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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Memo to the New York Times: Tolerant AND Sectarian (Not a contradiction in terms)

What would you think would be the main idea of an article entitled “Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance”? Wouldn’t you think the article would be about how, unlike many Middle Eastern countries (and most of the U.K.), the religious people of the U.S. are much more tolerant—as in not burning down mosques, outlawing proselytizing, or generally persecuting those who believe something different about God and the universe? That’s what I thought when I saw the New York Times headline about tolerance. The U.S. is more tolerant than say Britain where the archbishop of Canterbury is willing to relegate whole neighborhoods to Sharia law, where it might be a crime to proselytize or even question the Koran.

Sadly no. When I started reading the New York Times Article I soon discovered that I was a victim of an Orwellian switcheroo where words have new meanings but the “Ministry of Truth” has not changed the dictionary. According to the paper of record,

a majority of Americans are tolerant of religions other than their own because they think different religions can all lead to salvation. over 80% of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. Which is surprising. (I would think all Hindus would believe there are many paths to God. Why the unorthodox 20%? Maybe they didn’t understand the question.) More than half of the Muslims surveyed agreed. ???? Really? What’s going on there? What happened to “there is no god but Allah ands Muhammad is his messenger”? The list does get weirder. 57% of evangelicals agreed that there are many ways to get to heaven. I wonder how many of those were surveyed outside a Barnes and Noble carrying their venti latte espresso cappuccino (sorry I was just stuttering in Italian) getting into their hybrid SUV after picking up the latest book from Brian McLaren before they head off to a three day retreat cruise where they will sing the same three lines of a chorus over and over amid calls for authenticity and cool bumper stickers that say “relevant”

All ranting aside According to dictionary.com, the word tolerance means “a fair, objective and permissive attitudes . . . toward beliefs different than one’s own.” Funny that doesn’t sound like the NY times definition. I am fairly sure the reporter has a dictionary somewhere in that big gray building or at least in the not so distant past they would have. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong definition. The second definition says: “allowing the right of something for which one does not approve.” No nothing about that in the NY times version.

Maybe I’m missing something. That first definition did say something about being “permissive.” Maybe that’s what’s going on. Believing there are many ways to salvation is a permissive attitude. No can’t be that. Because a permissive attitude is not the same thing as believing contradictory claims about the nature of the universe and the state of human nature can both be true in the same way at the same time. That’s not a permissive attitude. That’s permissive logic, because make no mistake: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism are making competing and mutually exclusive claims about the nature of human beings and the nature of God.

One Pew Forum researcher said:

It is hard to hold a strongly sectarian view when you work together and your kids play soccer together.

Why? Why can’t I be tolerant and sectarian? Recently I spent a whole week surrounded by atheists and anarchists and atheist anarchists. Now we didn’t play soccer but we ate and drank, and made merry together and even managed to talk about Christianity. It’s not hard to be sectarian and tolerant. Tolerance would be respecting a person's right to worship as they believe. Tolerance would be to have a permissive attitude and not call for the outlawing of mosques or headscarves. Tolerance would be to engage Muslims in discussion over dinner. Tolerance would be to visit a synagogue, mosque, or ashram in order to avoid having a caricature of someone’s belief before you disapprove of it.

But NY Time’s tolerance isn’t a permissive attitude. It’s permissive logic. Apparently you have to permit your mind to believe that contradictory claims are both true and not true. You have to believe the Buddha was right that there is no God only nothingness and believe that God is triune and will have no other gods before Him and believe that there is no God but Allah, Allah “has no partners” (there is no trinity) and Mohammed is his prophet.

Honestly give me a good atheist or agnostic any day. At least they are dogmatists about logic. I know where I stand with atheists. Oh wait, according to the NY Times, an atheist “may mean they are just hostile to organized religion.” Where is Christopher Hitchins when you need him? He would be the first to say something like, “anyone who wants to worship in a grove while reading the Da Vinci Code and getting in touch with the divine consciousness is NOT an atheist. (Now where’s the bar?)” New Age haters of organized religion embrace the term “Pantheist” It has more letters, makes you look smart and looks cool on a bumper sticker.

I realize that I’ve been imbibing a little too much from the sarcasm well but as Flannery O’Connor said:

To the deaf you shout and to the blind you draw really big pictures.

One person who almost got it spot on was Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Contrary to Mr. Green’s “kid’s playing soccer” explanation, Johnson said, “It could also be a form of bland secularism.” Got that right Todd. But then he misses the putt at the end:

The real challenge to religious leaders is not to become more entrenched in their views, but to navigate the idea of what religion is all about and how it relates to others.

No Todd. The real challenge is how to be tolerant, loving, kind, and sectarian and teach others to do so as well. The early Christians, you know the ones who endured beatings, prison, and being the chew toys for lions, didn’t worry about navigating the idea of religion. Instead they loved people like crazy. Fed the hungry, stayed out of Roman politics (easy since there were no elections), raised children (theirs and the ones the pagans abandoned), cared for the sick of all religions, tended the graves of Christian and non-Christian alike, and one other thing they told everyone everywhere who would give them the time of day about their sect and how it was The Way till people were sick of it.

Imagine if one of the 57% of New York Times evangelicals ever stood before the Roman governor in Gaul:

Governor: “Do you acknowledge that Caesar is divine and Rome is the light.”

New York Times Christian: “Well, if you are asking if I think there are many ways to the truth, I would have to say that I am not so arrogant to say that my beliefs are the only way to salvation.”

Governor: “By order of the Emperor you are required to acknowledge Caesar as divine and Rome as the light by burning this incense to the statue of his divine form.”
NYTC: “Incense? Dude we don’t burn incense anymore. That’s not how you worship. You have to have some sort of chorus and really get into the worship. Incense is so old worship. I can help you with a few chords if you want.”

Governor: “Do you acknowledge Caesar as divine and Rome as the light or not?”

NYTC: “Well, I don’t like to put things into dichotomies really. That all seems so narrow, dogmatic and mean-spirited.”

Governor (under his breath): “Zeus preserve me. I have no idea what this lunatic is saying. What happened to the simple ‘I can not bow down’ of the old days? Quick. Simple. Question. Denial. Execution.”

Governor: “You are a Christian are you not?”

NYTC: “Well, I prefer the term Jesus follower.”

Governor: “Fine. Does your religion teach that there is but one God and you should worship no other.”

NYTC: “Um. Those divisive fundamentalists do, but you know following Jesus isn’t about you know tedious theology and endless questions and dogmatic statements. I’m open minded about you know paths to God”

Governor: “What is it about?”

NYTC: “What”

Governor: “Your religion. What is this Christianity?”

NYTC: “Well you know, it’s about community and fellowship and worship, it’s about social justice and equality. It’s also about coffee in the sanctuary and wearing sandals on Sunday morning oh and saving the environment.”

Governor: “Guard!”

Guard: “Yes, My Liege”

Governor: “Send this milquetoast to the lions.”

Guard: “Governor, he hasn’t denounced the Hebrew God nor acknowledged Caesar. We can’t throw him to the lions.”

Governor: “Okay Captain what do you suggest I do with him. He’s so like that luke-warm water we get from Laodicea—makes me spew.

Guard: “Liege, I suggest you let him go. If this is Christianity, then Rome has nothing to worry about.”

Consider this my really big picture.

Posted by Jay Lafayette on July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack

T-minus 8 days . . .

. . . and the Opening Ceremonies couldn't come fast enough for Beijing.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 31, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dion's Debt Dilemma

Here's my latest Sun Media column; I explain why the Liberals are having such a hard time paying off Dion's debt.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jim Flaherty: Expect more Liberal-lite from the Harper Torys

From Bourque comes this CTV report:

"Expect no major tax cuts or spending initiatives in the coming year from the federal Conservative government, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Wednesday...
The government intends to continue to reduce spending and debt, he said, but he shied away from making firm promises on ways to cut living costs for Canadians, who have been beset by high gas and food prices.
Flaherty accused the Liberals, led by Stephane Dion, of planning to run up government spending and debt if they take power in the next election."

I think I understand what "incrementalism" is all about now: you incrementally increase taxes and spending, while accusing the other party of wanting to tax and spend even more. In his article for the Western Standard "Why Conservatives and Liberals are both wrong," Moin Yahya documents how:

"...once Leviathan is created for one end, it is very easy for the beast to continue its quest to dominate all ends of our lives. The mistake both sides of the political spectrum make is assuming that somehow the machinery of oppression will only control those aspects of our lives they they expressly voted for it to interfere in."

The most famous line from Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1963 was that:

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And... that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

At this point, only that type of rhetoric or a quotation from someone like Patrick Henry or Henry David Thoreau combined with some positive legislative action could possibly convince me that big-spendin' Steve has any interest in promoting liberty.

Incrementalism, thy name is tyranny.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Al & Mike Show Episode 33 - Putting up a Fight

The China-IoC backroom censorship deal, more crazy enviromentalism, and Ezra Levant's statement of defense. Jay Currie sits in for Al MacDermid.

Listen Now

Subscribe to RSS: Click here for podcast RSS feed.

Subscribe in iTunes for your iPod: Click here (Must have iTunes installed)

Posted by Mike Brock on July 30, 2008 in WS Radio | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hollywood's libertine libertarians at the MPP annual fundraiser

In an attempt to conform to stereotypes, the Marijuana Policy Project held its June 12th fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

Reason.tv caught up with Rob Kampia, co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project (and the seconder of Bob Barr's nomination at the 2008 Libertarian National Convention) who had this to say about the state of marijuana prohibition in the United States:

"Everything is trending in the right direction in terms of changing more state medical marijuana laws year-to-year, changing local policies making marijuana the lowest law-enforcement priority in different cities, increasing our votes for medical marijuana in Congress, we just had the first ever bill introduced in Congress to eliminate federal penalties for marijuana possession, not just for medical use. All these things are positive indicators, they're all trending in the right direction."

Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Victor Davis Hanson: Why Do Europeans Love Obama?

Pajamas Media contributor and military historian Victor Davis Hanson asks the question, "Why do Europeans love Obama?" He provides five reasons, all good.

Here are a couple:

"Obama’s tax code, support of big government programs and redistribution of income, and subservience to UN directives delight the European masses—especially at a time when their own governments are trying to cut taxes, government, seek closer relations with the US, and ask a petulant, pampered public to grow up."


"Obama reassures Europeans that they, not American right-wingers, “won” the classical debates of the 1990s over economics, foreign policy, and government. He is a world citizen, who buys into human-created massive global warming, wind and solar over nuclear and clean coal, high taxes, and cradle-to-grave entitlements, and resentments of the rich. There is a certain European “We told you so” that comes with his election. In short, we elect a world citizen with a European view, and put behind us the embarrassments of a Texan or cowboy actor."

Read more here.

Via Little Green Footballs.

Posted by Terrence Watson on July 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Uncle Miltie's Legacy

Miltonfriedman_2 Tomorrow - July 31, 2008 - marks the 96th year since the birth of the great Milton Friedman. To those of us who value freedom, Friedman was not only a generator of ideas and arguments, but also an example of how to spread the message effectively.

The word "economist" causes the eyes to glaze over. Few professions evoke less excitement to the general public. Yet Milton Friedman became a household name as the economist of the 1970's and 1980's. This was not due to his research, though he did produce high-quality original research particularly on the damage done by rent controls, and the history of bad choices by the Federal Reserve. Friedman became the name that popped into the head of the 'average Joe' when he thought of an economist because Friedman did not relegate his work to academic journals, but took it to the masses.

His weekly column in the popular periodical Newsweek, his easy-to-read books Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, and his PBS Television series of the same name as the latter book all made Milton more than an academic. Unlike many pop-thinkers however, Friedman was no slouch intellectually and could dominate debate among the most learned in his field. This rare combination of technical and philosophical know-how and clear and simple communication made him one of a kind, and advanced the cause of freedom far beyond it's lowly place just a few short decades ago.

Those of us who wish to protect and expand every individual's right to make decisions for themselves, free from government prohibition, prescription, or intervention, should take a page out of Dr. Friedman's book and learn to advocate for freedom in terms that connect with the average person. Look up any interview with Milton on YouTube (this is my favorite) and you'll see a man who not only elucidates the benefits of free-market capitalism with clarity, but a man who maintains a calm and humble demeanor. It's hard to imagine anyone, even an intellectual foe, hating this man–he seems more like your kindly uncle than a debate opponent. Such a approachable aura and positive outlook have an attractive power that no cynic can match.

When the Nobel Prize winner famously advocated an all-volunteer U.S. Army during the days of the draft he had a verbal spat with a Vietnam troop commander while testifying before Congress. The commander said he was opposed to leading an army of "mercenaries", referring to soldiers who volunteered to fight for pay vs. those drafted by the government. Milton Friedman's simple response could well be generalized as a response to any politician who doesn't want free individuals to make decisions for themselves; "Would you rather command an army of slaves?"

Happy Birthday Uncle Miltie!

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on July 30, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Your awesome Obama parody of the day

The Republican National Committee put together this hilarious parody of an ad Obama might run in Germany. For Obama supporters, some moments are genuinely cringe-worthy, like the scene in which a German favorably compares Barack Obama to Che Guevara.

A David Hasselhoff warning is in effect for this entire video. Watch at your own risk.

Posted by Terrence Watson on July 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

How appropriate

In a land where the people must wear masks to hide their true thoughts from their rulers (and the rulers must do the same to hide their true selves from the people), it should come as no surprise that the guests may well be wearing masks too.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 30, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An open letter to Libertarian Party supporters

Dear Libertarian Party supporter,

As you know, Libertarian Party of Canada members from across Canada gathered in Edmonton on the Victoria Day long weekend to elect a new leader. Calgary-based legal agent Dennis Young won a close contest against party president Alan Mercer in a secret ballot vote on Sunday afternoon.

In a speech before convention delegates, Young stressed his military and policing background as qualifications to lead the party. He served as a full time soldier in the Canadian infantry from 1983 to 1989 and as a military police officer from 1991 to 1997. He saw active duty in NATO operations in Bosnia, an experience he says helped shape his libertarian views.

You can read the Western Standard report on the Libertarian Party convention in “Dennis Young wins Libertarian Party leadership race.”

Since his victory, Young has graciously made himself available to Western Standard readers to share the libertarian perspective in interviews on subjects as diverse as biofuel mandates to the new Adam Smith monument. Below is a sample of our news coverage that has included interviews with Young:

In “Conservative biofuel plan is losing popularity,” the Western Standard reported that an Angus Reid poll released on May 13, 2008 shows that only 53 per cent of Canadians believe "ethanol is a great alternative to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels." The same poll revealed that a remarkable 44 per cent believe "corn or wheat-based ethanol should be banned, because it is ethically wrong to use food to produce fuel" in light of global food shortages.

In an interview for this story, Young said that the Libertarian Party would scrap the biofuel mandates and subsidies to the industry: "Good ideas find support in the market. Bad ideas require government subsidies and mandates." Young further argued that alternative energy solutions should come from the free market: "High oil prices are driving innovations in alternative energy. Let's remove the government barriers to successful innovation and see what alternatives prove the most viable."

Did you ever wonder what happened to the Tory promise to scrap corporate welfare? This is the question I asked in “Monte Solberg brings home the bacon.”

This news story involved a small company called Flexible Solutions International (FSI). In February, the company received a $1 million, zero-interest loan from the Agri-Opportunities Program, a fund set-up by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to encourage the development and enhancement of agri-business in Canada. I thought this was a classic case of corporate welfare, and so did Young. Here’s what he had to say:

“The Conservatives promised to eliminate the capital gains tax. This would encourage more private investment in the equity markets and in companies like Flexible Solutions International,” said Young. “We don’t need or want corporate welfare. It’s bad for business and bad for taxpayers -- and I’m surprised we’re still seeing this from Harper’s team. Some things never change in Ottawa.”

Sadly, corporate welfare stories don’t get much media attention these days. Most Canadians are just too comfortable with big government.

A story that did make headlines in the mainstream media, however, is Bill C-10.

Canada’s glitterati have raised an army to stop changes to the federal film tax credits found in Bill C-10. Bill C-10, which is currently before the Senate, would deny tax credits to Canadian film and video productions that are considered offensive to the Heritage minister and that contain messages and themes that are contrary to government public policy.

Conservative critics of Bill C-10, and there aren’t very many, believe the proposed legislation reflects an insincere commitment from the Conservative government to tackle out-of-control spending on film. Your party’s leader went further:

“The problem is tax dollars being used to subsidies films, any films -- so let’s address that problem directly. Giving new powers to the Heritage minister to watch over the film industry doesn’t sound like a solution to me,” said Young. “If we can’t even count on the Conservatives to get us out of the business of financing film, what hope do we have that they’ll limit the scope of government in more important areas.”

I hope you’ll read “Will the Tories blink on Bill C-10?” for the complete story on this ongoing issue.

Finally, here’s a good story about a capitalist hero...two capitalist heroes, actually.

On July 4th, a ceremony was held in Edinburgh, Scotland to unveil a statue of economist Adam Smith, 200 years after his death.

While the monument, paid for entirely with private money, was erected by the London-based Adam Smith Institute, a Calgary entrepreneur named Bob Lamond played an early and important role in honouring this neglected free market economist and Edinburgh’s most illustrious son.

When I asked Young what he thought of this private initiative to recognize an important thinker in the classical liberal tradition, here’s what he had to say:

“Bob Lamond is an example of what a determined individual can do to create a culture of liberty. He didn’t look to government; he just got the job done – and now we’ve got a monument to a great economic thinker whose ideas could push Canada and the world towards a new period of liberty and prosperity.”

You can comment on “After 200 years, Adam Smith is honoured in Edinburgh” here.

Thanks for reading this long post.

Libertarian Party supporters have a leader who has communicated effectively to the 60,000-plus online subscribers to the Western Standard website, and who has challenged our mostly conservative readers to give libertarian ideas – and the Libertarian Party – a second look.

As part of our commitment to providing comprehensive coverage of freedom movement news, the Western Standard will continue to write about Dennis Young and the Libertarian Party – and I hope that when we do you’ll share your thoughts with us on the Shotgun blog. We need libertarian voices – your voice -- to be part of the many exciting discussions about liberty on the Western Standard website.

See you online!

In Liberty,

Matthew Johnston
Western Standard

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A dictatorship's predictable corruption

Surprise, suprise: "UN aid disappearing in Burma cash scam."

And, oh yes: "The missing money is likely to have lined the pockets of the ruling generals and their business cronies."

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 29, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Gloucester's baby boom

After the globe-straddling coverage in June of the "pregnancy pact" at a Gloucester, Mass. high school, very little news about the issue has surfaced. Nevertheless, when searching for a timeless debate subject this past week, my colleague, Mary Woo Sims, and I decided to tackle the issue in our regular Face to Face feature for the Tri-City News. Here is her take on the matter, and here is mine. Regular readers will not be surprised at Sims' familiar anti-traditional-family spin on things.

Meantime, I've now been able to find some July coverage of the situation, and it turns out that the local newspaper has been able to contact about half of the dozen-and-a-half girls who have become pregnant at the high school and each one says, a) her pregnancy was accidental; and b) no pact existed to raise the children together. Nevertheless, no one can explain the sudden surge in pregnacies at the school.

I have a feeling this story still has a few more chapters remaining.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 29, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The federal government should regulate text message fees: poll

In a poll released today, Angus Reid Strategies revealed that 74 per cent of Canadians want to see the federal government regulate text message fees.

The survey was conducted after Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility announced that in August the companies will begin charging customers 15 cents per each text message received. Of course, this new billing practice will only affect customers with no separate text message plan.

Here are the key findings of the survey:

These kinds of results are only helping to raise concerns that polls are a very weak measure of genuine public opinion, a subject I’ve written about before here. However, it is not clear whether a specific question was poorly written or if respondents were simply offering answers to a question without any philosophical consistency.

How is it possible that 74 per cent of Canadians think the “government should prevent the implementation of the incoming text message fees” while 43 per cent of respondents in the same survey agree that as “private companies, Telus and Bell are free to charge for their services as they please”?

Perhaps the latter question should have been worded: “As private companies, Telus and Bell should be free to charge for their services as they please.” Are respondents simply agreeing that under the current regulatory environment Telus and Bell are, in fact, free to charge as they please? I don’t think so as that would not be a measure of opinion, but a measure of Canadians’ knowledge of a regulatory environment.

However badly worded the question, I believe we are supposed to take from the survey two seemingly contradictory conclusions. The first conclusion is that 74 per cent of Canadians want the government to intervene to regulate text message fees and the second conclusion is that 43 per cent believe that private companies should be left alone to charge what they want. If I’m correct, that would mean that a large percentage of respondents who agree that companies should be free to charge what they want also believe the government should intervene to regulate text message fees.

Something doesn’t add up. Either Angus Reid is asking sloppy questions, or Canadians can’t think very consistently. A third option is that polling, in general, is a deeply flawed way to measure public opinion.

(Source: Download angus_reid_poll_on_text_message_fees_july_29_2008.pdf)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 29, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Perils of Perfectionism

Today's Rasmussen poll has the race at 47-46 Obama. The Gallup poll (the regular one) has McCain in the lead by four. I expect that today's Gallup tracking poll is going to show a major tightening.

This is all, I need not add, just days after the most euphoric torrent of publicity for a candidate that I've ever seen. Labour mightly as they may to convince them, in the end the dogs just don't like the food.

This is what I'm talking about when I warn of the perils of political perfectionism. The medium is the problem for the Democrats, not the message. There are probably fifty people - Congressmen, Governors, Senators, and statesmen - who they could be leading by ten to fifteen points with today. Instead, they are converting victory into defeat before our very eyes. Great remains the enemy of good.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Olympics always were about denying reality . . .

. . . so I guess the cadres really are getting into the Olympic spirit.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 29, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lemieux: With Friends Like This

This week, Pierre Lemieux takes on Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party of Canada, and conservatism more generally.

Are Conservatives -- and conservatives -- really the friends of liberty some make them out to be?
Lemieux notes that government has grown faster under Conservative rule than in the preceding years when the Liberal Party was in charge. This is true even if one factors out increased military spending, which accounts for only a small fraction of the recent growth in government spending.

Lemieux also points out that the Conservatives have expanded regulation in many areas and have done little to follow through on their promises to shrink the government's role in our lives (for example, they've haven't yet done away with the 1996 gun control law.)

All of these things, according to Lemieux, only illustrate that conservatives are and always have been ambivalent about individual liberty. To paraphrase Friedrich Hayek, conservatives may want to use government to advance different ends than liberals, but they're less interested in scaling back government across the board. Like President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has simply grown government in different directions than his liberal predecessor.

A year or so ago, maybe less, I would have said Lemieux was being too hard on Stephen Harper. After all, unlike Bush, Harper has had to deal with a legislature that is almost wholly opposed to his own ideology. And he's handled this situation masterfully, his government outlasting even the most optimistic  projections.

At the same time, what's the alternative in Canada to the Conservative Party? Where else are "friends of liberty" going to go? The NDP? Stéphane Dion's Liberals? Isn't Stephen Harper our best hope for liberty, at least for now?

However, the trend Pierre Lemieux highlights is troubling. We'd all like to think that once the CPC gets a majority in Parliament, it will do an about face and pass a flurry of liberty-promoting, government-shredding measures that will vindicate all of the trust we've placed in Stephen Harper thus far.

But when I find myself thinking this, I have to stop: can we really trust a politician? Any politician? Is there evidence that  Harper is going to turn into a libertarian once his party gains a majority? Moreover, even if there was evidence, wouldn't that indicate exactly the kind of "hidden agenda" that has stoked fears in parts of Canada (e.g. Ontario) in the past and prevented the Conservatives from gaining a majority?

Excerpts from Lemieux's column are below.

"This government has deepened bureaucratic controls on consumer goods, prepared the ban of incandescent light bulbs, pushed the crazy ethanol agenda and the centralization of securities regulation.

In several of the new laws, increased surveillance and search powers were granted to state agents.

Despite their (fuzzy) promises, the Conservatives have done nothing to rescind the gag law that restricts free speech during electoral campaigns and nothing to repeal — I mean repeal — the infamous 1995 gun control “law”. In general, they have done nothing to reclaim our liberties."


"It has been argued that, as a minority government, they could not do better. There is a bit of truth there. Yet, during the first half of 2008, there was a grace period when the Liberals wanted to avoid an election at almost any cost and the Conservatives had virtually free rein in the House of Commons. What did they do during that period? They did things like introduce legislation to entrench existing firearm controls (the amnesty trick), regulate food, therapeutic products and cosmetics more tightly, expand the search powers of customs cops, and maintain security certificates."


"Some people in the Conservative Party are good people, genuinely concerned with the demise of our liberties. But they can’t do, or say, anything. Perhaps it is better to have real enemies in power than false or impotent friends."

Posted by Terrence Watson on July 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

A reality check on Communist China

There's been a lot of chatter (especially in the comments to my posts) about how Communist China is the way of the future.  Their little routine about being a supposedly capitalist economy has been particularly effective with North Americans who should know better than to take the cadres' words at face value.

Ironically enough, it takes an MSM reporter (John Pomfret of the Washington Post) to dispel the myths with aplomb.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 28, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 27, 2008

High flying hypocrites

Climate Change Connection is a hub for information about climate change in Manitoba funded by the Province of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro.

The website offers practical advice for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the following on air travel:

Sometimes we may not really need to travel at all. Some people take more than one air flight vacation a year. Why not one trip for a longer time - really experience the place. A lot of business travel is done more for the status and prestige of frequent flier miles than for real need. Video conferencing technology is getting better and cheaper all of the time. It can be nearly as effective as meeting in person, much more efficient in time, and a lot cheaper.

If you’re trying to save money, this might be good advice. Of course, our politicians aren’t trying to save money, as Colin Craig reminds us in his latest column.

In “High flying hypocrites,” Craig, the Manitoba director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, argues that politicians want taxpayers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but don’t ask them to reduce their air travel to exotic locations.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 27, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Test your IQ

Test your IQ. Yes, test your IQ on prominent people and world's major news events. I scored 12/12. How about you?

Take the test

Posted by Winston on July 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Doesn't Buy His Kids Birthday Presents

Politics aside, there's just something weird about a man (especially a lawyer married to another lawyer) who doesn't buy birthday presents for his children.  Or, for that matter, one who - in this day and age and with kids travelling in the circles that they must - gives his daughters an allowance of $1/week.

There's something oddly unpleasant about the Obamas.  I certainly wouldn't want to be their kid.  And, really, given that the ideology might be described as being paternalistically left-wing (or, more accurately maternalistically left-wing), it's probably worth thinking about what their parenting style says about their governing style.  And I say "their" advisedly - it's become increasingly clear to me that Mama Obama wears the pants in that family, moreso than I ever thought the same of Hillary Clinton.

When she goes around saying things like, "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone " things that display a very... personally authoritarian vision of political life - things which, in a way, suggest that they imagine a world where everyone will be treated like children, I would say that the question of how they treat their children becomes very, very relevant.

I'm not suggesting, it goes without saying, that the Obamas are abusive, far from it.  I'm suggesting that they appear to be the kind of creepy, lecturing, annoying parents who don't let their children have sugar, who stop their eleven year-old kid from going to see a PG-13 movie,  and so forth.  I, for one, can't stand such people - do you really want to be lectured by them on television for four years?

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 26, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Liberals love McCain, "the country's foremost progressive champion"

As anyone who saw the recently pulled Obama Love video can attest, Amber Lee Ettinger, the "Obama Girl," is not the only one with a crush on Obama; the American, Canadian, and international press have also gone positively ga-ga for smooth Barry.

Lest you despair McCainiacs, let me assure you that the cheering squad we call The Fourth Estate are equal opportunity ass-kissers. A week ago, Jonathan Chait, a senior editor at the liberal magazine The New Republic wrote an opinion piece called "A McCain Presidency Wouldn't Be So Bad," despite the lukewarm title, Chait is quite pleased with the prospect of President McCain. Remembering McCain's record in the Senate as a "maverick" liberal Republican, he lays it out:

"[John McCain] was an opponent, on moral and fiscal grounds, of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the rich. He was also a fierce opponent of the extreme elements of the religious right. He was a proponent of global-warming legislation, the Law of the Sea Treaty, a moderate immigration bill, expanded public financing of elections, a tobacco tax, and many other liberal reforms...
McCain's most longstanding conservative principle is his aversion to wasteful spending. But this has always sprung from an aversion to waste, not a Goldwater-esque opposition to government in principle. McCain's reformist impulses on spending are far more congenial to the progressive vision."

With friends like McCain, conservatives planning to vote Republican in November hardly need enemies. Perhaps that's the sentiment behind the movement of conservatives back to the party of Jefferson and the return of the dixiecrat that Jim Antle of the conservative American Spectator documents at Taki's Magazine. Even if dixiecrats fail to make a strong showing in the next congressional election, many blue-collar traditional and religious conservatives, whose least favourite Republican has long been John McCain, will stay at home on election day or cast a ballot for an alternative like Bob Barr.

I'm not sure how I'm going to endure the rest of this election season, the media love affair with both major party candidates for president is nauseating. Love-struck "journalists" slobbering over their keyboards as they pen devotional romance poetry for their Messiah and broadcast news personalities trying to keep their jaws shut as they make shameless public displays of affection might have been tolerable for me if the race for the presidency weren't between a douche and a turd whose greatest aspirations are to be the second coming of FDR–I may not be able to turn on the network news again until December.

BTW, Jonathan Chait is hardly the first New Republic liberal to gush over McCain:

Michael Lewis, The New Republic, Sept. 30, 1996:

"The shock of finding a Republican outside the Democratic convention is followed by a disturbingly pleasant sensation. I'm beginning to understand the war that must occur inside a 14-year-old boy who discovers he is more sexually attracted to boys than to girls. The longer I hang around McCain the harder it is to fight the feeling that just maybe I'm ... Republican."

Charles Lane, The New Republic, Oct. 18, 1999:

"A feeling is building up inside me, and, rather than continue trying to keep it to myself, rather than deny it any further, I think it's time finally to open up and discuss it publicly. I didn't want this to happen. I know it shouldn't be happening. But it is: I'm falling for John McCain[.]"

More on pinko McCain here.

(HT: Matt Welch)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Friday, July 25, 2008

Those Olympics are doing wonders for our foreign policy

I remember Oliver North once saying with baited breath that the North Korea nuclear issue might be settled "for fear of bad ticket sales" to the Olympics.  The idea was Communist China would convince North Korea to play ball with the U.S. on the nuclear issue to avoid damage to the Games.

As it turned out, all North Korea did was play us.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 25, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Barack Hussein Obama, World Citizen

Unsurprisingly, much of the world’s media is writhing with onanistic glee over Senator Obama’s Berlin speech. I don’t recall when being able to inspire hundreds of thousands of chanting Germans again became a positive quality in a world leader, but I digress. Still, for Senator McCain, there’s an opening here.
If I were John McCain, I would have my staff working overtime to produce an ad – tonight – that sounds and looks something like this:


FADE IN: Frozen black and white footage of Obama speaking in Berlin.

NARRATOR: When Barack Obama goes overseas, he says that he’s a…

(The footage moves)

OBAMA: …citizen of the world…

(The footage freezes, then dissolves).

CUT TO: Footage of John McCain.

NARRATOR: John McCain is an American citizen. Born on a military base in Panama. The son of an Admiral who was the son of an Admiral. He served more than two decades in the Navy. The choice – American or…
CUT TO: Obama speaking in Berlin.

OBAMA: …citizen of the world…

NARRATOR: …is clear.

CUT TO: A picture of John McCain.

MCCAIN: I’m John McCain, and I approved this message.

Yes, the press would go absolutely nuts over it. But, frankly, it’s more than fair – if Obama doesn’t want to defend his conception of himself as a “citizen of the world”, then he shouldn’t describe himself as one in the opening lines of a major speech. Someone who does that, frankly, deserves to have his patriotism questioned.

More than that – it would become THE issue of, at the very least, the next week. It would start a debate that, frankly, could only turn out badly for Obama – “is Barack Obama a patriot, yes or no?” It would be especially effective and cutting for Obama because, frankly, there are some obvious and serious questions about his loyalty.

I’m not talking about the Islamic stuff – I’m quite sure that Obama isn’t a Moslem, given that Moslems believe that Mohammed was God’s final prophet and such a fixed belief would clearly conflict with those obviously held by Obama. No, I mean the lingering questions about Senator Obama’s attachment to the United States and to Western Civilization itself.

See, we still know surprisingly little about what Obama really believes. In Obama we see two things. First, we see a far-left background. Obama’s views, when expressed in votes and in unmoderated statements place him, as the McCain camp pointed out last week, to the left of Bernie Sanders, self-proclaimed socialist Senator. But, second, we see someone seemingly willing to disown their own words and throw their own friends and advisors under the bus with a frankly shocking ruthlessness.

Maybe that all makes Obama just another politician – and I’ll grant the possibility – but I see something potentially more dangerous lurking in the candidate’s psychology.

Think about this man’s background. He follows a father – and keeps the name of a father – who absolutely rejected him. Indeed, he embraces that side of his with a shocking fervor. He doesn’t seem to hate his father at all for rejecting him in such a fundamental way. But, he was also basically abandoned by his mother – and neither has he ever shown any sign of holding onto any particular ill-will towards her.
Now, let’s take a step back from that and think about it for a second. Why did his parents both leave? There are multiple reasons, personal, career, and familial, but – at a basic level – both left because they couldn’t stand to live in America. The greatest place in the world, both could have lived there, but both chose to reject it.

Is it really inconceivable that a man might displace his hatred for his negligent parents onto the country that they abandoned in the process of abandoning him? Is it impossible that, deep down, he might not blame the country for the way his parents abused him and seek, at least subconsciously, to punish it for that? Or, even more on the level, might not a son seek to transform the country into something that his parents could have lived it – a problematic proposition given that both of his parents appear to have been communists.

It’s plain from Obama’s statements, made time and time again, that he really means this. He doesn’t think that America deserves any special place in the world. When he, for example, tells Americans that they’re going to have to use less of the world’s resources, he’s making the statement founded upon an honest belief that they aren’t entitled to more than an equal share of those resources. He seems to genuinely hold that socialistic, anti-Western, and anti-American view. But I doubt if the American people do.

You win elections by forcing your opponent to defend unpopular ideas and things. Perhaps, under fire, Obama will abandon his “citizen of the world” line but, frankly, given that it appears to be one of his most cherished beliefs, I doubt it.

One of the best ways to set upon another person is to find something that they will stand upon – and this might be it – and to attack them in a way that preys upon their own psychological weaknesses and their desire for fairness. Unfair attacks are better than fair ones because they discomfort the victim. Part of the way that McCain ensures that he beats Obama is for McCain to force Obama down into the mud.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 25, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Your awesome Obama image of the day


From a German newspaper. It looks like they're greeting Obama like a rockstar in Germany.

More newspaper covers here.

(The cover says "Come back to Earth", apparently: I wonder what that means?)

Posted by Terrence Watson on July 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Terrence Watson: "Are free marketeers sociopaths"?

Nunez540_3 In his new article for the Western Standard "Are free marketeers sociopaths?," Terrence Watson takes on the common rebuke that conservatives and libertarians lack empathy. The claim Watson is addressing is that:

"If [conservatives and libertarians] were as empathetic as liberals, we would recognize that the state has a legitimate role to play in helping the poor and the unlucky. We should be happy that our taxes are used to provide for those who need it the most. To object to the redistribution of wealth is to reveal only a base selfishness, or a "sociopathic lack of empathy."

Watson gives an example of the empathy-deficiency charge from a blogpost by Dr. Dawg about reactions from the right-of-centre blogosphere to a story from NPR highlighting a low-income mother and daughter (pictured above) "feeling the economics pinch" which point out that the pair are "kind of fat, even though NPR made it sound like they were on the verge of starvation":

"These wingnuts are for all the world like stupid little kids in a schoolyard, aren't they? "Nyah, nyah, you're a fat spic!" They just never appear to miss an opportunity to ridicule others; they only seem to be happy, in fact, when there are unfortunates to be mocked."

As the acute reader might anticipate, Watson has a response:

"My immediate reaction to Dawg's claim is to point out that empathy can itself be a character flaw, if manifested in the wrong ways. Some people simply don't deserve our empathy. Empathy is most warranted when it is a response to harm that befalls people for no fault of their own...
Moral approbation is necessary if people are to learn, grow, and improve themselves. We don't act in a vacuum, but in response to our perception of the opinions of others. If those opinions are too tainted by compassion and not tempered with stern judgment, they are less likely to have a beneficial effect on those around us.
Think about it: if all we feel is pity for those who, through bad choices, are at least partially responsible for their own suffering, then all we do is incline them to feel sorry for themselves. Self-pity is a barrier to self-improvement. If, on the other hand, we point out the string of bad choices that led to the current state of affairs, we at least give people a chance to identify the negative trend for themselves, so they can take action to reverse it.
In other words, sometimes we do people a favor by holding back our empathy and exercising a pitiless moral judgment.
Libertarians, who almost completely forsake using the law to make changes to people's behavior and put all their faith in public opinion to do so, must recognize the importance levying such judgments on people."

Watson's point is that libertarians and conservatives are not displaying a lack of compassion when they criticize irresponsible behaviour, but rather promoting good choices–exactly as they ought to if they wish to promote self-responsibility and liberty.

This understanding of the tie between individual freedom and individual responsibility is nothing new in conservative thought, Edmund Burke, in his 1791 Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, wrote:

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity —in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."


Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Communist China bans Darfur from Olympics

Now even Darfur groups that oppose an Olympic Boyoctt are banned from Beijing.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 24, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Going Bananas

Here's my latest column from the Sun Media chain.

In it, I ask the timeless question: Should taxpayers be forced to pay for flying fruit?

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on July 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Does Canada have a “Leave Us Alone Coalition”?

In the latest issue of Reason Magazine (not yet online), the maestro of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” Grover Norquist, makes the case that his longstanding “Leave Us Alone Coalition” is evidence that the individualist spirit in American politics still exists.

Norquist is a diehard Reagan Republican who is not afraid to criticize his own party. He has run Americans for Tax Reform since 1985, but is best known for orchestrating the infamous weekly “Wednesday Meeting” of the leaders of the various pro-freedom advocacy groups that make up what he calls the “Leave Us Alone Coalition.”

Norquist describes the coalition as such:

“The idea of the Leave Us Alone Coalition is that everybody is there because on the issue that moves their vote – not all issues; they’re not all libertarians – but on the issue that moves their vote, what they want from the government is to be left alone. So around a table [are] the guys who want their money left alone, their faith left alone, their homeschooling left alone. They’re in on one issue, the one they vote on.”

Norquist is vigilant about keeping this “Leave Us Alone Coalition” loyal to the Republican Party and away from the Libertarian Party, making him a powerful force in American conservative politics.

So does Canada have a Grover Norquist or a “Leave Us Alone Coalition” of highly motivated pro-freedom activists and voters? And to whom are these people loyal?

UPDATE - July 24, 2008

In trying to identify Canada’s “Leave Us Alone Coalition,” those single-issue advocacy organizations that represent voters who want the government to leave them alone, one example comes immediately to mind -- marijuana law reformers.

These people are highly motivated to vote on this issue, and they want little more then to be left alone by the government to peacefully enjoy their drug of choice. They are also easy to identify. Marc Emery is the self-annointed Prince of Pot and the de facto leader of the marijuana people. Through his magazine Cannabis Culture and his BC Marijuana Party, Emery can reliably deliver this constituency to a deserving federal political party or candidate.

Emery has decided to give his support to the Libertarian Party of Canada, by the way. In an interview with the Western Standard, Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young said “We have finite policing resources – and the time we spend prosecuting people for using marijuana, is time taken away from protecting people from violent crimes.” He also promises to work against the extradition of Emery, who faces charges in the US related to selling marijuana seeds.

So what would it mean to own the marijuana law reform vote? It’s hard to say. CBC reported in 2004 that “45 per cent of Canadians have used marijuana at least once in their lifetime. About 70 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 reported using the substance.”

That’s a lot of people who can’t be happy with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s $64 million drug war initiative, but what percentage, if pushed, would take marijuana law reform to the polls? And how does the Libertarian Party keep these people away from Dana Larsen and the NDP, for instance?

UPDATE - July 25, 2008

My second choice for membership in the “Leave Us Alone Coalition” are pro-lifers.

Don’t scoff.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s Morgentaler decision of 1988 struck down Canada’s abortion law and mobilized the pro-life movement into a defensive battle to restore limits to abortion. This battle was led by Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada who Christian right historian Dr. Michael Wagner calls the “sharpest mind in the country, at least from a conservative Christian perspective.”

REAL Women of Canada is not a libertarian-minded organization. They support a range of government initiatives to engineer society in their conservative image and control behaviour that they believe is destructive to mainstream culture. Recently, for instance, the organization has supported Harper’s $64 million investment in the war on drugs, and has been pushing for the passage of Bill C-10, legislation that would give new powers to the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to films that contain subject matter contrary to the public policy objectives of the government.

Despite this, I’m convinced that pro-lifers would be willing to vote for, and rally around, a political party that promised to remove abortion as an insured public health care service, even if this party was not prepared to deliver on such things as the continuation of the drug war or the further regulation of film and video content.

Now, to whom are pro-lifers loyal? Anecdotally, it seems to me that pro-life activists, and pro-lifers who vote on the abortion issue above all others, are loyal to the Conservatives. But should they be?

Harper has said that he would “oppose any bill limiting provincial funding to abortion services.”

In an interview with the Western Standard, Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young said, by contrast, “I would immediately take steps to remove all federal funding for abortion. We can go a long way to respecting the deeply held views of pro-life Canadians by not forcing them to pay for a procedure they regard as murder.”

Would pro-lifers be willing to put their other issues on the political back burner and take their chances with the Libertarian Party? Would they be willing to be part of a Canadian “Leave Us Alone Coalition”? Given that abortion rights advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler just got the Order of Canada and that the most conservative Prime Minister in decades is not willing to budge on their issue, what choice do they really have?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 23, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ron Paul on the bailout of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac

Finger printing mortgage brokers, the automatic reporting of all credit card transactions to the IRS, and an unlimited bailout of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac – all of this and more in the new congressional Housing Bill.

Listen to Congressman Ron Paul discuss the “mother of all bailouts” in his new video here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 23, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Canadians want Anglican Church to ordain women and homosexuals: poll

According to an Angus Reid poll released today, the majority of Canadians think the Anglican Church should ordain women and homosexuals. The poll was conducted after a decision by the Church of England—the mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion—to ordain women as bishops.

Here are the key findings:

The Anglican Church first ordained homosexuals in 2003.

(Source: Download anglican_church_angus_reid_poll_july_2008.pdf )

From the Western Standard archive, I recommend “Crisis in the church” by Candis McLean as a compliment to this story. McLean reports that Canadians in search of a meaningful religious experience are turning away from liberalized congregations and turning to evangelical churches in record numbers.

And if that's not enough, pick up Dr. Michael Wagner's newish book Standing on Guard for Thee. Jon Dykstra with Reformed Perspective called it "a gore-filled account of Canada's spiritual decline...."

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 23, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (46) | TrackBack

If you think your Parliament is bad . . .

. . . check out my Congress.

On another note, Matthew Johnston's frustrations with Stephen Harper triggered a point I had been meaning to make for sometime.  Now, my frustrations with Harper are well known, and deal mainly with an issue that isn't quite along the usual political divide (there or here).  Regarding issues on that divide, however, I'm surprised that anyone though Harper could achieve much with this Parliament.

Yes, I know, Canada has had minorities before, but none like this.

For starters, most of the minorities in Canadian history were Liberal ones - and before the Trudeau era, the "minorities" tended to be coalitions that gave the Grits a de facto majority.  Post-1970, Trudeau and Martin were pushed further left by the NDP during their minority tenures, which simply reinforced their natural political tendencies.  The only Tory minorities of which I'm aware are Diefenbaker, Clark, and Harper.  Dief placed his PC party to the Grits left on enough issues to win open support from the NDP and its CCF forerunner, while Clark's government couldn't survive a single confidence vote.

In other words, the number of minority Prime Ministers who faced a majority of  ideological opponents in Parliament is exactly one, and his name is Stephen Harper.  There really isn't much anyone can do under those circumstances.

Moreover, if one looks at Harper's budget history (as I did last year), the result is very much in line with past government, except one: the Chretien era.  The fact is, Chretien is the outlier here, not Harper.  That wasn't by accident either; unlike anyone else in the Liberal Party (or perhaps even the rest of Canada), Chretien understood how important it was to "divide the right," and he knew the best way to do it was to make sure western rightists considered him the preferable second choice to the old PC Party.  Did it get him many seats out west?  No.  Did it all but ensure that that western Reformers would have no real incentive to "unite the right" in a meaningful way?  You bet it did.

At some point, right-wing Canadians may have to come to terms with revising their opinions of the decade-long Liberal PM, whatever his motives (and I submit they centered entirely around re-election).

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 23, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

US Senate orders oil prices to fall

Speaking of King Canute syndrome, the US Senate also believes it can waive its magic wand and magically order the price of oil to fall. The Senate passed a bill that it claims will cut the price of oil by 50%! How you say? By banning speculation! That is right - because it is not the shortage of supply nor the high demand for oil in the world that is causing the price of oil to rise - it is the speculators. Well if that were the case, it must be the speculators that have raised the price of wheat, canola, rice, real estate in the west, etc.  And if it were that simple, let us find all the speculators in the world and just lock them up!

It is truly amazing how desperate politicians get for short solutions in times of crisis. Mind you, we are still doing much better economically than the last slowdown, and yet, here we are all panicking.

For those of you how read the bible, and I would have hoped that some of the 94 Senators who passed this bill do, the greatest speculator of all was none other than Joseph. Here is a man who based on the Pharoh's dream, had the Pharoh store surplus grain for 7 years, because 7 years of feast would be followed by 7 years of famine. Thank God, ancient Egypt did not fall under the Senate's jurisidction or they would have all starved.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on July 22, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

City of Toronto to Regulate the Sun?

128 Legend has it that King Canute was able to hold back the sea! It seems now that the City of Toronto thinks that it too, like King Canute, can hold back the Sun. (thanks to my former student for this story).

What is amazing is the hubris that the City has in undertaking the endeavor. But of course, we should not be surprised. After all, cities these days think they have solved obesity problems by banning transfats, violence by banning guns, and all sorts of other problems by passing more bans. Now if only we we could ban stupidity.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on July 22, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Was the NEP bad for Alberta?

Over at the Faculty of Law blog, I posted on a recent policy by the CMHC, which I argued could crash the real estate boom of the west.  I flippantly compared it to the National Energy Program, which elicited a comment that claims that the NEP wasn't all that bad for Alberta. My memory serves me otherwise, but our readers may have better informed ideas on the matter.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on July 22, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More on health and safety

Related to my last post, here is another interesting story about how bedbugs are making a comeback. The relevant quote in the story for me is:

Not long ago bedbugs were eradicated in North America; however, since governments banned the use of certain chemicals, bedbugs have returned and no accommodation facility-including cruise ships and five-star hotels-are exempt from infestation.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on July 22, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Indoctrinate U

Feminist equity activist Donna Greschner, who once served as chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, has (as of July 1) become Dean of Law at the University of Victoria.

Greschner is an NDP supporter, an advocate of same-sex marriage (and here too), and believes the Charter can and should be used to advance affirmative-action programs for women.

All in all, a perfect selection for the job of ensuring that our young lawyers of tomorrow receive the correct sort of education in their impressionable years.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 22, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

When the new year dawns

I know that January will just be another month in the Canada's permanent minority government, but down here, a new President will be sworn in. Here's what he'll face.

As an aside, I am curious to see how things go between our capitals. There really isn't much history on how Conservative PMs and Democratic Presidents get along. Mulroney was gone less than a year after Clinton's inauguration, and I doubt Jimmy Carter even had enough time to notice Joe Clark.  FDR was fixated on the economy in the two years he shared with R.B. Bennett. If anyone has data or accounts of the relationship between Woodrow Wilson and Robert Borden; I'd love to know about them.

In fact, the only recent interaction between Democrats and Tories was the Diefenbaker/Kennedy era, and even that has trouble translating into the present (Dief was at least partially to the Grits' left, especially on foreign affairs; if memory serves, the Tories didn't plant themselves firmly to the Liberals' right until the 1980s). I'd vastly prefer John McCain, but an Obama victory would start a genuinely new era in U.S.-Canada relations. I just have no idea what that era would entail.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 22, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, July 21, 2008

The state will keep you safe and healthy!

The state, which is supposed to keep us healthy and safe from the vagaries of the capitalist system as portrayed by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle, can't even figure out where an outbreak of salmonella is coming from. First, it was very sure that tomatoes were the prime suspect, thereby costing producers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales, without even a cent of compensation. Now, it thinks it might be fresh jalapenos, but even then this may not be the final answer. It seems to me that the only thing we need protection from is the state itself with its misleading results.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on July 21, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Free trade is working for Alberta, but most Canadians are not happy with NAFTA

An Angus Reid poll released today shows that “only one-in-fourteen Canadians believe their country has been the main beneficiary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and a majority of respondents are calling for the renegotiation of the commerce pact.”

Here are the key findings:

• 46% think the U.S. has benefited more from NAFTA than the other North American countries; Mexico at 30%, Canada at 7%
• 52% want to renegotiate NAFTA, 18% are happy with status quo, 11% want Canada to leave NAFTA
• 50% think NAFTA has not benefited Canadian workers at all
• More than half see at least moderate benefits for Canadian employers, Canadian manufacturers and the Canadian economy in general

The results broke down somewhat predictably according to party lines: “Conservative Party voters are more likely to want to stay in NAFTA without making any amendments to the accord (40%) than Liberal Party voters (22%), New Democratic Party voters (12%), Bloc Québécois voters (19%), and Green Party voters (26%).” (It is interesting that Green Party voters are more pro-NAFTA than the Liberals.)

Respondents from Alberta are the most likely (12%) to believe that Canada has benefited the most from NAFTA, and they have good reason to feel this way.

A report called Alberta’s Export Experience Under Free Trade Agreements: 1988-2007 released on July 18th shows that “more than one-third of Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product is derived directly from international exports.” The report measures Alberta’s export performance since 1988, the year before the first free trade agreement came into force, and things look good.

According to the report, “Alberta’s exports to partnering countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Israel and Costa Rica have increased in total by 683 per cent since 1989 when Canada’s first free trade agreement became effective. Alberta’s exports to non-partnering countries grew by 166 per cent during the same period.”

Here are some additional highlights:

• Alberta’s total merchandise export value has increased by 525 per cent since 1988, the year before the inception of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
• Alberta’s share of total Canadian exports has nearly doubled from 9.6 per cent in 1988 to 18.4 per cent in 2007.
• Energy continues to be Alberta’s principal export, accounting for 68 per cent of Alberta’s total exports in 2007 compared to 64 per cent in 1993.
• Machinery has become the second most important export for Alberta. Since 1993, growth in Alberta’s machinery exports has increased by 636 per cent.
• Since the inception of the NAFTA, there has been tremendous growth in Alberta’s value-added exports. Examples include organic chemicals, plastics, machinery and precision instruments.

Free trade is normally an issue that unites libertarians and conservatives. Free trade agreements, however, are a different matter. Critics say free trade agreements do nothing to remove barriers to trade and instead limit national sovereignty with new international rules governing labour and the environment, for examples.

At the recent Freedom Fair in Edmonton, Prof. Paul Geddes asked the question: “Have libertarians abandoned free trade?”

I think it is a question worth asking again.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 21, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Your awesome Obama image for the day


This was apparently the cover of an independent newspaper in Portland, Oregon.

No comment is necessary, I trust.

Posted by Terrence Watson on July 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Lemieux: Bombardier and Santa Claus

In this week's column, Pierre Lemieux uses the example of government subsidies to Bombardier to illustrate what I think is one of the best arguments in favor of limited government.

The argument is basically this: politicians care about getting reelected. If they can enrich small factions in our society to guarantee their support and disperse the cost of doing so among the rest of us, then that's what they'll inevitably do. In the end, we're all worse off, including the factions that waste their resources on such rent-seeking activity in the first place.

Really, wouldn't companies like Bombardier be more productive if they invested their resources in research and development instead of lobbying activities?

It's basic public choice economics. I saw it in action when I interned in Washington, D.C. at Citizens Against Government Waste last summer. Politicians grant favors to special interests and spread the cost around in ways most taxpayers don't notice.  (For examples of this in the United States, see a piece I wrote here. For more on corporate welfare in Canada, see this Western Standard column here.)

While libertarians tend to focus on more serious, open abuses of our liberties, government waste tends to undermine freedom a little bit at a time. Each dollar that goes to corporations in subsidies is a dollar you don't get to spend in pursuit of the projects that matter the most to you.

And each additional dollar we pay in taxes to fund these subsidies gets the average person just a little more used to paying higher taxes, making it even easier for government to levy additional taxes in the future.

Call it the "winding footpath to serfdom," if you like.

The worst part, as Lemieux points out in his column, is that government subsidies are so unnecessary. So what if Bombardier moves the production of its latest project to another country with a government that will lavish it with subsidies? That means we'll be flying on aircraft subsidized by someone else's money -- a good deal, if you ask me.

Lemieux eviscerates the pro-subsidy arguments: that subsidies produce jobs, for example. Maybe they do. But if the price is $100,000 per job, is it really worth doing? How many jobs could you or I create if each of us simply invested the $100,000 in places of our own choosing? Also, don't forget about all the money wasted lobbying politicians to persuade them to "create" such jobs.

Read Lemieux's column here. Excerpts below the fold.

"A subsidized industry creates less value than the value of the resources it uses: indeed, this is why it needs to be subsidized. A subsidized industry — or at least one that wouldn’t exist without subsidies — is a dead weight, not an opportunity."
"The taxpayer loses but who gains? Not the consumers, who would have had the airplanes they use subsidized by somebody else. Not the workers who would have found jobs elsewhere with comparable salaries. The ones who gain will be the less mobile workers and managers who would have got lower wages in other employment. And, of course, Canadian politicians and bureaucrats gain much in increased recognition and power."
"When the state has the power to grant favours to concentrated interests and faces no opposition from dispersed and uninformed interests, it will go ahead."


Posted by Terrence Watson on July 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

More handouts for biofuel production...

Suncor Energy is one of the biggest players in Canada’s oil sands. The company expects to produce more than half a million barrels of oil per day by 2012.

It’s a pretty serious company, but not serious enough, it would seem, to turn away government money for an ethanol plant.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food rolled out another $25 million in subsidies today as part of the federal government’s ecoABC biofuel initiative launched in April 2007. The money will be used to expand production at Suncor Energy’s St. Clair Ethanol Plant.

In “Conservative biofuel plan is losing popularity,” I reported that polling data shows that a surprising number of Canadians don’t support this biofuel strategy. In fact, 44 percent believe ethanol should be banned because it is “ethically wrong to use food to produce fuel.”

(It’s a sad commentary on Canadian society when people are divided on whether to ban something or make it mandatory. If there are, in fact, Canadians who believe the government should let the free market drive energy investments, their views are not reflected in the polling data I’ve seen.)

Green Party leader Elizabeth May also makes the case that the $2.2 billion Conservative biofuel strategy is nothing more than a “handout to the biofuel industry.”

So here’s my problem with today’s $25 million announcement:

1. Suncor Energy had net earnings of $2.8 billion last year. They don’t need government handouts.

2. It is hard to argue that the Conservative biofuel strategy is not a farm subsidy when the money is being handed out by The Minister of Agriculture.

3. Mandating a 5 percent national biofuel requirement for transportation fuel is a command and control approach to policy making that free market advocates should reject as a matter of principle.

4. Biofuel mandates are putting pressure on global food supply. The top seven nationally mandated biofuel targets combined will take approximately 240 million acres of farmland out of food production. That will mean higher food prices. (Source: Download agcapita_brochure_fip.pdf)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 21, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

T-minus 18 days . . .

. . . and the Olympics are looking more and more like that big party you throw in order to avoid all your problems - only to have them staring you dead in the face the next morning (with a wrecked house to boot).

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 21, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Civilizational Anorexia

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry recently reported what they hyped as the first known case of “Climate Change Delusion.” A seventeen year-old Melbourne teenager was placed under care after attempting to stop drinking water in an effort to combat global warming. However, I’d say that while this case is interesting and carried to a new extreme it is hardly unique. Indeed, I would argue that the whole of the modern environmentalist movement is rooted in a mental disorder – let’s call it Civilizational Anorexia – whose sufferers intend to starve Western civilization in a delusional attempt to make it conform to an impossible image.

Radical environmentalists believe, without reference to any outside requirements, that Western Civilization consumes “too much”. Like the teenage girl gazing into the mirror convinced, regardless of all outside input, that she’s too fat and must therefore consume less, environmentalists are seized of a similar delusion. As the heart of it, they have no sound basis upon which to rest their irrational belief that Western consumption is excessive. But, because they are fixated upon that deranged thought to the exclusion of all other things, they are fully prepared to let civilization starve to death.

Let’s get real here – civilization needs oil like people need food. Convincing yourself that it may be otherwise, as many climate change fanatics have done, requires one to believe in a set of interlocking conspiracy theories and magical conjuring tricks so complicated that, were they to be promoted in something other than a popular progressive cause, they would be dismissed as the ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic.

To believe that we can get by without oil – or with substantially less of it – is a delusional belief without any basis in fact. To believe that you have to believe that every major corporation in the world that could make money off of the alternative – including many which make little money directly from the status quo – have engaged in a conspiracy-so-vast to suppress it. You have to believe that companies which could make more money than God by producing a viable electric vehicle have chosen not to do so in the service of some grand master conspiracy (whether it is organized by the Masons of the Illuminati depends upon the teller).

Indeed, in order to believe in modern climate change theory you have to hold a fixed belief in “fact” that is demonstrably false – that, absent human intervention, the world’s climate would be static.

In other words, in order to buy into modern environmentalism you have to believe three facts that are either verifiably false or, at a very minimum, are unsupported by the facts:

a) That modern civilization consumes “too much” and is “unsustainable.”

b) That it is possible to sustain Western Civilization and our standard of living while reducing our consumption.

c) That any changes in the Earth’s climate are, ipso facto, proof of the posit that climate change is human-caused.

Now, to be clear, I’m not actually saying that most people who believe in Global Warming are delusional in a psychiatric sense – the vast majority of them aren’t. Instead, what I’m saying is that they haven’t examined the assumptions that are implicit in their thinking and matched them up with the facts. This is a flaw in our culture – and one promoted by our schools. For all of their talk about “critical thinking”, the left-wing ideologues who control education systems throughout the Western world have a notable lack of interest in looking closely at liberal shibboleths.

Indeed, what are the facts? For all of the talk that we hear about “thinking out of the box” and so forth, the left hasn’t done much of that at all in this area. That, in my view, can be attributed to the two broad groups who make up the high command of the environmental left.

First, many people are now on the environmental bandwagon because they’re profiting from it. There’s a joke on The Simpsons where Bart tells Lisa that all that recycling does is, “ensure that we’ll spend our last days using inferior products.” There’s something to that – entrepreneurs are moving a lot of garbage by mounting the global warming bandwagon.

Indeed, on that subject, I can already see at least one traffic ticket in my future. The Vancouver Province reported on Sunday that the city of Oak Bay, on Vancouver Island, is set to become the first municipality to permit onto its streets pitiful electric cars with a maximum speed of 40KPH, even in areas where the normal speed limit is 50KPH. Let’s all think about what this would mean, in practice. The speed limits on our roads are already too low – locally we have plenty of arterial roads with a speed limit of 50KPH where it ought to be (and, as a practical matter, people already travel at) 70-80KPH. And, of course, the kind of people who buy cars with a maximum speed of 40KPH are the very sort of people unlikely to ever push any vehicle up to its maximum speed, just out of their very nature. Personally, if I ever find my path blocked by some moron driving his $20,000 golf cart down the road, I’m going to do my damndest to run the son of a bitch off the road. The fact that people might plausibly spend that much money on those pieces of crap is proof that there really is a sucker born every minute.

Second, there’s a hard core of environmentalists whose interest in the movement derives from their hatred of Western Civilization and their desire to hobble it. It is, as others have pointed out, no coincidence that Global Warming took off as an issue with the fall of the Soviet Union – many radical environmentalists were (or would have been, had they been old enough) communists or fellow travelers in another world.

Both of these groups of people want to guide this debate in a particular direction for their own peculiar reasons. In the first case, because there’s billions to be made off of this craze and in the second, because they want us all to be sweating (or freezing) and starving in the dark because, at their core, they hold communistic beliefs and want to equalize global living standards through the traditional socialistic expedient of dragging everyone down.

Modern civilization consumes “too much”? Compared to what standard? What is our frame of reference here? The implicit thinking behind this, in the case of the latter group, is that we consume “too much” with regard to the rest of the world (IE – “more than our fair share.”). But, in practical terms, that’s a communist belief that I doubt would be shared by most self-described environmentalists. And, if a self-described environmentalist shares in that belief without accepting those underlying assumptions (as I suspect most of them do), than the belief has no rational support and is therefore delusional.

If you think that we consume “too much” because you believe that the Earth’s resources should be distributed equally, then you have a rational –however despicable I might find it – basis for that belief. But, if you believe that, then we need to be having a very different argument than the one that we are presently having.

If, on the other hand, you believe that we consume ‘too much” simply because you believe that we consume too much, than you owe it to yourself to attempt to ascertain whether that belief is rational. As I said above if, upon examining that belief, you are willing to support it by asserting that the world’s resources ought to be shared equally, than we’re in another area of debate entirely. But if, on the other hand, your belief is simply that we are consuming “too much” without any reference as to what the correct amount would be and why, then your belief isn’t rational.

If you believe that we’re consuming “too much” with reference to the world’s stocks of various resources, then I put it to you that your opinion rests upon insufficient information. Altogether, we have in North America energy stocks to last for several centuries at present rates of consumption – an outcome which is unlikely in any case (if we’re still using mainly oil as transportation fuel in the year 2300, we deserve to die starving in the dark).

Civilization needs to be fed with energy. Those who would tell you otherwise are every bit as deluded as those nuts out there who tell Anorexics that people out to help them are really out to get them.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 20, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Cuba backpedals on private property

The BBC reports that Cuba has just conceded that private property is more productive than government run farms. In the wake of lagging food production, Raul apparently has a slightly less thick skull than Fidel. The regime has authorized more private land to be pried from the icy grip of the politburo and back into the hands of private growers. Some gems from the BBC report: "President Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in February, considers reducing costly food imports as a matter of national security." I wonder if the concern is over rioting farmers threatening revolt? "[Central Planned farms] have proved highly inefficient - half the land is unused and today Cuba imports more than half its needs. Rising world food prices will cost the country an extra $1bn this year." Gee, all that could have been avoided if Fidel had cracked open one single economics text without Moscow's imprimatur. "Grants cannot be transferred or sold to third parties." Heaven forbid! The proletariat could get uppity and start amassing wealth! That would have Lenin turning over his particular cozy section of Hell. And my favorite bit of understated irony: "The presidential decree was published in the country's Communist Party newspaper, Granma." Well like Granma always says, "If you have to concede something do it in a big way with no hint of apology. Make like it was your brilliant idea all along." In the words of Shakespeare: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

Posted by Jay Lafayette on July 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bob Bexon RIP

I lost a friend recently.
His name was Bob Bexon and a few days ago he was killed, aged 56, in a biking accident.

It's a sad loss.

Bob was not only a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also a firm believer in freedom.

What I liked most about him was his insatiable intellectual curiosity. He was especially intrigued about the concepts of libertarianism.

He would always ask, "Well those libertarian ideas might sound good in theory, but how would they work in the real world?"

And to help answer that question, Bob would sponsor special "Freedom Dinners" in Montreal, to which he would invite libertarian/conservative thinkers, scholars, journalists and activists from across the country to debate and discuss the philosophy of freedom.

I was lucky enough to attend several Freedom dinners, where I met fascinating people and engaged in some of the most interesting conversations of my life.

It was always Bob's hope, that these discussions would in some way, help to spread and foster the ideas of liberty.

He will be missed.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on July 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stephen "the minority government made me do it" Harper

In his latest column, John Williamson with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation writes “it is no contest between the Harper government's spending and that of Mr. Chrétien's government. The Grits exercised greater fiscal discipline.”

You can read John Williamson’s column here, but let me ask Shotgun readers a few questions:

Is the minority government situation really responsibly for this out-of-control Conservative spending?

Are Conservative partisans – volunteers, staffers, candidates, donors, bloggers – happy with their party’s performance, and, if so, why?

If the Conservatives are going to give us bigger and more intrusive government than the Liberals, why not take a chance on the Libertarian Party?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 19, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (56) | TrackBack

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just in from Tehran

I had asked a trusted friend of mine, who is gone back to Iran after several years, to update me on what's going on in Iran these days and we had a brief conversation a few days ago. That brief conversation is now featured on Reuters website. I thought it might be of Shotgun's readers interest to be informed about these issues.

Update: It seems that the comment section was somehow closed to readers. I apologize. The comment section is open and please feel free to discuss.

Posted by Winston on July 18, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

After 200 years, Adam Smith is honoured in Edinburgh

On July 4th, a ceremony was held in Edinburgh, Scotland to unveil a statue of economist Adam Smith, 200 years after his death.

While the monument, paid for entirely with private money, was erected by the London-based Adam Smith Institute, a Calgary entrepreneur played an early and important role in honouring this neglected free market economist.

Read the Western Standard exclusive about how the invisible hand of entrepreneur Bob Lamond helped build a monument to the father of capitalism.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 18, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack