The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Mark Carney needs to shut the hell up and raise rates
Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney is at it again. This time, with even stronger rhetoric than before.
He is warning consumers to stop taking on more consumer debt.
Instead, Carney should look himself in the mirror and tell himself to tighten the spigot on the Niagara Falls of cheap money, that is the policy he's continuing.
Continuing to allow near-zero interest rates to persist, is akin to giving away unlimited free food, indefinitely, and telling people to stop getting fat. People can't even manage to not get fat when the food costs them money. Let alone when it's free.
Human beings are notoriously short-term thinkers. In fact, very few people are generally any good at making good, long-term decisions unless necessity pins them down with a knee to the neck.
When rate policy and government stimulus is used to "kick-start" the economy, what's really happening is that the market is being encouraged to borrow and spend. Government runs deficits, and the central banks debase the currency to provide more credit to businesses and consumers.
The fact that people like Mark Carney, who worship at the alter of inflationary monetary policy, are surprised that loose money policy leads to high consumer debt is astounding. It doesn't require much theory or study to understand that human beings, while rational actors, do not reason on a macro or long-term basis. Any economic policy that expects them to do so -- like current policy -- in the face of heavy incentives towards extremely short-term, indulgent behaviour is doomed.
The reason, and the only reason, that the Western world is buried under a mountain of debt is for the exact policies which Mark Carney and his foreign counterparts continue to pursue.
While economists throw around their graphs, equations and theories on exactly how much to inflate a currency, and when to stop, the aggregate fiscal position of the entire Western world has been in free fall for over 30 years. Save for a brief reprieve to a return to surplus cashflow for some governments, for a brief period of time -- and hardly for sufficient in time or quantity to account for previous and future shortfalls. The parabolic graph of aggregate Debt-vs-GDP for the past 30 years speaks for itself.
As the world was brought to it's knees in late 2008 in a wave of bad debt, the solution to the problem by Carney and his ilk has simply been: more debt, in greater quantities, at higher velocities.
What's that they say about the definition of insanity?
The deterioration of the balance sheets of consumers in that time period speaks for itself. Consumer bankruptcies in great numbers are on the horizon. You know that Mr. Carney, and you think waving your finger while sitting on top of your digital printing press is going to save you from your real legacy?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Wild Rose Alliance slams prostitution decision
To all those libertarians -- of which there are many and you know who you are -- who pointed to Danielle Smith and the Wild Rose Alliance party as a perfect example of how libertarian and socially conservative bible thumpers can find peace with each other and live forever in holy matrimony, I now escalate my skepticism of these miraculous socons and submit Exhibit A for the court's consideration:
Wildrose Statement On Ontario Court Prostitution Ruling
Today, Wildrose Solicitor General and Public Safety Critic Heather Forsyth and Justice and Attorney General Critic Rob Anderson issued the following joint statement in regard to yesterday’s Ontario court decision striking down three federal prostitution laws:
“No little girl ever dreams of growing up and becoming a prostitute and no parent wants to see their child become a sex worker. Girls become prostitutes because they are coerced, degraded, and give up hope for their futures. Instead of making it easier and safer for young girls to sell their bodies, our government should be focused on stopping those who seek to victimize women, and ensure all our children receive the education they need to be successful in their lives. The Wildrose Caucus supports the federal government in seeking an appeal to this decision.”
The Wildrose Alliance Caucus advances competent, principled and conservative policies that will limit government spending growth, increase economic opportunities, empower communities and strengthen individual liberties and freedom.
As I predicted, the libertarians must compromise. As always. And my own thesis, that libertarians and socons can never get along is further strengthened.
Danielle Smith can take her Leave it to Beaver Capitalism and have it.
Yay for the stock market rally!
The stock market has been on a tear lately. Those prices have just been shooting through the ceiling, bucking the whole bearish September trend of past years. Seems like a good time to be getting into back into the market to catch that ride to wealth and prosperity!
Or is it?
When the rate at which people are taking money out of the market is accelerating, and hitting multi-year highs, one wonders how the market could be on a tear.
Well, actually there's a perfectly good explanation, and the truth is obviously getting through to a lot of investors.
You have to admire the big investment bank's and the Federal Reserve's Keynesian commitment to the belief that rising prices will shore up confidence. But you have to admire the emerging sanity of investors more so, for seeing through the thin-veneer of platinum covering over the soft serve bullshit underneath.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Superior court strikes down prostitution ban
In a definitive win for the right of women to own their own bodies, the Ontario Superior Court has struck down the ban on prostitution citing the fact it's criminalization, is far more endangering to women than the risks of prostitution itself.
This ruling is a huge win for those looking for ending drug prohibition, too. The judge in this case has ruled that the harm caused by prohibition, far exceeds the harm caused by the underlying activity. This ruling will serve as a powerful piece of jurisprudence in that regard.
But for the middle-aged, grey-haired, conservative men, have no fear: the anti-liberty brigade will be quickly mobilizing to put an end to this trend, starting with a Supreme Court appeal and probably even proposing a Section 33 (Notwithstanding clause) invokation under the Charter.
On the flip-side, this could be a perfect opportunity for Christian conservatives and Islamic extremists to put aside their differences and wage interfaith Jihad against liberal hedonism.
More from the Globe & Mail:
In a landmark decision striking down the core of the controversial law, Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel said that the law forces women to operate their business furtively in an atmosphere of constant secrecy and danger.
"By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance," Judge Himel said in her 131-page ruling which took almost a year to produce.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Is the law too complex for lawmakers to understand?
At some point tomorrow, the Jaworski family will be heading to court to learn their fate. They're in trouble because of one person's interpretation of some local bylaws. Those out there who oppose them have been saying that it would be nothing for them to do their homework, navigate through those bylaws and go and get the proper permits.
But really, how easy is it for a business to stay within the letter of the law? There's always something out there you're missing. And it's not just businesses that have trouble navigating all of these laws, rules, regulations, bylaws - even parliamentarians can be tripped up by them.
As an example, let me point to Vancouver-Quadra MP, Joyce Murray. Ms Murray is not the kind of person you would think would have trouble figuring out the rules. For one, she's a former cabinet minister.
But visit her site, and you'll see a posting for an unpaid internship. One open to: "Students, full or part-time, as well as recent graduates" (emphasis added).
And there is the problem. Now I'm sure the majority of the readers of this blog would take no issue with an individual, in school or not, contracting to do an unpaid internship with a company. Both sides benefit, the intern gets a chance to break into an industry in which they're interested, the company benefits from skilled and motivated people who are willing to try anything.
Unfortunately the government doesn't see it that way. Here in BC, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) says of internships, that in order for them to be exempt from the ESA, and thus exempt from minimum wage rules, they must be - "“hands-on” training that is required by the curriculum, and will result in a certificate or diploma.". To quote York University employment law professor, Dr David Doorey "So that’s easy: if the internship is part of a higher education co-op program, then the Act does not apply."
I exchanged emails with Dr. Doorey on this over the weekend. He agreed that the issue is very complex, but added:
My sense is that there are a whole lot of employees in Canada being improperly labeled "interns" by their employers so that the employer can avoid employment law statutes.
Looking again at the definitions above*, a 'recent graduate' is not a student, and not a participant in a program of higher education. In which case an unpaid internship for them would not be permitted. According to the ESA's of both BC and Ontario, this potential intern would likely be considered an 'employee', and in that case would need to be paid at least minimum wage.
Go back to Ms Murray's internship description and you'll see that the intern will receive a $300 honourarium at the end of their placement. The placement is 12 weeks long, for a minimum of 8 hours per week, meaning that this potential 'employee' will expect to receive the equivalent of ... $3.12 per hour. BC's minimum wage is low - it's not that low though.
Now is paying an employee $3.12 per hour exploitation? A libertarian, naturally, would say 'no'. If you can find someone who will work for that, then great for both of you. But I would imagine a Liberal parliamentarian would see it differently. After all, as we have recently seen, Liberals aren't keen on libertarianism - it's just for 'Peter Pans' after all.
The point of this isn't to hurl insults at Joyce Murray. It is to point out how terribly complex the law is, how difficult it is to obey in full and how anyone, even a former cabinet minister / current Member of Parliament could get tripped up by it.
FYI: Joyce Murray's office got back to me with this:
"It is certainly not my intention, or Ms. Murray’s, to violate BC’s Employment Standards. Please see the modified link below: http://joycemurray.liberal.ca/uncategorized/joyce-murray-mp%E2%80%99s-internship-program/"
The link shows a change to their program to bring it within the letter of the law. If we have to have all of these obscure little rules, that's precisely how to deal with violations of them. No drama, no $50,000 fines, just say sorry, fix it, and promise to follow the rules next time. If it's good enough for parliamentarians ...
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis
Here's some weekend watching for everyone: Johan Norberg's documentary, Overdose foretelling the coming economic collapse:
Friday, September 24, 2010
Muslims for unconditional free speech
A phrase that has never been uttered before in the history of humanity. I checked. Maybe someone said it in a bar once, but it doesn't show up on Google. But these Muslims do exist, I have a list of them right here. And here's what they've said:
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible. We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation. We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed. We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
Check out the names, Google them. Some of them are as pure as the driven snow. Some have said stuff so odious it would shame a Pope. But that is what free speech is all about isn't it? Freedom for even the most prickish of our fellow citizens to say absurd and hateful garbage (and concomitantly, the freedom for the rest of us to call them pricks).
And if these people are willing to stand up and sign their names to a letter in defence of the rights of Cartman and 'Everyone Draw Mohamed Day' lady - then I feel much less like a dupe for standing up and defending their right to hate on Israel and sing the praises of Libby Davies.
You can read the full statement here.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Liberal Party to libertarians: You're a bunch of Peter Pans
With the new Parliamentary session now begun, there's a blog post out there by Liberal MP, Glen Pearson (London North Centre) that you need to pay some close attention to. In this post, widely circulated by Liberal MPs, Pearson explains what the Liberal Party stands for and what they are fighting against.
If you're in any doubt, look in a mirror, it's you:
What this session of Parliament should be all about is the open struggle between public and private life. Famed American author, Thomas Friedman, has described our current condition: “We have this tendency to extol consumption over hard work, investment and long-term thinking.” Friedman goes on to elaborate on how our concentration on ourselves as opposed to our country has led to the privatization of citizens.
... there is no need to take the common good into account because only individualism prevails. When Thatcher shockingly declared, “There is no such thing as society,” she could just as easily have been describing the current government’s outlook on Canada. And the way they’ll live it out will be a relentless attack on government itself as the only way to true prosperity and freedom to live as we wish.
Except it doesn’t work that way. It’s a kind of libertarianism that leads to the empowerment of the few over the many: the very condition that the lovers of freedom fought against two centuries ago in both Europe and North America. It’s the kind of ideology that imprisons us as citizens. Author Alan Wolfe describes it perfectly when he states: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy for Peter Pans, an outlook on the world premised on never growing up.” Well, this session of Parliament will be about whether Canadians decide it’s time to mature, or remain adolescent.
"Private" citizens - quelle horreur!
Every now and then here on the Western Standard, there's a debate on where libertarians belong. Is it the Tories, the Greens, the NDP, the Liberals? I don't have the full answer to that, but what I can say is that wherever we might think we belong, it ain't the Liberals.
Motion passes: long-gun registry limps on
153 for the motion to stop the bill that would have killed the long-gun registry.
151 against it.
The only surprise so far is that a few NDP members voted against the motion. Kady has details.
Outside, Prime Minister Harper vows to someday end the registry. "People of this country will never accept being treated like criminals," he says.
A close vote, but not an unexpected outcome.
And Jack Layton is a buffoon, cites the government's "politics of division", blah blah.
Candice Hoeppner is an effective communicator, and exactly the kind of person who should be out front on a bill like this one.
Could Michael Ignatieff's eyebrows be entered in the long-gun registry? They scare me, just like a gun.
Mark Holland looms in the background. From the flicker of his eyes and his otherwise vacant expression, it looks like he's plotting against his leader. Or thinking about a chore he forgot to do, like his laundry.
New investigation into police authority at G20
This is probably like the fifth separate investigation going now into the actions of police and the government at the G20. But this time, it's being lead by a former judge. This is a very positive development.
From the Globe & Mail:
A former Ontario chief justice will investigate the controversial law the province amended before the G20 – one whose amendment wasn't publicized and which police led the public to believe gave them extra powers to enforce security around the summit's perimeter in downtown Toronto.
Roy McMurtry will lead an independent review of the Public Works Protection Act, a Second World War-era piece of legislation Premier Dalton McGuinty's government amended, reportedly at the request of the Integrated Security Unit in charge of maintaining safety over the G20 weekend.
The review will look at “the scope of authority given to police” under the act, what exactly a “public work is,” how best to notify the public about regulations made under the act and how it can be applied to “large-scale events such as national or international conferences, sporting events and public demonstrations,” according to a statement from the province.
Census Changes Make Life Tough For Central Bankers
Cry me river, go on and cry me a river...
The Bank of Canada has long focused on productivity, labour and households as a means of assessing the country’s economy and steering it toward better footing.
But Governor Mark Carney says that the bank may no longer be able to rely on data from Statistics Canada for these analyses because of proposed changes to the census.
Mr. Carney told The Globe and Mail editorial board on Thursday that those changes could have an impact on the quality of research in those important areas and force the bank to supplement the information with its own research.
Making the long-form Census voluntary, the small change in bureaucratic procedure that just keeps on giving.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Better for the registry to be saved?
Is it better for the registry to survive?
Tonight, the House debated a motion from the Public Safety Committee not to proceed with Candice Hoeppner's private members' bill to abolish the long-gun registry.
It was an interesting discussion, which Kady O'Malley pleasantly liveblogged. I will only share one moment from the debate that stood out for me. This was when Maria Mourani of the Bloc Quebecois took her turn to speak and tried to pull a stunt she used in Committee last spring. The reason this moment stood out to me is because I was in the committee room at the time.
Dr. Gary Mauser, an opponent of the registry, was called as a witness. His grasp of the facts and forthright manner were blisteringly refreshing, relative to the anecdotes and fearmongering coming from witnesses supporting the registry. Like other academics I have seen called before committees, he did not seem especially impressed to be in the company of a bunch of elected officials -- though that's not to say that he was exactly disrespectful, either. He just knew his stuff.
When it was her turn to ask questions, Mourani ignored the statistics Mauser had raised and simply brought out the following picture, in large and glossy format. It's one the Liberals now feature on their own website. Perhaps the NDP as well, but I'm too contemptuous to check.
Unless I'm mistaken, Dr. Mauser's finger is not on the trigger. In many places in the United States, that's the only kind of "gun control" the Americans will tolerate.
Mourani claimed the photograph was "scary." She also asked Mauser how many guns he owned -- a question that still seems as impertinent to me as it is irrelevant.
Garry Breitkreuz is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee. From what I gather, props are generally frowned upon in committee meetings, but it's up to the Chair to object to their use. My memory may be completely failing me, but I doubt it. Breitkreuz let Mourani go on, giant photograph in hand, without the slightest hint of protest.
Not tonight. Mourani brought out the same prop and was promptly shut down. Her speech was still inane, but at least she put the damn picture away.
Prior to Mourani, Mark Holland read a long list of names, the organizations that have come out in favor of the registry. He's good at being a fulminating showboater, carefully treading the well-worn line between slimy used car salesman and creepy fratboy.
That's about all I care to say about tonight's debate. Kady covers it much more sympathetically, and likely more objectively.
I have a few thoughts about the upcoming vote, though none of them are that profound. First, no matter how the vote comes down, it's going to be something of a victory for the Conservatives. If the Liberals with the help of the NDP manage to save the registry, it will finalize the narrative of the dreaded Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. If that happens, expect the specter of the coalition to become a key -- maybe the key -- part of Conservative rhetoric until the next election and probably beyond. The Conservative base will be solidified and Team Blue's fundraising, already fantastic compared to the opposition, will improve still further.
I'm not convinced the Conservatives will be able to pick up some of those rural NDP ridings. It would be a different story if Layton had whipped the vote. I know that the latest polls show a drop in NDP support, but from what I can tell those supporters aren't going to the Liberals or the Conservatives; thus, I simply expect them to come back to the NDP and for the party's numbers to recover.
Still, if the registry is saved because of the opposition parties, I can't see it hurting the Conservatives much. They just need to make sure they loudly put responsibility where it belongs, and I'm certain they'll do just that.
There are "rumours on the Internets" that some Liberals plan to call in sick tomorrow. Whether this will happen, and whether it will be enough to change the outcome is anybody's guess. If it does happen, even if it doesn't change the outcome, it will devastate the credibility of Ignatieff's already shaky leadership. Don't forget that Iggy's had this problem before, with embarrassing results. Given the Liberal Party's lackluster poll numbers, I would be shocked if Bob Rae didn't use such a failure as an opportunity to pull out the knives.
If the registry goes -- unlikely, I think -- it should provide a boost of energy to Conservatives. This may not actually be a good thing. First, that energy will have to go some where, into some policy or program. While libertarians might wish for it to be directed toward the libertarian policies we still secretly hope the Prime Minister favours, it is probably too soon to move in that direction. The Overton Window has moved enough to accomodate the abolition of the gun registry, but only just. My worry is that, in this case, success now might lead to disaster later.
Finally, here is a bit of truly crazy speculation: suppose you were a Liberal with leadership ambition and no conscience. Suppose, also, you have a great deal of influence over other members of the caucus, and can credibly promise to reward them once you gain power.
If you were such a Liberal, then you might think it would be better for the gun registry to die. And you might, being devious, encourage your colleagues to call in sick and miss the crucial vote, thereby killing the registry and irreparably damaging the credibility of a leader few in the party are all that enthusiastic about anyway.
So, saying all that, does anyone know what Bob Rae has been up to lately?
Low Culture, High Statism
Sports is culture too:
Governments at all levels in Canada have an easy time providing billions of dollars annually toward artists and their cultural organizations — many of which are just as “professional” as NHL athletes and teams. Similarly, governments often have little or no problem funding concert halls, theatres, art galleries and other bricks-and-mortar venues where cultural events are performed.
The result: Professional ballerinas, musicians, actors, writers and artists routinely ply their trades in places that are paid for by the taxpayer while their professional sporting counterparts are treated in a very different way. There is little sympathy for the multi-million dollar hockey player, as compared with the (figuratively) starving artist.
How did a debate over what constitutes culture become a political, er, footbal? Let's say you are a cultural elitist snob like Publius. You think that hockey and sports are about as exciting, and enlightening, as watching a burping contest. But perhaps you are like the other 99.999% of Canadians who live and breadth hockey, and professional sports in general. Its rather unfair to have other people's tastes - like opera or classical music - subsidized on your dime. In that light David Aspers' call for public funding of sports seems reasonable. If government can subsidize the preferences of the few, why not the fun of the many?
The high arts - both genuine high art and the scores of professional poseurs - have acquired a powerful political lobby over the years. Cloaking themselves as defends of culture, they argue that the market, which is both cruel as well as crude, does not appreciate the finer things in life. Therefore government must subsidize these flowers of civilization, lest they perish amidst a diet of philistine entertainments. It's not that I'm unsympathetic to the barbarians at the cultural gate argument, but running to Leviathan isn't the answer.
The problem with having government play patron is that in the process art becomes political and bureaucratic. Not in the obvious manner of Soviet or Nazi art programs, but in our special democratic Canadian way. As with every dollar government spends, a decision must be made as to whom and how. Why should this artist be funded and not the other?
In the old aristocratic societies the decision process was straight forward, if Lord Whatnot liked it, the poet, painter or musician got the money. In a democracy the processes must at least seem more democratic, even when the art being funded is a minority taste. The soul of democracy isn't the process of voting, that's just the mechanics, it's the work of committees. When the subject is specialized, it becomes a committee of experts. How do you define an expert? Well either they have a certain degree or relevant experience. In effect they are the recognized elite of whatever they're experting on.
Since politicians are non-experts, except at playing both ends against the middle, they give money to experts, who will decide how the funds are to be disbursed. This transforms a group of specialists into an entrenched elite, who, as time passes, acquire sweeping power over their respective fields. If the committees have a revolving membership, then today's supplicants might be tomorrow's committee member, and vice versa. Thus committee members are reluctant to be too harsh on others' works, knowing that the brittle egos they offend today, may next year exact revenge.
In Canada this committee culture has helped breed that uniquely stagnant brand of art know as CanCon. From excremental television programs to ponderous documentaries, no matter how bad it is, as long as it is plausibly Canadian, it seems to get funding. Canada is not, in the Sun Tzu sense, very interesting. We try to keep the wars, famines and massacres to an absolute minimum. This does limit the raw material for great art, but surely we cannot be as dull as the National Film Board makes us out to be.
Like a command and control economy, command and control art is just as undynamic and uncreative. After a few decades of churning out books and films on aboriginals and fur trappers, the no doubt bored to death Canadian arts committees turned to more daring fare. Unfortunately, like most committees, they couldn't tell genuine originality if they choked on it at cocktail party.
Supporting transgressive art - the needlessly offensive, practiced by the utterly talentless - was the nearest thing to seeking originality, without having to exercise actual judgment. Why? Because, historically, often truly innovative artistic ideas were regarded as offensive when first shown. Over time people came to understand the value of the new idea, and so it became part of the overall culture. Much of modern art reverses effect for cause. If it offends and shocks, then it must be original. But mere stunts are soon forgotten, and each new stunt requires even greater artifice to sustain attention. It is bad art, or more correctly anti-art, that has been breed and encouraged by a bureaucratic system of patronage. Government art didn't create modern art, but it has done much to entrench it in galleries and universities. Repeating the same mistake with sports or popular culture would be a disaster.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Vive Le Libre Quebec!
From the province that gave us Wilfred Laurier (HT Sean):
Some of my Quebec friends and I have have been working on building the conservative movement in Quebec. We have decided to have a conference in Quebec city on October 23. 2010. This is not the founding of a new political party but a regrouping of the Quebecers who want less taxes, less spending and more freedom. In no province has the growth of the nanny state been worse than in Quebec. This is to cross link all of us in Quebec in believe in the blessing of freedom. We have been behind the video that has been causing quite a stir in Quebec. The English website is not quite ready yet, but here is the French version. There will be a media blitz in Quebec today. le devoir has already attacked us so that's good.
You can tell a lot more about a movement, especially an intellectual movement, by those who hate it than by its supporters. There is something about the human psyche, perhaps some primal survival instinct, that makes people that much keener and more perceptive about their enemies than their friends. The ability to identify threats is more sharply honed than the capacity to identify opportunities. Being roundly denounced by Le Devoir is certainly a feather in the cap of any self-respecting small government type.
Getting denounced so soon in pretty impressive too. This is just a bunch of guys, some with political contacts, who are forming what looks to be a discussion group. Roy Eappen provides more details at the National Post. This is something that happens every day in Canada. Most discussion groups, admittedly, have more to do with cooking, or the perennial Kirk vs Picard dialectic, than politics. Yet if a similar group was launched in Alberta, its unlikely they'd get this kind of ink. In part this is because of the atheist in monastery angle. Quebec is suppose to be a bastion of enlightened socialist think, and here are actual Quebecois talking about pro-freedom values. Heresy!
Yet Quebec should have a strong pro-freedom pedigree. The early habitants were no welfare bums, and the coureur des bois was the archetypical Canadian entrepreneur. They were also fearsome warriors. It was not the Canadiens who lost New France, but their often clueless aristocratic commanders brought in from the metropole. With tough ancestor like that, you'd think the St Lawrence would be populated with Heinlein reading libertarians, denouncing the statism of les anglais. No such luck. There are a few valiant classical liberals / libertarians in Quebec, they are akin to old-time preachers standing outside brothels, regarded more as an embarrassing nuisance than guardians of virtue.
In searching for the origins of this Francophone statism, the usual culprits are the church and seigneurial system. The former suppressed dissent and instilled an intellectually hierarchical society, the latter encouraged a paternalistic cultural and economic pattern, which lasts unto the present day. Whatever your theory, the fact remains that the Quebecois like their government big and generous. And when it's other people's money, all the more so. Good times paid for by the stetson sporting troglodytes out West. Rene Levesque once declared, to a federalist politician: "Well, if you want your Rocky Mountains, keep them!" Sure, but keep sending the checks.
This makes the job of the Quebec based pro-freedom intellectual reformer that much harder. This exhilarating call for freedom and low taxes, sounds like so much abstinence and hairshirts in Quebec. Look at from their perspective: Cheap university tuition, cheap day care (for those who can get it) and cushy jobs in the provincial government, or provincially regulated or owned corporations, and some guys are telling you to stop?
Talk of competitiveness, economic dynamism and globalization simply don't register. Note how quickly the Lucides dropped out of sight, despite the support of Lucien Bouchard, the province's most eminent living statesman (which is perhaps damning by faint praise). A genuine free marketer in Quebec is like the guy at the party warning about the hangover the next morning. Not popular. This doesn't mean attempts to preach the good word are in Quebec are futile. At some point the good times will stop, if only from fiscal exhaustion, and an established network of pro-freedom advocates will have both the opportunity, and the credibility, to be heard. In the meantime we in the ROC can help by turning off the spigot. If the Quebecois want European style socialism, like them pay for it themselves. That sort of clear thinking would help both Canada and Quebec. This not, however, very likely while the incrementalist Stephen Harper lives on Sussex Drive.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Petition to save the Liberty Summer Seminar
The National Post's editorial board urged the municipality of Clarington to drop the charges against my mother and father. They are being charged with running a "commercial conference centre" on land zoned Agricultural, for letting me host the Liberty Summer Seminar on their property.
Here's a little excerpt from their August 19th editorial entitled "Save the Liberty Summer Seminar":
This type of senseless bureaucratic incursion into people’s lives through over-broad regulation is simply not worthy of Canada. It fosters the type of culture the Jaworskis thought they had left behind in their native communist Poland, where businesses used the state to stamp out their rivals, and neighbours reported on each other’s alleged transgressions to curry favour with state officials. The charges against family should be dropped, and their summer freedom festival allowed to continue. In a country which prides itself on its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we should defend liberty whenever it is threatened — and that starts in our own backyards.”
I have now put up a petition to Save the Liberty Summer Seminar. Please consider signing it (and spreading it).
UPDATE: Marven Whidden, a popular local blogger in Clarington, has signed the petition, and written about it on his blog. The post is entitled "It could happen to you." Here's an excerpt:
Picture this scenario. You and your neighbours are having a street party. This party will feature a live band, BBQ, games and whatever else goes into making a successful street party. To achieve this, everyone pitches in a certain amount of money to cover the cost of the food and band.
At the party everything is going great, until a bylaw officer comes in and charges the organizer with running a commercial enterprise on residential property, all because you collected money for your party. Think this can't happen? think again.
In a nutshell that is what happened to the Jaworski family in Orono.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Orono Weekly Times: "Seminar fallout gives Clarington a bad rap"
It was bound to happen. I've been buckling down and anticipating a negative media story about the Liberty Summer Seminar, and the decision, by the municipality, to charge my mom and dad for letting me host the LSS on my parents' property in Orono. I just didn't expect it to come from the local paper.
One reason why I didn't expect it is because I used to write a weekly column for the Orono Weekly Times, and had a great relationship with the editor, Marg Zwart, who wrote the opinion piece.
I also didn't expect it because I didn't hear back from the Orono Times after sending them a press release about the charges that my parents are facing. No one called us. So I figured the newspaper had decided not to write about my family because, maybe, it represented a "conflict of interest" for my former editor to write about me and my family.
But she did write about my family. There was a news story, as well as a more recent opinion piece. Both are unsympathetic, and both hinge on "facts" that aren't so. Facts that I could have cleared up through a simple email or phone conversation. The Orono Weekly Times is the only media outlet that did not get in touch with us (although they did get in touch with the Chief Bylaw Officer in the municipality).
But never mind. Take a read through the blog post I put up on the website chronicling what we've been calling the "Clarington saga." I will post up a response there once I hear back about whether or not my response will be published in the newspaper next Wednesday.
The crazy truths about absolute truth
One of the most poorly understood truths that we do know about reality and existence is that much of what we do, in fact know, contradicts with the premise that there exists such a thing as absolute truth.
What seems to be a matter of debate for philosophers and theologians, actually has experimental evidence against the theological and naturalistic claims for an objective reality.
The discovery of the phenomenon of interference patterns that emerge when single electrons, fired at long intervals from each other -- produce wave-like interference patterns when given the option of going through two possible paths -- but don’t when given one path, has long been a dark cloud over the claim of objective reality in physics.
The experimental results of these experiments led to Einstein’s famous statement -- rejecting the implications -- “God doesn’t roll dice.”
Einstein believed that there had to be some other explanation for the fact that the electrons were acting in the same way they would (when fired individually -- at intervals as long as two minutes apart) as they would if a stream of electrons were being continuously fired through both slits in what is commonly known as the “double-slit experiment”.
What made it even more bewildering, is if you made any attempt to track the electron's journey by setting up detectors in between, the interference pattern disappeared.
It was almost as if the electron had foreknowledge of what was ahead of it, before it got there.
James Clerk Maxwell’s famous field equations would come to describe this phenomenon in terms of probability waves -- not absolutes -- of where any electron could be found at any time. And while this seems like nonsense from a intuitive perspective, Maxwell’s field equations are generally considered the most commercially important physics equations that have ever been discovered. They are relied upon in computer design, and pretty much all electronics.
Yet, these equations seem to point to there being no objective reality in quantum states.
The famous physicist, Richard Feynman would try and improve on the experiment by introducing a factor known as “delayed choice”. It involved creating a well-timed experiment, where the detector would not initiate until the electron had passed through either slit. In effect, trying to create an “a-ha, electron! got you!” effect. But doing this changed nothing. It was almost as if the electron had a priori knowledge that the detector would be turned on after it passed through either slit.
This may sound like science fiction. But this experiment has been replicated over and over again for over sixty years, and has always shown the same results. That, the electron is able to interfere with itself in the same way that waves in a pond interfere with other waves, even though there isn’t another electron to cause the interference.
This led Feynman to only one possible conclusion: that, the electron took every possible path through the experiment. And only when a measurement occurred, would the wave function collapse and force the electron to reveal a single history. This would also explain why the act of measurement would eliminate the interference pattern; because the wave function of the electron would collapse before striking the end detector.
I won’t take you through a comprehensive history, but the vast majority of physicists today accept this conclusion of Feynman. All experimentation is consistent with the assumption.
Maxwell’s equations, which have been shown to be 100% accurate in all experiments ever performed, allow for the electron to magically disappear and re-appear in orbit of Venus. Or anywhere else in the universe. The likelihood of this occurring is so low that you’d have to wait more than several times the age of the universe to observe this occurring. But the salient point is, that probability, not fixed rules based on initial state, is what describes the possible paths of the electron with the probability wave concentrated along paths of high likelihood and extending out infinitely towards outcomes that approach, but never reach zero.
Other odd phenomenon, such as the Casimir effect, are completely consistent with the predictions that this probabilistic model makes. And have been experimentally verified to extreme degrees of accuracy.
This has led many famous physicists, such as Stephen Hawking, to proclaim that when it all comes down to it: no objective reality exists. All there is, is a probability, at any point in time, at any point in the universe, that some specific state exists, and that all histories and futures that stem from that point are contingent on the same probability waves.
This seems unintuitive, because we don’t see giant candy canes appearing and men randomly turning into women -- and vice-versa -- as we walk down the street. But given the nature of how these probabilities are structured -- at the quantum level -- you’d have to wait around for trillions upon trillions of years to see any such event occur. But such events do inevitably occur in this model, and Hawking claims that the Big Bang itself, was one of them.
That, given the conclusions that -- at least at the quantum level -- that no objective reality exists: eventually, anything that can happen, will happen. Nothingness will turn into somethingness. Somethingness will suddenly cease to exist. Candy canes will eventually rain down from the sky, and electrons will randomly disappear and appear in orbit of venus.
And while these seems absurd, nearly a century of scientific experimentation and mind-numbing deconstructions of it by physicists has only served to strengthen this assumption.
But at the end of the day, these theories have survived scrutiny, accurately predicted future discoveries, fuelled the semiconductor revolution in computers, and year-by-year continue to be strengthened. So many physicists are now coming the conclusion that, in effect, objective reality -- and philosophy and religion along with it -- is dead.
Most people will, unfortunately, reject these things out of hand. But evidence is hard to argue with. Especially when it produces consistent predictions about future discoveries.
Update: This YouTube video explains the double-slit experiment in layman's terms:
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Haze of Hazel
Angelo will not be voting for Hazel McCallion:
Mississauga is a city without an identity. It’s known in Canada mainly because it has the nation’s longest-serving and oldest mayor. Over the last 30 years, McCallion has built her own legacy, but not the legacy of Mississauga.
The latest events reveal that her once undisputed leadership now is openly challenged and she does not have the authority to put things back together. Nonetheless, she will win the next election because, sadly for most voters, the debate over integrity is not a priority as long as people see clean streets, buses running on time and low taxes.
So voters only really care about government officials, you know, doing their job? Shocking stuff. The integrity issue referred to is a real estate scandal - it's Mississauga after all - in which the Mayor's son had a stake in a large condo development, one which his mother helped push for approval. This is an obvious conflict of interest, though not quite as nefarious as implied by the mayor's critics.
Central Mississauga, if we may use that term for Toronto's soulless suburb, has seen a mushroom like outbreak of mega condos over the last few years. There has been little suggestion, thus far, that this particular project would not have been approved, had the younger McCallion not been involved. In other words, all we know is that it looks bad, not that Hazel abused her power. Mississauga is about as developer friendly a place as can be imagined in Canada. If it's big and shiny, it'll probably be going up. No reason to suspect this particular project wouldn't have gotten the green light, if someone else was taking a cut instead of junior.
It is certainly true that Mississauga has no identity. Neither does my car or washer /dryer. They are machines. The suburbs are machines for living, to borrow from Le Corbusier's harsh phrase about individual buildings. Mississauga has no soul? Neither do almost all suburbs. They are for people who want backyards and don't too much mind the commute. It's what they're for. Blaming Hazel for giving people what they want, and giving it better than her less stamina blessed municipal counterparts, is rather an odd position for the Red Star to take, a paper which always talks a good game about democracy.
What truly irks many about Hazel is not what she has done, but who this soon to be nonagenarian isn't. Most glaringly she is not David Miller, or any other of the fashionable Leftists who dominate municipal politics across Canada. For over thirty years Mrs McCallion has tried to run the City of Mississauga like a business. Whether you think it is wise for governments to be run in this way, or not, it has clearly been rather successful for Mississauga.
The voters like the approach, as do the literally hundreds of thousands of Torontonians who have moved there in the decades since. One of the problems with brave social experimenters like David Miller, and others beloved of urban theorists, is that for all their talk of building livable communities, fewer and fewer people want to live in them.
The regional commuter service - the GO system - has extended its bus lines to south of Hamilton. That's about three hours to downtown Toronto at rush hour. Backyards are part of the reason, but so are high taxes, a war on motorists and bloated municipal government, pushed into the red by militant unions. The brave new urban world offered by the hipsters at the Star is compelling, in the rarified airs of seminars and workshops. Most people just want clean and well maintained streets. This used to be pretty obvious stuff, once upon a time. Probably back when Hazel was a little girl.
We are shocked, shocked to find money grubbing among municipal employees:
No matter how often the Police Department denies the existence of quotas, many New Yorkers will swear that officers are sometimes forced to write a certain number of tickets in a certain amount of time.
Now, in a secret recording made in a police station in Brooklyn, there is persuasive evidence of the existence of quotas.
The hourlong recording, which a lawyer provided this week to The New York Times, was made by a police supervisor during a meeting in April of supervisors from the 81st Precinct.
The recording makes clear that precinct leaders were focused on raising the number of summonses issued — even as the Police Department had already begun an inquiry into whether crime statistics in that precinct were being manipulated.
Policing by the numbers isn't quite as bad as it sounds. It was a revolution when introduced some thirty years ago. Back then the NYPD generally ignored petty crime, which in turn created a local culture that was increasingly crime ridden. The Broken Window theory held that by targeting petty offences, it would create an environment less conducive to crime. It basically worked, and made sense when the police weren't doing their jobs. Today such an approach looks to have more to do with bureaucratic goal setting, and policing for profit, than public safety.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Gipper in the Wide Shot
Feeling very sick:
The story of Ronald Reagan's life -- from boyhood to Hollywood actor to leader of the free world -- is about to spill out on the big screen in a way quite different from the miniseries that caused such a stir seven years ago.
But that sort of less-than-reverential treatment has been done before, as in the 2003 miniseries "The Reagans." That will have little in common with the feature film, which begins with the 1981 assassination attempt and tells Reagan's story through flashbacks and flash-forwards.
McCord describes Reagan's childhood as "a surreal Norman Rockwell painting with his alcoholic Catholic father, devout Christian mother, Catholic brother and ever-changing boarders the family took in."
Said Joseph: "This is a great story. I'm just glad no one else in Hollywood thinks so, or they'd have made this film by now."
Not in a hundred years will the American Left grasp the importance, or essential greatness, of Ronald Reagan. He was not, admittedly, anywhere near as much the free marketer as either legend, or his rhetoric, would lead one to believe. His genuflecting to the less subtle elements of American Christianity was more annoying than dangerous. America is no more religious today than it was thirty years ago.
The Gipper's central accomplishment was in arresting the downward slide in American power and prestige, while slowing down the rapid rise in the scope and scale of the federal government. In retrospect these seem like less than stellar accomplishments. The Soviet Union was fated to go bust - though who knew when - and the government as a percentage of GDP is today at a peacetime high. What's the fuss them? A few pretty speeches aside, would things really have turned out differently? Why bother to even vilify or praise such a figure?
Because when Reagan was making all those pretty speech, so many years ago, almost no one else was. Freedom was a dirty word, not after dinner speaking boilerplate, among the political classes. Acceptance of American decline, reasonable accommodation with communism and perpetual economic stagnation were the order of the day. That people today find what Reagan said, and did, to be unexceptional is a tribute, albeit an ironic one, to his legacy. Because his rhetoric succeeded so well then, it seems common place to us now, both on the Left and Right.
Much of his power in the 1970s came from the shock of heresy. What then had been established political fact and theory for nearly two generations was being challenged, and challenged boldly. When he assumed power, first as Governor of California and then as President, he faced overwhelming unreconstructed Democratic legislatures. His large budget deficits, and the need to rebuild the American military, must be seen in that light. The Reagan years saw little in terms of real shrinkage in the size of government - the biggest post-war drop in government spending came under Bill Clinton. What that time did see was a shift in the burden of government. Marginal tax rates were cut from a crippling 70% to 28%, a major boost to the ambitious and skilled. The dirigistes in the Department of Justice's Anti-Trust Department were reined in. The emerging PC revolution was not smothered in J.K. Galbraith style central planning.
It's very difficult, perhaps impossible, to change the present. It far easier and more important to change the future. What Ronald Reagan allowed was for the future to happen. That the American military would be strengthened just enough, and Western resolved stiffened just enough, that it would outlast the Soviet Union. That the free market would be revitalized, just enough, to allow PC and the Internet to come to the fore and begin to undermine the industrial-age welfare state. If we have a fighting chance today, it is because of what was said and done all those years ago.
Monday, September 13, 2010
A Burning Passion
There's a sucker graduated every minute, especially from journalism schools:
Pastor Terry Jones told NBC's TODAY show on Saturday that his church in Gainesville, Fla., would not burn Qurans in protest to the building of an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
"We will definitely not burn the Quran, no," he said.
"Not today, not ever," he said when pressed about whether his planned demonstration might happen at a later date. He explained that it would not happen even if the Islamic center is built near ground zero.
Jones flew to New York to appear on NBC's TODAY show and told interviewer Carl Quintanilla that there was no meeting set up with New York Imam Faisal Rauf.
Pastor Terry Jones, not to be confused with the deliberately amusing Terry Jones, is the fringiest of fringe holy men, living way out in the sprawling hinterlands of American Protestant Christianity. According to this report from ABC his immediate followers number about fifty families - whatever that means - and a few thousand more on Facebook. The MSM needed a crazy white preacher man who hated Islam. After nine years of assiduous effort, and through the wonders of Facebook, they have found him!
That he is utterly insignificant to the public discourse of the American people, that he is obviously a crude publicity hound, playing far more to MSM credulity than backwoods intolerance, matters not a wit. He is a silly clown. He is not awakening us to the dangers of radical Islam, those have been obvious to the attentive since at least 1979, and to everyone else for nearly a decade. He is not awakening the American lunatic fringe, such elements are undeterred and undimmed by humdrum reality. The conjuring up of Terry Jones, from his justly deserved obscurity, was an act of reassurance for the MSM and its Leftish base.
They need to believe that the real America, the America they are attempting to reform and remould, is composed of people very much like Terry Jones. The international media needs the preacher man as well, to reassure its audiences that Americans really are bigoted crazy white men, and that the Great Republic is on the verge of becoming a Christian theocracy. In war you are suppose to dehumanize the enemy. This goes just as well for the culture wars. Thus the obsession of the MSM with exaggerating every white nut within camera shot- non-white madmen like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright are conspicuously ignored, until absolutely necessary, and then explained away.
The most important thing about Terry Jones and Islam is this: In America he and his ilk are media inventions, tiny entities magnified into importance by elite paranoia. In Iran they are the government. So while imagined dangers are dwelt upon, an actual theocracy acquires nuclear arms in near perfect security. The media are suppose to be the watchtower of society, the people who are paid to warn us of dangers over the horizon. In this the MSM echo chamber has failed pathetically.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Forced unionization hurts the economy
The individual worker should be allowed to decide if they want to be part of a union or not. Forced unionization is ultimately bad for the economy, as a recent study by the Fraser Institute demonstrates:
In a recently published Fraser Institute article, Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University, summarized his research on the effects of worker-choice laws in the United States. He found an enormous migration into states with worker-choice laws from states without such laws. Specifically, from 2000 to 2009, approximately five million Americans moved from the 28 states without worker-choice laws to the 22 states with worker-choice laws. Prof. Vedder concludes that workers “flatly prefer a legal environment where the sale of their labour services is not constrained by laws requiring union dues payment.”
More importantly, Prof. Vedder finds that worker-choice states have higher rates of labour participation, lower unemployment rates, higher rates of economic growth and greater investment, even after controlling for a number of other factors such as tax burden, the level of education, the amount of land area, and population growth.
His research also estimates the impact of worker-choice laws on living standards, and finds that implementing a worker-choice law would increase a jurisdiction’s per person income by $2,800.
Several other studies buttress Prof. Vedder’s recent research. For example, Paul Kersey, in a study entitled “The Economic Effects of Right-to-Work Laws: 2007,” found that between 2001 and 2006, the economies of states that enacted worker-choice laws grew by 3.4% on average, compared to 2.6% in non-worker-choice states. Moreover, jobs grew by 1.2% annually in worker-choice states, while jobs in non-worker choice states grew by only 0.6% over the same period.
Read More at the Financial Post
Sun TV News not Fox News North
Heather Mallick writes that having a “Fox News North” is a “rancid idea.” She describes her personal, professional, and political dislike for Fox News in a long ranting column for the Toronto Star. She then uses her negative personal experiences with Fox News to demonstrate why the new station being introduced by Quebcor is such a horrifying idea.
The problem with her logic is that it is called Sun TV News and not “Fox News North.” This new station has absolutely nothing to do with Fox News or Fox News’ parent company. So on what basis does Ms. Mallick assume that they are going to be exactly the same?
I think it is reasonable that we all wait to actually see the product before we judge it.
Ms. Mallick may be right, it could be rancid. But it could also introduce a new and valid voice to public debate in Canada. I do not understand how any fair minded person could view that as a bad thing.
The Other Bubble
The Price of Admission:
Imagine that you have a product whose price tag for decades has risen faster than inflation. But people keep buying it because they’re told that it will make them wealthier in the long run. Then, suddenly, they find it doesn’t. Prices fall sharply, bankruptcies ensue, great institutions disappear.
Sound like the housing market? Yes, but it also sounds like what Glenn Reynolds, creator of instapundit.com, writing in the Washington Examiner, has called “the higher education bubble.”
Government-subsidized loans have injected money into higher education, as they did into housing, causing prices to balloon. But at some point people figure out they’re not getting their money’s worth, and the bubble bursts.
Some think this would be a good thing. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray has called for the abolition of college for almost all students. Save it for genuine scholars, he says, and let others qualify for jobs by standardized national tests, as accountants already do.
Best way to sell short in this market? Vocational training. Get a skill, hone it and hopefully love it.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Is the OECD insane?
The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is saying that the global economic recovery is slowing down, but that there is no evidence of another looming recession. The international body is uncertain what is causing the slow down, but there is a fear that there may be an underlining weakness in the economy.
The OECD is proposing a possible solution if the weakness proves systemic:
“[I]f the slowdown reflects longer-lasting forces bearing down on activity, additional monetary stimulus may be needed in the form of quantitative easing and commitment to close-to-zero policy interest rates for a long period,” he said.
This brings me to the question on hand, is the OECD insane? Basically what they are saying is that it is possible that the “stimulus” plan may not have worked, and in the event that it didn’t work they should do it again. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Really if the first trillions of dollars spent by the various governments didn’t do anything (and there is zero evidence that it did do anything) what makes the OECD think that the next trillion will be better?
OECD’s insanity goes deeper than this. Every industrialized country in the world is facing a financial crisis. Governments everywhere are trying to figure out how they can reduce their deficits before they become another Greece. Then here comes the OECD calling for even larger deficits.
The OECD tries to cover up this insanity by saying that new spending should only take place where this is “space,” but this is so ambiguous that it is meaningless. How much more debt can countries such as the UK or the US really afford? They can’t even afford the debt that they have now.
So I have to conclude that: yes, the OECD is indeed insane.
A House Divided...
he United Nations' headquarters undergoing the most extensive renovations in its 60-year history, and QMI Agency saw first-hand how badly the international body’s home base needs the makeover.
The roof is leaking in some places. The walls are filled with asbestos. Wood wall panelling is stained with six decades worth of cigarette smoke.
Then there’s the copper-tube air-conditioning system, which dates to 1950. Technicians have to adjust the settings manually and it takes days to raise the temperature by just a few degrees.
Even the audio room, with its dizzying maze of wires, hasn’t been upgraded since the Second World War.
Metaphors just don't come more obvious than this one, and stories like this are a gift to we valiant few, the credulity impaired.
Sometimes it’s hard to get a decision out of this organization,” said Adlerstein. “All the systems were falling apart but for the members, their mission is children and peace not air conditioning, not their own house, that comes last.
That one was just bite my hand funny. An organization that blithely presided over the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq, and mass child rape in the Congo, is just too damn altruistic to worry about the plumbing! Orwell observed that saints should be considered guilty, until proven innocent. That applies all the more to large organizations with pretensions to moral grandeur. And there are few pretensions in the modern world greater than the United Nations.
It stands, in its own moral terms, above mere nation states, which it views as relics of a Westphalian order fated to pass. It proclaims - through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a new ordering of human affairs along ethical lines. It is transnational in aspiration and staffing. Bureaucrats of every pigmentary hue and ideological conceit gather in a sleek modernistic building by the East River, whose very style of architecture is sometimes described as "international." It is often, wrongly, described as a world government in embryo. It is nothing so modest. It is closer instead to an earnest, but ultimately sophomoric attempt, to imitate the Catholic Church circa 1500. Kofi Annan lacked the style of the Borgia Pope, but certainly not the ethical flexibility.
Before the great fracturings of Christendom, first with Constantinople and then with Luther, the Catholic Church was indeed universal. As Pagan Rome fell it remained in some sense united, and in some basic sense it was preserving civilization. The choice was the Roman Church or darkness. It then stood above mere princes, whom it could excommunicate, and in doing so put the souls of those princes' subjects in peril. It was a moral authority above the power politics of the day. It was also, ironically, itself a political power, both in its control of the Papal States in central Italy, and its wide influence across the continent. Politics and religion corrupt each other, and the Reformation was required to turn it back in the direction, broadly, of the saints.
That dream of a moral authority, capable of excommunicating mere political rulers, never quite died. It was resurrected in secular garb with the creation of the United Nations. This new Rome's ethical constructs, however, were rather less precisely argued than those of the actual Rome. Central to the new dogma was peace above all. Even the Church, however, recognized the need for Just Wars.
The United Nations has, when sufficient pressure was applied by Washington, sanctioned war, but these are exceptions. It is for peace, even when the aggressor is a tyranny and the victim a free country (see the history of Israel). Since the ideal is peace at all costs, it is ambivalent about the who and what. All nations are the same in the balance. The Soviet Union was no different from the United States or United Kingdom.
This astonishing amorality makes sense only when viewed from the perspective of the UN's own ethical system. It is for peace and above national politics. For it to say that one nation was an Evil Empire, and another a bulwark of liberty, would require it to descend from its Olympian impartiality. That such an impartiality requires the evasion of so much human suffering, is just another price to be paid for its moral ideal. It is a conceit that is crumbling as surely, and swiftly, as that aging monolith at Turtle Bay.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
If the UK was a business...
...I wouldn't invest in it.
Looked at this way, the UK is effectively an enormous unfunded and effectively bankrupt pension scheme, with a large speculative holding in some banks and a sideline in running a small island state off the northern coast of France.
The Long Census Goodbye
Yes, it is over:
A civil servant in charge of the census says it’s already too late to bring back the mandatory, long-form questionnaire for 2011.
Marc Hamel says it’s no longer logistically possible to distribute the mandatory long census in the same format as previous national surveys.
Hamel made the statement in documents filed last month in Federal Court.
While the long-form is dead, its spirit lives on in the hearts of its defenders. As a fully paid up member of the Libertarian Cavalry - a strange, but not uncommon place for a classical liberal to be - what can I say? This is the smallest of victories against big government. To celebrate would be akin to a grossly obese man rejoicing in having lost a pound. Progress it is, but you can't escape the suspicion that it isn't much, and it's probably just water weight.
The mind of the politician is a strange one. It must be able to balance obvious contradictions. Take conservatives who cry havoc over the right to own firearms, yet talk casually of life sentences for growers of a few pot plants. Call them on that contradiction and you get, as I've gotten, the solemn explanation that marijuana is dangerous. It's a gateway drug, you see. By that logic a BB gun is a gateway weapon. Next thing you know the little tyke will have a full arsenal, complete with M1 Abrams tank.
The contradictions between the long form census, and almost everything the Conservative government has done these last four years, is just as stark. But was it disingenuous of Mr Harper and Mr Clemens to say they scraped the long-form in the name of freedom? Who knows. If it was a sop to the libertarians in the Tory base, those that remain anyway, it came across instead as patronizing. "Hi there libertarians! I've got something just for you! It's a reduction in the scale and scope of government so small you can measure it in microns. There you go."
Sure, it's the principle of the thing. But even as principled blows for freedom, it is a shallow one. The federal government cannot legally compel me to tell it how many washrooms I have. Great. The municipal government can legally compel me to divulge the same information, and even allow inspectors on my property without a warrant. No longer will I be threatened with jail time for refusing to tell Statistics Canada my yearly income. The Canada Revenue Agency, however, can threaten with both hands. This summer Leviathan got tapped in the shins. Courtesy of the Libertarian Cavalry and Stephen Harper's ego.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
You're in for a Shock: Disturbing New Facts About Ontario's Green Energy Act
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is telling everyone that his decision to increase the price of electricity is "responsible" because it will force consumers to pay for the power they consume. It will end an irresponsible old subsidy, he implies, but that implication is false. In reality, his price hike is designed to pay for an irresponsible new subsidy.
Forty-two consecutive years of Progressive Conservative ("PC") rule gave Ontario ridiculously expensive nuclear power generators. To avoid voter backlash, the PCs hid the actual cost of nuclear electricity from consumers. Billions of dollars in government debt were racked up so that electricity bills could be kept artificially low.
In 1998, the Harris government passed legislation to end that irresponsible subsidy by adding a debt retirement charge to electricity bills. It also eliminated price controls on the retail price of electricity. The resulting prospect of getting a reasonable return on investment led the private sector to begin planning the construction of privately owned and operated generators that would replace Ontario's aging, government-owned fleet.
However, as the election of 2003 approached, vocal opposition to higher (i.e., actual) electricity costs led Harris' PC successor, Ernie Eves, to again hide the actual cost of electricity. He imposed a 4.3 cent price cap. The remaining cost of electricity would be paid with government debt and taxes. Within a couple of weeks, McGuinty, who initially condemned Eves' new subsidy, supported it.
Eves' re-imposition of price controls had a massively negative impact that continues to plague Ontario to this day. The price cap, and the evidence that Liberals and Conservatives were both willing to fiddle with market prices, scared the private investors away before their shovels hit the ground.
With prices being subsidized, consumers had no reason to reduce their electricity consumption. The resulting black-outs and brown-outs of the summer of 2003 handed the McGuinty Liberals a majority government in October of that year. At the end of that October, McGuinty largely ended the irresponsible subsidy by increasing the price cap. He explained that, in the approximately 11 months since the cap was introduced, the subsidy had already cost the taxpayer $700M.
In 2003, Ontario often had to import expensive U.S. power to meet Ontario's power demands. Yet, in the face of such a shortage, McGuinty pandered to clean air advocates by promising to close Ontario's workhorse coal-powered electricity generators by 2007.
In 2005, McGuinty introduced a new, irresponsible subsidy to encourage private sector investment in the construction of gas-powered electricity generators. Specifically, he offered them contracts pursuant to which they would be paid for their electricity at a rate approximately three times that paid for electricity generated by coal-powered plants. Rather than cranking up taxes to build new generators, McGuinty would crank up the cost of electricity to cover the cost of the subsidy.
Even with the subsidy, it would be years before the new gas-powered plants were operational. Faced with the continuing threat of black-outs and brown-outs, the McGuinty government decided to buy time by imposing limits and penalties on electricity consumption. Most symbolically, he vowed to ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012. He paid for "Power Wise" commercials in which David Suzuki steals incandescent bulbs from porches, and breaks into homes to steal beer fridges, all so as to convince us that such theft and coercion is necessary not so as to cope with a politically-caused power shortage, but to save the earth.
In 2006, McGuinty's political time-buying would get some help. Al Gore's junk science thriller, "An Inconvenient Truth", transmitted to the masses the green cult's irrational fear that "human CO2 production" (a code phrase meaning "capitalism") will kill us. For every politician, that fear would be the gift that keeps on giving. So long as a new tax or fee or regulation could be characterized as one needed to reduce CO2, many voters would support it. McGuinty could now ban Edison's bulb, and introduce "green" fees and regulations with political impunity.
By 2006, Ontario's high taxes, high labour costs, and potentially higher electricity costs were driving industry and commerce out of the province. The business exodus reduced power consumption more than a million light-bulb snatching Suzukis could ever hope to. The dramatic reduction in demand left Ontario with more than enough electricity to meet its needs even during peak consumption periods.
By 2008, the drop in demand for power had introduced a new problem: "surplus baseload generation". When Ontario's "baseload" nuclear, coal, gas, and hydro generators generate more electricity than is being demanded, the excess electricity must be eliminated from the grid. One option is to reduce generation, but only coal and hydro plants are capable of getting back up to speed quickly enough to meet increased demand after a few hours of low demand, and McGuinty is closing the coal plants. Another option is to export excess power to U.S. buyers at discount prices. When the U.S. will not buy the discounted surplus electricity, Ontario now pays the U.S. to take it (i.e., it "sells" the electricity for a "negative price").
In 2009, the McGuinty government introduced the Green Energy Act. Echoing the misguided subsidy for gas-powered generators, the Act introduced even larger subsidies for private companies who supplied wind and solar power to the grid. Specifically, pursuant to the "feed-in tariff" (a.k.a. "FIT") system, they would be paid for their electricity at rates as much as 16 times higher than the price of conventional electricity. Moreover, wind and solar power generators would be given priority: consumers would be forced to buy up all of the expensive wind and solar power before meeting their remaining power demands with relatively inexpensive electricity from coal, gas, hydro or nuclear generators. With artificially high prices and priority, private investors could now make a killing on otherwise money-losing solar and wind power generation. Not surprisingly, thousands of private sector companies -- including many farmers located in ridings that have usually voted PC -- have signed up to get their cut of the loot.
Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator is now predicting that the additional power from wind and solar generators will make those expensive and wasteful episodes of surplus baseload generation more frequent for years to come. It is expected that, to cope with the more frequent periods of low demand/excess electricity, wind and solar power generators will be taken off-line from time to time. However, consumers will still have to pay the wind and solar companies for the power they do not deliver while off-line. In a nutshell: McGuinty's Green Energy Act will leave consumers paying the US even more to ditch excess electricity while simultaneously encouraging the construction of even more solar and wind power generators whose owners will be paid not to generate electricity during the periods of excess electricity that their wind and solar generators cause.
To deal with public outrage over soaring electricity prices, McGuinty now falsely implies that Ontario consumers are guilty of not paying the full cost of the electricity they are already consuming, and that he is merely raising prices to put an end to that irresponsible practice; that he is being "responsible". The inconvenient truth he thereby tries to disguise is that, for purely self-serving political reasons, his government is jacking up our electricity bills to pay for unneeded energy that we will not consume.
If we are to have an affordable and reliable supply of electricity in this province, we must learn from Ontario's political history. For electoral reasons, PC and Liberal governments have imposed price controls that have scared away private investment in power generation. The result has been government debt and the payment of outrageous subsidies to the private sector.
Going forward, a system of affordable and reliable electricity requires elected officials who will not repeat the politically self-serving fiascos of Ontario's past and present governments. The Green Energy Act needs to be scrapped. It is plain to see that the contracts made pursuant to it are immoral and unconscionable: they should not be honoured. Ontario's government needs to allow prices to be determined by supply and demand. And, to end the discouragement of private investment in affordable electricity generation, Ontario's government needs to establish guarantees that it will not regulate prices, that it will not subsidize any form of generation, and that priority will be given to purchasing electricity from generators who offer it for the lowest price.
None of these desperately needed steps will be taken by a Liberal or PC government. One cannot expect McGuinty to repeal his own Green Energy Act. PC leader Tim Hudak is not about to alienate thousands of new wind and solar power-producing voters in PC-friendly ridings by repealing the Green Energy Act. Instead, he is promising to repeat a PC fiasco of the past: sticking the taxpayer with the cost of even more unaffordable nuclear generation. Fortunately, the least expensive power of all is the ballot.
Emery's Prosecutor Thinks Marijuana Laws Are Bad
The dark farce continues:
John McKay, now a Seattle University law professor, argued in the weekend article that the war against marijuana has failed, actually threatens public safety and rests on false medical assumptions.
"I DON'T smoke pot," Seattle's former U.S. attorney insisted. "And I pretty much think people who do are idiots."
But McKay added: "As Emery's prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I'm not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety."
The DEA insisted in 2005 Emery was one of the world's "most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets." Today McKay admits "our 1930s-era marijuana prohibition was overkill from the beginning."
The former prosecutor basically admits the problem is too big for the government to handle:
Law-enforcement agencies are simply not capable of interdicting all of this pot and despite some successes have not succeeded in thwarting criminals who traffic and sell marijuana. Brave agents and cops continue to risk their lives in a futile attempt to enforce misguided laws that do not match the realities of our society.
These same agents and cops, along with prosecutors, judges and jailers, know we can't win by arresting all those involved in the massive importation, growth or distribution of marijuana, nor by locking up all the pot smokers. While many have argued the policy is unjust, few have addressed the dangerously potent black market the policy itself has created for exploitation by Mexican and other international drug cartels and gangs. With the proceeds from the U.S. marijuana black market, these criminals distribute dangerous drugs and kill each other (too often along with innocent bystanders) with American-purchased guns.
While not exactly a pro-freedom defense of pot, i.e. that it's none of the government's business what I put in my body, it may very well be the impracticality of the pot laws that overwhelms the prohibitionists.
Welcome to the Good Life
Presented by President Hugo Chávez as an instrument to make shopping for groceries easier, the ``Good Life Card'' is making various segments of the population wary because they see it as a furtive attempt to introduce a rationing card similar to the one in Cuba.
The measure could easily become a mechanism to control the population, according to civil society groups.
``We see that in short-term this could become a rationing card probably similar to the one used in Cuba,'' Roberto León Parilli, president of the National Association of Users and Consumers, told El Nuevo Herald. ``It would use more advanced technological means [than those used in Cuba], but when they tell you where to buy and what the limits of what you can buy are, they are conditioning your purchases.''
Doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result is, for most people, a textbook definition of insanity. Logically speaking then, Hugo Chavez is insane. So is much of the Venezuelan electorate, who voted this madman into office. Socialism hasn't worked the other thousand or so times its been tried, but maybe this time it'll work. So as to make sure no one misunderstands just how mad these people are, they clarify themselves through the use of Orwellian language. Only in the mind of Hugo Chavez, incarnation of Simon Bolivar and Jesus of Nazareth, is a ration card the sign of the "Good Life."
Hugo & Co are not, of course, technically insane. Nor are they necessarily cynical. Unlike, say, Papa and Baby Doc in Haiti, or Bokassa in the Central African Republic, Chavez is not extravagantly corrupt. It's not all a big lie to keep the Swiss bank accounts well stocked, and the emergency Lear jet fuelled. This only makes the situation worse. The merely corrupt, as C.S. Lewis noted, might eventually get tired of plundering. The True Believers never tire in their work. It is their duty to build the New Jerusalem.
Chavez's Bolivarians should be seen less as a political movement, and more as a religious one. Facts are stubborn things, so just ignore them. The first few dozens times it was plausible to believe that socialism, with a few tweaks, might just work. For those fed with up with the perceived injustices of capitalism, it was worth a go. After a few decades, honest men drew their conclusions. Pious men, by their nature, continue to tend to their beads.
The act of believing and reaffirming the faith is all important. Ration cards produce hunger? So what? We will all - the elite excepted - be equally hungry. The more regulated and controlled a society becomes, the more likely it will tip into pressure group warfare, and even civil war. Unity is a concern to those who care about it. If one is merely interested in its rhetorical expressions - peace, brotherhood, harmony - as a sort of catechism, the practical results are details. It is the acts of belief that matters. That is where these movements draw their strength, and their ultimate destruction.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Knox Will Drink *!#$ing Merlot
Unlike Paul Giamatti's character, Miles, from Alexander Payne's brilliant wine-soaked film Sideways, whose disdain for the Merlot grape bubbles to a boil while hollering at his best friend Jack for the mere suggestion of drinking this well-known red wine at a dinner party ("If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any *!#$ing Merlot!!!"), Knox has always enjoyed a glass of Merlot from time to time. That's not to say that it's my favourite - far from it - and while Merlots can be downright delicious, they can also be as bland as a mouthful of Regina ditchwater on a hot July day.
Over the course of the summer, I've had the chance to try a few decent Merlots and thought I would share them with you in case you find yourself with a hankering for this now, post-Sideways, underrated grape. Here is a sampling:
1) Sumac Ridge - Black Sage Vineyard Merlot (2006) - Okanagan Valley (Oliver, B.C.)
As anyone who reads the Shotgun knows, I am rarely thrilled by Canadian wines. This one is no exception. However, it is a decent wine. Especially for a Canadian Merlot. The good folks at Sumac Ridge do not have a stunner here, but they have put together an interesting wine with a very good, albeit oaky finish, but one that takes FOREVER to develop. At first taste, I thought this wine was another pleasant, albeit dull Canadian wine with understated fruit and little separating it from the pack. Twenty seconds later though, a very nice, velvety fruit taste came to the surface. While not the greatest Merlot to ever hit my palate, this one is worth a try. At $19.99 a bottle, you can afford a flyer, right?
2) Tin Roof Cellars - Merlot (2006) - California (North & Central Coasts)
Here you have a pleasant "drink with anything and everything" Merlot that glides along the palate and beckons to be guzzled. Nice berry flavours, with a balanced presentation. A Wine Enthusiast "Best Buy" in 2009 apparently and a medal winner at several wine competitions. That stuff never impresses me much as it is kind of like how everything in Vegas is the "best of" something to someone it seems and is all just meaningless commercial tripe. With the Tin Roof Merlot though, it may be warranted. Again, not the world's finest, but a nice bottle for a late summer night by the backyard fire pit or on the Prairies after a day of bird hunting. A splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel provide some depth and a price tag of around $15 makes this one easy on the green.
3) Wing Canyon - Lolita Merlot (2005) - Mt. Veeder, California
Now here is one of my favorite Merlots on the planet, from one of my favorite wineries and one of my favorites winemakers, Bill Jenkins. This tiny estate winery on Napa Valley's Mt. Veeder has been pumping out great estate cabernets (sauvignon and franc) and chardonnay under the radar in the utter seclusion of their treed winery site for quite a few years now. Their Lolita Merlot is a plush, velvety wine. Soft and creamy with delectable fruit and a dynamite label, designed by Bill's wife, Kathy. This one's a little pricer around $25-$35 in most Canadian wine stores, but it is well worth the investment. You can find this one at J. Webb wine merchants and Richmond Hills wines in Calgary, if you find yourself there.
There you have it. End of summer Merlots. To quote Miles' friend Jack "no going to the dark side".
Mad Dogs and Eurosceptics
There’s a fascinating snippet in Rod Liddle’s column today (secured behind the fastness of the Times paywall). He writes of being summoned to see his boss at the BBC following a complaint about the Corporation’s bias against Eurosceptics. The complaint had been made by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, then a Tory peer. Rod writes:
The [BBC] panjandrum listened to my nervous musings and then held aloft Lord Pearson’s latest letter and said: “Rod, you do realise that these people are mad?”
See how the concept of insanity has been redefined by our state broadcaster? Malcolm Pearson was, and is, the most decent of men. Instead of raging publicly against the BBC, he had set out, politely and patiently, to convince it that it could do better.
Yes, that's right, an actual aristocrat is complaining that the BBC is behaving like a bunch of, well, out of touch aristocrats. After having spent the better part of the last century raving against the House of Lords, and the landed upper classes in general, the British Left are conducting themselves with their own style of toffishness. From Lloyd George on down, their real complaints against the aristocracy was not its elitism, or the injustices of the class system, but that they weren't the aristocrats.
All those turgid tributes to coal miners, who were themselves at the pinnacle of the working class' own hierarchy, were but so much dust in the eyes. Like most revolutionaries they preached equality, as a means of establishing their own version of an elitist system. But not plus ca change, no milord, these new peers, of a nominally classless society, are a noticeable retrogression from the old aristocrats. A falling off there has been.
Take identification, you could tell a member of the old British upper class fairly easily, by dress, bearing and diction. These are still indicators, but less obvious. The sartorial style is neo-toffish proletarian. Jeans, like working men used to wear, but designer and at the price of the weekly wages of most ordinary mortals. The rips and fading not a product of hard physical labour, but scarcely concealed artifice. Old Lord Whatnot thought he was better than you, but respected you enough not to conceal it. The new aristocracy doesn't think you are clever enough to grasp their condescension. Thus their uniform of stylish slobbery.
The methods reflect the goals. The old aristocracy wanted the good life. So long as the peasants minded their own business, and paid their rents, they could pretty much do as they liked. The repression which existed, and it was real and wicked, was exercised only so long as needed to maintain the status and power of the Elect. It was power wielded toward a pragmatic end. If the peasants got too uppity, the Vermeers and the port might have been at stake. Otherwise, live well and let others live as best they could.
The new aristocracy is not so modest. They seek to mould the lower classes to their ends. They want the chianti and the Land Rover and your heart and mind. Thus the sneering contempt of the BBC panjandrum. The intent of the BBC, from its inception nearly nine decades ago, was to guide British public opinion. This was why Winston Churchill was kept off the air for much of the Thirties. His ideas went counter to the opinion of the then forming neo-aristocracy. They believed peace with Hitler could have been negotiated, and regarded Churchill as a loose cannon and Victorian throwback, with romantic conceptions of individual liberty and British greatness. He was mad too.
AG to provide evidence against ‘stimulus spending theory’
It is widely believed that Auditor General Shelia Fraser’s report will demonstrate that stimulus money was distributed on a political basis. This wouldn’t be a difficult conclusion to reach; the theoretical work was already done by a certain University of Calgary Masters student. Politicians will naturally favour their own supporters in their decisions. That is how governments come to power and stay in power.
The opposition parties will make lots of political hay out of this report, and rightly so. But the reality is that they would have done the same thing. Perhaps to a lesser extent, or maybe even to a greater extent, but they would have certainly done the same. The problem is not with the particular party in power but in the system.
You can’t fix the system either. The root of the problem is human nature. Even if you try and be objective in your decisions you will likely subconsciously favour the person you like/supports you. There is a natural bias in every government, and changing the ruling party has only ever succeeded in changing the direction of the bias.
The solution is simple: do not give politicians or officials this much money to spend. Power tends to corrupt, and the only true way to prevent corruption is not to give power. There is no evidence that the deficit spending helped the economy. All that it did was provide the government with an opportunity to redistribute our tax dollars to their supporters.
So instead of using the AG’s report to decry the shamefulness of the Conservative government, we should look at this report as one more piece of evidence that Canada’s experiment with ‘stimulus’ spending has failed.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Michael Ignatieff on health care
Michael Ignatieff is smart guy. No matter what else you think of him or his policies, you cannot plausibly deny that he is extremely intelligent. So I am puzzled by his recent comments on health care reform.
Dr. Ignatieff says that he will make Health Care a priority for his hypothetical Liberal government. He also attacks Mr. Harper by saying, “"Four years of this Conservative government, we've really done nothing substantial on health care."
Maybe Dr. Ignatieff should take a second look at the Constitution Act. The federal government isn’t supposed to do anything on health care. That is a responsibility of the provinces. If he wants to make health care a priority maybe he should run to be premier not prime minister.
I find it bizarre that a leader of a liberal democracy is being attacked by the opposition for obeying the constitution.
I say again that Dr. Ignatieff is a smart man so I have to assume that he has some basic knowledge on how the Canadian federal system operates. This means that I have to also assume that his comments about health care are not really policy declarations but empty political rhetoric.
This assumption is reinforced by the nature of his proposals. Dr. Ignatieff starts off by saying the current system is unsustainable. Then he says that he won’t make any substantive change except for refocusing on preventative care. The idea being that it will lessen the health care demand which is straining the system.
Preventative care is good and all but it isn’t really a solution to the looming health care crisis. The population is aging and older people will always need more health care. How exactly do you prevent people from getting old? So with no power to reform health care and no real reforms being proposed, Dr. Ignatieff thinks he can win the next election on health care rhetoric alone.
I think the Canadian people are smarter than that.
Friday, September 03, 2010
The corralling of 250 people at Queen and Spadina Streets for hours in torrential rain at the end of Toronto’s G20 summit remains a flashpoint in a weekend that saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.
In the face of an onslaught of complaints, lawsuits and inquiries, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that he made mistakes that night.
(from The Globe & Mail)
Drinking and smoking as a patriotic act
Russian Minister of Finance calls for patriotic action from the Russian people. He calls upon them to drink and smoke more so that the government can receive more taxes:
Speaking as the Russian government announces plan to raise duty on alcohol and cigarettes, Alexei Kudrin said that by smoking a pack, “you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates”.
“People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” he told the Interfax news agency.
I suspect that the average Russian on the street will answer this particular call to arms with an ole “Ready, aye ready.”
Family to be bankrupted for hosting a barbecue
Every year the Jaworski family host a weekend of barbecue and lectures. People come from all around the world to hang out in their backyard and discuss and celebrate the principle of freedom. The Jaworskis have cause to know the importance of freedom, they fled communism to find liberty here in Canada. So in memory of their former oppression they help their son host the aptly named Liberty Summer Seminar.
As many of you already know the Jaworski family is being fined $50 000 for hosting the Liberty Summer Seminar. The by-law official is accusing them of holding a commercial conference center outside of the permitted zone. The idea that LSS is a commercial event is absurd. Considering the caliber of speakers that they attract and the relatively low cost of attending, I doubt they have ever made a profit.
So to bankrupt these honest and hard working people (I have met them several times) on such a flimsy claim that the LSS is somehow commercial is arbitrary and cruel. The bylaw officer that charged the family did not even have the courtesy to talk to either of the Jaworski parents or even one of the event’s organizers.
The local mayor suggested that the Jaworskis “[…] have a discussion with the bylaw officer, sort of like beg for forgiveness, say ‘I didn’t realize’. Or they can work it out with lawyers.” If the bylaw officer was not willing to talk to them before he charged them, why would he behave reasonably now? Also what kind of free society gives people the choice between begging some petty official to forgive them for using their own land to host a barbecue and going bankrupt?
The mayor is trying to stay out of the incident, and I agree with the general principle that politicians should not interfere with legal proceedings. But this is such a clear case of the misuse of bylaws. No reasonable person would think that bankruptcy is an appropriate punishment for hosting a barbecue. I hope that the mayor takes a moment to reconsider not only his position but what exactly his duty is to his constituents.
Danielle Kisses the Third Rail
Wildrose attacks the most sacred of sacred Canadian cows:
“I wish I could’ve delivered meaningful reforms, but I didn’t. That’s for the next premier,” Mr. Klein said.
He was wrong. Ed Stelmach has shrunk from any such initiatives. But Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance, who hopes to be the next premier after Mr. Stelmach, is reopening it.
“Albertans have been ready to have that debate, but the politicians are afraid to,” Ms. Smith said. “Controversy in itself, or the fact that people might disagree with us, is not enough for us to decide not to take on an issue.”
This is not talk of freeing the market for health care - perish the radical thought - but allowing private entities to offer care with public funds. The hope is that by contracting out, the services will be delivered more efficiently, while keeping the provincial governments as paymasters. The latter part is suppose to reassure the electorate in some deeply mystical way. Because the government is paying for it, it will be good and humane. Repeat until numb.
Since this is government-run health care by other means, there is little to cheer about. Its main advantage is circumventing the militant health care unions. Its disadvantage is that, in the Left hands, it can be used to discredit further reforms in the direction of the market. Just regulate privately delivered care in such a way as make it even worse than the purely public system, and wait for the Toronto Star - and its sisters across the Dominion - to denounce it as capitalism run amok. A few editorials about the Americanization of Canadian health care, and the issue is dead for another ten years, along with many of the poor suckers still on waiting lists.
As I've often said in this space, Medicare isn't a government program, it's a cult. The nominal reason behind socialized health care is "universality." The altruistic goal of insuring that all Canadians have access to quality care. That was the wedge that allowed the Medicare Myth to be born, and is still its headline rationalization. But take the same argument and apply it in a different context. If a politician was to argue that "universality" of access to quality food should be a government objective, and that the government should therefore takeover the supermarkets, he'd be laughed at.
The overwhelming majority of Canadians can afford quality food, if they choose to buy it, and only a small percentage might go hungry without help. If one believes that government should be charged with delivering charity - I certainly don't - then the logical approach would be to subsidize food for the poor. Whether through food stamps, or a welfare check, it would give the poor the means of eating and leave the rest of us to arrange our affairs as we choose. That is how we already feed the poor in Canada. It is not ideal, but it is far preferably to having your local Loblaws run by a Minister of Food.
The same logic applies equally well to health care. Any sort of health care financing scheme will have to rely on the principle of putting a bit in and using as needed, something akin to insurance. The overwhelmingly majority of Canadians can afford private insurance premiums, if they could not the tax base would not exist to support the current system. Like with food and housing, those who could not afford the premiums would be subsidized. Such a system would have its abuses, as any system does, but it will allow the great majority of Canadians access to health care on their own terms, rather than those of the Minister of Health. It would also ensure that even the poor could get quality health care, since they would be just another customer of the hospital or clinic.
While such an approach would be logical, it would challenge the sanctity of government delivered care. The Cult of Medicare is not interested in quality health care, it is interested in preserving state health care. A nation where the people turn to the government for their most intimate personal needs, whose health is subject to bureaucratic diktat, will find less objectionable further intrusions in their private lives by the state. Once the medical state has gotten its foot in the door, the rest is details. The advocates of Obamacare in the United States understand this, as do the opponents of private delivery in Alberta.
Defence of the Realm
After nearly four decades of surrendering sovereignty to Brussels, it seems Whitehall is abandoning all pretence of Britain being an independent nation:
While British special forces are seen as one of the greatest global assets Britain has to offer and are particularly coveted by the US, they are expensive accounting for an estimated £2 billion out of the £37 billion MoD budget.
However, like the rest of defence the SAS has had to make cuts and getting rid of the “old and the bold” and part of the TA is seen as the best solution.
Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, under with the Ministry of Defence has to make cuts of between 10 and 20 per cent, the SAS will also lose either 21 SAS or 23 SAS, its two TA battalions who also contribute to the war in Afghanistan.
Is there not a welfare scrounger, or busy body social worker, who could not be dismissed in their stead? This isn't even a butter vs guns decision, its a choice between defence or bread and circuses.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
The story of the Liberty Summer Seminar
I've been working on a new website for the "Clarington saga" -- that's the saga of my parents, who were charged by the municipality of Clarington for running a "commercial conference centre" on property zoned agricultural. They let me host the Liberty Summer Seminar on that property for the last ten years.
You can take a look at the new website here.
Today, I posted a somewhat brief history of the Liberty Summer Seminar. It was an email that we sent out to our email distribution list last year. Since people want to know what the LSS is all about, I thought I'd re-post it.
Here's an excerpt:
We’ve learned that people are willing to come from really, really far away to join us. Jamie Tronnes has come in from Morocco (Morocco!), my sister Agata has flown in from the Netherlands, Marc Brandl came from California, a gaggle of libertarians make a trip from New Brunswick every year (Mike Stockford, Tyler MacFadzen, and Jordan Graham, who is now a councillor. I call him “Councillor Jordan, sir”), Chris Kilmer and Jason Song have come in from New York, some fly in from way out west from Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton. Isaac Morehouse made the trek himself from Michigan starting at five in the morning, and then came back the next year with a whole van full of people. Toronto may not be far (about an hour-and-a-bit by car), but Paul Brennan and Christopher Twardawa have made the trip on a bicycle. On a bicycle!
I’ve learned that Catharine Sloan will mail me and my family a “thank you” note after a Seminar. No, thank you, Catharine. My mom promptly put the note on our fridge.
One big lesson is that no matter who we get to come out to the Seminar, no matter how incredible the talks, most of you will spend a lot of time talking about and giving glowing reviews of my mother and father’s cooking. That makes both of them very happy.
Minimum alchohol price will not prevent Scottish alchoholism
There is an ongoing debate in Scotland on how to curb alcoholism among the Scottish people. The governing party, the Scottish National Party, is proposing to enforce a 45p per unit minimum price on alcoholic products. Apparently the number 45p is very scientific; the Scottish Government is claiming that this minimum will lead to 50 fewer deaths and 1200 fewer hospital emissions.
How exactly did they come up with those numbers? I picture some academic or civil servant somewhere with a calculator (“Okay so if we make it 40p we will only save 35 lives, but with an extra 5p we can save 50 lives!”). Do they honestly think that human beings work that way? Do they really think that if they pull one lever or push a button they can direct society?
I have news for the Scottish nationalists; Scottish people love to get drunk. This isn’t just a stereotype. I recently lived above a bar in Scotland. Believe me when I say that the Scottish people love to get drunk. There is absolutely no way that a price floor will make a difference.
How do I know that for sure?
Because it has never worked anywhere else no matter where or when it has been tried.
The opposition parties say that all this measure will do is hurt the lower income responsible drinkers, and they are right. Someone who drinks more lightly may be less inclined to pay more, but someone who loves to get drunk will get drunk regardless of how much money they have to spend.
Society and individuals just simply cannot be engineered.
The Education Machine
Learning and Leviathan:
By and large, until, say, 1945, the expansion was fairly harmless. The underlying motives were noble, benevolent, or at worst foolish: a democratic ideal, the need to occupy the young increasingly excluded from the labor market, the quest for prestige. Certainly the affluent society could afford keeping the kids in school. The academic types were probably not much hurt—smart kids can adjust to anything, except being debauched by base rewards. And so long as the attitude was easy-going, the others did not suffer more than boredom. Unfortunately, however, there came to be established the misconception that being in school was the only appropriate way of being educated. Academic talent, the ability to profit by going to school, is a special disposition, neither better nor worse than any other. It does require good intelligence; yet high intelligence, grace and inventiveness need not be academic at all. A school is fundamentally a box with seats facing front.
Paul Goodman's perceptive comments date from 1963. Please go and read the whole piece, its relevance has only grown. The author still approves of state financed education, his ire is directed only at modern public schools. The transformation of education into a bureaucratic machine, which began even before 1945, has destroyed education. It isn't simply the dumbing down of the subject matter, to increase the graduation rates, but the needless torment inflicted on the academically uninclined.
As Goodman points out, only a small percentage of the population, he suggests about 15%, are geared toward book learning. This does not mean that all the rest are unintelligent, merely that their aptitudes are different. The young grease monkey might be a mental match for the future graduate student, but our bureaucratic system of schooling does not recognize this potential equality. This is not accidental.
Bureaucrats breed more bureaucrats. A system manned by university graduates, with ever higher levels of accreditation, believes that such a type of learning is socially useful. The Mandarin believes his role to be central in society. The state will manage society, and he and his class will manage the state. Other forms of learning are useful, but inferior. Since the Mandarin also controls the state schools, he will wish to gear the whole system to the generation of more like him.
This may seem counterintuitive. Why have more competition? Why not, like the original Mandarins of Imperial China, select only the best and brightest for higher education? Because the modern Mandarin lives in a democratic society. Such obvious selectivity would be damned as elitist. Mass high school and university education has the added benefit of reinforcing the bureaucratic system. This goes beyond the crude propaganda used in the schools, which really works only on those too young to challenge it, but to the very methods being employed.
The academically uninclined, even though still intelligent, youth acquires a grudging admiration for the academically talented. He begins, and the whole system reinforces this notion, that only this type of aptitude truly matters. His own talents, which might be every bit as useful to himself and society as any other, he begins to regard as inferior. Reluctantly, sometimes bitterly, he begins to defer to the "smart kids." He has been prepared for a society in which the academic student has become the intellectualized bureaucrat. It will be easier for him to defer to the bureaucrat, whom he regards, if only subconsciously, as his superior.
This process has gone very far in Continental Europe, most of which has never really escaped the feudal spirit. See the ruling elite of the European Union as Exhibit A. In North America, our more individualistic and entrepreneurial culture has resisted longer and harder. We cannot help admire college drop outs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and further back minimally educated geniuses like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Brains, daring and hard work are what count, not the ability to jump through a series of scholastic hoops.
It is this spirit which the Obama administration, packed with Ivy League power lusters, is keen to destroy or subvert. President Obama has declared it a national objective that all children should go to college, an absurd and dangerous boast. It would mean vast amounts of time and money wasted on those not inclined, or perhaps not even capable, of such an education. It would require even further dumbing down of the curriculum. It would place virtually the whole youth of the nation under the remit of the state, well into what previous generations would described as adulthood. A bureaucrat's dream, but a nightmare for the rest of us.
Blogging For Dollars
Don't anyone tell Dalton McGuinty. He might get ideas:
For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she's made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it's a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut.
In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.
If anyone thinks this is just about the government being money hungry, I've got some prime beachfront property on Baffin Island for sale.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Natives should support property rights
Some native chiefs are worried that the government’s goal is to bring property rights to the native reserves. So far the limited amount of property rights that has been introduced to some reserves has led to marked improvements in the reserve’s economy and standard of living. So why on Earth would the native leadership oppose something that is improving the lives of their people?
Their publicized reasoning is that property rights would ultimately lead to assimilation. They are keen to protect their ‘traditional way of life,’ but a tradition is only as good as it is beneficial to the people. A tradition that impoverishes is a tradition that is better off being gotten rid of.
So what exactly would allowing property rights mean for natives? It would mean that natives living on reserves can join the mainstream of economic life. It will give them an opportunity to escape the endless cycle of poverty that has captured native families for generations. It will mean a better life.
Is it fair to call this assimilation?
Invoking the term assimilation is a powerful rhetorical tool for native leaders. It reminds both natives and non-natives of some of the harshest most tyrannical actions of the Crown. Canada has a sad history in its treatment of native peoples.
But bringing property rights to the reserves is not the same thing as trying to stomp out a language or a religion. It brings more freedom to natives not less. So in this case it is native tradition not the government that is acting the tyrant.
And it is time that those who live on native reserves overthrow that tyrant.
Two letters from soldiers
As some of you may be aware, my parents were charged for running a "commercial conference centre" for letting me host the Liberty Summer Seminar on their property. This year was the tenth year that I've hosted the LSS on my parents' property. But, this year, the municipality has decided to crack down on my folks.
I put together a press release, and me and my family have appeared in the National Post, twice, in the Sun, in the Oshawa This Week, even in the Toronto Star. Ezra Levant wrote a column about it. I appeared on the Charles Adler show twice (hosted by Roy Green), as well as the John Oakley show (you can hear audio from all three here).
The response from the public has been encouraging, and overwhelming.
In particular, we've received letters from active members of the Canadian Forces. One from a man serving in Afghanistan, the other from a high school friend of mine who teaches young people in Bowmanville, which is part of the municipality of Clarington.
You can read the full letters here. But here are a few excerpts from those letters:
My friend John writes:
"I feel ashamed. To think that something like this can happen in Canada...
"In addition to my full time job, I go out to Bowmanville to teach teens things like seamanship skills, and citizenship. Occasionally, we give them lessons about WWII around Remembrance Day, and the Battle of Atlantic Sunday, including the evils of fascism and tyranny. It’s sad to see that despite our best lessons, these evil seeds are taking root in this rather nice community."
Gilles, meanwhile, on active duty in Afghanistan, writes:
"I’ve been defending our country for many years, but I never thought that what I was defending was the right of over-zealous bylaw enforcers to bully a family business over a backyard BBQ.
"What if a similar Hero’s Ride were to be organized when I get back next spring from my tour, but instead of ending it at the Bowmanville exit on Hwy 401, some participants pulled into the Jaworskis’ Bed and Breakfast for a BBQ, would your Bylaw officers once again employ the same heartless uncommon anti-social tactics? Of course, no such event is planned, but the freedom to do so seems only natural, but not, it seems, in your most unfriendly municipality.
"While I’m here in Afghanistan, or as I have been throughout my career, defending those freedoms Canadians enjoy, it appears the Jaworskis are not entitled to such freedom, regardless of how many heroes have died to ensure that those freedoms exist."
You can read the whole of the letters here.
The Warts and Not the All
Passing judgment on the past:
After objections from the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada will reconsider whether former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton should be recognized as a person of national historic significance.
Whitton, mayor of Ottawa from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964, was the first woman to serve as mayor of a Canadian city.
That "supplementary information" was supplied by the CJC, which opposes Whitton's recognition because of her role in keeping orphaned Jewish children out of Canada during the Second World War, Marie-Josée Lemieux, the board's executive secretary, confirmed Monday.
In light of the new information, Lemieux said the board will reconsider its earlier recommendation at a future meeting.
While Whitton's actions were appalling, they would have been quite popular at the time. Her anti-semitism was well known, as was her contempt for pretty much anyone who wasn't of British descent. George Drew, Premier of Ontario from 1943 to 1948, described French-Canadians as a defeated race, and tried to discourage immigration from non-British sources.
Whitton was, however, quite a progressive figure for the era. She was a founder of the Canadian Council on Child Welfare, which is today the Canadian Council on Social Development, and an advocate of a modest welfare state. Bigotry, in both its vulgar and scholarly forms, was perfectly acceptable in mid-twentieth century. Much of this was driven by fashionable pseudo-sciences such as eugenics, as well as by old fashioned xenophobia.
In the wake of the Second World War, and the dissemination of the Nazi atrocities, racism slowly acquired the powerful stigma we know today. While it is important to remember Canada's racist past, including the behaviour of Charlotte Whitton, reducing both Whitton, and the Canada of that generation, to crude characterization serves neither the truth or Canadians today.
Racism was not invented by white Canadians. It is as much a part of human history as war, slavery and tyranny. To borrow from one of Whitton's contemporaries, C.D. Howe, in racism no one has a monopoly on SOBs. Such bigotry stems from a defence mechanism, born of our early tribal history. Our survival depended on close co-operation between small groups of individuals, most of them close genetic relations. These groups could not function without high levels of trust. Outsiders were not simply different, they were potentially dangerous, even fatal. Who knew what the stranger might bring?
Over time the "tribes" we belonged to expanded, from region to small nation state to continental state. We climbed a conceptual chain to the recognition of the universality of human nature. Not everyone reached that conceptual landmark at the same time, indeed much of mankind has yet to reach it. Thus the dark irony of modern progressives, professed anti-racists, refusing to condemn the racism of non-white immigrants. Most of those who immigrate to Canada come from nations that are, in every sense, backward. Economically, politically, legal and socially these societies are where Canada was decades, or even centuries ago.
Stating this fact, which even thirty years ago was quite uncontroversial, is now itself considered racist, and seen as an attempt to resurrect the worst elements of the Old Canada. The Old Canada, the Canada of Charlotte Whitton, was not a dark and evil place. It generated no great massacres. Its horrors were, by the bleak standards of human history, quite pedestrian. Aside from the fashionable bigotry of the elites, most ordinary Canadians were not so much malicious as ignorant.
They, and their ancestors, had built a spectacularly successful nation. It was a leap of the imagination, which Laurier urged us to take, that these newcomers would eventually turn out Canadian, that they would maintain rather destroy what they had indirectly inherited. This is what the modern progressives miss about the Old Canada, it was far more apprehensive that evil. Its desire to assimilate newcomers driven by a sober understanding, borne of remembered experience, that the quarrels of the old world should remain in the old world.
One of the main difference between the Right and Left in this country, as well as in the rest of the English speaking world, is that the former believes in the basic decency of the ordinary individual, the latter in his essential sinfulness. So obsessed with fighting the ghosts of bigots past, the Left ignores the bigotry of Islamists who plan murder on their "fellow" Canadians. It is not the generals, but the intellectuals of the Left who seem to be fighting the last war.
The Upstarts of Mid-Manhattan
How they dare they build skyscrapers in New York!
To hear the two sides in the skyscraper war tell it, never has so much been at stake.
The owners of the Empire State Building and their supporters say their tower’s international status and New York City’s skyline are in mortal danger of an assault from a “monstrosity.”
What irks the former is that the latter would rise to be 1,216 feet, almost as tall as the Empire State Building, and would be just 900 feet away, a little too close for a building that has stood apart in the skyline for its entire 79-year life.
“The question here is: How close is too close to one of New York’s iconic landmarks,” Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick said Monday, after a hearing in which the owners of both properties made their cases, in advance of a City Council vote on Wednesday.
If Plato had been right, and there was indeed a world of forms, then all skyscrapers would be but imperfect reflections of the Empire State Building. Its magnificence is undeniable. But to build it Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the legendary architectural firm hired for the task, had to demolish the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Had today's network of zoning and historical regulations been in place in 1930, there is not a chance in hell the Empire State Building would have been built on that site, and probably not anywhere near it. Perhaps it would have been built somewhere else, and we would have it and the grand old Waldorf-Astoria. Perhaps not.
Location is everything in real estate. In preserving the great old buildings of the present, or even just preventing their lines of sight from being blocked, we run the risk of preventing the great new buildings of tomorrow from rising. New York is not a museum, and it did not become New York by preserving everything from its past, otherwise it would never have been anything other than a small Dutch settlement. Nowhere more than New York City is Schumpeter's phrase "creative destruction" so vividly displayed. It is a creativity imperilled.