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Friday, July 31, 2009

Understanding protectionism

With every industrialized nation struggling to survive the Great Recession, government focus has shifted back to the idea of protecting their respective economies. Up until the recession, focus seemed to be global economic interdependence ended up creating a large portion of nations’ wealth. That being said, it was and still is of the best interest of nations to trade with others. This is due mostly to the idea of comparative advantage; for instance, let’s say Country ‘A’ is able to produce wheat at $5 per unit, while Country ‘B’ can produce the same unit of wheat for $7. On the other hand, Country ‘B’ is able to produce steel at $10 per unit, while Country ‘A’ can only produce it at $15 per unit. Assuming there are little to no trade barriers between the two countries, it benefits both equally to trade with each other: Country ‘A’ sells their wheat to Country ‘B’, and Country ‘B’ sells their steel to Country ‘A’ (let’s say $6 per unit of wheat and $12.50 per unit of steel). Both countries receive profit from one good and gets another good for a lower cost than if they were forced to produce it themselves.

It’s easy to see that this simple concept is a timeless idea, but it’s not so easy to understand why some governments, particularly now, create policies that go the opposite way and hinder comparative advantage. Besides the fact that currently it’s often a matter of economic survival, it’s important to understand the various arguments or reasons why protectionism still exists in an age of mass economic globalization.

The first and most common argument involves the labour force; labourers from foreign countries that produce the same goods are often paid less than those in high-income countries like the U.S. or Canada, where the cost of business is higher. Because of this, some governments are worried companies (in other words, jobs) will move overseas to reduce the cost of operation. As we all know, wages and benefits are huge expenses for Western companies. Although most governments these days are at least partially in support of free trade, there are occasions where countries are losing jobs at an alarming rate. Governments will understandably be skeptical of the advantages of free trade if the one disadvantage out-shadows all else.

The second argument worth mentioning focuses on emerging domestic industries. In particular, governments of developing nations sometime set up tariff policies in place to protect “infant” industries; developing industries that are not yet stable and productive in comparison with the industries of more industrialized nations. These advanced economies have stable, mature industries which would otherwise crush the common industries of developing countries in a free trade situation.

Developing nations often have the lingering worry that if they allow completely free trade in the cultural industries, then the most commercially successful companies will dominate. This has the possibility of the cultural values of the developing country to erode away, replaced by the dominant culture. It’s a no-brainer that many will chose to sell American films if they far outsell films from the their home country, and America happens to have the most viable entertainment industry in the world. Unfortunately one of the most disliked countries in the world also happens to be America.

Finally, there is the case of countries deciding that another country’s trade policies unfairly discriminate against them. In retaliation, a common response is to impose similar barriers against the discriminating country. Although retaliatory tariffs and quotas can provide an incentive for negotiations (not a positive one at that), it can also lead to escalating trade wars, making both sides worse off than the original situation.

It’s now easy to see that these policies, though detrimental in the long-run, are tempting to nations desperate to survive the Great Recession. Whether they help, or whether they are morally and economically justifiable, will depend on who you ask. In the end it’s best to at least understand these anti-free trade practices, even if we don’t like them; especially if we don’t like them!

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on July 31, 2009 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Go Home Stupid"

"Go Home Stupid"; these words were uttered to me today as I was walking through Portage Place Mall in downtown Winnipeg on my way home after work. I didn't know the man that said these words to me, I don't think I've talked to him before, but he knew me. You see, by looking at my skin and facial features, many people would assume that I am descended from Western Europeans, and those people would be right; my ancestors were from Scotland, Germany and France, and I most identify with my Scottish heritage.

I'm going to speculate and assume that these words were said to me for 3 reasons;

  1. I look white
  2. I was wearing a shirt that said "Made in Canada"
  3. The man who said it was aboriginal

It makes me wonder, where was this man born? Likely in Manitoba Canada, just as I was. We may be from different towns, but likely the same province. Perhaps he doesn't recognize Manitoba or even Canada as legitimate concepts; OK, then I will point out that I was born on the same geographical land mass as he was. So, when he tells me to go home, where do I go? Aren't I already home? Aren't we from the same land?

I am being somewhat coy here, because I know what he meant by that statement. He saw my "Made in Canada" shirt, saw that I am Caucasian, and decided to put me in my place as a decedent of Europeans by telling me to "go home", or back to the land of my ancestors.

By doing this, he put me into the collective of "white man"; the oppressor of his people, the invader of his land. Of course, I didn't oppress him, I didn't invade his land, some Europeans hundreds of years ago oppressed his ancestors, I had nothing to do with it. In fact, my ancestors had nothing to do with it either; my great-grandparents came to Canada in the early 1900's and moved to Manitoba farms. And even if my ancestors were early Canadians that oppressed the aboriginals, that doesn't mean I am personally accountable for their actions. How can I be? They took place before I was born!

That is part of the problem with collectivism, it put people into groups without taking into account their individual natures; both many aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are guilty of doing this. It assumes incorrect facts which lead to faulty conclusions. This person didn't take into account that I have worked for an Aboriginal organization for nearly a decade, that I value and respect much of Aboriginal culture, that I am a supporter of Aboriginal sovereignty and denounce the Canadian government for the harm they have done to the Aboriginal people; none of that mattered to him because in his eyes I am a colonist.

Another fallacy of this collectivism is assuming that since one race of people occupied a land before another race of people that the later race of people don't have a "right" to be there. When you start seeing people as individuals then you can see that we have rights because we are people, not because we belong to a particular race.

In fact, by this mans own logic, he should be going home to Mongolia, where today's first nations people originate from, because before they came over there was another race of people inhabiting North America, the Clovis people. The human race emerged from East Africa about 200,000 years ago, so perhaps we should all move back there if we are to "go home".

Of course, that is not something I would advocate, we can all co-exist peacefully here, and that would be much easier to achieve if we would quit looking at people in the collective, as white or aboriginal, and just see individual people, each with unique thoughts, desires and histories.

Racist comments may be deleted.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 30, 2009 in Aboriginal Issues | Permalink | Comments (65)

Calgary's Best Restaurant - Right Now

Over the years and during the pre-recession oil boom that left its mark on Calgary's dining scene there have been a number of great restaurants that have risen to culinary prominence.  From "newcomers" like Alloy, Rasoi, Capo and the Parkerhouse Grill & Wine Bar to standbys like Cilantro, Il Sogno, Brava Bistro and the Catch Dining Room, Calgary now has a host of restaurants that offer meals and experiences previously reserved for dining centres like New York or San Francisco, or to a lesser and Canadian extent, Vancouver and Toronto and really offers a decent selection of genres, menus and styles.  So where among this collection of stellar restaurants can you find Calgary's best meal right now? The answer is Blink Restaurant & Bar downtown on Stephen Avenue.

Blink opened in 2007 to much critical acclaim and was recognized as one of Canada's Top 10 New Restaurants by En Route Magazine.  Despite recognition from critics, there was precious little buzz on the street about Blink and it seemed to be lost among its better-known competitors, many of which are referenced above.  This shunnery however, is most undeserved.

After deciding to give Blink a try for lunch one day, I have been a devotee ever since and have honestly, never had a bad meal or a bad service experience since.  The dining room is tasteful, the staff professional and the prices, while not those of "cheap and cheerful" fare as would be expected of a restaurant of this caliber, are reasonable.

Recently I stopped by for lunch with my favorite dining companion.  I ordered the peaches and cream corn soup to start and had the halibut with crusty cake as my entree.  Both were simply fantastic.  Great presentation, and subtle yet delicious flavours that provided ample kick, but were not overwhelming.  My lunch-mate had the asian-influenced albacore tuna tartar as her starter and then enjoyed the "pot roast" chicken, which upon reading the menu I pictured as a heavy, beastly dish that hardly seemed appropriate for lunch.  It was the opposite however, and was outstanding.  Again, subtle yet hearty flavours that would please even the fussiest palate.  Lunch was washed down with a couple of glasses (each) of the 2007 Cline Viognier, which is a star among many others on Blink's stand out wine list.  As an aside, and as crazy as this sounds, Blink has the best bread and butter that I have ever eaten.  Even my previous favorite bread and butter establishment, the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, Alberta, has been unseated.

One word of warning - the menu changes frequently, based on Chef Andrew Richardson's commitment to using local, organic produce and ingredients where possible.  Hence, if you look at Blink's on-line menus and have your heart set on a particular item, don't be surprised if you get to the restaurant and it is not offered.  This, in Knox's view, is a good thing and reflects true commitment to quality and innovation, as opposed to adherence to a tired menu that we see from too many run-of-the-mill restaurants.

Anyway, give it a whirl.  You have Knox's famous "Five Star Golden Guarantee" that it will knock your socks off.

Posted by Knox Harrington on July 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Solid As A Rock? Often, But Not Always. The Two Most Disappointing Albums Of 2009.

OK.  2009 isn't over yet, so indeed there may be more disappointing albums to come, but I thought it warranted noting that 2 of my favorites musicians have seen fit to release 2 of the worst albums in their respective catalogues.  Some background is also necessary, both are certainly stalwarts and maybe even pioneers of the alt-country/americana genre, and I worship the ground that both of these musicians walk on.  Hence, you, the reader, should recognize that this piece was difficult for 'ol Knox to write and that any criticisms set forth here on the mighty Shotgun are probably understated.  Just who are these folks you ask? Read on my friends.

First out of the gate this year was Steve Earle, with his Townes album, dedicated to the late and arguably great Texas singer-songwriter and Steve Earle mentor, Townes Van Zandt.  I say arguably because many, including Steve Earle himself, have railed on about his unquestionable songwriting genius, while I have never been terribly enthralled by either his songs, or Van Zandt's delivery of them.  Sure, "Pancho and Lefty" is a great song and is probably best delivered on the Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark Together At The Bluebird Cafe album, but the rest of his work I find morose, monotonous and one-dimensional.  It should have been no surprise to me then that Earle's tribute album is largely just that - plain, droning and sometimes, downright numbing.  It's not that Earle doesn't pour his soul into this one.  He clearly does.  His delivery just isn't enough to lift this album up out of the doldrums, given the nature of Van Zandt's material.  However, as an old friend of mine likes to say "the sun even shines on a dog's ass sometimes".  On that note, "Colorado Girl" is a great listen.  A brooding, intense number that really sustains repeated listens, this one warrants a download.  I would suggest that you pass on the rest of the album though, as much as it pains me to say it.  Kudos to Steve Earle though for the passion that was obviously thrown at this shout-out to his old, departed friend.

Next came Rhett Miller, lead singer, rhythm guitarist, songwriter and frontman of one of my Top 5 favorites bands of all-time, the Old 97's, with his self-titled album released back in June.  Now to be clear, I am the closest thing to an Old 97's/Rhett Miller/Murry Hammond (Old 97's bass player, singer-songwriter) sycophant as you can get, and I have loved nearly everything that has come out of them since their arrival on the scene in the early 90's.  Even Miller's previous solo albums, which while poppier and more slick than the usual 97's sound, have made Knox's ears ring and have set his toe-a-tappin'.  This newest effort though, while produced by genius-producer and longtime Miller friend, Salim Nourallah (who also produced last year's Old 97's home run album, Blame It On Gravity), really lacks any cohesion or punch and like Townes, never hooks the listener and instead, rambles through 12 disjointed tracks before coming to an end.  Like Townes too, the album is not all bad.  "Caroline" is worth a download, even though it certainly doesn't take up any space in the Miller/97's hall of fame.

I've always believed that Texas is the birthplace of much of the best music in North America.  With these 2 releases though, perhaps the solid foundation that belief rests upon is eroding.  Let's just hope that the upcoming Radney Foster release, Revival (September 1st, 2009 Release Date) restores my faith in Texas and the glorious sounds that emanate from the Lone Star State.

Posted by Knox Harrington on July 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stream of Blather

No, I'm not talking about this blog post. Chacun à son goût. Politicians' tweets:

On June 12, Canada's Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt was at a water park where her kids "had a blast." On July 5, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant went for an eight-kilometre run to work off the three breakfasts she ate on Canada Day. On July 12, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh was house hunting in Vancouver and worried the housing market might soon become unaffordable. 

These reports all come from the politicians' "Twitter" accounts, where they offer their "followers" play-by-play accounts of their daily activities and their reactions to current political and news events. 

Could there by anything less interesting than a politician's daily routine? Stream of consciousness is bad enough in literature, where the characters are fictional and can be made interesting. There is nothing interesting in the overwhelming majority of modern politicians. It's not that politicians are not human beings. Most of them are. Some are power and patronage obsessed scoundrels. Powerbots. I know I express the minority view. The vast majority of Canadians assume that all politicians are just a few steps ahead of the Crown prosecutor. 

Having spent many years studying the breed, both living and dead, I have noticed a marked decline in the interestingness of politicians. Those with long memories will recall Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau, very colourful figures. This is not to approve of what they did, simply to note that they provided fine entertainment value as they whittled away our freedoms. Bread and Circuses, without the need for a colosseum or Christians.

Anyone can nearly destroy an oil industry, whole industries are destroyed everyday through out the world. Hugo Chavez destroys two or three sectors of the Venezuelan economy before breakfast. Pierre Le Grand, however, did it with style. A pirouette here, a bannister slide there. That rose in the lapel. He was living proof that many women, even very pretty ones, don't so much mind if a man is short, ugly and arrogant. So long as he is rich and the Prime Minister of a G7 country.

With Trudeau you felt there was a genuine bastard beneath that slick bastard you saw on television. You just don't get that from, say, Dalton McGuinty. The feeling is that when the camera lights go off Dalt gets put back into the broom closet until tomorrow's media scrum. To borrow from Getrude Stein, which I rarely do, there is no there there. The image is everything. Tweeting is an intellectually sterile activity. What your teeth do with chewing gum, your fingers do to a keyboard when tweeting. Coherent thoughts are not just difficult but impossible. Could one tweet Hamlet? Or Pericles' Funeral Oration? Or Locke's Second Treatise of Government? More to the point, how can one tweet an image or a spin? A riff on an illusion. Even if one could cram an original thought into a tweet, no politician would be allowed to hit send.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ron Paul's son might run for Senate

I am in general suspicious of political dynasties, especially in the United States. This, however, is one dynasty that I can get behind.

From Fox News:

Sen. Jim Bunning's decision not to seek re-election next year has paved the way for Ron Paul's son to make his first foray into national politics.

Rand Paul, a Kentucky ophthalmologist, has said he would seek his state's Republican nomination for senator only if Bunning didn't. On Monday, Bunning announced he would not seek a third term because of a lack of campaign funds.

But Paul has not fully committed to a Senate run.

"We're very close and probably there will be some announcement from us in a week to 10 days,"he told FOXNews.com.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on July 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Free Talk Live: Liberty Radio

If you value liberty and you aren't familiar with Free Talk Live, then you're missing out. FTL is radio show and podcast hosted by Mark Edge, a self-described Minarchist; and Ian Freeman, a voluntaryist/anarcho-capatalist. They have frequent co-hosts that range from small-government libertarians to anarchists and speak honestly and frankly about the failings of the government paradigm.

The content of Free Talk Live is largely responsible for showing my the logic of liberty, and real-life solutions that are found through personal and economic freedom. They are members of the Free State Project, a movement of 20 thousand liberty loving people to New Hampshire to get active in promoting liberty.

You can listen on line for free at their website; they are live 7-10 Eastern Time, Monday to Saturday.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 29, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (1)

CBC on the 'Deniers'

And, no, it's not a smear job. Rather, it's a thoughtful conversation on the Ceeb's 'Ideas' program with Lawrence Solomon about his book of the same name.

You can listen here. Or download it on itunes.

Posted by Craig Yirush on July 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The fallacy of leveling

With the rise of modern liberalism as displayed through the victory of Obama last year come policies devoted to leveling. Though this doctrine is the norm here in the Great White North, the U.S. has a tradition of swimming against the current if the course will lead to disaster. Others in America wish to assimilate into the global world and adopt foreign policies for sake of national equality. Just as Edmund Burke warned the French of the fallacy of leveling, here lies a warning to those Americans who wish to listen. The contexts are different, but the points are timeless.

“Believe me, Sir, those who attempt to level, never equalize. In all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. The levelers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things; they lead the edifice of society, by setting it up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.”

In other words, those who attempt to level society are essentially turning the social structure upside down, with the foundation in the air and the roof on the ground. Such an idea is absurd in the physical world; it’s equally as absurd in the social world. The attempt to create equality through programs such as affirmative action, the welfare state, and over-taxing “the rich” are actually ensuring a shaky, deteriorating social future, if not an eventual social collapse.

That being said, there’s the counter-argument that purely relying on a hierarchy often leaves only those of inheritance to govern, and they might not be that bright or wise despite their “good blood”. As always, Burke has ready a strong response:

“You do not imagine, that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood, and names, and titles. No sir, there is no qualification for government, but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive.”

In simpler terms, he goes on by saying “[e]very thing ought to be open; but not indifferently to every man.” Although everyone should have the opportunity, not everyone has the right set of skills and talents, not to mention the vast wisdom needed to successfully govern a nation. And so it would make sense to have those not competent enough for power to be in power. Unfortunately this is often ignored in the name of equality. The process of gaining power should be hard enough to weed out those without true merit, but not be so hard as to exclude the great minds and hearts that deserve the opportunity, according to Burke. “If it be open through virtue, let it be remembered too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty, and some struggle.” Even when it comes to the left-wing’s emphasis on equality, historic imagery spring to mind: Would the ideas of equality be as hard-hitting has Rosa Parks not struggled to sit on the bus like everyone else; if MLK never wrestled with racism; if Hitler was never stopped?

Those from the left side of the political spectrum will denounce this idea of classical conservatism with the notion that those at the “bottom”, who make up the foundation of society, are subject to oppression from the state. However,

“Such descriptions [as a ‘hair dresser or a working tallow-chandler’ for example] ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule… [I]n asserting that any thing is honourable, we imply some distinction.”

Many argue that classical conservatives advocate prejudice and discrimination, but as Burke argues, “…you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.” He believes there is a natural order or hierarchy in society, and up until recently this idea wasn’t simply ideological musings, but observational fact. Left alone, the human species is much like the animal Kingdom in the sense of natural orders. Do you think the animal world would last very long if suddenly sharks had legs, dolphins had wings, and tigers lost their claws and teeth? Certainly not; that mental image is both comical and ridiculous. Today, this exact idea, applied to humans, is the norm in many, if not most countries. Interestingly enough the idea of leveling (in its pure form) was proven to be devastating, à la communism. Are we that short-sighted? If we considered history and the wisdom passed down by our ancestors, we would know that leveling is a failed experiment that’s ongoing simply because it’s such a feel-good issue. Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on July 29, 2009 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

It's not who votes that counts but who counts the votes: Clerk of U.S. House Publishes 2008 Election Returns

From Ballot Access News:

Ever since 1920, the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives has published a booklet entitled “Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election” after each presidential election. The Clerk has just published the 2008 booklet. It is 77 pages long and can be seen here.

This booklet uses arbitrary standards. For example, in the presidential table at the rear of the book, the “Independent” column contains the Ralph Nader vote, and Nader is properly credited with votes from every state but Oklahoma (because Oklahoma bans write-ins). This is true, even though Nader had different ballot labels in different states. In most states it was “independent” but in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah, it was something else. But, the “Independent” column collected all of Nader’s votes, regardless of label.

However, in the next-door column, the “Libertarian” column does not include any votes for Bob Barr from Tennessee. Instead, the authors of the table put the Tennessee Barr vote in the “Other” column, because Barr’s ballot label in Tennessee was “independent.” Also the chart omits Barr’s Maine write-in votes, even though the Secretary of State tallied them.

Read the rest.

And who does count the votes? It's whoever fills the office of Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, in this case Lorraine Miller, former director of intergovernmental relations for Nancy Pelosi (the woman now second in the US Presidential line of succession after VP Joe Biden). But don't worry, the Clerk is not always a Democrat, when the Republicans are in charge, they put in own of their own. That's democracy folks, popular sovereignty--government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 29, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

News Alert: Stephen Harper Has a Hidden Agenda

Fresh and original thinking from the Left:

The book lands at the conclusion that Harper has a hidden agenda, said Joseph, adding he lays out the evidence supporting his claim. 

He also said that anybody that considers themselves progressive, whether it be Liberal, NDP or progressive conservative, should be concerned. 

The prime minster’s intent, his political ideology, leads him to believe that many of the social programs, many of the economic policies that have been developed since the Great Depression of the 1930s are wrong," Joseph said.

He goes on to accuse Harper of looking at more so-called neo-conservative policies like those of Ronald Regan or Margaret Thatcher, which helped bring on the economic crisis the world is currently struggling with. 

As a Charter Member of the Canadian Vast-Right Wing Conspiracy, Toronto Chapter, let me express my shock and horror at being discovered. Yes, me and the PM go way back. Oh, how we used to laugh away the nights, with talk of throwing widows and orphans into the cold winter night. That's Social Darwinism, baby! Then we used to slap some waitresses around, because that's what us right wing guys do. I used to sell bumpstickers that said "Scrooge was Right!" My winter coat is made of adorable puppy fur. The Prime Minister has a matching coat I gave him for Christmas. 

Everytime Stephen Harper slashes a social program he laughs manically. I've seen him do it. He signs the Orders in Council with the blood of orphans. He says orphan blood flows more smoothly than that of children who are loved. Laureen Harper is not a real blond, it's a wig. Part of an elaborate disguise to hide her actual Cruella de Vil looks. There is a hidden agenda and you clever folks have figured it all out. 

The typical voter is just too dumb to understand the vast and subtle complexity of our plot. It's rather clever. You see Stephie - as his friends call him - has for the last three years tried to lull Canadians to sleep, except you vigilant chaps. Way back in 2004-5 the federal government's expenditures stood at $210.5 billion. Under two years of brilliant neo-con rule the expenditures reached $232.8 billion for 2007-8. By 2009-10 expenditures are projected to reach $258.6 billion. Hold on, you say, those are substantial increases? Exactly! By increasing government spending the Conservatives have convinced Canadians they are nice and friendly quasi-socialists. But just wait for that majority government! They'll start cutting like there is no tomorrow, and for you Left-wing chaps that's about right.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (46)

Union Rules

The most hateful words in the English language:  Teachers' Union
For years, top Manhattan public schools have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from parents to independently hire assistants to help teachers with reading, writing, tying shoelaces or supervising recess. But after a complaint by the city’s powerful teachers union, the Bloomberg administration has ordered an end to the makeshift practice. But such employees can command nearly double the pay of the independently hired assistants, and several schools on the Upper East Side either have told current employees they will probably not have jobs in the fall or have put off hiring new employees. 
That has incensed many parents, who see the aides less as a perk than as a necessity to cope with growing class sizes in well-regarded schools like the Lower Lab School for gifted children, where the average class size is now 28, and Public School 290, where broom closets are used as offices and the cafeteria doubles as a gym. 
 The current teaching assistants generally earn $12 to $15 an hour, compared with as much as $23 an hour, plus benefits, for the unionized paraprofessionals. Even if schools were willing to pay the higher salaries, they could not keep their assistants because of a citywide hiring freeze.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lindy performs "Shakedown," the pro-freedom of expression song, at the Liberty Summer Seminar

This past weekend was the ninth annual Liberty Summer Seminar held in Orono, Ontario. We will release video of all the speeches and events shortly, but we have a very special video that we are releasing right now.

The incredibly talented musician Lindy Vopnfjord put together a song in honour of our friend and former publisher, Ezra Levant, and his continuing battle against the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The song, appropriately called "Shakedown," sharing a name with Ezra's book, is a tribute to freedom of expression, and hammers home the message that the Canadian Human Rights Commissions are in violation of this traditional Canadian freedom.

The song was debuted at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar. Here is the video:

The song will be released on iTunes within the next two weeks. We will let you know when it's available, so that we can all support a Canadian musician who deserves to get some change out of our pockets for his efforts.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 28, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (13)

“That has never happened before.”

The life and death of newspapers. H/ T Bob Tarantino.

That is uncharted territory. As Shirky points out, “There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke.” Crawley speaks of Stackhouse pushing for the paper to be more “authoritative,” a word that could also describe his management style. Three days after his appointment, the new editor flew to Ottawa to tell the bureau he wanted it to concentrate more on policy and governance, less on partisan feuding or gossip. Last week, a senior official in the PMO marvelled that a Globe reporter called to check a fact, noting: “That has never happened before.”

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Kitchen Cabinet

Nik and Dick:

But the event is best remembered for what happened on opening day in the kitchen of the model home: an unplanned and increasingly heated exchange of views between Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, and his “host,” Richard M. Nixon, the U.S. vice-president. In many ways, the "kitchen debate" was a dialogue of the deaf:

Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It’s like those of houses in California. See that built-in washing machine?”

Khrushchev: “We have such things.”

Nixon: “What we want to do is make more easy the life of our housewives.”

Khrushchev: “We do not have the capitalist attitude toward women.”

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Clearing the Streets

All perfectly legal:

It’s a very simple strategy and it will probably work. Blitz the downtown eastside [of Vancouver], giving homeless people $350 tickets for jaywalking or other minor infractions, which they can’t possibly pay. Continue doing this for a few more months. A week or two before the Olympics begin, start jailing everyone for failing to pay their tickets. It’s legal. It’s practical. And it will ensure that the tens of thousands of tourists coming to Vancouver for the Olympics will never see what residents and visitors to the Downtown Eastside see the rest of the year.
An arbitrarily applied law makes mockery of the idea of a government of laws and not men. To rigorously enforce jaywalking would mean ticketing practically everyone in a city. It's a law that's rarely enforced in Toronto. I've met exactly one person who has received a jaywalking ticket, and I suspect he was doing something fairly stupid at the time. In modern Canada there is a plethora of petty laws regulating individual behaviour, laws practically no one observes or enforces. Nor is it only pedestrians who are covered. 

It's virtually impossible to consistently obey the Highway Traffic Act, indeed doing so is often dangerous - i.e. driving at a legal speed that's well below the flow of traffic. Many of these laws were drawn up with the understanding that they would be applied in a reasonable manner. You might be technically breaking the law, but unless you were presenting a clear risk to others, the cops would look the other way. Because the application is so subjective, it can be easily abused. In a recession the number of traffic tickets issued tends to go up - as do the informal ticket quotas given to officers - to help meet shortfalls in municipal budgets. In the case of the Vancouver Eastside, one of the worst areas in the country, the city fears images of the homeless caught by foreign television crews.

Getting rid of such laws would be the knee-jerk response. Laws that cannot be enforced fairly shouldn't exist. I suspect, and I admit I'm not a lawyer, that the laws could be re-written in a less arbitrary fashion, while giving the police the necessary authority to act when appropriate. Speed related to the overall flow of traffic, rather than an arbitrarily established figure (Ontario's 400 series of highways were designed for speeds of 130 km/h in good conditions, not 100 km/h). Jaywalking based on flows of traffic at the time. I would certainly be interested in hearing the polite suggestions of others. Do we need these type regulatory or administrative laws? If so how can they be enforced fairly? Is the basic issue here that roads are not privately owned?

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (45)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jack Layton to attend nominations for Edmonton candidates

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton will be in Edmonton Tuesday evening to attend the nominations for the New Democrat candidates in Edmonton East and Edmonton Centre.

“We made a breakthrough in Edmonton in the last election, and we’re intent to keep the momentum going,” said Layton. “I am very excited to be attending this nomination meeting to meet the people that will join Linda Duncan in our Alberta caucus.”

New Democrats are focussing on Edmonton during the summer break from Parliament. The New Democrat Caucus Retreat will take place in the city shortly after the start of the Parliamentary session in September.

I learned on Dave Cournoyer popular blog – daveberta – that Lewis Cardinal, educator and community activist, is running uncontested in Edmonton Centre, a riding held by Conservative Laurie Hawn. And Ray Martin, former Alberta NDP leader, is running uncontested in Edmonton East, a riding held by Conservative Peter Goldring.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Municipal land-grabbing powers should be curtailed: Frontier Centre

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a study from policy analyst Joseph Quesnel which looks at the practice of municipal expropriation for economic development. In his study, Quesnel argues that this practice must be curbed as it prone to serious abuse.

The Frontier Centre backgrounder, Expropriating for Economic Development: A Carte Blanche for Municipal Mismanagement, looks at the case study of the Fouillard family in rural Manitoba. This family had their land forcefully expropriated by the municipality of Ellice in order to make way for the municipality's planned tourist venture. During the process, the municipality ignored recommendations from an independent inquiry that said Ellice did not require as much land as they eventually expropriated. The Fouillards also have evidence the municipality is seeking third-party developers for the project. They also have yet to hear of any concrete plans for the property.

"Individual property owners need to be protected from this sort of government duplicity and abuse. In many cases, it is clearly a case of David-versus-Goliath where governments act as the latter with the ability to bully individuals into selling their land,” notes Quesnel. “Unfortunately, expropriation on the grounds of economic development is a municipal power not only available in Manitoba, but also in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick.”

Instead of broad-sweeping expropriation powers, Quesnel suggests that provincial legislation restore expropriation to its original intent: a last-resort measure to allow for public interest projects, such as highways, bridges and other publicly-available infrastructure. Quesnel points out municipalities can better aid local economic development by working with higher levels of government to improve the training and education of their local workforce and providing for broad-based tax relief for all businesses, not just the politically-connected.

Moreover, in the case of Manitoba, provincial legislators should adopt procedural safeguards for individual landowners who find themselves in these situations. Measures should include:

• The passage of an individual landowner's bill of rights;
• Third-party panel reviews of expropriation actions;
• A  binding requirement that all municipalities consider inquiry independent reports in good faith, and clauses that define what may or may not be expropriated.

Manitoba and all Canadian provinces should follow the lead of the United States, where the majority of state governments have enacted legislation that curbs or eliminates this practice. After a narrowly-decided U.S. Supreme Court judgment, 41 states moved to prevent local governments from expropriating land for the purposes of third parties or for raising local tax revenue. Prior to 2005, only eight states had such laws on record.

"While job creation and community economic development are useful goods to pursue, they do not justify government encroachment on private land, “says Quesnel. “Such encroachment is too arbitrary, and it leaves individuals and families too vulnerable to the government's substantial powers."

The Frontier Centre backgrounder, Expropriating for Economic Development: A Carte Blanche for Municipal Mismanagement can be downloaded here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

The absurdity of ‘misconduct’ in politics

In any society, there are those in power and there is the opposition. It makes sense that the opposition will disagree with the governing power’s policies. And yet, many countries such as Canada have a strange system where even if the country fairly votes a particular leader in, the opposition can call an election at any time, assuming a majority government was not achieved. Majority governments are hard to make happen without the candidates shifting towards the centre to get all those “swing” votes. In reality “swing voters” are people who either know very little about politics or only care enough to vote but not enough to make an informed decision. These people call themselves “centrists” or “moderates” out of fear of having to defend their views if challenged (too much work). My point is that with minority governments, it’s hard to get things done effectively and efficiently. In most cases the matter takes longer than it should and is often watered down by the opposition trying to pull the policy a little bit more to their side of the political spectrum. It’s very annoying to have election after election gobbling up the public’s money, not to mention their political interest. If there’s a way to get bad voter turnout, it’s to have election after election in such short periods of time; the more one does something the less special it becomes each time. Finally, I believe giving the losers of elections continued employment in the public life ensures that they keep trying their clearly unpopular policies. What good is that? Where’s the incentive to scrap bad policies and adapt to what’s needed and wanted?

Interestingly enough, Edmunde Burke warned of this over three centuries ago: “No government could stand a moment, if it could be blown down with anythign so loose and indefinite as an opinion of ‘misconduct’”. The truth of this quote astounds me, and the image of the left-wing coalition that almost came into existence early this year immediatly pops into my head. In case you were hiding under a rock, the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois were considering banding together and voting down Harper’s budget in order to get in power. With this, Harper was forced to create a very Liberal budget – luckily for the Liberals, the Great Recession was just beginning and expansionary fiscal policy (which includes increased spending) had to be used anyway. The fact that Harper was forced to suspend Parliament in order to stay in power is embarressing. To me Harper was not trying to save his job but rather he was trying to save Canada from the greedy opposition that happened to be using a financial crises as leverage. It’s bad enough that they were trying to get into power on illegitimate terms, but they also took away a lot of time and effort that could have been concentrated on the recession. Burke explains that if something as subjective as ‘misconduct’ is officially considered, a competent, strong, healthy government cannot occur. For every opinion, even if it’s the majority opinion, there will be several opposing opinions. In other words, there will always be someone who disagrees.

The “progressive society” is based around the idea that all opinions are equal, and that all ideologies have merit. A communist in Canada has equal respect from your typical Canadian to say, a conservative. Of course this doesn’t apply for all places and people – there are exceptions, but I believe the extreme emphasis on everyone having an equal say on everything is harmful to having an efficient, policy driven government. When politics is about how to word a policy proposal propertly so the opposition doesn’t get offended by it (God forbid!), there are going to be problems. Finally, this idea makes political apathy and moderation something that’s encouraged by our leaders and authorities rather than frowned upon – intentional or not. And people wonder why no one votes anymore! When politics becomes even less exciting because of an abstract idea of ideological equality, the public interest will keep hitting record lows. Recall the hardline anti-communism in the 80’s, and the fact that no nuclear war ever erupted when it easily could have. Liberals will call it a coincidence; I say it has everything to do with the fact that Americans wanted to preserve their country and culture against the Communist virus that took over eastern Europe. People got fired up, got interested, and got angry. Today Canada has zero fear of an attack. It’s sad that politics is only of interest when facing crises, but I suppose it comes with being so darned friendly with those adorable totalitarian regimes – after all, their views are equal to ours right?

After posting the original draft on my website as I normally do, I regular reader asked me this:

Just a thought: would a two-party system go a long way to rescuing our government from paralysis and mediocrity?

I answered with the following, and although I repeat many of the same points, I believe it's worth adding to those who haven't already read the post:

No, of course not. The point of this post was not to denounce several parties running for office, but to denounce several parties running the country, allowed to pull the political rope their particular way (for certain policies over others, no less).

I argue that our system, in which policies are slapped around by all sorts of ideological parties, is inefficient and harms the public’s interest, not to mention their money that goes with costly elections. I welcome as many parties to give a go at winning over the public’s support – a system where only two parties are considered isn’t necessarily the one I want to adopt. Can we not have perhaps three or four equally popular parties, one of which gets to govern for four years? Maybe it’s just too simple and straight forward, or maybe human nature defies logic – something that’s not uncommon.

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on July 27, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Abolish the Reserve System

This is an update to a post I made in April of 2008.

A paper published in April 2008 by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy suggests leaving the reserve might be the key to success for First Nations people.

Leaving reserve is key to aboriginal success: think tank

Many reserves are short on resources, recreation, education and other necessities They often have higher rates of suicide, alcoholism and spousal abuse compared to urban centers, leaving the reserve is not a bad idea if a person is living in these sorts of conditions.

Jacqueline Romanow, acting director of the Aboriginal Governance Program at the University of Winnipeg, agreed with (The Frontier Centre's) findings.

"The reason why people do better off-reserve is because there's more access to resources and education and opportunities," she said. "So how do you bring those opportunities and resources and make them accessible to everyone in Canada?"

A PDF of the full report from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

What I propose is different though.

Reserves are funded by the federal government through what are called transfer payments. For example, Manitoba reserves received $582 million dollars in transfer payments in 2000.

Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada Transfers to Indian Bands by Region 1992-2000

45% of the federal government's income is from income tax. So, the reserve system takes the income from one group of people and transfers it to another group of people, it is wealth re-distribution, which is an immoral practice and should only be done on a consensual, voluntary level.

While recognizing that treaties have been signed in the past which accounts for these transfer payments, the people of today were not a party to those agreements, yet they are on the hook to pay for them.

The reserve system keeps the people living on reserves dependant on government handouts. Dependency is not a good thing in these sort of cases, with it there is little incentive for competition, innovation, bettering one's self, etc.

Often reserves were set-up in areas that the people didn't already live; they might have been moved there, often to less than ideal surroundings. Traditionally, Aboriginal people lived off of the natural resources of the land; but if put in a less than ideal area it becomes harder to do that, then the dependency occurs.

Something I think that many Aboriginals will have to face is that much of their traditional lands are gone; they were taken over by the European settlers and later the Canadian government which claims ownership over all lands in this country. Lands claims have dragged on for generations and are rarely settled because the government doesn't want to give up control; government is about control.

I propose 3 things;

First - Self Reliance

Firstly, the federal government gets out of the business of funding and running reserves, with full control being given back to the communities. They can choose which system they want, be it with chiefs, a hereditary system, communal property or some other system; they can choose. They can govern themselves according to their own customs and practices. They can live as they see fit and use their resources as they see fit. They will not need any permission from federal or provincial governments in how they choose to use their resources or do business.

The reasons for this are many; firstly it will foster self-reliance. This is very important; when things are handed to you often they will not hold the same value as if it was something you earned. In the current reserve system, the band owns most of the houses, not the individuals. Incentive is important when becoming self-reliant. The government has created a culture of dependance which is damaging aboriginal people.

Second - Private Property

The second thing to look at is land claims. If the land claim process is to expedited, then some measure of surrender needs to be conceded. Trying to get the land back that the government stole from aboriginal people hundreds of years ago is going to be nearly impossible, as evidenced by the generations of efforts already put forth to little reward. Be willing to take less than you want.

Make it true private property with clear boundaries and definitions, get a large enough area that your people can live off of and use for both survival and perhaps leasing to companies for forestry, hydro, mining etc. That can provide a very nice income for a community without the interference or permission of the federal government.

Gone will be the many instances of the federal government giving permission to companies to do work on traditional lands without the consultation of the communities; which is an all too often occurrence. Gone will be the need for road blocks and violent conflicts over land (such as the Oka Crisis) if there is true private property.

Third - Sovereignty

Has the federal government ever fully honored a Treaty? I would be glad to see one, because they are like talking dogs; they don't exist. The Canadian government has a long history of abuse when it comes to Aboriginals; residential schools, outlawing their ceremonies, racism, not being able to vote, etc. Withdraw from all of these treaties, they have all been breached and there shouldn't be an expectation that they will be honored through enough negotiation and diplomacy, stop doing business with the Canadian government.

Declare yourselves independent, sovereign, self-efficient nations that can exists peacefully between each other. If a particular first nation didn't sign treaties (such as the Gitxsan) then they are already one step closer to true sovereignty.

These steps will promote native self government, freedom, and I am convinced that it would improve conditions on reserves tremendously because once you are no longer dependant on the government teet you can go forward with all of your will and power and make a life for yourselves. The people of today will no longer be responsible for the mistakes and crimes of people that lived before, as they shouldn't be.

The first step has already begun. The Lakota Nation in parts of the U.S. have withdrawn from all treaties and declared themselves a sovereign nation.

Republic of Lakotah

A step in the right direction as I see it.

Doing these things will allow aboriginals to govern themselves. It won't be the same way it was 500 years ago, that isn't very likely to happen on a large scale, but aboriginal communities can once again flourish if the federal government would get out of the business of running the lives of the Aboriginal people.

To quote Aboriginal actor and activist, Russel Means;

Anyone of integrity in the world would be insulted that their government has a department that is strictly to oversee an ethnic group.

Please keep replies cordial and on topic about the issues, racists comments may be deleted.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 27, 2009 in Aboriginal Issues | Permalink | Comments (37)

Ron Paul: The immorality of taxpayer funded abortion

In his latest column, libertarian Congressman Ron Paul writes:

Healthcare continues to dominate the agenda on Capitol Hill as House leadership and the administration try to ram through their big government healthcare plan. Fortunately, they have been unsuccessful so far, as there are many horrifying provisions tucked into this massive piece of legislation. One major issue is the public funding of elective abortions. The administration has already removed many longstanding restrictions on abortion, and is unwilling to provide straight answers to questions regarding the public funding of abortion in their plan. This is deeply troubling for those of us who do not want taxpayer dollars funding abortions….

You can continue reading here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Climate change agreement facing challenges

First, the good news: Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd thinks an agreement on climate change still faces obstacles. The bad news: The climate is getting colder.

In “Climate change agreement facing challenges” published by the Western Standard here, Dr. Murgatroyd writes:

Just as the earth continues to cool – global average temperatures have fallen 0.74 degrees Fahrenheit since Al Gore released the film An Inconvenient Truth and forty six US states just recorded the coldest June since records began – the world’s G8 leaders are seeking a basic agreement on climate change.

They are facing challenges in doing so.

Murgatroyd lays out three reasons for why a general, multilateral agreement on climate change faces an uphill challenge. First, the Kyoto Accord will do little to reduce emissions. Second, the developing world wants to continue developing. Third, there is disagreement on how to best achieve the CO2 reduction targets.

Murgatroyd also thinks we’re in a 30-year cooling trend.

You can read Murgatroyd column here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Day pursues WTO challenge to European Union's seal products ban

Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, wasted no time in pursuing a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge to the European Union’s regulation passed today to ban trade in seal products.

Day and the Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced today that the Government of Canada will request WTO consultations on the seal products ban.

“I stated that the Government of Canada would launch a WTO challenge should a seal products trade ban not include an acceptable exemption, and today I am following through on that promise,” said Minister Day. “I will continue to defend the right of Canadian sealers to provide a livelihood for their families as they have done for centuries, through a hunt that has repeatedly been proven to be humane, sustainable and lawful.”

WTO consultations represent the first stage in the WTO dispute settlement process. Consultations provide the parties with an opportunity to resolve a dispute through formal discussions. If consultations fail to resolve the issue, the matter can be referred to a WTO dispute settlement panel.

On July 27, the European Council of Ministers adopted a regulation effectively banning the sale of seal products to the European Union. The legislation does not contain an exemption clause for humanely harvested seal products, and it specifically prohibits the marketing of products resulting from sustainable and humane commercial hunts. The Government of Canada views this as a violation of the EU’s WTO commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

“The scientific evidence is clear that the Canadian seal hunt adheres to rigorous standards of animal welfare,” said Minister Shea. “Sealing provides crucial jobs in many Aboriginal, northern and coastal communities where other economic opportunities are often limited. By caving in to pressure from professional anti-seal-hunt lobby groups, the European Union has taken a short-sighted and irresponsible action that will hurt thousands of Canadians. Our government has consistently defended the rights of Canadian sealers to pursue a living and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect their livelihoods from this unjustified and indefensible ban.”

The new request for consultations is linked to an existing dispute. In July 2007, Canada launched WTO consultations with Belgium and the Netherlands on their respective seal product bans. Consultations were held on November 11, 2007. Those consultations did not resolve the matter, however, as both countries are members of the European Union. Canada will seek to resolve both matters through discussions with the European Commission.

Canada will be in a position to submit its request for consultations with the European Communities in the coming weeks, once the Canadian government has fully reviewed the final European Council of Ministers’ decision.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Europe and the seal hunt

Anytime I hear a blogger or a columnist or anyone else blindly attack Europe as being full of bleeding heart socialist plutocrats, I have always rolled my eyes. Europe is a dynamic continent full of diversity of opinion and attitude. Yet right now I'm in the mood for some good Europe bashing.

According to the Globe & Mail, the European Union has passed a resolution to ban the 'for profit' trade of seal products. This in an effort to end the seal hunt in Canada, Greenland, and Russia.

I fail to see how the seal hunt is any less humane than killing a cow. How many of these European politicians eat steak or wear leather? As far as I can see the only difference is they perceive them to be cuter than a cow. My girlfriend thinks that chickens are cute (the freak that she is), if these Europeans agreed with her would they be introducing a chicken product ban?

What we have to keep in mind is that these politicians aren't just doing harm to the people whose livelihood depends on the seal hunt. They may think that the seal hunt is wrong but the thousands of Europeans that freely purchase seal products obviously disagree. These politicians are taking away their own people's freedom to decide for themselves if the seal hunt is immoral or not.

It is clear that not all of Europe is in agreement with this ban. If they were then there would be no market and no need of a ban. So I take back my desire for Europe bashing and instead mourn for those who have lost their job and those that have lost their freedom to buy a nice seal coat.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Harper puts Day on shaky ground in opposition to EU ban on seal products

While government negotiated trade agreements are always political, banning a legal product due to the objections of a noisy lobby group could open the floodgates to more politically-inspired trade restrictions where not even a misguided case is made for economic protectionism.

That’s a good argument against the European Union's (EU) decision today to ban seal products.

If consumers in the European Union object to Canada’s seal hunt, and many of them do, they should continue with their boycotts. No action by the EU is necessary.

Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, is prepared to take this issue to the World Trade Organization and is fiercely defending Canada’s seal hunt.


Sadly, though, Day is on shaky ground – not because his argument is weak, but because Canada is guilty of the same practice.

The Conservative government recently passed Bill C-32, an initiative by Prime Minister Stephen Harper which bans flavoured tobacco products already prohibited for use in Canada by minors.

This has U.S. tobacco growers – hard working people with families to feed – crying foul. Kentucky tobacco growers, in particular, are lobbying desperately to scrap the legislation before it is passed by the Senate. The Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association says the legislation could lead to the devastation of “an entire segment of the American tobacco growing community."

Day argues that the EU ban on seal products will “serve no purpose other than to damage the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families.”

He's right. And if the Conservative government had more commitment to trade and to the livelihoods of families south of the border, he might be in a better position to defend Canadian sealers.

If seal products are banned by the EU, don't blame PETA; blame Harper and his decision to pander to anti-tobacco lobbyists and to indulge his own authoritarian impulse.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

MSNBC ad contest: Evian Roller Babies is a front runner

MSNBC is running a contest this summer for the best ad. And while there is still time to nominate your favourite ad, here's one that has people talking:

I find it a little creepy. How about you?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saskatchewan crime rate and severity down, but still highest in Canada

Saskatchewan's reported crime rate and overall crime severity has dropped for the fifth straight year, according to a recent Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics report. The crime rate in the province fell 4 per cent in 2008 while the severity index dropped 5 per cent. The Regina and Saskatoon Census Metropolitan Area crime severity index values were both down 13 per cent, while the crime rate fell 7 percent in Regina and 10 percent in Saskatoon.

Youth crime is also down in 2008, with the youth violent crime rate dropping 10 percent. Even so, Saskatchewan continues to have the highest provincial police-reported crime rate and crime severity index value in Canada.

"These downward trends are encouraging. They suggest that our government's initiatives are working and that we're headed in the right direction," Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan said. "Nevertheless, there is a lot more to be done. We must continue to work hard to develop and implement programs that not only address crime as it is committed, but also root causes of crime such as addictions, unemployment and lack of education."

Current programs to address crime include increased number of police officers and prosecutors, family violence prevention, rehabilitation programs, literacy initiatives, victims' services and anti-gang strategies. These programs involve communities, local police services and community-based organizations.

"Rather than just focusing on the crimes and the offenders themselves, we must work together to address the issues surrounding why people commit crimes in our communities. These are important factors to consider not only between our different government ministries, but across society as a whole," Morgan said.

If unemployment is a cause of crime, Canadians can expect more of it as we go through this recession.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Where All the Employees are Above Average

Is this a good or a bad thing?

Workers in the federal public service continue to have the highest rates of absenteeism in the country, and they are shooting upwards in step with an economy-wide increase in days away from work over the last 10 years. According to Statistics Canada, last year federal employees were absent from scheduled work 16.2 days on average, between sick leave, family demands, and other personal reasons. 
This is in addition to vacation days, maternity leave and other scheduled time off. The next most absent groupings of workers were: - health-care and social-services providers, - provincial public servants and - municipal employees. Still, according to the Statistics Canada study, absenteeism rates in all sectors of the economy have been rising since the late 1990s with an average of 7.4 days lost per worker per year in 1997 up to 10.2 days in 2007.
So that's 10.2 days for the average worker, 16.2 for federal workers. As the Public Service keeps telling us, they are truly above average. The natural outrage is that taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth. Why do government workers get away with stuff like this? Because bureaucrats are different from you and me, they "work" for the government. 

The central problem of government administration is accountability. If that government Customer Service Rep tells you to go to the back of the line your options are: 1) scream or 2) obey. The phrase I'm taking my business elsewhere doesn't apply, so there's no need to bother playing nice. From personal experience I see people lose it far more often in government office than in private institutions. The last thing a front-line customer service rep wants at a bank or insurance company is a customer complaint. The unionized drone on the other side of the passport counter knows that short physically assaulting a "client," they have jobs for life. The bright side is that the less time governments employees spend at their desk, they less time they spend interfering with the rights of others. Note that I say employees not workers. Work implies productive effort.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Spike Lee on free speech, and why the state should get out of the business of licensing media

MSNBC reported that American Filmmaker Spike Lee defended a free press Friday during a visit to Venezuela to screen his 1989 film "Do The Right Thing."

Lee said there are "no circumstances" under which news media should be silenced.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is looking to revoke the licenses of 240 private radio stations and Globovision, a “strongly anti-Chavez TV channel.”

While support for a free press is popular even among Hollywood leftists like Lee, the bigger issue here is the government licensing of media outlets. When media businesses operate only at the pleasure of the government and regulators through licensing requirements, the notion of a free press becomes a fiction.

This is as true in Venezuela, as it is in Canada.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Stockwell Day calls on European Union to reconsider seal products trade ban

Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today issued the following statement after learning that the European Council of Ministers is slated to consider adopting a proposal for a regulation on trade in seal products as early as tomorrow, July 27, when the Council meets in Brussels, Belgium.

“The Government of Canada is gravely concerned that the European Union is continuing to push for a ban on seal products without any consideration of an exemption for Canada’s humane and sustainable seal hunt. The proposal currently being considered within the EU will serve no purpose other than to damage the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families.

“We are calling on the European Union to reconsider the proposed seal products trade ban.
“Canada has clearly lived up to its obligations, and our position remains that any ban on a humanely conducted hunt such as Canada’s is completely without cause.

“We are particularly concerned that no one in the European Union has listened to the Inuit on this matter. This misinformed and ill-considered regulation will strike at some of Canada’s most vulnerable communities.

“Canada’s seal hunt is lawful, sustainable and humane, and the Government of Canada has worked hard to defend Canada’s position internationally over the last few years. The issue has been raised at every opportunity at the highest levels, including by the Prime Minister.

“Direct representations have been made abroad by Canada’s diplomatic community, and delegations have met with European officials, among other advocacy activities.

“Canada urges the EU to consider the effect of this proposed regulation on northern communities and to listen to Inuit views on the issue. Inuit groups are unanimous in their condemnation of this measure, particularly in the context of the commitment by the EU to take into account the interests of northern peoples.

“Should the EU choose to adopt a seal products trade ban that does not contain an acceptable derogation for humanely harvested seal products, Canada will defend its rights and interests under the relevant World Trade Organization agreements.”

Day and Shea will be holding a press conference tomorrow to discuss this matter with the media.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hot Room Live from the LSS

The Hot Room Live. Streaming live from the Liberty Summer Seminar. Internet link is via Satellite, so it may go up and down. But listen in to see what's going on.

Free live streaming by Ustream

Posted by Mike Brock on July 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Carbon capture: Alberta’s $60 billion public relations boondoggle

It’s not often the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Alberta NDP find common ground, but the organizations do share an opposition to what could be a $60 billion carbon capture boondoggle.

The Alberta government released the final report yesterday of the Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council. Its recommendations are designed to be a blueprint for how the province can best implement carbon capture and storage (CCS).

While the Alberta government committed $2 billion to this project in its 2009-10 provincial budget, which contained a devastating $4.7-billion deficit, the project could cost taxpayers as much as $60 billion.

Albertans could see staggering tax hikes for 20 years if the government goes ahead with their carbon capture initiative, NDP leader Brian Mason said yesterday.

“Polluters should be paying for this, not taxpayers,” said Mason, who warned of the ballooning costs of carbon capture when the government announced their initial $2 billion subsidy. “CCS is an unproven technology that offers no long-term solution to reduce emissions. Ed Stelmach is on track to turn his $2 billion gamble into a $60 billion boondoggle.”

A carbon capture report states spending up to $3 billion per year for up to 20 years will be required to make CCS projects commercially viable.

“We have to assume Albertans are going to bear that cost,” Mason said. “If this government is considering billion dollar investments to combat climate change, they should fund renewable projects like solar or wind.”

Whether the cost of carbon capture is borne by industry or taxpayers, it still amounts to a massive misallocation of resources that will make Albertans poorer and raise unemployment.

“Rushed schemes based on questionable computer models, like carbon capture, come at real costs of, for example, fewer needed public housing units, other spending that more effectively benefits our environment like better water and sewer systems, more spending on education or healthcare, and lower taxes,” according to the Frontier Centre.

Furthermore, climate change expert Tim Ball argues that “CO2...not causing warming,” making this carbon capture scheme nothing more than a costly public relations scheme.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (22)

Myths of American Health Care

For over four decades Canadians have been taught, in schools and the media, that one of things that makes us special is that health care is free. Well free if you don't mind paying elevated tax rates and waiting months for basic surgery. The second part of the Medicare Mythology is the portrayal of American health care as a Dickensian nightmare. This dovetails neatly with traditional Canadian anti-Americanism. America is an evil, overly individualistic place in which only the strong survive. Both Darwinian and Dickensian. This editorial provides a useful antidote. Despite the massive regulation and control of American health care, the remaining market element is still able to delivery world class health outcomes. H/T Paul Tuns.

• America has a health care crisis.

No, we don't. Forty-seven million people lack insurance. Of the remaining 85% of the population, or 258 million people, polls show high satisfaction with the current coverage. Indeed, a 2006 poll by ABC News, the Kaiser Family Foundation and USA Today found 89% of Americans were happy with their own health care.

As for the estimated 47 million not covered by health insurance, 20 million can afford to buy it, according to a study by former CBO Director June O'Neill. Most of the other 27 million are single and under 35, with as many as a third illegal aliens.

When it's all whittled down, as few as 12 million are unable to buy insurance — less than 4% of a population of 305 million. For this we need to nationalize 17% of our nation's $14 trillion economy and change the current care that 89% like?

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Human Rights Museum Wants More of Your Money

Construction on The Canadian Museum for Human Rights , which started in April of this year, is taking place Winnipeg and set for completion in 2012. So far they have begged for, and gotten, $160 million dollars of government money.

Is it well spent?

Officials at The Canadian Museum For Human Rights announced earlier this year that they would require an extra $45 million in donations because rising construction costs had driven up the price by 17 per cent.

On Friday, they announced plans to approach various provinces and the City of Winnipeg to help foot the $310-million bill.

So they screwed up by not budgeting properly. And who will hold the bill for their screw up? The Canadian public, everyone of us.

And why wouldn't they beg for government money? Corporate welfare is a blight, yet time and time again government cozies up to their buddies in big business and makes deals that benefits their friends, giving millionaires more money for their projects and businesses, while the average middle class person (the majority of Canadians) are forced to pay for it.

Force people to pay for a Human Rights Museum, ironic.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 24, 2009 in Corporate Welfare Alert | Permalink | Comments (18)

Wildrose Alliance brass confirm Willerton as leadership candidate

Willerton-small Jeff Willerton has made it through a stringent process to become a Wildrose Alliance leadership candidate. Now he has to convince party members he is mainstream enough to be Alberta’s premier.

While the Wildrose Alliance has yet to release the news officially, the Western Standard was the first to confirm today that author and social conservative activist Jeff Willerton has met the requirements to become a candidate for the leadership of the party.

In an interview with the Western Standard, John Hilton-O’Brien, Chair of the Leadership Committee, called the requirements for prospective candidates “stringent.” All leadership candidates must go through the following process:

1) Complete the candidate questionnaire.
2) Interview with the leadership committee.
3) Submit non-refundable, non-tax deductible entry fee of $10,000.00.
4) Sign candidate declaration (non-disclosure agreement).
5) You will be provided with list of all current members. (Excel format)
6) Collect 100 signatures of current members.
7) Confirmation of candidacy.

According to Hilton-O’Brien, to get through this process successfully, a candidate must demonstrate that he or she is “dedicated, personable, hard working, and a good networker with an ability to fundraise,” qualities and skills the party is looking for in its leader. Hilton-O’Brien says the party is “happy” to see Willerton in the race.

Like all candidates, Willerton has a past that his opponents will no doubt use against him and the party. An incident that stands out is Willerton’s involvement in what was described as a “melee” at a June 2006 gay pride parade in Calgary. Willerton was part of a two-man counter-protest that turned violent when parade-goers responded to placards that read “No Pride In Sodomy.”

When asked about this incident and the possible political liability Willerton’s candidacy might bring, Hilton-O’Brien, who has a masters degree in philosophy, answered candidly: “I think Jeff is the kind of guy who learns from his mistake, and the pride parade was one of those mistakes.”

Mistake or not, Willerton’s social conservative views will resonate with many in the Wildrose Alliance, a party Hilton-O’Brien describes as “an alliance of social conservatives and libertarians.” Many social conservatives are concerned, for instance, that the gay rights agenda has moved from a legitimate movement against government prohibitions on the gay lifestyle to an illegitimate movement that threatens free speech and religious freedom, a fear best captured by a recent Alberta Human Rights Commission decision to impose a lifetime ban on Red Deer pastor Stephen Boissoin from speaking critically against homosexuality.

As for whether or not Willerton is the right candidate for the new party, one that hopes to mount a serious challenge to Stelmach’s Progressive Conservative government, Hilton-O’Brien says the Wildrose Alliance is a grassroots party and that the membership will make this decision at the October leadership convention and vote.

Hilton-O’Brien says he has received one other serious expression of interest in the party’s top job, but so far only Danielle Smith, Mark Dyrholm and Willerton are confirmed candidates.

(Picture: Jeff Willerton)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Leigh Sullivan endorses Danielle Smith

With the internet playing an increasingly important role in connecting voters to candidates in modern politics, it’s important to pay attention to the blogosphere.

Alberta-based Leigh Patrick Sullivan, who owns The Moderate Separatist blog, is someone I drop in on whenever I can.

In a recent story on the Wildrose Alliance leadership race, Sullivan gives readers his take on the declared candidates, Mark Dyrholm and Danielle Smith, after interviewing them both. Here’s an excerpt of that post:

Mark Dyrholm has a strong team, strong connections, experience, and an unquestioned desire and ability to lead the Wildrose Alliance and indeed the province to a better place.

Danielle Smith shares my libertarian values, my fiscal conservative leanings, my Alberta-first mindset, and possesses a certain charisma that is essential for a leader, especially in Alberta.

In the end, after fair and careful consideration, he gives his endorsement to Danielle Smith.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Jeff Willerton enters Wildrose Alliance leadership race

Willerton-small I’ve been getting emails from friends in Wildrose Alliance circles that Jeff Willerton has met the $10,000 requirement to become a candidate in the party’s upcoming leadership race.

I spoke to Willerton today and he confirms that he has, in fact, met the requirements to become a candidate. He's in.

While Willerton has plenty to offer Alberta fiscal conservatives, his candidacy will no doubt energize social conservatives.

You can learn more about Willerton here.

(Picture: Jeff Willerton)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (22)

Should we trust the state to combat the hypersexualization of teenaged girls?

Nerds What’s the best strategy for combating promiscuity among teenagers? The conservative answer to this question would likely focus on strengthening the family, which typically calls for policies that reduce the interference of government in institutions like the family, church and community, and, perhaps most importantly, in education, where moral instruction has been either eliminated or replaced with an agenda for moral relativism.

I’ve argued many times on this site that a libertarian society would be a culturally conservative one. Big government crowds-out and weakens civil society and de-risks destructive behaviour while directly subsidizing counter-culture movements that would otherwise be marginal.

Not everyone in the libertarian movement agrees with me, of course, but what sensible libertarians agree on is that we must have a free market in culture, built upon property rights, in which values that enhance society are supported while values deemed unhealthy to society are marginalized. In a free society this process of discriminating among values would be done without coercion, which means without the interference of government.

This brings me to an announcement yesterday that the Government of Canada is supporting a program to address the "hypersexualization" of girls.

Helena Guergis, Minister of State for the Status of Women announced $144,361 in funding over 36 months for the “So, Are You Clicking as a Couple?” project. Funding for this project comes from the Women's Community Fund of the Women's Program of Status of Women Canada.

"Research shows that hypersexualization puts pressure on girls to engage prematurely in sexual activity and also promotes violence in intimate relationships," said Ms. Marie-Laure Leymonie, Coordinator of the program. "Thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, the girls will learn to identify abusive behaviour, set limits and have healthier, more equitable relationships."

I don’t question the motives of Leymonie. I’m sure she is deeply committed to teaching young girls about sexual boundaries. I do, however, question the motives of this government and others that continue to weaken the civil institutions that best regulate social behaviour.  Helena Guergis and the Conservative government are marginalizing these failing institutions with well-meaning but ineffective government programs staffed by army of social workers.

In “What It Means to Be a Libertarian,” author Charles Murray made a simple observation that has stuck with me. In order to have vibrant civil institutions, these institutions must be required to perform vital functions. This, of course, requires reducing the scope of government in areas like welfare, education and the raising of children.

In short, teenage girls don’t need the state; they need their parents.

(Picture: Nerds help combat hypersexualization of teens)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (26)

Disorderly Conduct

Over the last week I have been following with some interest the story, which has gotten little coverage in Canada, of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Professor Gates is among the leading public intellectuals in the United States, focusing on African-American history and culture. While I don't generally agree with his ideas, he is nevertheless a highly regarded academic with a prestigious perch at Harvard. Last week Gates was returning from a trip to China to his home in Cambridge. Finding the front door stuck he and his driver forced it open. Noticed by a neighbour, she called the police reporting a possible break and enter. An officer soon arrived, what happened next is in dispute. 

The police report has the officer, a Sgt Crowley, being confronted by an arrogant, shouting and insulting Gates, who in due course was arrested for disorderly conduct. Gates' version has the officer entering the house without permission, treating him rudely and refusing to provide a badge number and name (which an officer is required to do under state law). There is no dispute that Gates, before he was arrested, provided proof he was the lawful occupant of the house. The charge was disorderly conduct. 

Because of Professor Gates' race, he is a light skinned black, the charge of racism was immediately leveled at the officer. Indeed, according to the police report Gates accused the officer of being racist from early on in the incident. No one can know what was passing through the mind of the officer when he placed Gates under arrest. What we can make a fair judgment on is the absurdity of arresting a 58 year old man, who walks with a cane, for disorderly conduct on property which he has a legal right to occupy (the home is owned by Harvard University). Whatever the racial politics involved, and I don't discount them entirely, this seems like another case of an officer who expected something more than compliance with the law, he expected submission. Gates may not have been smart to talk back to a police officer, but he was perfectly within his legal and moral rights to object to what he perceived was unfair treatment. If a cop can't take being talked back to, perhaps he should find another line of work.

The below piece from Slate is the most fair minded description and analysis of the incident I was able to find:

I know Gates and find it very hard to imagine him engaged in "disorderly conduct." But many police officers demand more than orderly conduct; they demand submission and deference. Given the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, they usually deserve it. But it would be naive to imagine that there are no power-hungry bigots wearing the uniform. Anyone, particularly a black person, needs only to encounter one such rogue officer to find himself in serious jeopardy—at that point a few hours in custody is about the best one can hope for. Maybe Gates, who is well-acquainted with the history of American racism, raised his voice in anger or fear. Maybe he even unfairly berated Crowley. But there's no way that the slight, 58-year-old Harvard scholar, with his cane, posed a threat to public order that justified his arrest.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (22)

Malaise Forever

Jimmy Carter tells America it's all in your head:
Several of our discussions were on energy, and I have a notebook full of comments and advice. I'll read just a few. "We can't go on consuming 40 percent more energy than we produce. When we import oil we are also importing inflation plus unemployment." "We've got to use what we have. The Middle East has only five percent of the world's energy, but the United States has 24 percent." And this is one of the most vivid statements: "Our neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC has a knife." "There will be other cartels and other shortages. American wisdom and courage right now can set a path to follow in the future." This was a good one: "Be bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment."
Which for Jimmy Carter meant bigger and more intrusive government. The energy crisis of the late 1970s had one basic source: price controls. When President Reagan abolished the remaining domestic petroleum price and allocation controls on January 28, 1981, oil began a six year price slide. Much of the "malaise" of the Carter years stemmed from a network of regulations, controls and taxes that had emerged over the previous twenty years. While de-regulation began in earnest under the Carter administration, it was under his successor that the growth of government was slowed and, for short while, even reversed. The problem with Carter's America was a lack of freedom. Barack Obama shows every intention of repeating the economic mistakes of the past. It wouldn't be too far fetched to imagine a Obama Malaise speech circa 2011.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exposing the “dirty oil” myth: Emissions from oil sands comparable to U.S. crude production

Two independent studies released today have found direct emissions from producing, transporting and refining oil sands crude are in the same range as those of the other crudes refined in the United States.

The Life-Cycle Analysis of North American and Imported Crude Oils is based on two independent studies that comprise the first robust comparison of domestic, imported and oil sands crude processes in U.S. refineries. The research, conducted over the past year by U.S.-based consulting companies Jacobs Consultancy and TIAX LLC, was funded by the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI).

The studies found that direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oil sands are generally about 10 per cent higher than direct emissions from other crudes in the U.S. If cogeneration is taken into consideration, oil sands crudes would be similar to conventional crudes in terms of GHG emissions.

According to AERI, previous studies used a simplified model representation for calculating direct emissions from different crude oil sources. This new research shows a wide range of emissions resulting from the production, transportation and refining of oil. The range of emissions is based on several factors including location, reservoir depth, oil characteristics and production technology.

“The likelihood of comparable GHGs has been supported intuitively in some studies over the last couple years, but we felt it was critical to ascertain, in an open and transparent manner, if the data supported it,” said Dr. Eddy Isaacs, Executive Director of AERI. “It can be difficult to test past assumptions, but the facts in this case provide an additional level of confidence.”

“One of the key considerations is that emissions from the oil sands will continue to decline as new technologies continue to be field tested and commercialized,” said Dr. Isaacs. “We are pleased to further this kind of research as technology and innovation hold the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

All AERI non-proprietary research is made available to researchers and policy-markets around the world for the benefit of global solutions. Established in 2000, AERI’s mission is to enhance the development of clean energy resources through research, technology and innovation. AERI is working with the Government of Alberta to support or provide advice on initiatives that work to advance sustainable energy development and address greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Alberta government announces vaccine program despite disputed link to autism

Jenny_mccarthy_at_e3_2006 This fall, the Alberta government will offer a free seasonal influenza vaccine to all Albertans six months and older. Immunization can be obtained through public health clinics and some physician offices and pharmacists beginning in October. 

“This is something Alberta has been working toward for a number of years,” said Ron Liepert, Minister of Alberta Health and Wellness. “It is a valuable investment in strengthening the public health system in Alberta, and is the best way of protecting Albertans from seasonal influenza viruses that we see every year.”

Separate from the seasonal influenza vaccine, the province is also working on its plan to immunize Albertans against the H1N1 influenza virus sometime this fall. Details on that immunization program will be announced when available.

“Immunization continues to be our best defense against influenza,” said Dr. André Corriveau, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Whether you have underlying medical conditions that put you at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications or may be in contact with someone who does, it is important for all Albertans to get their flu shot to reduce transmission of the virus.”

Additionally, individuals 65 years and over and those who are at high risk because of certain health problems are strongly advised to get the pneumococcal immunization as it may be beneficial in the prevention of both pneumonia and influenza-related diseases.

Vaccines, especially childhood vaccines, are not without controversy. As a result of a campaign led by former Playmate and actress Jenny McCarthy, a growing number of parents are concerned in particular with the alleged link between childhood vaccines and autism, a mysterious behaviour and learning disorder. In a recent essay, Dianne Katz with the Fraser Institute reports that:

“In the first US survey of public opinion about the purported vaccine-autism link, the Florida Institute of Technology found that nearly one in four adults (24%) believed that it was safer not to immunize children because vaccines maycause autism. Another 19% weren’t sure (Florida Institute of Technology, 2008).

Katz argues that there is not persuasive link between vaccines and autism:

Despite the dearth of evidence linking vaccines to autism, parents have filed more than 5,500 claims with the US government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program alleging such (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). But a panel of the US Court of Federal Claims ruled earlier this year that “petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive,” and “the weight of scientific research and authority” was “simply more persuasive on nearly every point in contention.”

Katz concludes her essay with an appeal for facts, not fear, to prevail in this important debate:

Ultimately, voters, parents, policy makers, and regulators must insist upon facts in formulating action. Star power and propaganda are only as powerful as we collectively allow them to be. Jenny McCarthy and her followers should be free, of course, to espouse whatever twisted notions they can possibly formulate. But it is incumbent upon the rest of us to distinguish myth from reality.

(Picture: Jenny McCarthy)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (67)

Mark Dyrholm unveils Alberta Pension Plan policy

With federal and Alberta government representatives meeting in Calgary yesterday to discuss the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Wildrose Alliance leadership candidate Mark Dyrholm took the opportunity to release details of his policy for an Alberta Pension Plan (AAP). 

"Albertans would benefit much more from an Alberta Pension Plan than they presently do with CPP. Thirty-four percent of what Albertans pay into the CPP is not staying in this province. Some of it goes to CPP claimants in other provinces, and some to an Ottawa investment fund into which Albertans contribute disproportionately as compared to the other provinces,” said Dyrholm.

Dyrholm points to the 2003 round of CPP premium increases, where the CPP takes over $4 billion annually from working Albertans. Little more than half of that comes back to the province in the form of pension and other benefits. The remainder stays under federal control, partly to pay benefits in other provinces, and partly to be invested by a federally-appointed board.

"All staying in the CPP does is mortgage the future of Albertans with a permanent unfunded liability. The CPP also penalizes Albertans as they pay more into the program than they will ever see in return. Albertans are proportionally the highest net contributors to the CPP. In fact, studies show that we pay 34 – 57 per cent more into the plan than we receive. It is time to put Albertans first," continued Dyrholm.

According to Dyrholm, Section 94(a) of the Canadian constitution gives Alberta the right to opt out of the CPP, something Quebec did at the outset of the program in 1965, and something any other province can do upon three years’ notice to Ottawa.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Illegal Blasphemy in Ireland

If you visit Ireland after October, you'd better watch what you say about God.

A blasphemous slip of the tongue could cost you 25,000 euros under revamped legislation that will soon be signed into law.

Blasphemy is an act of challenging or offending a religious belief.

Liberty takes a step back for the folks in Ireland. Not only does this threaten atheists, agnostics and the non-religious, but also anyone who values freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of/from religion, and the separation of church and state.

Though a similar law is unlikely to happen in Canada, Western governments love to borrow bad ideas for each other and this need to be watched; this is not a good day for liberty.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 23, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (60)

When the Canucks Come Marching Home

Back in 1917 William Jerome and Seymour Furth had a hit with When the Yanks Come Marching Home:

For there'll be smiles and miles of tears,  
When the Yanks come marching home 
 There'll be tears enough you know to make a dozen rivers flow 
 Dressed in their torn and tattered suits of tan 
 From battle fields across the foam Hearts will beat with joy for every boy 
 When the Yanks come marching home.
A sentiment shared by a recent poll conducted on Canada's role in Afghanistan:

Canadians are proud of their men and women in uniform and support for the mission in Afghanistan is holding steady, but a majority of Canadians want all of the troops brought home in 2011 when Canada's mission there is due to end, according to the results of a new poll.

In 2008, 37 per cent of those surveyed by Ipsos Reid said all of the troops should be pulled out, while 45 per cent said they should stay for non-combat-related efforts, such as training Afghan security forces.

Now, 52 per cent say all the troops should leave Afghanistan when Canada's commitment there ends in July 2011. Only 27 per cent now say troops should stay to perform non-security-related duties.

The shift comes from a combination of mission fatigue and rising casualty figures. So far 103 Canadians have died fighting in Afghanistan, less than a third of the number of Canadian fatalites in the first 24 hours of D-Day. Afghanistan is the largest military operation conducted by Canadian forces since the Korean War. In the half century since the general public has been taught to think of Canada as a peacekeeping nation, a sharp contrast to the alleged war mongers to the South. 

Airbrushed from history has been Canada's military victories in two world wars. At Remembrance Day ceremonies the suffering of the fallen and the survivors are emphasized, not what they accomplished. Not the remarkable skill and planning of Vimy Ridge, or the dogged courage of Juno Beach. The image projected is of Canadian servicemen as hapless victims of circumstance, rather than soldiers of a free nation overcoming extraordinary odds. 

Intellectually most Canadians have no way of coping with the concept of a just war. Instinctively they feel a mixture of pride and pity - the last emotion evoked by poor quality news reels from long ago history classes. The soldiers must not be disrespected, the mission however is something profoundly uncomfortable. That Afghanistan was a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists, and military intervention lead to the overthrow of a nasty theocracy, lends a basic credibility to the mission. No one imagines that Afghanistan will be anything like an peaceful society in 2011. The attitude now is that we've done our bit, so we can go home now.  George M Cohan's legendary World War One song expressed a very different sentiment:

Over There, Over There

Send the word, send the word, 

Over There

That the Yanks are coming, 

The Yanks are coming,

The drums rum tumming everywhere

So prepare, 

Say a Prayer

Send the word,

Send the word to beware

We'll be over, we're coming over.

And we won't be back till it's over over there!

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (35)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Room - Episode 10: Wildroses and Birthdays

Danielle Smith, contender for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta joins us for an interview. It's Terrence's birthday, and much more.

Listen Now

Subscribe to RSS: Click here for podcast RSS feed.

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

Posted by Mike Brock on July 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

As long as Global TV is warning us about "health care scares"...

Global TV news, as you may recall from my post yesterday, is concerned that opponents of the "Obamacare" plans to adopt socialized medicine in the United States are "not telling Americans"  all that they need to know in their ads.  Anchor Kevin Newman warned about a "health care scare" that could threaten to change "the focus [of the debate] from their system to ours".

God forbid that Americans would want to look northward and find out whether socialized medicine works in practice before trying it themselves. God forbid that Canadians should themselves ask whether our medicare system works. But that's just me I guess.

Any story addressing what really happens in Canadian medicare will probably depend on anecdotal reporting.  Enter conservative internet humourist Steven Crowder.  Mr Crowder was born in Detroit, but grew up in Montreal (as you can tell by his ability to pose questions in French).  For his latest video, he decided to return to Quebec and see what would happen if he claimed a non-urgent medical problem or wanted a medical test, filming surreptitiously what happened to him. His video includes casual interviews with Canadians underwhelmed with the treatment their relatives received. In the days since the video's release, Mr. Crowder has been interviewed about his video for U.S. news programs and it's not too hard to guess that Mr. Crowder's video might go viral soon. (Mr. Crowder is also replying to some critics of his video in a post of his own.)

My observation is this--if Global TV is so worried that Americans will be wrongly frightened about the problems of Canadian medicare, what about doing a story, with hidden cameras, about how long it takes to get medical care and treatments in a typical Canadian town? What about looking at a case mentioned in one of these "health care scare" ads and refuting its claims directly?

I'm sure that if Mr. Crowder can pull off his video with a couple friends and a handheld video camera that an entire Canadian TV network can manage to do a similar story. If said network is already doing stories about Americans being allegedly misled about Canadian medicare in TV ads, this would be a great way to refute any mistruths that are out there, right?

How about it, Global TV?

Posted by Rick Hiebert on July 22, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (9)

Assembly of First Nations Election Today

Today in Calgary The Assembly of First Nations is holding elections for a new national chief.

The AFN acts as a large lobbying organization that pushes for aboriginal issues with various levels of government.

UPDATE: Shawn Atleo, an Assembly of First Nations Vice-Chief from B.C. is the new AFN National Chief. Nearly 24 hours after the voting began, his opponent conceded when Atleo garnered 58 per cent of the vote on the 8th ballot.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 22, 2009 in Aboriginal Issues | Permalink | Comments (7)

As Quebec Goes, So Goes the Nation

Yet again:

 It might very well be time to give majority government another try in Canada.

This is a notion, new polling data suggests, to which Canadian voters are coming around in growing numbers. And with good reason. The country is now on its third minority government in the past five years, and another election looms. The political climate has rarely been more poisonous, governance more unstable, or Parliament more dysfunctional. But Quebecers, more than other Canadians, have the power to give the country majority stability.


 As noted above, Quebecers more than others have it in their power to break this log-jam, by taking a more active hand in national governance instead of "parking" their votes with an increasingly irrelevant Bloc Québécois. Had Quebecers voted for national parties in the same proportion as other Canadians in the last election, we would have a majority government. The instability of minority times makes the government of Canada weaker, which serves the sovereignists' interests but not the public interest.

The hard truth of Canadian unity, and why Quebecers "park" their votes with the Bloc, is that each of the two solitudes views Canada differently. To anglophones Canada is - save some of the more Balkanized ethnics ghettoes - their country. To francophones, especially in Quebec, Canada is simply a vehicle to advance their cultural interests. If French culture can be better preserved by keeping Quebec in Canada, so be it. If independence - or whatever half-way house euphemism the separatists are using at the moment - looks like a better option, vive la independence! 

The Bloc Quebecois is monumentally useless if your political aims is something humdrum, like forming a government. But if the goal is to extort concessions form the rest of the country, by raising the specter of national destruction, the Bloc is wildly successful. Stephen Harper has to run a national governing party. The West wants to scrap the Wheat Board and the Long-gun Registry. The typical Ontarian couldn't tell wheat from cauliflower and is terrified of being caught in a drive-by, while touring the less scenic parts of Toronto. A certain measure of negotiation and compromise is required to run so disparate a group, how much is another matter. Giles Duceppe, the longest serving party leader in Canada, doesn't have to face such wide cultural chasms. He leads a nearly monoethnic one issue, one note party where the internal debate is about when to pick up and leave. The swing voters who alternately support the Bloc, the Tories and the Liberals, aren't Canadians mulling over policy options, but foreigners in spirit trying to get the best deal. Expecting them to put Canada's interests above their parochial concerns is a fantasy.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (50)

Jeff Willerton from A to Z...almost

Jeff Willerton, who, if the rumours are true, is expected to announce his candidacy for leadership of the Wildrose Alliance soon, summarizes his policy views in a clever A to Z list.

A is for Agriculture; B is for Bureaucracy; C is for Capitalism. And on it goes to the end of the alphabet ending in Z is for Zygote.

Strangely, the A to Z list is missing W and Y. There is no W is for Wildrose Alliance or Y is for Yeoman.

Notwithstanding these missing letters, there is some good stuff on this list. Here are three examples:

C is for Capitalism: Like democracy, it's not perfect, but vastly better than the alternatives as it improves the lot of most and opportunities for all. What we have witnessed in these last two years is not a failure of capitalism, per se, but what is in reality a failure of the mixed market.

F is for Freedom: Without it nothing else matters, and the deeper government reaches into your pocket, the less you have.

K is for Kilo: Thank you, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

If Willerton enters the leadership race, he'll be running against declared candidates Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)