about the world around us.
Getting back to our worst case scenario, while things may get bad for awhile, the issue will work itself out as long as we don't see significant government intervention in the industry. Again, government intervention would give it undue influence with organizations that are supposed to keep it honest. It would also mean that the government would pick winners and losers, which would stifle the entrepreneurship and ingenuity that is needed to design and implement the business models that will work in the future.
So, am I worried about the future of journalism? No. Am I worried about getting a job after I graduate? I'm terrified.
[Cross-posted at jesse.kline.ca]
Dissention in the Alberta PC ranks? Calgary MLA Kyle Fawcett on Stelmach's leadership review
While Adam Daifallah asks whether "the country's most conservative city [is] dumping the Tories," Alberta's ruling Progressive Conservative's have taken notice of the loss of the "safe" Calgary-Glenmore riding to the upstart centre-right Wildrose Alliance Party's "Send Ed a Message" campaign. An article in the Calgary Herald does a good job of capturing some of the reactions to the loss, but most interesting are Calgary-North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett's thoughts about his party's leader, Premier Stelmach:
"He's done very little, I believe, to instill confidence in at least people in Calgary that he has the leadership capabilities to lead this province," said Kyle Fawcett, Conservative MLA for Calgary-North Hill, on Tuesday in the wake of Monday's byelection loss to the Wildrose Alliance.
"I don't know why that is, but I do know there's some challenges there."
The loss can be attributed to several factors, suggested some prominent Progressive Conservatives, including Calgary-Edmonton "tribal wars," anger over health-care reforms, the ongoing royalty divisions and failing to communicate the government's message.
But the results also indicate many voters don't believe Stelmach is the right leader for the province, they contend, and could pose a risk to the premier as prepares for a mandatory leadership review at the party's annual convention in November. [...]
But asked about the musings of political analysts that the byelection could spur some Tories to try to push Stelmach out as leader, Fawcett said: "There's a reason why we have a semi-annual review within the party for leadership."
He added, "Of course that will be a lot of the discussions leading up until the convention in early November in Red Deer."
Read the rest.
UPDATE: Fawcett has apologized to the Premier for "being critical" in his comments to the Herald.
Calgary North Hill MLA Kyle Fawcett has apologized to Premier Ed Stelmach for being critical of his leadership abilities.
Fawcett suggested Stelmach had done little to give confidence to Calgarians that he has the ability to lead the province.
The rookie Conservative MLA made the comment after the party finished third in a byelection in Calgary on Monday.
Stelmach and Fawcett met for a conversation on Thursday and Fawcett offered an apology for his comment, the premier said.
"He was remorseful, and he said, look, you know, I just got caught in the heat of the loss and certainly dejected, and I know what it feels like," said Stelmach.
"Many times, you get caught up in making a comment and then you walk away and … maybe I should have said things differently. But that's all in the past," he said.
Fawcett will remain in the PC caucus, said Stelmach. Fawcett doesn't have any senior responsibilities in government.
Earlier this year, Stelmach ousted the MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Guy Boutilier, from the government caucus. Boutilier was also critical of the government but he refused to apologize. He's now sits as an independent member of the legislature.
Paul Hinman victory speech: Is history repeating?
Outgoing party leader Paul Hinman won the Calgary-Glenmore by-election Monday under the Wildrose Alliance banner, delivering a devastating blow to the drifting, irresponsible Stelmach Tories.
In his victory speech, Hinman reminded supporters of the history on the Reform Party, which experienced its first electoral success in a by-election that sent Deborah Grey to Ottawa.
Here's that speech:
This campaign has been symbolic of the growing momentum the Wildrose Alliance has experienced across Alberta. Common sense policies that reflect Albertans values are gaining support and acceptance. The presence in the community the Party has established will continue across not only Calgary but into all the cities, towns, and rural areas in the Province.
Every sign, every phone call, and every vote cast for the Wildrose Alliance Party was a message to Premier Ed Stelmach.
As your MLA I will push the Stelmach government to reform health care, and I will demand that our provinces finances be managed responsibly, and our seniors, families, and children treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. I pledge to you to represent the interests of our community above partisan interests.
I am thankful to the voters of Calgary Glenmore for all of their support and feedback in this By Election and we will use this momentum to continue to build the party and promote common sense solutions. I am very thankful to the voters of Calgary Glenmore.
It has been a pleasure getting to meet and talk with you and I look forward to meeting the ones I have missed. I must thank our volunteers and supporters as they have been instrumental in our campaign and they have my utmost thanks. Also thank you to Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm, two of our party's leadership candidates for their efforts in this campaign.
The results of this election show we are gaining support as, what I like to call, the "TC party": True Conservatives, not "PC" or Phony Conservatives.
My promise to the residents of Calgary Glenmore and to all Albertans is to continue to fight for common sense policies and to bring back the Alberta Advantage
The Leadership Selection process is one way for all Albertans to participate in the shaping of the party and we encourage Albertans to join us.
As we move forward let us reflect on the tremendous growth that we've experienced.
There is a feeling in our party that reminds me of my time working for the Reform Party in its early days.
In 1989 a by-election was held to fill an opening in the riding of Beaver River, Alberta....
At the time the federal Progressive Conservatives held all of the seats in Alberta, but there was underlying discontent with the leadership of the party.
The by-election pitted a PC insider against the upstart Reform Party and its candidate Deborah Grey.
It’s all history after that.
Deborah Grey went on to win the by-election, and in the next federal election the Reform Party of Canada won almost all the seats in Alberta.
Now... let's make it happen.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans
Churchill is suppose to have liked the song so much, he asked Noel Coward to perform it four times. Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans was a satirical number Coward threw off in a fit of indignation. A small, but vocal, pacifist movement was calling for Britain seek a negotiated peace with Germany. Having lived through one world war, and having been deeply critical of appeasement, Coward deployed his legendary wit and sarcasm to the cause of total war against the Reich:
Don't let's be beastly to the GermansFor you can't deprive a ganster of his gun
Though they've been a little naughty to the Czechs and Poles and Dutch
But I don't suppose those countries really minded very much
Let's be free with them and share the B.B.C. with them.
We mustn't prevent them basking in the sun.
Let's soften their defeat again-and build their bloody fleet again,
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun.
The song was banned from the BBC initially. Many listeners had missed Coward's irony. After the war it became popular and was used as part of Coward's Las Vegas act in the 1950s. Like Churchill and most of that generation of Britons, there was a real and powerful hatred not simply of the Nazis, but of the German race as such. The modern European might shrug at the animosity. All history, and there's rather too much of it in Europe anyway. Possibly, but it's not forgotten by its participants quite so easily. Witness two world leaders whose youth coincided with the Second World War:
Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it.
In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests. She noted the huge changes happening across Eastern Europe, but she insisted that the West would not push for its decommunisation. Nor would it do anything to risk the security of the Soviet Union.
Mrs Thatcher was not the only one worried by events in Germany. A month after the Berlin Wall came down, Jacques Attali, the personal adviser to President Mitterrand, met Vadim Zagladin, a senior Gorbachev aide, in Kiev.
Mr Attali said that Moscow’s refusal to intervene in East Germany had “puzzled the French leadership” and questioned whether “the USSR has made peace with the prospect of a united Germany and will not take any steps to prevent it. This has caused a fear approaching panic.”
He then stated bluntly, echoing Mrs Thatcher: “France by no means wants German reunification, although it realises that in the end it is inevitable.”
Thatcher was born in 1925. Mitterrand in 1916. Nearly half a century after the end of the war, the image of a united Germany was a terrifying prospect to two world leaders. It seems absurd, today, to imagine Germany as a military threat to anyone. A pillar of western democracy for much of living memory. A more calculated reason for opposing German re-uunification was the hard numbers of population and GDP. West Germany at the time of unification had a population of 61 million, compared to France's 56 million and Britain's 57 million. East Germany would have added another 16 million citizens to a united Germany. Re-unification would unfavorably, for Britain and France, alter the balance of political and economic within the then European Economic Community.
Germany's qualitative supremacy would have been matched by a quantitative one. Thus the frantic efforts of Mrs Thatcher, the coldest of Cold Warriors, to convince her erstwhile enemy, Gorbachev to stop what was the obvious wish of nearly 80 million people, to be free and united under one democratically elected government. When history happens it often seems very frightening to the participants. The initial reaction of Thatcher, Bush and Mitterrand to the unexpected collapse of Communism was not joy, but fear. They understood the ground rules of post-war Europe. The Soviet Union was a monster they could understand. What would come from the fall of the Wall? Educated opinion in the late 1980s was leaning toward scenarios similar to what actually did happen in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, writ large. Better the Devil they knew, friendly and moving slowly in the right direct, then a sudden collapse that would lead to general war, total economic crisis or a wave of Eastern Europeans flooding and overwhelming the West.