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Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Shopping in Manitoba

The issue of Sunday shopping often comes up around Christmas, when retailers expect a large spike in business for the holiday season. Being the evil capitalists that they are, they would like to "capitalize" on that shopping frenzy and be open to meet the customer demand.

There is a government prohibition on Sunday shopping in Manitoba, the government says when a business can or can't be open, and they provide monopolies to certain businesses by allowing them to stay open for extended hours (like convenience stores) while others cannot.

So, why Sunday? Why not Tuesday? Or Saturday? The answer is... Christianity. In a country that supposedly has separation of church and state, those people not of the Christian faith are forced to live by its tenant of keeping the Sabbath day "holy", by not doing business on that day.

But wait, you CAN do business on that day; if you are a gas station, convenience store, hospital, TV station, cable company, hydro worker, moving company, etc. It seems that those services are acceptable to the moralists, but oh no, want to go buy a TV on Sunday after 6PM? No way you heathen!

So as usual various business organizations beg the government for permission to do business on this holy day, in order to take advantage of the increased business this time of year.

Chamber seeks longer Sunday shopping hours

I would love to see business owners just open up the hours that they want and ignore the government regulations. What do bureaucrats know about running a box store? Why do they get to set the hours? The answer is because if you don't obey their dictates, the men with guns come and shut you down.

If you don't support Sunday shopping, then don't shop on Sunday, and don't force the rest of us to adhere to your standards.

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Posted by Freedom Manitoba on November 30, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (24)

Marc Emery vs. Roman Polanski: A tale of two extraditions

Canadian libertarian publisher and activist Marc Emery faces extradition to the U.S. on charges related to selling marijuana seeds. Movie director Roman Polanski faces extradition to the U.S. on charges related to drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. While the Canadian government refuses to protect its own peaceful, productive natural-born citizen from extradition, Polanski’s adopted country of France is fighting to keep this confessed sex offender from facing the U.S. justice system.

In a Western Standard column entitled “Marc Emery vs. Roman Polanski: A tale of two extraditions,” Peter Jaworski and Michael Wagner compare the two very different extradition cases.

...Polanski committed a heinous crime. Raping a child is clearly execrable and leaves a very identifiable victim. Selling marijuana seeds isn’t obviously a crime, and is only made to be one through legislation. Furthermore, there were no “victims” of Emery’s crime. No one claims to have been harmed by him, and no one has urged the government to punish him. Canadians, for the most part, find him interesting, admirable, and entertaining. They do not think of him as someone deserving a stint in a prison.

Polanski was actually in the U.S. when he committed his crime, whereas Emery was always in Canada. Polanski can be sent back to the place where he perpetrated his crime. Emery can’t be sent “back” to the U.S. because he wasn’t there in the first place. Polanski was a fugitive from justice, but Emery did not run away from anyone and operated his marijuana seed business openly and transparently. Emery even paid income taxes from being a "marijuana seed vendor," an occupation he volunteered on his tax forms.

Metro Vancouver reported on November 18, 2009 that Marc Emery would be paroled after he promise to surrender to U.S. custody within 72 hours after an extradition order is signed, which could happen as soon as Dec. 1. (h/t to Norm Smith)

MSNBC is reporting Monday that Polanski remains in a Swiss jail despite expectations that he would be released on bail under house arrest. It is believed that Polanski remains in jail because has not yet met his full bail payment of $4.5 million.

Continue reading "Marc Emery vs. Roman Polanski: A tale of two extraditions" here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2009 in Marc Emery | Permalink | Comments (68)

Double standard of student journalism

In the latest issue of the Dalhousie University student newspaper The Gazette, I came across this gem after seeing the name of a friend and fellow conservative writer Ben Wedge of The Campus Free Press.

Ben Wedge needs balance Ben Wedge is at it again. One of his latest articles, “How not to protest,” should cause concern among readers. His unprecedented far right bias is being allowed free rein in The Gazette, with no articles from a different perspective challenging his radical views. This letter is a modest attempt to correct that.


The Gazette is the perfect example of left-wing university newspaper. God forbid there's a conservative among their staff. I may be a student of Saint Mary's University, but I still read the Gazette and I come to expect issues obsessing over "sustainability" and an assortment of other stereotypical hippy garbage. Although I'm biased, I welcome the change of pace when it comes along every now and then. Guess it's just me.

In his article, Wedge argues that the fundamental issue surrounding recent protests against government inaction on climate change is not government inaction on climate change but the protesters themselves. Indeed, Wedge concludes that “we should all take the time to view the footage (of the protest), to research what really happened, and form our own opinions.”

He says that recent allegations of police brutality are exaggerated, and he hopes that the police can be vindicated and the protesters can be sent “a strong message that theatrics will not be tolerated in protests.”

The problem is not the catastrophic consequences of inaction on climate change, but an alleged affront to the reputation of the police.

Did your readers see how Wedge completely avoided engaging the issue of climate change? For Wedge, the problem is not climate change. It is protesters challenging the powers that be.


Uh, yeah - that is the whole point of the article. Hence why it's called "How not to protest" not "My opinion on climate change".

I will concede that Wedge has been consistent in his articles in this respect: at root, his articles are always a defence of the rich and powerful, and always critical of non-elite groups promoting change, particularly change that threatens the established order. His argument is inherently antidemocratic and authoritarian. The incipient catastrophe of climate change is of secondary importance for Wedge when police officers are allegedly being slandered – no doubt a greater threat to humanity.

If Wedge supports action against climate change but does not support the protesters, where are his positive suggestions for effective political activism? So far as I can tell by reading this article, it is nothing more than an attempt to admonish the protesters for their excessive behaviour. Is that contributing anything other than doublethink into the discourse of climate change?

Gazette readers beware. Opinions Contributor Ben Wedge is propagating a radical vision of the world that is not clear upon a glance at his articles. The Gazette should refuse to publish his opinions without a response from someone who is not a Conservative Party sycophant. – Kevin Johnston, second-year arts and history


Yikes. Apparently, if you are conservative, you must accompany your opinion articles with an opposing opinion, but if you're left-wing you're free to publish all the opinion articles you wish.

All conservatives I personally know enjoy and welcome debate - without insult. We're not afraid of outside opinion. If anything, the opposition strengthens our arguments. It's interesting seeing this trend of trying to stamp out right-of-centre individuals from journalism on campus. They will tell you they are not afraid, but if they are not, then they should welcome the article to flaunt all its supposed faults. Let the article speak for itself.

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on November 30, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

We Could Use A Man Like Warren Harding Again

Some common sense from the Mises Institute:

The economic situation in 1920 was grim. By that year unemployment had jumped from 4 percent to nearly 12 percent, and GNP declined 17 percent. No wonder, then, that Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover — falsely characterized as a supporter of laissez-faire economics — urged President Harding to consider an array of interventions to turn the economy around. Hoover was ignored. Instead of "fiscal stimulus," Harding cut the government's budget nearly in half between 1920 and 1922. 
The rest of Harding's approach was equally laissez-faire. Tax rates were slashed for all income groups. The national debt was reduced by one-third. The Federal Reserve's activity, moreover, was hardly noticeable. As one economic historian puts it, "Despite the severity of the contraction, the Fed did not move to use its powers to turn the money supply around and fight the contraction."[2] By the late summer of 1921, signs of recovery were already visible. The following year, unemployment was back down to 6.7 percent and it was only 2.4 percent by 1923.
Naturally such an approach is heretical today. Harding himself is held up as a ridiculous figure. The White House bio of Harding can be best described as sniffy. Harding was not completely laissez-faire. He raised the tariff to protect domestic industry and curtailed immigration. On the balance, however, he was for smaller government. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Feds to introduce back-to-work legislation for striking CN workers

As expected, Minister of Labour Rona Ambrose will introduce a Bill entitled “An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of railway operations” to end the current strike affecting CN Rail operations.

This moves comes after contract talks over the weekend between CN and the TCRC failed to produce an agreement that would have brought a quick end to the strike.

“My preference has always been for the two sides to resolve their own labour dispute but since this has proven impossible, our Government must act to protect the public interest. We cannot allow a major disruption of our transportation system. CN is a vital component of Canada's economic infrastructure and we will do what is necessary to protect Canadians’ jobs and the country’s prosperity,” said Minister Ambrose. “We will not impose a settlement on the employer and union, but we will introduce legislation to end the strike,” added Minister Ambrose.

The strike began early Saturday and has prompted concern about economic disruption across the country. Federal mediators have been working with the employer and union for many months and spent the weekend in last-ditch efforts to find a formula that would allow for the resumption of full rail service, but to no avail.

“This is more than a private dispute between CN Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. It has serious repercussions for the national economy at a time when Canada’s recovery from the global recession is still fragile,” concluded Minister Ambrose.

Ambrose is calling on all parties in Parliament to support quick passage of this legislation.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Corporate Welfare Bums of All Parties

There's economics, then there's the political economy:

 "Unfortunately for Canadian taxpayers, our governments have a long history of spending public money on corporate welfare in attempts to pick winners and losers among various business sectors," said Mark Milke, author of the report.

In 2007 alone, Canadians paid $1,244 per taxpayer.

Milke paid special attention to the auto sector in his report, saying the $15.3 billion pumped into the sector -- with General Motors and Chrysler being the biggest beneficiaries -- between April and June of 2009 did not save jobs and in fact hurt other auto manufacturers.

Frederic Bastiat, that brilliant popularizer of classical economics, noted all this a century and a half ago. Some things seem to take awhile to sink in. Or perhaps they are understood too well. Even if the political class is noted for its lack of formal training in economics - nor do they seem to be eager autodidacts in the field - they are plenty of Ph.Ds kicking around Ottawa. In the Public Service there are bound to be a few professional economists who understand the futility of corporate welfare. 

While governments are, usually, sufficiently embarrassed to cloak such schemes under the labels of "innovation" and "regional development," the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were done more or less openly. Old industry being bailed out in the most industrialized province in the country. While the economics was lousy, the political calculations were spot on. A majority of Canadians did oppose the bailout. That matters very little. Canadians are used to being fleeced for this special interest group or that. After a few weeks the anger will die down. What Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty were keen to avoid is a bleeding news story, one that lasts for weeks and months. 

The CAW is among the most militant unions in Canada, and as such more than capable of generating negative headlines for both levels of government, for a very long time. Like that annoying advertising jingle, eventually you come to believe what you've heard repeatedly. Harper and McGuinty are doing nothing while Canadian jobs are being lost. They need to act NOW! It's the kind of vague impression that plays so important a part in politics. It's an impression that wouldn't survive five minutes of thoughtful reflection. Luckily for the CAW, most Canadians don't spend too much time thinking about public policy.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Elizabeth May: "Are we turning into a police state?”

Reports of the detention of an American journalist trying to cross into Canada for a speaking engagement have prompted outrage within the Green Party of Canada. Amy Goodman was kept at a British Columbia border crossing for over an hour, apparently because officials wanted to be sure she wasn’t coming to Canada to make negative comments about the Olympics.

“Are we turning into a police state?” wondered Green Leader Elizabeth May on hearing the report. "Canada is a free and democratic nation with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms protecting free speech. Why are our border guards being so overzealous concerning what visitors will speak about while they are here?"

"This incident raises concerns about the ongoing erosion of rights that needs to be addressed by the opposition parties," said Jared Giesbrecht, Green Party Justice Critic. "Canadians’ value freedom of speech as a fundamental right. The Canadian Border Services Agency should be monitored by independent oversight mechanisms to ensure Canadian values are fully reflected in its operation."

Ms. Goodman was planning to speak about American health care reform and to promote her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. Border guards eventually allowed her into Canada but only with a requirement that she leave within 48 hours.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Banned in Caledonia

One Canada? Dief, Canada hath need of thee.

When a non-aboriginal marcher attempted to defy officers and stride ahead anyway, he was arrested. The non-native marchers said they merely wanted to wave the Canadian flag along main street. After three years of a land-claims siege on the town outskirts, they were tired of seeing only the flags of the Six Nations Mohawk reserve or the grandiosely self-styled “Warrior” Society. They merely wanted to be fly the Maple Leaf, and thereby disabuse locals of the (not unnatural) conclusion that their area had been turned over de jure to the local native thugs. No matter: The OPP refused to let their demonstration proceed.

Yet, six weeks later, a dozen or so Warriors marched through town, along the very same street, followed by their supporters driving pickups, all waving only Mohawk flags. There at the head of the procession was the an OPP cruiser, lights flashing, clearing the way for the aboriginal protesters.

On another occasion, the Mohawks were even seen waving Canadian flags with the Maple Leafs cut out the centre. These flags were then tossed in mud without consequence.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Maestro

Stephen Harper united the Right, out witted the seemingly inevitable Paul Martin and has governed the longest lived minority government in Canadian history, bar that of Lester Pearson. As someone who remembers the wilderness years of the 1990s, this should all be a dream come true. How often did I, and like minded associates, bemoan that the Canadian Right had the ideas but not the political skills to implement them? What we needed was someone with hard nosed practicality, matched with some good values about curbing government. Perhaps the really radical stuff would have to wait, like a more market based approach to health care, but the long gun registry, the CWB and slew of make work projects for left wing activists, surely all that could be smashed quickly and decisively. 

The odd stumble aside, Stephen Harper has demonstrated himself as the most skilled politician of the age. Dull and uninspiring, beneath the bad hair cut, however, the enormous brain has plotted and intrigued in his seven years as leader of first the Canadian Alliance, and then the reunited Conservative Party of Canada. He has seen off two Liberal leaders, and has every chance of sending Michael Ignatieff back to academia come the next election. Confronted by an intellectually incoherent Liberal Party, reeling from scandal and hobbled by a steady bleeding of its electoral base, Harper has presented himself as a sensible, boring centrist. A safe pair of hands in troubled times. 

In the context of other leading economic powers, Harper practically shines as an exemplar of common sense. Barack Obama is steadily, and quite openly, leading the United States toward socialism. Gordon Brown combines the unlikely traits of spendthrift and bore. Nicolas Sarkozy spends much of his time, in the old Gaullic tradition, haranguing anglo-saxon anything. Angela Merkel is another Harperesque safe pair of hands, despite an early reputation of being a radical reformer. Canada has weathered the economic storm, so far, very well indeed. Even from a libertarian / classical liberal perspective, government growth has been slow to moderate here, when compared to other G20 countries. In this light, the leadership of Stephen Harper has been a strong, albeit relative, success. The slow grumblings among the Conservative base, however, suggest anything but satisfaction. Hasn't the boy brought us the goods? 

Fear of a resurgent Liberal Party, as well as the ghost of the Grand Coalition, from almost exactly a year ago, keeps Tories loyal and relatively contented. Better the Harper we know, than the Iggy we don't. The few vocal critics on the Canadian Right are mostly libertarians and classical liberals. They were not amused, when earlier this year, Harper blamed the economic crisis on "greed" and admonished libertarians for being naive and foolish. 

This was covered here. Throwing this group under the political bus did not provoke the crisis of confidence in Harper's leadership, it merely confirmed a long running suspicion. The politically reasonable had accepted the Harper call for incrementalism. Canada is a centre-left country, gotta move slowly in the Right direction, and all that. After about three years, and a blockbuster deficit budget delivered at the beginning of 2009, many came to the conclusion that for incrementalism to work you kinda gotta be moving in the general direction of freer markets. 

The you-are-a-bunch-of-Free-Market-Nutbars speech back in March, also revealed Harper's tenuous grasp of market economics. Surely a chap with an MA in Economics, with a market minded bent, would have noted the pernicious influence of the Federal Reserve, the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie and Freddie and all the other Disney like family of statist agencies, that distraught and distort the economic engine of the world. Nope. The Prime Minister of Canada gave an economic analysis that might have barely passed muster at your local Tim's. 

Greed? Back in the old days there was no greed in Canada. No greed on Wall Street. No greed anywhere. Then it just kind of appeared out of nowhere, like an economic disease, sometime in the middle part of the current decade. Even as populist yarns goes, this one strains credulity. Stephen Harper channelling Brian Mulroney, or Mackenzie King, isn't really the galling bit. It's the pretence. The Stephen Harper who headed the National Citizens Coalition, is not the Stephen Harper who now governs Canada. Incrementalism doesn't just fail when you stop moving in the Right direction. It fails when people lose faith in the incrementalists.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Saskatchewan recognizes International Holodomor Remembrance Week

This week, Saskatchewan residents are being asked to reflect upon the millions of Ukrainians who died as a result of the Holodomor, a man-made famine that took place in 1932-1933 under the communist regime of Joseph Stalin.

Despite successful harvests during that period, millions of Ukrainians starved to death as a result of the Soviet government confiscating crops and preventing the victims from receiving assistance from outside sources. The Holodomor was deliberately planned and executed by the Soviet regime under Stalin to systematically destroy the Ukrainian people's aspirations for a free and independent Ukraine.

In 2008, the Government of Ukraine, the United States Senate, the Senate of Canada, UNESCO and the United Nations joined more than 40 other jurisdictions around the world to officially condemn the Holodomor or recognize it as genocide.

"Historians estimate that possibly at least 7 million people died during this period - there is no debate that the Holodomor was one of history's worst atrocities," Deputy Premier Ken Krawetz said. "As one of the thousands of Saskatchewan residents of Ukrainian descent, I believe it is vitally important that we continue to remember this horrific genocide and honour the memory of its victims."

Last year, the Government of Saskatchewan unanimously passed legislation to designate the fourth Saturday in November each year as Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day. November 21-28 is International Holodomor Remembrance Week.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

More on Climategate: Minnesotans for Global Warming release video

I posted about "Climategate" earlier here (where you can get more on this evolving and interesting story). Hugh followed up with a post of his own here. Now, the tongue-in-cheek titled "Minnesotans 4 Global Warming" have released a pretty funny YouTube video entitled "Hide the Decline." Take a look and listen:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 26, 2009 in Science | Permalink | Comments (10)

Hello Mullah, Hello Faddah

Birth control in Afghanistan:

The message was simple. Babies are good, but not too many; wait two years before having another to give your wife’s body a chance to recover. Nothing in Islam expressly forbids birth control. But it does emphasize procreation, and mullahs, like leaders of other faiths, consider children to be blessings from God, and are usually the most determined opponents of having fewer of them.

It is an attitude that Afghanistan can no longer afford, in the view of the employees of the nonprofit group that runs the seminars, Marie Stopes International. The high birthrate places a heavy weight on a society where average per capita earnings are about $700 a year. It is also a risk to mothers. Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leone in maternal mortality rates, which run as high as 8 percent in some areas.

This, however, is the money quote:

In Mazar-i-Sharif, it is one mullah at a time.

Mr. Massoom, the mullah trainer, put it most directly. “This is an Islamic country,” he said. “If the clerics support this, no one will oppose it.”

There, in a nutshell, have you the problem with the Islamic world. To some this would be proof enough to leave Afghanistan to its fate. When you've left the Middle Ages, give us a call. That would be the wrong approach. As we've seen within the last decade, letting the primitive fanaticism fester is no longer an option. Back in the days of the British Empire, we could let a small expeditionary force keep the medievalists at bay. A whiff of grapeshot and the civilized world could be left in peace. 

The Mad Mullah who terrorized Somalia a century ago, had a limited remit. He was a nuisance to the British, Italian and Ethiopian governments, but it was unlikely he or his followers could show up in London within a few hours, causing havoc. A globalized world means globalized pathologies. The simple thing would be to shut the door. Muslim fanaticism a problem? Just keep out the Muslim. Leaving aside that this would entail trapping civilized and decent people in the living nightmare of theocracy - whichever version - it would also fail. 

Short of closing down the modern world's economy, there is no keeping out the determined and the ingenious. It also fails in the light of simple military strategy. You can win a defensive war only against a larger power, one that becomes exhausted in hurling resources at a seemingly immovable target. A small and nimble enemy wins by keeping up the fight against a larger opponent. To win, the Islamists simply have to keep fighting. For the West to win, it needs to destroys its enemies. While Iran is of far greater immediate danger, the battle for Afghanistan is Exhibit A in the longer term battle against Islamic fanaticism. It needs to become a place where if clerics support something, people will feel comfortable in opposing it. Until that happens, Afghanistan will remain the graveyard of empires, and a destabilizing force in Central Asia, and by extension the world.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saskatchewan bans hand-held cell phone use while driving; are car radios next?

According to Wikipedia:

In 1930, the Galvin Corporation introduced one of the first commercial car radios, the Motorola model 5T71, which sold for between $110 and $130 (2009: $1,700) and could be installed in most popular automobiles.

Thanks to the bold vision of Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph Galvin, drivers were spared the monotony of the road, and having to talk to their spouses.

But I can’t help wonder how the development of the car radio would be met by today’s nanny statists. Tuning a radio takes your eyes of the road; your favourite song might have you thinking of margaritas and sunsets instead of the four-way stop ahead; and, the wail of emergency vehicles is often scarcely heard over the din of rock ‘n roll ballads.

Car radios, in short, are distracting, and distractions kill, at least that’s what June Draude is telling us.

Legislation banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving passed through third and final reading of the Saskatchewan legislature today and will become law Jan. 1, 2010. "Distracted driving is a serious road safety issue," insists Draude, the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI). "With the passing of this law we are fulfilling our commitment to make provincial roadways safer."

The new law prohibits all drivers from using hand-held cell phones to talk, text, email or surf the Internet while driving.

Experienced drivers will be allowed to use hands-free devices while driving. New drivers, meaning drivers in Saskatchewan's Graduated Driver's Licensing program, will not be able to use cell phones of any type while operating a motor vehicle.

The penalty for an offence associated with this law will be $280, which includes a victims' surcharge of $60, and four demerit points under the Safe Driver Recognition and Driver Improvement programs.

Since there are already penalties for careless and reckless driving in Saskatchewan and elsewhere, drivers who have not mastered the art of driving and talking (or driving and listening to music) can be fined under existing laws, provided there is actually evidence of careless or reckless driving.

This legislation falls on the heals of another needless and intrusive legislative initiative in Saskatchewan – an anti-scalping law – and makes me wonder if hope for a limited government agenda under Premier Brad Wall was misplaced.

As for the new law, on New Year’s day, when the legislation takes effect, make a call from your hand-held cell phone, from the comfort of your car, to (306) 787-9433, and tell Premier Brad Wall that adults can be trusted with cell phones. It won’t do much good, but at least you will have started the New Year defying increasingly intrusive government.  

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Seeds of Liberty: The Marc Emery Story (Peter Jaworski)

Regular readers of this blog will know that the Western Standard is publishing Seeds of Liberty: The Marc Emery Story. In my last update, I announced that the co-author of the book is Dr. Michael Wagner, a Christian conservative who wrote the definitive history of the Canadian social conservative movement.

Today, I am happy to announce that the other author of this book is our very own Peter Jaworski, editor of the Western Standard. Below is Jaworski's impressive bio for those of you who don't already know his accomplishments:

Peter Jaworski is a PhD student in Philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He holds an MSc from the London School of Economics, an MA from the University of Waterloo, and a BA(H) from Queen's University. He was a visiting instructor at the College of Wooster, an instructor in Canadian Studies at Bowling Green State University, and teaches philosophy, also at Bowling Green State University.

Jaworski won the Felix Morley Journalism competition in 2003. He has been published in the Reader's Digest, the National Post, the Western Standard, the Fraser Forum, and was a columnist at the Orono Weekly Times for three years. He was co-anchor of Political Animals, a weekly political talk show on 88.9 WBGU-FM for three years. He is the current editor of the Western Standard online.

He was a 2002 Charles G. Koch Fellow placed as a health care research intern at the Cato Institute. He interned twice with the Fraser Institute, for the Canadian Statistical Assessment Service, as well as Children First: School Choice Trust. In 2003, Jaworski was a policy analyst with the International Policy Network in London, England. He was a 2007 research assistant at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center. In 2009, Jaworski worked as a research assistant for Scott Reid, Member of Parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington.

As I wrote here, "[Dr.] Wagner has done an excellent job documenting the complete Marc Emery story, but the libertarian tone and sympathetic treatment of Emery in the book is largely the responsibility of his co-author." That's Jaworski, of course.

Now who should write the foreword for this book? Thoughts?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (55)

Tommy Chong in Calgary

Western Standard editor Peter Jaworski noted here that Tommy Chong, the leading man of the stoner comedy genre, is publicly supporting Canadian libertarian activist and publisher Marc Emery from South of the border.

Emery is currently on bail in Canada awaiting extradition to the U.S. on charges related to selling marijuana seeds and for supporting “marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada,” according to a DEA press release on the day on his arrest.

Chong is showing his support for Emery in the U.S. by wearing a “Free Marc Emery” t-shirt on the Bill O’Reilly and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon shows.

I’m hoping to see Chong in this t-shirt again when he is in Calgary on December 6, 2009 for a charitable fundraiser in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, the Diabetes Association (Foothills) and the Project Warmth Society of Alberta.

Tommy Chong will be reuniting with his old band “The Calgary Shades” at The Ranchman's Cookhouse & Dancehall. You can learn more about the event here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Karen Selick says "censorship is not the answer"

Karen Selick, popular libertarian writer, pundit, and lawyer, appeared before the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) yesterday on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, where she works as t Litigation Director, to tell the parliamentarians that "censorship is not the answer."

Selick's message was simple, and powerful. She made three main points, namely, 1. "hate speech laws backfire," 2. "Subsidize anything and more will be produced -- including hurt feelings," and 3. "The state is the biggest danger to life, liberty and security of the person."

Here's an excerpt from the remarks:

...when the state itself becomes the arbiter of what people can say and what they can’t say, the potential for harm against its citizens is virtually unlimited. The state is the repository of the legal use of power. The state holds the legal power of coercion, of confiscation—literally, the power of life and death—and there is no other countervailing force strong enough to combat it.

So the last thing we want to do is to strengthen the state—to give it the legal power to dictate who can speak and who cannot speak, and what they can say. Because if the state ever falls into the wrong hands—which can happen in an election, as it did when Hitler was elected, when Robert Mugabe was elected in Zimbabwe—we don’t want it to have all the machinery already in place for outlawing speech.

We don’t want the citizens to accept that it’s a legitimate role of the government to put people in jail or fine them and confiscate their property for expressing political opinions. Because that’s when all hell breaks loose, and nobody any longer has the means to oppose it.

You can read the rest of Selick's presentation before the committee on the CCF website here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 25, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (8)

Chavez seizes farmland, but good things on the horizon

Nothing says “commie” quite like a land seizure.

In 1959, Che Guevara said that the main priority of the new Cuban government was "the social justice that land redistribution brings about." With the help of 100,000 soldiers, El Che introduced the Agrarian Reform Law which allowed land owned by foreigners to be seized and all private holdings above 1000 acres to be redistributed or nationalized.

This week, 50 years after Che, the Venezuelan government has taken control of 31 farms totalling more than 48,000 acres, accusing owners of not holding proper titles or not putting the land to adequate use.

Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua was responsible for overseeing the expropriations, which included a ranch belonging to exiled presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, according to a report from The Morning Star entitled “Chavez frees farmland from privateers.”

Representing the so-called privateers, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce opposes this move to liberate farmland from its rightful owners.

Tragically, as Chavez tightens his grip on agriculture, we can expect food in that country to become increasing scarce and expensive.

But hope does spring eternal. January First Real Estate specializes in Latin America and writes that “Venezuela is fast becoming one of the best options for international investment, both for internal and global situations.”

I think I’ll stay invested in Saskatchewan, where scalpers are dangerous subversives but land owners are safe, at least for the time being.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Kelo and After

Well, well. The corporate welfare junkie moved on

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.

“I’m not surprised that they’re gone,” said Susette Kelo, who moved to Groton from New London after the city took her home near Pfizer’s property. “They didn’t get what they wanted: their development, their big plan.”

The Kelo Decision, one of the most infamous in recent US Supreme Court history, affirmed the power of local governments to use eminent domain to seize private property for reasons of economic development. Historically, eminent domain was a power exercised in the construction of infrastructure. It was, however, an intellectual short step from arguing that roads and sewers were in the public interest, to arguing that urban renewal was in the public interest. Another very slippery slope. The up shot of Kelo was that it spurred a property rights movement across the United States, forcing through laws restricting the power of eminent domain in 43 states. Though not Connecticut. Susette Kelo is still angry. I don't blame her one bit.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fraser Institute's Ross McKitrick on Climategate

Stephen Taylor, founder of Blogging Tories, e-mailed Dr. McKitrick regarding the growing Climategate controversary posted yesterday by Peter Jaworski. Dr McKitrick is a respected long time critic of the theories around climate change and a Fellow at the Fraser Institute. This is part of what he said:

The overriding issue right now is that we have more than sufficient evidence to establish that the reports produced by this group of people: Jones, Mann, Overpeck, Schneider, Solomon etc.; are tainted. They did not follow the assessment and review procedures they claimed to be following, they doctored graphs, deleted or hid contrary evidence, and worked to a set of foregone conclusions even though in private they admitted far more serious uncertainties and discrepancies than were communicated in the final IPCC reports.

(Read More)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

I want to be a Member of Parliament

Usually I would sputter in outrage at the government using tax dollars for the purpose of boozing up MPs. But with billions of dollars being thrown into the waste basket every year, I just can't work up the same energy for $2 000. (Though I am surprised that the Speaker of the House has an entertaining budget of $170 000. What affairs of state would really require a Speaker to entertain?)

So instead I'm going to be very jealous. I am a man who loves his scotch (in my more honest moments I will admit that is part of the reason I came to Edinburgh for grad school). The idea that I could go to a free scotch tasting, if only I convince about 30 000 of my neighbours to send me as their voice in the Parliament of the People, is surprisinglyenticing.

I may run next time around. 

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

America's only hope: Octavia


U.S. Government Stages Fake Coup To Wipe Out National Debt

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saskatchewan’s anti-scalping legislation an attack on free markets

In Defending the Undefendable, libertarian author Dr. Walter Block includes a chapter in his book dedicated to defending ticket scalpers. You can listen to a reading of this chapter below the fold.

A defence of ticket scalpers is needed now in Saskatchewan, as Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan has introduced needless and intrusive legislation today to shut down the secondary market in event tickets, a practice known as scalping. The Ticket Sales Act will:

...prohibit the primary seller from having links on their website to reseller websites, prohibit secondary ticket sellers from selling tickets to an event that are primarily being sold by a company legally associated with them and prohibit advertising the sale of tickets by a reseller until 48 hours after the tickets go on sale to the public. The Act also makes it illegal to use computer software to automatically buy tickets. The accompanying regulations will contain reporting requirements to allow the Minister of Justice to get information from venues about the numbers of tickets that were available for public sale.

Calls to expand the power and scope of government, and to limit commercial freedom, should always be treated with scepticism, but this legislation is particularly offensive given the important role ticket resellers play in the market.

In an article published in The Freeman, William Peterson provides a defence of ticket reselling using the case of the Broadway hit The Producers. (Scalping is illegal in New York.) Peterson answers the question “What’s wrong with scalping?” below:

Nothing really. It’s simply an aspect of our market, or voluntary-exchange system. A hit’s a hit, and The Producers is a super hit. Supply and demand are at work, with here a daily fixed supply of tickets at set prices. It’s that fixed supply and those set prices that change things. Prices ration goods and services, as almost everybody knows. When demand is off, producers can cut prices, as attested by that same-day discount ticket pavilion in the middle of Times Square. But when demand is red-hot, as with The Producers, in come, at least until recently, the scalpers to collect what the market -- that is, the buyers -- will bear. They perform a service by saving time for those anxious to see the show without standing in long lines to do so. For isn’t the scalper but a middleman performing a valued service, despite his putdown name and often illegal but not necessarily evil status? Scalpers convert time cost into money cost for those who buy tickets from them. Outlawing scalping favors those with time to spare over those with money to spare. Why should the government take sides?

Once this legislation passes, scalpers who continue to bravely serve those consumers with “money to spare” could face fines as high as $500,000 and up to a year in jail.

Learn more about scalping and Dr. Walter Block by purchasing one of his books below.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Minister: Let the WIND blow.

Tony Clement is being encouraged by the incumbent wireless industry players, and even one future entrant, to forgo overturning the CRTC ruling on Globalive, who was to launch their national wireless service under the WIND Mobile brand this month.

Telus, Bell, and Rogers have all made the same argument in varying degrees; seeing the inevitable long-term trend towards further liberalization of regulation in Canadian telecommunications, they have opted for the obstruct and delay tactics.

Essentially, these companies are arguing that since it's currently illegal for them to seek foreign financing, it is unfair to allow Globalive to enter the market as a company which is principally financed by foreign dollars--in this case, Egyptian-based Orascom Telcom Holdings, which helped front the CA$430 million which Toronto-based Globalive in turn, used to purchase wireless spectrum licenses last year.

Given the finite amount of radio frequencies available, national governments usually regulate their use, granting exclusive rights to certain radio frequencies for commercial and non-commercial purposes.  For instance, there are licenses which are issued for the exclusive use of emergency services as well, so as to prevent a free-for-all on radio frequencies.  It is illegal to transmit on these frequencies without a license.

In what is a strange state of affairs in our regulatory system, there are two licenses from two completely different government agencies that a wireless phone carrier must obtain in order to operate. 

Ultimately, Industry Canada has the authority to issue wireless licenses, and the Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission has the authority to license their use.

Effectively, you can own a license for a set of radio frequencies, barring anyone else from their use, but not have a license to use it yourself.  Makes a lot of sense, I know.  But such is life in the world of big government.

This is effectively the limbo where Globalive finds itself.  It possesses a national spectrum license, but it's not legally authorized to employ it's use by offering cellular phone service to prospective customers.

The reason for this, is that the CRTC found, quite legitimately mind you, that Globalive is de facto: a foreign-owned and controlled company.  Even though the management structure is such that it's Canadian directors hold sway over the day to day operations: in the event of any financial trouble, it's creditors--who are almost entirely foreign--would by any stretch of the imagination have ultimate control over the company.  Given this, the CRTC decided that it violated the legal requirement: that any company providing telecommunication services to consumers must be eighty-percent owned by Canadians.

Such is the case that Telus, Rogers and Bell are almost exclusively Canadian-owned.  Bell, in particular, having failed to find a buyer for the company last year after the takeover deal by the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan fell through, is probably the first company which would want to cry foul.  They were, of course, barred from seeking international financing or sale to an international company in order to best serve their shareholders.

While these arguments against allowing Globalive to compete would appear to speak to an issue of fairness, I think the truth of the matter goes beyond their oversimplified definition of fairness.

One issue of fairness which is not communicated by "Robelus"--a pejorative word comprising the names Rogers, Bell and Telus often used by consumer advocates to refer to their collective monopoly--or oligopoly--is the fact that they have been able to collectively enjoy windfall profits at prices which are, to say the least, high by international standards.

In terms of the state of competition in Canada's wireless market, Canada is the only OECD country which has seen a drop in wireless penetration in the past five years. 

Despite Canada's economic boom through the first part of this past decade, less Canadians--as a proportion of the population--owned cellphones in 2007 than did in 2002.  In the same period, profit margins for Telus and Rogers, in particular, skyrocketed.  High prices and the three-year commitments that most cellular phone plans push (most plans in Europe and Asia bolster an 18-month commitment) resulted in a smaller base of cellphone users paying higher rates--which as it turns out, more than made up for the lost customers who could not afford or were not willing to pay those rates.

It's hard to blame Robelus (sorry, I just think the word is funny) for trying to maximize their profits.  But it's equally hard to feel sorry for them having to face down potential foreign-competition.

They've had their shot at being the robber barons, protected from competition by archaic and illiberal ownership rules, and now is as good a time as any to bring and end to this unjustifiable status quo.

While, on the face of it, it may not be "fair", if only in an isolated sense, that Globalive was able to use foreign financing, it is less "fair" that consumers are restricted from having more market choices, and as it turns out, I do believe that Robelus should be able to access foreign investment in the same way that Globalive has; we should waste no time in drafting the appropriate legislation.  But as far as the status quo goes, now is as good a time as any for a change.  As such, Minister Clement should overturn the CRTC ruling, granting Globalive the ability to operate, and simultaneously announce his intention to repeal the foreign-ownership laws.

Robelus is neither deserving or entitled to "fairness" in the way they are asking for it, given the market advantage they have as incumbent players, large customer bases, and years of charging customers prices which would not be justifiable in an open market.  It's time that the consumers saw some "fairness".

Minister Clement: tear down this [wireless] wall.

Posted by Mike Brock on November 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tommy Chong sports Free Marc Emery t-shirt everywhere

Canadian Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, has started to don a Free Marc Emery t-shirt (which you can purchase here) for his television appearances.

Marc Emery, dubbed the "Prince of Pot" by the Seattle Times and popularized by CNN, is out on bail, awaiting his penultimate extradition to the United States to face a five-year prison term for selling marijuana seeds over the internet.

Many Canadians and Americans are outraged by the efforts of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to extradite Emery. Similarly, many are surprised and dismayed at the failure of the Canadian political establishment to speak out in defense of a fellow Canadian.

Here's Chong on Bill O'Reilly:

And here he is on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 24, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (27)

Climategate: The emails that are shaking the world of climate science

UPDATE: You can now have a read through all of the emails, and other information, hacked from the University of East Anglia.

I haven't had a chance to read through the emails that hackers have managed to get and post on the internet from the University of East Anglia, but the few snippets that I've read appear to be damning.

The Washington Times explains:

It was announced Thursday afternoon that computer hackers had obtained 160 megabytes of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England. Those e-mails involved communication among many scientific researchers and policy advocates with similar ideological positions all across the world. Those purported authorities were brazenly discussing the destruction and hiding of data that did not support global-warming claims.

The few excerpts that I've read have come mainly from James Delingpole at the Telegraph. Here are some of those excerpts (Delingpole provides the headings):

Manipulation of evidence:

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

Private doubts about whether the world really is heating up:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

Suppression of evidence:

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.

Attempts to disguise the inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP):

……Phil and I have recently submitted a paper using about a dozen NH records that fit this category, and many of which are available nearly 2K back–I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back….

The most non-surprising excerpts pertain to pushing out the dissenters, and keeping them from publishing in reputable journals. It's unfortunately non-surprising because there are constantly accusations of this sort in the humanities, and given the political nature of the climate change debate, it was only a matter of time before scientists lost their immunity to playing at least a little bit of politics. Again from Delingpole, with his title:

And, perhaps most reprehensibly, a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. How, in other words, to create a scientific climate in which anyone who disagrees with AGW can be written off as a crank, whose views do not have a scrap of authority. “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that -- take over a journal!

So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…What do others think?” “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”“It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice !”

Again, without context, we can't conclude too much from these excerpts. Surely, someone is going to be busy reading, in detail, the entirety of the files posted on the internet, and giving us a better sense of context. We'll also hopefully get to hear from the purported authors of the emails, and maybe they can say something that might make this look less damning than it seems.

Still, all of this screams of, at least, impropriety.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 24, 2009 in Science | Permalink | Comments (49)

North of the Border: Mexican Food At Its Worst

While Calgary isn't well-known for its variety and caliber of Mexican restaurants, it used to have a stable of decent Mexican or Tex-Mex joints to hit when you had that craving for a margarita and a burrito or a plate of sizzling fajitas. However, it seems that the Mexican restaurants that were in that category have lost their thunder and those that have sprung up are nothing to write home about.

In terms of the former, take the Santa Fe Grill on MacLeod Trail. This longtime Tex-Mex stalwart was always in my Top Ten List and seemed to be a no-brainer for a lazy weekend lunch laden with ice-cold Pacifico beer, a screeching hot plate of fresh fajitas preceded by fresh chips and salsa or one of the dips or accompaniments (read chili con carne) that were offered with them. I returned recently however to learn that this place has experienced a rather shocking fall from grace, which screamed out a change in ownership, whether or not that is, in fact, the case. The service was marginal, the decor was run-down and the food was cold and seemed, to my palate anyway, to be far from fresh. Pre-cooked and re-heated food seemed to be what was before me, whereas before freshness abounded. While I have not returned for a second look and perhaps should, the Santa Fe Grill is not a destination for Knox any longer.

In terms of the latter, you have Julio's Barrio. While not exactly "new", I have never set foot in the place, largely due to its awkward location at the corner of 10th Street SW and Memorial Drive and its related awkward parking situation, so it is "new" to me. Well, it was the parking situation coupled with the fact that despite screams of adoration from Edmontonians, I never enjoyed the fare served at Julio's Whyte Avenue location in Edmonton. Anyway, I decided to give it a whirl last weekend with several of my dining cronies, as we felt like a Mexican feed. Wow. The only word that comes to mind is -- "grim".  While the server was great and brought forward a basket of chips and salsa in a most-timely fashion, the chips were not house-made and seemed to be right out of a bag that had been opened several days earlier. The salsa was "ok". Not a good start. Then we tried the Ranchero Dip, which was promised to be a layered dip comprised of refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and a variety of cheeses. It too was "ok", but really after a half-inch of all of the other ingredients, was just a giant bowl of refried beans. A more boring offering defies the imagination. For my main course, I had, you guessed it--fajitas. They were ice-cold, with plenty of raw (given the temperature of the skillet) vegetables piled on top.  Despite the server's admirable efforts, the tortillas were also significantly delayed by some kind of kitchen confusion made obvious by the scrambling and discussion among the kitchen staff.  My guests had a variety of burritos and traditional Mexican fare that was also cold and bland.  A disappointment to be sure.

There are some brighter spots in Calgary however --the Boca Loca market serves good, authentic Mexican food, albeit in a less than charming surroundings, Salt + Pepper can be decent on occasion and Avocado Fresh Mexican Grill shows promise although it has the feel of an American Tex-Mex chain (despite the fact that its only other location appears to be in Saskatoon) like Chili's or Chevy's (if you ever find yourself in Arizona). El Sombrero on the "Red Mile" portion of 17th Avenue has also always been squarely average, although in fairness I have only ever ordered their food via delivery, which might be an unfair measuring stick.

While hardly surprising I suspect, if it is great Mexican food you seek, head South of the border--and I don't mean Taco Bell.

Posted by Knox Harrington on November 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Revolt of the Ontarians

In boring and sensible Ontario, the masses are getting angry:

Premier Dalton McGuinty has certainly come up with a novel way of selling his 13% Harmonized Sales Tax to Ontarians, coming everywhere July 1.

His messaging appears to be: "You're too stupid to know this tax is good for you, so I'm going to impose it on you for your own good."

It's an arrogance typical of second-term majority governments, similar to the mistakes McGuinty's predecessors, former Conservative premier Mike Harris, followed by Ernie Eves, made during their second terms in power before they were defeated by McGuinty.

While the Conservatives came into office in 1995 claiming to be common sense revolutionaries who would "fix" the problems created by the previous NDP government, by 2003 they were the problem -- adrift in scandals and political patronage and disconnected from the public they claimed to represent.

I'm not sure it's arrogance exactly. There is a kind of resignation in the whole HST business. The Dalt seems to have reached the conclusion that he is not going to win the next election, so might as well go out with a bang. His victory in 2007 had very little to do with his own virtues. By all rights John Tory should have utterly thumped the Liberal leader. As with Dion and Harper, one looked like a leader, and the other clearly was not. 

There was not much policy difference between Dion and Harper, or Tory and McGuinty, except on that one issue that sealed the election: religious schools. Images of public funds going to Mississauga Madrasahs, and Christian Academies for evangelical rednecks, were enough to destroy the idea in the public's imagination. Catholic Schools were introduced in Ontario over bitter opposition a century and a half ago. They are tolerated today as a historic exception, allowed on political grounds, and on the condition that the Catholicism taught stays within the confines of PC fluffiness.  

It's unlikely that Tim Hudak will display the remarkable tin ear of his predecessor. The game plan is simple. Being as righteous as possible on the HST, but also as vague as possible. There is nothing Hudak, or anyone outside of cabinet, can do about the HST. It's coming and when it's here it's gonna stay. Too complicated and expensive to replace, a Hudak government will offer some cosmetic mitigation, declare mission accomplished and move on. He can't do anything else. But he can make political hay on this disguised tax grab. Hudak needs to show himself as the clean, sensible and reasonable alternative to the Dalt. If he can successfully signal competence to the middle class 905 voter, the Dalt is toast. It's two years before the next provincial election, which gives the premier about six to nine months to decide whether he will run again. A decision to spend more time with his family will not augur well for the Grits.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The line between what we want and what is

I've come to realize something about human nature which seems to be an almost immutable trait; we tend to believe that everything will work out in the end, and only when we're faced with disaster, will we wake up to reality.

We believe absurd things in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

We accept the claims of the peddlers of "alternative medicine", despite the lack of scientific evidence for their efficacy, and tend to believe that the evidence exists, suppressed only by rich interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

We buy into the absurd claim that evolution is only a "theory"--misrepresenting what a theory in science actually means--in favour of a fairy tale involving a big bearded man in the sky that spoke some magic words and made the universe magically appear. 

However, it is not these examples of anti-intellectualism that I wish to explore here.  It is the anti-intellectualism that runs rampant around economics. 

The reprogramming has been widely successful.  We refer to government--specifically central banks--as "managing the economy".  When the economy goes bust, or even when specific businesses go bust, we cry to the government for action to correct the "failings" of the market.

In this, we've bought into the logical fallacy that there exists such a thing as  "market failure". 

We buy into the dogma that the economy is driven by confidence, and that a lack thereof, will lead to economic contraction.  A belief that seems true upon shallow examination of the evidence.  But it's a belief that doesn't really stand up to proper scrutiny.

This reasoning should immediately be suspect, if you really think about it.  It's pretty much the same principle of the mystical self-help book (and video of the same name) The Secret; if we all just believe the economy is okay and think positively, we'll all get rich and everything will be okay.  Most intelligent people realize this is absurd at the outset, but a surprising number of intelligent people accept that this is the case in economics. 

Economy is nothing more than the word we use to describe how a system of scarce resources allocates those resources.

Your body is an economy.  It is an economy of food, water, oxygen; the resources required sustain your life.  In the shortage of any of these resources, your body will make trade-offs, adjusting your body chemistry to best cope with the shortage. 

Certain things become more valuable in the shortage of other things.  For instance, in the economy of your body, the materials in your muscles are de-prioritized and put to use sustaining vital body functions in the absence of food.  Sweat production and saliva production will be curtailed to maintain fluid levels in the blood system in the absence of water.

Ultimately, we cannot sustain loss of any of these vital resources for protracted periods of time.  But the trade-offs are usually sufficient to give us the time necessary to locate new sources of these resources.  The sacrifice of muscle tissue to keep energy levels up long enough to find more food is much preferable to the quick death that might befall you in the absence of a mechanism to atrophy your muscles for this purpose.

We might summarize this basic economic principle with the old adage: short-term pain, for long-term gain.

When it comes to economics however, not many people live by or believe in this principle.  In fact, they believe the opposite.  Rather, they believe that economic contraction is a failing of government policy, rather than say, a necessary reallocation of capital from unproductive activities to productive activities along with a period of savings.

The mantra is repeated: spending is good. Which is to say, that saving your money is a bad thing.

The theory goes, that when consumers stop spending money, prices will drop and if prices drop then businesses will have to lay people off, and if people get laid off, the economy will contract, and we'll all be worse off. 

It's a theory that actually sounds pretty good.  But it glazes over basic economic principles to reach it's conclusion.  It ignores the possibility of wages dropping with price deflation, and that the standard of living is properly measured in terms of income vs. cost of living--a principle which many reject, for reasons unknown.

A drop in prices as a result of an increase in savings is not a bad thing.  But we've come to believe this as a fundamental basis of economic dogma.  But I'll prove you're wrong in two words: electronics prices.

The cost of computers, by any stretch has reached epic lows.  You can now buy a basic laptop for $300 (or less).  Many of us have powerful computers in the palms of our hands (iPhones, Blackberry's, etc).  The prices on these devices have been deflationary.  Yet, the electronics industry has grown by leaps and bounds. 

Enter: core inflation.

The argument is really that "core inflation" must be positive over time, or we're all getting poorer.  That, the price of food and housing in particular should rise.  If the price of food and housing do not rise, then we're all getting poorer.

Economists are saying that the long-term trend towards price deflation for consumer durable goods is irrelevant to the inflation picture.  But why?  We're told this all the time, but I'm yet to hear an adequate explanation.

If wages drop, then demand drops.  if demand drops, prices drop.  If prices drop to wage levels proportionately, then consumer buying power has not changed in relative terms.  So what's the big deal? 

The government relies inflation to deal with the fact that it's precipitously spending more money than the market will bear.  It's borrowing against the future by printing money instead of taxation, and counting on economic growth to offset the inflation, thereby reducing the debt.

Inflation is a devaluation of currency.  It is not a sign of wealth.  This is a lie, and it's imperative that more people start understanding this.

Inflation occurs because there's a larger supply of money than there is a demand for.   As a result, your savings account loses value; if you stuff the money under your mattress, you will find it's value is a fraction of what it was worth when you put it there.  Why? Because the government printed more money than was needed, thereby siphoning off the value.

Market forces do not work in real-time, and this is crucial to understand how the government is stealing your money right out of your wallet. 

When the government prints money and uses it to fund cheap debt in the market, the initial recipients of that money (the banks) are able to leverage that money at the current market value of money, before the additional supply of money debases the overall value of the currency.

So when the government prints $1,000 and spends it, the effects of that $1,000 debasement of the currency are not absorbed by the market until the supply of that money has been in the market for some time.  So when the government prints the money, it's worth $1,000 at current market value.  But a year later, assuming a 3% inflation rate, those notes are worth $970.  They're arguably worth less than that if you factor in rising energy costs (which they don't) but we'll entertain the orthodoxy for now. 

The point is that the buying power of all saved currency lost $0.03 in that year, and for no other reason than the fact that the government printed money, introducing excess supply which leads to the debasement of the currency.

You might say: so what?  Even if I buy your "deflation is not necessarily bad argument", inflation is not necessarily bad either, since wages tend to rise too.

This is true.  But the point is, that the inflation of wages tends to lag far behind the inflation of the currency.  Thus, enabling the initial purveyors of this printed money to take advantage of the dollars at their maximum purchasing power.  By the time we all "benefit" there has been a period of inflation where we have experienced higher prices at lower wages.   The inflation has also essentially coerced us into risk taking.

We all understand that if we simply keep our money in our savings account, we'll be too poor to retire.  It's generally understood we must invest our money to have a comfortable life beyond our working age.  But the only reason this is true, is because of inflation.

Thus, the arbitrary printing of money provides market incentives towards risk taking that would not otherwise be taken in a market of stable money. 

For those people with their trusty savings account, price deflation means they've gotten richer.  Not poorer.  And this increase in real savings means there is more real capital available for lending. 

The other argument against deflation is that once perceived, consumers will become attuned to the drop in prices and perpetually put off spending, waiting for the prices to get lower and lower, leading to a complete halt of the economy.

How many of you have put off buying a computer year after year, waiting for the price to get lower?  I mean, we all know that prices get lower on computers every year.  We always moan and grope to each other about how much our LCD TV cost us say, $2000 a year ago, and now sells for $999.

Price deflation did occur in food prices in Canada in the past year, according to Statistics Canada.  And yet, Metro and Loblaw's--Canada's biggest foodchains--posted record profits.  How can this be? 

It can be for one simple reason: the economic orthodoxy against price deflation is utter bullcrap.

So where does the fear of deflation originate?

It originates from the fact that deflation has been associated with economic recessions and depressions.  But deflation is nothing more than a symptom, not a cause of, economic restructuring.  It is only a matter of convenience that governments cling to this message, as inflationary monetary policy is key to government spending at levels that exceed the tax base.

Moreover, it is not that deflation or inflation are either bad or good.  It is the fact that the government attempts to control them that is bad.  That, we deny the efficacy of market forces to reallocate capital in efficient ways.

Intentional introduction of inflation--which is what low-interest on treasury loans are--results in miscalculated risk taking and inefficient capital allocations--collectively referred to as market distortion.

The term "market failure" is used to describe say, the subprime mortgage crisis.  What statist government-planner types call "market failure", us free market types call "market correction", which is to say: market forces are at work to clean-out the misallocation of capital from unproductive use.

Market corrections are painful. Their symptoms can include bankruptcies of large corporations, mass-layoffs, and an increase in personal bankruptcy.  But it is not a failure of the market that these things happen.

It is a failure of the home buyer who bought into a variable interest loan, without the financial capacity to bear a significant increase in interest.

It is the failure of a business which took significant risks that resulted in the loss of wealth.

It can even be a failure of labour unions to acknowledge that wage concessions may be necessary to allow their employer to remain competitive. But not always.

The truth is, that when capital is locked up in an unproductive enterprise, it is doing you and I no good.  Having the government come in and save a company which is losing money, is not saving jobs.  Rather, it's decreasing the overall productivity of the market, by promoting the continued concentration of capital in that unproductive endeavour.

When we think about the thousands of lost jobs from a failed company, we have a tendency to overlook the fact, that by allowing the company to fail, and allowing creditors to take their losses, and take out what capital they can, we allow that money to be transferred to more productive uses, like say, profitable companies.

Also, the moral hazard that has been introduced by the bailout of companies goes far beyond the scope of the behaviour of individual companies.  It goes right to the behaviour of individuals.

Instead of saving money for a rainy day, such as in the case of a disruption to your income, we run our credit cards up to the hilt, and save nothing.   Most people, even people in relatively high-income brackets, live paycheque to paycheque.  And largely because we count on government to ensure we don't fall flat on our face.

While not bailing out the economy would have been a shock to us all, it would have encouraged saving, rewarded those who did save (through price deflation) and it would punis those who took unacceptably high risk.  The lessons we would learn from that would be far more effective than any regulation the government could enact.  But we've convinced ourselves that we can live pain-free.

We're convinced the government can run up debt endlessly, that consumers can run up debt endlessly, and that we can run up massive trade deficits, continuing to leverage our economies more and more, borrowing money from China so we can use the money we borrow from them to buy stuff back from them.  That, we can effectively have nothing to sell to China, but buy everything from them.

None of this makes any sense.  But that's the world we live in, and we're heading for disaster.  But that's the way we like it: "irrationally exuberant" until reality faces us down.

We may be seeing signs of recovery.  But we're just getting started in this growing economic disaster.  We're on a one-way trip to disaster, because we've deluded ourselves into believing that we can have it all and not have to pay for it.  That's what it comes down to.  It's as simple as that.

Posted by Mike Brock on November 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

"Judge tosses stunt-driving charge as unconstitutional"

Interesting. Very interesting.

Justice Peter West, a provincial court judge in Newmarket, found that a potential penalty of up to six months in jail violates the Charter of Rights because the law does not permit an accused any defence.

[…]

An absolute liability offence means someone may not argue they took precautions and did not realize how fast they were driving. More than 20 years ago the Supreme Court of Canada stated that potential jail terms for offences that do not permit a defence breaches the Charter.

In other words, the law comes perilously close to making police officers judge, jury and executioner. Note the corruption of the language. The law was marketed as going after street racers, but it's real intention is targeting high end speeders. An interesting figures is that 10,000 drivers have been charged with "stunt driving." If driving 50 km/h over the limit is so dangerous, why do so many do it? If 10,000 have been caught, how many do so on a regular basis undetected? Where, then, is the mass carnage? How many people actually die, or are injured, each year because of those driving at such speeds? 

Saying one is too many is an evasive answer. Road fatalities could be virtually eliminated tomorrow if cars were banned from going faster than 40 km/h. Speed limits are not about some platonic conception of safety, but cost vs. benefits. It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of European countries have highway speed limits in the 120 km/h to 130 km/h range. A friend of mine visited China this summer. Aside from designated areas - where photo radar stations are clearly visible - the police pay little attention to speeding, the average cruising speed being about 130 km/h. Ontario's 400 series highways were designed nearly half a century ago for speeds of about 130 km/h. That was in an age without anti-lock brakes, air bags, seat belts and modern tire technology. 

In other words, how much is this law, and speeding laws in general, based on genuine public policy concerns? How much is this law based on making the McGuinty government look tough on something - a hard thing for the Dalt to do - and lining the pockets of municipal governments? The point isn't that reckless speeding isn't dangerous, and that there should no be laws against it - the roads being publicly owned, there is little alternative - but that the laws are drafted with things other than public safety in mind.

While the Ontario government hunts down speeders, owners of pit bulls and other such threats to the general peace, Caledonia remains occupied. Far easier to target ordinary Ontarians going about their way, rather than those who might fight back. Governments, like water, follow the path of least resistance.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

None So Blind

From the NYT:

Intelligence agencies intercepted communications last year and this year between the military psychiatrist accused of shooting to death 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., and a radical cleric in Yemen known for his incendiary anti-American teachings.

But the federal authorities dropped an inquiry into the matter after deciding that the messages from the psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, did not suggest any threat of violence and concluding that no further action was warranted, government officials said Monday.

Major Hasan’s 10 to 20 messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, once a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Major Hasan worshiped, indicate that the troubled military psychiatrist came to the attention of the authorities long before last Thursday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but that the authorities left him in his post.

To those who doubt the power of ideas, here is a classic example of how belief over powers evidence. The most obvious reason given for the authorities evasion of Hasan's beliefs is reverse racism. Army brass were too afraid of being called bigots if they transferred or discharged Hasan. If you were Hasan's CO, would you risk the media circus that would been provoked by following the correct and obvious course of action? Driving a man, a highly trained doctor no less, from the service because he expressed some controversial beliefs? Beliefs that can be heard from the mouths of countless university professors in modern America? 

The left-leaning lynch mob would have followed the officers responsible to the end of their days. The international media would make hay for years to come, hailing Hasan as a martyr for his beliefs. A comfortable living on the lecture circuit for Hasan would have been a strong possibility. Doing the right thing, perhaps a year back, would not in all likelihood have saved those who died at Fort Hood. A few brave officers trying to force an obvious traitor out of their ranks, and in an extremely sensitive position no less, would probably have failed to do so. The most likely result would have been their own disgrace and embarrassment, while making Hasan even more invulnerable to discharge or even criticism. Islam is the new third rail of American politics. Touch it, and you die. Not a literal death, but a political one. Above the rank of Brigadier, an officer becomes a part-time politician. No politician is going to take a chance of being accused of racism, however frivolously the charge, however grave the circumstances that compelled the necessary action.

The false choice that underpins the actions of the anti-racism inquisitors, ranging from the Canadian Human Rights Commissioners to the Diversity Co-ordinators that infect North American campuses, is that either you hunt down every slightly disagreeable thought on race, ethnic or religious, or the Klan will emerged from darkened embers of the past. To borrow a phrase from the previous American President, either you are with us, or you are with the racists. 

Between the sunshine and the darkness, there is no middle ground. It has been one of my running observations, over the last few years, that when Christianity was marginalized as an intellectual force in the twentieth century, many of its less pleasant tendencies resurfaced in secular garb. Only a tiny minority of North American Christians would countenance a return to enforcing blasphemy laws, yet in effect the secularized establishment thinks nothing of establishing anti-racism commissions - whatever their official labels - to root out people who fail obeisance to the modern gods. Their success is so profound and widespread, that an obvious traitor to his country, and to the free world at large, was allowed not simply free rein at one of America's great military bases, but honour. The great honour of being an officer of the Army of United States of America. An armed force that has liberated millions from exactly the sort of tyranny that Major Hasan would have wanted to flourish.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not For Sale

The Island for the Islanders.

An American who broke P.E.I.'s non-resident land ownership rules has been fined close to $29,000, with a further fine expected.

This is only the second time the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission — which administers a number of laws for the province, including the Lands Protection Act — has held hearings on an individual's property ownership.

The case dates back to 2003, when Melvin Griffin of Florida was visiting the Island and a 76-hectare piece of land in Pleasant Grove, north of Charlottetown, caught his eye. It had almost two kilometres of shore frontage along the Winter River.

P.E.I. has strict laws regarding non-resident land ownership under the Lands Protection Act. Anything more than two hectares needs to be approved by cabinet, and in this case cabinet said no.

A wee eccentric, as property laws go, isn't it? There is a historical angle to all this:

But when she arrived on the Island in 1867 to inspect her estate (Lots 9, 16, 22 and 61) the P.E.I. legislature was making moves to end absentee landlordism for good. 

In order to protect her interests, she started working with the Prince Edward Island Association, a London-based lobby group that promoted landed interests. 

But after P.E.I. became a Canadian province in 1873, the government enacted a Land Purchase Act in 1875 that forced landlords to sell their estates to the provincial commissioner of public lands. 

In her quest to hold onto the land that her father had given her, Sulivan took her case to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

That's the history. Naturally it has pleasant side effects for the locals. By limiting the pool of potential purchasers, it keeps housing affordable for the locals. It also holds back the province's economic development. Less capital flowing into the island. That may not make much economic sense, but perhaps they're not interested in making money. Maybe they like PEI the way they remember it growing up. Few strangers from "away." Not much traffic. Picturesque cottages and only modest resort developments. PEI today looks more like Anne of Green Gables than a modern tourist destination. Using government to preserve the past.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Shut up Lisa MacLeod (VI): Six things you should know about Lisa MacLeod shutting up

It was demanded upon me to make this next installment of my popular series: Shut up Lisa MacLeod.

Today's episode involves an opinion piece that she co-wrote for the National Post, regarding the HST. In it she isn't as mind numbingly foolish as she has been previously, so maybe she should get someone to co-write everything she says. But luckily for my readers there is still plenty of silliness to mock.

She makes six points in opposition to the Harmonized Sales Tax:

1. Ontario is surrendering its constitutional taxation powers.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that allows regional governments unlimited taxation powers. Believe me, many in the Scottish Government looks towards Canada with envy. So this indeed is an important power to protect. Luckily it isn't actually in danger. The Parliament of Ontario is still free to levy all the taxes that they want thank you very much.

I admit that most of the knots and bolts issues regarding the sales tax will be handled by the Federal government. MacLeod claims that this means taxation without representation. As if Ontario wasn't represented in the Federal Parliament. Wait...what province is the Finance Minister from again...I forget...

2. There will be a hidden tax

The GST is currently at 5% and the PST is currently at 8%. What exactly is being hidden here? Is it that she's afraid Ontarians can't do basic math?

3. There is no evidence that harmonized taxes work in other federal jurisdictions

Her argument here is basically that just because it has been done in other countries doesn't mean that it will work well here. This is not an entirely unfounded complaint. One of the things I'm learning about in Grad school is pitfalls of cross country policy analyses. It is not so simple to say that something was done there so we can do the exact same thing here. The institutions and organizations are different in every country.

That being said it is possible to learn from the mistakes and successes of other country's policy. We can take those lessons, adjust them to particularly Canadian needs, and apply them. How do I know that this can be done? Well because it is done all the time. You wouldin fact be hard pressed to find policy proposals in Canada that wasn't in some way partially based on policies in an other jurisdiction. So why won't HST work in Canada again?

4. It will cost businesses money and resources to learn the new system

This is true. It is also true of any policy change made ever. There is always a capital investment made into learning how a law, policy, or institution works. That is part of the reason why it is so hard to change things, people don't want to give up that investment. This is basically an argument against the government doing anything...hang on...hmmm...

But anyway I doubt the cost will be as much as say MPPs moving to half day or MPPs recieving free childcare.

5. Companies that are exempt won't be exempt anymore

Well good. It is bizarre to me that the government picks and chooses who pays more taxes and who pays less. The government shouldn't be giving unnatural advantages to companies or industries. If her argument here is that taxingbusinesses ultimately hurts consumers, then yes I agree. So we should get rid of all corporate taxes right?

6. It would be hard or impossible to undue the HST

This is a good thing if you think the HST is a good thing. It isn't really an argument for not doing it. I guess if you were unsure about the HST you would rather that it be easily reversed once it has been tested. But still, this isn't anactual argument against the HST.

Nice try though...

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Profiteers

Keeping you safe: HT

At Manchester Avenue and Figueroa Street, accidents more than tripled from five before the cameras were installed to 16 afterwards. Westwood Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard tripled from three to nine. At Rodeo Road and La Brea Avenue, collisions nearly tripled from seven in the six months before the cameras were installed to 20 in the same period afterwards. 

The reason? 

"People see the light flash and they slam on their brakes," Ellison said. "That's just human nature. As a result, more accidents, more rear end accidents." 

That's what happened to Dale Stephens, who knew the yellow light up ahead had a camera.

"Because I had that in the back of my mind I knew I had to stop. And it's so expensive to get a ticket I knew I had to stop. Well they had no inclination to stop," Stephens said. 

"They" are the two cars that hit him from behind. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

I Think We've Seen This One Before

Like a bad penny, this guy:

The current PQ leader, Pauline Marois, was asked the other day if she's worried about what Parizeau will have to say in his book, La souveraineté du Québec: Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, which hits stores a week before a PQ national council meeting in Montreal to be attended by péquistes from across Quebec.

"I do not fear Mr. Parizeau's book," Marois told reporters. "It's about sovereignty. We need people to continue to reflect and feed us ideas on sovereignty. I work closely with Mr. Parizeau. We speak regularly and I have a very positive relationship with one of the particularly great leaders of our political party."

Traitors betraying each other. Bleak comfort, yet comfort.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (23)

Natives and Property Rights

It has long been a problem of the Native nations that their members could not own land on the reserves. All land was communally owned thus no individual could leverage their home for a loan. This prevented Natives from being able to start businesses or otherwise invest in their community.

Now in BC, at least one tribe is trying something different. The Treaty nation of Nisga'a has decided to allow its members to sell and mortgage their homes.

Hats off to the Nisga'a. It would be interesting to see how much this will improve their community.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keeping Their Stick on The Ice

Quebec. Tories. Hockey arenas. The three most expensive words in the Canadian lexicon.

Consider the linkage between two recent news items flowing out of the Quebec City mayoralty race. During that campaign, the eventual winner Regis Labeaume talked openly about constructing a new NHLsized hockey rink and working to bring a team back to Quebec City. 

It then emerged that the provincial government was going to undertake a feasibility study to determine whether the city should launch a bid for the Olympic Games. A new arena would be part of such a plan.

When the federal government undoubtedly jumps on this bandwagon, voters in the Quebec City region will get stars in their eyes about all of the world attention, and fancy new things that will be built in and around the city.

The Olympics are a notorious boondoggle. Sports arenas are notorious boondoggles. The Tories are desperate for a breakthrough in Quebec - which thanks to a by-election victory last week - now looks plausible. Reach for your wallets people.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

How Selfish

This G&M article carries the provocative title: "Refusing to get vaccinated is selfish." Now, I know what you're thinking. Old Publius is about to get on his high horse and start quoting Rand for several pages. I'll keep it to one of Rand's key observations today, that individuals legitimate interests do not conflict. The author walks right past this insight, and keeps walking:

The public nature of Canadian health care creates both individual rights and individual responsibilities. But people can assert rights to a public resource without recognizing a responsibility toward its limited nature. This problem was brilliantly described in 1968 by ecologist Garrett Hardin in the journal Science as “the tragedy of the commons.” In this hypothetical case, individual actors operate on self-interest and ultimately destroy a shared limited resource – even when such destruction is clearly not to anyone's long-term benefit. Canadians are familiar with this tragedy because it describes the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery.

Mass H1N1 vaccination refusal similarly might destroy (at least temporarily) our health-care system, with the threatened 100,000 people in hospital. We have a limited number of hospital beds and respirators and a finite number of people who know how best to use them. Every vaccinated person increases the likelihood that health-care professionals will be free to treat other people. What's more, inoculation reduces transmission. If unvaccinated people make health-care workers sick, they cannot look after other patients.

Health resources are finite because they are "publicly," i.e. state, controlled. The tragedy of the commons is that it is public. Everyone owns the commons and so no one does. The commons ceases to be a tragedy once it is divided up among private owners, each with a benefit in protecting their property, and a corollary responsibility toward it. 

Assuming for a moment that the vaccine is both safe and effective, refusing to get it would be profoundly unselfish. Even the most determined altruist has to concede that taking steps to keep healthy is selfish. A corpse cannot have any self interests, and a diseased body is a poor vehicle with which to pursue one's goals. Unless the author means selfish in the sense of simply being reckless toward others, then his argument is blatantly illogical. I suspect he does mean "selfishness" in that sense, in being callous or reckless toward other people. Being "selfish" is a sort of ethical mark of cain to many people in modern Canada. In effect, the author is trying to guilt people into doing the "right thing."

This does not mean that the author has not raised a valid public health issue. People refusing to get vaccinated, assuming again that it is safe and effective, is a major public health issue that could overwhelm our tottering health care system. Misinformation is always a constant uphill battle in educating people about their health. The statist would shrug and say that ordinary people often don't know what's good for them, so massive forced inoculations might be necessary. No one has suggested this yet, but if the death count enters into the high thousands, which it might, expect the idea to be floated. Yet the origin of the problem, as the author correctly states, is the tragedy of the commons.

Being a public system Medicare encourages moral hazard. A person pays into the system based on their income, not their health. There is then little incentive to make wise and healthy choices. Not wanting to get sick would seem incentive enough. Not everyone, however, has the same assessment of risk. Knowing that there is little financial consequence to their action, that for most already healthy people they will simply miss a few days of work, many will skip taking the vaccine. If, however, they would have to bear the full financial cost of their recklessness, many would reconsider their decision. 

A health care system in which the majority of the population was covered by private insurance, the second scenario could take hold. Refusing to take the vaccine? Fine. But the insurance company has the right to refuse your claim, on the same grounds that life insurance is not paid out in cases of suicide. German auto insurance contains a provision that an accident claim can be refused, if the driver was travelling faster that 130 km / hr, oddly enough the average speed on the Autobahn. Insurance companies are in the business of assessing risk, something they are better at than governments and private individuals. It's their job after all and they have a vested interest in being good at it. 

Politicians and bureaucrats, beyond whatever consciences they might have, are interested only in not being blamed and losing votes. Private individuals can make their own assessment. If they are right they save the bother of getting the shot, if they are wrong they bear the full consequence of their action, rather than having those costs socialized under the current system. A free market would encourage people to be selfish, i.e. to take responsibility for their actions rather than expect everyone else to take up the slack. Something crude guilt trips will never accomplish.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (17)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Marc Emery documentary: "The P.O.P."

Paul McKeever, lawyer and leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario, has put together a documentary about the political activities of Marc Emery. The documentary will be released very soon, around the same time as the book, "Seeds of Liberty: The Marc Emery story."

Here is the trailer for the forthcoming movie (I admit, I'm really excited about this):

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 17, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (15)

Canadian Constitution Foundation to defend freedom to sell raw milk

Here's the press release form one of our favourite pro-liberty organizations, the Canadian Constitution Foundation:

At a press conference at Queen’s Park today, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) announced its support for a court case involving consumer choice, freedom of contract, and the right to earn an honest living free from government regulation that is arbitrary, unreasonable, unnecessary and unfair.

The case concerns Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, who has been providing unpasteurized milk to consumers for approximately 20 years without a single incident of illness attributable to milk borne germs.

Mr. Schmidt was charged in 2006 with numerous violations of the Milk Act and the Health Promotion and Protection Act, Ontario legislation that requires milk to be heated to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before it can be marketed.

Mr. Schmidt has contested both his guilt under the legislation, and the constitutional validity of the legislation itself. He argues that the ban on raw milk sales violates the guarantee of “life, liberty and security of the person” in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ban also violates the Charter’s equality and non-discrimination rights.

His six-day trial ended in February, 2009. The court’s judgment is scheduled to be released on January 21, 2010.

Since Mr. Schmidt was charged in November, 2006, the size of the herd he manages has doubled. There is also a waiting list of consumers wishing to participate in Mr. Schmidt’s raw milk dairy.

The CCF has announced that it will represent Mr. Schmidt in ongoing litigation challenging the constitutionality of the raw milk ban.

“This is about the rights of Canadians to choose a product that is safely consumed by tens of thousands of people around the world. It’s also about the right to earn an honest living free from government regulations that are unnecessary, unreasonable and unfair,” said CCF Litigation Director Karen Selick.

“There have been huge technological improvements in refrigeration, transportation and pathogen testing, in addition to the entrenchment of individuals’ constitutional rights. Consumers who want freedom of choice expect their government to make the transition to the twenty-first century and to respect their rights,” added Selick.

The CCF will also represent consumer advocate James McLaren, who has sought for many years to persuade federal and provincial authorities to revise the regulatory regime so that inspected and tested raw milk can be sold to consumers. Mr. McLaren will argue on behalf of consumers that the legal prohibition on raw milk violates their constitutional right to “security of the person”.

Mr. McLaren has recently established an on-line petition for consumers who want the government to conduct a policy review for the purpose of establishing safe protocols for the production and distribution of raw milk.

The press release ends with some additional, and interesting, information:

A study published in 2006 in the medical journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy demonstrated that raw milk has a beneficial effect on children’s health. Scientists from prestigious American and European universities and children’s hospitals studied 14,893 children aged 5—13 years. The children who consumed raw milk had a significantly reduced incidence of asthma and allergies, compared with those who drank pasteurized milk.

Certified or government-authorized raw milk is sold in many European countries, including: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark. Raw milk is also available legally in about half of the U.S. states.

Canadian authorities justify the mandatory pasteurization of milk on the grounds of food safety. However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control has documented at least a dozen outbreaks of food poisoning from pasteurized milk over the past 25 years. Some outbreaks affected hundreds of thousands of people, and some resulted in death.

You can sign a petition to legalize raw milk in Ontario, visit Michael Schmidt's website here, or James McLaren's Natural Milk website here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski

Posted by westernstandard on November 17, 2009 in Economic freedom, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (25)

The Price is Right

They may not love Canada, but they love Canadian money:

In the former sovereignist stronghold of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, fatigue with opposition politics decisively trumped the Bloc Québécois's anti-Conservative message.

The lure of millions of stimulus dollars and the sight of Quebec's 10 Conservative ridings awash in federal cash made a difference. On that score, the Liberal strategy of drawing attention to the Conservative spending pattern seems to have backfired, at least in Quebec.

And pretty much everywhere else. Pointing out the obvious - that governments spend more money in ridings held by their own MPs - is a short-sighted strategy by the Grits. Sure oppositions love being righteous when the patronage flows elsewhere, but it's not really a killer blow. Adscam was seen as outrageous because well connected individuals got government largesse. When governments bring home the bacon to whole ridings, they're seen as doing their job. It's not something people like to admit publicly. One of the reasons they vote for parties they see as winners is greed. They want better roads, a new arena and a new hospital. Perhaps a nice fountain too. It's part of the political process. As Chantal Hebert points out, highlighting the Conservatives activities in Quebec works against the Grits. It reinforces the fact that the Tories are dispensers of largesse, and that the Liberals and Bloc are just ranting from the sidelines.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ron Paul on socialized medicine

In Ron Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk weekly column, he writes:

Last Saturday many concerned Americans watched in horror as the House passed the healthcare reform bill.  If this bill makes it through the Senate, it would massively overhaul the way healthcare is delivered in this country.  Today, obviously, we don’t have a perfect system, but this legislation takes all the mistakes we are making with healthcare and makes them worse.  Most of what is wrong with healthcare stems from decades of government intervention and the resulting unintended consequences.  But the government’s prescription for the ills caused by intervention is always more intervention.

You can read Paul's entire column here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (18)

The Old Canada Makes A Small Comeback

I don't believe government should be in the business of dictating culture. It's how the Trudeaupian state was created. Official "biculturalism" evolved into "multiculturalism." The nation of Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach became a nation peace keepers. It's been said that the British acquired the Empire in a "fit of absence of mind." So Canada threw away its heritage and freedom in a modernizing temper tantrum in the Seventies. Using one of the tools of the Trudeaupian state, the citizenship guide, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, has struck a blow for the old pre-Seventies Canada.

The Defending Canada section invites newcomers to serve in the coast guard, police force, or fire department. "By helping to protect your community, you follow in the footsteps of Canadians before you who made sacrifices in the service of our country," the guide says.

The revamped handbook, which moved the Oath of Citizenship from the back of the book to the second page, goes deeper into Canada's military history, including information on the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, peacekeeping missions in Egypt, Haiti and Cyprus, and international security operations in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, the senior official said.

The guide looks back to the role of aboriginals, the Vikings and early explorers and the "struggle to build our country," the senior official said. The document also discusses the rebellions of 1837-38 and the fight for responsible government, and offers an expanded section on Confederation.

The guide hasn't been released yet, so I'll abstain from full judgement till I get a look at. Yet it looks promising. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (28)

Guns Discriminate Against Women

I remember that day, some years back, when Darcey came over to Toronto. We were all at some dive, whose name I've mercifully forgotten, and Antonia Zerbisias showed up. She was a good sport and all. Completely out to lunch though.

Poll after poll has shown that women, including rural women, overwhelmingly supported the long-gun registry.

Since it was introduced in the mid-'90s, the number of women killed by their rifle-wielding partners has dropped. But, even with the registry, one out of three femicide victims is still killed by a rifle, with country women the most vulnerable, according to Statistics Canada.

Who knows how many women are intimidated by the shotguns and rifles – 91 per cent of the (registered) non-restricted firearms in Canada – sitting in the gun rack?

Which is why, if a person is arrested for abusing his or her partner, police can search the domicile, seize weapons and ban the suspect from owning guns, at least until acquittal – although this is not always enforced, to sometimes tragic consequences.

Still, Parliament, dominated by men although the majority of Canada's citizens are female, shot down women in order to satisfy the gun lobby.

Oh, Zerb. You need to get out of Toronto. See the country. Meet some farmers. Them rednecks you read so much about. Perhaps also study some biology. An abusive husband doesn't need a rifle to terrorize his spouse, his fists work perfectly fine. Firearms are the great equalizer. An armed hundred pound woman is the equal of any brute twice her size. If you really want to help women who feel vulnerable, teach them how to defend themselves, and allow them tools to do so.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PETA vs. Jan Narveson: Do animals count?

Peta The success of PETA is a fascinating study in how an uncompromising approach to advocacy, combined with brilliant marketing, can push a radical idea -- animal rights -- into mainstream debate.

Disagree with them or not -- and I almost always disagree with them -- PETA's use of celebrities and provocative, timely messages keeps them, and their cause, in the media and on the public consciousness.

The images in this post are two examples of the organization's latest campaigns aimed at changing public opinion about the use of animals for food, fur and research.

Peta rat There are a lot of arguments, however, against extending rights to animals, but the one that seems to present animal rights advocates with the most trouble has been advanced by Jan Narveson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo. Narveson has written several scholarly articles on the issue of animal rights and has established himself as a prominent proponent of the contractarian argument against extending legal rights to animals. Narveson works within the Hobbesian tradition and argues that since animals can not enter into moral contracts they should not fall within the purview of the laws that come from these moral contracts. In short, animals don't count in any legal sense.

Here's Narveson in his own words:

What morality is is a uniform set of rules to be imposed by everybody on everybody. These amount to something like a social contract in the sense that we’ve got all these people that we’re relating to. Animals, on the other hand, are not part of this, because they can’t communicate with us. They’re not moral agents in the sense in which we are. And the question is, what is there about animals which makes us, who are moral agents, morally compelled to recognize rights on their part? And the trouble is that the answer to this seems to be: virtually nothing.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Learn more about Dr. Jan Narveson by purchasing one of his books below. A portion of your purchase price will go to the Western Standard.

Posted by westernstandard on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Statement by Prime Minister Harper on close of Asia summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement Sunday at the close of the 2009 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit:

While Canada’s economy was built through trans-Atlantic trade, our future prosperity will increasingly depend on our ties to the Pacific. The region is home to some of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing economies.

Our discussions underscored the importance of continued cooperation on Canada’s number one priority - responding to the global economic downturn.

Since last year’s Summit, we have focussed on resisting protectionism, reforming the global financial system and stimulating our economies, which have helped set the stage for recovery.

Leaders also met and agreed on the need to keep focussed on the problem of climate change. Although we do not expect to get a legally binding agreement, progress can still be made at Copenhagen.

I met with several fellow leaders, including Prime Ministers Key of New Zealand, Hatoyama of Japan, Rudd of Australia and Presidents Obama of the United States and Triet of Vietnam.

I also look forward to meeting with Russian President Medvedev later this afternoon. I intend to raise a number of issues we share in common, including global security, the Arctic and, of course, the economy.

Looking forward, we will work closely with South Korea to deliver successful G-20 Summits in 2010 that follow up on commitments made in Pittsburgh, London and Washington.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Free Marc Emery


Cannabis Culture Magazine

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (30)

Is Copyright Violation the Same as Stealing?

Ever since the rise of printing press, the producers of content have sought to have their work protected from those who would choose to copy and profit off their intellectual contributions, or even simply consume it without paying royalty.

In the twentieth century, the advent of the personal audio/video tape recorders and photocopiers brought new battlefronts for copyright holders to contend with.  

When computers showed up on the scene, software programmers sought ways of preventing their work being copied from one computer to another.

In the twenty-first century, pretty much everything is on computers--and if it's not yet, it will be soon.

Now that everything is on a computer, "stealing" as defined by some, is as simple as clicking the button on your computer screen that says "copy".

But is this a rational definition of the word "steal"?  I mean, I used to think so.  But there's a few things that need to be said about the differences between stealing material goods and "stealing" digital goods.

We've all heard the classic open door analogy, in regards to software piracy.  That, downloading say, a game off the internet, is no different than walking into someone's unlocked home and taking things off the shelves.  Except that it is really different, if you think about it.

In one scenario, we are physically entering the private dwelling of someone.  We're intruding on their privacy in the most offensive of ways, and we're taking their physical possessions away from them.  We are depriving the other party of their privacy and physical safety, and we're outright depriving them of their property.

In the other scenario, we are downloading digital bits across a wire and saving them onto our computer.  It's worth nothing, that by doing this, we haven't violated the privacy of the content creator.  Nor are we depriving them of their content.  The only thing we are depriving them of is the potential lost royalty.  

Maybe if I couldn't obtain it by downloading it for free, I would have considered buying it.  I don't know.  Probably not.

Also, when I steal something from your home, you're probably going to pay to replace the stolen goods, or you're going to pass that cost on to your insurance company.  By stealing from you, I've imposed a real financial burden on you.

The financial burden I place on software developers by stealing from them is less clear.  Economists refer to it as "lost opportunity cost": the cost they incur by not having an opportunity to sell it to you.  Anti-piracy folks will insist that this is exactly analogous to the stolen goods from your house.  But it's not.  They're just not being honest about it.

Digital goods are referred to by some economists as having zero marginal cost.  Meaning, outside of the initial investment to produce them, the cost of shipping a unit of X digital good is zero.  If I pay $10,000 to build X digital good, that is a fixed cost which is not dependent on how many people consume it.  If one thousand people download it for $100 each, my average cost per unit is $10 with a profit of $90 per unit.  If a million people download it, my average cost per unit is $0.01 (one cent!) and my profit margin is $99.99 on a $100 product.  

This is the magic of a zero marginal cost business. Making it somewhat different than you jumping into a car coming off the end of an assembly line and driving off with it, without paying--another fabulously inappropriate analogy copyright holders have used.   There's real fixed costs for each and every car that need to be recovered in order to be profitable. 

Microsoft estimated years ago that more than 60% of all global installations of it's Windows operating system are illegal. That's right, the majority.  I don't know how this trend is holding up, but it's clear, given Microsoft's tens of billions a year in profit, that having a majority of everything it produces "stolen", hasn't stood in the way of it being one of the most profitable companies in history.  It hasn't stood in the way of making it's founder, Bill Gates, the world's richest man, either.

Other than the lost opportunity cost--which is not a real cost in any case, but rather a prediction for potential revenue--the direct cost of someone stealing Windows to Microsoft is zero. In fact, that's probably under-stating it in the sense that by stealing Windows, you are increasing Microsoft's install base, and therefore increasing the size of it's market.

Think about it: if you're Microsoft, would you rather have someone steal Windows, or install Linux? If someone steals Windows, you still might be able to make money off them in other ways, such as if they go and buy Microsoft Office--like many do.  I know plenty of family members and friends who have illegal copies of Windows, but they still went to Best Buy and purchased Office so their kids could do their homework.  And even if they stole Office, many of them still leave the MSN homepage that Microsoft sets as default in place, which brings in millions in ad revenue for Microsoft.

So Microsoft still makes money off you--even if it's fractional amounts--if you steal their software.

The direct cost to you walking into my house, and walking out with my TV is: whatever it costs me to replace the TV.  Pretty big difference.  

I think we've blown the hell out of this analogy.  So when you talk to your children about stealing software, stop using the open door analogy.  It really doesn't make any sense.

Which sort of brings us full-circle to the question: is copyright violation stealing?  

No.  The answer is no.  It is what is is, and what it is... is copyright violation.  But it's not theft.  Theft is different. We established this.  Creating a facsimile of something is not the same thing as depriving someone of something.  

Posted by Mike Brock on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (21)

Barrie Libertarian candidate launches website

Paolo Fabrizio, Libertarian Party of Canada candidate for the riding of Barrie in Ontario, has a new website. You can find it here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Fort Hood shootings motivated by religious fervour, so now what?

Last week Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada but better known to Western Standard readers for bringing two human rights complaints against our little magazine, issued a press release demanding that the tragic Fort Hood shootings “must not be linked with Islam or Muslims” and that Major Nadil Hasan, the US soldier who did the shooting, was simply “an American who happens to have an Arabic name.”

National Post columnist Lorne Gunter has a different take on the tragic affair. He wrote:

The most disturbing aspect of last week’s Fort Hood shootings — aside from the horrendous loss of life, of course — has been the triumph of political correctness in the analysis of Maj. Nadil Hasan’s motives. Many “experts” have assiduously avoided the obvious cause: Hasan’s fundamentalist, radicalized Muslim views.

A man runs into a room of unarmed people and starts firing away while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is Great”). He has had frequent arguments — many of them extremely heated — with several fellow officers in recent years over the alleged stupidity and immorality of the West’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He expressed public agreement with the Koran’s exhortations to kill infidels, justified suicide bombings, attended a radical Virginia mosque, sought permission from superiors to have Muslim-American soldiers exempted from service in Middle Eastern wars and, among other things, attempted to make contact with al-Qaeda recruiters.

Yet many analysts and commentators have ignored this evidence and put forward, instead, shallow war-psyche diagnoses they seem to have copied from M*A*S*H episodes. Most centre around the theory that Hasan snapped under the pressure of his forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

To his credit, Soharwardy said it is the “obligation upon all Muslims to condemn this massacre.” But notwithstanding his protests, Maj. Hasan is not just “an American who happens to have an Arabic name” and his murderous rampage is very much “linked with Islam and Muslims.”

Soharwardy is obviously concerned about a possible backlash against peaceful Muslims, but that legitimate concern doesn’t change the facts.

Maj. Hasan was clearly motivated by religious fervour, but what more should we take away from this tragedy? The answer to this question is not obvious to me.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sarah Palin in: Who Cares Who's Coming to Dinner

As I was signing into my email, a story caught my eye. Sarah Palin, former Vice President candidate and former Governor of Alaska (I'm sure she is former a lot of other stuff as well), has invited some guy named Levi Johnston to dinner.

I have to admit that I was curious. Not really curious over who Levi is or why he would be spending thanksgiving with her Formerness. No I was curious about how on Earth this could be considered news.

Turns out that Levi Johnston is the father of Mrs. Former Governor's grandchild. They seem to be having some sort of public estrangement and She Who is Former is trying to patch things up. I'm sure if I catch it on Oprah I will cry. But why would we care about this anymore than I care about anything else that comes on to that horrifically boring (though admittedly commercially successful) television show?

They say that President Obama is the celebrity politician, but they are wrong. Sarah Palin is the one that they are treating as a celebrity with endless intrusions into her personal life. I am puzzled for why Levi was interviewed by Vanity Fair or Playgirl. It's like he was someone of real interest, such as Paris Hilton, or something.

In case you have missed it, part of my point here is that Sarah Palin is a former public official. Any legitimacy the press may have in digging into a politicians family (which I think extends only as far as looking for corruption) surely ends when that politician no longer holds office.

That is to say, why should anyone give a flying donkey where Levi Johnston decides to eat turkey? 

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (17)