The Shotgun Blog
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)
Monday, November 02, 2009
To aid or not to aid...
In the latest issue of Saint Mary's University student newspaper The Journal, the age old feel-good issue of sending aid to Africa appears to be alive and well:
So what should Canada be doing to keep its promise? ... to increase and provide more effective aid to developing countries, implement debt relief, and fairer trade rules in advance of 2015... In order for Canada to do its part and provide effective foreign aid, the government must reach the UN target of giving 0.7% of the national income (GNI) to foreign aid, and enact BillC-293 to make ending poverty the exclusive goal of Canadian foreign aid.
The issue normally brought up is whether or not this aid will actually work. According to some, aid sent to Africa will not only fail to work, but will actually make things worse:
[E]vidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment.
Government corruption and the existence of totalitarian regimes in Africa are the root cause:
The most obvious criticism of aid is its links to rampant corruption. Aid flows destined to help the average African end up supporting bloated bureaucracies in the form of the poor-country governments and donor-funded non-governmental organizations.
The article lists many disturbing examples of corruption and failure, and I urge everybody to read them all. Unfortunately there are too many to list without copy-and-pasting the entire article.
On a side note, does anyone remember the One Laptop Per Child campaign? Yuck. The Dalhousie University student newspaper The Gazette recently had an opinion editorial on the campaign and its failure:
I imagine that brightly coloured laptops sit in a small closet in rural Africa and slowly collect dust as the days pass. The school that owns them cannot secure power to recharge their batteries, the broken dreams of a grand philanthropist idea that was supposed to revolutionize the world.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
More British Nanny State Files
Another local council has decided that no humor can be tolerated, so they have threatened a store owner with arrest if he doesn't stop posting funny material on his billboard.
Closer to home, the nanny state is taking on a family that is trying to make their garden friendly for wildlife. Meanwhile in the chief nanny state, the District of Columbia, a city councilor is proposing banning sales of pizza by the slice as a means to curb crime. (h/t Radley)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The retweet seen round the world, the shocking death of Neda
In the past few weeks there have been two revolutions going on, both with profound implications for the future of our global society. The first has been the large and sustained democratic protests in Iran in response to the sham election results that had the unpopular incumbent president scoring an extremely improbable 2 to 1 victory over a rival that had been surging ahead in election polls in the final days of the campaign.
The second revolution has been that of social media sites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter that have been able to keep the increasingly tragic news events in Iran reaching the outside world. Thanks to these sites, as well as the now ubiquitous cell phone camera, the outside world is able to bear witness as the Iranian autocrats shed any pretense of decency and assault and murder their own citizens.
In what has been dubbed the retweet (RT) seen around the world the shocking murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, has generated worldwide anger and contempt for the theocratic thugs who are in charge of Iran. Neda who was a young philosophy student at the University of Tehran was shot in the back. The shocking images of her death posted on Youtube and linked to on twitter have galvanized and united the civilized world in a way not seen since September 11, 2001.
In a speech given on June 23rd, US President Barack Obama called the video of Neda’s murder “heartbreaking” and said it made clear the violence against the protesters was “fundamentally unjust.”
President Obama then went on to state that, “In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice.” In this regard Obama was not referring to the mainstream media outlets whose reporters in Iran have been arrested, intimidated, or ordered to leave the country. The President was instead referring to those brave Iranian citizens who were continuing to video with their cell phone cameras the brutal crackdown by Iranian police on peaceful protestors, Twitter the location of upcoming rallies and get their videos and comments posted onto the worldwide web through a variety of proxy sites.
The brave efforts of these democratic protestors are all the more impressive given the increasingly desperate measures the Iranian government is enacting to try and prevent the world from seeing these images. Thus the sudden importance of Twitter – which cancelled a scheduled shut down of its site for routine maintenance in response to an urgent request from the U.S State Department.
Technology, once the feared ally of despotic communist and fascist regimes, has now advanced to the point where it is now the ally of democratic citizenry the world over. Whether it is four RCMP officers Tasering a man to death in a Vancouver airport or a young women shot to death by police in the streets of Tehran, the age old police policy of lie and deny is no longer working because people around the world will be watching, tweeting and posting.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Canadian government issues report on Afghan mission
The Canadian government has tabled its quarterly report on the war in Afghanistan. The report notes some signs of progress, but also highlights a deteriorating security situation.
Canada's mission in Afghanistan includes military operations, as well as diplomatic, development, and humanitarian efforts. The government was quick to highlight the areas where Canadians have made progress:
The fourth quarterly report illustrates important progress being made in the following key areas.
Canadian and Afghan Forces continued to attack and disrupt networks responsible for setting improvised explosive devices (IEDs)…
Through Canadian mentoring and training efforts, the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] have demonstrated marked improvements in Kandahar;…
Consistent with the international focus on the region, Canada brought together Afghan and Pakistani officials in Dubai, where they adopted an unprecedented joint border management plan.
Afghans completed voter registration for presidential and provincial council elections in August–a major event in building capacity for democratic governance and an example of security success for ANSF. In Kandahar, 300,000 more Afghans have been registered to vote.
Canada also contributed to efforts to build new infrastructure, including a dam and new schools, as well as managing the polio vaccination program. While improving the lives of the Afghan people and building the capacity of the state are important parts of the mission, they're not the primary reason why we're there. We're there to kill Taliban and this part of the operation is not gong so well:
Achieving even modest progress in Afghanistan remains difficult. After decades of warfare and misrule, Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. Its government lacks capacity in nearly every part of its administration. And the insurgency—in which the Taliban is the pre-eminent but not the only force—has shown no signs of abating and in some provinces has expanded its reach.
The report notes that there were more combat deaths between January 1 and March 31 of this year than in any other winter quarter since the war began. The number of insurgent attacks has also increased relative to the same period last year.
Part of the reason for the worsening security situation is inadequate troop levels. The Americans have realized this and will be sending more than 20,000 additional troops to the region. Canada's commitment will remain stable at approximately 2,800 troops, which will be withdrawn when the military mission ends in 2011.
According to a report published in The Washington Quarterly, the increase in American troops and an increase in the size of the ANSF will bring the combined level of Afghan and international personal to 300,000. This is, however, far below the 700,000 personal operating in Iraq and the levels advocated by "standard counterinsurgency guidelines," which recommend a total of 600,000 personal in a country the size of Afghanistan.
Another problem is that the ANSF is still relatively small and is unlikely to grow significantly due to the Afghan government's inability to fund such a force. Afghanistan's federal budget is a mere $4 billion and over half of it comes from foreign aid. Canada is trying to help the situation by improving security and providing training and assistance to the army and police forces. However, only six per cent of police units are currently capable of operating on their own and the Canadian government expects the army will still need the support of western troops once we leave.
To be sure, Canadian troops are working very hard under increasingly difficult circumstances. However, it does not appear as though we will make any significant improvements by the artificial deadline of 2011 that Parliament set last year. If anything, I hope people will begin to realize that wars are messy and can take a long time if one hopes to see success. We should not make the decision to enter such conflicts lightly and we should be prepared to stay as long as it takes in order to complete our objectives.
Our objectives in Afghanistan are to defend our NATO ally by defeating the Taliban, ensuring Al-Qaeda is no longer able to establish bases in the region, and leaving the country with the ability to defend itself. It is clear we will not be able to meet these objectives within the next two years. Imposing artificial deadlines makes us appear weak to our enemies and unreliable to our allies. Is it not time to rethink this deadline and extend our mission in Afghanistan?
(Photo courtesy lohan1025/flickr. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License)
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Why China won't get serious about North Korea
North Korea is continuing its effort to provoke the international community by showing outward signs of aggression. Monday's nuclear test was followed up with multiple short-range missile tests and new reports indicate that Pyongyang is preparing to test another long-range missile. North Korea's recent provocations have been widely condemned by the international community, including Russia and China, the countries historic allies.
While it would seem as though China holds enough leverage over North Korea to be a vital player in the effort to stop these weapons tests, China has historically blocked the security council from taking a strong stance against Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and there is little reason to believe things will be different this time around.
China has numerous economic and political considerations that prevent it from taking the tough stance many other countries would like to see. China's trade with North Korea has grown considerably in the past decade, quadrupling between 1999 and 2006 to $1.6 billion annually. Aside from this trade being important to China's economy, it is even more important to the North Korean economy, which imports 90 per cent of its daily oil supply and approximately half of its food imports from China. If China were to cut off its trade with North Korea, the regime would likely collapse, which could potentially send millions of impoverished refugees into China, creating a major headache for Beijing.
China does, however, have many other considerations to take into account. In a recent column in The Washington Post, John Pomfret provides some unique insights into China's geopolitical concerns:
Why is China so intent on "regime maintenance"? If North Korea collapses a few things happen.
- First, about 2 million people will rush into China's northeast as refugees.…
- Second, China will be faced with a tough decision: dispatch the PLA into North Korea? What happens if the PLA meets up with the South Korean or U.S. armies heading north?
- Third, remember all that South Korean investment in China? We're talking billions. It would all go home, into building a united country.…
- Fourth, a North Korean collapse means that China can forget about turning North Korea into an economic vassal state.…
- Fifth, how would a united Korean peninsula change China's geopolitical position? It definitely wouldn't help it.…
- Six, China's ethnic Korean population along North Korea's border is not known for being restive. But what happens to those folks once the Korean peninsula is united? Greater Korea, anyone?
Another broader factor also plays into the problems on the Korean peninsula. And that's this: For decades the United States has assumed that it could mold China into an ally.… We can't outsource the solution to North Korea's nukes to China because China views its interests a lot differently than we do. Sure, China would rather not see Pyongyang have the bomb. But if given the choice between a nuclear-armed North Korea and no North Korea at all, Beijing will go with the former.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
How to deal with a nuclear North Korea
It looks like Lil' Kim and his crazy band of commies are up to their old tricks. North Korea tested two short-range missiles on Tuesday, following the test of a nuclear weapon on Monday. The reclusive communist state has also increased its war-mongering rhetoric directed toward South Korea and reports indicate it has restarted the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which it agreed to shut down in 2007 in exchange for aid.
None of this should come as much of a surprise, as North Korea has been playing the same game for years. I suppose the international response should not come as a surprise either. Let's see, American officials give the North a stern talking to, Russia and China pretend to be onside with the rest of the international community, the security council drafts a resolution imposing some token sanctions, etc. etc. I think I've seen this episode before.
What should be surprising is if anyone believes the same old response will yield new results. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there will be consequences for North Korea's actions and urged them to return to the six-party talks. The problem is that the U.S. has very few options left in terms of punishing North Korea. More sanctions could be imposed on the impoverished country, but they already engage in very little international trade and further sanctions would likely hurt their already starving citizens. Moreover, the six-party talks have consistently failed and are unlikely to yield better results in the future.
It's time we faced facts and realized that no state with the word "North" in its name has ever dismantled its nuclear arsenal. Trying to disarm North Korea is no longer a valid foreign policy goal for any of the countries involved in the six-party talks. These countries should focus on ensuring that North Korea does not sell these weapons or transfer nuclear materials or knowledge to any other state or non-state actor. As well, international efforts should focus on nuclear non-proliferation in the region.
Let's be clear, North Korea is unlikely to ever launch a nuclear weapon against another country because they are subject to the same deterrence mechanisms as every other nuclear power. There are three primary concerns about a nuclear armed Korea. First, the possibility they will sell nuclear material to terrorists. Second, that they will sell nuclear technology to other, even crazier countries, such as Syria or Iran. Third, there is a worry this will spark a nuclear arms race in Asia. This is a very real concern, as Japan is already having a national debate about nuclear weapons and both Japan and South Korea have the capacity to build the bomb.
These issues can be dealt with using the same deterrence mechanisms that have successfully prevented the use of nuclear weapons since the end of World War II. The U.S. must make it abundantly clear that both Japan and South Korea fall under its nuclear umbrella. In other words, any nuclear strike against one of those countries will be met with an American second strike. The U.S. should, however, go one step further and promise to turn North Korea into a parking lot if any of its nuclear weapons or nuclear material originating from North Korea is used in an attack anywhere in the world. This will send a strong signal to Pyongyang that nuclear material should not be transferred to any other countries or terrorist organizations. It will also decrease the incentives for other Asian countries to acquire nuclear weapons.
Instead of trying to disarm North Korea, we should learn our lessen from this situation and work to prevent further nuclear proliferation. North Korea has the bomb because the international community consistently failed to act. After getting elected as the American president, Bill Clinton was warned about North Korea's nuclear ambitions. By this time, North Korea had already separated enough plutonium for one to two nuclear weapons, and Clinton was told that if the North Korean nuclear program was not stopped, the country would be producing enough plutonium to produce thirty weapons a year within five year's time. Likewise, when President Bush came to power in 2000, he too was warned that the North Koreans were working on a secret nuclear weapons program. However, the Bush administration did not pay much attention to these warnings either.
The same thing is happening with Iran. Everyone knows they are developing nuclear weapons, but both Bush and Obama have consistently failed to act. Eventually, Iran will develop the bomb and then it will be too late, as trying to forcefully disarm a nuclear state is likely to lead to nuclear war. The Obama administration and the international community should adopt a policy of deterrence in regards to North Korea and one of non-proliferation elsewhere.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Canada-US Relations After Obama’s Hundred Days
How will Barack Obama’s pursuit of his aims sit with Canadians once the rosy afterglow of the new and charismatic leader’s ascension to power wears off? In particular, how will his presidency sit with the great Canadian anti-American coalition, many Liberals, the New Democratic Party, the Greens, the Bloc Québécois, and all those raging grannies of whatever age who despise the United States and all its works? J.L. Granatstein of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute looks at Obama's first one-hundred days in office and considers what it means for the future of Canada-U.S. relations and how his administration will be viewed by the Canadian left:
Canadian anti-Americanism has never been a tap to be turned on and off. It’s not dead today; it’s only sleeping. It is moved by age-old historic forces and remains endemic in Canada. The Canadian left sees the United States as the great Satan and, while President Obama is surely better than Bush, the forces of capitalism, even a capitalism in ruins, will always oblige the U.S. President to act forcefully to protect American global and continental interests.
Read the full article at westernstandard.ca.
Harper uses US economy as wedge with EU
Stephen Harper is using the sorry state of the US economy to attract European investors to Canada. An article in EU Business reads:
Canada would become Europe's gateway to lucrative North American markets after the signing of an EU-Canada free trade agreement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview published Tuesday. Ottawa and Brussels launched wide-ranging trade talks in Prague last week aiming to boost bilateral trade by an estimated 20 billion euros (27 billion dollars) per year over the first seven years. In an interview with the French-language La Presse daily newspaper, Harper said the ambitious project would help Canada decrease its trade reliance on the United States while offering foreign investors the lowest tax rates on the continent. "Despite our difficulties, we have a much more stable situation in Canada compared to the United States," Harper said. "Our taxes and tariffs are decreasing, while in the United States, it is inevitable that Washington will hike taxes and tariffs," he noted. "We thus have an opportunity to become a gateway to the North American market," he said.
So it looks like the Canadian government will be friendlier to entrepreneurs and investors than it's flag-waving neighbor downstairs. I am happy for you, but sorry for myself and my fellow Americans.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
As the conflict in Pakistan heats up, it’s time to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan
The Pakistani army is pushing deeper into the Swat Valley, in its offensive against Taliban militants, who now hold territory a mere 100 kilometres outside the nuclear-armed state's capital Islamabad. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has replaced the top American general in Afghanistan and committed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region. These events highlight just how much the geopolitical situation in the region has changed since the Canadian parliament voted the extend the mission in Afghanistan in early 2008.
The Canadian mission was extended beyond the existing 2009 deadline after the Manley Report endorsed the extension provided that other countries sent additional troops and the Canadian military acquired new equipment. The initial motion to extend the mission was watered-down in order to appease the federal Liberals, whose leader—Stéphane Dion—had voted against the initial extension in 2006.
Canadians should be used to Prime Minister Stephen Harper caving into Liberal demands and making their issues his own. First he abandoned his tough stance on the Afghan mission, initially expressing full support for it and then arguing that it should end by 2011. Then he flip-flopped on the economic file, first supporting sound economic policies and then running up one of the largest deficits in history. However, there is no reason to believe that this charade needs to continue any longer. A few months ago, I wrote about the possibility of a historic alignment between the Liberals and Conservatives on foreign policy issues, as it related to the war in Gaza:
Canadians may be rightly confused about where their federal political parties sit on the ideological spectrum these days. Dion tried to move the Liberal party to the left. The short lived coalition brought with it the possibility of uniting Canada's left-wing parties, which would have brought the NDP slightly closer to the centre. However, Ignatieff now seems to be moving the Liberals to the right, proposing tax cuts as a viable measure to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have flip-flopped on the economic stimulus issue, suggesting that if only they had heard of this Keynes guy before, they would have ramped up government spending years ago.
This ideological ambiguity prompted talk show host Dave Rutherford to ask the prime minister: "What does it mean to be Conservative today?" To which, by the way, the prime minister could not provide a very good answer. The ideological orgy now taking place on Parliament Hill may result in both the government and opposition parties taking a similar stance on foreign policy issues. And the less we hear about the bickering going on in Ottawa, the more we can get back to pretending that they actually have the power to fix the economy.
Beryl Wajsman, president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal recently proclaimed that, "we may be very well moving into a new era of bipartisan foreign policy." He was speaking in relation to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's stance on the war in Gaza, an issue that has been polarizing for Canadians, but seems to have united Canada's two main political parties.
The same holds true for Afghanistan. Michael Ignatieff was one of only a handful of Liberals who voted to extend the mission in 2006. "I want to express my unequivocal support for the troops in Afghanistan, for the mission and for the renewal of the mission," said Ignatieff in a speech to the House of Commons.
With a Liberal leader who supports the mission, now is the perfect time to reopen the debate about extending our commitment to the war-torn country. For years, the Canadian left has tried to frame the debate over Afghanistan as though it were Iraq. With the left-leaning Obama administration increasing its forces in the region, however, it will now be harder to convince Canadians that this is anything but an important and just engagement. And make no mistake, the costs of losing the war are now higher than ever. Despite recent setbacks in terms of human rights, there's no question that the people of Afghanistan are better off now then they were under the Taliban. We can also not afford to allow Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of Islamic extremists only to once again be used as a base to launch attacks against the west. Besides our moral and legal obligation to go to war against those who perpetrated the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, the situation in Pakistan may require that NATO have a substantial force in the area. We do not want the Taliban gaining another foothold in the region, which could be used to try and gain access to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to link the Afghan war with recent events inside Pakistan. The Taliban has long used the border region between the two countries as a base to stage operations against our forces. Now that the Taliban is within striking distance of Islamabad, the costs of failure in either country would be devastating. The policy of linking these two countries together has been coined the "AfPak strategy" by the Obama administration. Canada would be wise to take note of the broader geopolitical consequences of failure in Afghanistan and reopen public debate on this issue.
As it stands, the government has done a lousy job of informing Canadians why we are in Afghanistan and why we must win this war. A recent poll put support for the mission at a mere 40 per cent. If Canadians were fully informed about the atrocities committed by the Taliban, the possibility of nuclear material from Pakistan falling into their hands, and the direct threats against our closest friend and ally coming from Pakistani militants, we would likely see much higher support for the mission from people on both sides of the political spectrum.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Alleviating global poverty: The 2009 Montreal Millennium Summit
The Montreal Millennium Summit, an international gathering at which the United Nations' (UN) Millennium Development Goals are being discussed, is currently underway. In 2000, the UN issued a series of noble, if not unrealistic, goals that are supposed to be met by 2015. These include items such as eliminating poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, and combating AIDS. However, Le Quebecois Libre columnist Bradley Doucet argues the means by which the UN intends to achieve these goals are based on a failed model of aid going from the industrialized world to less developed nations and that the model is based on the incorrect assumption that human rights extend beyond personal freedoms to needs and wants.
In his column Alleviating Global Poverty," reprinted in the Western Standard Bradley Doucet writes:
Traditional human rights are negative in nature. They simply constrain people from infringing on each other's freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and so on. They exist until and unless they are destroyed. They take nothing from those who respect them. In contrast, health, basic education, and freedom from hunger are positive goods which must be produced by someone. They do not exist until and unless someone produces them. To say that those who cannot afford to provide these values for themselves nonetheless have a right to have them is to say that someone else has a duty to provide them. This notion of unchosen obligations is the very antithesis of true freedom, a perversion of the ideal of liberty.
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Mother of the free or the fall of the aristocracy
Brought up by drug-addicted parents in a poor neighborhood of London, she was transformed by the glare of reality television into a multi-million-dollar product whom the public was urged to celebrate, especially after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, Mr. Parkinson noted.
"Jade Goody has her own place in the history of television and, while it's significant, it's nothing to be proud of," he wrote in the Radio Times.
"When we clear the media smokescreen from around her death what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today. She was ... barely educated, ignorant and puerile. Then she was projected to celebrity by Big Brother and from that point on became a media chattel to be manipulated and exploited till the day she died."
What made Ms. Goody stand out in her reality-TV appearances was her shocking ignorance of her country's geography, her naked and drunken exploits and her racist bullying of an Indian housemate.
To generations of outsiders their image of Great Britain was captured in films like "Goodbye, Mr Chips" and the "Brideshead Revisited" miniseries. Dignified, well-educated men and women, often reserved to the point of being aloof. Everyone had been to one of the great public schools, then Oxbridge. They governed a third of the earth's surface with a detached, albeit often farsighted, paternalism. Over the skies of Southern England in 1940 a few hundred men, many of them toffs, flew Hurricanes and Spitfires while wearing neckties and using cricketing metaphors.
Much of this was myth, a skillful exaggeration of a Britain that never really was but many assumed should be. If the quintessential American was the businessmen, so the quintessential Englishman was an aristocrat. Unlike the continent, being a peer of the realm was a sign of genuine social distinction. Pre-revolutionary France was full of thousands of minor members of the nobility who lived little better than the peasants over whom they held often only a nominal lordship. In Britain only a few hundred were genuine aristocrats, though younger siblings were given courtesy titles. The law of primogeniture, much maligned by egalitarians, created a class of aristocrats without real titles and little money.
They married into the upper reaches of the productive middle class, worked in the City, sat in the House of Commons, served in India, or the Navy or the Army. Noblesse oblige was their code, which they followed more or less well. Their paternalism could become authoritarian and their class system was rigid and obtuse in its manners and customs. A gentleman was anyone who behaved as such, and could demonstrate some independence of means.
This gave the governing classes of Britain a remarkable flexibility. In three generations, the Peels of Tamworth went from humble merchants to founders of the industrial revolution to the very pinnacle of political power, under their most famous son, Sir Robert Peel, who governed as Prime Minister in the 1830s and 1840s. For North Americans this seems unimpressive, raised on the themes of Horatio Alger, rising to the top is something a man does before middle age, not something his grandchildren accomplish. The old American saying is "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." Compared to continental Europe, however, the British class system was self-renewing, adapting to changes in the economic and social structure of their society. Had it not been, Britain would have gone the way of France, Germany or Austria, a blood-soaked nineteenth century and the jackboot ridden twentieth.
The class system, however, was unjust, denying men of talent the relatively unobstructed rise that they could obtain in the colonies or the United States. It's unlikely that Andrew Carnegie would have become the great success in Britain that he became in Pennsylvania. Injustice breeds resentment, especially among the talented and ambitious. That resentment found its outlet in politics, especially in the New Jerusalem promised by the socialists.
Had this hatred of the aristocracy simply been directed toward the economic sphere, the wrecking of great fortunes through the workings of the inheritance tax, the damage would have been contained to there. The Jacobin spirit which moved these men could not stop there. They found that while taxation had destroyed the fortunes, ruined great family manors and embarrassed more than a few heirs to the continent -- back when the pound was much stronger than today -- it could not destroy the lure of the aristocracy. Many of these jacobins were also republicans, but few dared attack the monarchy openly. So much easier to subvert it and the peerage.
However impoverished many great families became, the lure of a title was strong. The middle classes, while mocking the idleness of their social superiors, wanted to adopt the manners and customs of the elite. Britain was an aspirational culture. While the vast majority of men and women were necessarily absorbed in the daily struggle for life, the aristocracy was able to focus on cultivating the softer elements of civilization. Manner of dress, manner of speech, the revised code of chivalry, a conception of honour.
These things trickled down. It was pointless, reasoned the Jacobins, to economically destroy the aristocracy if its spirit lived on and grew. The culture of aspiration was replaced with the culture of degradation. In America a similar phenomenon was seen among the blacks. To aspire to a higher standard of living and behaviour was labeled as "acting white."
During the Second World War Greer Garson became one of the English-speaking world's biggest stars. Playing middle class housewives, Garson spoke the received pronunciation and was seen as the exemplar of English womanhood. She was a lady, though from a comparatively modest background. The middle classes had aspired and achieved. In the 1960s the descendants of the Minivers began to aspire down. In three generations we have sunk from Mrs. Miniver to Jade Goody. The schools, which once taught classics, behaviour, mathematics and history are now focused on:
A new report on the primary school curriculum in England and Wales encourages educators to place more emphasis on technology than on traditional subjects.
According to its recommendations, students would not necessarily have to learn about the Victorian era or the Second World War -- teachers could choose two "key periods" of British history -- but learning skills such as blogging, podcasting and Twittering would take a central role.
Plutarch or Twittering? Mrs. Miniver or what Americans call trailer trash? Does Britain aspire up or down? Is there an up or down?
Monday, February 09, 2009
Western Standard poll: Which party would you vote for in the Israeli election?
RealClearWorld predicts that the Israeli legislative election, beginning in just hours, will be the most influential election of 2009:
Given its tumultuous history, it may be a cliché to dub an Israeli election “momentous.” But if any qualifies, surely the returns from Tuesday’s elections must. In the balance hang the future of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians and the possibility of military action against Iran.
[...]Early indications point to a rightward swing in the electorate. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party are projected to secure 26 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, followed by Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party with 23 seats. Among the surprises is the performance of Israel Beiteinu ("Our Home"), an ultra-nationalist party, which may win 18 seats and, by extension, help Netanyahu forge a right-wing coalition. Ehud Barak’s Labor party is currently expected to snag 15 seats. Yet there is also a sizeable pool of undecided voters, who could tip the balance.
Already groaning under the weight of the Gaza war, some wonder if Netanyahu’s return shovels dirt over any potential for peace. Others suggest that Netanyahu is the only politician willing to face down Iran. Whatever the outcome, the vote will almost certainly impact U.S. policy towards Iran. In the summer, prime minister Ehud Olmert petitioned the Bush administration to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. As the centrifuges continue to whirl, the next prime minister may very well need to make a fateful call: to launch a military attack against the Islamic Republic, or trust in deterrence. With military forces in two countries neighboring Iran, the U.S. will be deeply impacted by whichever decision Israel’s elected leadership makes.
(h/t Jesse Walker)
Participate in our reader poll about the Israeli election after the break:
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Blood for poppies?
The lead editorial in today's Saskatoon StarPhoenix deftly traces out the disastrous connection between the United States' War on Drugs and its foreign policy in Latin America and Afghanistan:
Although it is estimated that the U.S. taxpayers already have squandered half a trillion dollars in the war, there have been few reported successes. In fact, by ignoring the best advice of its own officials, the U.S. has contributed to the strengthening of an industry that, over the years, has extended a minor political squabble in Colombia into the longest-running insurrection in this hemisphere, fuelled the insurgency in Afghanistan, disrupted attempts to govern Southeast Asia and seriously damaged the economic benefits of the third partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
It has also cost the lives of Canadian soldiers, who are under instructions now to attack at will those Afghans who've been forced to participate in the drug industry due to lack of alternative opportunities and the determination of Taliban fighters to fund their operations with the illegal trade.
The announcement of a "war on terrorism" is deemed to have been foolish, because of the impossibility to measure successes in such an endeavour. It is even more foolish to pretend that such a phony war somehow can be won by putting even more soldiers into the field, employing heavier military equipment and supporting the darkest of regimes on the promise they'd become anti-narco allies.
For every gain in the drug war, there are a dozen losses. When the U.S. got control of the privateers who ran cocaine through the Caribbean, it caused a consolidation of illegal forces to spring up in Mexico. When the U.S. focused on shutting down the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan's fertile fields to sprang into poppy blossoms.
Read the rest.
The Western Standard on an other way for NATO to deal with poppy production in Afghanistan.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Czech president Vaclav Klaus takes aim at Al Gore and the global warming crowd
From the Associated Press:
Czech President Vaclav Klaus took aim at climate change campaigner Al Gore on Saturday in Davos in a frontal attack on the science of global warming.
"I don't think that there is any global warming," said the 67-year-old liberal, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. "I don't see the statistical data for that."
Referring to the former US vice president, who attended Davos this year, he added: "I'm very sorry that some people like Al Gore are not ready to listen to the competing theories. I do listen to them.
"Environmentalism and the global warming alarmism is challenging our freedom. Al Gore is an important person in this movement."
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, he said that he was more worried about the reaction to the perceived dangers than the consequences.
"I'm afraid that the current crisis will be misused for radically constraining the functioning of the markets and market economy all around the world," he said.
"I'm more afraid of the consequences of the crisis than the crisis itself."
Klaus makes no secret of his climate change scepticism -- he is also a fierce critic of the European Union -- and has branded the world's top panel of climate experts, the UN's IPCC, a smug monopoly.
Klaus has been outspoken on what he views as the hidden ideology behind the environmental movement -- the desire to quash individual freedom. Here's a video of Klaus making just this point:
You can watch the full video below the fold.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
U.K. social services remove children from grandparents care, insist on adoption to same-sex couple
In a bizarro world, the government decides which children get to live where, and for what reason. Welcome to England:
The five-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister were being looked after by their grandparents because their mother, a recovering drug addict, was not considered capable.
But social workers stepped in after allegedly deciding that the couple, who are aged 59 and 46, were "too old" to look after the children.
They were allegedly stripped of their carer's rights and informed they would be barred from seeing the children altogether unless they agreed to the same-sex adoption.
The distraught grandfather said: "It breaks my heart to think that our grandchildren are being forced to grow up in an environment without a mother-figure.
"We are not prejudiced, but I defy anyone to explain to us how this can be in their best interests.
"The ideal for any child is to have a loving father and a loving mother in their lives."
His wife added: "It's so important for children to fit in, and I feel our grandchildren will be marked out from the start when they draw pictures of their two dads."
The case raises fears about state interference in family arrangements, and concerns about the practice of adoption by same-sex couples.
Monday, January 19, 2009
HRCs spread their tentacles in Australia
Here's the latest accrual of power to the Human Rights bureaucrats in Australia's Victoria state:
The state Government is considering plans to overhaul the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, taking it from a complaint-driven conciliation body to a proactive discrimination-busting agency.
A current review into equal opportunity laws is expected to consider scrapping exemptions that allow exclusive private clubs such as the Athenaeum or Lyceum to bar male or female members. The recommendations for a major upgrade to the commission's powers came in a review conducted by veteran social justice campaigner and former public advocate Julian Gardner on behalf of Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
"The power to conduct an inquiry could include the power to compel the attendance of a person to provide information and/or produce documents," Mr Gardner's report recommends.
"These powers could be supported by the power of entry, search and seizure to obtain necessary evidence and documentation."
The Government is considering the recommendations and is believed to be supportive of boosting the commission's powers. It has referred the issue to a parliamentary committee, which will report in April, before it goes to state cabinet.
Mr Hulls has described the state's equal opportunity laws as "outmoded", saying "reform in this area is long overdue".
The Victoria Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is charged with upholding The Equal Opportunies Act, The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, and The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilites, but Grant Havers thinks that in the battle over discrimination, free speech which will be the real victim:
Judging from the Canadian experience with these commissions [...], it is unlikely that a Popperian “open society” will emerge from policies which usually clamp down on individuals with less than politically correct views on religion and politics. The “busting” of discrimination will in practice mean the eradication of any speech that doesn’t fit the preferences of the apparatchiks who run these inquisitions. Nevertheless, the chief executive of the Aussie commission insists that this body will use its “stick powers” (as opposed to its “carrot powers”) “very sparingly.”
Monday, January 12, 2009
Russian opposition leader on Russian aggression
Garry Kasparov, leader of the Other Russia Coalition, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. In it he calls his own country a petrodictatorship and accuses the Kremlin of purposefully adding to international instability for the sake of crude oil prices.
There persists a very damaging myth in the West, spouted by politicians and the press, that says Russia's assistance is needed with Iran and other rogue states. In fact, the Kremlin has been stirring this pot for years and has a vested interest in further increasing turmoil in the region. The Hamas/Hezbollah rockets, based on the Russian Katyusha and Grad, are not delivered via DHL from Allah. It doesn't require the guile of a KGB man like Mr. Putin to imagine a way to accelerate Iran's nuclear program, which has been aided by Russian technology and protected by the Kremlin from meaningful international action.
A war between Iran and Israel, according to Kasparov, would benefit Russia's Imperial program. Crude Oil prices will shoot back up to $100 a barrel and Russia would once again be able to bully its neighbours. What is more is Russia would be able to do so with a distracted world giving them a pass.
I worry about Russia, and I worry about how Russia is extorting Ukraine. Russia may not be the super power that it once was, but it still has the resources to cause a great deal of pain and suffering in the world.
More fantastic news from the Bank of England
Moin Yahya has been vigilant about documenting the growth and abuses of Leviathan in the UK. Most recently, he noted the Bank of England's latest plans to expand the money supply. Now there's a bill wending its way through Parliament which would allow the central bank to do just that, but without disclosure:
The Government is set to throw out the 165-year old law that obliges the Bank to publish a weekly account of its balance sheet – a move that will allow it theoretically to embark covertly on so-called quantitative easing. The Banking Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, abolishes a key section of the law laid down by Robert Peel's Government in 1844 which originally granted the Bank the sole right to print UK money.
The ostensible reason for the reform, which means the Bank will not have to print details of its own accounts and the amount of notes and coins flowing through the UK economy, is to allow the Bank more power to overhaul troubled financial institutions in the future, under its Special Resolution Authority.
However, some have warned that it means: "there is nothing to stop an unreported and unmonitored flooding of the money market by the undisciplined use of the printing presses."
[...] The Bank said it will still publish details of its balance sheet, but, significantly, the data – the main indicator of the extent of quantitative easing – will not be presented until more than a month has elapsed. For instance, under the new terms of the law, if the Bank were to have embarked on a policy of quantitative easing last month, the figures on this would not be published until the end of this month.
The reforms, which are likely to be implemented later this year, will make the Bank of England by far the most secretive major central in the world, experts said.
Read the rest.
Of course, any price inflation which follows the secret creation of new money to bailout financial institutions (or any other reason) will be purely coincidental and wholly the fault of unscrupulous money-grubbing retailers.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Leviathan in the UK
Do you want to buy a can of furniture polish? You may have to produce state-issued identification to prove that you are over 18 years of age, lest you be thought a solvent abuser. The story is a chilling reminder of how far Leviathan in the UK is going to destroy any remaning shred of individuality in the name of the collective good. Just in case you think "what is the big deal with requiring ID for some basic purchases," here is another story that shows that property rights are dead in the UK! Your property is not safe from squatters, and you need to show why they have to be removed!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Civil liberties group lose court battle to protect Afghan detainees from torture
On December 10th, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 60 today, a birthday celebrated every year with International Human Rights Day.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) celebrated International Human Rights Day this year at the Supreme Court. With Amnesty International at their side, the BCCLA challenged the Canadian Forces’ practice of transferring detainees apprehended in Afghanistan into the custody of Afghan officials.
Amnesty International (AI) and the BCCLA turned to the Court out of concern that prisoners transferred into Afghan custody faced the risk of torture and other human rights violations, particularly at the hands of the country’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security (NDS).
The civil liberties groups were appealing a March 2008 ruling by Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish that the court challenge on behalf of Afghan detainees could not go ahead because the Charter did not apply to the actions of Canadian soldiers outside Canada.
That decision was upheld today by the Federal Court of Appeal.
The BCCLA is disappointed with the decision, arguing that the courts of a number of other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have recognized that the constitutional and other national human rights protections of those countries do extend to the actions of their military personnel when operating abroad.
“Canada is increasingly isolated among its allies in maintaining the view that this country’s preeminent human rights document has no application to military forces once they leave Canadian soil,” stated Grace Pastine of the BCCLA.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the Charter of Rights did extend to the actions of Canadian officials who interrogated Omar Khadr in Guantánamo Bay because of the fact that his detention did not meet international human rights requirements. The Federal Court of Appeal concluded that the reasoning in the Khadr decision did not apply to the handling of prisoners by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Che Guevara was a murderer and your t-shirt is not cool
Reason TV has a fantastic new video entitled "Killer Chic" about the strange mash-up of trendy fashionable t-shirts and the murderer Communist Che Guevara.
I see Che shirts everywhere, and I cringe every time I see them -- do people even know whose face dons their shirt? Maybe they don't. Maybe they don't understand how ironic it is that a communist should be used, like McDonald's golden arches, to sell t-shirts, lighters, beer, and so on. So the reason vid is a nice way to spread an important message: Communists are not cool.
Humberto Fontova wrote about Guevara here as part of Front Page Magazine's "Leftwing Monsters" series. Alvaro Vargas Llosas wrote "The Killing Machine," an article about Che, here. Dallas Boyd isn't a fan of Che's either, writing an op-ed about the killer here. And here's a list of 216 documented murders by Che Guevara in PDF.
Apart from watching the video, you can also get a nice t-shirt from the good folks at Bureaucrash. They've managed to really ridicule both the trendy stupidity of wearing Che, as well as Che himself with my favourite t-shirt in their contraband collection:
UPDATE: You can join the facebook group "Che Guevara was a murderer and your t-shirt is not cool" here.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Dalai Lama really is a "splittist"
He's just not that kind of splittist.
You want humiliation? I'll give you humiliation!
The headline in The Times today reads, "Britain faces humiliating Iraq withdrawal."
Trust me, after having now finished reading Ben Macintyre's excellent book, Josiah the Great: The True Story of the Man Who Would be King, I can safely say that nothing Britain currently faces in the region could be as humiliating as the epic disaster the Empire endured while withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1842.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The European Union and the North-West Passage
Canada lays claim to the Arctic waters that are now being called the North-West Passage. Unfortunately Canada is having trouble convincing everyone else of this claim.
A recent European Union paper addresses their position on the Arctic waters. The most significant part of the report stated; (according to Embassy Magazine)
The document specifically states that EU member states "should defend the principle of freedom of navigation and the right of innocent passage in the newly opened routes and areas." It is this passage that has raised eyebrows in Canadian circles, especially as more of the ice pack melts.
The idea of 'freedom of navigation' in this case is in direct conflict with Canada's claim of sovereignty. The Europeans are basically saying that Canadian waters are open waters. That Canada's rights to police these waters are either limited or non existent.
Senator William Rompkey, chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, best described the problem Canada is facing with its claim of sovereignty;
"The key word is control," he says. "We can prove that water is Canada's, but what people care about is control."
Friday, December 12, 2008
A near-perfect wedge issue
Today I did a quick examination of the North Korea debacle. As I was writing it, I realized it would also be a perfect issue for the Harper Government to use against the members of the radioactively decaying coalition.
One of the reasons the coalition seemed to have so much promise was because the Bloc, NDP, and Grits didn't seem all that different anymore. Harper exposed that as naive bunk on the issue of separatism, but he can do it on this one, too, by taking a strong, principled stance against the Stalinist regime and its Chinese Communist benefactors (it would also increase the number of democratic nations willing to call Kim Jong-il to the carpet - from zero to one).
Given the Beijing angle, it would easily divide the opposition - only it would the the Liberals who would be out on their own opposing Harper. Suddenly, NDP and Bloc voters would be thinking twice - and quickly - about the whole coalition deal, and they would certainly be less likely to fall for the vote-Liberal-to-stop-Harper line that Mike Ignatieff is sure to borrow from Paul Martin and Stephane Dion.
The number of issues where one can isolate the left and do the right thing are very few indeed. Harper should take advantage when one comes his way, as this one has.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
CCP admits exports AND foreign investment down
While the global economic downturn certainly had something to do with this, I am also hopeful that this may be the moment the rest of the world finally decided to wait until the CCP can no longer interpose itself between them and the "1.3 billion customers."
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Another regime that blows through money, subverts democracy, and lies with a straight face
No, it's not the Liberal Party.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Jonah Goldberg gets it
Gets Communist China, that is:
Ask yourself this: Why are we in this financial crisis?
Any short list of reasons would include a lack of transparency in markets and regulatory rule-making; collusion between business and government; the politicization of lending practices (including the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit through giant governmental entities like Fannie Mae); and, of course, simple greed.
Does anyone honestly think China doesn’t have these problems ten times over? It has no free press, no democratic accountability, and no truly independent regulators.
After every Chinese earthquake, we discover that safety inspectors couldn’t be trusted to oversee the construction of schools and hospitals. And we’re supposed to believe that China’s corrupt model produces toxic baby formula but spic-and-span finances?
There’s an honest debate about how much blame institutions like Fannie Mae and laws like the Community Reinvestment Act deserve for the financial crisis, but few honest observers dispute that they played some kind of deleterious role. Well, China’s entire economy is one big Fannie Mae, its laws one big Community Reinvestment Act.
I’m willing to bet that the bill for that comes due long, long, long before China catches up with the United States of America.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Fellas, for a REAL dictatorship, look across the Pacific
I've been watching and gathering news on a genuine tyranny for over eight-years (and I did so again, today), and I can assure all of you, Canada ain't it.
If this coalition can last a week (and I still say that's a huge "if"), it can last two months. More to the point, though, the only people who are saying Harper has "lost the confidence of the House" are Duceppe, Layton, Dion, and their various minions. No one should just accept that out of hand until an actual vote is taken in the House - which will now not happen until late January.
In the meantime, Liberal voters can ask themselves if they thought their vote was going to a party prepared to let the Bloc
dictate policy "consult" on policy, while Bloc voters can ask themselves if they intended their votes to make Stephane Dion Prime Minister.
Monday is still a big day: E-day in Quebec. If the PQ support craters (as I believe it will), look for the BQ MPs to have serious second thoughts.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
In other news . . .
Lest anyone forgets, December 8 is not just Showdown Day in Commons; it's Election Day in Quebec.
(Video) The Southern Avenger on India and the logic of neoconservatism
Our favourite paleoconservative vlogger The Southern Avenger, weighs in on the response to what is being called "India's 9/11" with some sharp words for the neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq:
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
India's gun control laws enable terrorists and criminals
One of the many tragedies of the Mumbai terrorist attacks is that none of the victims had the means to defend themselves or any of their families, colleagues, wards, patients, guests etc.
Dr. John Lott, an economist at the University of Maryland, College Park and author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws writes:
In India, victims watched as armed police cowered and didn’t fire back at the terrorists. A photographer at the scene described his frustration: “There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything. At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, ‘Shoot them, they’re sitting ducks!’ but they just didn’t shoot back.”
Meanwhile, according to the hotel company’s chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi, security at “the hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government.”
India has extremely strict gun control laws, but who did it succeed in disarming?
The terrorist attack showed how difficult it is to disarm serious terrorists. Strict licensing rules meant that it was the victims who obeyed the regulations, not the terrorists.
Why all these restrictions, regulations and bans?
India, writes Abhijeet Singh, retains heavy anti-gun legislation from colonial days. Ghandi wrote in his autobiography that "among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
Singh recounts the long history of India's gun control measures:
I live in India and I am a proud firearm owner -- but I am the exception not the norm, an odd situation in a country with a proud martial heritage and a long history of firearm innovation. This is not because the people of India are averse to gun ownership, but instead due to Draconian anti-gun legislation going back to colonial times.
(h/t Butler Shafer at LRC)
More after the break:
To trace the roots of India's anti-gun legislation we need to step back to the latter half of the 19th century. The British had recently fought off a major Indian rebellion (the mutiny of 1857) and were busy putting in place measures to ensure that the events of 1857 were never repeated. These measures included a major restructuring of administration and the colonial British Indian Army along with improvements in communications and transportation. Meanwhile the Indian masses were systematically being disarmed and the means of local firearm production destroyed, to ensure that they (the Indian masses) would never again have the means to rise in rebellion against their colonial masters. Towards this end the colonial government, under Lord Lytton as Viceroy (1874 -1880), brought into existence the Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878); an act which, exempted Europeans and ensured that no Indian could possess a weapon of any description unless the British masters considered him a "loyal" subject of the British Empire. [...]
India became independent in 1947, but it still took 12 years before this act was finally repealed. In 1959 the British era Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878.) was finally consigned to history and a new act, the Arms Act, 1959 was enacted. This was later supplemented by the Arms Rules, 1962. Unfortunately this new legislation was also formulated based on the Indian Government's innate distrust its own citizens. Though somewhat better than the British act, this legislation gave vast arbitrary powers to the "Licensing Authorities", in effect ensuring that it is often difficult and sometimes impossible for an ordinary law abiding Indian citizen to procure an arms license.
Also the policy of throttling private arms manufacturing was continued even after independence. Limits on the quantity and type of arms that could be produced by private manufacturers were placed -- ensuring that the industry could never hope to be globally competitive and was instead consigned to producing cheap shotguns, of mostly indifferent quality, in small quantities. A citizen wishing to purchase a decent firearm depended solely on imports, which were a bit more expensive but vastly superior in quality.
This changed towards the mid to late 1980s, when the Government, citing domestic insurgency as the reason, put a complete stop to all small arms imports. The fact that there is no documented evidence of any terrorists ever having used licensed weapons to commit an act of terror on Indian soil seems to be of no consequence to our Government. The prices of (legal & licensed) imported weapons have been on an upward spiral ever since -- beating the share market and gold in terms of pure return on investment. Even the shoddy domestically produced guns suddenly seem to have found a market. Also since the Government now had a near monopoly on (even half-way decent) arms & ammunition for the civilian market, they started turning the screws by pricing their crude public sector products (ammunition, rifles, shotguns & small quantities of handguns) at ridiculously high rates -- products that frankly, given a choice no one would ever purchase.
Curtailing gun ownership, to curb violent crime, through denying licenses or making legal arms & ammunition ridiculously expensive is based on flawed reasoning. The fact is that licensed firearms are found to be used in a statistically insignificant number of violent crimes, motorcycles & cars are far more dangerous. The certainty that a potential victim is unarmed is an encouragement to armed criminals. Less guns, more crime. Most violent crimes involving firearms are committed using untraceable illegal guns. Terrorists or the mafia are not going to be deterred by gun-control laws, they will be willing and able to procure arms of their choice and use them to commit crimes irrespective of any laws. Ironically in India it is cheaper (by several times) to buy the same gun in the black market than it is to buy it legally!
Read the rest.
Meanwhile... Pakistan thinks India is a bigger threat than the Taliban
Pakistan (again) decides India is a bigger enemy than the Taliban.
Given the machinations up there and the new Administration down here, this could bring the Afghanistan operations to a quick and ignominious end.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Icelanders protest the central bank
On November 22nd, holding the policies of the Federal Reserve responsible for the international financial crisis, thousands of Americans rallied outside of Federal Reserve regional banks and branches in 39 cities with a simple message: "End the Fed!"
Many held signs and banners in opposition to government bailouts of industry and in support of a bill, introduced by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, to repeal the Federal Reserve Act.
Paul, who ran for the Republican Party's presidential nomination on a libertarian platform and a plan to phase out the central bank by encouraging competing private currencies, addressed the crowd of protesters gathered in Houston with a speech about global monetary policy and the economy.
The Associated Press reports on a similar anti-central bank protest in Iceland today:
REYKJAVIK, Iceland: Thousands of Icelanders marked the 90th anniversary of their nation's sovereignty with angry protest Monday, and several hundred stormed the central bank to demand the ouster of bankers they blame for the country's spectacular economic meltdown.
Tiny Iceland has seen its banks and currency collapse in just a few weeks while prices and unemployment soar — leaving a country regarded as a model of Scandinavian prosperity in a state of shock.
"The government played roulette and the whole nation has lost," writer Einar Mar Gudmundsson told a noisy but peaceful anti-government rally of several thousand people in downtown Reykjavik.
After the rally, hundreds of protesters stormed the headquarters of Sedlabanki, Iceland's central bank, demanding the sacking of its chief, David Oddsson.
The demonstrators staged an hour-long standoff with shield-wielding riot police inside the bank's lobby, singing songs and chanting "Out with David" and "Power to the People." The protest ended peacefully when both police and demonstrators agreed to withdraw.
Anti-government protests have been growing larger and angrier since Iceland's three main banks collapsed in October under the weight of huge debts amassed during years of rapid economic growth. Since then the value of the country's currency, the krona, has plummeted. Icelanders who grew used to buying houses and cars with easily available foreign-currency loans now struggle to repay them. The cost of everyday goods is skyrocketing — furniture retailer Ikea hiked its prices by 25 percent.
Read the rest.
Check below the break for an Icelandic news report shot on the scene of the protest:
Court of Climate Change?
The busybodies are now calling for an international court that would punish countries that fail to deal with climate change. No word on whether Canada will ratify this if proposed and passed by the UN.
So the Great Canadian Drama has one more week, giving the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc seven more days to mouth useless platitudes like, say, these from across the Pacific.
It will certainly be entertaining, and there will be much ink spilled and bandwith burned, but in the end, I'm guessing the Bloc balks.
With all the Lib-NDP talk and the what-was-he-thinking screeds aimed at Harper, there hasn't been much talk about the Bloc lately. That suprises me, because none of this can happen without them.
The Conservatives have thirty more MPs than the Liberals and NDP put together (if you include Andre Arthur on the government side), whereas they needed vacancies just to get to parity with the combined left in the last Parliament. This time, if the left wants to stop Harper, they'll need the Bloc.
Meaning the Bloc will go down in history for forcing another election (maybe) or propping up the very Liberals they have been fighting in Quebec for over fifteen years.
I don't see it happening.
Many perceive the Bloc to be lefties - and at the MP level, they are. Their voters, however, are all over the map politically, bound together largely (now) by a visceral hatred of the Liberals and (later) the pipe-dream of independence. Both will vanish into thin air if Gilles Duceppe announces he's decided to replace Stephen Harper with insert-Grit-leader-here.
While the rest of Canada will be watching the melodramaric barb-throwing ("Their undemocratic!" "Well, they don't care about the economy!" etc.), Pauline Marois has to be hearing it from her supporters about the federal cousins being involved in a deal that supposedly includes Jean Chretien himself.
The new vote of confidence is December 8, which just happens to be E-Day in Quebec. I wouldn't be surprised if half the Bloc caucus suddenly feels the urge to campaign for PQ candidates back home and - aw, shucks! - just can't find a way back to Ottawa in time.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Indian Muslim leaders: Mumbai "terrorist attacks a crime of the most serious nature"
The coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai are thankfully over, but not after raking up a ghastly body count of nearly 300 people. The attacks came three weeks after we reported that 6,000 Indian Muslim clerics had endorsed an anti-terrorism fatwa. Now many of those same clerics are speaking out to condemn the "beastly act" in Mumbai. The Hindu reports:
“The whole Indian Muslim community is saddened by the terrorist attacks. We unconditionally and with all the force at our command condemn this beastly act and consider it a crime of the most serious nature,” said the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the umbrella body of Muslim organisations.
In a joint statement, the leaders urged everyone to rise above politics and unitedly face this threat and refrain from using it for petty political ends.
They requested the authorities not to rush to any conclusion, as was the routine in the past, but take time to patiently probe the matter taking into account the various local and foreign powers, including foreign intelligence agencies, which might benefit from chaos and insecurity in India.
[...] All-India Milli Council general secretary Mohammed Manzoor Alam said the attacks were a “dangerous signal” and “it is a criminal act of demented terrorists. He said the country was at a crucial juncture and the government should fight the menace with courage and determination.
Let's hope we see Muslims around the world follow the example of these Indian Muslim leaders and forcefully condemn these and all acts of terrorism and call for their perpetrators to be brought to justice.
(h/t Joshua Snyder)
(Picture: Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, President, All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat)
Friday, November 28, 2008
(Video) Eric Margolis on the causes and consequences of the Mumbai attacks
Whenever I want to find out more about what's going on in South or Central Asia, I turn first to Eric Margolis, a foreign affairs columnist for Canada's Sun Media newspaper chain. Margolis is a veteran journalist who has spent decades reporting on and trying to understand conflicts in the region.
I caught him on CNN earlier today talking about the Mumbai terrorist attacks, speculating on the terrorists' motivations, providing geopolitical context which is missing from so many recent reports, and explaining what bearing recent developments have on the US, Canada and NATO allies in Afghanistan.
Margolis has a new book out entitled American Raj which I'm planning to pick up soon. From the book description:
American Raj: Liberation or Domination takes the reader behind the conventional headlines and into the thinking and world view of anti-Western Islamic radicals throughout the Muslim world, and identifies the historical, political and religious factors that have played such a huge role in generating Islamic hostility towards the West. Employing the model of Britain’s imperialist hegemony in Asia, which culminated in the eighteenth-century Raj, Margolis explores in fascinating detail whether the West—and in particular the United States—risks a repetition of the Raj experience or whether we face an entirely new—and entirely unfamiliar—world order.
If it's anything like his last book or his regular columns, it will be an indispensable tool for anyone wanting to get a firm grasp on the areas and conflicts considered.
You can get your copy at Amazon.com:
Scott Horton interviews David Henderson on "the libertarian case against the war in Afghanistan"
Scott Horton, the host of Antiwar Radio on Austin, Texas's punk pirate radio station KAOS interviews David Henderson, a senior economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and now a fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution about the Western Standard's current featured article "The libertarian case against the war in Afghanistan."
Henderson, an expatriate Canadian, explores some of the arguments he made in the article and then goes into a fascinating discussion of the US financial crisis, the moral hazard of bailouts, fractional reserves under a system of free and private banking, and argues that hyperinflation is not a real risk for the US Dollar.
MP3 here. (41:40)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Behind the "engagement" delusion
Today I try (again) to ascertain why so many conservatives are willing to give the CCP a pass. I found my answer (I think) in the history of a man who is arguably the most complicated tyrant in recent history: Augusto Pinochet.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Jason Kenney visits Babyn Yar holocaust site in Ukraine
Babyn Yar is a site in Kiev, Ukraine where over 100,000 Jewish and non-Jewish victims of fascism were murdered during World War II.
Today Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney visited the site as part of a trip to Kiev to mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, the 1932–33 famine-genocide in Ukraine that came as a result of Joseph Stalin’s collectivist agriculture scheme.
“Standing on these grounds today is a bitter reminder of the horrific acts of the past, but also reaffirms the commitment of the Government of Canada to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is never lost,” said Minister Kenney.
The mass killings, known as the Babyn Yar massacre, took place on September 29–30, 1941, and are known as one of the largest massacres in the history of the Holocaust.
“We will not forget what took place here or in other areas of the world,” said Minister Kenney. “Canada is working with its international partners to see to it.”
Minister Kenney has spearheaded Canada's recent and ongoing efforts to move toward full membership in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Uhm, I think I'm a goldbug now: Bank of England considering cutting interest rate to ZERO
I never really understood those economists who insisted that we need to return to a gold standard (more accurately: a commodity-based standard). No, let me rephrase that: I understand that we shouldn't permit a government central bank (or a private government-granted monopoly Federal Reserve like in the U.S.) to play with interest rates and with the money supply, I just didn't think it was as big a deal as the Ron Paul fans and Austrian economists happen to think.
But a new statement from Bank of England has me googling the local gold and silver dealerships. According to The Daily Mail, they're thinking of dropping interest rates to -- pay close attention -- zero. Yup, zero. Banks would be able to "borrow" money from the bank at no interest if they did this. And if Britain does do this, Canada and the U.S. might follow suit (or at least dramatically lower the interest rates at which they lend to banks as well).
From The Daily Mail:
Interest rates could be slashed to zero for the first time as the Bank of England battles the deepening recession.
Governor Mervyn King said he is ready to reduce rates to ‘whatever level is necessary’ to counter the economic storm.
He warned Britain’s economy could shrink by at least 2 per cent during 2009, pushing inflation into negative territory for the first time in almost half a century.
A worst-case scenario could see a slump of more than 3 per cent in gross domestic product, the biggest year-on-year fall since the beginning of 1981.
Dear British peeps;
Welcome to hyper-inflation.
Bank of England.
Lindsay Lohan and the first "colored" president
Like the rest of Hollywood, Lindsay Lohan is excited by the first "colored" president. Yup, she used the word "colored." Insensitive? Sure. An innocent mistake? Of course.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Happy tearing-down-of-the-Berlin-Wall anniversary
November 9th marks the 19-year anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall that separated Communist East Germany, from the capitalist West. And, beginning this year, it is also a day celebrated by Americans as World Freedom Day. Here's the declaration:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 9, 2008, as World Freedom Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, reaffirming our dedication to freedom and democracy.
In 1989, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, the arches over the reflecting pond and ice skating rink were renamed the "Freedom Arches." At the base of the centre arch lays a piece of the Berlin Wall, along with a plaque that reads:
The Citizens of Toronto dedicate these arches to the millions who struggled including Canadians, to gain and defend freedom and to the tens of millions who suffered and died for the lack of it. May all that we do be worthy of them.
Only in freedom can the Human Spirit soar.
Against the Human drive for freedom nothing can long succeed. This plaque is mounted on a slab of the Berlin Wall.
Here's the ABC report, with Canadian Peter Jennings (more below the fold):
Here's the BBC report from that day (more below the fold):
Here's a little movie about the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall:
A little live amateur video (shot on November 12. A wall that big takes a few days to tear down):
Who can forget former U.S. president Ronald Reagan's famous Berlin address? "Mr. Gorbachev; tear down this wall!":
And, finally, a German-language (but English-subtitled) video about the 192 people killed trying to get over the Berlin Wall (Peter Fechter in particular):
Friday, November 07, 2008
What we have here is a failure to communicate
It is saddening, but not surprising, that Kalim refuses to acknowledge national security concerns about Communist China. After all, it's pretty clear Kalim isn't sold on any enemy of the democratic world being such, including those who attacked us seven years ago.
In order to discern the real objectives of the CCP, you have to look beyond their flowery words, as I do.
China to Barack Obama: respect free trade
D.J., in your Open Letter to Obama, you encouraged president-elect Barack Obama to erect trade barriers with China:
You were the most openly protectionist party nominee in at least twenty years; you are probably worried about the backlash in international markets due to this, but your "base" is looking for an end to the free-trade/globalization policies of the last two decades. However, even many avid free-traders (such as yours truly and David Frum) include an exception for the Communist regime. Taking trade action against Beijing will appeal to your protectionist supporters without badly inflaming everyone else. In fact, you may find support for it from unexpected areas.
Apparently you and David Frum aren't the only 'free-traders'–there's also the Chinese, who are worried about Obama's protectionist tendencies:
China said Thursday it hoped the United States would adhere to free trade under Barack Obama...
"We will continue to follow a mutually beneficial foreign policy, we believe in free trade, and we believe America also believes in free trade," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
"We hope that the policy of free trade will continue to be adhered to. We must prevent trade protectionism, which is no good for either side," he said, when asked if he thought Obama would be more protectionist.
..."We'd like to also introduce more products from the United States, especially those high-tech products," he said.
"We hope the United States can lift commercial restrictions on high-tech products. It could contribute to balanced trade between the two countries."
Read the rest.
The Chinese also defended their current currency policies, citing decreased exchange rate rigidity, but as Tim Swanson notes "while a [true] floating rate is certainly preferable" to the present yuan policy, it seems hopeful that "the disastrous Fair Currency Act promoted by Big Labor will remain shelved for perpetuity."
This really is quite an amazing role reversal: the Communists are for free trade, and the anti-Communist is for protectionism.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Black like me
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content
of their character." --Martin Luther King Jr.
King implies that a moral person judges someone by their character, not by the colour of their skin. I agree. Because of this, I've been pondering the remarkable racial voting patterns in the U.S. presidential election.
Specifically, exit polls showed that a full 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama, a surge of 14 points in blacks' support of the Democratic presidential candidate. Most recently, John Kerry received "just" 81% of African-Americans' votes; however, Al Gore enjoyed 90% support.
Were the astonishingly high number of African-Americans who supported Obama all persuaded by his policies? It’s not likely; a portion probably voted for him because of their shared racial background (or, at least, ethnic identification). But does this mean that if blacks voted for Obama because of his race, they must then have voted against McCain because of his? And, if so, isn't this racism?
Interestingly, the New York Times reported yesterday that race turned out to be less of an issue than suspected (or feared). But the story concentrated on white voters and the possibility of their hidden racism, and did not examine black voters' racial motives.
I've been having an e-discussion about all this with a liberal friend of mine, who argues that even if blacks voted for Obama because of his race, they are entitled to. I agree; they have the right to vote according to whatever moves them. It's just that this does not reflect the high ground staked out by Martin Luther King Jr.
UPDATE: The link above, citing John Kerry's popularity with black voters, appears to be incorrect. I've done some more research, and it appears that Kerry actually received the support of about 88% of black voters. The story linked to here also says that Lyndon Johnson received the support of about 94% of black voters, a statistic that appears to pretty well answer all my questions about the significance of Obama's 95% figure.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I hope this one makes its way to Stockwell Day's new Inbox
The Chinese Communist regime is now admitting that its animal feed industry produced massive amounts of melamine-poisoned feed - and they have no idea how far the stuff went through the food chain (although we do geogrpahically that it reached the United States).
Feed and foodstuffs imported from Communist China will need a really close look for a very long time.
Monday, October 27, 2008
'Joe the Plumber' is a hero; but not why you think...
Joe is a hero because he's an outlaw. He is (horror!) practicing his personal liberty to offer plumbing services without groveling at the feet of some state board of plumbing. I also heard that he's not registered to vote. I like him.
(Here's an article about how dumb non-voluntary professional licensing is, and who it's really for).