The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sound and Fury, Signifying Politics
As regular readers will know, one of my favourite poems is F.R. Scott's W.L.M.K. As we draw to a close on this rather miserable decade, I'm reminded of one of that poem's stanzas:
Only one thread was certain:
After World War I
Business as usual,
After World War II
Always he led us back to where we were before.
That is Canadian politics over most of this decade. Since February of 2006 the Conservatives have been at about 36% in the polls, where they are now. The policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper are not very much different from those of Jean Chretien, except the latter was able to balance the budget consistently. The National Post covers the last decade in politics.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The Contradictions Inherent in the System
Gordon Brown plays class warrior:
Ms Jowell, the Olympics Minister, urged the Prime Minister to stop attacking the Conservative leader for having a privileged background as such personal insults only alienated voters and risked bringing politics into disrepute.
The outspoken plea from the veteran former Blairite is the latest sign of serious concern at the highest level of the Government about Mr Brown's general election strategy.
Ms Jowell's intervention came days after reports of a rift between Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson who has warned the Prime Minister that he disagrees with his plan to fight the election on a message of "Labour investment versus Tory cuts".
The Business Secretary was also said to be concerned about the Prime Minister's use of class war rhetoric against Mr Cameron.
England without its Toffs is like Canada without maple syrup, and Australia without gruff backwoodsmen. It is the way of things. Britain today is not the Britain of the 1960s, the last time the class system had true power. The Thatcherite reforms did much to introduce a meritocracy into British life. Still, old grudges die hard and railing against the elite is a solid vote getting strategy among the troglodyte part of the Labour base. There is a price to all this late winter New Labour Marxism. Brown and Darling's war against the City is already threatening London's position as the world's number two financial center. If the City shrinks to the significance of, say, Frankfurt, there will be few ways in which a future Chancellor will be able to close the epic-sized deficit.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"I'm getting better at this.”
No, you are not.
In year-end interviews, broadcast Sunday on CTV's Question Period , both leaders of opposition parties danced around the topic of a possible election in 2010. “What I've learned from Canadians in 2009 is they didn't want an election,” Mr. Ignatieff said.
“What they want is an alternative to the Harper government.”
Mr. Ignatieff acknowledged it was a mistake to push for an election earlier this year, disrespecting and ignoring what Canadians were saying. “Canadians were in the middle of the toughest recession in 25 years,” he said. “They want an alternative to the Harper government. What they didn't want is someone talking about an election. And somehow we got stuck with the idea that we wanted an election at any price.
So, the Canadian people don't want an election, but they do want a different government. Now if I was the literally minded sort, I'd think that Iggy was calling for another attempt at a Parliamentary Putsch. No one said anything about a coalition. Just an "alternative." We all like alternatives, don't we? Freedom of choice and all that. Unless you're a prairie farmer trying to sell wheat. But I digress. I don't think Lord Iggy is plotting to overthrow the government, without benefit of an election sometime in 2010 or 2011. The Grand Coalition of last December - you'll recall the Traitor, the Fool and the Socialist - has ended any possibility of a non-electoral transfer power, British Parliamentary tradition not withstanding. What Iggy is trying to say is that he needs to show Canadians that the Liberal Front-Benches are a government in waiting, rather than a power hungry rabble, as they've behaved so far this parliament.
This bring us to the heart of the matter with Iggy. He doesn't know why he wants to become Prime Minister. Unlike Stephen Harper, who seems to have been born with an eye on the prize, Iggy just kind of showed up. Even if he is just visiting, he doesn't know why he is here. Well past the comfortable shores of middle age, heading for the Golden Sunset, Iggy seems to have been talked into becoming leader of the Liberal Party. A few fast talking, and marginalized, figures within the Grit hierarchy got into the Professor's head dreams of political glory. What a finisher! Small Town Boy comes home and becomes mayor after fast life in the Big City.
The yokels - the Canadian electorate - were suppose to be bowled over by his genius and eminence. Canadians don't much like intellectuals. The pioneer mindset has never entirely left us. Unless you can build, run or discover something, or play hockey, you're pretty much useless. Canadians, those living outside of Girt strongholds in downtown Toronto, were not impressed by some guy who taught at Harvard and had a show on the BBC. Toronto isn't like the rest of Canada. Toronto wants to be New York, and before that it wanted to be London. The ROC doesn't really care what the Blue Coast Elites and British Establishment types think of anything. His resume having failed to impress, Iggy was left with exactly nothing. No real policy, except some melodramatic whining over Employment Insurance benefits that few understood, and those who did understand thought was the first step toward turning EI into a straight welfare benefit. One policy and it was a fairly contrived and stupid one. Failing some unlikely and huge Harper misstep, Iggy will be tossed out with stacks of yellowing Red Books, the day after the next election.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Canada deplores and condemns over the holidays
Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, took time off on Christmas day to officially deplore the 11-year prison sentence given to Chinese intellectual and dissident Liu Xiaobo by the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court:
“Canada deplores the sentencing of Liu Xiaobo, whom we believe is being punished for exercising his right to peaceful and non-violent freedom of expression.
“Canada is concerned by Mr. Liu’s lengthy detention, which began a year ago. We are also deeply concerned by the circumstances of his trial, which was not open, and to which family members and foreign observers—including Canadian Embassy representatives—were denied access.
“As we have done since Mr. Liu’s detention began, Canada once again urges China to release him without condition.
“The Government of Canada is fully committed to promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.”
Two days later the same minister condemned Iran’s crackdown on protesters in Tehran:
“Canada is deeply concerned by the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown today, December 27, against Iranian citizens who were exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly on the occasion of Ashura.
“Iranian security forces once again used intimidation and violence against citizens of Iran. The Iranian regime’s continued effort to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, thereby depriving its citizens of their rights, is deplorable, especially on the holy day of Ashura, a national holiday that marks an important Shia religious event. The people of Iran deserve to have their voices heard and to enjoy the rights to which they are entitled without fear of violence and intimidation.
“The Government of Canada condemns the use of brutal violence by the Iranian security forces and once again calls upon Iran to meet its human rights obligations.”
Posted by Matthew Johnston
UPDATE: 2004 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Michael Badnarik hospitalized after heart attack
A commenter on the prisonplanet.com website has this update on Badnarik, although I can’t confirm the accuracy of the information at this time:
Michael Badnarik had a stent placed inside a blocked artery after he had a heart attack and then was put into a medically induced coma.
This is the latest:
Michael Badnarik is awake and spunky. He asked Lynne what happened to him and how long has he been out? Lynne said it was Christmas and he asked what year. He is very weak of course but he is improving very rapidly!
You can read my original post here.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
To learn more about Michael Badnarik, read his book Good To Be King: The Foundation of Our Constitutional Freedom, or books by Ayn Rand and L. Neil Smith, authors who have influenced this libertarian activist. You can purchase these books below through our Amazon affiliate program.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Freedom farmer named Person of the Year
Charlottesville, Virginia's largest independent paper, The Hook, has named Joel Salatin Person of the Year.
Described by New York Times Magazine as the “high priest of the pasture,” the Christian libertarian Salatin is a fierce critic of government interference in the movement toward local, natural food production.
“Why is local food so expensive?” says Salatin. “Because we have suffocating regulations.”
Salatin colourfully refers to local Health Department inspectors as “food Nazis.”
The Western Standard has covered Salatin’s crusade for government-free food is a story entitled “Freedom Farmer.” You can read that story here.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
2004 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Michael Badnarik hospitalized after heart attack
The Libertarian Party headquarters in Washington, DC received several reports yesterday that Michael Badnarik, the 2004 nominee for President, has suffered a heart attack and has been hospitalized in Wisconsin.
William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), commented, "While initial indications are that this is possibly a serious heart attack, we're hoping that Michael makes a full and speedy recovery."
The La Crosse Tribune reported additional information:
The 2004 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael J. Badnarik was hospitalized Tuesday at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse after an apparent heart attack.
Badnarik was fitted with a temporary pacemaker and a balloon pump to ease stress on his heart, according to Libertarian Party sources.
Badnarik, president of the 2009 Continental Congress, was attending a hearing regarding a raw milk case in Viroqua when he collapsed, said Gary Franchi, the national director of Restore the Republic.
Franchi told Alex Jones' PrisonPlanet.com that Badnarik got in a car to go to lunch with friends and slumped over. "His friends attempted CPR and contacted the paramedics," Franchi said in an e-mail. "They attempted to revive him three times with no success. Upon the fourth attempt, his heart was revived yet with erratic behavior."
Badnarik, 55-years-old, is a software engineer and former radio talk show host.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
NDP and Green Party denounce Kenney for defunding Christian charity
According to the Green Party, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney confirmed last week that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) decision to end its 35-year relationship with KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives was politically motivated.
"Accusing KAIROS of being an anti-semitic group is truly reprehensible,” said Stephen LaFrenie, Green Party’s International Cooperation Critic. “Worse is the fact that the human rights work sponsored by KAIROS will be compromised by these irresponsible comments made on an international stage."
The Green Party also notes that the Jewish community in Canada was recently the target of a Conservative mailer that painted the Liberal Party as anti-semites after attending Durban 1 a 2001 UN conference on racism.
“Not only are they wrong in their actions towards KAIROS, a group I fully support, but in an effort to further pander to and exploit the fears of my fellow Jews around the survival of the State of Israel they have shown an utter lack of leadership, as they divide Canadians along ethnic and religious lines,” said Ralph Benmergui, Senior Advisor to the Green Party of Canada and creator of the Vision TV mini-series My Israel.
“We need to ensure that these types of slanderous allegations by Ministers do not go unpunished," said Elizabeth May, Leader of Canada's Greens. "It begs the question, what does a member of Harper’s cabinet need to do to be dismissed?"
Canada’s New Democrats are also demanding funding for the social justice organization be restored, insisting the cuts were made based on inaccurate information.
“There’s been an outrageous mistake made here, and Minister Oda must move swiftly to correct the record and restore the $7 million in funding that she has stripped from KAIROS,” said John Rafferty, New Democrat critic for International Cooperation. “A Minister of this government has said that KAIROS lost their funding because they engage in anti-Semitic activities, but that claim is demonstrably false so there is no pretense for the funding cut.”
According to the New Democrats, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the charge of anti-Semitism during a recent visit to Israel. During a speech in Jerusalem on December 16, Kenney stated:
"We have defunded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions against (Israel)."
However, a document published by KAIROS in January 2008 explicitly stated that the organization did not support “any general boycott of Israeli products” nor “any use of sanctions against Israel.”
“KAIROS is a respected ecumenical organization that works to improve the lives of millions people living in poverty and conflict around the world,” added New Democrat Leader Jack Layton. “Mr. Kenney owes them and their member churches an immediate apology.”
KAIROS member churches include the Anglican Church of Canada, The Christian Reformed Church in North America, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The United Church of Canada, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Canadian Religious Conference, The Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF).
The charge of anti-semitism is serious and should not be used as a political weapon. Without knowing all the facts here, my first reaction is that Kenney, a Catholic, would not make an allegation like this for political reasons.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Back to the Well? One Man's Opinion of the New Blue Rodeo Album
Until recently, and for over two decades, when someone asked me who may favorite band was, I would quickly, easily and with conviction state "Blue Rodeo". Their pop-laden alt-country sound, dynamite lyrics and top-shelf harmonies were the closest thing to "my sound" that I could think of (despite the fact that the various bands I've been in only sometimes unleashed a similar sound amidst aggressive forays into punk and metal, but that's another post). However, much like an old BC cedar tree that is still tall and strong but starting to show the ravages of age, Blue Rodeo's recent efforts, while still decent, have caused me to ponder when asked about my favorite band. Now when asked, thoughts of the Old 97's, Son Volt, the Clash, and the Pogues compete with Blue Rodeo for the title.
Against that back drop, and as I always faithfully do, I picked up the new Blue Rodeo album on its release day. I had just heard the rantings of an unremembered CBC critic suggesting that this "may be their best album" and my interest was piqued to say the least. I also found it interesting that the band had been suggesting that the album was intended to be heard on vinyl. While I knew that it would be impossible for the band to ever again reach the opus that was "Five Days In July", I was optimistic that this album would exceed the band's recent efforts. In that, I'm afraid, I was wrong.
Don't get me wrong, this double-album set of songs is perfectly good. A well-crafted set of songs that is ambitious and well-played and I think was intended to serve as something ther than "just another Blue Rodeo album". In some respects they succeeded - the album's opener, "All The Things That Are Left Behind" and all of its late-60's/early 70's-inspired tripiness, is certainly ambitious and sounds a lot like Lenny Kravitz and certainly unlike much of what the band has done before. Ambition is a funny thing though. While I always appreciate new musical directions and find efforts to pursue them admirable, the direction and its appeal is often lost on me. As I said, I like Blue Rodeo's sound and while you can't make the same album over and over, I like the basic formula. Sure, I appreciate tweaks here and there, but much of this album sounds morose, downtrodden and somewhat numbing. There are exceptions though - "Venus Rising" is a great and somewhat unorthodox song, although it does remind one of "Rage" from a few albums back, which incidentally is not a bad thing as that too is a great one. "One More Night" is also a good track and features Jim Cuddy taking his voice in new directions, supported by a rather funked up Glenn Milchem drum beat. "Never Look Back" is a standout track, as is "Arizona Dust", although both sound like good old Blue Rodeo and may be criticized by some as being too much that way.
As an aside, if you want to grab this album or some of its tracks, do so at I-Tunes and while you're there, grab the special I-Tunes videos entitled "The Woodshed Sessions" and an accoustic version of "Never Look Back" that will blow your mind.
To sum things up, this is a decent record, but not one of the band's, or 2009's, best (those lists are en route). Blue Rodeo never really disappoints and one last thing - I like their style - particularly Greg Keelor's haggered, laid-back vibe which lends itself more to to present-day Randy Bachman than to the scrawny, polished Hollywood set that we see a legion of musicians scrambling to be a part of. I was scrambling for a Brittany Murphy parable here, but my head must be weathered by Christmas cheer and now I learn that Pete Doherty has AGAIN been picked up for heroin possession a day after a drunk driving charge. Surely a guy could work that in too?!? Maybe not. Over and out.
How Big Government Destroyed DetroitHT
Monday, December 21, 2009
Iran sanctions are precursor to war: Ron Paul
In his latest Texas Straight Talk column, Congressman Ron Paul looks at U.S. sanctions on Iran:
Last week the House overwhelmingly approved a measure to put a new round of sanctions on Iran.
If this measure passes the Senate, the United States could no longer do business with anyone who sold refined petroleum products to Iran or helped them develop their ability to refine their own petroleum.
The sad thing is that many of my colleagues voted for this measure because they felt it would deflect a military engagement with Iran. I would put the question to them, how would Congress react if another government threatened our critical trading partners in this way? Would we not view it as asking for war?
Click here to read the full article.
I too have explored this relationship between trade and peace in previous blog posts, with this basic conclusion:
Trade is the Trojan Horse of liberty. Once it passes through the protectionist gates of fortress economies, it quietly sneaks about destroying statism and poverty. Trade also creates the conditions for peace as nations learn to cooperate for mutual advantage and reject the winner-takes-all approach of war and mercantilism. 19th century French classical liberal theorist Frederick Bastiat wrote “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
You can read my post here, if Paul isn't enough for you.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Alberta Chambers of Commerce backs province on its court challenge of national securities regulator
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) supports the Alberta government’s decision to challenge the constitutionality of the federal government’s proposal to create a single national securities regulator.
In May 2009, ACC’s federation of 124 chambers of commerce, which represents 22,000 businesses, adopted a policy that urges the provincial government’s continued movement towards creating a nationwide passport system.
ACC believes a completely harmonized passport model, which all provinces and territories except Ontario have implemented, is a better alternative to a national securities regulator because a well-monitored, coordinated regulatory system will best serve and reflect the diversity of Canada’s regions.
“The passport system will allow us to retain a measure of control over our own regional economic issues,” says Ken Kobly, ACC’s president and CEO. “There are some different needs in this province that we don’t think would be accommodated through a one-size-fits-all national securities regulator.
“Regulators located in Alberta know the distinctive issues businesses face when trying to raise capital here,” adds Kobly. “I don’t think the business community is served well by retrenching and regrouping the control over securities and centralizing it in Eastern Canada.”
Kobly also notes the passport system aligns with Alberta’s progress towards trade agreements, such as the Alberta-B.C. Trade, Investment, Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), which is establishing an efficient, streamlined regulatory environment between the two provinces.
ACC hopes the concept of TILMA will spread across Canada, and the passport model for securities regulation fits into Alberta’s plan of eliminating all interprovincial trade barriers.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Maybe Anthony Marshall should run the U.S. economy
I’d sooner trust my mother’s modest estate with Anthony Marshall, than trust President Obama with the U.S. economy.
Marshall, son of the late New York philanthropist Brooke Astor, was sentenced to three years in prison today for looting millions from his mother’s estate.
President Obama, by contrast, is looting the U.S. taxpayer of trillions and setting the U.S. economy on a path to hyper-inflation.
Last week, Ian McGugan with the Financial Post wrote:
Spare a moment this holiday season to pity "fat-cat bankers."
After pinning the disparaging label on Wall Street in a weekend interview, Barack Obama, the U.S. President, devoted part of yesterday to lecturing a dozen of the fat cats on the need to open their wallets and lend, lend, lend to get the economy moving again.
U.S. bankers now have their marching orders. They're supposed to fight a recession caused by lax lending with even more lax lending.
Bankers lend money only when they expect to get paid back. That’s the business they're in, and they do it well when the government stays out of their way. Of course, the government never stays out of their way. Instead, organizations like Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are created to de-risk lending. In Canada, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) does the same thing.
Obama is now asking U.S. banks to start lending their excess reserves. That’s the money they got from the US central bank. It’s over $1 trillion and growing – a staggering 55,000 per cent increase in excess reserves from 2007.
If the banks lend this money at the standard 10 to 1 ratio, as per Obama request, it will flood the economy with money. The total U.S. dollars in circulation is $15 trillion. What will an additional $10 trillion do to inflation and consumer and corporate indebtedness? (By the way, the U.S. money supply (M0) went up over 100 per cent in 2008/2009 - compared to the historical average annual growth rate of about 6 per cent.)
(This research was taken from Agcapita research reports. You can request that information here.)
Posted by Matthew Johnston
ALERT dismantles two marijuana grow ops in Medicine Hat
Two marijuana grow operations have been located by police in Medicine Hat following a tip from a member of the public. A total of 683 marijuana plants with a combined street value of over $600,000 were seized.
"While most Albertans are focused on preparing for the holidays, it is clear our law enforcement personnel are still hard at work,” said Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security Fred Lindsay. “Medicine Hat residents are safer today because of the excellent work done by ALERT’s integrated policing teams.”
On December 17, the ALERT Medicine Hat Integrated Intelligence Unit and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) executed a search warrant at 119 Robinson Drive SE. The search of the residence revealed a sophisticated marijuana grow operation with 451 mature plants that had been harvested just hours prior to the execution of the search warrant. Police also discovered electrical and water bypass systems that allowed the setup to avoid detection.
Further investigation led to discovery of a second, related grow operation at 148 Somerset Way SE. Investigators executed a search warrant at this residence on December 18, and located 232 mature marijuana plants being supported by a sophisticated electrical, water filtration and ventilation system. Investigators also found another electrical bypass system.
No one was found at either residence and no arrests have been made at this time. The investigation is ongoing.
The Medicine Hat Integrated Intelligence Unit and CFSEU are integrated police teams made up of investigators from the Medicine Hat Police Service and the RCMP. They are part of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), an umbrella organization established by the Alberta government to bring together Alberta’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources to strategically tackle serious and organized crime.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
ASIRT investigation results in charges against RCMP officer
An RCMP member has been charged with assault causing bodily harm and obstruction of justice as the result of a September 13 incident in the Lac La Biche RCMP detachment cell area where a man was injured while in custody.
RCMP Constable Desmond Sandboe, an eight-year member of the RCMP, was charged on December 18. The charges were laid following an independent investigation into the incident by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). After reviewing the investigative report, Clifton Purvis, director of ASIRT, determined that charges against the officer were warranted.
Sandboe has been released on a Promise-To-Appear with conditions not to contact the complainant in this incident. He is scheduled to appear in Lac La Biche court on January 25, 2010.
According to a media statement from ASIRT, RCMP provided complete cooperation to investigators.
ASIRT is a provincially funded unit lead by a civilian director. It is mandated to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person as well as sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Private gain, public pain: Corporate Canada betrays taxpayers
Canada's corporate executives stand firmly behind Ottawa's decision to pump billions of stimulus dollars into the economy, and they aren't seriously worried about the huge budget deficits that are piling up.
Senior executives who responded to the latest C-Suite survey say the stimulus spending was the right move at the right time to get the economy moving again, despite the creation of a federal deficit of more than $55-billion this year – with more shortfalls to come.
Since Canada’s corporate executives stand to benefit from this money, while taxpayers pick up the tap, is this any surprise?
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Premier Stelmach deserves credit for delaying cell phone ban; Art Johnston deserves an early retirement
Drivers in Saskatchewan will face a ban on hand-held cell phone use come January ("Saskatchewan bans hand-held cell phone use while driving; are car radios next?"), but Albertans have been granted a reprieve from a similar law for at least another year. And we have Premier Ed Stelmach to thank for this.
The Calgary Herald is reporting today that:
While most provinces are cracking down on distracted motorists, Premier Ed Stelmach says a new law prohibiting texting and cellphone use while driving isn't a top priority for Alberta and remains likely at least a year away from being adopted.
Stelmach’s Tory government quashed a private member’s bill introduced by Art Johnston that would have banned Albertans from using cell phones while driving. The Tory MLA for Calgary-Hays introduced the bill almost two years ago.
According the Herald report:
A Tory-dominated legislature committee eventually quashed the bill and instead urged the government to adopt legislation that would more easily allow police to ticket distracted drivers for myriad reasons -- including cellphone use -- if it's inducing poor driving.
Of course, traffic laws already exist to punish careless and dangerous driving, making any new legislation unnecessary.
But unnecessary laws are exactly what Art Johnston is about. The 25-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service is happy to take his orders from the city’s chief of police, who supports the ban.
While the ban currently being considered in Alberta would prohibit only hand-held cell phone use – and not hands-free devices – Dr. Louis Francescutti with the Coalition for Cellphone-Free Driving, wants a complete ban on cell phone use, which is where we're likely to end up given the relentless encroachment of government in our lives.
Distracted drivers no doubt cause accidents, but, as Stelmach argues, banning a specific distraction like cell phones will do likely to improve overall traffic safety:
"We haven't seen any positive outcomes, at least measurable, from the most recent information we got out of Newfoundland," the premier said. "What is the difference between a hand-held cellphone in the car or somebody leaning over their steering wheel and punching in the new co-ordinates on their GPS?"
Good point. And what about talking to passengers, disciplining children in the back seat, changing a CD, eating, drinking coffee, checking a map for directions, or daydreaming about an upcoming vacation?
Stelmach is showing good judgement on this issue, at least for now.
As for Art Johnston, here’s hoping the Wildrose Alliance can offer a candidate in Calgary-Hays strong enough to defeat the 62-year-old should he run again. In 2008, Wildrose Alliance candidate Devin Cassidy got only 11% of the vote. But, as recent polls show us, the political landscape has changed in Calgary.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Wildrose Alliance must support Alberta’s court challenge over federal move to create a national securities regulator
The Wildrose Alliance has a policy to “cut red tape and the regulatory burden by 1/3 from 2009 levels.”
That sounds great. So does the party’s policy to “support social responsibility within the framework of a free enterprise economic system and promote compassionate service, volunteerism, individual responsibility and care for those unable to care for themselves.”
But creating good policy at policy conventions is the easy part. The hard part is acting on those policies in the face of political opposition.
Wildrose Alliance Deputy Leader and MLA Paul Hinman was quick to abandon the party’s policy on “social responsibility” last week in an attempt to score political points over the government’s wise decision to cut a modest 10% from People with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) service agencies, a small part of a broader effort to reduce the province’s $4.7-billion deficit.
Hinman called the cuts “repulsive and disgraceful” but offered nothing meaningful by way of alternative policy, and certainly offered nothing resembling the party’s stated policy to work within the “free enterprise economic system” to “promote compassionate service.”
Don't get me wrong. I haven’t lost confidence in Wildrose Alliance. In fact, I’ve never been more excited about Alberta’s future given recent polling numbers showing the party could form the next government under the leadership of Danielle Smith. But Hinman’s posturing on this issue demonstrates how quickly and easily even a principled politician – and Hinman is about as principled a man as you’ll find in politics – can be taken off course by the allure of positive headlines.
So when the party promises to “cut red tape” and “regulatory burden,” we should anticipate that this policy as well will invariably face opposition from within the party as operatives and strategists try to capitalize on misguided public sentiment that wrongly blames deregulation for the global financial crisis.
Decisions to reduce the size and scope of government are always difficult, which is why I’m impressed with the Alberta Tories over their decision to reduce social spending, and with their decision to fight the federal move to create a national securities regulator, which is what I want to write about in this post.
In a statement on December 18, Iris Evans, Minister of Finance and Enterprise announced that the Alberta government will be going to the Alberta Court of Appeal to test the constitutional soundness of the federal government’s move to create a single Canadian securities regulator.
“Securities regulation is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, and acknowledging federal authority in this area would have implications in other areas of financial regulation that have historically been provincial responsibility,” said Iris Evans, Minister of Finance and Enterprise. “The interests of Albertans and the Alberta capital market are best served by the existing regulatory structure. There is no need for this intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.”
Alberta will also intervene in support of a similar challenge by the Québec government to the Québec Court of Appeal. According to the government, joining with Québec will allow the two provinces to share resources and co-operate in other aspects of the two cases. It also sends a stronger message of opposition to the federal plans.
Alberta will argue the federal move to enact federal securities legislation and establish a single national securities regulator represents an unwarranted expansion of the federal trade and commerce constitutional power, opening the door to the federal regulation of other areas that have historically been regulated by the provinces. This could impact many areas that are currently considered to be matters of provincial responsibility. It could also hinder investment opportunities for small Alberta businesses.
The federal government has announced its intention to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to confirm that it has the power to enact comprehensive legislation regulating securities. However, as it may be many months before a federal reference is initiated, Alberta is moving forward now with both its own reference and its intervention in Québec’s reference.
“We believe this intrusion into this important area of provincial jurisdiction will set a precedent for the federal government to intrude in other critical areas of provincial jurisdiction, and we must take bold action now to defend against that,” said Evans.
The Alberta government may simply be acting to protect its own turf, but in doing so they are defending small businesses against costly and ineffective financial regulations that keep good investment opportunities out of reach of average investors and drive independent players in the financial service sector out of business.
In a post last year on this topic entitled “Tories slithering to socialism with national securities regulator,” former Western Standard blogger and now a Commissioner with the Alberta Utilities Commission, Dr. Moin Yahya, wrote:
The [federal] Tories announced that they will introduce a national securities regulator. This is an utter disgrace and an open war on provincial sovereignty. If this new regulator were to be effective, they would have to abolish all the provincial regulators.
Yahya argues that “The real driver behind this is Ontario that wants all the other provinces to follow their inefficient and socialist regulatory lead.”
Anyone committed to political decentralization and free markets should support Alberta’s court challenge to stop this national regulator.
That includes the Wildrose Alliance.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Actress Brittany Murphy dies at 32; Is there a drug war connection?
The Associated Press is reporting this evening that actress Brittany Murphy has died:
Brittany Murphy, the actress who got her start in the sleeper hit "Clueless" and rose to stardom in "8 Mile," died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 32.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Spokeswoman Sally Stewart said Murphy died at 10:04 a.m. She would not provide a cause of death or any other information.
Associated Content reported that there are rumors of possible cocaine drug use with a combination of an eating disorder as possible cause of death factors.
However, Murphy is reported to have had diabetes, which could explain her heart attack:
This could be an extremely important clue as recent studies have shown a clear link between diabetes and an increased risk of health [sic] disease and heart attack.
In fact, according to a study released last year, adults being treated for diabetes are just as likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die from cardiovascular causes as people who have had a prior heart attack. The same study also revealed that diabetics are perhaps twice as likely as non-diabetics to die following a heart attack.
Monday’s scheduled autopsy will tell the full story, but if drugs were an aggravating factor, there may be a lesson here, other than the obvious: “Just say ‘no’”.
The war on drugs drives drug users into the shadows. Drug users are treated as criminals, and respond as such, keeping all aspects of their addictions secret. This often makes it harder to identify and treat addicts – and prohibition puts addicts at a higher level of risk of overdosing due to contaminated products and irregular potency.
Whatever the autopsy and other facts eventually reveal, this a tragic loss of a talented, young life.
(Picture: Brittany Murphy)
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Mother of the Free
A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for "doing his duty".
Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.
The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year's imprisonment for handing in the weapon.
In a statement read out in court, Mr Clarke said: "I didn't think for one moment I would be arrested.
"I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets."
But what about his intent? Ah, they have you there:
Prosecuting, Brian Stalk, explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a "strict liability" charge – therefore Mr Clarke's allegedly honest intent was irrelevant.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
David Suzuki makes no sense
Alberta Ardvark posted this video on his blog:
In the first part of the video Mr. Suzuki draws a comparison between the race to get to space and fighting global warming. He says that no one complained about the cost, but this is an irrelevant comparison. Lowering CO2 to the point that some scientists say that we need will cost trillions of dollars. If going to the moon cost trillions of dollars then yes people would complain about the cost.
He then goes on to say that going to space had positive unintended consequences, and he implies that so will decreasing CO2. Just because something is good doesn't mean that something else totally unrelated is also good.
What is climate justice?
Friday, December 18, 2009
Gerry Nicholls on Canada in Copenhagen
President of Libertas Post, Gerry Nicholls, points out on CTV that Canada shouldn't care what people say about us around the world. He claims that Canada should care primarily about our own economic interests. Jean Lapierre is shocked that we should care more about jobs than about people's jobs than David Suzuki's good opinion.
Carolyn Bennett: Sex toys need to be regulated
Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett is pushing for a law that would regulate sex toys.
What ever happened to the Liberal Party that thought that the government should stay out of the bedroom? I guess this isn't Liberal Party policy, but still the Liberal Party use to stand for some liberties. Now it stands for government in all aspects of our life.
The article I linked above gives Ms. Bennett gushing approval for tackling an issue that makes many people "giggle." Personally I haven't giggled at the word penis or sex since I was 12, and I'm willing to bet most adults can say the same thing. No this is not an issue about sexual liberation, or if sex should be discussed in public. It is an issue about personal freedom of choice.
The case that the pro-sex toy regulators have is extremely thin. Ms. Bennett was lobbied by a couple of sex shop owners; neither of which appear to be scientists. You can find something admirable in believing something and fighting to fix problems, if you like. But I would prefer to admire someone who believes in something that has evidence.
Where are the thousands of people dying in the street due to their poisonous dildo? Where is this great pandemic that requires urgent action?
Oh I do believe that too much of this chemical will hurt you. Too much of anything will hurt you; too much oxygen and water will kill you. The question is if enough of that chemical exists in the sex toys and is soaked into the body to harm an adult. Nothing in this article indicates that there is, nor have I ever heard of a study that claims this (if you have please link it).
So with no data indicating there is a risk, why would even someone who thinks the State should be our nanny support this regulation? Unless it is that regulation has become an end of itself.
Days like this I am very glad MPs have no actual power.
What a Darling
A recession is when an economy not only ceases to grow, but contracts. Economic contraction means less wealth is being generated in one period of time, than over a previous period. If one's goal is to grow the economy - for it to generate more wealth - surely the last thing you should wish to do is punish those who generate the most wealth in society. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, doesn't see it that way. After having run up a historic deficit last year, all in the name of fighting the recession, he now needs to plug the enormous hole in the public finances. Taxing the rich, i.e. the most productive, is the politically expedient thing to do.
Mr Darling is considering levying a one-off windfall tax on bank profits and a super-tax on bankers who receive bonuses above a certain level, and indicated that he expected the rich to pay more in tax.
Taxing profits at 10 per cent would bring in about £2bn this year alone, but while both moves are said to be “on the table”, a final decision has yet to be taken and the Chancellor was discussing the options with Gordon Brown yesterday.
Mr Darling indicated there would be no back-tracking in Wednesday’s pre-Budget report (PBR) on the new higher rate of income tax — of 50p on earnings of more than £150,000 — to be introduced from next April.
Politics and philosophy would seem to have little in common. Politicians do, roughly, what they think will get them elected. What gets them elected are the views and values of the electorate. The Chancellor can get away with proposing so economically stupid a policy because of the widespread philosophy of egalitarianism. The belief that people are entitled to equal outcomes, regardless of talent or effort, partly underpins the progressive income tax system. Thus the more productive you are, the greater your "fair share" of paying for the public finances. Taking money from the rich is just part of evening the score.
Rand Paul, Bailouts, and the Debt
Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul, is running for the Senate in Kentucky. In this speech he talks about the folly of the bank bailout, the need for term limits, the disastrous debt level, the need to balance the budget, and the Federal Reserve. What he says makes a lot of sense to me and I hope he gets the Republican nomination.
Iron Man defends Property Rights
I don't like reading too much ideological messages into works meant for entertainment. Those who argue that Harry Potter is left or right wing are pretty silly. Still the beginning of this clip warms my libertarian heart.
Prince of Pot Interview
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Foreign Ownership of the Means of Chocolate Production
The somewhat erratic Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, says that the markets should decide who owns legendary British brand, Cadbury.
Hence the public outcry. And in the controversy there is a conundrum for Conservatives. There is a contradiction in Conservative thinking, a mixture a bit like a Cadbury Creme Egg. There is the surface toughness of free-market ideology, the hard necessity of exposure to international competition. Then beneath that is the gooey confusion of a general desire to protect old national institutions, and to honour icons of British culture, and to preserve time-honoured businesses and their dependants.
Which should a Conservative prefer? The hard bit or the soft bit? The reality is that, as with a Creme Egg, you can't have the one without the other.
It is now two decades since the public was seized with an almost identical patriotic angst about the takeover of Rowntree by Nestlé. Thousands marched, and newspapers protested; and eventually Nestlé won. Not every change has been good. I miss the old Smarties tubes. But it is thanks to Nestlé's global clout that Rowntree built a huge new Aero factory in York two years ago. It is thanks to Nestlé's marketing drive that the world is now exposed to a dizzying array of Kit Kats.
The argument goes just as well for oil, gas, coal, water, electricity and every other good or service. Those with long political memories will recall the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA). An icon of the Seventies Canadian Left. FIRA was the Trudeau government's ham fisted attempt to play dirigiste with the economy. The Canadian Encyclopaedia article reads:
The agency advised the government (through the minister of industry, trade and commerce) on what action should be taken, if any. In making its recommendations, FIRA took the following factors into consideration: the effect of the investment on employment and economic activity in Canada; the effect on Canadian productivity, technological development and product variety; the degree of Canadian participation in management; the effect on competition; and the compatibility of the investment with national policies.
In other words, it was a Can-Con requirement for the Canadian economy. Its spiritual origins, however, predate the Trudeau years, going all the way back to the 1870s and Macdonald's National Policy. The conceit of FIRA was that Canadians weren't smart or patriotic enough to defend Canada, the government had to do that for them. If foreigners - read Americans - owned Canadian industry, we would in short order cease to be Canadian. You are what you shop. A nation not as an idea, instead a nation as a government managed economic deal, in which Canadian consumers and taxpayers must foot the bill. For the good of the country, of course.
The Modern Method
Robert Mayhew, an old Objectivist hand I met years ago, begins this book review, of a recent biography of Rand, with a very appropriate quote from Oscar Wilde.
Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography. . . . Formerly we used to canonise our heroes. The modern method is to vulgarise them. —Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist” (1891)
What follows is an effective dissection of Jennifer Burns' Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. The problem, as Mayhew sees it, is not that Burns is hostile to Rand, simply that she fails to appreciate that Rand was, after all, a philosopher. Instead of attempting to analyze the system of ideas Rand proposed, Burns simply gives a series of disconnected opinions. She, so to speak, fails to see the forest for the trees.
Burns does acknowledge that “Rand and Hayek had very different understandings of what was moral” (p. 105), but she does not bother to ask and answer what those differences are, or how Rand came to her conclusions, or why Rand insisted so fervently that such questions matter. To Burns, Rand and Hayek had roughly the same political opinions—they were both pro-freedom of one sort or another—and they both used the same language. They may have differed on why they supported freedom, but surely they could have banded together to fight for common goals—if not for Rand’s unreasonable demands for consistency and proof.
Everything is Thatcher's fault
Lesley Riddoch, a columnist for the Scotsman, explores what is to blame for the decreased gap between male and female lifespan.
The main objective of most girls in our nominally equal, but actually macho society is to be slim and attractive to boys. Smoking, laxatives and bulimia are used as calculated aids in the endless battle for weight control.
Standing in a restaurant toilet queue lately, I heard two teenage girls calmly discuss the likelihood of being able to "chuck" their meals without everyone outside hearing.
Bulimia is not a strategy so much as it is a mental sickness. Ms. Riddoch's lack of compassion here is part of the problem for these girls. Actually it is not just men but women who do it to each other. The harshest people I know when it comes to a girl's looks are other girls. Women notice physical deficiencies in other women that a man has never heard of. Yes boys can be cruel but they are not the only ones. So please don't blame everything on the supposed "macho culture."
Scotland's obsession with football doesn't help. Girls don't value their own physical activity, because adult Scots don't.
This is just confusing. How is an obsession with sports leading to a lack of value towards physical activity? Just because the leading football/soccer leagues are male does not mean women are discouraged from joining their brothers in a pickup game.
Appearance has certainly become more important than action. And Scotland's drinking culture has been lapped up by girls, who see their right to get trashed as a perverse measure of gender equality. Perhaps life for young ladies is so boring and constrained in one walk of life, and so stressful and demanding in another, that getting drunk and behaving badly is the only way to escape the crushing boredom of low expectations.
Umm....no...I'm pretty sure they drink because it is fun. To assign some sort of deep motivation for getting drunk is to completely misunderstand why the vast majority of people get drunk. And in case you missed it, that reason is that it is fun. Besides the desire to escape boredom is a common youthful quest that crosses both genders. Ms. Riddoch is merely jumping up and down on what is clearly her own hobby horse.
But tempting as it is to blame ladette culture for the declining relative longevity of Scotswomen, it doesn't actually stack up.
Wait what...huh...what the hell is she talking about? Why did she just spend 90% of her column saying that women are all a bunch of weak willed drunks that are ruled by men? If not culture then who or what is to blame?
It takes 30-40 years to develop lung cancer, so the premature deaths of today were the young smokers of the 1970s and 1980s. About that time, much of working life collapsed, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, and a generation of men was famously made unemployed and unemployable.
Ohhhhhhh! It is Maggie’s fault! That makes so much more sense. After all, an entire generation hasn't been working since 1979, which clearly causes women to smoke more cigarettes.
Ms. Riddoch I apologies for thinking you were a loony.
Let's give money to dictators, it's always worked before...right?
Kelly McParland at the National Post writes an excellent Column today. She (he?) points out that the assumption at Copenhagen is that poorer countries can be trusted to use the money allotted to them to fight climate change. I don't know about you but I'm not really willing to trust Hugo Chavez with my wallet.
Actually the history of foreign aid has demonstrated that we shouldn't be trusting them with our wallet. Money that was meant to help economic development has routinely been pocketed by tyrants and thugs. So why does anyone think that they can be relied on now?
When history has written the story of Copenhagen it won't be about the environment. It will be about the attempt of dictators to extort money from wealthy democracies.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wildrose Alliance slams cuts to welfare programs, but offers no meaningful alternative
Wildrose Alliance Deputy Leader and MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, Paul Hinman, questioned the government Wednesday on its plans to reduce funding to social agencies and service providers.
"While we have warned the government for years that they need to reduce overall spending, they have chosen to cut front-line services for people with developmental disabilities - the most vulnerable people possible," said Hinman. "The government has an obligation to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society are looked after. For the Tories to make their first concrete cuts here is repulsive and disgraceful."
According to the Wildrose Alliance, the Tory government informed People with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) agencies, through emails and letters sent out on December 9, that they have until December 18 to present a business plan that will make "adjustments to current-year contracts."
"Instead of showing real leadership by rolling back the obscene wage hike that Premier Stelmach and his cabinet have received, or in cutting back on the explosion of costs in his own office, social agencies and charities are now taking the hit," added Hinman.
Taken from a press release today, the party said it would take a different approach to this issue, including the following:
1. Instead of expecting agencies that help the most vulnerable to meet the needs mandated by government, the first cuts should come in the Premier's Office and his costly public relations activities and ad campaigns.
2. Cut the expenses and cost increases in the Premier's Office and his Executive Office by at least 25 per cent and place an immediate freeze on all discretionary bonuses for the same staff. Instead of asking for money back from PDD service providers, perhaps the $40 million in discretionary bonuses paid out to senior government managers (over and above any contractual obligations) could be returned to cover these immediate needs.
3. Actually sitting down with the employees and service providers who help carry out an important mandate for people in need.
4. Asking for the agencies' help to reduce costs, identify outdated programs and monitor costs effectively.
5. Implement the findings of the Auditor General's 2009 report that noted that the government (NOT the agencies) has not put proper cost and monitoring controls in place for these third-party contracts.
6. Ensure that funding is targeted to outcomes and solutions for clients, instead of overly costly and constant re-assessments (different than monitoring and proper business controls) being carried out by government and outside consultants for the same thing.
"Instead, the Stelmach government is once again showing its willingness to break contracts that it has already signed and is hoping that the people who are affected by about a 10 per cent cut to the PDD budget will not speak out or that Albertans will forget this cruel Christmas cut," Hinman concluded.
In short, Hinman is looking for cuts in the budget of the Office of the Premier and more consultations with PDD service providers. These are good ideas as far as political ideas go – cuts to the Premier’s budget would weaken his political machine and consultations are a great way to avoid making tough decisions. But how will these suggestions bring the government closer to meeting its promise to bring Alberta back into a surplus position in three years?
The 2009-10 provincial budget contained a staggering $4.7-billion deficit. Eliminating this deficit will take tough political decisions, and those relying on government programs and paycheques will be hurt by these decisions in the short term. There is no avoiding this pain, if the province is serious about balancing the books. So the Wildrose Alliance must resist the urge to score political points. They should instead support any and all efforts to reduce government spending.
(If Hinman supports efforts to “reduce overall spending,” as he says, would that not include cuts to PDD services? Does it really matter that this cut came “first”?)
The Tories, however, are presenting a false choice to voters: reduce government spending or face crippling deficits. If the Wildrose Alliance wants to be an honest critic of the Progressive Conservative government, they need to offer a third choice: privatization.
Rather than let the government decide how much should be spent and on what priorities, government services should be privatized and defunded so that private citizens through private organizations can make these decisions. While it is necessary for government to spend less on social programs, it is not necessary for private citizens through private organizations to spend less. And the only thing needed to make this happen is to get government out of the way and make deep cuts to taxes, including oil and gas royalties.
This vision is what Dr. Marvin Olasky called “compassionate conservatism,” before this term was co-opted by welfare statists on the right. It’s an idea worth exploring if we hope to avoid a tug-of-war over government spending that will make deficit reduction impossible, and entrench bureaucratic programs that under-serve society.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
More on Antioquia Gold...
Antioquia Gold is in the news again, and a friend wanted me to share this news with you. Click here if you’re interested in junior gold companies, as I am.
And click here if you're an anti-capitalist malcontent.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
With Conservatives Like These.....
Gerry Nicholls on the movement today:
These factions have emerged because “our guy” is in power and it has changed the movement.
Whereas 25 years ago conservatives were united; today we are divided; whereas 25 years ago conservatives were confident and determined, today we are cautious and timid; whereas 25 years ago conservatives cared more about principle, today many conservatives care more about partisanship.
This is not good for the movement.
We have lost our voice.
And that’s bad because it means Prime Minister Harper and his government are defining conservatism.
For the average Canadian, Conservative polices represent conservative thought. That means the average Canadian now associates conservatism with big spending, big government, deficits and with those oversized novelty cheques.
That’s not good for conservatism, that’s not good for the Conservative Party, that’s not good for the country. So what can we do about it?
Well that leads me to the future of the conservative movement. What we conservatives need to do is push the “reset button.”
Reading Gerry's intro to this speech, I couldn't help but recall Tennyson's Ulysses:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
The nostalgia is palpable. In the good old days. They were, in retrospect, very good days. There was a genuine roll back in the frontiers of the state. More than this, there was hope. That dazzling possibility that we as a nation were at last leaving the twentieth century's Great Statist Detour. Rand observed that civilization is the process of freeing man from men. Until about a hundred years ago the general trend was in that direction. Governments staying or becoming small.
Between 1914 and 1940 Western Civilization seemed to engage in an orgy of statism. A plethora of "isms" proclaimed a new modernity free of the shackles of the old. The old liberals sought freedom of men from the state, the new liberals sought the freedom of the state over men. Whatever the flavour, the trend was for bigger and more intrusive government. The period 1940-2 was the statist nadir. It was at that moment that totalitarian states encompassed more of the developed world than at anytime before or since. God was now the state. The sheer spectacle of violence and suffering unleashed by such regimes, especially in so short a time, seems to have given civilized men pause.
Perhaps the state was not God. The lesson was only imperfectly understood. Having saved the world from tyranny, the British promptly voted in a socialist government with a thumping majority. Too much government was dangerous, but a moderate amount could do wonders. Even George Orwell, a staunch supporter of the Labour Party, agreed. Having stepped back from the precipice, the West began to edge toward it again. The next crisis, circa 1979, confronted the West with bankruptcy, and whatever horrors might follow that. By that time enough of an intellectual movement had developed to correctly - for the most part - diagnose the disease and propose effective cures. Yet the treatment went only so far as curing the immediate problem. Like conducting a triple-bypass. The patient, however, was continuing with a cholesterol laden diet. We now reach the Age of Obama, which feels rather too much like the Age of Nixon and Carter.
The poem Ulysses, being by Tennyson, is Victorian and optimistic. So it concludes:
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Words of advice to a new generation of small government activists. There is no point in being in power, if you're just going to do what the other guy would have done anyway.
Canada could be the bad boy of Copenhagen
Gerry Nicholls at Libertas Post has some suggestions regarding Canada's strategy in Copenhagen:
* Leave a couple of tons of fresh Alberta tar sands on Denmark’s doorstep and ring the doorbell.
* Announce we plan to increase our greenhouse gas emissions, “just because we can”.
* Spice up the environmentalist protests in the streets of Copenhagen by unleashing a dozen or so hungry polar bears.
* During all meetings we should drink out of plastic bottles labelled “Melted Glacier Water.”
* Continually ask the question: “If global warming is such a problem how come it’s so darn cold outside?”
As amusing as these suggestions are there is a serious point to be made about Canadian foreign policy. Mr. Nicholls points out that Canada has traditionally acted, and thought of itself as, the nice guy of global politics. In normal society there are a lot ofbenefits to being a nice guy: people like you, are willing to help you out, and you can get satisfaction from kindness. These benefits don't really apply to the society of leviathans.
A Hobbesian state of nature does not exist nor has it ever existed (and Hobbes never claimed it did), but some evidence of the war of all against all can be seen in international politics. As much as some have tried to create international structures, there is still no law higher than the State. This means that there is no one to enforce the rules. States struggle against each other using game theories of force and manipulation.
In this sort of society the nice guy usually loses out.
Liberals have been bemoaning Canada's lost of standing on the international stage. Most Canadians will scratch their heads at this. At what point have we had a great deal of influence on the world stage? Please don't bore me with a recitation of the Suez Crisis. One moment of actual influence in a century hardly makes Canada a power to contend with. No Canada has no great reputation as a player, but really the only country that we need to have a good opinion of Canada is America.
So I fully endorse Mr. Nicholls' recommendations. They likely won't help anything, but it won't hurt either.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The successful takedown of the tobacco companies, with films like The Insider and a historic 1998 settlement, has provided a template for a new generation of crusading busy-bodies. The link between cancer and tobacco consumption has been suggested for centuries, and proven for decades, prior to the 1998 settlement. Since at least the 1960s the general public has been well enough informed, by medical experts as well as government officials, of the dangers of the tobacco usage. It was more than a bit absurd to accuse Big Tobacco of hiding the dangers of its product, when these facts were widely discussed by the general public. The precedent established in the war on tobacco is being carried forward, now in the case of cell phone use. Not in arguing for an alleged link between cell phone usage and cancer, but between cell phone use and car accidents.
Long before cellphones became common, industry pioneers were aware of the risks of multitasking behind the wheel. Their hunches have been validated by many scientific studies showing the dangers of talking while driving and, more recently, of texting.
Despite the mounting evidence, the industry built itself into a $150 billion business in the United States largely by winning over a crucial customer: the driver.
For years, it has marketed the virtues of cellphones to drivers. Indeed, the industry originally called them car phones and extolled them as useful status symbols in ads, like one from 1984 showing an executive behind the wheel that asked: “Can your secretary take dictation at 55 MPH?”
“That was the business,” said Kevin Roe, a telecommunications industry analyst since 1993. Wireless companies “designed everything to keep people talking in their cars.”
Yeah, you know where this is headed. The poor darlings. No one ever told them it was dangerous not to pay attention to what you were doing, while driving a car. This article is part of the "guilt stage." Industry insiders knew it was dangerous! But did nothing! All for evil, wicked profits! Capitalism kills again!
The critics — including safety advocates, researchers and families of crash victims — say the industry should do more, by placing overt warnings on the packaging and screens of cellphones.
Yes, you read that right. They want warning labels on cell phones. My guess is that we are about 4-5 years away from the Great Cell Phone Settlement, where Motorola, Nokia and others will funnel billions into American State treasuries, under the rationale of funding health care for accident victims. In the nanny state, there is only one adult.
Monday, December 14, 2009
The Fed’s money monopoly: Ron Paul
Here's the latest column from Congressman Ron Paul:
Last week, in the name of protecting the little guy from Wall Street, the House passed HR 4173 to increase the little guy’s false sense of security in the financial system. This mammoth piece of legislation would massively increase government regulation and oversight in the banking industry under the misguided reasoning that more government could have stopped faulty lending practices, when in actuality it caused them. This bill would also greatly increase the powers of the Federal Reserve, which too many in Congress still see as savior rather than perpetrator in this mess….
Click here to read the full article.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
73% of Canadians want global warming policy delay for economic reasons or doubts over scientific certainty
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a COMPAS poll which shows most Canadians prefer to hold off on signing a global warming treaty in Copenhagen; reasons include concern over the economy and doubts about the sureness of the science.
In practice, few Canadians oppose signing such a treaty under any circumstance (14 per cent) while few also favour going ahead with it (25 per cent).
The largest cluster (51 per cent) favours postponement of signing--either until we can be more confident that the global economy is coming out of recession (25 per cent) or that there is strong agreement that the scientific research attributing climate change to humans is fully objective (26 per cent).
Thus, among Canadians with an opinion on the issue, 73 per cent favour postponing a decision (57 per cent) or not signing at all (16 per cent) while 28 per cent advocate signing a treaty at Copenhagen.
“Some doubt about when the global economy will recover from the recession and some doubt about the scientific arguments behind the push for a treaty on global warming are the chief drivers in causing Canadians to want the federal government to postpone signing a treaty,” observed Conrad Winn, president of COMPAS and principal investigator on the poll.
The poll was conducted across Canada on November 28, 2009; sample size was 1,000 and is deemed accurate to within approximately three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
To download a complete copy of the COMPAS poll and questions, click here.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
That's the percentage of the current federal budget that is spent on defense. So about 90% of the federal budget is spent on stuff that has virtually nothing to do with the proper function of government. And they say there is nowhere to cut in the budget.
The war in Afghanistan has helped push federal government spending in this country to a 60-year-high, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says.
The centre calculates that, for the fiscal year that ends in March, Canada will have spent a little more than $21 billion on national defence. That's nearly 10 per cent of all federal government spending.
The centre, a think-tank often associated with causes favoured by the political left, argues that military spending in Canada is disproportionately high and that it sucks up money that could be used for other government programs, such as environmental spending or foreign aid.
Governing as if he had a majority. Counting as if he'd never passed elementary school. Joe Clark in a nutshell. Allan MacEachen, the senior Liberal cabinet minister and Trudeau loyalist, gives his take on December 1979.
Success in politics involves reacting to opportunities created by your adversaries. That is what Liberals did 30 years ago following presentation of the December 1979 budget by Tory finance minister John Crosbie.
The socially regressive provisions of the budget, including the repugnant 18-cent per gallon gasoline tax, ensured from the beginning that the Liberal opposition would vote against it. That was an almost automatic decision. But engaging in an enterprise to defeat the government was, on the other hand, a daring and more complicated decision. In fact, it was the culmination of a process that had to be nurtured at each of several stages. The principal actors, and I was one of them, took it one step at a time, never quite sure if the ultimate goal could be reached.
Now having gotten beaten, albeit narrowly, by Joe Clark earlier in 1979, Pierre had submitted his resignation as leader in November of that year. The defeat of the Clark government took place on December 13th. Trudeau was on the way out until MacEachen, who just after the election had saved Trudeau from a caucus coup, engineered his return to power. Had Crosbie's budget passed there almost certainly would have been no NEP and no Charter. A handful of votes in the Commons at the right moment. I'll say this, had Stephen Harper been Prime Minister in 1979, Trudeau would have vanished quietly into the political sunset. Politics is called a game, but it's one that requires a considerable amount of skill to play.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I'll keep wearing my tinfoil hat
There's really no avoiding my slide into the tinfoil hat brigade. I say that in jest, but I fully expect most of the people reading this to come away with that conclusion. It's hard to put it any other way: the collapse of the United States is coming, it's real, and the chances to avoid the worst case scenarios from playing out are lessening by the day.
The problems are as clear as day. But most people don't consider them problems, insofar as they believe these problems have any real consequences.
The American consumer's saving rate is about -0.06%. Effectively it's zero; on average Americans have no savings. If you remove the upper 20% of income earners from the statistics, you start seeing scary figures of consumer debts averaging above $20,000--hundreds of thousands on average if you include mortgage debt, and about $180,000 more if you include public debt. The people at the midway point of the bell curve essentially have no capital, and their rate of indebtedness is increasing faster than their wage growth or prospects for wage growth. It's hard to imagine these people will die with anything but debt to their name.
Modern economic pundits, like those who grace Fox Business, CNBC and such, do not view these statistics as problems. Rather, they view these statistics, and I quote as "signs of America's credit worthiness".
These are the same people who also told us that there was no housing bubble back in 2006-2007, and that housing prices could rise forever. Their economic leader, Alan Greenspan, told us that we were in a new "goldilocks economy" and that the old rules of macroeconomics no longer applied.
While everyone now seems to agree that Alan Greenspan was wrong, they also still continue to think he was right at the same time. This is evidenced by the fact that economic and political pundits--save for whack-jobs like myself--are still selling the myth that the economic fundamentals are sound, that government deficits don't matter, consumer debt is a minor concern, and that hyperinflation ins't a risk.
When you cut through all the bad logic that underpins these assertions, they will ultimately fall back on this favourite cliché: "America has always pulled through in the past, so they'll pull through this" -- or the more ridiculous: "The world needs the US consumer, so the world won't let the US fail."
Neither of these arguments are logical and both of them are strong denials of reality. America has neither pulled through it's economic turmoil of the past (it's in the same bubble economy it's been in for over a decade), and the world actually doesn't need the US consumer.
The fallacy that only the US consumer is adequate to fuel global capital expansion is one of the biggest lies that politicians, business folk, and economists have sold to themselves and others. Rather, the US consumer is costing the rest of the world money. China isn't making money off the US anymore.
To draw an analogy: Say you walk into Best Buy and want to buy a new big screen LCD TV. But you have no money. So the store manager says, that's no problem: we'll advance you as much credit as you need to buy it. So they lend you the money to buy the TV. But then you come back and buy tons of other stuff. You tell the manager you don't really have any way of paying him back, but since you're such a big customer, he needs your business. So he just keeps lending you money, so he can keep selling you stuff.
This situation makes no sense. But modern economists tell us that it makes perfect sense when it comes to China; if China stops lending us money, we won't be able to buy their imports. So we're taking China's money and their goods. It stands to reason that China might ask itself at some point how this is beneficial to them.
People ask: who will China make all those high quality electronic goods for, if not the US consumer? Nobody ever stops to think that maybe the Chinese consumer serves as an adequate replacement.
The argument is that Chinese consumers cannot afford to buy their own goods, because they can not afford to pay hundreds of dollars for iPhone's and iPod's and big screen TVs. That might be partly true. But there's room for those prices to come down. Without the need to transport the goods across an ocean, and the fact that many of those products have ridiculous mark-ups. The iPhone is estimated to have mark-ups as high as 40-60%. There's plenty of room for those prices to come down and be sold to a relatively poorer Chinese citizen, who actually has savings to spend--relative to the American.
The world does not need the US consumer. The US consumer is a liability for the world. And every US dollar that goes to China, is more and more, getting trapped in China's ever-expanding currency reserves. They have nothing to buy from America.
The theory that America will simply export "high-value services" to China is not exactly panning out, the last time I checked the trade balance.
I may be wearing a tinfoil hat. But at least I do not practice economic voodoo, where the forces of supply and demand don't matter, consumer debt doesn't matter, trade deficits don't matter, and that the US consumer is a gift to the world. You go on believing that. I hope it works out for you.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wildrose Would Form Government
In which we see Mr Stelmach looking nervously over his shoulder:
The surging Wildrose Alliance party would form the next provincial government in Alberta if an election were held tomorrow, according to a new poll of decided voters that gives the right-of-centre party a double-digit lead in popular support over the long-ruling Tories. A new Angus Reid Public Opinion survey of 1,000 Albertans suggests 39% of voters would cast a ballot for Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance.
The fledgling party is pulling away from Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservatives, who were tied with David Swann's Liberals for second place with the backing of 25% of decided voters province-wide, according to the poll.This is just one poll. A general election is some time off. Yet the party is only two years old and is already being considered a plausible party of government. They have only one MLA in the Alberta legislature. The party leader is a television journalist and ex school board trustee. At first glance this is akin to a AAA ball club beating the New York Yankees.
Wildrose has benefited enormously by defections from the ruling Progressive Conservative Party, giving it unusual bench strength for such a young party. Incumbency has its downsides - the electorate blames you for everything - but its key advantage is money and organization. The canvassers, the poll workers, the riding executives, the grunt work of politics few know about yet is essential to winning seats. Nearly forty years of electoral dynasty, the longest in the province's history, seem to have made the ruling Conservatives sclerotic. Their response to this poll, and more widely to the increasingly credible threat of the Wildrose Alliance, will give Albertans a sense of how nimble the Tory giant remains. The Ontario PCs ruled for an unbroken 42 years (1943-1985). Their Albertan cousins are only about four years away from that mark.
Vancouver stifles free speech for the sake of the Olympics
The Globe & Mail is reporting that a Vancouver gallery was forced to remove a mural that was anti-Olympic. The city claimed that it was graffiti but apparently murals have been displayed for a long time without complaint from the city. It was only when city officials didn't approve of the message being displayed did they take action.
The City of Vancouver's actions here are baseless. They are taking steps to protect the Olympic image in the face of significant local opposition. So let me ask you, what is more important? Free expression or a track and field competition? City officials should get their priorities straight.
Parliament security bans free speech
The Toronto Star is reporting that Greenpeace t-shirts have been banned from Parliament Hill. This is in response to the illegal protest by Greenpeace earlier this week. Such an excuse is not a good enough reason to trample on the Freedom of Expression.
I'm no fan of Greenpeace, but I don't see why people wearing their t-shirts should not be allowed in Parliament. A spokesperson from the Speaker's office said that it was a routine precaution and went on to say:
"When someone is invited in as a member of the public in either the chamber or a committee, they're invited in as an observer, that's it," she said. "They're not a participant, they're an observer."
First of all you aren't invited into the chamber, we as the people have the right to see what our Parliament is doing. Yes when we do visit we must understand that we are observers, but how does wearing a t-shirt make you a participant? Is it because of the political message of the shirt? I own several t-shirts that make political statements, including one that mimics the Coca-Cola logo by saying "Enjoy Capitalism." Does wearing that shirt make me a participant?
No of course not, the reason is because members of that organization pissed off Parliament's security. They made them look incompetent, so they are cracking down on anyone who may be associated with Greenpeace.
It should be pointed out that not everyone wearing a Greenpeace shirt is a member of Greenpeace. My shirt that I mentioned before is a Bureaucrash shirt, but I have never been a member of Bureaucrash. I wear the shirt, like many that wear Greenpeace shirts, because I support the organization (and find the shirt amusing). Basically Parliament security is accusing Greenpeace supporters of being troublemakers just because they support Greenpeace.
Actually maybe it isn't about the supporters of Greenpeace but the message. The Star article said that a reporter was allowed to enter with a Greenpeace shirt if she agreed to turn it inside out. So obviously they aren't trying to exclude Greenpeace supporters. It is the message of Greenpeace that they are trying to keep out; not dangerous individuals that could disrupt Parliament, but the ideas that Greenpeace represents.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Get her! She's not a witch!
Government can be insane sometimes and the law is no exception. In today's Globe & Mail there is a story of a woman being arrested for pretending to be a witch. She is accused of having defrauded a lawyer out of a thousand dollars by claiming to be possessed by the ghost of the lawyer's dead sister.
She is clearly guilty of fraud. She said that she was something that she wasn't and was given money based on those false pretenses. So I don't understand why the police thought that she should be charged with this peculiar and little used law against pretending to have supernatural powers.
I once went to a lecture where the professor claimed that the civil court would be better at dealing with matters of justice than the criminal court. He pointed out that O.J. Simpson was not found guilty in a criminal court but was brought to some justice in a civil court. He also commented that codifying laws make for oddities and anachronism that brings about weirdness in the justice system. He said that we would be better off by returning to the pre-19th century legal system of common law tradition.
Maybe he was right.
Speaking of Overcriminalization
I think this is called "sending a message." What kind of message is something else:
She was nabbed when a worker saw her shooting video during the movie, Rosemont police said.
Managers contacted police, who examined the small digital camera, which also records video segments, Cmdr. Frank Siciliano said. Officers found that Tumpach had taped “two very short segments” of the movie — no more than four minutes total, he said.
Tumpach was arrested after theater managers insisted on pressing charges, he said. She was charged with criminal use of a motion picture exhibition. She remained jailed for two nights in Rosemont’s police station until being taken to bond court on Monday, where a Cook County judge ordered her released on a personal recognizance bond that didn’t require her to post any cash.
Living in Harmony
Say what you'd like about Stephen Harper, and I've said some nasty things, he has an uncanny knack for tossing grenades into crowded rooms, and coming out unscathed.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's formal support for the Conservative government's HST bill could spark an open revolt among Liberal MPs who fear a voter backlash, the Star has learned.
Ignatieff told reporters Tuesday it will be a whipped vote, meaning even those MPs opposed to the harmonized sales tax for Ontario and British Columbia are to toe the party line.
The Grits nailed their colours to the mast on sales tax harmonization sometime back. Harper's deal with the Dalt, and BC's Gordon Campbell, over harmonization has made a theoretical policy position a concrete reality for the Liberals. While, in theory, harmonization makes a lot of sense, in practice it will be tax grab. Income tax rebate checks a short-term sop, not offsetting the long-term boost in revenues for provincial coffers.
The trick with harmonization is that provincial sales taxes, which are riven with politically engineered exceptions, must be consolidated with the GST, whose remit is far more encompassing. You pay tax on things you didn't pay tax on before. The never popular GST is a raw nerve for many Canadians. Even if the technical details are not fully understood, the HST looks and feels like a tax grab. An administrative measure for the federal government, is a keenly divisive issue in two battleground provinces. Luckily for the federal Tories, both provinces are governed by parties with the Liberal brand name on the cover. Since it is up to the provinces to adopt the HST or not, the political cost is entirely on the shoulders of Queen's Park, Victoria and as splash over the Leader of the Opposition. This has backbenchers running for cover. Beneath the bad hair cut, the enormous brain plots.
Peter MacKay can be safely gotten rid of now
John Ibbitson makes a case for why Stephen Harper will refuse to kick Defense Minister MacKay out of cabinet, even if he deserves to be booted. Though Mr. Ibbitson may be right in his over all argument, I disagree with one of his points:
Third, and most important, Peter MacKay is a partner in the Conservative coalition. Don't forget that this government is in office only because Mr. MacKay agreed to merge his Progressive Conservatives with Mr. Harper's Canadian Alliance back in 2003. Firing Mr. MacKay would split the party.
In 2005 Peter MacKay threatened to split apart the Conservative Party. At the convention Scott Reid campaigned to change the leadership rules to a one member one vote system, instead of the current riding based electoral college. This was seen by Mr.MacKay, and others, as an attack on the PC section of the party. So in response Mr. MacKay threatened to lead a revolt.
It was a dramatic moment at the convention. It led to one of the media's favourite stories of Stephen Harper, his kicking a chair across a room in anger. Yet that was also four years ago and a lot has changed since then. The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives are now very much entwined into a single party. The Conservative Party is no longer so weak that one man can split it apart.
The most significant change is that the Conservatives are in government, and they are unlikely to be out of government any time soon. Being securely in government is the greatest uniting factor for any political party. It means that loyalty will be awarded with patronage and dissenters will be left in the cold.
In short Mr. MacKay can no longer lead a revolt because he has nothing to offer his potential followers. His chances of becoming Prime Minister isn't exactly overwhelming, especially if he breaks away to start his own party. So there would be littleopportunity for him to reward those that remain loyal to the old PC name.
If the Prime Minister really had to or even just wanted to, he could easily take the axe to Minister MacKay.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
To Boldly Go Where No Socialist Has Gone Before
Although some sources at the time said the Chilean economy was "run by computer," the project was in reality a bit of a joke, albeit a rather expensive one, and about the only thing about it that worked were the ordinary Western Union telex machines spread around the country. The two computers supposedly used to run the Chilean economy were IBM 360s (or machines on that order). These machines were no doubt very impressive to politicians and visionaries eager to use their technological might to control an economy (see picture at right.) Today, our perspective will perhaps be somewhat different when we realize that these behemoths were far less powerful than an iPhone. Run an economy with an iPhone? Sorry, there is no app for that.
Whigs and Tories
Or libertarians and conservatives. Daniel Hannan splits the difference:
Set aside a couple of slightly recherché issues, such as drugs. On the biggies – school choice, Euroscepticism, tax cuts, welfare reform – we all agree. And the reason we agree is that the current state of Britain is so far removed from what either a conservative or a libertarian wants that any disagreements can be comfortably postponed. It’s as though you were driving from London to two adjoining streets in Aberdeen: almost the whole route would be identical. As my old history tutor used to observe, the differences between Tory and Whig can safely be deferred to after the grave.
Hannan makes a very important point. Even once an idea has achieved a critical mass in the culture, it usually requires a broad tent political party to implement. The sort of freedom that libertarians and classical liberals are seeking is far removed from the modern political consensus. In this they do share common ground with conservatives. Yet the differences, even at this stage, do matter. In planning how to decontrol, you need to prioritize.
One of the first things a libertarian / classical liberal government would do is end the Drug War. In terms of the sheer wastage of life, liberty and property, there are few things that quite rival the Drug War. It is also the one major reform that would incur the lowest immediate social cost. As the experience of Portugal strongly suggests, ending the Drug War will have very few, if any notable negative side effects. Scrapping the welfare state immediately, on the other hand, would impose an enormous cost on its dependants. In the long run they are better off as independent members of society, or as wards of private charity. A humane approach to social policy reform would, however, allow time for adaptation and adjustment.