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Friday, February 27, 2009

Al & Mike Show - Episode 56 - Two to go

Justin Trottier joins us to discuss the atheist bus ads. We talk about the CBC begging for more taxpayers money and we send Al off as this is his last show under the Al & Mike Show label.

Listen Now

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Posted by Mike Brock on February 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Big Lie

In honour of the long-overdue announcement that federal raids on medical marijuana America have ended, I thought I would post an excerpt on the origins of marijuana prohibition from Peter McWilliams' outstanding book, Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do, the text of which is available online through that link (but it's well worth purchasing).

The chapter of the book from which I'm drawing the following excerpt lays out the steps through which the Marijuana Tax Act (which banned cannabis in the United States) went before it was passed under the supervision of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Harry Anslinger, and the false premises and outright bullying to which the FBN had to resort to get the act passed and force medical professionals to get on board.

... how many doctors were heard in the congressional hearings in 1937? Precisely one. He represented the American Medical Association. The AMA opposed the bill. At least twenty-eight medicinal products containing marijuana were on the market in 1937, the doctor pointed out; drugs containing marijuana were manufactured and distributed by the leading pharmaceutical firms; and marijuana was recognized as a medicine in good standing by the AMA. [...]

[...] Like the Harrison Narcotics Act before it, the Marijuana Tax Act claimed—even in the title of the bill—only to tax marijuana. It was yet another deception perpetrated on Congress and the American people: the intent of the bill was never to tax, but to prohibit. Beyond mere deception, however, the Big Lie to Congress was yet to come.

In testifying before the congressional committee, the doctor sent by the AMA said the AMA had only realized "two days before" the hearings that the "killer weed from Mexico" was indeed cannabis, the benign drug used and prescribed by the medical profession for more than a hundred years. Said Dr. Woodward,

We cannot understand, yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for two years without any intimation, even to the [medical] profession, that it was being prepared.

Anslinger and the committee chairman, Robert L. Doughton, DuPont Dynasties, Robert Doughton was a key DuPont supporter in Congress denounced and curtly excused Dr. Woodward. When the marijuana tax bill came before Congress, one pertinent question was asked from the floor: "Did anyone consult with the AMA and get their opinion?" Representative Vinson answered for the committee, "Yes, we have . . . and they are in complete agreement."

The Big Lie. The bill passed, and became law in September 1937.

Anslinger was furious with the AMA for opposing him before the congressional committee. As the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he could prosecute any doctors who prescribed narcotics for "illegal purposes." Which purposes were "illegal" was pretty much Anslinger's call. From mid-1937 through 1939, more than 3,000 doctors were prosecuted. In 1939, the AMA made peace with Anslinger and came out in opposition to marijuana. From 1939 to 1949, only three doctors were prosecuted by the FBN for drug activity of any kind.

McWilliams, for those who don't know, passed away in 2000. He had AIDS and cancer and had been successfully using marijuana (legal under California law) to control his nausea, but switched to Marinol after a federal investigation and a judge ordered him to do so. Marinol was only effective about a third of the time for McWilliams and one day shortly after he switched medications he began vomiting and choked to death.

For all the economic damage he's likely to do, Obama's policy on letting the states legislate on medical marijuana would have saved Peter McWilliams' life, and will save lives that would have been lost. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to Mr. Obama today.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (198)

Searching for Harper

Interesting article from Canadian Business magazine on "Harpernomics".

And yes, it quotes me.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on February 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Raids on medical marijuana will end

Western Standard general manager Kalim Kassam blogged a while ago on Obama's promise to respect states' rights in that he would respect the laws of states who have passed legislation to legalize the medical use of pot.

Yesterday, Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder announced that federal raids on licensed medical marijuana dispensaries will end.

Holder said Obama's campaign promise to stop the raids is "now American policy."

No word yet on whether or not this will start translating into pardons for those imprisoned on charges related to selling or using medical marijuana.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stephen Harper: "In the long run, we're all dead"

Stephen Harper, in response to a question about the long-term effects of inflation and deficits caused by his stimulus policies, just said something along the lines of the following:

"I was taught early in economics classes, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes said that, ‘At times like this, we remember that in the long run, we're all dead.'"

Yep. Stephen Harper. Said that.

He then went on to say that people need to stop worrying about the long term effects of these policies and work on getting the money flowing.

I could point out that Harper wrote his dissertation on disproving the theories of stated famous economist, or I could point out all the "sustainability" projects that we probably should stop paying for if "in the end, we're all dead" is the mentality we're going with. There are just so many things wrong with this picture.

I'm trying to find a link or something. I'll post it when I do.

UPDATE: Quote corrected. The Globe and Mail reports "Ottawa sets up $3-billion stimulus stash":

Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed there are some long-term risks associated with the stimulus package — but he cited a famous economist to argue that the short-term danger is greater.

“Of course there's all kinds of risks of inefficient, expanded government policies that will continue into the future,” Mr. Harper told a news conference in British Columbia. “I'm not suggesting there aren't long-term risks.

“But I was taught early in economics classes, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes said that, ‘At times like this, we remember that in the long run, we're all dead.' So right now, we worry about the short term. We are worried about the short term, and we've got to get things right now.”

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 26, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (22)

A New Ban on "Assault Weapons"? Barack Obama (Political) Suicide Watch, Part 1

This could really harm Obama's chances in 2012, not to mention the chances of Democrats retaining control of Congress.

The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.

The 1994 ban on "assault weapons" -- AKA the ban on scary looking but not unusually dangerous guns -- has been widely cited as a major reason the Democrats lost control of Congress in the midterm elections that year. It's also been suggested Al Gore's support for gun control ensured his loss to George W. Bush.

To his credit, Bush let the ban expire in 2004.

Apparently, the promise to not only renew the ban, but make it permanent, is on Barack Obama's campaign website (and now whitehouse.org), so no one should be surprised, least of all gun-rights supporting Democrats -- and there are more than a few of those. In addition, Joe Biden, his vice president, was the "architect" of the original ban.

Check here for evidence that, for a time, Obama tried to hide his support for the ban when it was politically expedient to do so. Generally, support for gun control, especially when it took the form of the completely ineffective, irrational ban on assault weapons, has has been political suicide for Democrats. So it's understandable (albeit despicable) that Obama hid this part of his agenda.

Now it's out in the open. Holder's stated justification for a new ban is that he "thinks it would have a positive impact on Mexico, at a minimum." Infringing the Second Amendment to benefit a foreign nation isn't exactly the kind of thing most Americans are going to appreciate.

The additional problem is that, after D.C. v. Heller, it's no longer clear that a federal ban could survive a constitutional challenge. That makes Obama's support for a permanent ban on assault weapons even more politically contentious.

If Obama pushes this -- and if the Democrats in Congress don't wise up and resist him -- this could be a major error for the new president.

Posted by Terrence Watson on February 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (70)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oklahoma House passes 10th Amendment state sovereignty bill

Billofrights Earlier this month, I wrote that:

A spate of... "10th Amendment resolutions" at the state level seems to have been sparked with last year's failed HJR 1089 [pdf] in Oklahoma "claiming sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over certain powers; serving notice to the federal government to cease and desist certain mandates; and directing distribution." The sponsor of that bill, Rep. Charles Key (R) is working on introducing similar legislation (HJR 1003) [rtf] this year which he says is likely to pass as a Republican-controlled Legislature convenes for the first time in state history.

Rep. Key's bill is one of the eight similar pieces of legislation which have been introduced this year asserting state sovereignty under the US Constitution's 9th and 10th Amendments in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington; twelve more states are expected to follow suit.

WorldNetDaily reports:

Oklahoma's House of Representatives is the first legislative body to pass a state sovereignty resolution this year under the terms of the Tenth Amendment.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1003 Feb. 18 by a wide margin, 83 to 13, resolving, "That the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States."

The language of HJR 1003 further serves notice to the federal government "to cease and desist, effectively immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers."

The sponsor of the resolution, state Rep. Charles Key, told WND the measure was a 'big step toward addressing the biggest problem we have in this country – the federal government violating the supreme law of the land."

"The Constitution either means what it says, or it doesn't mean anything at all," Key said. "The federal government must honor and obey the Constitution, just like the states and this citizens of this country are obligated to do, or our system of government begins to fall apart."

The Ninth Amendment reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The Tenth Amendment specifically provides, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

More details here.

Recently, the Shotgun Blog highlighted an appearance by Rep. Dan Itse, the sponsor of New Hampshire's House Concurrent Resolution 6 "affirming States’ rights based on Jeffersonian principles," on Fox News' Glenn Beck Program.

UPDATE: The John Birch Society has a very useful tracking page with direct links and status updates for the "10th Amendment resolutions" in the various states.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 25, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (23)

ESPN columnist on the hunt for Barry Bonds

As the title at Reason says, if you've got ESPN upset about civil rights abuses, it might be time to re-think what you're doing. They're talking about a great column by Jon Pessah, whose column at ESPN chronicles and condemns the witch hunt for Barry Bonds by Jeff Novitzsky, a federal agent investigating steroid use in professional sports.

[I]n 2004...Novitzky raided Comprehensive Drug Testing, the nation's largest sports-drug testing company. What happened on that day is complicated but boils down to this: Novitzky walked into CDT with 11 armed agents and a search warrant for the confidential test results of 10 baseball players with ties to BALCO. Hours later, he walked out with more than 4,000 medical files, including those of every major league baseball player, a bunch of NFL and NHL pros, and workers from three businesses. Maybe one that employs you.

Three federal judges reviewed the raid. One asked, incredulously, if the Fourth Amendment had been repealed. Another, Susan Illston, who has presided over the BALCO trials, called Novitzky's actions a "callous disregard" for constitutional rights. All three instructed him to return the records. Instead, Novitzky kept the evidence, reviewed the results and received clearance from an appeals court to pursue 103 MLB players who, those records revealed, had tested positive for steroids. (That investigation is pending another appeals court decision, expected this fall.) [...]

After [Bonds' trainer Greg] Anderson served three months in jail for dealing steroids and money laundering, Novitzky and the feds put him back in for 13 more for refusing to testify against Bonds. They also waited three years to return $41,420 of the seized $63,920 [from Anderson], violating Anderson's plea agreement. And most recently, they opened tax investigations on his wife and mother-in-law, neither of whom has anything to do with Bonds, to force the trainer to testify.

Often when libertarians bring up the war on drugs, someone insists that we want a world without rules or morals, or that we think that you don't have any freedom unless you have the freedom to do whatever you want. Ignoring the fact that most of that statement is patently false and assuming that whoever makes it simply means that libertarians are too concerned with the right to be a libertine, I have to say that while personally, I do get worked up about the rights-based libertarian arguments for ending the drug war, I'm typically a lot more concerned (and think most people ought to be) about the sort of nonsense stemming from the drug war that would cause a US judge to ask if the 4th amendment has been thrown out the window.

This is the kind of stuff that happens to people with what often turn out to be questionable or nonexistent ties to marijuana or harder drugs all the time, and it's the kind of stuff we shouldn't stand for.

h/t to (and quote snagged straight from) Reason, because I just can't get enough of them.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

CRTC to call for licensing of streaming online content?

Andrew Coyne does more this week than provide us with an awesome blog post. He also provides us with some scary news about mumblings of new regulation down at the CRTC:

As the comedian Colin Mochrie, who testified at this week’s opening of CRTC hearings on regulating “new media,” observed, now that “the space for content is practically endless . . . content can easily get lost.” State intervention is needed “to make sure Canadians can find their own content.” What does all this lofty talk mean, in concrete terms? It means, if Mochrie and his friends at ACTRA, the film and television actors’ union, have their way, that anyone who streams live video online would have to be “licensed and subject to regulations.” It means that anyone who provides the means for others to do so would have to be likewise licensed and regulated. And of course, there would have to be new taxes to fund this content, on the off chance that Canadians should not prove as eager as all that to be told more Canadian stories online.

That's right. After years of badgering those who dare to partake in foreign media and billions in government subsidies to make creating and distributing Canadian artwork cheaper and easier, the CRTC is talking about regulating them to make it more expensive and difficult. This is by far the worst news in the piece, but it doesn't end there:

in the age of cross-ownership, when the proprietors of most of the major print publications, including this one, also own broadcast outlets, this opens the way for the CRTC to go where it has never before dared: regulating the print media.

Coyne goes on to speculate that the CRTC could mandate CanCon in print media, but I'd be much more concerned about the possibility that they could enforce a requirement that all print media outlets join a national press council the CHRC bureaucrats were mentioning some time ago, as well as imposing harsher penalties on print media that violated the CHRA.

Scary stuff.

h/t: Ker

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (17)

The good kind of litigious?

From The Spoof:

Controversial Canadian human rights lawyer Richard Warman sparked more furore last night when he announced he was suing himself.

In a press statement, Warman said that he had come to realise that his attempts to stop people like conspiracy theorist David Icke speaking and selling his books in Canada was a violation of Icke's human rights.

"I realise that just because I do not agree with someone's point of view, does not mean that others should not be allowed to listen as decide whether Icke is telling the truth or is some new-age whack job full of crap".

"Its both patronising and dangerous for one person to hold themselves up as the sole arbiter of freedom of speech, hence my decision today to issue a write against myself."

But upon hearing the self-imposed writ, Warman reacted angrily by issuing a counter writ against himself for libel.

"The suggestion that I am some kind of obsessive despot who gets off on bullying, threatening and suing people is totally odious" he said.

Read the rest.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Smeared with oil sands

According to Don Martin in today's National Post, the National Geographic's feature on Alberta's oil sands is PR hell, delivering a black eye from which the province will never recover.

I doubt it.

First, the National Geographic may still be widely read, but I doubt that it's anywhere near as influential as it was in the days before television and then the Internet. No single print publication can change public perception on its own. Moreover, the magazine may have portrayed the oil sands as an environmental wasteland, but there have never been any secrets about the megaprojects' disruption of the "natural" order in northern Alberta. Anyone who cared to be disgusted by the alteration of the landscape has undoubtedly already been so sickened.

Second, the magazine's expose comes at a time when economic concerns are clearly trumping environmental ones. Readers may not like to looks of the disturbed land, but now more than ever they realize how important such developments are to their well-being. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it best in his Feb. 23 interview with Larry Kudlow on CNBC:

First of all, let me be clear about the importation [by the U.S.] of oil sands oil. Regardless of what any legislature does, the United States will be importing this oil because there is absolutely no doubt that if you look at the supply-and-demand pattern into the future, the United States is going to need Canadian oil. It is the one secure, growing market-based source of energy that the United States has. There will be no choice but to import this oil…

…any policy [to stop the importation of oil sands oil] is completely unrealistic if you look at American needs for energy and where Americans can get the supply at a reasonable price… we will do what we can to reduce the carbon footprint. But there should be no illusion that economic reality will hit those environmental policies pretty hard when one goes to implement them.

UPDATE: You can read the National Geographic article for yourself here and view the accompanying slideshow.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 25, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (15)

Show Alert: Al & Mike Show Tonight at 8:30PM EST (and Contest!)

The second last episode of the Al & Mike Show will go live at 8:30PM Eastern time, as we start gearing up for the new show to launch in two weeks. Tonight, Justin Trottier, Executive Director for the Centre for Inquiry will join us to talk more about those atheist bus ads.

We'll have the phone lines and Skype lines open tonight if you want to get in on the debate. If you prefer to use the phone, but do not want to call long-distance to Toronto, you can email us at [email protected] with your phone number and quick description of what you want to say, and we'll call you.

The Skype ID is: almikeshow

The Toronto-local studio line is: 1-647-258-1707

The show streams live from the Shotgun Blog, and from ustream here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/al-and-mike-show


If you're a listener to the Al & Mike Show and you have a blog, as part of our latest push to expand WSRadio, we are going to be giving out a weekly prize to one blogger who publishes our live ustream feed on their blog during the show. But here's the catch, the contest only kicks in if at least five blogs participate each week. 

To sign-up for the contest, it's simple: by no later than 15 minutes before the show (that's 8:15pm Eastern time) you post the ustream feed by pasting this hunk of HTML into a blog post:

<object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" width="400" height="320" id="utv9101"><param name="flashvars" value="autoplay=false&amp;brand=embed"/><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><param name="movie" value="http://www.ustream.tv/flash/live/1/133379"/><embed flashvars="autoplay=false&amp;brand=embed" width="400" height="320" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" id="utv9101" name="utv_n_328985" src="http://www.ustream.tv/flash/live/1/133379" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" /></object><a href="http://www.ustream.tv/" style="padding:2px 0px 4px;width:400px;background:#FFFFFF;display:block;color:#000000;font-weight:normal;font-size:10px;text-decoration:underline;text-align:center;" target="_blank">Video chat rooms at Ustream</a>

Then you email [email protected] with a link to your blog. The winner will be chosen 30 minutes after the end of the show every week. Prizes will include cash (payable through PayPal) and other gifts, which will be announced every week.

This contest will also continue after the end of the Al & Mike Show's run, within the next incarnation to fill the spot.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Southern Avenger: Crisis-Mongering

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty writes in the Financial Post that now is "A time to act" and pass Stephen Harper's budget. As I read his argument, I couldn't help but think "A time to act like what? Liberals?"

While proper due diligence by parliamentarians is appropriate, delay and obstructionism are not. While they may serve the partisan purposes of some in the opposition, delay will do nothing to help those who are looking for help today. We do not have the luxury of time for abstract academic discussions on this bill, nor do the Canadians who have lost their jobs. To those who wish to engage in lengthy debates, we ask them to remember that we conducted the most comprehensive pre-budget consultation in history, open to all Canadians. We asked for input then; that time has passed. Now is the time for Parliament to act.

You may notice the strong similarity of this argument to Barack Obama's recent rhetoric about the urgency of passing his stimulus bill, and his own denunciations of partisan obstructionism.

In my last post, I quoted Andrew Bacevich saying that crisis, urgency, and fear are always the friend of big-government and new incursions against the rights of individuals: "Only through war and quasi-war of recurrent crisis and confrontation," he says "can the [State's interests] express themselves fully."

American paleoconservative Jack Hunter (aka The Southern Avenger), strikes as similar tone. Looking at Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq and Obama's passage of the stimulus bill, our Dixie friend encourages skepticism whenever politicians, like Flaherty, take advantage of fear and uncertainty to shut down debate and rush through government action:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pot and taxes

Could the economic crisis, and its subsequent impact on state revenues, result in outright pot legalization, as opposed to only for medicinal use, and hence taxation? California may lead the way. (h/t Drudge)

Posted by Moin A Yahya on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Manufactured crimes

Radley Balko has an explosive article published last week at Reason on the uncovering of manufactured evidence in the cases of death row convicts by two medical examiners.

The article, Manufacturing Guilt, (warning - the article contains some images and video that may be disturbing to readers) is centered around the case of a man, Jimmie Duncan, who has been convicted of raping and murdering a 23-month-old girl and sits on death row in Louisiana as a result. Originally he had been charged with negligent homicide (he says he had left her in the bathtub and came back to find her drowned there), but his charges were increased when bite marks were found on her cheek. The medical examiners who found the marks, West and Hayne, have a shady past, and it's just gotten a whole lot more questionable.

Don't ask me how, but Reason somehow got a hold of a 24-minute video that shows one of these medical examiners methodically and deliberately pressing a plaster cast of Duncan's teeth into the girl's face, creating the bite marks used to increase the charges and as evidence in Duncan's conviction.

In spite of this, Duncan is still waiting on death row.

Two other men convicted on rape and murder charges based on bite mark analysis by the same medical examiners were released (one from death row) after 30 years in prison when DNA evidence exonerated them and found the real criminal (who confessed to both crimes.) These examiners have carried an impossibly high case load for the states of Mississippi and Louisiana and are responsible for thousands of forensic medical examinations over the past 20 years.

It's unclear why either state would continue to employ these men almost exclusively in spite of questions about their work, including a recommendation for expulsion of the bite mark analyst from the American  Academy of Forensic Sciences by their own ethics board. (edit: As Grant points out in the comments, it's likely a result of politicization of the legal process leading to pressure to make the arrests and close the cases so that your system looks like it's dealing with the crime problem that would lead any department to look the other way so long as they get their conviction. Still, though, this seems over the top.)

The article is, as I've written, explosive, and can be read here. Again, though, be aware of the nature of the images and video on the site before visiting.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The libertarian culture

Continuing in the coat-tails of my previous post "Socialism, Conservatism and Ann Coulter", the natural progression is to make the case for a cultural libertarianism. 

There is an argument among a growing breed of libertarians that libertarianism is about politics and political strategy, not about culture.  These libertarians--some of them in private e-mail conversations, and others in full-frontal view in the comment section here--have expressed a form of libertarianism which mixes social conservative culture with political libertarianism. A mix made in heaven, they seem to think.

You don't have to get very far in into my post or my subsequent follow-up comments to draw the conclusion that I completely reject this position.  In fact, I go so far as to suggest--insulting as it may be--that these people are not true libertarians at all.

The response to this has been quite a few e-mails from people who I know and like, expressing deep regret and insult at my choice of attack.  I'll quote one of my friend's here. Considering we're not on talking terms at this point, I'll withhold attribution out of respect for his privacy:

"It's very hurtful to see you go after the heart of people's belief the way you did on your blog.  I can only say that I am extremely saddened by the level you felt you had to take this to in order to make your point."

"I am okay with you wanting to live in a Godless world, with your libertarian morals.  I get that.  But apparently you want all of us to live in a Godless world too.  Sadly, you've decided to jump to the socialist position of shoving Atheism down everyone's throat.  That's not very libertarian, Mike."

With all do respect to my friend, who has referred to himself countless times as a "libertarian leaning conservative", I don't know what you're talking about.  You and others are projecting.  My libertarianism is--in fact--highly consistent. I do not ask the state to shove "Atheism" (you don't capitalize that word, by the way) down everyone's throat.

The problem with religious social conservatives is that they confuse a change in relative normativity with an attack on their religion.  For example: if there was prayer in public schools, and it's removed (as it was in Ontario), they interpret this removal as an attack on Christianity.  And when non-Christians point out that they wanted no part in it, they cling to arguments from tradition, or argue that those kids can simply "sit it out". 

When the Gay Pride Parade comes rolling down Yonge Street, social conservatives claim that "homosexuality is being rammed down their throat".  They don't, like they do with the prayer argument, expect themselves--as they do non-Christian children--to look away. They're not arguing from a consistent position, as it pertains to the rights of others to express their moral position.

Make no mistake: the Gay Price Parade is an expression of a moral position.  It is the moral position that individuals should be free to express their sexuality.  It is, on many levels, a fundamentally libertarian expression. 

The change in normative cultural towards one that is more accepting of a plurality of views on morality, particularly sexual morality, has been viewed by Christians as an attack on Christianity.  Or more specifically, an attack on the rights of Christians to not be exposed to other moralities that conflict with their own.

This cultural position is in direct conflict with libertarianism at it's most fundamental level, because if one is to believe that populist morality--as expressed by arbitrary cultural positions--derives legitimacy therein, it is only reasonable to expect that said persons will eventually seek the force of law to reinforce these moral positions.

I make this prediction confidently, as I believe that personal moral positions are the basis for political positions.  They do not exist independently of each other.  Even if they do in rare cases, the distinction is not durable over time.

Cultural libertarianism carries with it the implication that for a truly libertarian society to exist, it's inhabitants must have a fundamental moral grounding in the value of liberty.  If not, what sustains liberty? Law? Law can be changed.

This position has been critiqued by some libertarians as sounding reminiscent of the same kind of social engineering that libertarianism stands opposed to.  And they'd be right. On the surface, there is a bit of a conflict between the need to promote libertarianism in culture and morality while not succumbing to statist tendencies to accomplish it.

My preference is to do what I'm doing now; writing and talking, donating and volunteering.  Trying to convince people on the merits of my argument, as opposed to going to the government and asking them to argue for me.  If I do that, I've abandoned a basic principle of my morality, and I'm not prepared to do that.

The battle for liberty will be fought and won in the cultural playing field.  Not the political one.  The political stems from the cultural.  With shifts in cultural values towards liberty, the political stars will align. 

That isn't to say we do not fight politically.  Of course we do.  We fight hard against further incursions into our liberty and keep pushing back against growing government.  But we must take heed of the cultural tendencies that are enabling these practices in the first place, and start thinking about how we cut off the snakes head; ending statisms biggest enabler: cultural acceptance.

Social conservatism is fighting a cultural war against secularism, feminists against sexism, gays against homophobia, blacks against racism.   It's time libertarians get into the game in a serious way and stake out some serious cultural ground

Note about comments:  The comments have been closed because the blogging system seems to be eating all new posts for this thread.   For those who submitted comments that were not accepted, we apologize.  

Posted by Mike Brock on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (57)

The paranoid state - we don't even listen anymore

I am not taking a side in the merits of this case (h/t Bashman), and I wouldn't recommend reading too much of the case beyond the first two pages, as it is one of those 90% legal procedure - 10% susbstance. What is interesting is the facts recited:

According to [the plaintiff's] complaint, [the plaintiff] phoned Southwest Airlines in the spring of 2002 to buy tickets to fly to Nebraska to visit his family. At the end of the call, after [he] had provided Southwest with his name and contact information, the airline representative asked Tooley if he had any “comments,questions, or suggestions.” ... [He] responded that, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Southwest should screen 100 percent of “everything,” and that without “proper security” [he] and other members of the traveling public were “less safe due to the potential that those who wish to harm American citizens could put a bomb on a plane.” ... The Southwest representative responded with alarm and declared “you said the ‘b’ word, you said the ‘b’ word.” ... [He] attempted to explain to the representative that she had not understood him correctly, but she nevertheless placed him on hold. After 20 minutes, T[he] finally hung up.

[He] claims that ..., more than a year after the call to Southwest, he began to notice problematic phone connections, including “telltale” intermittent clicking noises. Compl. ... He alleges, “[u]pon information and belief,” that his telephone problems were caused by illegal wiretaps placed on his residential landline phone, his landline phone at his former residence, his cellular phone, his wife’s cellular phone, the phones of his father, brother, sister, and inlaws, and his family’s phone in Lincoln, Nebraska, where relatives from “France made calls from France to the home, where Mr. Tooley was visiting his mother for the week.” ... [He] claims that these alleged wiretaps were placed in response to the comments he had made to Southwest’s representative.

Whether he will ever be able to prove the truth of these allegations is interesting, as he faces an uphill battle, but I have to commend him for doing this all himself (my reading of the case leads me to believe that he is representing himself). What is disturbing for me is how we are conditioned to react to certain code-words without even listening to the context in which they were uttered.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Will President Obama restore trade with Cuba? Opposition increases toward 50-year-old embargo

In what can only be called wild speculation, the Western Standard asked in December if then-President-elect Barack Obama would end the embargo against Cuba.

At the time, pressure was coming from business associations within America to end the trade restrictions:

"We support the complete removal of all trade and travel restrictions on Cuba," a dozen such business associations, including the politically potent Business Roundtable, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Retail Federation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote, in a letter addressed to Obama Thursday.

International Trade Minister Stockwell Day had also just returned from the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas ministerial meeting in Panama with renewed enthusiasm for Central and South American trade.

Since then, Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake has sponsored the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and this week Republican Senator Richard Lugar called for a “major reassessment of Washington's nearly half-century effort to isolate Cuba.”

President Obama is also reported to be sympathetic to restoring normal trade relations with Cuba:

During this year's presidential campaign, Obama himself had pledged to open talks with the Cuban government without preconditions and to relax the embargo – by repealing regulations promulgated by President George W. Bush – that limited both travel by Cuban Americans to their homeland and their ability to send remittances to their families there.

Will all of this be enough to restore trade with Cuba? And, more importantly, should this trade be restored?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Combing through magazine racks for gems

Mag_authors Finding myself in the right part of town with some time to kill this morning, I stepped into Vancouver's Does Your Mother Know? (undoubtedly the home of the most varied magazine inventory in Western Canada) to see if I couldn't find a copy of The Chap or Chronicles. I was a tad disappointed that they carried neither and walked out the door an hour later with only a copy of The American Interest in hand; but while I was there, I did read some excellent articles. Although for non-subscribers these five articles are only accessible in meatspace and therefore I can't provide links to full articles, I still thought they were worth sharing:

1. Editor Michael Shermer's cover article "The New Revisionism. What if Hitler Won the War?" in the current issue of Skeptic assesses (but, unfortunately, somewhat conflates) various WWII revisionist theories including the familiar racial-ethnic and the "mainstream" revisionism of Niall Ferguson, Pat Buchanan, and Nicholson Baker, and pinpoints the critical flaw in all these arguments as their dependence on some particular course of counterfactual history.

2. There's a fascinating self-portrait by Muslim-turned-agnostic Ibn Warraq in the January issue of the (apparently troubled) Standpoint.

3. British doctor and prose master Theodore Dalrymple writes in the Jan/Feb edition of American Interest about "Irrational (Democratic) Exuberance" and its Obama fever manifestation:

Times of despair are also times of hope, or at least a type of hope, that is to say the willing attribution of magical powers to a plausible man who presents himself as having the answers to the situation.

And lastly, my two favorites:

4. Ulli Diemer lays out a principled case for freedom of expression (including for 'hate speech') and responds to the most common arguments (from the left and right) in favour of state censorship in the current issue of the progressive Canadian Dimension. Highly recommended.

5. "As it was in 1918," when Randolph Bourne penned the famous words 'War is the health of the State,' writes American conservative Andrew Bacevich in the Jan/Feb American Interest, "so it is in 2008."

In Bacevich's retrospective of Bourne, the great critic of Woodrow Wilson and American entry into WWI is described as "an intellectual, a radical who cherished freedom and loved America. [Whose] crucial contribution to political discourse was to draw a sharp distinction between Country–the people and their aspirations–and State, an apparatus that perverts those aspirations into a relentless quest for aggrandizement at the expense of others." In this drive for self-aggrandizement, says Bacevich, drawing parallels to the Bush II years, war is a primary tool:

War imbues the State with an aura of sanctity. Those who purport to represent the State–the insiders,those who are in the know–expect deference and to a remarkable extent receive it. The more urgent the emergency, the more compliant the citizenry. A people at war, Bourne observed, become "obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them." [...] Only through war and quasi-war of recurrent crisis and confrontation can the [State's interests] express themselves fully.

UPDATE: The website of the Holocaust revisionist IHR has the full text of Shermer's article.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, February 23, 2009

More big brother in the land of Locke

I really don't try to find this stuff, but everytime I go to a British newspaper's website, something pops up. Now the state wants to watch its citizens from the air using the drones used in Afganistan to watch the Taliban. Again, the war in distant lands comes home.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on February 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Peanuts or Pills?

As we all know, or should, Reason is awesome. Over at Hit and Run, Ron Bailey posts an interesting question:

A New Scientist editorial poses this thought experiment:

IMAGINE you are seated at a table with two bowls in front of you. One contains peanuts, the other tablets of the illegal recreational drug MDMA (ecstasy). A stranger joins you, and you have to decide whether to give them a peanut or a pill. Which is safest?

Correct answer:

You should give them ecstasy, of course. A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA.

A lot of folks won't like this answer. Ecstacy, after all, is a dangerous drug that has people acting wacky and incoherently, destroying lives left and right. Right? Apparently not:

...on all tests except for verbal memory, ecstasy users performed just as well as before [they used it] and on a par with abstainers....the effect on [verbal memory] was so small - a difference of a quarter of a word on average from a list of 15 - the real world implications are questionable.

Neither Bailey nor the New Scientist deny that ecstasy is a mind-altering substance. Otherwise, why would anyone take it? (This applies both to recreational and medical use, of couse.) But the results do raise the question of why, exactly, there is such rabid fear mongering about such drugs. As the article points out, the main long-term effects of ecstasy appear to be "driving politicians crazy." Politicians, of course, drive the rest of us crazy with the phenomenal costs of the drug war - not the least of which is the fact that too many people no longer trust that there is any cost to taking drugs simply because so many of the exaggerated costs have proven unfounded.

The call isn't for everyone to go out and have ecstasy for lunch instead of a peanut butter sandwich. It's for drug policy to be based on the real, scientifically proven dangers of the drugs, and not the extent to which busybodies and politicians lose sleep over it.

Read the rest of the Reason blog post here and the New Scientist editorial here. The study on effects of ecstasy that's quoted briefly above can be found here.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (24)

What's coming up on Political Animals?

The Political Animals radio show hasn't been on hiatus, but we have had problems with the Internet feed. I'm told those have been fixed now, so we're back on the air/in the 'tubes today, at 4 pm EST.

You can listen to us here. Gerry Nicholls should be calling in around 4:15 for another frank discussion about the apparent demise of conservatism in Canada and the United States. Is libertarianism the future?

And why has Barack Obama been annoying self-styled progressives lately?

Now that porkulus has risen, why is the economy still tanking? Why is the government ripping off responsible home owners to bail out those who got mortgages they couldn't afford?

All this and more at 4 pm, EST, on Political Animals. Click here to load a player that will allow you to listen live, over the Internet.

To chat, call in at 1-888-7-WBGUFM.

Posted by Terrence Watson on February 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The NDP squawk as the Conservatives get closer to selling crown assets

In November, the Western Standard reported that 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, in this case the government, to get a hold of some cash, while incentivising the new buyer with a long term lease agreement in a soft rental market. While there is nothing improper about the Larco deal, Martin has been vigilant in monitoring the sale, or proposed sale, of crown assets ever since Prime Minister Harper’s Throne Speech promise to conduct a strategic review of all Crown corporations and assets.

Today, the New Democrat called for a moratorium on selling off Crown Corporations and public buildings until parliamentarians have an opportunity to review the government's plan. 

"In the last election, the Conservatives never once mentioned they planned a fire sale of crown assets," said NDP Treasury Board critic Martin. "This government has no mandate to peddle our national institutions to the highest bidder and New Democrats will fight this folly tooth-and-nail." 

According to the NDP, in the November Fiscal Update, and then repeated in the Budget, the government announced its intention to sell off government assets but provided no details. Since then, leaks have emerged that among the assets the government is looking at putting on the chopping block are Via Rail, the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post. 

Martin said he will bring this issue to the Government Operations Committee and will press the committee to hold the government to account. 

"I want the Minister to appear before our committee and come clean on his party's plan," said Martin. "It’s time the government came out of the shadows and levelled with Canadians about what's on the chopping block and why.

"In Manitoba we have seen Conservatives engage in a fire sale of assets, and both taxpayers and consumers were hurt by decisions like selling off MTS," said Martin. "We learned the hard way that there is simply no business case for privatizing most government assets. Selling off Via Rail or the royal Canadian Mint is driven by pure ideology, not sound economics,” concluded Martin.

For background on this story, read “Is the Harper Government serious about selling crown assets? And what should be done with the cash?” here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Progressive Conservative Convention: The path not taken

Most people will remember the 2009 Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario convention for the Logoreopening of the leadership race question. There was a surprisingly large faction within the party that wished to regress back to the delegated leadership convention. Even a federal cabinet minister spoke in favour of the potential abuses inherent in a delegated leadership convention.

But this isn’t what I will remember the convention for. No, I will remember this past weekend for a missed opportunity to advance forward and turn the PC Party into a truly grassroots party. Friday I wrote a quick blog post mentioning the potential decline of delegated conventions in the party. Sadly this optimistic prediction was not to become true.

There were several constitutional amendments that would have either taken power away from the delegated conventions or ended such conventions completely. The most significant proposal was to make leadership reviews operate the same way that leadership races operate. Every riding would have been given a vote per member up to 100 votes. If the riding association has more than 100 members then the votes will be divided by the percentages; that is if a 200 member riding had cast 120 ‘yes’ votes in a leadership review, that would equal 60 votes from the riding.

Most arguments you can use in favour of this system for a leadership race apply to a leadership review. It is more democratic, it is a more open process, and it puts more power into the hands of the grassroots versus the party elites. The delegated convention system for leadership reviews heavily favours party elites, and in most cases such elites have an interest in keeping the current leader. Even if the membership is unhappy with the leader, party elites will tend to support the leader because they rely on him/her for their career or influence. By giving more power to the grassroots you get a truer sense of the leader’s popularity in the party and their viability in the next election.

Unfortunately this amendment failed miserably. To have passed it would have needed 66% but I don’t think it even made it to 50%. It was not like this was a crazy maverick proposal. I talked to several members of caucus who were supportive of the idea. Nor was this a screw John Tory motion. Alex Sloat who proposed the idea (and has contributed some posts to this blog) made sure to point out that this was not meant as an attack on the leader.

I suppose there is always next year. If I propose this motion every year eventually they will pass it just to prevent me from proposing it every year.

(Yes I know writing a blog post about a failed constitutional amendment to a provincial party constitution makes me a huge dork. But you read it and that makes you a dork as well.)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

CCTVs to track alcohol usage

Don't be fooled by the pro-CCTV types who proclaim how having a camera on every street corner saves lives. Once the state realizes it can watch you, it starts monitoring everything you do including how much alcohol you drink.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on February 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (20)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Should conservatives demand government funding for independent schools?

Marshall Fritz died on November 4, 2008. He was chairman, founder, and former president of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State, an organization committed to the “full separation of school and state” and to “rescinding government-compelled attendance, curriculum, credentialing, accreditation, and financing" in education.

Fritz was a radical private school advocate and virtually alone, even among libertarians, in his opposition to charter schools, voucher programs, standardized testing and other education reform schemes that only help to extend the reach of government into an area over which it should have no jurisdiction while doing little to improve education outcomes.

The Alliance for the Separation of School & State would no doubt oppose the conservative objective to get full public financing for independent and religious schools.

In his column in today’s London Free Press, Rory Leishman wrote:

In preparation for an impending national election, Britain's Conservative Party Leader David Cameron has promised, in a key policy paper, that his government would extend full funding to secular and faith-based independent schools. Is this a sure formula for political suicide?

Many Canadian conservatives might think so. They recall how Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory led his party to crushing defeat in the 2007 provincial election by promising his government would restore partial funding to independent, faith-based schools.

Independent schools perform well because they are independent of government. Government funding – and, with it, government control – would likely cause independent schools to achieve results similar to those of public schools.

Social conservatives who invite the state to take a greater roll in education, should read “The Goals of Public Schooling: The Educationist Movement,” a chapter in Murray Rothbard’s book Education: Free and Compulsory.

Here’s an excerpt:

There were other and more dangerous goals, however, particularly among the educationists who were the main forces in the drive, and who took control of the state boards of education and teachers' training colleges which instructed the public school teachers. As early as 1785, the Rev. Jeremy Belknap, preaching before the New Hampshire General Court, advocated equal and compulsory education for all, emphasizing that the children belong to the State and not to their parents.[48] The influential Benjamin Rush wanted general education in order to establish a uniform, homogeneous, and egalitarian nation.

The doctrine of obedience to the State was the prime goal of the father of the public school system in North Carolina, Archibald D. Murphey. In 1816, Murphey planned a system of state schools as follows:

all children will be taught in them … in these schools the precepts of morality and religion should be inculcated, and habits of subordination and obedience be formed…. The state, in the warmth of her solicitude for their welfare, must take charge of those children, and place them in school where their minds can be enlightened and their hearts can be trained to virtue.

With this insight, anyone with an authentic interest in improving education, and restoring the roll of parents in the process, would be wise to advocate for the complete separation of school and state.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

(Video) The foul language of empire

I can hardly think of anything more illustrative of the condescension and disrespect of the US military towards the Iraqi people than this soldier's "motivational" speech to some Iraqi police. Here we see democracy promotion and nation building in action -- a sure way to win hearts and minds.

Be forewarned, also on display is the foul language of empire:

(h/t James Edwards)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Celebrities and wine: a bad combination

Most times when I think of movie or TV celebrity-made wines, my palate pictures some soulless stew of second (or third) rate grapes mixed together and thrown into a bottle with the name, or a caricature, of the celebrity in question on the bottle. As a whole, these wines seldom impress -- and they hurt the wallet to a far greater degree than they should.

So I thought to myself, maybe rock stars are different. Maybe, in particular, vintage rock stars or bands with a proven musical track record are somehow better when it comes to making wine, or at least they care more about the products that they ultimately lend their names to.

With these thoughts in mind I decided to try two such wines -- “The King (4th Edition),” a 2005 California Cabernet Sauvignon from Graceland Cellars that features the likeness of a jumpsuit and acoustic guitar-clad (but not played, as was often the case) Elvis Presley on the bottle and boasts a “lush, ripe and juicy” character with “intense black cherry, currant and blackberry fruit,” and the 2005 version of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” wine, also a Napa Valley blend centered around Cabernet Sauvignon, that is said to boast aromas of blackberries, black currants, violets and vanilla and offer flavours of chocolate, black cherry, cassis and a hint of mocha.

As I prepared to sample “The King,” I hoped for either something resembling that taut, muscular version of Elvis circa the 1968 “comeback special” and his black leather suited performance (which from a wine perspective would involve a version of Cabernet with firm tannins and maybe a powerful minerality like the Cabernets from Mt. Veeder) or maybe even something resembling the bloated, drug-addled sweaty Elvis of his later days (which in the wine world might be an overly ripe “fruit bomb” of a wine, which while unstructured, offers the wine drinker a delicious up-front blast of fruity deliciousness).

As I raised the glass to my lips and let the wine slide into my mouth, I waited...and waited…and waited.  Nothing! This was neither the bloated, sweaty Elvis, nor was it the taut, focused, yet interesting Elvis.  Instead, there was no start, middle or finish to the wine. It was akin to drinking a glass of watered down grape juice. An Elvis somewhere between skinny Elvis and fat Elvis that might be referred to as a “transitional Elvis,” when Elvis was neither at the peak of his career, when his music was rocking the world, nor at the end of his career, when he was interesting for his late career gunplay and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  In short, this wine is awful.  Bland, uninteresting and hardly worth the $18.95 I paid for it. Similar to all other celebrity wines I’ve had the misfortune of tasting.

This did little to boost my enthusiasm for sampling the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” which I now expected would taste something like Keith Richards’ head band after a 3 hour show.

Knox is a man of valour though, so I decided to give it a whirl. Jumpin’ Jack Flash! It was fantastic! This was no poser celebrity wine where the artist was out to expand his business portfolio. This was a REAL wine. Sure the $30.00 price tag is no meager asking price, but this wine delivered. Fruity, yet structured, with a long smooth finish like that of its higher-priced Napa Cabernet brethren. This wine resembles the Stones at their peak, which like the wine’s finish, lasted a long time (up until about “Tattoo You” after which they reached “sellout” proportions of nearly Biblical magnitude).

Well, 50/50 for two celebrity wines ain’t half bad. Now I have my sights on Dan Ackroyd and his supposedly “snob free” Ontario wines.  Let’s hope his wines are better than his politics.

Posted by Knox Harrington on February 21, 2009 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Socialism, Conservatism and Ann Coulter

Most social conservatives that I know equate liberalism with socialism.  That they are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.  It’s probably the single biggest piece of evidence to me, that social conservatism is vacuous to begin with, because the very idea that liberalism and socialism have anything in common is a silly as a box of bollocks.

Now, let me first start of by saying that many people who call themselves “liberals” are really “social democrats” or are really “socialists” in terms of their actual thinking.  So there is a problem with terminology here, and when I use the word liberal, I’m referring to liberalism in it’s purest form.  To clarify, I will quote Wikipedia’s definition of liberalism:

“Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Within liberalism, there are various streams of thought which compete over the use of the term "liberal" and may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for constitutional liberalism, which encompasses support for: freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual's right to private property,[2] and a transparent system of government.“ -- Wikipedia.

Social conservatives are often quick to claim ownership of “freedom of thought and speech” and “small government” policy.  But the assertion that these ideas are in any way associated with social conservatism is an exercise of intellectual dishonesty.

Any serious look at the definition of socialism will help draw a contrast here:

“Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation.[1][2] Modern socialism originated in the late 19th-century working class political movement, and in an intellectual movement that criticized the effects of industrialization and private ownership on society. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution, and would represent a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.” -- Wikipedia

Social conservatives, mainly of the Christian persuasion, have always sought to group liberalism and socialism together for another reason: they are both seen as secular.  That’s the common thread.  That’s how they’re viewed as the same thing.  And it’s probably one of the largest leaps of intellectual dishonesty that exists today among mainstream social conservatives like Ann Coulter.

In fact, Ann Coulter has more in common with socialists.  How so? Well, let’s create a check list with a bit of a roll call.

Raise your hand if you think social society should have a strong morality buttressed by law.

Socialism:             Yes, socialist principles of collectivism.
Ann Coulter:         Yes, based on the teachings of the Bible.
Liberalism:            No, morality is not the business of the state.

Raise your hand if you think citizenship should be connected to moral systems?

Socialism:            Yes, those who do not accept socialism in a socialist society should not be full members therein.
Ann Coulter:        Yes, those who conform to the Christian traditions of society are fuller citizens.
Liberalism:            No, plurality of belief is not only acceptable, but healthy.

Raise your hand if you think adherence to moral codes are more important than outcome?

Socialism:            Yes. It is preferable to have fairness than some with more and others with less.
Ann Coulter:         Yes. Traditions like marriage should be maintained irrespective of any outcome.
Liberalism:             Perhaps.  In so far as the adherence is to the principle of respect of others equal rights.

Is one of the purposes of policing to enforce social moral codes?

Socialism:            Yes.  The use of police to quell political dissension and anti-social behaviour is important.
Ann Coulter:        Yes. More police! More jails! Arrest people who do drugs, and engage in perverse sexual activities!
Liberalism:            Absolutely not.

Hopefully you can see the pattern emerging.  The reality is that liberalism stands opposed to both social conservatism and socialism, and both social conservatism and socialism share a common love for strong moral codes, enforced by the state, with strong policing.

Liberalism in it’s original, enlightenment form is the antithesis of strong, centralized control.  

Social conservatives have appropriated love for liberty, but only so far as economics goes.  They want lower taxes and less government services, but they want strong laws, stronger police, more jails, and bigger militaries--which ironically, end up costing as much, if not more than the social services they detest. They support the idea of “big government” while pretended to support “small government”, through a redefining of the term “big government”.  

For them, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a humongous government.  As long as all the money goes into enforcing morality through strong policing of sexual activity and drug use, and going to strange foreign-lands to wage war.  That’s a perfectly acceptable “big government”.  In fact, for them, it couldn’t be big enough!  The US government’s $652 billion military budget is not enough.  And yet, social conservatives want lower taxes.  They don’t really care about economics.  They want their cake, and they want to eat it too. Social conservatives want big militaries they can't afford, like socialists want big social programs they can't afford.

Give me low taxes, and huge militaristic, policing government with massive military and policing budgets.  Run a deficit, I don’t care!

Social conservatives believe in big government.  They just don’t call it that.  They are, with socialist, two sides of the same coin.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (44)

Set phasers to "legislate"

William Shatner is making a bit of news today. Apparently, a Canadian wrote the Canadian-born star a letter mentioning that he wanted Mr. Shatner to allow his name to stand as a possible future Governor General of Canada.

Mr. Shatner replied in a letter of his own that while he is still too busy with his acting career to be Governor General, he might be interested in another job--being Prime Minister of Canada. "As Prime Minister I can lead Canada into even greater exploits," he added. I suspect he is having a bit of fun with the idea.   

Posted by Rick Hiebert on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (20)

Hamilton church loses charitable status but denies CRA allegations; are other churches at risk?

In January, the Western Standard raised the issue of charitable status for churches with a post entitled “Charitable status is not a tax subsidy; churches should be governed by the Bible, not the Charter.”

In a column written for Freedom Press, author and Liberty 100 nominee Dr. Michael Wagner makes the case that churches could come under increasing pressure to comply with Charter values and not Christian values if they hope to keep their charitable tax status.

This week, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) revoked the charitable registration of the Dominion Christian Centre of Canada, a Hamilton-area charity, not for Charter violations, but failing to comply with tax laws.

On December 30, 2008, the CRA, on behalf of the Minister of National Revenue, issued a notice of intention to revoke the charitable registration of the Dominion Christian Centre of Canada, in accordance with subsection 168(1) of the Income Tax Act. The letter stated, in part, that:

Our audit revealed serious issues of non-compliance. In particular, it was found that the Charity's assets have been misused for the private benefit of members, directors, donors and employees, and that the Charity has issued official donation receipts containing incorrect or false information.

The Dominion Christian Centre is denying the CRA allegations and is calling the move a test of faith.

Early last week, the opening page of the Dominion Christian Centre websitr refuted the specific allegations made by the CRA. Today, the site contains only a general statement about the allegations with a commitment to address questions on Sunday at 10:00 AM during service hours. The media page of the website is also not working and appears to have been removed.

The church is still accepting donations online, however, but these donations are no longer tax deductable according to the CRA.

A charity that has had its charitable status revoked can no longer issue donation receipts for income tax purposes and is no longer a qualified donee under the Income Tax Act. The organization is no longer exempt from income tax, unless it qualifies as a non-profit organization, and it may be subject to a tax equal to the full value of its remaining assets.

As for a general observation about charitable status for churches, it is a broadly held view among libertarians that churches and other private charities should be allowed to take an increasingly larger roll in providing welfare services currently delivered by the state. A system of private welfare is superior to the welfare state and the church is uniquely positioned to carry out these charitable works as long as its non-profit and charitable status remains in place.

As for the Dominion Christian Centre case in particular, judgement should be withheld until the organization has been given a chance to defend itself tomorrow. Whatever happens, and even if mistakes were made, it is likely the Centre has provided a greater public service than the CRA.

And as for the CRA, it was reported on February 9th that the CRA issued $3 million in paycheque to almost 2000 people no longer on the government payroll. This practice of paying former employees has been happening since 1999. You might think a tax agency with a record of sloppy accounting would be more charitable with their audits of religious institutions. Think again.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Michelle Muccio interviewed about about her proposed payroll tax holiday stimulus

I must apologize to everyone who isn't blessed with a high-speed internet connection for the amount of video content on the blog today, but when Michelle Muccio, the world's hottest economist, is interviewed on some of the specifics of her "peoples' stimulus" plan, a one-year payroll tax holiday, there's no way I could refrain from sharing:

On the day Obama signed his stimulus package, Tim Kane had some good advice: if some time from now the economy is still in the swamp and Obama is looking at a "stimulus 2.0", we would do well to remember "what else 800 billion dollars could pay for... The total revenues from all payroll taxes in a single year." A cut in the payroll tax, Kane argues, would provide immediate stimulus, put more money into the hands of working people, and reduce business costs.

(h/t Instapundit and Bryan Caplan)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Netroots "Draft Peter Schiff for Senate" supporters begin online fundraising "moneybomb" day

The Western Standard was among the first outlets to report on the netroots campaign to draft celebrity investment adviser Peter Schiff as a candidate to run against the scandal-ridden and increasingly unpopular Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd. The New Haven Independent reports on an online fundraising "moneybomb" planned for today, saying that if the effort is successful, the endeavor to convince Schiff to put himself forward will be a little less improbable:

Web-savvy Libertarians in California have launched a nationwide movement to draft a New Haven-born celebrity pundit to take on Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. Their first big test comes Saturday.

The pundit is Peter Schiff. He has been a fixture bashing the federal bank bailout and stimulus efforts on national TV news (FOXNews, CNBC, CNN) panels because of his early predictions of the Wall Street meltdown. He published a prescient book in 2007 called Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse. “The man who saw it all before everybody saw it,” as Fox anchor Liz Claman introduced him.

Schiff, who now runs a Darien stock brokerage firm, served as an economic adviser to Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul, whose candidacy was elevated by a then-unprecedented grassroots Internet effort. [...]

The campaign has an online “headquarters” and assorted rallying cries, including: “Stop the Bailouts.” “Stop the stimulus!” It has Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter presences, too — even though Schiff insisted in an interview that he has had nothing to do with the effort and would almost definitely not heed a call to actually run. That’s right. Almost definitely.

“Want Peter to run? Pledge! Show him we’ve got his back,” proclaims the home page for an affiliated site coordinating a “Moneybomb” for this Saturday. A “moneybomb” means supporters are hoping to raise an eye-popping pile of pledges in one day to show serious support for a Schiff candidacy — the way a one-day moneybomb propelled Ron Paul’s candidacy a year ago with a record haul.

In some ways the effort mirrors the early drive to find a candidate to challenge Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006, only this time from the right, not the left. In 2006, activists from across the country who supported challenger Ned Lamont poured money and cultivated volunteers through left-leaning national websites like Daily Kos and MoveOn.org. The campaign was national from the start, born at the netroots.

Read the rest.

Judging by the difficulty I'm having accessing the Schiff2010.com website today and the fundraising progress so far, the organizers' goal of $10,000 to $15,000 is looking a little modest. This is the main video which was circulated to promote the Schiff "moneybomb":

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

(Video) Ron Paul discusses the alternatives to Obama's big-spending approach to stimulus with Bill Maher

Last night Ron Paul visited with Bill Maher on the season premier of his HBO show Real Time to explain how he thinks the government should best deal with the economic downturn:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Rick Santelli's 'Chicago Tea Party' video incites anti-stimulus, anti-bailout protests across America

Chicagotp2 Did somebody predict tax protests?

Michelle Malkin has a nice post documenting and publicizing the various events planned as part of "the anti-stimulus, anti-entitlement protest, movement, spurred further by CNBC host Rick Santelli’s call for a “Chicago Tea Party.”

Here is the video of Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange with his "shout heard 'round the world" that's now inspiring angry taxpayers to dust off their pitchforks.

After the video went viral, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs evidently felt it merited a direct response.

But Santelli (a gentleman who's never been known to be long on patience when it comes to bailouts, the Federal Reserve, or government in general) is having none of it:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

A visual explanation of the credit crisis

This attractive video, a thesis project of art student Jonathan Jarvis, provides an impressively clear explanation of the credit crisis, tracing it's origins in low interest rates through interwoven homeowners, mortgage markets, investors, and complex financial instruments.

Though the story it tells is quite accurate, the video doesn't attempt to put forward a full causal explanation linking together all the elements; if you're looking for a hint about the wherefores, keep your eye on the market-distorting effects of easy money and loose credit during the boom period:

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 20, 2009


A friend of mine brought up the topic of torture today, and as in previous cases where the topic had come up, it got me thinking: is torture ever morally justifiable?

Having spoken to some other learned people of the libertarian persuasion, I have found that the answer is often a definite no, much in the same way that capital punishment is--and almost universally for the same reasons.

I too, am inclined to answer no, but one particular thought experiment--and extreme and well known one--is what causes me hesitation. It goes something like this:

A nuclear bomb has been planted somewhere in a densely populated city, and will detonate within a matter of hours.  A person is apprehended that is known to be familiar with the location of the bomb.  The person is not necessarily the individual who planted the bomb, but is familiar with the those who did. 

For the sake of argument, let us just accept that we are absolutely sure that this individual possesses knowledge of the location of the bomb.  Let’s even say, he’s admitted as much. 

Given the probable outcome--absent defusing the bomb--that it will explode and kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in the case the person in question does not divulge the details, does torture become an option?

Some of my libertarian friends have, without hesitation, immediately answered “no” to even this proposition.  But it confounds me a little bit, as I’m not sure that “no” is necessarily a libertarian position. 

I say this, because it seems to me that the bomber has in a de facto sense, initiated violent force against a huge swath of people.  Does it matter that the bomb’s timer has not yet expired?  If so, why? 

But to be fair, we’re not talking about the bomber, so does wilfully acting in conspiracy with the bomber also draw you into the umbrella, making you a de facto force initiator as well?

The argument I have had used by some libertarians is that the bomber is essentially innocent and has done nothing wrong, up until the moment that the bomb explodes, because he or she could in theory change their mind up-until that moment and defuse the bomb.  By pre-emptively assuming they have initiated force, you deny them the possibility they will--in the end--not follow through.

This particular argument has never sat well with me, and I think it falls apart quite easily.  If I pull out a gun, and point it at you, does the same libertarian assert that up until the point I pull the trigger, you owe me the benefit of the doubt that I won’t?  In which case, you have no right to retaliate with any form of force against me, until I start shooting.

This is silly, of course.  Taking out a gun and pointing it at someone is a form of coercion by threat; it forces the person having the gun pointed at them to respond defensively. 

Hiding a nuclear bomb and setting a timer clearly also qualifies.  I don’t think most libertarians disagree here.  But does someone with firsthand knowledge, by virtue of having the knowledge get grouped in?

Libertarian ethics certainly do not require a bystander to render assistance.   Therefore, unless the person was directly involved, they are not criminally culpable in any way.  So the assertion is made, it’s more ethical to let millions die than torture one.

Another example might be: you witness an armed man enter a movie theatre, and you just smile and walk away.  You make no attempt to warn anyone of what you’ve seen, and the man massacres the occupants of the building.  It would seem on the surface, this is perfectly acceptable. 

Of course, in Canada, you can’t be held guilty by an act of omission, which I agree with.  But is failing to render assistance the same as withholding information material to the well-being of others?

 I’m inclined to think it’s not different.  I’m inclined to say that torture is still not justified, even if millions die.  That the man is entitled to withhold warning while the gunner massacres the occupants.  But it doesn’t sit comfortably with me, and I don’t think I’d be able to respect this ethical position in practice.

In practice, I probably would torture the man as a last resort.  And in the case of the gunner, I’d almost certainly feel obligated to call for help. I realize the latter is not incompatible with libertarianism, as it would be my personal choice to call for help.  But my point stands that despite it's contradiction with my ethics, I would be willing to cross the boundaries into arguable immorality if it meant saving millions of lives in the case of the man with knowledge of the bomb.  And despite the moral proclamations of others, I doubt  others would be much different in practice, too. So what does that mean?

Posted by Mike Brock on February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Harm reduction may be coming to America with new drug czar

The Boston Globe is reporting today that President Obama may choose a drug policy reformer as his new drug czar:

While the appointment is still not official, White House officials have said President Obama has chosen as his drug czar the police chief of Seattle, a city with enlightened policies on drug-law enforcement. Gil Kerlikowske did not originate those policies, but he has maintained them and seen their benefits during his nine years as chief. He should be an effective advocate for Obama's own less punitive positions.

After his Senate confirmation, Kerlikowske should get to work putting flesh on Obama's campaign promise to "focus more on a public-health approach" to drug abuse. Step one will be to get Congress to lift the ban on federal spending for needle-exchange programs, a proven method of limiting the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. Candidate Obama said he favored lifting the ban.

A public-health approach to drug policy is part of a harm reduction philosophy, an excellent example of which is the Four Pillars Drug Strategy employed by the City of Vancouver to reduce drug-related harm. The “Four Pillars" includes:

Harm reduction - reducing the spread of deadly communicable diseases, preventing drug overdose deaths, increasing substance users’ contact with health care services and drug treatment programs, and reducing consumption of drugs in the street;

Prevention - using a variety of strategies to help people understand substance misuse, the negative health impacts and legal risks associated with substance use and abuse, encouraging people to make healthy choices, and providing opportunities to help reduce the likelihood of substance abuse, including affordable housing, employment training and jobs, recreation and long-term economic development;

Treatment - offering individuals access to services that help people come to terms with substance misuse and lead healthier lives, including outpatient and peer-based counseling, methadone programs, daytime and residential treatment, housing support, and ongoing medical care; and,

Enforcement - recognizing the need for peace and quiet, public order and safety in the Downtown Eastside and other Vancouver neighborhoods by targeting organized crime, drug dealing, drug houses, problem businesses involved in the drug trade, and improving coordination with health services and other agencies that link drug users to withdrawal management (detox), treatment, counseling and prevention services.

Libertarian critics of the “Four Pillars” model argue that legalization is the simpliest and best harm reduction strategy. In a recent interview with the Western Standard on the occasion of National Addictions Awareness Week, for instance, libertarian author and psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz wrote:

Cui bono? Who benefits? The aim of National Addictions Awareness Week, albeit unacknowledged, is to benefit the “addiction treatment” industry, a government sponsored racket. Addiction is a stigmatizing pseudo-medical “diagnosis”...a label, not a disease like breast cancer. “Addicts” possess free will to stop taking drugs.

Our so-called drug problem is a matter of individual liberty and personal responsibility. Instead, we treat it as a medical matter. So long as we do, we shall have more and more of the kinds of “drug problems” we now have.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Controversial radio host to give keynote address at NDP revival: Is Minister Faust anti-Semitic?

Malcolm Azania, also known as Minister Faust, will deliver the keynote address at the February 27 & 28 conference entitled Geography of Change: Alberta Revitalization & the NDP.

The conference is being organized by the Alberta NDP to “broaden the base, rejuvenate the membership and elect New Democrats.”

Given the objective to “broaden the base,” the radical Minister Faust may be the wrong choice as headliner.

According to Wikipedia:

On June 7, 2004, National Post columnist Colby Cosh posted an entry to his weblog referencing one of Azania's posts to Usenet in the 1990s. Although signed with his pen name Minister Faust, the post was written under Azania's name and e-mail address. Titled "JEWS: ENEMIES? FRIENDS?," the post argued that while "anyone who asserts that all Jews at all times are either our friends or our enemies in all that they do is obviously wrong... the group that is defined as 'Jews' in the USA is most notable for their relations to... [black people] in that they are white... and overall, the aggregate of white actions and inactions is Whitesupremacist", meaning that they "tend to defend or extend the interests of Whitepower in the arts, the economy(ies), politics, society, academia (etc)".

Azania, an author and radio host, issued an apology for the comments. He will be joined at the event by Edmonton Strathcona New Democrat MP Linda Duncan.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Gold hits $1000 signalling a lack of confidence in paper currencies

Craig Smith, CEO of Swiss America and author of “Rediscovering Gold in the 21st Century,” thinks gold will surpass today’s price of $1000 as investors lose confidence in fiat money.

"$1,000 an ounce gold signals the world has lost confidence in paper currencies, the federal government and Wall Street. The commodity super-cycle has swept gold prices to triple since 2001 -- but that's just the kickoff phase," says Mr. Smith.

Smith says gold will rise to $1,200 by the end of this year and around $2,300 in the next few years.

"Gold traditionally does well when people's confidence is waning," Smith says. "They know if they can hold an ounce of gold in their hands that Bernie Madoff is not going to run off with it!"

Madoff may not run off with your gold, but the US federal government might.  In 1933, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt sign the Gold Confiscation Order "forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates." One has to wonder why, if gold is a “barbarous relic” as John Maynard Keynes famously said, the state would find it necessary to prohibit its ownership?

A statement from Smith’s public relations firm may contain the answer to this question:

The era of paper currencies and complicated structured investments is giving way to a new era of tangible assets. Gold is emerging as a preferred asset class in a world drowning in debt. Gold serves the public as a true barometer of public confidence worldwide.

Western Standard readers will know that I subscribe to this view and have written about it here and here. My investment focus these days is farm land, which has been called “gold with a yield.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Catholic group petitions Pope Benedict to excommunicate Nancy Pelosi

CNSNews.com is reporting today that Human Life International (HLI), a Catholic pro-life group based in Front Royal, Virginia has called upon Pope Benedict XVI to “formally excommunicate” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the Catholic Church for her pro-choice views.

“The reason we called for the pope is because so many people have called on the bishops in the jurisdictions she lives in, who could possibly do it—and they won’t,” said HLI President Rev. Thomas Euteneur. According to CNSNews.com, Pelosi, whose family’s net wealth is estimated at $19 million, has a home in the archdiocese of San Francisco, headed by Archbishop George Niederauer, and, of course, works in Washington, D.C., the archdiocese overseen by Archbishop Donald Wuerl. 

The Catholic Church’s catechism with respect to abortion is clear:

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

Pelosi met with Pope Benedict in Rome on Wednesday, after which the Vatican released the following statement about the meeting:

“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”

Pelosi also issued a statement, focusing on issues other than abortion:

“It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show his Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.”

So, should House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be excommunicated from the Catholic Church?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (24)

Michael Steele's Gangsta Old Party

Everyone's having fun with newly-elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele's pledge, in an effort to revive the lumbering Republican Party by expanding its appeal to new younger constituencies, to rebrand the party with an "off the hook" PR campaign applying the principles of the "modern day GOP" to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

While the results of the Steele's campaign might be worth a few laughs, it can hardly turn out worse than the Republican Party's last attempt at minority outreach, the Bush/Rove "ownership society" plan to turn Hispanics into GOP voters by pushing low down payment home loans on them and other minorities, which further inflated the housing bubble with disastrous results. But in case you thought the rebranding effort ahead of Steele was impossible as well as comical, it may seem less far-fetched if you buy Eli Lake's arguments from a bloggingheads.tv discussion last October that the GOP is the natural party of gangsta rap:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 20, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The end of the Al & Mike Show

There are two more episodes left of the Al & Mike Show, before the show is retired into the depths of the internet.

But don't fret. Three weeks from now a new show will take it's place, and myself, Al MacDermid, and Jay Currie will be there.

The show will be re-branded and re-tooled, with the Toronto studio now being prepared to launch a second weekly show which will focus prominently on bloggers and media commentators. Some of the shows will be free-flow discussion focused, and others will be debate focused, with guests from opposing sides of various debates.

We are in the final stages of finalizing the name, exact scheduling, and mechanics of running the show.

At this point, I (Mike Brock) will be the moderator/host of the roundtable show. That may change. Or at the very least, we may alternate hosts going forward as I have a busy schedule that may limit my ability to carry the water of two shows. But we'll make it work.

As an aside: after speaking with Peter Jaworski here at the Western Standard, I know I speak for the whole team when I say that we at the Western Standard look forward to providing an ever expanding degree of innovative content which expands and raises the political discourse in Canada and around the world.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mr. Obama goes to Ottawa

I get a call yesterday from my sister. With a screaming baby in the background she asks me “what are you doing tomorrow?” I tell her that I’m busy and ask her why she asks. There is a silence, then she tells me she wanted me to drive her to Ottawa to see Obama. I laughed and the reason I laughed is because my sister has never voted in her life.

I don’t know many people who are more disinterested in politics, yet she had an interest to go see the President of the United States walk by her. I am willing to bet that she doesn’t know a single policy that Obama wants to promote. She’s heard my rants but I doubt she was listening. In fact I doubt that she really cares about President Obama.

She wanted to go to experience the crowd. There is a party going on in Ottawa today and my sister is not one to miss parties.

People say that Obama is reaching people like my sister and engaging them with his celebrity status. This isn’t true at all. My sister is still not going to vote in the next election. Even if she could vote for Obama I doubt she would bother. No, Obama is not engaging non voters; he is just the catalyst of some pretty decent parties.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Asking politicians uncomfortable questions

If you like watching politicians squirm, you'll really enjoy the interviews of Jan Helfeld. He asks simple questions intended to get his subjects to state the unstated assumptions behind their positions and assertions -- and he's persistent in his efforts to get a straightforward answer.

These are my favourite interview excerpts, along with my own interpretive summaries:

Q: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, do you pay your interns the minimum wage?

A: Uhmm... not exactly

Q: Then why should McDonalds have to?

A: This interview is over.

Q: Congressman Pete Stark, does government debt make us wealthier?

A: Of course. The more you owe the wealthier you are.

Q: Doesn't the government have to pay more interest if the debt is higher?

A: You're an economic ignoramus. Get the f@*# out of here, I'll throw you out the window!

Q: Senator Harry Reid, are taxes voluntary?

A: Yes.

Q: But doesn't the government threaten to use force in order to collect taxes?

A: Like I said, we have a voluntary tax system.

Q: Congressman James Clyburn, if you use race as a factor to evaluate a person would that be racial discrimination?

A: Yes.

Q: Is racial discrimination wrong?

A: Yes.

Q: If an educational institution uses racial preferences to determine admission, are they evaluating a person based on race?

A: You have to use race as a factor.

More of Helfeld's interviews are available on his youtube page and website.

(hat-tips to Bob Murphy and David Henderson)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (28)

Dawg's logic

Dr. Dawg's on a real tear these days, denouncing anyone who opposes Section 13 and then fails to sally forth immediately in defense of whatever cause is currently exercising him.

Of course, having one's free speech bona fides called into question by a blogger who supports censorship is more than a bit rich.

And now Dawg's delivered himself of this gem:

"At least Kenney's being honest and upfront about it. That's more than can be said for the aforementioned self-appointed defenders of free speech, who lose no time defending state suppression of it when it's Muslims rather than their neo-Nazi poster children who are at the receiving end."

You get that? Cutting off funding to an advocacy group is the same thing as hauling someone before a government tribunal for hate speech. They both constitute "state suppression."

Such is the illogic of those who support Section 13.

Posted by Craig Yirush on February 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (52)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Al & Mike Show - Episode 55 - Incoherence

A great episode. But don't expect a central theme.

Listen Now

Subscribe to RSS: Click here for podcast RSS feed.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Supporting freedom of expression is good policy - always

Dr. Dawg brings our attention to the incident at Carleton chronicled here. Students in a campus group -- Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) -- wanted to put up this poster:

Israeli Apartheid Week 2009 poster

I can't say I find the poster that offensive, but I do think it is stupid. Likely, I wouldn't agree with the members of SAIA about much of anything, except maybe that people getting killed is generally a bad thing. At the same time, we can all recognize that it's going to offend some people.

But if I were in charge, I'd still say, "Let them put up the stupid poster."

That's not what happened at Carleton. The administration informed SAIA that the "image could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario human rights code" and prohibited them in no uncertain terms from putting the poster up anywhere on campus.

Yes, indeed. The administration called upon "human rights" to justify the suppression of speech.

The parallels between this incident and the one at the University of Calgary are hard to ignore. In that incident, students protesting abortion were forbidden from displaying signs that compared abortion to genocide. They were later charged with trespassing when they ignored the university's unjust policy and stood up for their freedoms anyway.

I think it's tacky to compare abortion to the Holocaust. I also think the whole concept of "Israeli apartheid week" is tacky. But that doesn't really matter. If you're pro-choice, you should stand behind the students at the University of Calgary, and if you're pro-Israel, you should stand behind the members of SAIA at Carleton.

Censorship should be opposed. And universities should be shining examples of the benefits that accrue from the unhampered, free exchange of ideas -- even bad ideas.

Posted by Terrence Watson on February 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Lemieux: Garry Breitkreuz’s Bill C-301

In this week's column, Pierre Lemieux examines some of the steps and missteps that have been taken in Canada recently toward restoring our right to own guns without interference from the state.

As you can tell from the title, the centerpiece of Lemieux's analysis is Bill C-301, a private members bill introduced by Garry Breitkreuz, a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan.

On the surface, Bill C-301 looks like it might be a good thing. According to Breitkreuz's press release, it would "scrap the useless long-gun registry."

Unfortunately, Lemieux argues, gun control in Canada has become so convoluted, so entrenched, that Bill C-301 only addresses one part of the problem (and a small part at that.)

The probability that a private member’s bill without official government support, which is what C-301 is, will be adopted by the House of Commons is small. If the House does not get to vote on the bill in third reading, no damage is done to the power of the state and the support of some gun owners will have been bought at a cheap political price. If there is a vote, it is unlikely that the bill will gather a majority; Harper can then claim that he has no choice but to embrace the Liberals’ law. If the bill were to pass, the essential of the Liberal gun controls would remain in place. One way or another, Bill C-301 can only entrench C-68.

What Lemieux means is that Bill C-301 would leave untouched changes to the criminal code that established what he calls "the cattle registry" or what the Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association calls "the people registry."

Gun owners/users in Canada are required to apply for a license every five years ("Gun owners are registered like cattle," Lemieux writes.) If someone fails to renew his license, he can be stripped of his guns and sent to prison for up to ten years. Bill C-301, even if adopted, would do nothing to alter this part of the law.

Lemieux points out in some detail how the federal Conservatives have weakened their opposition to both "the cattle registry" and "the long-run registry" over time. Now, virtually no one attacks the former, while the Conservatives have only half-heartedly opposed the latter.

Listen to Harper who, in Miramichi (New Brunswick), headquarters of the despicable national firearms bureaucracy, he sided with the bureaucrats and declared, two days before Bill C-301 was tabled: “The firearms centre here does more than just the long-gun registry, there are other aspects of gun control that this government has every intention of maintaining.”

With friends like Harper, do the opponents of gun control in Canada need any enemies?

I like Lemieux's suggestion for an improved Bill C-301, a measure that would get near unanimous support from the Conservatives if they were really friends of liberty. Look for it at the end of his column.

Posted by Terrence Watson on February 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Peoples' Stimulus: Get Your Money Back!

Reason.TV [ed. The world's hottest economist, Michelle Muccio] is at it again. The Peoples' Stimulus is a plan that would cost the same as Obama's stimulus plan, but would consist of one simple act: canceling all payroll taxes for the remainder of 2009.

Now that's change I could believe in.

Posted by Janet Neilson on February 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)