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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Craig Oliver: "reducing taxes doesn't put money in people's pockets;" Jim Flaherty: "Spend, baby, spend"

This clip of Craig Oliver's interview with Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty is simply astonishing.

And it's not only because Flaherty, a supposed fiscal conservative, brags about all the spending his government plans to pack into their January budget, but also because of this howler from Oliver at six minutes in when he stated in all seriousness that: "reducing taxes doesn't put money in people's pockets."

In a moment of clarity, Flaherty pointed out that "reducing taxes does precisely that–it leaves money in the pockets of consumers and the pockets of businesses," before going on with his big-spendin' braggin' and repetition of the Keynesian dogma that what the economy needs is more spending, private and public, in order to recover.

What Flaherty, those bank economists being quoted in the newspapers and all other disciples of John Maynard Keynes fail to take into account of in their understanding of macroeconomics is the factor of time. Bob Murphy explains the market process*:

It's useful to take a step back and just consider what happens every day in the worldwide market. There are billions of humans scattered over the planet. Some of us work on oil rigs, pulling up barrels of crude. Some of us work on farms, gathering wheat. Some of us work on oil tankers or drive tractor trailers, bringing the (somewhat) raw materials to others. As consumers, we only see the tail end of a "pipeline" that could be traced back many years. The finished goods you buy at the store are made of components that passed through probably thousands of different hands, in dozens of countries, before all coming together into the item you throw in your grocery cart.

Once we grasp the stunning complexity of the true "economic problem"—how all of this interlocking human activity is coordinated so that production flows smoothly and predictably—we see the absurdity of Keynesian pump-priming remedies. During a recession, it's not as if all output in all sectors falls by the exact same percentage. On the contrary, some sectors shrink more than others. This is because some sectors suffered huge losses, and they need to release some (or all) of their workers and other resources to more profitable sectors. This reshuffling takes time, especially because critical intermediate goods need to be produced so that operations further down the "pipeline" can resume.

The Keynesians are right that in a condition of "full employment," their proposals won't cause more physical TVs and pickup trucks to roll off the assembly lines. But even in a state of widespread unemployment, the Keynesian solutions don't help. To repeat, this is because we can't simply increase activity in all sectors by, say, 1% to raise output back up to pre-recession levels. Generally speaking, this is physically impossible. No matter how much money consumers or the government throw at it, Ford can produce 1,000 more Rangers only if it can purchase 4,000 more of the appropriate tires. And the tire producer in turn can only meet Ford's request if it can buy the appropriate amount of extra rubber. And the rubber producer can only do this if…and so on.

Read the rest.

*See: The Meaning of Market Process: Essays in the Development of Modern Austrian Economics by Eric and  Israel M. Kirzner

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

John Stossel: How not to rescue the economy!

A segment from the ABC special John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics, on how not to rescue the economy:

He has the radical suggestion that maybe the best thing to do about "stimulus" spending and bailouts is nothing.

Here's some more common sense: campaign finance laws are bad for free speech and grassroots democracy but great for incumbents, established parties and the rest of the political elite.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Even you, Prentice? Campaign launches to draft Jim Prentice for Conservative party leader

Picture_10_2 Earlier this evening, I reported that an anonymous group claiming to be comprised of Conservative Party of Canada members from across the country has launched a new website to mobilize national support for a campaign to draft Ontario Conservative MP John Baird to lead the Conservative party.

Treachery doesn't rest, not even on a Sunday. Grassroots Conservative Party members have apparently also launched a campaign to draft Jim Prentice for the same job. The website for Conservatives for Prentice went live tonight as well.

Prentice is a Calgary MP and Minister of the Environment.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Stephen Harper: The party never really started

I’m going to be totally honest here. Stephen Harper has dried up pretty much all credibility he had with me.

I still grant Harper his political accolades; bringing ‘the right’ together, defeating the Martin Machine, and shifting the rudder of political direction in this country, albeit it slowly.

On the other hand, Harper has pretty much given up fiscal conservatism.

There is no more talk of shrinking government, increasing provincial autonomy, reforming the Senate. No. The new game boils down to Harper and the Conservatives trying to prove to Canada just how much like the Liberal’s he is—minus the corruption.

That being said, we are now faced with a bunch of frothing mouths on the other side of the aisle that see their chance to take power.

Now they’re all claiming that this is about a “lack of stimulus for the economy” (whatever the hell that means), and politically attuned folks know this really isn’t about the economy: this is about the opposition feeling like cornered rats, armed with the knowledge that Harper wants to take away their parties taxpayer subsidies.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people on this issue—people who vote NDP, Liberal and Conservative. And I’ve got to tell you, when you lay the taxpayer subsidy scheme down in front of them, most people objectively reject this. In fact, most people are flabbergasted to learn that the Conservative Party is the only party that doesn’t receive a majority of it’s funding through taxpayer subsidies. Yes, they actually fundraise. Who would have thought?

So when Harper’s staff told him that he could win an election on this issue, I think they were probably right.  The only problem was, they were a little too quick to assume that they would be granted a writ of election by the Governor General—a tactical error to say the least.

Philosophically, I am completely on board with the idea of cutting subsidies to the parties. But that being said, the Conservatives were not taking an ideological stand on fundraising. They were simply trying to bankrupt the opposition.

Had this been an ideological stand, they might have—at the very least—proposed this change as a phased in measure. Or better yet: removed donation limits and once again allow union and corporate donations to parties.

My property is my right. My money is mine to do with as I choose. If I want to fire-sell all my assets and donate it all to the NDP in a giant $700,000 cheque, that should be my bloody right. As it is yours.

Unfortunately, that’s all neither here nor there. If the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition coalesces, it’s about to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. We can look forward to “economic stimulus” in the form of corporate tax increases (a primary demand of the NDP for this coalition), a carbon tax (the Liberals and NDP have both made clear that the economic crisis is no reason to delay ‘greenshifting’ the economy), increases on social spending (universal child care), etc. Oh and they’ll throw billions of dollars at industry to “stimulate” them. After all, according to Liberal and NDP pundits, we’re the only developed country without a “stimulus package”—as if that some kind of bad thing.  You mean, we’re the only country not barrel-rolling into statism, economic interventionism, bank nationalization, and corporate handouts?

Well, soon we’ll have the “Coalition for Canada” to set that straight.

Posted by Mike Brock on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Liberal-NDP deal reached

Picture_9 CBC is reporting that the Liberals and NDP have reached a deal to form a coalition to topple the Conservative government.

Under the deal the NDP would get 25% of the seats, but not Deputy PM or Finance. The Bloc would not have any government positions.

The big question seems to be who would lead the coalition. It doesn't sound like anyone other than Stephane Dion (who "believes he has the right to be Prime Minister") has reached a conclusion as to who they think would be best. I've heard a few Dippers say in interviews that they'd be comfortable with Dion leading the coalition but I don't think I've heard any Liberals say the same.

Posted by Janet Neilson on November 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Time to revisit an old article: "Stephen Harper: A former libertarian who's become just another statist politician"

At what may prove to be the dusk of the Harper era, it's time to revisit an article written at its dawn.

On the eve of Stephen Harper's first minority government in January 2006, Martin Masse, the publisher of the bilingual libertarian newsletter Quebecois Libre, wrote an article in which he predicted that despite the wishful projections of Harper's libertarian and conservative supporters, Harper would in fact govern much like a Liberal.

In the mid-1990s Masse was an organizer for the Quebec wing of the Reform Party of Canada and he was the official contact for Stephen Harper's campaign for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2001-2002. It's worth quoting substantial parts of the conclusion of his piece:

The Stephen Harper that I knew would certainly not be at ease defending the program rolled out by the Conservative Party during this campaign. Between the moment he left as Reform Party MP in 1997 and his return to politics, we got together a few times in Montreal. He was then head of the National Citizens Coalition, a lobby group whose motto was “More freedom through less government.” It would be hard to describe the libertarian ideal more succinctly.

We discussed politics and philosophy. At that time, Harper was a big fan of QL. I nearly fell out of my chair one day when he told me how he found very interesting my article in issue no 53 of the magazine, the one discussing the “five essential libertarian attitudes”. Not only had I forgotten the issue number, but I could not remember one or two of the five attitudes in question!

Stephen Harper preferred to describe himself as a classical liberal rather than as a libertarian, a term which he found too ideological. He has no interest in anarcho-capitalism, but he seemed to be at ease with the idea that the state should be restricted to a few essential functions (security, defense, justice, foreign affairs, etc.) and that government interventionism should be reduced to a minimum. The NCC had no literature in French and no presence in Quebec, and he proposed to hire me to set up a Quebec wing, using the QL network of readers and sympathizers as a foundation. The project never went through because of strategic differences and his return to politics.

During the leadership campaign of the Canadian Alliance in the fall of 2001 and winter of 2002, I was the official “contact” of the Stephen Harper campaign in Quebec. When I realized the lack of interest of the leader and his entourage in investing in Quebec and developing an organization here, I decided to stop wasting my time and did not stay involved after his election.

Harper is guilty of the same sin as Ronald Reagan and most other conservative politicians; he claims to believe in shrinking the size of government but has always acted to increase the size of government. As Sheldon Richman explained:

Ronald Reagan's faithful followers claim he has used his skills as the Great Communicator to reverse the growth of Leviathan and inaugurate a new era of liberty and free markets. Reagan himself said, "It is time to check and reverse the growth of government."

Yet after nearly eight years of Reaganism, the clamor for more government intervention in the economy was so formidable that Reagan abandoned the free-market position and acquiesced in further crippling of the economy and our liberties. In fact, the number of free-market achievements by the administration are so few that they can be counted on one hand—with fingers left over.

Those who defend Stephen Harper on libertarian or small-government conservative grounds are likewise deceiving themselves. His policy of "incrementalism" has never achieved any of its stated conservative or libertarian goals. For those who see Big Government and the social welfare state as overgrown, Harper will never by anything more than a "lesser of evils."

In the final section, Masse explains why any minor cuts that Stephen Harper has made to government are outweighed by his many increases in spending and state power–he had abandoned his belief in limiting the size of the state by the time he became Prime Minister. Already by 2006, Harper no longer spoke like the free-market economist he once was:

All the same, the Stephen Harper of 2002 still had libertarian instincts. His first priority was to reduce the fiscal burden – to a rate lower than the Americans! (See “How to get Canada back on track.”) Today, he promises to reduce the GST by two percent, which will only have a marginal effect on Canadians’ disposable income.

The Stephen Harper that I knew would never defend the bankrupt health care system that we have in Canada. Today he defends the government monopoly and promises to oppose any move towards a two-tier system, which makes him essentially a socialist politician like the other federal party leaders. When the complete Conservative platform was announced – full of promises to spend and support all sorts of groups and special interests – their finance critic Monte Solberg assured everybody that “Spending continues to go up. There will be no cuts… We will protect the social safety net.” The Conservative plan is, essentially, a continuation of the status quo. The federal state will not be put on a diet.

Here is what we got today, a party leader and prime minister who was the most libertarian politician one could imagine getting in this position, taking into account the fact that our movement still has a rather marginal influence. This Conservative government will likely govern just like the old Progressive-Conservatives (that Harper and his Reform friends quit at the end of the 1980s because it was too centrist and beholden to special interests) would have. It might even do worse than the government of Jean Chrétien between 1993 and 2002, when Paul Martin put some order into public finance, eliminated the deficit, contained spending and lowered income taxes. Other than his promise to withdraw from the Kyoto accord and abolish the gun registry, Stephen Harper’s program has practically nothing to distinguish it from a libertarian perspective than the one the Liberals proposed.

Masse takes Harper's conversion as yet another piece of evidence against democracy itself:

As I have written many times in QL, partisan politics is a waste of time for people who really want to reduce the size of the state. Democracy is a collectivist system whose fundamental logic rests on buying the support of political clients with the big pot of other people’s money that constitutes the government’s treasury. Either we refuse to play the game and stay on the margins; or we absolutely want power, and have to abandon our libertarian principles and adopt an opportunistic attitude. The solution is to work to delegitimize the state from the outside, not to try to reduce it from the inside, which is bound to fail.

Harper badly wanted to become prime minister and did an excellent campaign to get there. The downside is that he has now become just another irrelevant statist politician, who at best will keep the federal government more or less as it is, and at worst will increase it as did the right-wing statist George W. Bush. The Liberal vermin certainly deserved to be defeated. But if Stephen Harper, a former reader of this magazine, can’t do better, what more can we hope to achieve through political means?

Read the whole article here.

Martin Masse wrote for the Western Standard about who he would vote for in the 2008 US Election and we mentioned his piece about the US's $700 billion bank bailout package as implementation of the fifth plank of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

I've written recently here about the conflict between democracy and liberalism as has Omar Abu Hatem.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The knives are out for Harper as Conservative partisans launch Draft John Baird campaign. Even you, Prentice?

John_baird_in_the_backgroud_but_for An anonymous group claiming to be comprised of Conservative Party of Canada members from across the country has launched a new website today to mobilize national support for a campaign to draft Ontario Conservative MP John Baird to lead the Conservative party.

The group, allegedly comprised of over 100 party members from across the country -- including two MPs and one Senator (who have requested anonymity) -- launched the site Sunday evening. 

The group says that the Draft John Baird campaign has not been endorsed by John Baird or any of his staff.

Over the course of the next months, the Draft John Baird group plans to mobilize party members and average Canadians in support of John Baird's leadership.

This apparently grassroots move to replace Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper comes on the heels of what some party members are calling Harper's mishandling of the $195-per-vote subsidy issue, which would see $30 million in public funding to political parties eliminated.

Harper has been forced to back away from this plan, a plan that has inadvertently mobilized and unified the opposition parties and threatened his minority government.

UPDATE: draftjohnbaird.com and .ca are both available. I would think a serious John Baird leadership draft campaign would have purchased these domain names. This is likely not serious, or it's the work of Liberal, NDP or Bloc partisans to manufacture dissent. Stay tuned.

UPDATE #2: An anonymous spokesperson with Draft John Baird responded to my question about who is leading this campaign with the following:

“For the time being the identity of the founders is not being made public because of political retaliation concerns within caucus.” It is for the reason of “political retaliation” that the group claims it has not registered draftjohnbaird.com or .ca as this can not be done anonymously.

The organization also says they felt a sense of urgency to launched the website because the “Jim Prentice folks are already doing prep work behind the scenes, so we thought it was prudent to layout some initial groundwork, in hopes Mr. Baird runs.”

Even you, Prentice?

UPDATE #3: More from the group's website:


237 New Supporters since 12:00PM EST

Ottawa – Since launching the Draft John Baird campaign site on Sunday afternoon, the campaign says they have had nearly 3,000 visitors and 237 new supporters in less than ten hours.

This is a clear indication there is a strong appetite for change within the Party and across the country. The additional supporters registered today, brings the total number of registered Baird supporters to 345 as of 10:00 PM EST.

In the coming days, the Draft John Baird campaign will be working to ensure the new supporters are members of the Conservative Party of Canada, ensuring their voting eligibility in a leadership race.


Picture: John Baird waits in the background for Harper, but for how long?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Is a longer life a better life? A different perspective on the Saskatchewan workplace smoking ban

In a press release last week, Saskatchewan Labour Minister Rob Norris announced that as of May 31, 2009 a workplace smoking ban will take effect in the province.

"Our government strongly believes in protecting the health and safety of Saskatchewan people," Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris said. "A workplace smoking ban ensures residents will not be exposed to second-hand smoke as a result of employment."

Under the existing smoking regulations, workplace smoking is allowed in certain designated smoking areas only. When the workplace smoking ban takes effect in May, smoking will be prohibited in all workplace buildings and vehicles.

"The workplace smoking ban brings our province in line with other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world that have prohibited smoking in the workplace," Norris said. "It is consistent with our government's goal of a stronger Saskatchewan and a better life."

A better life?

My idea of a “better life” is one in which I’m free to make my own choices and take my own risks. If tobacco enriches my life, in what way is this workplace smoking ban making my life better?  What Norris likely means by a “better life” is a “longer life,” which is a grotesque attempt at moral equivalence.

In For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, libertarian author and Reason Magazine senior editor Jacob Sullum makes the case that individuals routinely make the decision to trade longevity for pleasure in pursuit of a better life, and should be allowed to do so.

Given this, and if properly ventilated, designated smoking areas can eliminate the nuisance of second hand smoke, why would the Saskatchewan government follow the wrong-headed example of other Canadian and international jurisdictions?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Heroin, yes; marijuana, no

Interesting story from Switzerland:

Swiss voters have backed a change in health policy that would provide prescription heroin to addicts.

Final results from the national referendum showed 68% of voters supported the plan.


The policy is described as one of last resort - prescribing addicts with the very drug that caused their problems in the first place - but supporters say it works, and Swiss voters appear to have agreed, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne says.

At the same time, Swiss voters rejected a plan to decriminalize marijuana.

Recent studies suggesting that long-term use of the drug may be more harmful than previously thought looked likely to encourage a "No" to decriminalisation.

Early results showed only 36.8% of those voting supported decriminalising cannabis, the Associated Press (AP) news agency said.

If only marijuana was as addictive as heroin!

No, not really.

Posted by Terrence Watson on November 30, 2008 in Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Contaminated cocaine in Alberta is a public policy failure that could cost lives

Alberta Health and Wellness officials issued a warning on Friday that cocaine being sold in Alberta could be laced with a dangerous substance that can harm an individual’s immune system.

Seven individuals in Edmonton, Red Deer, southern and northern Alberta have developed a form of immune system suppression after consuming cocaine contaminated with levamisole, a chemical compound developed to treat intestinal worms in humans and animals. The contaminant was likely used as a cutting agent in the processing of cocaine in preparation for retail sale.

“We are advising anyone who develops a fever or other signs of infection and has used cocaine to seek medical attention quickly,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta’s Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Any skin abscess or lung infection that develops rapidly should also be treated immediately.”

Because cocaine is a prohibited drug, the source of the contaminated product can not be traced to a particular manufacturer, and retailers can not be easily or quickly notified to pull the contaminated product from their inventory. In fact, qualify control of illicit drugs in virtually impossible according to drug policy expert Dr. Bruce Alexander in an interview with the Western Standard:

"It is obviously impossible to set quality standards for illegal drugs, or anything else that is sold on the black market. There is a long history of toxic forms of drugs being sold in Canada, and no hope that this will change without a major revision of the drug laws."

Alexander is professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University and is a director with the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

UPDATED: File under 'opposition opportunism' and 'total lack of principle': NDP and Bloc were already in talks to form coalition

Layton_duceppe CTV is reporting on previous coalition talks between Layton's New Democrats and Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois:

The New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois had a secret plan to form a coalition party well before the opposition's uproar over the government's fiscal update, CTV News has learned.

NDP Leader Jack Layton was in talks with Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe for a "considerable period of time," reported CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife.

Layton held a telephone-conference meeting with his caucus Saturday morning that was recorded by a Conservative member. According to the audio tape, Layton appears to take credit for the possibility of a coalition.

"Let's just say we have strategies. This whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadn't been made with the Bloc a long time ago and locked them in early," Layton says. "Because, you couldn't put three people together in one or three hours. The first part was done a long time ago."

He then goes on to say that the NDP "spotted and prepared for the opportunity and had taken the steps that were required, so that when the opportunity arose, which was when Mr. Harper made his disastrous strategic error by not providing stimulus to the economy and instead playing political games, we were able to move and things began to move very quickly."

Layton also says about the Bloc: "Nothing could be better for our country than to have 50 members who have been elected to separate Quebec...actually helping to make Canada a better place."

And just for fun, I'm going to quote that last paragraph one more time, read it carefully. I'm amenable to the idea of a free and independent Quebec, and I'm certainly in favour of more provincial autonomy as long as it comes with provincial self-sufficiency, but I still can't remember the last time I heard Layton say something so illogical:

Layton also says about the Bloc: "Nothing could be better for our country than to have 50 members who have been elected to separate Quebec...actually helping to make Canada a better place."

Read the rest.

(h/t Joanne)

Update: The PMO has leaked the transcripts of the Saturday NDP caucus caucus conference calls about the coalition talks. Here are some highlights from NDP Leader Jack Layton and NDP Caucus Chair Judy Wasylycia-Leis:

Jack Layton: Thank you very much, uh, keep the myth alive that I’m exhausted and working incredibly hard (laughter)  I appreciate you relaying that, I was asleep by ten o’clock last night, and had a very good night, a very good sleep, and that was my Friday night. So, an update on where we are, the, uh, we’re in the middle of a very historic time, and we’re playing a key role in it, in some ways a catalytic role actually, because as we think back, we’ll realize that nobody really imagined that it would be possible for the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal party of Canada ever to enter into any kind of a discussion around the future of the country and  it turned out that we were the glue, and spotted and prepared for the opportunity, and had taken the steps that were required so that when that opportunity arose, which was when Mr. Harper made his disastrous strategic error, by not providing stimulus to the economy, and instead playing political games, we were able to move, and things began to move very quickly, however, many obstacles remain in our way, and so we’re in a real battle now.  The negotiating process, I am, by the way in very very regular touch with the leader of the Liberal party, and the leader of the Bloc, frequently every day.

[...] We’re starting with two party talks, this will resolve itself into a tripartite conversation before the weekend is up, and the goal is to produce by the end of the weekend, an agreement on the machinery of the coalition, which would be signed off, particularly by the NDP and Liberals, but endorsed by the Bloc, and an agreement on policy program for the coalition, that would have three party agreement.

[...] Now, will there be an independent NDP caucus, yes.  BQ stability issues, worry about BQ potentially being off-side, we’re taking that very much into account.  We have numerous strategies designed to deal with it, I actually believe they’re the least of our problems, but in case I’m wrong, let’s just say we have strategies, this whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadn’t have been made with the Bloc to lock them in early, because you couldn’t put three people together in one, in three hours.  The first part was done a long time ago, I won’t go into details

[...] The coalition for Canada, I love the idea, it could be a deal-breaker for the Bloc (laughter) so if we don’t go, we call it “The Coalition for Canada and Quebec,” (lots of laughter).  Well, welcome to the real world of….that’s not funny

[...]  And I’ll just say one other thing about the issue of the Bloc:  nothing could be better for our country, than to have the fifty members who’ve been elected to separate Quebec to actually helping to make Canada a better place.  I think we just approach it on that basis, and say we’re willing to make Canada happen, here’s other things that we’re going to be investing in and transforming together, they’re willing to work with us, we’ll accept that offer.  What will be important to point out is that this will be an NDP-Liberal coalition, which is supported by the Bloc, with policy ideas that the coalition is bringing forward. [...]

Judy Wasylycia-Leis: I just want to add one thing, and that is so the major thing is here that the message we’re focused on the message, so that’s not confidential, what’s confidential is strategy, the discussion, details, the speculation about the other parties and their motivation and what they will or they won’t do, we should not talk at all about war rooms, or campaigns in that sense.  We’re building, trying to create a coalition government that will be a Liberal-NDP coalition that will be supported by the Bloc and that’s the message that we want to get out, nothing about the discussions in the background. (emphasis mine)

Kady O'Malley has the rest, it's great stuff. Layton may be an opportunist, but if what he's saying is true, he's a damn smart one.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Stephen Harper puts down the text of the fiscal update, slowly backs away

An update from the Financial Post:

OTTAWA -- Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister, said Sunday he plans to table the next budget on Jan. 27 and indicated temporary stimulus -- likely in the form of aid for the ailing automotive sector and additional liquidity injections into the financial system -- is in the offing.

"There will be further stimulus to the economy ... that is given," he said, adding that Ottawa was "going to have to deal with automotive issues".

Furthermore, the Conservatives moved to remove yet another controversial element from its financial plan -- a temporary ban on strikes in the public service. On Saturday, it announced it was dropping attempts to kill taxpayer-funded subsidies to political parties.

During a Sunday morning broadcast interview, Mr. Flaherty said the economic situation is dire. That's why the government has pushed up the budget's timetable and it will be "very serious" in crafting the budget document.

Read the rest.

I always prefer economic "stimulus" which actually stimulates the economy, like tax cuts and shrinking the public sector, to actions which benefit a small minority of Canadians and sometime result in lower unemployment figures in the short term but which harm us all in the long; but I can't be all that disappointed that Flaherty and friends will be extending corporate welfare to the auto sector or flooding the banks with money since it was never in any doubt that Flaherty is a Keynesian true believer.

The Conservatives backing down from their bold policy to ban public sector strikes (well, ban isn't exactly the right word–government employees could still strike, but shouldn't be expecting their jobs to go unfilled in their absence) is yet another dissapointment after they withdrew their plan to end public funding of political parties.

The opposition are not going to back down now, if they can overcome the large obstacles and agree on a Liberal-NDP coalition with the support of the Bloc, they will vote against the fiscal update and force the Conservatives out of government. Such a coalition government will follow the example of the Bush and soon-to-be Obama administrations by ramping up spending, bailing out anyone who asks very nicely, and possibly even nationalizing the banks and the financial sector, but its unlikely to result in a long-lasting or stable governing situation.

The Conservative Party will be contesting another election sometime in the near future and I don't think they're well served by looking panicked, skittish, and as indistinguishable from the Liberals as possible. It seems to be that Harper's chicken dodge has expended a lot of political capital and credibility with the voters to achieve a big ol' pile of nothin'.

Harper is just another political animal who always chooses power over principle. But, as we may be seeing, even Machiavellian politicians like Harper can stumble out of power.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Conservative letter versus Liberal letter

Central to the current political crisis is the Liberals' inability to fundraise as effectively as the Conservatives. To underline this I received two e-mails asking for donations. One is from the Liberals and other is from the Conservatives.

Liberal Friend,

In times of turmoil, Canadians expect their political representatives to set aside partisan difference, roll up their sleeves and get to work protecting their jobs, savings and pensions.

Yesterday's economic update is a betrayal of that basic principle. Not only have the Conservatives failed to offer any stimulus for the Canadian economy, they have introduced a proposal expressly designed to silence the opposition by eliminating public funding for political parties.

Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty know this proposal is controversial. In fact, they are counting on it to distract you. Together, let's keep them accountable.

The simple fact is that the Conservatives messed up. In less than three years, they have frittered away a $13 billion surplus and $3 billion contingency fund and are predicting a $6 billion deficit.

But once again, Stephen Harper has put partisan interests ahead of the national interest. At a time when Canadians are looking for a sense of hope, Harper's Conservatives are looking for political gain.

You deserve better. Canada deserves better.

We need your help now. The Liberal opposition is committed to a fiscal stimulus program that will restore the health of the Canadian economy. The Conservatives insist on playing politics while the economy spirals downward.  Please make a donation right now and help make sure we have the resources to hold them to account on your behalf and on behalf of all Canadians.

Thank you,

Doug Ferguson
President, Liberal Party of Canada

Authorized by the Federal Liberal Agency of Canada, registered agent for the Liberal Party of Canada

Not a bad letter but it doesn’t exactly make me want to charge the barricade. Read the Conservative letter and see what I mean.

Dear Mr. Macintyre,

The Liberal Party was completely rejected by Canadians in the last election. They received their lowest share of the popular vote since Confederation.

Now the Liberals are trying to take power through the back door.

As you read this letter, the Liberals are holding secret negotiations with the socialist NDP and the separatist Bloc Québécois to overturn the wishes of Canadian voters and take power.

They want to take power and impose on Canadians a Prime Minister without a personal mandate, a Liberal-NDP Coalition not one voter has ever endorsed and have it all backstopped by the separatist Bloc Québécois who simply want to destroy the country.

We need your help to ensure that they do not succeed! 

Senior Liberal insiders are trying to fool Canadians into thinking their scheme has something to do with the economy.

But it is clear the Liberals do not care about the economy. They only care about re-gaining power and re-gaining their entitlements. They've learned nothing since being turfed out of office over the sponsorship scandal.

On October 14th, Canadians passed judgment on the Liberals.

The Liberals have no mandate to lead a government.

The Liberals have no mandate to cut a deal with the NDP.

And the Liberals certainly do not have a mandate to cut a deal with the separatists who want to destroy our country. 

This backroom deal is so unprecedented and so undemocratic that Canadians must have their say.

This is Canada. The privilege to govern must be earned, not taken. We cannot let this happen.

When an election occurs - and it must - the Conservative Party will have to wage the fight of its life.

We now know we are no longer competing just with the Official Opposition. We are competing against a coordinated campaign between Liberals, socialists and separatists to impose their agenda on Canadians.

I am asking you to make an emergency donation of $200 or $100 - whatever you can afford to protect Canada's future and protect Canada's democracy from being hijacked by politicians who care about nothing more than power and entitlements.

In the last election, Conservatives stood together and spoke out loud and clear about the kind of Canada they wanted.

Now we must stand together once again to ensure that the wishes of the voters are respected.

Time is of the essence. Please respond immediately. 


Irving Gerstein,C.M., O.Ont
Chair, Conservative Fund Canada

PS: We also need you to write letters to the editor, call Talk Radio and let the Liberals and NDP know what you think of their plan to overturn the Government without seeking the consent of Canadians

The Liberals ask me to donate money to help give them a political advantage. The Conservatives ask me to donate to save democracy.

The Conservative language is fierier and more passionate. It is also more personal in that they used my name. The post script is a nice touch, they aren’t just asking for money. They are asking for you to be involved in any way that you can.

There are simple tricks to making a good fundraising letter. Even the formatting, with the small easily to read paragraphs, is better in the Conservative letter. As long as the Liberals can’t figure out these small details they will be at a continuous disadvantage.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thugs in the Land of Locke

The recent state's actions in the UK are what we would expect from a third-world dictatorship or the former Soviet Union. It seems that a Tory MP leaked some information that (surprise) revealed the government's incompetence. So the state arrested the MP and the civil servant who leaked the information to the MP. It turns out they also may have tried to entrap the MP. The cop who ordered the MP's arrest was the head of the anti-terrorism unit! There you have it folks: the chief of anti-terrorism is the state's enforcer for arresting opposition MPs.

Update: h/t Michael Cust who sent me the first link. My apologies Michael, but I posted this just before I went to bed. Michael is a libertarian blogger, but at this moment I am unable to find the link.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on November 30, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Justin Raimondo on the new plutocratic socialism

Che_greenspan_3 A discussion in one of the comment threads got me quoting from a recent essay by the Editorial Director of Antiwar.com Justin Raimondo on "The Resurrection of the Socialist Idea."

Here's the money quote where Raimondo describes what he calls "plutocratic socialism," a new form of socialist governance we are seeing develop in the US and around the world for the benefit of the banksters and the "Money Power":

What is completely different, however, about this incarnation of the socialist idea is that it has taken on a new and quite unusual form, one that at first appears so counterintuitive as to be virtually impossible—one that seems to negate the very essence of the socialist ideal, which is—or has been—egalitarianism. Everyone will be made more equal: all will be responsible for all. None will go hungry, and production for use and not for profit is the rule law and morality. That ideology, however, seems to have died along with the old Soviet Union, never to rise again. In its place, however, the mutant offspring of Western materialism and social democracy is arising to take its place, which can only be described as plutocratic socialism.

As a political program, socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the middle class would seem to have a strictly limited appeal. This, however, belies the power of fear, and of the catastrophism that has overtaken our thought processes in the course of the economic meltdown. We were told that unless Congress immediately coughed up $700 billion, pronto, the sky would fall, the economy would collapse, and we’d be in for America’s Second Great Depression. Oh, but don’t worry, because we’re going to use the money to buy shares in the banks, and the taxpayers will get their money back – with interest. Think of it as a gigantic financial toxic spill, which can only be cleaned up by government action: We’re going to buy up those bad ol’ “toxic” loans and make them “green” and profitable again. And they all lived happily ever after.

Except that it didn’t work out that way, and the disillusion came in record time. A few weeks later the story switched: Oh, never mind, they said. We aren’t going to buy shares, no one’s getting any money back, we’re just going to give the banks lots of cash and hope they don’t fail – oh, and, this is just the beginning. The auto industry is next: We’re going to let them declare themselves banks, which they practically are as far as the unions are concerned. Except their account is overdrawn, the money spigot is run dry, and so it’s up to the government to guarantee their wages, their standard of living, and the perks and privileges they have retained against all economic pressure and common sense.

This is a socialist revolution from the top down, a revolution led by the bankers, who were the first to throw off their chains and declare they had a world to win. Liberated from the tyranny of the system of profits and losses, and refusing to let their surplus labor be exploited any longer, they rose up, and, as one, seized control of the machinery of government, or specifically the U.S. Treasury, which they proceeded to loot to their heart’s desire. They did this in the midst of a presidential election, with both “major” party candidates signing on to this singular act of grand larceny, and to the loud hosannas of the punditariat. The vanguard party of this socialist revolution wasn’t some Marxist-Leninist outfit, but Goldman Sachs, whose former CEO, Treasury Secretary “Hank” Paulson, handed over some ten billion in bailout money to his corporate alma mater. Along with a brace of Wall Street firms deemed “too big to fail”—including Bear Stearns, AIG, and the country’s major banks—the Money Power secured its interests, even as the financial house of cards they had spent the last decade or so building collapsed around them. The common folks would be dragged under, but the golden parachutes of the ruling elites unfolded without a hitch. Here was a great revolutionary upsurge whose slogans were “Save the rich!” and “Billionaires first!”

Read the rest.

Raimondo does briefly address how the actions of the US Federal Reserve and other government policies got the economy in such a mess as to enable this plutocratic coup, but in this video and this article Dr. George Bragues explains the causes of the "Panic of 2007-08" a little more fully, and, shall we say, a little less colourfully.

In any case, fellow Canadians, there's nothing to worry about: the fatcats, central bankers, and monocled billionaires will soon be liberated from the shackles of capitalism and the dawn of a new era of plutocratic socialism will be arriving soon in a polity near you.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ron Paul honours Marshall Fritz in the House of Representatives

Picture_6 On November 5th, I noted the passing the previous night of Marshall Fritz, the founder of the Advocates of Self-Government, the Alliance for Separation of School and State and the inventor of the popular World's Smallest Political Quiz.

On November 19th, Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives about his friend Marshall Fritz. At the end of his speech, Paul pointed to Fritz' uncompromising commitment to principle, willingness and ability to build broad political coalitions and, most importantly, his attitude of respect towards his opponents as examples which libertarians who wish to successfully advance their ideas should emulate:

In 1990, Marshall stepped down as President of the Advocates to found the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, an organization focusing on the vital issue of parental control of education. Thanks in large part to Marshall's work, the idea that parents, not the government, should control education is no longer excluded from public debate as a "fringe" notion. One of the features that most impresses me about the Alliance is the way that Marshall brought libertarians, conservatives, and liberals together to work for education freedom.

Anyone who knew Marshall and worked with him would not be surprised that he was able to forge a coalition of people of diverse views. Marshall’s focus was always on building alliances and trying to persuade those with whom he disagreed, rather than on scoring debating points. While he never compromised his principles and never hesitated to criticize even his closet allies if they took what he considered an anti-liberty position, Marshall never personalized disagreements and always treated his opponents with courtesy and respect. I believe the freedom movement would be more successful if more libertarians followed Marshall's example of never turning policy disagreements into personal attacks.

All of us who care about building an effective freedom movement owe a debt of gratitude to Marshall Fritz. I join Marshall’s family in mourning his loss and I urge all of us who work for liberty to honor Marshall’s memory by following the example he set.

Update: Here's a nice obituary from the libertarian-conservative editorial team of the OC Register:

Marshall Fritz, a tireless activist for the cause of human liberty, died peacefully in his hometown of Fresno on Nov. 4 at age 65 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. The founder of three different nonprofit organizations dedicated to furthering freedom in different ways, he was a genial giant with a booming voice and an inexhaustible font of kindness and understanding.

Born in Inglewood, Marshall began his career as a salesman and development specialist for IBM, but as his passion for liberty grew he became convinced that the freedom movement could benefit from his experience in business communications. In 1985 he founded the Advocates for Self-Government (www.theadvocates.org) to help libertarians express their ideas positively and persuasively. He developed the World's Smallest Political Quiz (more than 10 million copies distributed) to help people locate themselves in the political universe and to convey that positions beyond the usually sterile liberal/conservative dichotomy were possible and even widely held.

A devout Catholic, Marshall founded the Pioneer Christian Academy in the early 1990s to put his innovative ideas about high-quality education into practice. Although the school was endorsed by luminaries like Milton Friedman and former New York state Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, it was not as successful as he had hoped. Yet he learned much from the experience and went on to found, in 1994, the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, dedicated to the idea that an endeavor as important as education could only flourish independently if it is independent of political control. This is a cause that has not yet triumphed, but the Alliance is still active (www.schoolandstate.org).

Unlike some who hold to strong principles that are not yet widely appreciated, Marshall Fritz, although he was always seeking to persuade people, was unfailingly patient and civil, especially in discussions with people who disagreed with him. He would point out examples of fuzzy thinking or questionable premises, but always in a way that sought to get to the root of the thinking of those with different ideas and to deal with an adversary's best arguments rather than straw men. He was also strongly involved in his community in Fresno, as a youth soccer coach and a volunteer at a homeless shelter. He leaves Joan, his wife of 43 years, four children and 12 grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Requiem aeternam, dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Salim Mansur joins the partisans of free expression

Salim Mansur, UWO Associate Professor of Political Science and one of the Directors of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington is the latest person speaking out for free speech in Canada and calling for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The indefatigable Ezra Levant, the Western Standard's former publisher, writes on his blog:

Here's [Mansur's] column in the Toronto Sun, which will likely run in other newspapers in the Sun chain. Here's a few interesting sentences from it:

The Canadian Islamic Congress complaint -- as I wrote following its dismissal by the CHRC in June 2008 -- made Canadians take note, unlike any previous complaint, how the censorious provision of Section 13 is a blot on Canadian democracy.

Canadians got instruction as never before, due to the Canadian Islamic Congress complaint, on the principle and value of free speech as the foundation of an open democracy.

I predict that Salim Mansur, who is Muslim, will be denounced as anti-Muslim, just as I have been denounced as a Nazi, even though I'm Jewish.

That's the last, best defence the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its few, lonely defenders have: trying to paint anyone who disagrees with them as racist.

Nope. We just believe in freedom.

Us too, Ezra, us too.

As our editor in chief Peter Jaworski likes to say: "we're biased in favour of liberty".

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Indian Muslim leaders: Mumbai "terrorist attacks a crime of the most serious nature"

Zafarul_islam_khan_picture 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)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's Miller Time!

Or so says Steyn.

Check out his smack-down of Ryerson's finest, aka the "journalism doctor." (Try saying that with a straight face).

Bonus: Canada's very own nutroot is collateral damage.

Posted by Craig Yirush on November 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stephen Harper is the chicken

Picture_4 Stephen Harper knew he was taking a risk when he proposed to remove government funding for political parties as part of the fiscal update, he knew the opposition parties would be howling, but he figured that one of them would back down when it actually came to a non-confidence vote which would topple the government mere weeks after an election. It was the right thing to do, but as Western Standard publisher Matthew Johnston has argued, not the right way to do it; he should have also allowed parties to more easily raise money privately by eliminating contribution limits as well.

Harper didn't think the opposition parties would be able to hobble together a coalition (and it's still not at all clear that they can) and he didn't think the Liberals were going to risk facing another election or a weak and unstable coalition government, but he entered a game of chicken and waited for one of the other parties to give in.

When he realized that he had miscalculated, he started to back off, by separating the party funding vote from the rest of the fiscal update and delaying the vote by a week. Now, in this game of chicken, it's Harper and the Conservatives who have dodged first. The Canadian Press reports:

OTTAWA - The opposition refused to back down from plans to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government on Saturday, even as the governing Conservatives announced they will withdraw their controversial proposal to end public subsidies for political parties.

As part of an economic update tabled this week, the government proposed eliminating the roughly $28 million in public subsidies that political parties receive for each vote they garner in federal elections.

But in a stunning reversal, the government said Saturday it will shelve the proposal, which had infuriated the opposition and threatened to topple the government.

"We don't think it's in the interests of Canadians to have an election over this issue," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman, Kory Teneycke, adding the government will release further details this weekend on how it will withdraw the measure.

Harper took a calculated risk based on principle and political advantage, but he's gotten scared and backed off from his decision.

If Harper had stood strong and survived this challenge, he would have destroyed the confidence of the Liberals and would have the equivalent of the majority mandate he sought and failed to achieve in the October election. Now he's only served to undercut his position and he's still facing three opposition parties who are vowing to vote against his fiscal update when it comes up because it doesn't include "stimulus" for the economy.

The opposition parties only found the gall to threaten to defeat the government because their financial life-line was being threatened. Their opposition to the fiscal update's lack of "stimulus" would not have been sufficient to get us to the point we are now. Early reports even suggest that Harper may be considering a suspension of Parliament until the new year.

Nothing has been gained for Stephen Harper by proposing the elimination of public party funding and then withdrawing it, but his security as Prime Minister of Canada has certainly been weakened.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 29, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Prorogue Parliament?

Stephen Taylor of Blogging Tories is reporting a rumour that Parliament may be prorogued by the Prime Minister. This would mean that Parliament rises until the new year, and it would mean that the opposition motion won't be voted on.

It could give time for everything to cool down. Perhaps after the heat of the moment the Liberals will decide that a coalition with the NDP is not worth gaining power. There is an element of bloodlust that is going on in the Liberal caucus, perhaps given time this will pass.

At the same time it may backfire. Consider the optics of a government about to be brought down by Parliament, sending that Parliament away. Will such a move turn people against Harper? Or will people be grateful that he, as Taylor puts it, "[pours] some cold water on the heated political atmosphere on the Hill."

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 29, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Hank Reardon, hedge fund manager

Via Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution comes this brilliant story "Atlas Shrugged Updated for the Current Financial Crisis"

"Damn it, Dagny! I need the government to get out of the way and let me do my job!"

She sat across the desk from him. She appeared casual but confident, a slim body with rounded shoulders like an exquisitely engineered truss. How he hated his debased need for her, he who loathed self-sacrifice but would give up everything he valued to get in her pants ... Did she know?

"I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun," she said. "Don't let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we'll revitalize our country's failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits."

"Oh, no, I got out of that suckers' game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management."


He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn't betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. "Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I'm earning millions in interest off money I don't even have."

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

"There's a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I've taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I'll make a cool $877 million."

Go and read the whole piece. One of the funniest things I've read on McSweeney's in a while, and that's saying a lot.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 29, 2008 in Humour | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Walter Block: Controversy can’t eclipse this giant of the freedom movement

Walter Block doesn’t believe in glass ceilings or colour bars, or, if he does, he doesn’t think they explain income inequality. He explains this unfortunate social condition in a less politically correct way: discrepancies in productivity.

Women and blacks are less economically productive than men and whites, Block told a mostly student audience at Loyola College in Baltimore. (Block teaches economics at Loyola College in New Orleans.)

This conclusion sparked outrage on campus and moved the Loyola College (Baltimore) president to publicly apologize for Block’s comments in an email. Block, however, is offering no apology and is, in fact, inviting any and all economists to debate him on his arguments.

In a story published on the website NOLA.com, James Gill reports:

Women are less productive in the workplace than men because of the time they devote to [parenting and family] duties and to domestic chores, according to Block. As evidence for this thesis, he notes that among 18-24 year olds, and workers who have never married, income disparity is virtually non-existent.

Pretty tame really, but Block goes on to suggest intelligence is also behind the productivity gap between the genders:

The way Block sees it, women's intellects cluster around the mean, while men dominate the high and the low ends of the spectrum. Thus, while women are much less likely to wind up in prison, an early grave or sleeping on the streets, they are also much less likely to win a Nobel Prize -- except for "wussy stuff like poetry" -- or rise to the top of a corporation.

Block is then asked a more thorny question about race. When asked why blacks earn less than whites, Block said:

"The politically correct answer is that lower black productivity is due to slavery, Jim Crow legislation, poor treatment of African-Americans in terms of schooling, etc. The politically incorrect explanation was supplied by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their book 'The Bell Curve': lower black IQs."

Almost 15 years after it was first published, The Bell Curve still elicits hostility with its mere mention.

At a conference in Las Vegas, I heard Bell Curve co-author Murray speak about how IQ, and not race, is the primary determinant of success and social standing in America (if you’re smart, you’ll get ahead in America regardless of race). But he also argued that there is a relationship between race and IQ, with Asians at the top, blacks at the bottom and whites in the middle. In his speech, Murray expressed deep concern about a growing intellectual underclass in America, a social problem, unlike racial prejudice, that in his estimate can not be solved by tearing down stereotypes or encouraging multi-cultural understanding.

The idea that there are enduring racial differences in intelligence offends our sense of natural justice, and makes us inclined to discount IQ entirely, but Herrnstein and Murray bring a staggering amount of empirical data to their theory, which fills over 800 pages of The Bell Curve.

It’s a controversial subject that was thrust into public discourse by a controversial book. Most stay clear of the topic, but not Block. According the report by Gill, Block “regards sensitivity as the enemy of intellectual inquiry and truth.”

That’s true of the Block I know and love. It is also true that Block is a favourite figure among students of libertarianism not just because he is a brilliant theorist and entertaining author, but because he has endless patience, generosity and kindness. In a memorable dinner I had with former UNLV libertarian professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, I pestered the master property rights theorist with questions about libertarianism. He eventually grew bored with me and said: “I don’t know. Ask Walter. He loves this stuff.” While I had a wonderful evening with Hoppe, complemented by martinis and cigars, it is Walter Block who I go to with questions about liberty and even once for career advice.

My experience with Block is not dissimilar to that of many other libertarians who know this controversial intellectual as a man incapable of malice or prejudice, which is why this fake controversy will never eclipse this giant of the freedom movement.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 29, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, November 28, 2008

Todd Bentley, adulterer

Bentleyhealing Readers who recall my series of posts on Todd Bentley, earlier this fall, may be dismayed to learn that things are going from bad to worse for the faith-healing B.C. evangelist.

The current leadership of Mr. Bentley's ministry, Fresh Fire Ministries, issued a statement by e-mail this afternoon which is now posted on their website. Evidently they are somewhat exasperated with their "star", but, in journalistic parlance, the author has "buried the lede."

A salient point is this:

"....further silence on our part would be misrepresenting the truth by allowing you to believe that what we said in our first two statements (which were true to the best of our knowledge at the time of their writing) is still the case. Unfortunately that is not so....

....It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future. She is understandably hurt by Todd’s infidelity, but is not asking or pressing for a divorce. The legal separation from Shonnah was initiated completely by Todd and he has not seen her or the children since the last week in July. To our knowledge, Todd’s relationship with the female staff-member, who was a former intern and also, at his initiative, a live-in nanny in his house for over a year, is still ongoing. We believe that there are currently no biblical grounds for Todd to leave his wife and children. While it has been maintained that no physical contact happened between Todd and the former female intern until after he filed for legal separation from Shonnah, in the Boards’ eyes, the nature of the present relationship between Todd and his former staff member is that of adultery....."

One hopes that we will be spared footage of Todd Bentley on television saying "I... did... not... have... sexual... relations... with..."

Also, YouTube watchers may have spotted that internationally famous evangelist Benny Hinn -- whose critics (and reporters from CBC's The Fifth Estate for one) suggest may have his own issues with infamy or aberrant theology--has criticized Todd Bentley's Lakeland Florida revival as theologically unsound. This was in late October, well after Mr. Bentley had gone into seclusion, making it almost impossible for him to respond to what Mr. Hinn has to say.

The Hinn citique, which was broadcast internationally on Hinn's television program, has begun to appear on YouTube in sections over the past few days. A partial transcipt of Mr. Hinn's observations and remarks about Mr. Bentley has been made by Hinn critic Bud Press.

UPDATE: I note that blogger Miriam Franklin, who has provided a thorough critique of Mr. Bentley's theology and activities for many months now (and who also, I suspect, is not on Mr. Bentley's Christmas card list!) has issued a sentence-by-sentence dissection of the Fresh Fire board's statement for those who may be interested in it. Her opinions are hers, but her observations may be useful for those wanting to "read between the lines" here.

SECOND UPDATE : The St. Petersburg Times is reporting on the ministry's letter in their newspaper today. The Tampa Tribune has a similar story. The newspapers were unable to track down Mr. Bentley, so no quotes from him.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 28, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (227) | TrackBack

Anthony Gregory on how the democratic state co-opts its victims and opponents

Wester Standard editor, Peter Jaworski, has written about the conflicts between the California gay community and Mormons following the passage of proposition 8, an anti-gay marriage ballot question. Mormons (along with blacks) who voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposition are being blamed for the success of the ballot initiative and have faced political attacks on their church's tax-exempt status and even violent protests. 

Anthony Gregory, a research analyst at the Independent Institute, cuts through the blame and vitriol being launched from both sides and  cites this conflict as just the latest example of a larger trend, how "no matter how much the people seem to hate the government as it is, that energy all too often ends up to the state’s benefit":

"Some gay activists and Mormons, major victims of the state in this country not that long ago, have recently turned to fighting over state power in California because of the gay marriage issue. Neither side seems to want a truce based on the idea that the state should get out of marriage entirely, leave people to their own consciences and religious and secular arrangements, a position most Americans would probably agree to if it were presented to them. Instead, the two sides of the polarized debate all fight over control of the state.

In all types of systems, the state wishes to co-opt other potential competitors for social authority, but this is perhaps easiest under democracy. The artistic, scientific, journalistic, academic, legal, and religious communities – each at points in history the most reliable opponents and critics of tyranny – become bought off, intimidated or tricked into rallying for more state power. Churches begin lobbying for tax exemptions – a separation of church and state – and sometimes end up pushing for subsidies. Artists go from being against the establishment to being propagandists for it (witness how Obamania has co-opted the counterculture; those who used to wear anti-U.S. Che Guevara shirts now sport the likeness of the next head of the U.S. empire). "

His examples of this pattern are numerous, from the U.S. Founding Fathers, to abolitionists, opponents of U.S. entry into WWI, the civil rights movement, journalists, scientists, lawyers, and perhaps most importantly, both conservatives and liberals alike.

Looking forward, Gregory says:

"So as we see Bush’s term end and Obama’s just around the corner, we can anticipate a new rhetorical dynamic emerging. The failures of the Bush administration will all be misinterpreted as examples of not enough government. Those who have supported Obama as an alternative to excess neocon imperialism and unbridled police statism will become temporarily placated. The election cycle means throwing out the bums, but it is often actually quite good for the state itself. It gives a new image to the same old racket.

Until the true partisans of liberty understand how the enemy co-opts our message, our struggle will seem futile and our gains will be illusory. The key to championing freedom is in staying dedicated to true free-market principles, property rights, individual liberty, free association, and peace – and eschewing all forms of warmongering, socialism and statism, no matter what rhetorical games are being played or whether the conditional friends of liberty have become duped into accepting the state’s aggrandizement in the name of anything, especially freedom."

Gregory's arguments about how democracy enables the state to aggrandize itself with the people's support are similar to those by Austrian Economist and libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, author of Democracy: The God that Failed–but there another work by Hoppe, an understanding of which can enable defenders of liberty to oppose the phenomenon being described: in "Marxism and Austrian Class Analysis" [pdf], Hoppe reclaims classical liberal class analysis from the Marxists, putting forward that there are two classes: a productive class and and exploiting class, or, as John Randolph of Roanoke described them: taxpayers and tax consumers.

A clear understanding of who the enemies of liberty are (i.e. the exploitative tax consumers and the state) and a commitment to private property and the sovereignty of the individual can stop this cycle of cooptation which transforms aggrieved parties and victims of state power into advocates or apologists for the expansion of that very same state.

Read the rest of this fantastic article.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 28, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dion says no coalition...two months ago

Of course the situation changes, but it is still a legit question. What parts of the NDP platform is Dion or the other Liberals willing to accept?

I am uneasy about some of the signals Harper is giving about his strategy to deal with the economy. The conversion to Keynsian economics is not a positive development. Still a Liberal and NDP coalition could be a disaster for this country. How much will they increase spending? How large of a deficit are they willing to have?

Right now the oppositions are demanding a massive increase in spending but no deficit. How would this be possible?

(I first saw this video at Angry in the Great White North)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Harper doesn't back down, delays vote

Moments ago, prime minister Stephen Harper stood in front of the press and declared that he won't back down. Here are some of the things he said:

"Less than two months ago Canadians gave us a stronger mandate to deal with the economic crisis"

He also listed a number of things that he did, including 'investing' in infrastructure. He makes it clear that he wants to do more (though personally I'd rather he didn't. Bailouts will only hurt the economy).

"While we were working on the economy the opposition has been working on a back room deal to overthrow the government without the approval of the people"

Makes the Liberals sound like they are plotting a coup, and in a way they are. It would be a peaceful and constitutional coup but still a coup. The question is who will the people support?

Harper points out that the Liberals said, "NDP policy is bad for the economy" during the election. This is perhaps the largest problem with a potential coalition. What parts of the NDP platform and what parts of the Liberal platform will be government policy in a coalition?

"Canada's government should be decided by the people not back room deals. It should be your choice not theirs. We have to stand up for Canadian's right to choose their own government"

Harper said that reducing subsidies for political parties is still an important part of his agenda.

Finally Harper indicated that the opposition day will be moved to a week later, on December 8th. Is he buying time to fight on the television and radio stations?

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Who has the support of the people?

This is a critical question that I haven't heard discussed in a real way.

Let us suppose that the government falls and the Liberals form a coalition with the NDP. The Conservatives are sent to the back bench and they start to make hell. Do you think that the Conservatives wouldn't be able to make it impossible for the coalition government to govern?

Remember that the Conservatives have the money in the bank to fight more than one election. How quickly would the Conservative Party make ads that underlined the differences between the NDP and the Liberals. Radio commercials that decree Liberal arrogance for throwing a 'coup against the people's democratic right to choice the government.'

How quickly will the election have to be fought? Or how quickly will the coalition government fall?

The Liberals and NDP can take over the government, but if they don't take the people with them they are in real trouble. The Conservatives have far more resources to turn the people against them. From a purely strategic point of few, if I were advising the Prime Minister, I would tell him, "let the government fall and take your chances."

(though I still think that things will calm down next week)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Motion of no confidence

Here is the text of the motion that the Liberals will put forward to the House;

That, in light of the Conservatives' failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation, and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government, and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons.

The NDP have said that there is no deal for a coalition government. What then is the viable alternative? 72 Liberals? Even if the NDP and Liberals do sit in government together, would such a government be stable?

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

'Defend Our Democracy' website launched by Green Party

“Canadians are waiting for real leadership, instead we get a $300 million election and now an irrelevant and inappropriate partisan attack on democracy,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth today in response to the Harper Government’s plan to cut the $1.95 per-vote subsidy to political parties.

The Green Party has launched defendourdemocracy.ca to fight this proposal, which would cut about $30 million is annual funding to the major political parties, including $1.3 million annually to the Greens.

In a press release, the party stated:

Despite the global financial crisis which is destroying the jobs, pensions and savings of hard working Canadians, the Conservative Government has decided to spend their time playing petty politics. In the same spirit that led the Prime Minister to threaten a boycott of the leaders' debate if Elizabeth May participated he now has his finance minister announcing his intention to cut federal funding of political parties. These cuts are an assault on the fair financing rules brought about through sweeping reforms--reforms which were designed to eliminate the power of Big Corporate Money in our elections. Harper wants that power back.

The Conservative Party is using the financial crisis as a cover in an attempt to eliminate the political opposition in Canada, despite the fact that his government only got a little over one third of the votes of Canadians. This is a blow to democracy. It means that smaller parties that are trying to make a difference in the Canadian political landscape will be effectively shut down. It means voices will be silenced.

According to research produced by the Frontier Centre, $290 million in taxpayer subsidies have been provided to political parties since 2004, about the cost of the last federal election.

For a different perspective on this growing controversy, read “Green Party: We need welfare” by Western Standard editor Peter Jaworski here.


(Image taken from the masthead of defendourdemocracy.ca)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

AUPE president stands in solidarity with federal public employees in opposition to Conservative plan to ban strikes

I reported yesterday that in addition to the long overdue plan to sell off $2.3 billion in crown assets (Stornoway?) and cut $2 billion in government spending (including subsidies to political parties), the Harper government is pushing for a “temporary removal of the right to strike in the public sector, perhaps indicating its intentions to get serious about reducing the size of government, and neutralizing the union opposition in advance."

As exciting as all of this news is, banning the “right to strike” is a bit of a misnomer. In actual fact, every employee at all times in a free society has the right to strike -- just don’t come to work if you’re unhappy with the conditions, or show up outside with a placard that reads “my boss is an asshole.” So a so-called ban on the right to strike is really just the government’s way of saying it will fire you if you walk off the job, a reasonable response from any employer.

And let’s be honest, a mass public sector strike followed by mass public sector firings is probably the best stimulus strategy available to the government. The best way to get out of a recession is to relieve wealth creators of the heavy burden of government -- cut spending and cut taxes.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seems to understand this as he has so far not been drawn into stimulus mania and has instead been talking about spending restraint. "Without a doubt, here in Canada and around the world, these are difficult times that will require difficult choices," said Minister Flaherty. "We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror. We have a responsibility to show restraint and respect for tax dollars." (I'll ignore the $75 billion in mortgage loans the CMHC bought from the banks. What could go wrong with the government buying mortgages nobody else wants during a global housing crisis? And to think, these people are in charge of managing the Canada Pension Plan. You may want to get used to the taste of cat food now.)

Harper and Flaherty have it right, for the most part, while President-elect Obama has it wrong, despite his wildly dishonest claim that his reckless spending plan enjoys the approval of both liberal and conservative economists. Did anyone ask the economists at the Mises Institute, for instance? I did.

Austrian School economist Walter Block told me yesterday that he thinks this kind of wild stimulus spending is “like throwing gasoline on a fire and expecting it to go out.” Tragically, we can expect the American economy to smoulder and stink like an inextinguishable tire fire for years to come. America is heading into a Wiemar-style hyper-inflationary period from which she may never fully recover.

But back to the “right to strike” issue.

AUPE president Doug Knight thinks the federal government’s planned one-year ban on strikes by federal public employees is not only counterproductive but could be found to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to Knight, a ban on the right to strike doesn't prevent strikes, it increases labour hostilities and makes strikes more likely to be bitter, violent and protracted.

Alberta provincial government and most Alberta health care workers labour under a no strike policy. “We have always argued that these Alberta policies are arbitrary and unfair and do not make good labour relations sense,” Knight said. “They don’t make sense here, and they won’t make sense when they are extended to our fellow public employees who work for the federal government.”

Knight is right. They don't make sense, not unless public sector workers know the Harper Conservatives are serious about constraining spending and are willing to fire employees who attempt to sabotage the government's economic recovery efforts.

As for public sentiment, if Canadians are not yet hostile to the incessant and unreasonable demands of public sector employees, they will be after a deep and prolonged recession during which the only people to get raises, severances and pensions are life-time government workers.

Here’s hoping these difficult times set the political classes back a few steps in social standing and esteem, and working class people in the private sector, including entrepreneurs, are once again respected for the wealth and opportunity they create.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

It would appear I am doomed to be disappointed

Faced with the enormous outcry of Canadians who demanded that the Conservatives retract a pledge to provide our political parties with tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund their activities, the PMO announced today that the "controversial" measure will be dropped from the ways and means motion that MPs were to vote on Monday.

I know we're all relieved now that the parties can continue living off the public teat.

Posted by Steve Martinovich on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Conservatives seek power to nationalize financial institutions, you know, just in case

I shudder when I encounter an article that says the government is "setting aside free-market ideological principles and internal party resistance, taking what they view as a pragmatic approach."


Yup, the Conservative Party of Canada, following the example of their Republican brethren to the South, are attempting to give the CDIC the ability to take over failing lending institutions.

The Financial Post reports:

"The Conservative government Friday sought the power to take stakes in the country's banks and to seize control of troubled financial institutions, in the most radical and far-reaching response yet to the crisis in the global financial system.

The new authority would allow the government to inject capital into private institutions or to take over a failing lender and split it into a "good bank" and "bad bank."

The radical measures would empower Ottawa to follow the example of Washington and London and other western capitals that have bought shares in banks and gained influence over their affairs.

The steps are "in keeping with the action plans we agreed to with our international counterparts at the G7 and G20 meetings," Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance, said Friday in his autumn economic statement.

[...] The legislation will also give new powers to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation to follow the example of its U.S. counterpart and seize and operate distressed lenders.

This would allow the federal agency to split up an institution into a "good bank" and "bad bank", hiving off crippling debts and continuing to make loans and operate the company until it can be wound down or sold." (emphasis mine)

But not to worry, they reassure us, it's not like the government is actually planning to *use* their new powers. Outright nationalization of the financial industry will be just another tool at their disposal:

"While government officials do not anticipate using the new powers, they feared being caught with their hands tied if the credit crisis continued to drain capital from the country's banking system and intervention was required to save a bank or insurer."

What a relief! I sure am glad governments never take advantage of crises to seize massive new powers.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 28, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

So what do Jean and Pauline think about their cousins getting married?

We interrupt this ongoing series of posts about the long, slow decline of the CCP with the latest news from Canada that, well, almost completely distracted me from the long, slow decline of the CCP.

The idea that the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc would try to cobble a coalition together is absolutely fascinating to me, and with all due respect to Hugh MacIntyre, I think it could happen, especially if Canada's version of the "big beasts" are involved (National Post).

In the end, however, if this little scheme falls apart, it won't be the NDP or the Liberals that destroy it, but the Bloc.

Remember D.J. McGuire's first and only rule about Canadian politics: It's all about Quebec.

Quebec, lest you have forgotten, is in the midst of a provincial election campaign, one that seems to be a two-party race between the Libs and the PQ, with the center-right ADQ well back in third.  However, the entire PQ renaissance of the last 20 years (and the Bloc's existence past, say, 1994) has been anger at the Liberals in some form or another.

What would happen to the PQ francophone vote if the Bloc - literally, in the minds of most francophones - makes a deal with the devil?  Conversely, how happy will Quebec Liberals be if their leader (whoever it is) governs while being propped up by separatists?

The latter will cause much hand-wringing, wailing, and nashing of teeth, but the former could drive hundreds of thousands of francophone voters back to Mario Dumont.

Now, the Bloc could decide that $800,000 is more important than all that (which is why I say it could still happen).  However, all parties should be aware that the Conservatives are basically voting to defund themselves more than $10 million, more than any other party.  Everyone else would literally vote themselves taxpayer dough.

If an election is forced, I wouldn't want to tell my constituents I forced another vote on them because I want them to pay for my campaign.

Meanwhile, if the opposition actually pulls the coalition thing off, the Conservatives can take the high road for the rest of the Parliament, while the country would wonder why the party that lost more votes than any other was rewarded with government, backed by a separatist party that had been the Liberals' mortal enemy for nearly a decade and a half.

The backlash could be amazingly swift, and it could start in Quebec on December 8 - which is why I think the Bloc will be the ones to buckle.

Don't be surprised if Pauline Marois suddenly demands every Bloc MP "come home" to campaign for her MNA candidates.  If about 30 comply . . .

. . . remember, you heard it here first.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Two and a half cheers for Harper

I have an op ed in today's National Post, looking at the Harper government's plan to cut political subsidies.

I say it's good start, but more needs to be done.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

(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:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 28, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

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)

Scott Horton interviewed Bill Kauffman about antiwar conservatism here and debated the West's response to international terrorism here.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 28, 2008 in Economic freedom, International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More from Alan Keyes on his Obama citizenship suit

On November 14th, Matthew Johnston reported that Alan Keyes, who opposed Barack Obama as the Republican nominee in the 2004 Illinois Senate Race and in 2008 as the presidential nominee of America's Independent Party (a splinter party formed primarily by the California affilliate of the Constitution Party after Keyes lost the party's nomination to Chuck Baldwin) "filed suit in California Superior Court in Sacramento seeking to stop Secretary of State Debra Bowen from certifying the election results until proof is produced and verified showing that Senator Obama is a “natural born” citizen of the United States, and does not hold citizenship of Indonesia, Kenya or Great Britain."

In an interview with the African-American women's magazine Essence, Keyes explains why he feels questions about Obama's citizenship have not been adequately addressed and why he thinks it necessary to pursue the suit:

ESSENCE.COM: What exactly do you want to accomplish with this lawsuit?
ALAN KEYES: I had read a little bit about the issues that were being raised about Obama back during the primary season. At first I thought, like a lot of people, "There's nothing to this. It's just a matter of fact. You can establish what the facts are." The Constitution specifies that a citizen who is naturalized, rather than born into the status of being an American citizen, cannot be president. That was done in the beginning because people feared a foreign takeover of the United States government by the process of immigration. Staid as it is, we again are in a situation where a lot of foreign entities have influence or control over U.S. policy.

The reason an issue has been raised about Obama is because of the simple question, which can be answered with a birth certificate that shows he was born in the United States, or born to parents who had the capacity to transmit U.S. citizenship. When the question was asked, he danced around it. If the most important office of the federal government can be occupied by someone who is not qualified under the United States Constitution, that destroys the authority of the Constitution. I think it's something that needs to be dealt with in a clear, straightforward way. Eventually the case will get to the Supreme Court, establish the facts, and clear the air. It's really all very simple. [...]

ESSENCE.COM: To a lot of people, your lawsuit looks like a case of sour grapes because you lost. Your response?
I think politics is irrelevant to this, actually. I don't see how it is showing fondness for Barack Obama to let him enter into office with a question that could be raised. He should not have to operate under that burden. I think the officials need to clear the air for his sake. From my point of view, it is a bad idea to have a president of the United States enter office with a cloud hanging over his head, where every time he tries to do something, he would end up frittering away time because of that objection. So let's get it over with. Let's resolve it and move forward with a clear an undisturbed mandate for the new president.

Read the rest.

In an article for the Western Standard, Mark Steyn called Keyes "the magnificently conservative African-American speechifier;" for a lively battle between two brilliant orators, take a look at some video from a 2004 debate between Barack Obama and Alan Keyes after the break:

Opening statements:

On race:

On Christianity:

On homosexuality:

On abortion and the death penalty:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 27, 2008 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Calm down, the update will pass

Seriously people this is all posturing. There is no way that the fiscal update will fail.

First of all the Liberals don’t want to share power with the NDP. There has never been a coalition government in this country and there is a reason for that. The political culture of Canada simply wouldn’t accept it. The Liberals will face a huge backlash in the next election. Besides, who would be the Prime Minister is a real question in this scenario. It can’t be Dion; his own party wouldn’t back them. It can’t be Layton; the Liberals simply wouldn’t give him that legitimacy. So who? Some compromise candidate? In the middle of an economic crisis the Prime Minister will not be the leader of a party? How stable will this be, especially with the Liberal leadership race still taking place?

Second of all they don’t really want an election. This would be the only other option to a coalition government. They jumped up and down on Harper for calling an election early. How could they sell another election, just six weeks later? It would be the shortest Parliament in Canadian history, and for what reason? What can they tell the Canadian people? They are taking away our subsidy? They are waiting a few months to put together a stimulus package?

So all this is just a negotiation position; the only question is what either side will give up.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 27, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

$2.3 billion in crown assets for sale. Will Flaherty spend the cash or pay down the debt?

Kevin_gaudetThe Canadian Press is reporting that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hopes to keep the government out of deficit in part by selling $2.3 billion in crown assets, including real estate, and making $2 billion in cuts by eliminating department waste and reining in perks for ministers and top bureaucrats.

The government is also proposing a temporary removal of the right to strike in the public service, perhaps indicating its intentions to get serious about reducing the size of government, and neutralizing the union opposition in advance.

I’m impressed.

As for the sale of government assets, it’s not entirely clear if the Harper Government intends to add this money directly to general revenue, or if the party will follow the advice of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and apply these windfall revenues against the national debt, and use the interest savings for tax relief stimulus.

Kevin Gaudet with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation thinks the government should “turn assets into tax relief” by selling crown assets, paying down the debt and applying interest savings toward tax relief, which is exactly what the government’s own “tax back guarantee” policy does.

You can read the complete Western Standard interview with Kevin Gaudet here.

(Picture: Kevin Gaudet, national spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 27, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

On the vote-subsidy backlash

The most fascinating part of the attempted elimination of the $2-(or so)-a-vote subsidy to major political parties is the unbelievably harsh opposition to it from all political stripes.

The cutting of these tax-funded subsidies is great news. Great. Forcing Canadians to support politicians who they wouldn't grant their vote to with money is a violation of freedom of association.

And don't give me that "the voters who voted for them pay it!" nonsense, either. Voter turnout is low in Canada - don't you people watch the news? I didn't vote because I don't think that any of them are worth a trip to a polling station, a buck, or any support, but my dollars go into "general revenue" to help fund this stuff, too.

Some say that we need the subsidies for a "fair democracy" but these folks should realize that they're claiming unless we fund parties whose voters wouldn't send them $2 a year, democracy loses. I mean, really. Send Liz May a toonie if it bugs you so much. Break out your own wallet and "save democracy" if you want, but leave mine alone.

Coyne weighed in, too:

I don’t care what their motivations are: it’s the right thing to do... Whether to contribute to a political party, and how much, and to whom, should be a private, personal matter — voluntary, individual decisions.

The $1.95 “allowance” violated every one of those principles. By abolishing it, the Tories are finishing the job Chretien started, of creating a truly citizen-based campaign finance system. Or not quite: even without this particular subsidy, the parties would still benefit from the hefty tax credit on political donations (the formal beneficiary is the donor, but in practice the incidence is shared), while candidates would still have their expenses partially reimbursed. But it’s certainly a big step in the right direction.

Coyne turned out to be in for the same harsh criticism the rest of us are drumming up. He did a great job of addressing some of the accusations, though:

I am fascinated by the abusive tone of so many of the comments, many of them fuelled by the belief that I am consciously or unconsciously consigning Canadian elections to, in the words of one commenter, a “limited economic demographic.” Or as another put it, “the golden rule, of he who has the gold should make the rules. That’s what you advocate for, yes?”

Um, no, actually. I’ve been an advocate for contribution limits (though I favour global annual limits, all political contributions combined, rather than specifying limits on each contribution) for years, since the days when corporations were handing over $100,000 cheques to the Liberal party and getting hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies in return. That’s not the system we have now. Though there remain loopholes that should be closed, the basic rule is a $1000  (indexed to inflation) ceiling on all individual donations. I know some readers think the limit should be “tens” of dollars, but a thousand-dollar limit does not strike me as handing control to “a limited economic demographic.”

I disagree with Coyne on contribution limits* but it's beside the point because the elimination of this subsidy, as Coyne points out, has NOTHING to do with them. (We can have that debate here at the Shotgun if you'd like, and we can decide whether out-fundraising the Liberals is worth suppressing the ability of a whole country to express their political opinions, but it's not the issue that's practically at hand.)

This is something that small-government advocates, fiscal conservatives and libertarians should *all* be happy about. What remains to be seen is whether the opposition will throw as epic a hissy fit as your typical blog commenter.

*Disclosure for the purpose of avoiding random accusations about my beliefs in the comments:

While I agree that we need to do something about lobbyists having so much power in government, since organized interest groups are still holding so much sway I'd say that the current rules haven't been effective and we ought to be looking for a policy that doesn't catch so many innocent Canadians in the crossfire.

I would be willing to let the bans on corporate and union donations slide (especially union, since dues are forced and spent unaccountably) but strongly advocate for the ability of individuals to throw as much of their money away on politicians as they'd like. I'd have politicians disclose all contributions, but that's it.

Posted by Janet Neilson on November 27, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

New B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director supports repealing Section 13 of CHRA and opposes extradition of Canadian publisher Marc Emery

David_ebyThe British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) announced this week that lawyer David Eby was named Acting Executive Director. Eby will be taking over the role effective December 1, 2008.

“We are confident that the addition of David Eby to our team will enable us to continue advancing the interests of the association, including providing the education and information about civil liberties and defending the rights of Canadians,” said Robert Holmes, president of the BCCLA.

Eby joined the BCCLA board in 2005 and is the author of the organization’s Arrest Handbook, a legal handbook that outlines the rights of people who have been arrested and accused of a crime.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to deepen my work with the BCCLA at this stage of historic growth and impact for the organization,” said Eby. “I can’t wait to get to work with the staff, the membership, and the Board on ensuring Canada’s democratic commitments are met.”

Eby has been a legal advocate for police accountability and the rights of the accused, but what does he think of the issues that are especially important to the Western Standard editorial team? In an interview with the Western Standard, Eby shares his thoughts on freedom of speech and expression and the looming extradition of libertarian publisher and marijuana seed distributor Marc Emery.

Western Standard: I was hoping to get your thoughts on the recent Moon report calling for the repeal of Section 13 of the CHRA. This is the provision in the CHRA that governs so-called “hate speech” on the Internet. The Western Standard and our former publisher Ezra Levant faced an Alberta human rights complaint for publishing the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Maclean’s magazine also faced a complaint for publishing excerpts of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone. How do you feel about these restrictions on freedom of speech and expression? Are they reasonable? Dangerous?

David Eby: The BCCLA supports repealing Section 13 of the CHRA and its equivalent in the BC and other provincial legislation. We oppose restrictions on freedom of expression generally and any exceptions to that have to be clearly defined and strongly mandated by the facts. Obviously, restrictions are dangerous as they chill more expression than they intend as people seek to shy away from crossing the line and incurring a criminal or other penalty. While for some forms of speech we may disagree with and condemn the content, we still support the right to speak.

WS: Another issue that the Western Standard spends considerable time on is the extradition of Marc Emery. Emery is the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and a drug policy reformer. His marijuana seed business financed his activism, which attracted the attention of the DEA. DEA agents arrested him in Canada and want him extradited to the US to face a possible lifetime in jail. The punishment in Canada for this “crime” -- when it is punished -- is a fine. Would the BCCLA oppose the extradition of Marc Emery?

DE:  The BCCLA opposes the extradition of Marc Emery in principle; however, we do not have an active file on that particular matter. BCCLA director Kirk Tousaw is acting for Mr. Emery in the extradition hearing, but not on behalf of the organization. The “mirror” principle of Canadian extradition law holds that if something is not criminal in Canada, we would not extradite a Canadian to a foreign state where that same activity is criminal. Accordingly, given that we hold the position that the criminalization of marijuana in Canada is problematic; the extradition of Mr. Emery to the United States to face marijuana trafficking charges is similarly wrong-headed.

WS: What is your priority for the BCCLA as the new acting executive director?

DE: My first priority is to continue the high standard of political critique, analysis and litigation coming out of our office through supporting our hard working staff and volunteer board members. Our organization’s policy and direction is set by our board, and my role is to support that as best as possible. In these difficult financial times, I can foresee that much of my role will involve ensuring that the finances of the organization remain on track so that we may maintain our current level of service to the public.

WS: Do you have any thoughts on the distinction between civil libertarians and libertarians of the Walter Block-variety, who I believe was once a director with the BCCLA? What policy priorities do you think would best embody this distinction?

DE: Walter Block was before my time, but I know the distinction you’re referring to. Between libertarians and civil libertarians, while we share a number of concerns and principles, the civil libertarian view that a larger government role is required around due process, non-discrimination and equality rights being observed probably sets us apart from strict libertarians.

(Picture: David Eby is Acting Executive Director of the BCCLA)

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

$290 million in subsidies to political parties since 2004: Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy has produced research that exposes the full scope of public subsidies to political parties as the Harper Conservative propose scrapping the per vote subsidy scheme.

Mark Milke, Director of Research for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, has produced a research report analysing public financing for Canada’s federal political parties between 2000 and 2008.

Here’s a review of the findings:

• Public subsidies to political parties have increased dramatically since 2004 when existing subsidies were increased and a new annual “allowance” (paid in quarterly instalments) was enacted.

• Since 2000 and to the end of 2008, taxpayer subsidies to political parties are estimated at $313 million with $290 million of that paid out since 2004.

Milke’s research also reveals that “the Bloc Quebecois was in a weakened financial position in recent years but was rescued by public financing.”

The parties least dependent on public financing are the Conservatives and New Democrats.

You can get the complete Frontier Centre report here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 27, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

CTF enters political party subsidy fray: “Cut the per vote subsidy”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is applauding the federal government for committing to end the $28.6-million annual “political welfare subsidy scheme.”

The subsidy scheme, passed in 2003 by the Chretien government, provides political parties with $1.95 for each vote it received in the previous election. (The National Post is reporting that the per vote subsidy amount is $1.75, a number I've seen before.)

“We’re in tough economic times, so this is exactly the place to start tightening the belt,” said Kevin Gaudet, acting CTF Federal Director.  “We’ve opposed the subsidy scheme since 2003 because political parties should have to seek voluntary donations from Canadians, not steal tax dollars from the public treasury.”

According to research provided by the CTF, for 2008, each party received:

Conservative Party of Canada - $10.5 Million
Liberal Party of Canada - $8.7 Million
NDP - $5.1 Million
Bloc Quebecois - $3.0 Million
Green Party - $1.3 Million

“Many politicians will claim that parties need the financing to stay afloat,” added Gaudet “But how can they justify forcing taxpayers to pay for political attack ads, especially when we’re about to run a deficit?”

“It’s absurd that Canadian taxpayers are forced to subsidize through their taxes, political parties that they do not support, especially in the case of the Bloc Quebecois – a party that seeks to break up our country” added Colin Craig, CTF Manitoba director.

UPDATE: Scott Hennig, Alberta director of the CTF, explains the $1.75 versus $1.95 per vote subsidy amount:

The difference between the $1.75 and $1.95 is the inflationary increase that is built in each year. The Act still says $1.75, but it allows for an inflationary increase each year. So, you actually have to work backwards and look at the dollar amount they receive, and then divide by the votes to find out how much it went up by each year.

Plus, this doesn't address the reimbursement candidates get for their campaign expenses. Those still remain as a burden taxpayers have to pay, even if the government eliminates the per vote subsidy.

Thanks, Scott.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 27, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Giving the gift of 'choice'

Celebrate Christ's birth by, well, terminating a pregnancy.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on November 27, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What the msm can't bring itself to say: M-U-S-L-I-M

My google news search for the exact phrase "Muslim terrorists" occurring in a story that also contained the word "Mumbai" resulted in 12,200 hits this morning, of which none on the first few pages was from a mainstream media outlet.

Take out the word "Muslim," however, and you get 763,000 hits. But, surely, the religious background of the terrorists is crucial to understanding the import of the story, not only in relation to Indian affairs (where Muslim-Hindu relations have played a crucial role in the country's history since its founding) but also in relation to international affairs, where, of course, the rise of extremist Muslim terrorism is (or should be) a preeminent concern of liberty-loving individuals and nations.

Typical of the msm's reluctance to do their job by precisely revealing the nature of the terrorists is this Vancouver Sun story. Actually, the story probably isn't typical, because it doesn't even use the word "terrorist," instead opting for "gunmen." The word "terrorist" occurs only in a direct quote. Disgraceful.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on November 27, 2008 in Media | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rumours and John Tory

Bf101007tory2_2 I heard the first rumour that John Tory was considering stepping down last summer. By Labour Day there will be a race for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I didn’t give much credence to the rumour at the time, and my pessimism was proven correct.

Next rumours were spreading during the election. John Tory will step down shortly after November 14th. I thought that this was a far more credible rumour. John Tory had promised to be a Member of Provincial Parliament by the end of the year. This was quickly proving to be impossible, and so he may step down. Of course he didn’t.

Next there was the rumour that he will be taking over as the head of a Toronto sports team. This rumour made everyone jump up and down. Perhaps the previous rumours were true and he was merely waiting for this opportunity to be made public. But again this frenzy kind of died out.

Then there is the rumour that he was going to run in Thornhill. Most people agreed this would be suicide. In fact the party did some polling. Against a generic Liberal candidate John Tory would face almost certain defeat, and against the former Thornhill MP Susan Kadis he would face a massacre. So when Peter Shurman, the current PC MPP, came out and said that he wasn’t stepping down, it wasn’t a rebellion on his part. No one wanted him to step down.

At the same time it is true that other caucus members have flatly refused to step down. At least one MPP (not Peter Shurman as it is rumoured) promised to step down and later reneged. Apparently the riding association frightened the MPP into backing off their promise.   

Four months of nearly continuous rumours of his demise, an uncooperative caucus, and a certain defeat if he had run in a bi-election in the wrong place. John Tory is not having a good time. How could he? He isn’t leading a united party. The party that is still sticking around is spending more energy whispering about the leader’s demise than opposing the stupidity of the government’s policies.

The present rumour is for him to step down sometime between New Years and the convention. At this point I’ve adopted the same attitude to such talk as I adopt to people that claim the world is about to end. One day it’ll be true but not this time. 

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 26, 2008 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Harper to propose cutting public funding to political parties. He should also consider scrapping campaign finance laws

The National Post is reporting that the Harper Conservatives are going to move to scrap the public funding to political parties:

The federal Conservatives will propose Thursday that all public funding of political parties cease, a move that is sure to spark a war with the three opposition parties.

All political parties receive a public subsidy of $1.75 per year for each vote they receive in a general election. That subsidy costs taxpayers about $30-million.

The Conservatives believe they can withstand the loss of that subsidy because they, alone among the major federal parties, have a sophisticated national fundraising machine that brings in as much as $20-million to party coffers. They were the only party to finish the recent general election with money in the bank.

This is a great initiative, but Harper should now also move to scrap the campaign finance rules that make it difficult for parties to raise money from individuals and corporations. Otherwise, this move will be seen as self-serving and undemocratic.

Either way, it's bound to cause a raucous in the House tomorrow.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 26, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Is the Harper Government serious about selling crown assets? And what should be done with the cash?

Stornoway_3 One of the few things in life that pleases me as much as witnessing the state divest itself of political authority, is witnessing the state divest itself of crown assets.

Authority should be returned to private hands – let parents raise their children, farmers sell their wheat, and business owners run their affairs – and so to should the wealth of the nation be returned to private hands. The political allocation of resources is always less efficient than the market allocation of resources – and this efficiency advantage is what makes free market economies prosperous.

But not everyone shares this enthusiasm for limited government, of course.

Today, Winnipeg New Democrat MP Pat Martin sent a letter to Auditor General Sheila Fraser requesting a formal investigation into the October 31st, 2007 sale-leaseback agreement between the federal government and Larco Investments Limited. Seven federally-owned buildings were sold to Larco with agreements to lease them back directly to the federal government. It’s a very typical arrangement that allows the seller to get a hold of some cash, while incentivising the new buyer with a long term lease agreement in a soft rental market.

“Canadians deserve to know if this was a good deal or not,” said Martin. “It certainly was a good deal for Larco. Guaranteed tenants for 25 years – it’s like a real estate dream scenario.”

On the subject of dream scenarios, in the Throne Speech, the Harper Government hints at the possibility of the strategic selling of more crown assets:

The Harper Government will conduct a thorough strategic review of all program spending to streamline operations and save taxpayers money and this review will also include all Crown corporations and assets. As part of this review, all Departments and agencies will be required to produce detailed quarterly financial statements accessible to the public.

Kevin Gaudet with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation thinks the government should “turn assets into tax relief” by selling assets, paying down the debt and applying interest savings toward tax relief, which is exactly what the government’s “tax back guarantee” policy does. In an interview with the Western Standard, Gaudet said:

“Crown assets are on the asset side of the balance sheet and, if you are going to sell them, the best way to transfer them in a manner that gets the most long term value for taxpayers is to provide debt relief. And that works especially well with the government’s ‘tax back guarantee’...debt relief provides interest relief, which provides tax relief.”

The “tax back guarantee” policy of the Harper Conservatives binds the government to apply interest savings from debt retirement toward tax relief.

Gaudet thinks the first step to divesting crown assets is to “create an inventory to determine which assets are worth selling.” And while he thinks the government should move cautiously given current market conditions, he would still like to see crown corporations like Purolator put up for sale.

So would I.

(Picture: Remember the heady days in the conservative movement when Reform Party leader Preston Manning promised to sell Stornoway? Perhaps now is the time to sell the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition and move Dion and his family into a modest, two-bedroom bungalow in Gatineau. We can call it Manning House.)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 26, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Al & Mike Show - Cancelled This Week

Hello everybody! Unfortunately the Al & Mike Show will be on hiatus this week, on the count of Mike and his wife Sarah having their baby. We will return next week.

Posted by Mike Brock on November 26, 2008 in WS Radio | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack