The Shotgun Blog
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Hope, Fear and Toryism
The wild and rabid Toryism of Stephen Harper:
The federal Conservatives raised more than $4-million between July 1 and Sept. 30, out-fundraising the Liberals, Bloc Québécois, and NDP combined, through the use of two emotions, say some political observers: hope and fear.
"The more emotional intensity, the more money you can raise," conservative political pundit Gerry Nicholls told The Hill Times last week.
When it comes to "hope," Mr. Nicholls said an example is "We are so close to winning a majority ... with your help we can do it! Send money!" An example of fear, he said, is " 'The Liberals and the NDP are planning a left-wing coalition to impose socialism in Canada. Only your support will stop them! Send us money.' "
"Impose socialism in Canada." Only forty years too late to stop that. Majority government at hand? When the electoral snows melt, and the Bloc Quebecois MPs are forced go out and find real jobs. It isn't about socialism or capitalism anymore. It's about partisanship. Go Team Blue! Beat Team Red!
A Battle Lost, A War to Win
Julian Fantino wins:
Julian Fantino’s snatching of the Greater Toronto riding of Vaughan in Monday’s federal by-election will further cloud Michael Ignatieff’s troubled leadership and offer a glimpse of a possible Conservative majority government after the next election.
The loss of their long-held seat in Vaughan to the Conservatives is disquieting for the Liberals on several fronts. For one thing, the party is 1-for-7 in by-elections under Mr. Ignatieff, after they took Winnipeg North away from the NDP Monday. Every loss deepens the hole the Liberals must climb out of to form even a minority government.
But the Conservatives inherit a liability:
The Liberals smell blood on Fantino. If he wins, now that the Libs have begun attacking Fantino as did Justin Trudeau (think of that – federal Libs attacking McG’s OPP commish!), they will continue to hound the government for embracing of a guy who openly spits (figuratively) on the Charter, and the issues of Caledonia will get even bigger play in the House, and media.
Stephen Harper has gotten his prize. Let him pay for it. The Prime Minister wanted to burnish his law and order credentials, let the rest of Canada discover just how well he, and Julian Fantino, grasp the concept. A party with any touch of principle would have refused to nominate Fantino. There is every likelihood that the former OPP commissioner will find himself in cabinet shortly. He must become the CPC's highest profile liability.
In the set piece of a police press conference, Fantino performs well. In the cut and thrust of the House of Commons, where opposition MPs will be far less deferential, he will have a much tougher time. If Michael Ignatieff had any sense - which is doubtful given his tin-eared leadership of the Liberal Party - he would use Caledonia as a club to beat the Harper Tories: Questions in the house. Witnesses called before House and Senate committees to give testimony. Election campaign ads showing the anarchy of Caledonia with a simple caption: "Is this Stephen Harper's idea of law and order?"
The Tories have made inroads in the 905 region by beating the law and order drum. Go negative on their strength, deny them the ability to make a credible claim to being the guardians of public safety. Julian Fantino won through name recognition. But recognition can be turned into infamy. Some have questioned whether Fantino will be able to accept the PMO's micromanaging tendencies. Given how readily he caved into a non-entity like Dalton McGuinty, he'll fit in perfectly. Another trained seal for the CPC benches.
The Trudeau Cult at its Worst
To those wondering just how far the Trudeau obsession goes in Canada's Toronto-centric media, look no further! The Toronto Star has hit bottom and kept digging! No, it's not another retrospective on the life of the Northern Magus, thrilling though that would be. Not even a whining editorial about how the modern day Iggy Liberals need to rediscover the élan of their Trudeau era forebears. That's a typical week for the editorial board at #1 Yonge Street. No, The Toronto Star has resorted to what is the ethical equivalent of stalking Trudeau's nineteen year old daughter.
Let me be quite clear, I'm not saying that the Star reporter did anything illegal, I'm sure it was all vetted quite carefully by the battalion of lawyers they keep on retainer, I'm just saying it was morally obscene.
As regular readers of this space will know, I'm not an admirer of Pierre Trudeau, nor I am quite all the way into full blown Trudeau derangement syndrome. He was a colourful figure in the very grey world of Canadian politics. Along with Laurier - who had better politics and sartorial taste - and Macdonald - who was a fun-loving and witty boozer - Trudeau is one of the few Canadian Prime Ministers to have been personally interesting. The rest of them come off as overly earnest Sunday school teachers - as some of them were - or overly ambitious ward-heelers.
Otherwise Trudeau was a pretty standard issue European-style socialist "renaissance man." Impressive to the colonials in North America, but a Euro-a-dozen petty aristocrat on the older side of the Atlantic. But young love being what it is, he still haunts us and, thus, the Star felt compelled to haunt the teenage Sarah Coyne.
Now this isn't a puff piece on one of Trudeau's off-spring. The two surviving boys, which Trudeau had by Margaret, have to varying degrees tolerated or sought out the public spotlight. Justin is, as we are reminded ad nauseum, a Quebec MP and the uncrowned prince of whatever remains of the Liberal Party.
Sarah Coyne was born of a liaison with constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne, a distant cousin of the columnist Andrew Coyne. The elder Coyne has kept very quiet about the affair and has shielded her daughter's privacy. Well, Sarah turned nineteen this year, so I guessed the Star assumed she was now fair game.
This piece in last week's Star was clearly done without Sarah Coyne's consent. A photograph of the teenage Coyne was splashed across the front page of the Star on Wednesday. The obviously fuzzy image, complete with red eyes, a sign that the photo was likely taken from a distance, and perhaps without Sarah's knowledge or consent. The article is filled with general knowledge about the family and Sarah, as well as vague background information, which the reporter seems to have gleaned hanging around the University of Pennsylvania's campus. There is even a collection of photos.
Let's recap, the Star sent a reporter to a foreign university campus to, essentially, collect gossip about the teenage daughter of a politician who left office in 1984. Slow news day isn't the word. This technically legal bit of politically themed voyeurism was capped off by this nice dollop of drool:
But hers is the untold story of the only daughter of the Northern Magus — the provocative aristocrat with a dazzling charm who captivated this nation in 1968 and led it for 16 years as prime minister.
Twenty bucks says either the reporter, or editor, has a positively gushy Trudeau story. Residents of the Imperial Capital, who are not left-wing boomers, have had to endure listening to these over the years. Some of my teachers had "the experience" of meeting Pierre. The stories are pretty much the same. They met him walking down a street in Montreal. They met him at party. They were a student when he was teaching law. It's like they'd meet Elvis or something.
This cult of personality, better fitting a Third World hell hole, and not one of the world's oldest liberal-democracies, has lead to this journalistic disgrace: The invasion of privacy of an inoffensive teenage girl trying to get an education. Her mother was not amused:
Re: Trudeau’s little girl is all grown up: Sarah, in her sophomore year, Nov. 24
I am writing in response to this article. While the Star acknowledged that Sarah did not consent in any way to the article, it is important to underscore the extent to which her wishes were disrespected. She and I recognize there is a curious public. We also trust that same public would agree that no young woman should be subject to the unfortunate tactics that were employed to breach her personal privacy.
As a mother I take this issue very seriously and I like to think others will also. The Toronto Star has every right to ask my daughter if she wishes to adopt a more public posture. In turn, she has every right to expect that when she says no, her answer will be respected with the same degree of dignity and courtesy that she always takes care to demonstrate. Regrettably, that expectation appears to have been poorly founded. I hope and I trust that in the future your paper will respect reasonable privacy boundaries.
Deborah Coyne, Toronto
An admirably restrained response. I doubt my political opinions coincide much with Deborah Coyne, and perhaps yours don't as well. Not really the point. It will likely matter to them not a wit, but let me express by sympathies to both ladies. They don't deserve this treatment. The Toronto Star is noted for its near paranoid fear of American influences in Canadian culture, and yet they have behaved as badly as any Kennedy obsessed American tabloid.
I long considered simply ignoring this story, rather than compound the initial wrong. Yet I don't think we should let the Star get away with this. The editors responsible for this invasion of Sarah Coyne's privacy should be ashamed of themselves. With so many genuine problems facing Canada, they devoted their time and energy to this trash. Paper of record my ass.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Being Savaged By a Dead Sheep
That was Bob Rae's description of being attacked by Joe Clark. The same description can probably be applied to Justin Trudeau's personal attack on Julian Fantino:
“I was so shocked to find out what Julian Fantino thinks about the Charter,” Mr. Trudeau says, his voice heavy with disapproval.
“Fantino said, and I quote ‘Who has reaped the greatest benefit from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I would argue that, if it isn’t common criminals, then it must be the Hells Angels.’ We need people in Ottawa who want to protect the Charter of Rights, not tear it down. That’s what’s at stake in this election in Vaughan.”
Watch the video. I laughed and cried. He's got a moustache and is in full drama teacher mode. Never in the course of Canadian political history has so much good, been expressed so badly. This is a rare story when I'm conflicted about the participants. I don't like Julian Fantino or Justin Trudeau. To borrow from an American politician, why can't they both lose?
Sadly democracy doesn't work like that. In fairness, the text of Justin's little rant is actually pretty good. He's essentially calling out Fantino for saying that individual rights get in the way of maintaining law and order. A fine point, and faint hope that the party of Laurier isn't completely dead. Though Iggy seems to be working hard at finishing it off.
After serving for over 40 years as a police officer,” he told The Globe in an email Friday afternoon, “I don't need any lectures on law and order from a novice member of the 'hug-a-thug' Ignatieff party.
He's already memorized the Tory-lingo. Nice. Clearly a quick study. In point of fact Iggy doesn't actually hug thugs. Most thugs are poor people, and they might stain the material. I believe a low-level staffer is responsible for the actual thug-hugging, for any of the thugs who come into the Liberal Leader's Etobicoke constituency office. I think it's usually done on Friday mornings, so the thugs have time to knock off liquor stores in the evening.
Justin Trudeau is a clown, a caricature of an overwrought Leftist, desperately trying to channel his dead father. Julian Fantino has an authoritarian streak, when it suits him, emitting the sound track of a schoolyard cops and robbers game. When genuine law and order needed to be dispensed, and when the villains were real and violent, he caved to a pack of elected non-entities. The tragedy of Caledonia was the sad result of the OPP's inaction. As the then commissioner, he bears responsibility for that inaction.
The thought of voting in another Liberal hack, no doubt, pains many sincere conservatives. There is, however, something much bigger at stake. A Liberal victory in Vaughan will just add another voting machine to the party's Ottawa rump. A Conservative victory will give the overseer of the Caledonia tragedy not just a seat in Parliament, but possibly a seat at the cabinet table.
It will also give to Stephen Harper a political trophy, which he will use to push forward with a law and order agenda that targets petty drug users, while taking away time and resources from fighting genuine violent criminals. The Prime Minister and his "new best friend" talk a tough line. As the last five years have shown for both men, they can't walk it.
Grapes Makes a Bad Call
Meanwhile in Vaughan:
Don Cherry, CBC's high-profile and sometimes controversial hockey commentator, is making automated calls to households in a Toronto-area riding endorsing the Conservative candidate in a federal byelection.
Audio of Cherry's endorsement has been posted on the website of a well-connected Conservative party blogger, and the federal party has distributed a written version of the endorsement to select journalists."Hi, it's Don Cherry," says the distinctive voice in the 20-second recording, before launching into an endorsement of his "good friend Julian Fantino."
The call is here. According to this report, the Liberals have resorted to bringing in an auto call of Justin Trudeau. I sometimes wonder who exactly is doing the Liberals' electoral strategizing these days. The Tories send in a tough, scrappy working class kid from Kingston, who climbed his way to being a national hockey hero. The Liberals reply by using the effete son, and grandson, of millionaires and cabinet ministers, who spent half his childhood on Sussex Drive, and the other half in Westmount. They might as well have had one of the Westons record a call.
According to the above report, Justin flogged his father's memory to help retain the seat for the Liberals. Given the large Italian community in Vaughan, that should taken as a polite "you owe us," which the Liberals always like to invoke to keep the ethnics in line.
It seems that Cherry is a personal friend of Julian Fantino, and the call should be taken in that light. As I mentioned in this space last week, Fantino has effectively projected the image of a tough, no-nonsense law and order cop. Make what you will of of Fantino's record before he became OPP Commissioner - to me it was generally positive, with a few question marks - his conduct during the Caledonia crisis, however, has been a disgrace.
To officialdom, the operational policy of the OPP in Caledonia since 2006 has been one of restraint and moderation, the delicate balancing of competing interests to prevent further violence. In terms of facts on the ground, the crisis has seen the wholesale surrender of part of sovereign Canadian soil to thugs. That those thugs are of a different racial origin than most Canadians, is irrelevant. That the thugs in question have pretensions of political sovereignty, is a point to be argued over by political scientists and historians.
For nearly five years countless serious criminal acts have gone punished. Law and order, whose maintenance is the sole justification for having a professional police force, collapsed in a part rural Ontario. Julian Fantino was responsible for maintaining law and order, for whatever reason, he failed in that duty.
I don't think Don Cherry approves of theft of property. I don't think he approves of hydro transformers being destroyed as part of a "protest." I don't think the no-nonsense coach of NHL lore would approve of ordinary, hardworking people being harassed day and night by violent thugs. I think he would be appalled at fear and terror being inflicted on aged veterans. The kind of Canada Don Cherry grew up in, and the kind of Canada I suspect he wants his grandchildren to inherit, is a peaceful and civilized place. Here disagreements are settled through discussion, and at last resort to the courts. Violence is used only for self-defense.
Another working class, small town kid, Christie Blatchford, has carefully document in her book Helpless how ordinary Canadians - including many honourable front-line police officers - were sold down the river by their superiors. First and foremost among them is Julian Fantino.
I know you're a stand up guy Grapes, but you've made a bad call this time. When the residents of Vaughan go into the polling booth today, hopefully they'll remember their fellow Canadians, a few hours away, in Caledonia.
Update: Blatch's take on the Don Cherry endorsement:
Mr. Cherry, of course, lives in Mississauga, works in downtown Toronto, and has a cottage near Kingston. He has, in other words, no vested interest, let alone a vote, in the by-election next Monday.
Now when Gary McHale, then of Richmond Hill, first poked his nose into the occupation that was going on in the town of Caledonia south of Hamilton, and began in late December, 2006, organizing rallies for those who objected to the way the Ontario government and the OPP were handling the occupation, Mr. Fantino had just taken over as the OPP boss.
He immediately demonized Mr. McHale, not a Caledonia resident, as “an outsider” with “an agenda.”
Friday, November 26, 2010
Are You Stimulated?
Looks like only 25%:
More than 75 per cent of money earmarked for the largest federal infrastructure program was left untouched last year, a lag the Liberals say undermines the Harper government’s claim the stimulus spending spree is creating new jobs.
Of the $2 billion allotted for the flagship Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, only $493 million was actually spent, a departmental performance report shows.
The program, pegged at $4 billion over two years, is intended to help provinces and municipalities fund water, transit, sewers and road projects.
Among the many problems with stimulus spending - as opposed to genuinely needed infrastructure upgrades and maintenance - is that by the time money gets spent, the economy has already recovered, or is in the process of recovering. Modern business moves at the speed of light, modern government at the speed of bureaucratic horse and buggy. Government may have gotten much bigger since the days of Sir John A Macdonald, but not much faster. Between the environmental assessments, and the lobbying efforts of municipal governments and contractors, it can take years before unionized shovels hit public pavements.
Let's put aside whether governments are best able to build and maintain sewers, water pipes and roads. Let's instead take the conventional opinion at face value, that only the government can effectively and efficiently provide these "public goods." But why must it be the federal government? Isn't it the responsibility of individual counties, towns and cities to provide these basic bits of infrastructure? You might say that municipalities don't have the tax base to support these large scale projects? So why are they being built? If there is no tax base to support an infrastructure project, perhaps that's because there is insufficient demand for the service. Just so many roads to nowhere.
For the last twenty years or so a pattern has emerged of local governments passing the buck upward, demanding higher levels of government help meet their fiscal shortfalls. The explanation - or excuse depending on your perspective - is that begging up is a result of downloading responsibilities, such as welfare and public housing.
The downloading of services in the 1990s was a product of the fiscal exigencies of the time. While the ideal solution would have been to shut down many of these public services, had that not proven politically feasible, many services should have been re-uploaded. They weren't for reasons of political strategy, not sound public policy.
Paving roads and fixing sewers is not the sexy end of the modern Leviathan. Neither is running housing projects or managing welfare rolls. Too depressing. Politicians like handing out big cardboard checks to photo-op appealing crowds: Children, small animals, doctors, scientists and certain ethnic groups. Every dollar spent on a basic service, which most people take for granted, is a dollar not spent pandering to potential voters. No one will be grateful that you filled that pothole. It's your job after all. They might, however, remember a politico helping to get funding for a local hockey rink (or an NHL arena if you live in Quebec).
The end result is ill-funded public infrastructure, and a federal government that then plays the white knight riding to the rescue. But a federal government that concerns itself with filling pot-holes in Moncton, and digging drainage ditches in Moose Jaw, is playing a part never envisioned by the Fathers of Confederation. Certainly John A Macdonald wanted a highly centralized government, but he would have balked at spending his time - and federal resources - on humdrum local services, rightly in the purview of an alderman.
A Canada in which the federal government, which means the PMO, is the financier of all projects great and small, is a Canada in which the power of the federal government is in practice unlimited. It is a Canada in which a long chain has been created between those who receive a service, and those who are ultimately responsible for its upkeep.
One of the basic maxims of English speaking societies has been that government should be kept as close as possible to the people it serves. Basic stuff is kept local, the bigger stuff moved up the jurisdictional ladder. If a pothole needs to be filled, call your local councillor, not the Prime Minister of Canada. It helps ensure the process is faster and more accountable. It also helps to roughly match supply and demand, by matching expenditure to the appropriate tax base. A local politico, or bureaucrat, will have a better feel for local needs than one a thousand miles away, in one of Ottawa's concrete or Gothic towers. It's a not a free market approach, but it's not the all encompassing state either.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Growing Up: The Future of Vertical Farming
Country in the city:
According to Despommier, traditional agricultural production requires too much land, too much water, and far too many pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Irrigating farmland consumes 70 percent of our fresh water, he writes, and the runoff that results from this irrigation “is by far the world’s most damaging source of pollution.” Forsaking synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is one response to this problem, but organic farming produces less food than chemical farming does, and even chemical farming won’t be able to yield enough food for the world as it adds another 3 billion hungry mouths over the next 40 years. To feed them using current techniques, we’d need a land-mass the size of Brazil, Despommier asserts, and in his estimation “that amount of additional arable land simply does not exist.”
Cool. But is it economical? The fixed costs of skyscraper farming are pretty high. Unfortunately the article doesn't really get into the financial details of vertical farming.
The Traitors and the Spendthrifts
A coalition of sorts:
The Bloc Québécois and the Harper government are rumoured to be engaged in a sensitive Pas de Deux that will likely see Québec City win federal funding for a new arena to host the NHL—with possible other victories for the Bloc—while the government wins unexpected support in crucial House votes.
The scenario could throw all current election speculation out the window and, combined with other events and timetables for next year, possibly set the stage for Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) not only surviving through another budget next spring, but possibly for another year at least.
So, what was all the fuss about? Remember? Almost exactly two years ago when Stephan Dion, Jack Layton and Giles Duceppe planned their coup d'etat? Remember the outrage. Hell, I was outraged. But two years ago I was still willing to give the Harper Tories the benefit of the doubt. How young was I once? How many moons have passed? There is no reason to grant quarter now.
The Coalition horrors warned of by the Conservatives have come to pass, at the hands of the Conservatives themselves. They have spent like drunken Trudeau-era Grits. They have compromised their principles and told a key part of their base to stuff it. They have put patronage ahead of promise in their Senate appointments. Short of holding another referendum on national unity, they are as bad as what they claim to abhor.
It should then come as no surprise that Stephen the Spendthrift is rumoured to be in bed with Giles the Traitor. The deal at hand is classic pork-barrelling: Federal subsidies for an uneconomical Quebec City NHL arena. The region is the Tories only stronghold in La Belle Province, naturally a little electoral sweetener wouldn't go amiss. Tis' the season to be generous, with other people's money. The Bloc serve no function except as a pressure group for the Quebecois. Their tautological platform has only one plank: What is Good for Quebec is Good for Quebec. It's a deal made in political heaven, or hell for those who believe that principle should play a role in politics.
The much-abused Tory base remains loyal. The question is to what? To conservative values? Unlikely. Yes, the Tories have a minority government. That does limit what they can do. Lester Pearson also had two back to back minority governments, and he introduced sweeping changes to the country, albeit most of them bad.
Is the failure of the Harper Tories one of opportunity, or courage? And should the Conservatives at long last win their majority, what mandate will they have? They have governed from the center for so long, how can they justify governing from the RIght? Won't the rationale then become we can't take risks because we might lose the majority? So when will the Reform come? As time passes it becomes clear that many Conservatives' loyalty lies with Team Blue, not conservative ideas or values.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Can't Tell the Government Players Without A Program
The court circulars of the aristocracy of the pull:
Although $5,700 for a subscription to Bloomberg Government might sound steep to you, it's chump change for businessmen who become the first in their cohort to read Line 125 in a pending bit of legislation and can place a bet on— or against—it in the market. Nor is this kind of high-priced government news anything new. The newsletters, which these new tip sheets resemble, have made millionaires out of hard-working journalists. Just last week, the Washington Post ran a profile of two gentlemen who started a Washington newsletter company 33 years ago and whose sales were estimated at $463 million in 2008. They're so rich now that they own Atlanta's NBA and NHL franchises.
An entire news service, dedicated to warning businessmen about what thunderbolt might destroy their livelihoods. Beneath the high-sermons of the Left, this is the grubby reality.
The Battles of Vaughan & Julian Fantino's Caledonia Legacy
More than partisan maneuvering is at stake in next week's Vaughan by-election:
If Fantino, the 68-year-old former OPP commissioner, wins "it would be a feather in the cap of the Conservatives," said Nelson Wiseman, an associate politics professor at the University of Toronto. "They have been picking up byelections and they think they have an excellent chance here."
Nor is it about Julian Fantino's "law and order" credentials:
Fantino, who retired from the OPP in June, said he wasn't ready to devote his life to golf, a game he doesn't even like playing.
"I will be forever concerned and conscientious about that (crime)," he said, adding that the issue is more important now that he is a grandfather of four. "It's a huge issue. Any crime is unacceptable and I shudder when I hear people talking about or minimizing the impact of crime. For me as a statement, unequivocally in this regard, any crime is unacceptable."
It is about how bitter, and frankly insincere, those words from the former OPP Commissioner must seem to the residents of Caledonia. The image of the crime-fighting crusader contrasts sharply with the OPP's inaction during the occupation of the Douglas Creek Estate. Fantino's status as a star candidate for the Conservative Party belies opposition from genuine conservatives.
In his four years in power Stephen Harper has played bait and switch with the Canadian electorate. He has talked of conservative values, and fear mongered on the dangers of a Liberal-NDP coalition government, while running a government which is fiscally to the Left of those of Paul Martin and Jean Chretien. In Julian Fantino he has again offered Canadians a false bill of goods, a law and order candidate who, as OPP commissioner, failed to uphold basic law and order.
What has allowed the Prime Minister to get away, so far, with the candidacy of Julian Fantino is the near silence the MSM has offered on the Caledonia tragedy. With the honourable exception of Christie Blatchford, the media has largely ignored the near anarchy which persisted for years in a Canadian small town, all within driving distance of Toronto. Canadian television journalists should long ago have stopped, if only for a moment, chasing down crooked used car salesmen, and paid attention to what should have been the biggest news story of the last five years. Placing the violence of Caledonia in Canadian living rooms, might have ended the tragedy and pain much sooner.
Media stories, like political rhetoric, are wrapped in narrative. The tribal loyalties of Blue Tories and Red Liberals belie differences in what might be called applied public policy. Thus the Liberal Party is the party of spendthrifts, even though most of Canada's post-war balanced budgets were delivered by Liberal Finance Ministers. The Conservatives are the party of law and order, even though their law and order platform consists mostly of picking on low-level marijuana users and dealers, rather than focusing their energies on genuine crimes such as theft, assault and murder.
Our universities, and their journalism schools, dutifully teach their wards the new version of the white man's burden, that descendants of Canada's original colonizers grew rich on the suffering of the pre-Columbian inhabitants. In consequence the sins of the great-grandfathers must be expiated by the apologies, and subsidies, of the great-grandchildren.
This involves a selective observation of the facts. Many reservers are third-world hell holes not because of corrupt unaccountable quasi-tribal governments, but because Ottawa hasn't spent enough money. Land claims are portrayed as honest attempts by modern day Davids - pardon the Euro-centrism - against the Goliath of the federal government That many of these claims are on the filmiest of pretexts is ignored. We must feel sympathy for the victims of land allegedly stolen centuries ago, as if these events were fresh in the memories of their participants.
The aboriginal is aways right, the non-aboriginal is always wrong. Racism employed to fight long-dead racists. Journalists, scholars and even police officers are today re-enacting long ago wars in modern twenty-first century Canada. The price of observing these multicultural pieties was the break down of law and order, in one pretty spot of rural Ontario. For that Julian Fantino must share the blame. For that the voters of Vaughan must reject his candidacy for the Parliament of Canada.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
VIDEO: "Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story"
Stop whatever you're doing and watch this right now.
This charming documentary on the debt was created by Martin Durkin and aired on the UK's Channel 4 earlier this month. It is one big refutation of the Broken Window Fallacy, a crash course in the political economy of Frédéric Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt, and gives the lie to the popular notion that the Cameron-Clegg coalition are actually making reductions in state spending:
(h/t Trevor Loudon)
All Loyal Tories Go To Heaven
And Loyola Hearn is going to Ireland:
Loyola Hearn, for good and faithful service, has been made Ambassador to Ireland.
The affable Newfoundlander was a fixture in the Progressive Conservative Party and then in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, before retiring from political life. His name leapt out of Friday’s listing of the latest diplomatic appointments by the Harper government.
Canada has a mixed system, in which career public servants fill some embassies and high commissions, while former politicians take other spots. Ireland is very much of the latter category.
It's not exactly a dangerous country, Ireland. It is also a very pretty one. The crooners used to sing about how Ireland must be heaven, because their mothers came from there. Well it is certainly heaven for patronage hungry politicos. Stephen Harper promised a new kind of government. He has certainly delivered a new set of patronage appointees. Meanwhile, Mad Max does the libertarian rubber chicken circuit.
Tax shelters and the Fugitive Slave Act: Layton to announce plan for tax avoiders
NDP Leader Jack Layton will hold a press conference today outlining the New Democrats' plan to address tax havens.
In a media advisory from the NDP caucus, the party said “Every year, billions of dollars are shielded from taxes through the use of tax havens – unfairly increasing the tax burden for other Canadians.”
But do wealthy Canadians engaged in aggressive tax planning really burden the rest of us with high taxes, as the NDP is arguing? The answer, of course, is “no”. This burden comes from government, and those who attempt to escape this burden are simply trying to live free.
Consider this analogy:
It’s 1793 in America and the Congress has passed the Fugitive Slave Act. An African American slave – lets call him Mr. X – escapes a plantation for the Midwest, an early abolitionist strong hold. In his drive for freedom, he is forced to leave behind his family and friends. While many of the slaves left behind are happy for Mr. X, some are envious, and frustrated that they have been forced to toil harder in his absence. The slave master senses this envy and frustration and pronounces that run-away slaves like Mr. X are “unfairly increasing the burden for other slaves” and that the Fugitive Slave Act will help put an end to this unfairness. With this knowledge, the slaves go happily back to work.
So don’t be bamboozled by the slave master into blaming the run-away slave for your heavy burden. It’s not overtaxed Canadians in search of tax havens who are to blame for the unfair tax burden, it’s the government – and politicians like Layton who make unreasonable claims on our labour and property. But while I am a tax abolitionist in theory, as all serious libertarians are, I nevertheless pay my taxes and avoid tax shelters – and encourage others to do the same – not out of duty to my neighbour, but out of fear of my government. There is no surer path to financial ruin than a showdown with a tax authority.
I'm sure it is exactly this kind of personal cowardice on my part that the Father of the American Revolution, Samuel Adams, had in mind when he proclaimed these words in the Philadelphia State House on August 1, 1776:
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.
Let Them Eat Cookies: Canadian Journalism and Medicare
For the record, it looks to have been chocolate chips:
Alberta's healthcare CEO issued an apology Saturday after telling reporters he was too busy “eating a cookie” to answer questions about crowded hospitals.
"I'm interested in eating in my cookie," said Duckett with a smile.
In fairness to Stephen Duckett, he did tell reporters he would answer media questions at a press conference later that day. In another universe this might be Medicare's Marie Antoinette moment, when finally Canadians begin to understand just how out of touch Medicare's masters are with its on the ground reality. However, we have had many such moments over the years, including the Chaoulli decision. The Cult of Medicare still survives, still claiming victims.
Just as the historical Marie Antoinette never asked why the peasants didn't eat cake instead of bread, so Dr Duckett's evasions might be more of place and time, rather than refusing to answer questions at all. Journalists, especially television journalists, love the runaway perp clip. Important person, wearing a suit and tie, is being chased by the valiant ill-clad reporter. The implication being that the important person is afraid of the valiant reporter's gotcha questions. The truth is rather more complex, these are examples of the spectacle nature of modern journalism.
To those who have witnessed media scrums first hand, they are a feeding frenzy. I'm amazed at the restraint shown by most politicos. Ravenous is not the word to describe the conduct of scrum reporters. Most of the questions are geared not to get an intelligent response, but to embarrass the important politico. As a means of self-protection, most politicos don't answer questions, they just recite talking points. An utterly futile back and forth results, whose sole purpose is to fool the folks at home into thinking that both sides are still doing their jobs.
Modern media-government interactions are reminiscent of that old joke about Soviet industry, the workers pretend to work and the managers pretend to pay. In the Ottawa Press Gallery, and the provincial bureaus, the journalists pretend to ask questions and the politicians pretend to answer.
Meanwhile, genuinely important questions need asking, such as those that surround the fate of Therese de Repentigny:
The family of an elderly Quebec woman who died in hospital after waiting six hours in the emergency room to see a doctor has filed a complaint with the facility.
Last Tuesday, Therese de Repentigny's daughter took her to the hospital after she began complaining of pain. De Repentigny, 78, was seen by a triage nurse and then told to wait.
De Repentigny's daughter, Fernande Blais, says her mother got up from her hospital stretcher several times, asking to see a doctor. However, she was repeatedly told she would have to wait.
Like in old episodes of M*A*S*H modern Canadian doctors and nurses also conduct triage. This only makes sense. The massive coronary is a logically higher priority than a broken leg. In a system where patients are bureaucratized numbers, rather than clients and patients, resources are never properly allocated. There are often too many administrators and too few nurses. Since competition is not allowed what choice do the sick have? It's pretty much the same all over.
A system of perpetual shortage - like all planned economies - requires rationing. One of the informal ways in which ER's ration is by prioritizing the young over the old. Again, this is probably the least worst alternative. Still, it leaves some of the elderly, who have spent lifetimes supporting the current system, waiting to die. The hospital administrators and front-line staff make their own calculations as well. The outrage over a dead toddler will be far greater than of an elderly woman. Universal health care is not universal to all. Now that's a story that needs to be covered.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Give Me A Break: Dalton McGuinty's Electrical Bait and Switch
The Dalt giveth and the Dalt taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Dalt:
The government will bring in the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit on Jan. 1, giving a 10% break to households, small businesses and farmers but that will be more than offset by an expected 46% increase in the cost of hydro over the next five years.
All homeowners, including those who purchased energy price plans, are eligible for an average saving of about $150 a year from the benefit.
Businesses that use 250,000 kWh a year or less will see a reduction of $1,716 a year, and farms would save about $2,052 a year, the government estimates.
The savings should appear on hydro bills no later than May, and will be retroactive to the start of the year.
Yes, you read that correctly. The government of Ontario will both increase and decrease electricity rates. Politicians do love having it both ways. Why not simply say you decided to increase electricity rates by a lesser percentage? Because by playing this electrified bait and switch, the government sounds like they are doing you a favour.
You might be wondering why, now of all moments, the McGuinty government is deciding to hike rates? Well, part of the reason is an $18.7 billion deficit this year. Another is all that new and wonderful "green energy" that will save Canada from the horrors of global warming:
More than half the rising cost of electricity is due to new “clean green” energy such as wind, solar and water.
“Is it worth $3 billion a year in health costs to keep coal fired generating going?” Duncan said, when questioned about the expense.
Given the efficacy of modern scrubbing technology, yes coal might make a lot of sense. Coal, along with nuclear, is one of the few practical technologies for generating lots of electricity cheaply and consistently. Wind turbines and solar are not going to power a modern economy. What are the health care costs involved in running out of power? What are the economic and social costs of being literally kicked back to the dark ages?
While the Liberals play three card monte with Ontario's future, that stalwart of freedom and common sense (to use an old phrase), Tim Hudak, has risen to the challenge and denounced this Grit chicanery. Sort of:
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said his party will support this hydro relief but he believes people will see through the McGuinty government's move as blatantly political.
OK. So you know it's a con. You admit it's a con. But you are going along with it anyway? Ladies and gentlemen, the Leader of the Opposition. At one of those crucial moments, when opposition leaders need to live up to their job titles, Tim Hudak caves. In response, the leader of the NDP subsequently demanded that free electricity, as well as weekly chocolate sundae allowances, be made a constitutional right. I exaggerate slightly:
Horwath said the hydro benefit is not a serious attempt to help families with their budgets, but rather a political move to smooth things over with the voters until the next election in 2011.
That's modern Ontario politics in a nutshell. The NDP believes it is the responsibility of the government to help families with their budgets. Which is another way of saying the prudent must subsidize the spendthrift. We are our brothers keeper, no matter if our "brother" is a bum or a louse. No matter as well if a substantial piece of every dollar given to "Ontario families" is siphoned off to the families of Ontario's ministerial mandarins. The Public Service has its own overheads to meet, and so takes its cut of the altruistic action.
In some parallel universe, in which Conservative politicians espoused actual conservative values, like fiscal prudence and minimal and limited government, the proper response to rising electricity costs is to pass it along to the consumer. You pay for what you consume. Call it responsibility. Call it individualism. Call it looking toward the future. It's simply not expecting everyone else to pick up your tab.
In the universe we live in, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (emphasis on the adjective) supports subsidizing some people's lifestyles because, well it's what the focus groups tell him to do. The Liberal Party splits the difference between what the Conservatives should be saying, and what will win votes in the next election: Hike rates - which sounds fiscally prudent - but also lower rates - which sounds compassionate - and do both at the same time, so everyone is kept confused until after next fall's provincial election.
Yet the issue is more clouded than the political rhetoric suggests. It's more than just being "fiscally prudent" or "compassionate." Electricity generation and distribution is, for all intents and purposes, a government monopoly. Certain aspects have been contracted out to the private sector, but ultimate control remains with the government. It is not ordinary consumers, and private businessmen, who make the decisions on electricity in Ontario, but the Minister of Energy.
Into this government monopoly, rife with bureaucratic empire building and unionized featherbedding, steps the fashionable platitudes of environmental protection: Wind and solar are "clean" energies. This means they must be favoured over more economical energy sources, so as to relieve the guilty souls of urban Liberal voters. That the cost of such environmentalist moralizing is borne disproportionately by those least able to pay, matters little. Between actually helping the poor - by allowing the market to provide cheap goods and services - and reciting their Green catechisms, the Left and Centre-Left will always side with the latter.
Even the term "clean" energy depends on your perspective. Swallowing up vast sections of Ontario countryside to build solar and wind farms leaves a far bigger footprint than building, or expanding, a handful of nuclear reactors. The electorate, however, frightened by Hollywood and MSM hype, is afraid of nuclear, which is objectively the cleanest and most efficient provider of base load electrical power available.
The words wind and sun are surrounded in the popular culture with a pleasant and hazy aura, so for political reasons the government shovels money into otherwise uneconomical energy projects. A network of subsidy seeking lobbyists and businessmen soon spreads faster, and wider, than the solar panel sprawl itself. The whole corrupt process is risking the availability of secure and affordable energy supply that Ontario, and Canada needs for the future.
The solution to Ontario's electricity needs is not to rate hikes, or cut them. The debate is not between the arbitrary constructs of "clean " and "dirty" energy. To meet the province's energy demand in the years ahead, we need a free and competitive market for both supply and distribution.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Capable of Negligence
At the age of four:
The suit that Justice Wooten allowed to proceed claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman, 4, and Jacob Kohn, 5, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three months later of unrelated causes.
Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident.
Lawyered madness. And no, this is not a backdoor way of getting at the mother:
Mr. Tyrie had also argued that Juliet should not be held liable because her mother was present; Justice Wooten disagreed.
“A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote.
I've never met a "reasonable child." Perhaps the judge's children are "reasonable," even well before the age of reason.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Never Ending Summit
Didn't we do this already?
Harper arrived Wednesday in Seoul, where he is expected to push for bold, co-ordinated economic action by the G20 world leaders. After the summit, the prime minister will travel to Yokohama, Japan, for this year's forum for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation.
"It's going to be all economics all the time, two summits in a row," the CBC's Terry Milewski reported from Seoul on Wednesday.
Harper has warned his G20 counterparts ahead of the summit not to let the struggling recovery distract them from cutting budget deficits and trade imbalances.
I'm sure there's some sort of nit-picky bureaucratic distinction between the June junket in Toronto, and the Seoul junket this month. Besides we get to see the world leaders in their winter coats! So I'm sure that's worth the enormous cost of these glorified photo-ops. With billion dollar security price tags and $100,000 tables, the obvious questions is what all this globalized kabuki gets us? The six-figure furniture was so exorbitant that even Mr Fiscal Incontinence himself, Bob Rae, had to comment:
When you look at the price of these things it does seem completely out of line. It’s just amazing to me. I think a lot of the financial implications of this have not been fully understood by the government as it goes forward.
Maybe the carpenter needs to take a Rae Day or two. Perhaps that could bring down the price next time. Unfortunately our political masters have no intention of taking a day off, paid or unpaid. Politics is perception and the political class must be seen to be doing something, anything. Look at that Stephen Harper, off meeting world leaders and such, he's working hard for Canada, and he's an important guy because Barack Obama remembers his name. Or at least seems to remember. The American President does love his teleprompters.
There is certainly a value to summitry. Even with modern videoconferencing software, corporate executives are still shuttled around the world for face to face meetings. No doubt the same value added can apply to Presidential and Prime Ministerial confabs. Somethings are easier settled over port than online. Which makes the uselessness of these summits all the more apparent.
Ever tried to hold a meeting with twenty people? Plus associated hangers-on? At best the meeting becomes a kind of seminar or lecture, one or two people doing most of the talking, or everyone gets their five minutes to grandstand. There is no actual meeting, where a group of people actual talk and decide amongst themselves. Political scientists - to use an oxymoron - and historians generally put twelve as the maximum size for a functioning committee meeting. Beyond that it's just the chair and one or two loud-mouths running things, with everyone else watching the clock.
The G20 does feature one-on-one meetings, but given the number of people involved, it's only a few tightly scripted minutes of doubtful value. How much did Stephen Harper have to say to Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner last June? "So, Cristina, I hear it's hot all year in Buenos Aires? Not like Leaside, I can tell you that. Ever been to Leaside? It's kind of like Mimico without the lake." Ring! Next head of state! Like speed dating for politicians.
Meetings with large groups of people that work, like say the Congress of Vienna or the Versailles Conference, last weeks and even months. Individual leaders get to know each other, mull their options and work out details to complex international problems, hopefully. There is almost no possibility for something like that happening at events like the G20. A summit is suppose to be about the human element, yet modern summitry has very little human interaction about it. Nothing spontaneous, nothing fun or interesting for observers or participants. Just another prescripted image making event, which is how the pols treat it. Everything from the opening red carpet strut, to the final communique, are arranged weeks, or months in advance.
The photo-op is the main reason an ever growing list of "world leaders" show up for these events. A more subtle element at play in modern summitry is power. In a world where even the most powerful nations are buffeted by global markets, an illusion is projected that vast forces can be tamed by the global leviathans.
The vast forces at play are really the decisions of millions of ordinary people, buying, selling and working. A world in which the common folk can easily transfer their assets and themselves from one continent to the next, is a world in which national governments are limited in their power. Politicians don't like that. They don't like money men dumping their currency on world markets, because of short-sighted fiscal and monetary policy. They don't appreciate brain drains of their best and brightest to low-tax locales. The G20 Summits, and their policy trial balloons, are the flashing of bright white teeth to the markets and people of the world. Leviathan trying to reassert its authority.
Richard Salsman deflates deflation:
Many economists presume, falsely, that deflation necessarily coincides with (or causes) a contraction in economic output. In fact, deflation by itself in no way curbs the motive to produce, because it doesn’t preclude the maintenance of business profit margins. During the Industrial Revolution, deflation was common. It was also a bullish phenomenon in the second half of the 19th century, the period of the fastest economic growth in human history. Consider the empirical record during the three to four decades between the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) and the First World War (1914-18). There was a huge increase in output (and profits) in the world’s major economies during this period, even as price levels increased only marginally or even declined (“deflation”).
But what about the Great Depression? Milton Friedman warned us about deflation and depression!
That deflation and economic depression seem to have coincided during the Great Depression of the 1930s has caused generations of economists to improperly indict (and fear) deflation. In fact, that debacle was instigated and prolonged not by “deflation” per se, but by a series of wealth-destroying public polices: (1) a deliberate inversion of the treasury yield curve by the Federal Reserve in 1928-29, (2) huge tax hikes on a broad array of imports, starting in 1930 (the protectionist tariffs imposed by the Smoot-Hawley Act), (3) a massive hike in the federal income tax rate on the rich, from 25% in 1930 to 66% in 1932 (which slashed in half their incentive to produce income, since it cut the after-tax retention rate from 75% to 34%), and (4) a 41% devaluation of the U.S. dollar, in March 1933 (i.e., a one-time massive inflation).
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Scenes from the Great Republic
I was off in southern California last week. Ah, the hardships your gentle correspondent endures to bring you a fresh - and facetious - perspective on the imminent collapse of Western civilization. And to think, the Romans only had Augustine to comfort them in those final decades before the aqueducts were cut. Lights going out in Rome, tribe on the ice field and all that.
I bring you amazing news from my travels! Most Americans are not fat. Most Americans are not stupid. Most Americans do not carry shotguns in their cars. Most Americans are not rude, arrogant cowboys. Yes, things are bigger and louder in America. Americans don't always realize this, but it has struck me every time I have visited, they are loud.
Not loud in the sense of being rude or thoughtless, just loud. Everything is seemingly injected with steroids. The lights are brighter. The hookers bustier. The SOBs just that much more SOBier. To those who catch America in glimpses, it can be rather off-putting. Cromwell told the painter to show warts and all. Many visitors to the Great Republic see only the warts, they don't bother looking for the all. What an all.
The scenery had wow! Especially Southern California wow! One of my interlocutors was a refugee from Ohio. He had the bearings of a man who has escaped winter, and offered nightly prayers to his God for the succour. The natives, however, took the splendours as divine right. A race of Sun Kings. I hate each one, like I hated the rich brat in junior high.
While driving up Interstate 5, I was treated to a cliched California ocean sunset. All cliches should be so beautiful. I-5 goes through Camp Pendleton, the main west coast base for the Marine Corps. I saw Marine helicopters! And frigates! Americans love their military. Sadly, we don't love ours. Yes, the world could use more Canada but - perish the thought - Canada could use a bit more America. Not in everything, mind you. Just in some big things that count.
A country that fails to take its armed forces seriously is not a serious country. Until the Afghanistan campaign, I regularly heard jokes about the inadequacy of the Canadian Forces. You will never, ever hear an American openly mock the military. He may denounce it, he may praise it, he may offer constructive criticism, but the tone is always serious, even solemn. On many office desks I saw small picture frames, inset with the intense young faces of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. The enormous pride of parents, spouses and siblings everywhere.
This is an alien experience to Canadian visitors. Pride comes only with seriousness. We do not take ourselves seriously and so cannot understand when others display genuine pride. The best we can approximate is a kind of exaggerated civic chauvinism. Pride comes from seriousness and seriousness from the pursuit of profound values.
Americans so admire their military because it is the living embodiment of their freedom. Unlike most of the military forces in human history, the American military is an instrument of a free people and so subordinate to civilian control. However unworthy Barack Obama is to hold the honourable title of Commander-in-Chief, no military man would openly defy his legal authority.
Canadians have no similar respect for the solider in uniform, instead we project a kind of conscientious respect, a mixture of awe and awkwardness. We do this because we are unsure why we have a military. It serves no immediate existential purpose. The only nation that borders us could overwhelm us militarily in hours. Though it would never do so, the paranoia of anti-Americans notwithstanding.
Our military is an expeditionary force deployed, usually haphazardly, by our political masters to project national values. Since those values are so contested at home, our deployments are similarly confused. Are we the honest arbiters of peacekeeping lore? Or the warriors of Kandahar?
Much has been made of our English and French divide, and how it prevented the formation of a strong sense of national identity. To modern multiculturalists this is, perversely, a strength. Since we don't know who we are, we are open to everyone. Such agnosticism works only so long as the everyone who shows up is congenial. There is an old saying in politics, about the elected official who displayed the imprints of the last person who sat on him.
In the years between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, Canadian soldiers became as alien to their civilians counterparts as at anytime in our nation's history. Those who joined the forces in those years were seen as eccentrics. A strange few looking for steady employment - as some no doubt were - or having some dark obsession with violence and death. It just did not make sense why anyone would do that for a living. It was not contempt, or anger, just plain confusion.
In years since 9/11 a sort of understanding has developed by the civilian for the solider. The dim realization that those who wear the uniform are indeed eccentrics, they are practitioners of the secret cult of Canadian patriotism. Serious men defending an often unserious country.
U of W Issues Apology to Christie Blatchford
From the University of Waterloo's Communications and Public Affairs department's home page:
The University of Waterloo was disappointed that a guest invited to share a particular perspective on a topic of importance to Canadians was silenced by protesters.
Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford was scheduled to appear at the university on Friday night to discuss her new book Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us. Due to safety issues, the University decided to reschedule the event.
The university considers Friday’s events as an attack on its presence as a place where issues are explored, discussed and at times debated. The freedom to speak and to learn is fundamental to the institution.
Waterloo’s ethical behaviour policy states: “The University is an autonomous community which exists to further the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and understanding through scholarship and teaching. The University aims to ensure an environment of tolerance and respect and believes that the right of individuals to advance their views openly must be upheld throughout the University.”
To ensure there is no doubt of the university’s convictions, Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur apologized to Ms. Blatchford, on behalf of the university community, for Friday night’s disruption. He has asked the community to begin planning for a safe, open and respectful dialogue featuring Ms. Blatchford and her book.
Rather than silencing Christie Blatchford, the so-called protestors have created a firestorm against themselves and their actions. The International Free Press Society has denounced the "protestors." Letters to the Editor at the National Post condemn the behaviour of these juvenile fascists. MPP Toby Barrett spoke out against the U of W thugs in the Provincial Legislature, supported by pro-freedom stalwart Randy Hillier. Mark Vandermaas has a full rundown over at his Helpless site. The Post has a lengthy selection from Helpless, detailing the persecution of Gary McHale. At a book signing in Hamilton, where a peaceful protest against the book was staged, Blatchford dismissed the accusations against her:
“I'm not a racist,” said Blatchford, who also called the protest crazy. “My book is not racist and they are idiots.”
She also said if their intention is to intimidate her into halting speaking engagements to promote her book, “they are not going to do that. I am mystified a bit ... I am not a writer of inflammatory screeds. I am a newspaper reporter.”
Facts are stubborn things. In Caledonia they've become dangerous as well. If I were Blatch, I wouldn't have bothered saying "I'm not a racist." That's kind of what the "protestors" want you to say, to place you on the defensive. It's a schoolyard taunt elevated into a political slogan.
Not an iota of evidence has been provided to show that Christie Blatchford is a racist, just as no evidence has been provided that Mark Vandermaas or Gary McHale are racists. There are no arguments, or discussions, with those who seized the Douglas Creek Estates nearly five years ago, or with their fellow travellers in the academy. They have no arguments or ideas, they have only force and violence. The constant shout of racist is a sure sign of intellectual bankruptcy. It is a not so subtle attempt to delegitimatize opposition to blatantly criminal acts. For the sake of Canada, we cannot let them succeed.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Rally Against Fantino
Gary McHale is pushing the fight to Vaughan:
A group calling itself Conservatives Against Fantino says it will hold protests outside Fantino's campaign office over five days leading up to the Nov. 29 byelection in Vaughan, north of Toronto.
The group says it has registered with Elections Canada to become a third party, which allows it to spend up to $3,765 in advertising to promote or oppose candidates in the Vaughan byelection.
A news release about Conservatives Against Fantino was sent by Gary McHale, who has been a vocal critic of the provincial police force's conduct during an ongoing aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont.
Fantino has accused McHale of being an agitator who provoked confrontations and baited police, while McHale accuses Fantino and his former force of two-tier policing in Caledonia favouring the aboriginal occupiers.
I have previously detailed Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas fight against two-tier policing in Caledonia, including the failure of Julian Fantino to uphold the law during his term as OPP commissioner. Flyers to be distributed in Vaughan are here.
Where the Boer Roams Free
Is Zuma going to pull a Mugabe?
South Africa's 40,000 white farmers, mainly Boers – descendants from Dutch settlers – say they fear that South Africa's government is threatening their livelihoods with land-reform policies. When they first came to Africa, the Boer Voortrekkers, or pioneers, left coastal colonies to forge a path to the interior of the country in search of fertile land. Now some of their descendants believe the answer to their problems might lie thousands of miles away in the Caucasus.
In what would be an extraordinary migration, the Georgian government has invited South Africa's farmers to buy up land in the country for next to nothing in exchange for bringing their expertise and knowledge of modern farming methods.
SA is not like Zimbabwe. For one thing black majority rule was established peacefully in SA. Another is that the former Rhodesia was settled mostly by Englishmen, most of SA's whites are Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch, German and some French settlers. The Boers trekked into the interior in the 1830s, when anger exploded at the British authorities who ran the coastal regions of South Africa.
While many reasons are cited for the trek, the least pleasant - and probably most accurate - is that the Afrikaners were upset with British policies toward the native black populations, in the wake of imperial emancipation. Nor is it much of a secret that Apartheid's electoral base was overwhelmingly Afrikaner. For all the soothing words of the Mandela-era, and Thabo Mbeki's generally professional dealings with white South Africans, old memories die hard. Zuma is a populist and a statist. The temptation to redistribute some of that white-owned farm land is very great. A way of both rewarding supporters and settling racial scores.
Many moons ago père Publius would visit SA on business. The Afrikaners he met insisted that Apartheid would never end, so long as they controlled the armed forces. Hidden in the back country, they whispered, were large caches of arms ready to be used to maintain their supremacy. The rest of Africa was a mess, and they were not about to let the same thing happen to their country.
The black population returned the hatred. The early ANC was in part a terrorist organization, trying to undermine white majority rule. This included the now saintly Nelson Mandela, who early in his political career lead a bombing campaign against government installations. His twenty-seven years in prison were punishment for a series of terrorist attacks in the early 1960s. His resorting to violence came in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, the declaration of the South African Republic, and after years of peaceful protests.
The temptation of moving to a country that is, quite literally, populated by caucasians is no doubt a great one for the remaining Boers. There are no evil memories in Georgia and their considerable skills would be appreciated. For those who fought and suffered for their freedom from the Apartheid regime, the desire to even the score is equally great.
To Canadians, who are soaked from birth in multicultural platitudes, the shocking truth is that in most of the world divisions of race and ethnicity are real and powerful. There is no group hug or Folkfestival that will solve generations of racial hatred. One group oppresses another, the latter returns fire. Repeat. Whether in Caledonia, or on the Gardiner Expressway, don't let it happen here. The ideal of One Canada is too important to lose.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Pot calls out kettle:
The governing Liberals plan to paint Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak as a “vacuous” Mike Harris “puppet” in next year’s election, according to a leaked campaign document obtained by the Star.
“Someone is pulling the strings,” the internal strategy memo says of Hudak, noting he’s “Harris Lite” with “no original ideas” and is a “shifty, evasive, slick politician,” who is “in the pocket of special interests — big pharma, chemical companies . . . private health care.”
Prepared last May and entitled “Framing the Opposition: Draft Ideas and Concepts,” it details the proposed direction of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s re-election bid.
Wow. It gets even better:
The leaked Liberal document also outlines a strategy for tackling NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party is derided as being “inexperienced, pious, self-righteous” with “unrealistic expectations” and “will throw money at problems” if elected next year.
Liberal talking points I agree with. Emphatically. There is only one little, tiny problem with the approach. If Tim Hudak is a "vacuous" nonentity then what, exactly, is Dalton McGuinty? Moses leading his people across the Sinai? By portraying Tim Hudak as a brainless Mike Harris stooge, the Grits are inviting the Tories to portray Dalton McGuinty as an unprincipled stooge of public sector unions. There is also the Mike Harris thing. It's so very, very old.
There are elements of the Left in Ontario that not merely hate, but viscerally despise Mike Harris. Back when George W Bush was still meandering through the Texas political scene, the largest province in Confederation was in the grip of Harris Derangement Syndrome. There was almost nothing that was not blamed on the former school teacher from North Bay.
Can't get a hospital bed for your dying mother? Mike the Knife. Your kid is studying in portables? Mike "the Baby Eater" Harris is to blame. The climax of this assault on the then Premier, as well as plain common sense as most of these problems pre-dated Harris' time in office, was Walkerton. Two bumbling township officials in rural Ontario failed to do their job, resulting in the deaths of seven residents, and somehow it was the Premier's fault. How? Because of that magical word: "cutbacks."
It didn't matter if a particular service had actually been cut, of if funding had been later restored, it was all about the mythical force "cutback." No amount of supervision from Queen's Park could have prevented two minor officials from not doing their jobs at a crucial moment. It didn't matter, the Toronto Star had a stick to beat the hitherto popular provincial Tories. A mythology was soon crafted of an age of heartless terror that descended upon the innocents of Ontario. That the Ontario of 1995 was a business-phobic fiscal basketcase, and whose Premier Bob Rae (now a Liberal frontbencher!) was enthralled to powerful labour unions, was conveniently forgotten.
To his credit Tim Hudak has, for the most part, tactfully distanced himself from Harris. What made sense in the Ontario of 1995 does not necessarily make sense in today's Ontario. Not blaming Harris, but not parroting the strategies of a decade and a half ago. It's a reasonable balance, which the Liberals have no intention of striking. Generals are often blamed for fighting the last war. The Grits seem rather intent on fighting the election three elections past. The Tory response should be simple: Look at the date on your Blackberries.
Aside from the Toronto militants, who mostly vote NDP, Memories of Mike isn't going to sell as an election strategy. Describing Tim Hudak as a lightweight just might:
“Someone is pulling the strings,” the internal strategy memo says of Hudak, noting he’s “Harris Lite” with “no original ideas” and is a “shifty, evasive, slick politician,” who is “in the pocket of special interests — big pharma, chemical companies . . . private health care.”
Leaving aside the "Harris Lite" bit, the rest of that paragraph could have been lifted from one of my posts. Perhaps the Liberal back office has decided to outsource its copywriting to the blogsphere. It would be an improvement. The charge can, however, stick to Hudak since he has so far been less than original in his policy pronouncements. This has not been helped by Hudak's image.
The Tory leader's public persona is far, far too slick for his own good. He's a professional pol. His wife, whom he recently declared off limits to mudslinging, is a professional political operator. The problem with such people, however sincere they might be in real life, is that in public they come across with all the earnestness of a used car salesman. A glib answer to everything makes you look, well, glib. In fairness, Dalton McGuinty has only grim brooding as a cheap substitute for gravitas, still having been Premier for seven years, people will tend to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Tim Hudak can easily counter the light-weight spin by, er, not acting light weight. Here's my advice to the Timster:
Pick a public policy issue, master its details, come up with a politically plausible alternatively and hammer the Liberals for their failure on the file. The obvious issue would be health care, but it would be foolish to expect such reckless - and principled - bravery from Hudak. Let's try something simple and feasible: cutting the deficit. The topic is likely to spook some Tory operatives. Fearful of being painted as a resurrection of Mike the Knife? Fine. Focus on waste.
As I've noted previously in this spot, there is no waste in government. Every dollar government spends benefits some pressure group, to whom the warm spigot flow is daily nourishment. That doesn't mean the general public won't regard such spending as waste. The fiasco around eHealth is certainly worth another few kicks. A half dozen research assistants could easily find a few billion blown on similar porkbarrel projects, most of which will probably have awkward connections to the Liberal machine. Because that is how the game is played.
A figure will emerge - the public loves figures, as they are a substitute for genuine analysis - of say $5 billion in waste and mismanagement. A Hudak government will cut that waste and fat! And pay down the deficit! Even though you can't really "pay down" a deficit, but it sounds prudent. Conservatives love sounding prudent! Except about cutting CPP payments. They know who shows up on election day.
The comprehensive Hudak Fiscal Action Plan would highlight spending freezes. Never let the word "cut" pass between those pretty lips Tim. You know what the Toronto Star will say. And as the Star goes, so go most of the TV networks and radio stations. Instead borrow from Davy Cameron's book and "ring-fence" health care and education, but use a Canadian sounding term. How about "guarantee" or "protect?" You might even dredge up that old Mulroney-era standby, "sacred trust." Wait. Forget that. Sounds too religious. You know what happened last time with John Tory and the religious schools. Painful memories...
Repeat until numb, and then repeat again. Once you are sick to death of repeating a political slogan, you can be sure that the electorate, always half-attentive toward the blatherings of their political masters, will give up and believe. Heck, they believe Medicare provides "universal" and "quality" care, all the while being given actual service that would get a McDonald's night manager fired. The scary Mike Harris charge will fade. You will no longer seem a lightweight. Barring a John Tory-style implosion, you'll be sitting in the Premier's office this time next year. Not that Ontario will be any better off as a result, but the people cheering Team Blue will be happy.
P.S. Keep John Tory as far away as possible from your campaign. Nice guy but he's cursed or something.
Barbershop of Statist Horror
Licensed to cut:
If you were a police detective who wanted to raid my office, you would have to go before a judge and show probable cause to believe that I was committing a crime. But because barbers in Florida (and in most states) are subject to licensing requirements, they must agree to submit to inspections on demand by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation—which can then join up with local law enforcement to conduct warrantless searches that cover matters beyond barber licensing issues. Essentially, to be a barber in Florida, you must agree to give up your Fourth Amendment rights at work.
I've tried to come up with a good rationalization for this one. Some kind of excuse a statist would give as to why this kind of enforcement is necessary, or even why you need a license to be a barber. No luck. Is a bad hair day really a matter of life and death? Orwell's image of a boot stamping a human face forever doesn't quite capture the modern nanny state. It's instead being nagged and humiliated forever.
The term "nanny state" is rather misleading. Has a bureaucrat ever given you a hug? Would you want them to? It's more like the hall monitor state, overgrown juveniles given a small bit of authority, which they then abuse. Some years back Jeremy Clarkson wrote an article about asking an American officer to use a no-loading zone in off hours. The officer said no. Why, demanded Clarkson, it was only common sense. The officer replied that when you had the law, you didn't need common sense. Officers who conduct raids on barbershops seem to share the same philosophy of life and government.
"Protest" Disrupts Christie Blatchford Speech on Caledonia
Three protesters locked themselves together at the centre of the stage where Blatchford was meant to speak at the University of Waterloo’s (UW) Humanities Theatre in Hagey Hall, with another individual acting as their “negotiator”. A fifth, Tallula Marigold, acted as the group’s media representative.
“We don’t want people who are really, really racist teaching [the people we love],” said Marigold of Blatchford. “And we don’t want that person to have a public forum because it makes it dangerous for others in the public forum.”
“Unfortunately there is a small minority that felt that they would win if they’d just sit on the stage and yell ‘racist, racist, racist’,” said Strickland. “We made a determination that since she wasn’t going to get a word in, in any sort of respectful fashion, there would be no point in bringing her out and having her subjected to that.”
Blatchford, who unlike the protestors, has a real job, eventually gave up and went home. So the thugs accomplished their avowed goal, silencing someone who disagrees with them. I'm not going to bother with the risible nonsense that Christie Blatchford is a racist, or that Helpless is some kind of modern day Mein Kampf. Facts are stubborn things, and the facts of Caledonia are not pleasant ones for multiculturalist pieties.
The only major acts of racism that went on at Caledonia were from the authorities, for refusing to enforce the laws of Canada equally, and from the "protestors" who seized and attacked non-aboriginal persons and property. I've covered the tragedy of Caledonia here and here. The tradition of political activism as thuggery can be dated at least as far back as the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. It is a pernicious tradition that university authorities should have broken with many years ago.
The hazy boomer nostalgia for the Free Speech Movement, and the wave of imitation student protests it set off, has prevented the media, university authorities and much of the general public from responding appropriately to these acts of violence. These are not idealistic adolescents trying to change the world for the better, they are fascists. To silence opposition through violence, or threats of violence is fascistic. To smear opponents with unfounded accusations is fascistic. To treat university or private property as agitprop is fascistic.
The only appropriate response is to demand the police remove these "protesters" from the stage and, if need be, the campus. If the behaviour persists and is disruptive, then expel these so-called students. What a bleak irony that these violations of basic decency and good order were made, and succeeded without consequence, as at university named in honour of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Are you still awake?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he wants the advice of Canadians on how to manage the economy once the government's stimulus-spending program ends.
So it's kind of funny that the prime minister's visit to Winnipeg on Tuesday appeared to have been swathed in as much secrecy as a minor paramilitary operation.
As reported by Financial Post reporter Paul Vieira, the government is launching cross-country consultations with individual households and small businesses on how the government should nurture the recovery once its $48-billion stimulus program winds down at the end of March.
The Prime Minister then began his tour by refusing to take questions, and subsequently flying off to South Korea. Oh, Stephen, you do make these things too easy sometimes. Now let's work through the logic behind King Stephen's Royal Progress through our fair Dominion.
The Prime Minister, as is well known, holds an MA in economics. Most Canadians, as is also well known, do not hold MAs in anything, particularly not in anything as obtuse and mathematically themed as economics. So a man who is an expert on something is, at great expense to the treasury, about to ask non-experts about how he should do his job. Shouldn't Stephen Harper, MA, being telling us how he is going to revive the economy? Or is it the case of him being our leader, so he must follow us?
Publius comes from the Allenby School of Economics. In the classic film Lawrence of Arabia, Jack Hawkins' character, General Allenby, is asked whether he will do nothing to stop an incipient revolt. He replies: "Why not, it's usually best." The Prime Minister does not come from this school.
Early in his career - as evidenced by his MA thesis - the PM believed that government stimulus spending was largely useless. That was before he entered politics. In politics you must do something in a crisis. Why? Because it is expected. That the something being done is worse than useless is not the point. Politics has little to do with economics, or logic, and everything to do with mass pyschology.
Speaking of delusions, let's return to the tour. Stephen Harper will not be listening to ordinary Canadians. Ordinary Canadians are too busy working and paying taxes, in order to finance these transcontinental junkets, to show up and tell the Prime Minister what they think. Instead, carefully orchestrated pressure groups will appear to tell the PM to spend more money - on them. He will then, quite dutifully, ignored everything he has heard, knowing full well that he is not hearing the voice of the people, simply the voice of the parasitic statist class.
Like the royal progress of old, Stephen Harper's Autumn Tour is to show the people he cares and is in command. It is the image the people have come to know, that of the Imperial Prime Minister. That is not, however, his constitutional role. It is a perversion of the British Parliamentary system. The head of Her Majesty's Canadian government he is suppose to be first among cabinet equals, not a Canadianized King Canute.
He may campaign, he may tour but his main source of knowledge as to the state of the country, as well as his legitimacy, should come from his caucus. The Prime Minister of Olden Times was elected not by the whole electorate, but by members of his own caucus. That seemed horribly undemocratic to the progressive thinkers of a century ago, so the system was replaced by the membership selling carnivals of today. A spectacle most sane Canadians avoid like the plague. The usually uninterested being herded by the often unscrupulous.
With a Prime Minister beholden to a fluid party membership, rather a comparatively fixed parliamentary party team, he rules with little restraint. Backbenchers are regarded as trained seals because, for practical political reasons, that's their role. Canadian voters respond accordingly, treating their local MPs as voting machines and seeking redress on major issues to the Big Boss.
It has been said that there is nothing so close to God on earth, as a Prime Minister with a majority government. This state of affairs has been blamed on the nature of parliamentary government, but this is not true. The essential parliamentary mechanism of accountability, that Parliament and not party gives a government (the cabinet) its mandate, is ignored. A hazy notion of "democracy" has replaced it. But democracy, in the sense of a government accountable to its people, is meaningless without actual mechanisms of accountability. Throwing the bums out, if the economy is doing badly, every four years is not accountability. It is the same play with different players.
Atlas Shrugged - The Movie
While numerous big name producers and actors have, in the past, expressed interest in adapting Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for the big screen, nothing has ever materialized. Shortly before his rights to the film were set to expire, however, producer John Aglialoro began filming the first in a trilogy of movies based on the epic novel. The crew wrapped up the principal photography phase of production yesterday. Yet, with a budget of only $5 million and a relatively inexperienced cast and crew, there are questions about whether they can produce a quality adaptation.
Walmart: Inflation is Up
Easy and loose:
There might not have been a second round of quantitative easing, if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shopped at Walmart.
A new pricing survey of products sold at the world’s largest retailer showed a 0.6 percent price increase in just the last two months, according to MKM Partners. At that rate, prices would be close to four percent higher a year from now, double the Fed’s mandate.
The “inaugural price survey shows a small, but meaningful increase on an 86-item grocery basket,” said Patrick McKeever, MKM Partners analyst, in a note. Most of the items McKeever chose to track were every day items like food and detergent and made by national brands.
Nothing to worry about. A little inflation is good for the economy. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The Price of Parking
The Human Rights Commission's $167,000 Spin Doctors
Your tax dollars being spent to make Jennifer Lynch look good:
During the tense period for the commission, chief commissioner Jennifer Lynch sought advice from Hill & Knowlton on how to communicate with the minister of justice and whether another government minister could quote her in a news release. The company also drew a map of a Parliamentary committee room including instructions on where Lynch should sit during an appearance and where water glasses could be found.
The documents obtained by QMI through access to information requests show the CHRC paid Hill & Knowlton $167,000 over an 18 month period. The work began shortly after a controversy erupted surrounding the Mark Steyn case.
Not even competent enough to do your own dirty work, eh Jennifer? Hill and Knowlton is one of the country's most prestigious and pricey PR firms. First class all the way, on the taxpayers' dime. All to paint the CHRC as something other than their real nature, a systematic attempt to suppress the freedom of speech of ordinary Canadians, who disagree with official opinion. Disgusting.
The Passion of Stephen Harper
I've got stripes / stripes around my shoulders:
The prime minister, speaking Monday at the start of an annual conference on combating anti-Semitism in Ottawa, said he's "got bruises to show" for speaking out in the international community against enemies of Israel.
Although he did not give specifics, Harper was likely referring to Canada's failed bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council last month. He also insisted there are "a lot more votes" in being anti-Israel than in "taking a stand."
Critics of the Conservative government have cited Harper's unwavering support of Israel during its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians as a possible reason for Canada's failure to gain a Security Council seat for the first time since the international body's creation.
My own theory is that the Latin American states rallied to Portugal in a bid for ethnic solidarity, and to give a two fingered salute to the gringos. The Latin Front theory, however, hasn't gained too much traction in Ottawa. It's just not very useful politically.
The Canadian Left has tried to frame Canada's defeat in the UN Security Council as deserved punishment, for the government's pro-Israel stand. Well, that's just fine with the PMO. The suffering for Israel spin suits two competing narratives, which reinforce each other.
The Prime Minister has been courting the Jewish vote for years, and being pro-Israel plays well to the Conservative Party base. Getting "bruises" for defending Israel shows just how principled the Tories are on international affairs. Then again critics of the government's foreign policy are not traditional, or likely, Conservative voters. It's easy to be principled with so little at stake.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Founders of the Nation
Ask Canadians whether it was the French, British or aboriginal nations who played the leading role in founding the country, and the answer will depend largely on the respondents' own ethnic roots - and age - a new national survey suggests.
A poll of 1,500 Canadians commissioned by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies shows French- and English-speaking citizens - centuries after the rise of New France and the formation of British North America - still have starkly different views about who is chiefly responsible for creating the country.
Given the quality of historical pedagogy in this country, one can only imagine. The article notes that younger Canadians tend to give more credit to the aboriginal tribes in founding Canada, a testament to their impeccably multicultural schooling. While these tribes were very useful, not always to their immediate self-interest, to the European powers in settling Canada, their actual impact on Canadian development was slim.
The image of the aboriginal as being something distinctively Canadian, or at least North American, is very powerful. When the first European explorers reported back on their discoveries, one of the first things they made mention was of the inhabitants: Their clothing (or lack of), manners and social organization was immensely fascinating to European scholars and artists. These early observations helped spur the development of anthropology, as well as reams of racist pseudo-science.
For the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the aboriginal was the noble savage, as yet uncorrupted by the influences of advanced civilizations. Man in his natural state was good and heroic, just look at the North American tribes. The image of innocent child-men of the New World persists down to modern era, with a patina of environmentalist Gaia worshiping thrown in.
The truth was rather less pleasant. Human nature is universal. It is noble, or savage, as men make it or as circumstances allow. Some of the aboriginal tribes practiced slavery. Others treated their women as little better than pack animals. Still others held customs more humane than their soon to be European overlords. They could be just as violent and cruel as the Europeans. They were stone age societies living hard, simple and dangerous lives in a forbidding climate. That they survived as well as they did, for so long was a testament to their skill and perseverance.
A few historical details aside, the modern day to day Canada, however, owes little to them. Our laws and main languages are either British or French in origin. Our economic system can be described as Anglo-Scottish. The essence of our philosophies owes far more to Aristotle and Paul, than aboriginal paganism. Canada is a Western nation, populated and run mostly by westerners, with a distinctively western world view. We allow in comers from all lands but, multiculturalist chattering aside, expect immigrants to adopt a basically western mind set.
Where the aboriginal looms large is in our self-conception. Not actual aboriginals living in modern Canada, certainly not the ones living in the Third World hells that are many reservations. Not even their ancestors, who for a time played king-makers between the European colonizers, before being swept aside as nuisances. No, what lives in the Canadian mind's eye is a romantic image of the aboriginal. Not a particular tribe or individual, but Rousseau's noble primitive - the term savage being used only ironically now.
We like to imagine that such nobility had some influence in making us. That beneath the cant and hypocrisy of modern life, something better still exists. That the superior nobility of the aboriginal is largely a projection, the day dreams of long-dead Europeans and their descendants, does not lessen the power of that image. The belief that the aboriginals tribes "founded" Canada, rather than Champlain, Simcoe and Macdonald, says more about the colonizers than the conquered.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Remembering In Flanders Fields
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
I memorized the poem, many years ago, as I'm sure you did. It is a ritual of Canadian childhood. While achieving acclaim in America, it never become indelible in the American mind. Through out the Empire and Commonwealth it achieved iconic status, spurring the creation of the poppy campaigns seen every November. The poppy somewhat confuses Americans. For the Chinese it has other connotations.
The reading of the poem, the solemn viewing of grainy film, the occasional visit by an aged veteran - in my case a Canadian participant in the Great Escape - is part of the catechism of Canadianism. Why did they die? For freedom. Why did they suffer? For Canada.
It was all a very earnest attempt, by ernest teachers, to impart, as best they could, the nature of a war few of them experienced. They - unlike most of us - knew someone who was there. An uncle, a father, a grandfather. The names chiselled on walls that were only names to us, were to them family names and off-tint photographs.
To most of us, the students, the ritual, however much we wanted to feel what we were suppose to feel, was largely empty. There can be no places further apart, in mind and feel, than Flanders in 1917 and Canada today. We were much too lucky to understand. There was no personal connection. The odd student had escaped from a far away war-torn country, but was often too young to recall or understand. Most our families had not fought in the war. Our ancestors were buried elsewhere and for other reasons.
The war became real to me, as far as it can to someone like me, when attending the University of Toronto. It was the same school that John McCrae attended, more than a century before me. His name is inscribed near Soldiers' Tower. The names that had been inscribed at my elementary school were names from along ago, from people who were adults. They were two steps removed.
The names at Soldiers' Tower had been my age. They had walked the same halls. The difference between myself and them was only the accident of time. Most of the names were those of officers. In addition to all the burdens of war, these early twenty-somethings had the burdens of command. Imagine yourself at that age, trying not only to survive but to lead others into life and death. Only chance separated myself and them, as it had separated the survivors and those on the wall.
For all our secularism, and professed multiculturalism, we are still at root a Christian country. Except in the very early years of Canada there has always been, at least in English Canada, a fairly strict separation of church and state. The rhythms of our culture, as of most Western literature and art, however are Christian.
When the word sacrifice is used in remembrance ceremonies its origin, and echo, is Christian. It is Christ on the Cross. Just as He suffered for us, they the soldiers suffered for us. To the believer, then, November 11th has a double meaning, as it would have to those who first marked Armistice Day nine decades ago. Even a comparatively secular contemporary writer, Rudyard Kipling, infused his short short The Gardener with Christian allusion and allegory.
For good, and ill, Christianity is no longer the living religion it was then, or even thirty or forty years ago. It is seen today as a weekend hobby, resorted to in times of crisis, and then pushed to back of mind. Little, arguably nothing, has come to replace that living force in our culture. David Warren alluded to this in a recent column on Faith and Freedom. You can deny, as I do, that freedom requires faith. It does require, however, some sort of system of belief and value. A nation driven by whim and will is not a nation that will long be free. The Founders of both Canada and America understood this fact. They deferred, to a greater or lesser extent, to religion to provide that moral backbone for society.
While the message of sacrifice lingers in modern Canadian culture, the existence of evil is denied. There is no evil, we are told, only misunderstanding and reaction to suffering. This is why Remembrance Day has become only a ritual. Its meaning is lost, not only because of time, but because the spirit of that age is gone.
They who built the Cenotaphs and Soldiers' Towers believed in suffering, in redemption and in evil. Re-read the poem above, that last jarring stanza. "Take up our quarrel with the foe." The message delivered by those earnest school teachers is the pointlessness of war. That is not, however, what John McCrae believed. Like most of his generation, like most of those thousands of Canadians who lie buried with him in northwestern Europe, they believed in evil. More than this, they believed they fought for something good and against something evil. War was horrible, yes, but it was sometimes necessary to fight evil.
We all die, some of us die in great pain. From disease, from famine and from natural disaster. What separates death from natural causes, however horrific, and war is morality. War is a product of human thought and action, and so can and must be judged morally. That is why we remember and must, because of the moral dimension of war. We do not honour suffering for its own sake, we honour it because of what they sought to preserve. Let me close by quoting another poem, one that would have been familiar to John McCrae and his fellow officers:
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods,
And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?"
It's from Macaulay's The Lays of Ancient Rome. Churchill memorized the poem while at Harrow. It was a standard text for generations of schoolboys. It faded from the curriculum in the years after the First World War. Macaulay was a Christian memorializing the feats of Roman pagans. While their creeds separated the stoical Romans from Victorian Englishmen, the themes of honour, duty, family and values worth fighting for crossed that divide. That we modern Canadians cannot understand Macaulay, and cannot understand that last stanza of In Flanders Field, is the unacknowledged tragedy of the last century.
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The Good Life on the Left
Damn! It's fun to be an NDPer:
According to recently released House of Commons records, the NDP leader and his long-time wife, Chow, who is MP for Trinity Spadina, charged Canadian taxpayers about $1.16 million in MP expenses last year for running their offices, living in Ottawa and paying for associated travel costs.
“Yes, it is (a lot of money) and we appreciate the compensation that's been established . . . but it is a lot less than the leaders of two of the other political parties,” Layton, who is MP for Toronto Danforth, told the Toronto Star.
Yes, but Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, and Lord Iggy is Leader of the Opposition. You lead a quasi-socialist rump that will likely never win power (we pray). The job of the NDP is to whine petulantly that more money should be spent to help the poor, the sick, the unionized and the overeducated. Do you really need $1.16 million to beat Canadians over the head with your begging bowl?
Torontonians with long memories will recall that, twenty years ago, Jack and Olivia were outed for living in government housing, while making a combined six-figure income. That should have ended their political careers, but Toronto is not just the center of the universe, it's sucker central too. Tell upper middle class Hogtowners that you feel for the wretched of the earth, and you'll be excused a lot of things we, the profit minded, could never get away with.
As a result of this embarrassing incident, Layton and Chow are understandably touchy about being queried on living expenses. Now I know what you are thinking, fair minded and gentle reader, that Old Publius is just doing some partisan NDP bashing. True, giving a political kick to Canada's First Comrade Couple is very tempting. Since I'm funding their fun, I think I'm entitled to mock their sense of entitlement. It's a semi-free country. Unless Jack actually becomes Prime Minister.
There is a wider principle here - as there so often is in these posts. The NDP loves to bash fat cats (private business people) for living high on the hog - their tired metaphor. This news story is just sauce for the gander - my tired metaphor. Those fat cats, typically, are living high off private hogs. The public hog is what concerns us, and Jack and Olivia have been on it for many, many years.
My objection is not so much that the leader of a major political party should have an appropriate income, and proper staffing to do his job, it's that said leader becomes outraged when heads of large corporations get the same thing. When the capitalist class spends money they've earned, it's an example of the cold heartless nature of modern capitalism. When Jack Layton spends money other people have earned, well he's just doing his job.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Tories Table Surveillance Bills or: Welcome to 1984, Please Sign in at the Front Desk
Last week, the Government of Canada reintroduced legislation that will strengthen the state's ability to monitor the online activity of its citizens. Ostensibly billed as a means of combating child predators and terrorists, the bills would turn the Internet—once a bastion of freedom and liberty—into a virtual police state.
The legislation would allow police and intelligence agencies to circumvent the court system by intercepting online communications and obtaining personal information about Internet users without obtaining a warrant. It also forces private Internet service providers to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks to facilitate big brother.
The two bills—known as the Investigative Power for the 21st Century Act and the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act—were first introduced in the summer of 2009, but died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued last Christmas. At the time they were originally introduced, I wrote a series of feature articles for the Western Standard, explaining what the legislation means and how people can protect themselves. The first article takes an in-depth look at the legislation and why freedom loving Canadians should be concerned. The second looks at a number of technologies that allow people to subvert government surveillance.
Although it is possible to take steps to protect your privacy on the Internet, we would all be far better off if this legislation does not become law. The last time it was before Parliament, it did not garner very much media attention. Months after the legislation was introduced, a number of my colleagues who study communications and are concerned with Internet privacy, were completely unaware of the situation. This time around, I have already heard people argue that it doesn't matter, because they have nothing to hide and their personal information is already in the hands of large corporations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." While it's true that companies like Google and Facebook collect our personal information, there are fundamental differences between private businesses and the government. First, we have some control over what ends up in the hands of these companies. Second, we know they are using this information for marketing purposes. The government's intentions are always less clear and more nefarious.
And you better believe we have something to worry about when it comes to big brother spying on us. Especially when it enhances the state's ability to track people who think they are speaking anonymously.
This country has seen many attacks on free speech in recent years. Human rights commissions went after Ezra Levant for publishing some cartoons; they persecuted Mark Steyn for publishing an excerpt of his book; they tried to slap an Alberta pastor with a lifetime publication ban for writing an op-ed on gay marriage. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Quebec are charging a horror film maker with violating obscenity laws. Do you really think they won't come after you or I next?
[Cross-posted on jesse.kline.ca]
So here is your genial correspondent, shaking off the jet lag in a hotel in Southern California. At my door a complimentary copy of the Wall Street Journal. Glancing over the headlines two words jump out: Canada and Potash.
There can be nothing less sexy in the world of international business than Canada and fertilizer. Boring sensible Canadians making a boring and sensible product. So, why the front page treatment? In the American business newspaper of record, no less?
Well Tony Clement, you may remember him as an ex-member of the Mike Harris Common Sense posse, is now the federal Minister of Industry. Last week Mr Clement, who this past summer saved Canada from the authoritarian scourge of the long-form census, decided to violate the property rights of thousands of his fellow Canadians, as well as many assorted foreigners.
Hell. I leave the country for a few days and we've become a maple syruped Venezuela.
The players in our drama:
Potash denotes a group of potassium compounds, the most well known being potassium oxide, which is extensively used to make fertilizers. Historically, commercial potash was obtained from the ashes of burnt trees and other vegetation. Today, it is usually derived from underground salt deposits. Canada is the world's leading producer and, as you can guess from Brad Wall's agitated behaviour in recent months, Saskatchewan is where most of the potashing is done in our fair Dominion.
The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan was set up in 1975 as a Crown corporation from the remnants of the private, but heavily subsidized and American owned, potash industry. In the late 1980s the firm was privatized and is now a widely held, publicly traded producer of fertilizer. It is the world's largest potash producer.
BHP Billiton is an Anglo-Australian mining giant. Seeing rapid global population growth, and urbanization, over the next few decades, the Melborne based firm wanted to increase its exposure to the agricultural sector. Being a resources kind of company, it made sense for them to purchase a potash purveyor. Since potash is mined, and BHP is a mining company, there was a strong likelihood of that much loved B-School term: synergy.
Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of Canada, former President of the National Citizens Coalition, a "conservative" think-tank. Mr Harper is widely regarded - by the editorial board of the Toronto Star - as a right-wing demagogue plotting to transform Canada into a snow-bound version of Texas, or at least the dystopian view of Texas many Canadians have.
A staunch advocate of small government, unless it threatens his chances of obtaining a long dreamed for majority government, Mr Harper joined the conservative movement when Pierre Trudeau crippled the Canadian oil industry via the National Energy Program (NEP). Despite the word "national" the program's real intent was to subsidize oil consumption in Ontario, by shafting oil producers in Alberta (pardon the pun). This horrible act of statist injustice spurred Stephen of Leaside to become a free market version of Batman. Until the whole free market stuff began to test poorly with focus groups.
Last week Canada's two leading producers of fertilizer, the Potash Corporation and our political class, intersected in the wake of BHP Billiton's attempted takeover. Despite offering $38.6 billions dollars, the bid was rejected by the Potash board in August. BHP pushed ahead, making a direct offer to shareholders - a hostile bid in effect. The whole thing landed on Minister Clement's desk in October. Last Thursday the honourable member for Parry Sound-Muskoka told BHP that its bid provided "no net benefit" to Canada.
Well, that's the minister's opinion. Unfortunately his opinions, indeed even his whims, are the law of the land. In the national interest, of course. There is certainly a nation called Canada, there is no person or being called Canada. It is a political abstraction. There are thirty-four million Canadians, each with his or her own interests and beliefs.
What Tony Clement has done is violate the private property rights of those Canadians who own shares in Potash Corp, to benefit other Canadians who, in his belief, would not benefit from the sale of Potash Corp to BHP. In other words, Tony has decided that selected Peter is to have his property partially nationalized, in order to help out collectivist Paul. It's not theft exactly, since the shares have not been expropriated, it's instead something akin to vandalism. Just as a vandal reduces the value of a property by damaging it, so Tony Clement, with his economic nationalist spray paint can, has reduced the value of Potash shares.
Patriotism, as Dr Johnson observed, is the last refuge of scoundrels. Since most politicians are scoundrels, or for practical purposes should be assumed as such, we find them frequently wrapping themselves in the flag. No matter how craven the methods, the goal is always the "national interest." There is such a thing as a national interest. A free nation losing a war to a dictatorship would not be in the former's national interest. Beyond that sort of big and obvious stuff, the "national interest" is just a pretty bow, too often tied to some very ugly things.
As is abundantly clear to most political observers, Mr Harper and Mr Clement ejected their political principles, such as yet remained, because they were afraid of Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan. Why? Because Mr Wall is quite popular at the moment. This is in part because he has proven to be more competent as Premier than his immediate predecessor, Lorne Calvert. More recently Mr Wall's popularity has grown because of his energetic opposition to the BHP buyout.
Why is Mr Wall opposed? Because it is possible, perhaps likely, that a foreign owned Potash Corp would close down certain operations in Saskatchewan. This has caused great anxiety among those afraid of losing their jobs. Which is understandable. There is also a very strong likelihood that a foreign owned Potash would pay less taxes into the provincial coffers. It's a nice piece of the action, and the political-bureaucratic class in Regina isn't going to give it up without a fight.
The national interest here is really the interest of those in Saskatchewan who would stand to lose by this deal. Most of the opponents of the deal stand on no great principle. It is not quite self-interest either. By signalling to the world's capital markets that Brad Wall and Tony Clement have hired Hugo Chavez as their economic advisor, those money men are now going to steer a wide berth from the Canadian Prairies. Blocking the BHP bid is short-term pandering for long-term pain. After campaigning for election on the theme that Saskatchewan is open for business, Brad Wall has now clarified how business is to operate in the Canadian heartland.
Tony Clement has made a popular decision. Brad Wall has lead a popular crusade. They have, for the moment, won a political victory. The electorate of Saskatchewan may reward them for their pandering. Politicians pander for a very simple reason, it works very well most of the time.
We can dream of an electorate well-read on their Hayek, Smith and Rand, but such a thing has not yet come to pass. What is shown by this Potash protectionism is more than economic illiteracy, heck that's par for the political course. Wall and Clement have been craven, but no more so than their voters. The politicians have been great hypocrites, but that is to be expected. The people have shown themselves to be hypocrites just as great, which is far more tragic and dangerous.
Globalization showed itself in the BHP bid; the possible downside of living in a global economy. One day you are the buyer, the next day you are being bought out. The Wheel of Fortune sometimes turns against you, sometimes for you. Most of those who opposed the Potash deal have benefited from globalization. They have purchased cheap Chinese goods from Wal-Mart, that were once made in Quebec. They have phoned into Indian call centres, that were once located in Toronto or Mississauga. They have sold their wheat, their oil and their potash to China and India, markets which scarcely existed twenty years ago.
When the voters of Saskatchewan were faced with the risks of globalization - seeing their jobs shipped overseas and their tax base reduced - they ran to government to protect them. Thirty years ago a young Stephen Harper quit the Liberal Party because Pierre Trudeau, for political reasons, favoured Ontario over Alberta. Last week Stephen Harper and Tony Clement showed themselves every bit as politically craven as Pierre Trudeau and Marc Lalonde. Becoming what you hate is an old cliche, like most old cliches it has the strong ring of truth.
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was put on indefinite suspension Friday after bosses at the cable news network learned that he had donated to three Democratic candidates, including one who had appeared on his show on the same day, in violation of the network's rules.
"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay," Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, said in a statement.
Right. Contributing a few thousand dollars - chump change in modern politics - to three candidates is a violation of company policy. I get that. It's MSNBC's show and they make the rules. One assumes, however, that this policy is designed to help maintain an air of impartiality.
Thing is that no one who has ever had the displeasure of watching Keith Olbermann rant would assume he was impartial. He is an obviously biased political commentator. Again, nothing wrong with that. It's what he's paid to do and, for a dwindling number of people, it's something they are wiling to watch.
But if it's inappropriate to kick over a few thousand dollars to Democratic candidates, in a few tight races, then what about the millions of dollars worth of free air time Olbermann has given over the years in mouthing DNC talking points? What is more obviously impartial, a private donation, or public cheerleading for one part of a two party system?