Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« December 2009 |Main| February 2010 »

Friday, January 29, 2010

If the Liberals thought it was wrong to prorogue they should fight an election

For a while now we have been hearing how awful it was for the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament. Both the Liberals and the NDP have been jumping up and down full of sound and fury. For them this represented the decline of democracy in Canada. Mr. Harper was not acting like the leader of a democracy but a dictator. Canadians were treated to political ads that accused Mr. Harper of having something to hide. They accused him of closing Parliament for his own narrow political interests.

The people responded in anger. There were protests and the Conservative Party dropped dramatically in the polls. A majority of Canadians opposed the shutting down of their Parliament. The opposition that never seemed to be able to get a handle on the government, finally had an issue to fight for.

So you would expect there to be an election, wouldn't you? I mean, democracy is at risk; Parliamentary democracy as we know it will be doomed if Stephen Harper continues to be Prime Minister. So shouldn't the leader of the opposition thus do everything in his power to remove such a poison. Or at least put the question to the people to see if they think that Mr. Harper has abused his power.


It seems fighting for democracy is not a good enough reason for Mr. Ignatieff to force an election.

For the record I thought that the proroguing of Parliament was inappropriate but that the Liberals were over the top in their rhetoric. Still if they actually believed what they were saying instead of trying to score cheap political points, I would expect them to...well you know...actually fight for what they believe in.

The Liberal Party of Canada once again proving just how spineless they are.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (38)

Hey America! Look at Your Future

Courtesy of your friends, across the pond, at the NHS:

The Government’s drugs rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), has provisionally said that it does not intend to recommend the use of the drug, called Tocilizumab, or Roactemra.

Nice claims that the £9,000 a year drug, for rheumatoid arthritis, has not proved that it is cost effective.

But patients in Scotland are to receive the treatment after it was recommended by the body which regulates drugs on the Scottish NHS, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

The move will reopen accusations of medical ‘apartheid’ within Britain.

It follows an outcry after patients in Scotland were given access to expensive cancer drugs denied on the NHS in England and Wales.

Beyond even the darkest of satires. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Just Too Good

Egalitarianism meets argumentum ad absurdum:

The Government will tell the professions that they must do more to take in people from state schools as part of a new drive to increase social mobility.

A new Government panel will be set up, where professional bodies will be expected to set out plans for changing the mix of people they recruit.

The plans will be set out in the Government’s formal response to a report by Alan Milburn, a former Labour Cabinet minister, who has called for action to break the "closed shop mentality" which characterises professional occupations such as the law, media, finance and medicine.

Leaving aside whether the media is a profession, in the sense that law, medicine and even finance might be characterized as such, the numbers are in fact damning:

He said: “The door to the professions, where many of society's good jobs lie and many more will come in the future, is too often closed. Figures show 75 per cent of judges, 70 per cent of finance directors, and 45 per cent of top civil servants were privately educated, yet just 7 per cent of children go to independent schools.

Now follow the bouncing ball closely children. Imagine an old time TV commercial, the ones that used to pitch detergent. The nice housewife - pardon the cro-magnon slang - would be using Detergent A on her husband's shirt, then Detergent B. The indignant housewife then turns to the camera holding up a less than perfectly white shirt, a hapless victim of the incompetent Detergent B. Hubby will never win the Johnson account with a shirt like that! Housewife smiles at the camera and tells everyone to buy Detergent A. 

In Gordon Brown's Britain we replay the scene. The nice, and heavily tattooed and pierced, co-habitational partner of a non-specific gender, cleans his/her/its Che Guevara T-shirt. The taco stains are pretty well entrenched. Hopefully Detergent A can help save the day. "Partner" has a big interview tomorrow at the local Tesco, and Che has to look his most heroic. Detergent A does the job well, and Detergent B again muffs it. Che has still got a guacamole stain. No way for a hero of the people to look. The co-habitational partner snarls at the camera: "Buy Detergent B!" Sure it sucks, but that's not poor Detergent B's fault. 

It's a cut-price product, it's engineers graduates of second-tier universities where chemistry courses deal only imperfectly with organic compounds. To insure that these graduates are allowed the maximum possible social mobility, that being the ultimate ideal of any enlightened society, the government has guaranteed them posts as engineers in the research laboratory of Detergent B. It's not Detergent B's fault that Detergent A hires its engineers from better schools, graduates with a firmer grasp of carbon-based compounds. These are details. In any case, Detergent B's lobbyists (all graduates of elite schools) are actively working to have a directive imposed on Detergent A's manufacturer, insisting that it employ more incompetent, sorry, "disadvantaged" engineers. Now rinse and repeat with medicine, law and finance and imagine the results. 

Still, the poppy-chopper has a point. It is unfair that 7% of the students seem to get access to so many of the top jobs in Britain. The unfairness lies less in that old Left-wing hobby horse, The British Class System (Copyright 1066), and more in the fact that 93% of British students have a state financed and managed education inflicted on them. After the destruction of the old grammar schools in the post-war era, the British educational system has been heading toward North American levels of mediocrity. The old elite "public" schools, like Eton, Harrow and Winchester, as well as scores of less well known but high quality independent schools, are still providing something like a decent education. Not being fools, the admissions officers at Oxbridge, LSE and University of London, admit bright students with bright futures, not the unfortunate car wreck victims of state education. Ending the unfairness would begin, though of course Mr Brown would never suggest such a thing, in reviving the old grammar schools, and with them the spirit of independent and quality education in Britain. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Not banning the burka is the right move

The Conservative government has made it clear that they have no intention of banning the practice of Muslim women wearing burkas. It is heartening to hear the government promising not to interfere with at least this much individual liberty.

Personally I find the burka to be unsettling. Not because it is a symbol of Muslim faith, it isn't really. The burka is unsettling because it is often a symbol of feminine oppression. It is a way to keep women isolated from the rest of society. It is a way to keep them subservient.

Yet it isn't the place of the government to combat this particular travesty. As Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said:

"Canadian women have the right, if they want, to wear a burka. As a woman, clearly it makes me a little uncomfortable. But then there are other practices that are perfectly legal and acceptable that make people uncomfortable."

It may seem contradictory to accuse the burka of being oppressive and say that people should have the choice to wear it, but it isn't really. Some women may legitimately prefer to wear the burka. They may do it for cultural, religious, or any other personal reason. In such a case the woman chooses her own isolation.

The harm comes from when a woman if pressured or forced to wear it by their husband or father. The general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Nathalie Des Rosiers said it well when she said:

"It goes without saying they should not be subjected to pressures from their communities, but neither from their government."

The issue of the burka is an issue that we should face as a society. It is not an issue for the strong arm of the state.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (23)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meanwhile in California...

So why are they locking up Marc Emery?

There's a new store in East Oakland that's sure to draw a huge cloud of controversy.

The building just down the way from the Oakland Airport is the newest place to pick up gear for growing medical marijuana. But iGrow isn't just a cramped, out of the way space.

The 15,000-square foot warehouse is a one-stop shop for everything cannabis cultivation -- from lights and fans to fertilizer and additives. An on-site doctor will issue recommendations and technicians will be on-hand to teach prospective growers how to get their roots into the business.

However, there's one item that won't be on the shelves at iGrow -- the plants. Seedlings can only be sold at dispensaries and iGrow doesn't fall into that category.

In one my favourite plays, A Man For All Seasons, one of the characters remarks that if you're going to make trouble, make the kind of trouble that's expected. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Speaking of Welfare Bums

It looks like the biggest welfare bums in the country, leaving aside some of our largest corporations and unions, are addicted to the public teat. Well I should be more precise. They're addicted to another one of the public's teats.

The handouts for political parties created by former prime minister Jean Chretien have relieved taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars, relieved the Bloc Quebecois of having to fundraise, and cursed Canadians to a life of never-ending election campaigns -- but getting rid of them, as the Conservatives want to do, is likely unrealistic, says a new study co-authored by a former Tory campaign manager.

The report by Tom Flanagan and David Coletto, to be released today by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, concludes that while the Conservatives continue to promise to eliminate the $1.95-per-vote allowance Elections Canada doles out to federal parties every quarter, any attempt to end the program is bound to leave party organizations financially "crippled."

Which would be horrible. Poor little politicians. "Crippled." Just like Tiny Tim really. The children, and angels, shall weep for them. The vote subsidies faded into history one of Canada's most storied icons: the Liberal Bagman. Once a common sight along Bay and St James streets (at least before the latter was boarded up and renamed), the Liberal Bagman, with his trusty bag (actually a fine Italian leather suitcase in most instances) would make the rounds just before election time. 

Typically he would make appointments with senior executives at Amalgamated Nickel Smelting, or Consolidated Maple Syrup Assurance, and other legendary names of Canadian capitalism. The conversation, before World War Two, would involve gentle and erudite discussions of the tariff structure i.e. how high the import taxes would be on the products of their American competitors. This discussion, involving both high finance and low politics, would conclude with the Liberal Bagman leaving the offices, his bags heavier for his efforts. The next morning a train trip to Ottawa and meetings with the National Party Executive. After the war the process was made more complex, as were many things in that time, and chats about tariff structure replaced with lengthier conversations, involving graphs and statistics, about "economic development grants." The world of the Liberal Bagman, overall, was a simple one. A cherished Canadian tradition. Like white-outs conditions on the 401 at 8:15 am on a Monday in January. Expected, dangerous and endured as we endured all things here in the Elder Dominion. 

Papa Jean Shawinigan wanted to stop this. Perhaps he wanted to leave a lasting legacy for the nation. Having climbed the greasy pole - very greasy in his case, but I digress - he wanted to clean up politics before he went to that great subsidized golf course in the sky. Or perhaps he just wanted to knee cap Paul Martin. The old guy was like dat you knows. Having faded the Liberal Bagman into the history books - the key book incidentally is The Government Party - the Chretien reforms have also reduced accountability. Adhering fervently as I do to H.L. Mencken's Dictum of Government - "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." - the reforms are a loss. Donations are one of the few controls we have on the auctioneers. The appeal of banning corporate and union donations is a strong one. The only thing most unions and corporations want from government are special favours. 

Keeping donations smallish, and from individuals, would put a curb on lobbyists and rent seekers. In theory. What generates demand for rent seeking, and other parasitic activity, is big government itself. So long as government tries to play saviour and nanny to the nation, people will be trying to influence government. If it's not done through direct campaign donations, other means will be found.

One of the most popular, in the United States, is single issue advertising campaigns. Rather than financing particular candidates, unions and corporations simply finance particular issues. This indirectly supports, or opposes, candidates who have take public positions on the issue. Another trick was to setup brass plate groups or corporations to funnel money to candidates. These roundabout methods provoked further controls of campaign contributions, in the form of McCain-Feingold. It is an old rule of government that new laws beget new loopholes, which in turn beget new laws. Last week SCOTUS stopped this tightening of free speech, perhaps mortally wounding McCain-Feingold. 

Canada is still in the early stages of banning and controlling who can give what to whom. Laws that ban corporations and unions will, in time, wind up banning most private advocacy groups from fighting for their beliefs. Yes, some will be mercenary lobbyists, some will be ordinary people that big government has sat upon in some way. Lobbying is their way of fighting back, often it's their only way. Laws that clamp down on big corporations and unions, will in time come down on smaller groups. Banning large contributions, whether from individuals or groups, also acts as a check on political entrepreneurship. It was a small group of California businessmen who underwrote Ronald Reagan's election campaign for Governor in 1966.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (23)

Republican Like Me

Winning the black vote in America.

But not all black voters are the same, any more than all white voters are the same. Those black voters that Republicans have any realistic chance of winning over are people who share similar values and concerns.

They want their children to get a decent education, which they are unlikely to get so long as public schools are a monopoly run for the benefit of the teachers’ unions, instead of for the education of the children. Democrats are totally in hock to the teachers’ unions, which means that Republicans have a golden opportunity to go after the votes of black parents by connecting the dots and exposing one of the key reasons for bad education in inner cities and the bad consequences that follow.

It's an approach Canadian conservatives should keep in mind. Rather than playing the collectivist flattery game, which the Liberals have spent decades perfecting, and instead taking the novel tactic of regarding minority voters - whatever their race - as individuals with day to day concerns. Jason Kenney, the current federal Minister of Immigration, has spent much of his time in cabinet doing the ethnic junket, giving speeches at this community association and that. This is probably necessary political work, showing ethnic voters - basically non-WASPs and non-Francophones - that Tories come sans horns and tail. 

For political support to be lasting the Tories need to offer more than pleasantries. Ethnic voters tend to be immigrants, who in turn are typically more entrepreneurial and socially conservative than average. They are natural conservative voters. They would prefer government stay out of their way, as most small business people do, and turn to family and neighbours before the state in times of crisis. They vote Liberal, and have historically, because right of center parties, whose base has been mostly rural since the 1960s, have failed to pay them more than glancing attention. Just as Conservatives don't, generally, get urban issues, so they don't get urban voters, among them ethnic voters. Though Thomas Sowell is talking about American blacks, a viable strategy for reaching minorities is the same in both countries, treating them like thinking individuals with values and concerns.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Trash Talk the TTC

I hate the TTC. When I went to the University of Toronto I use to walk 30 to 40 minutes (sometime in a blizzard) just to avoid using the TTC. It seems that I am not alone. There is now an entire website dedicated to "trash talking the TTC."

I encourage everyone living in the Greater Toronto Area to check it out.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Bailout Nation: a review

I just finished reading Barry Ritholtz’s book titled Bailout Nation. It is an investigation, one of the many such books, into the causes of the credit crises in late 2008. As the title suggests the book was primarily concerned with the moral hazard that was caused not just by the recent bailouts but government bailouts going back to the 1970s. This is an interesting read from a non-libertarian perspective interested in issues of moral hazard and unintended consequences.
There are three themes that I’ve identified throughout the book:

1. Allan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve deserve a great deal of the blame for the credit crisis.

Mr. Ritholtz points to Mr. Greenspan’s interference in the market on several occasions, in particular he describes in detail the 1987 market crash and the dot.com burst of the early 2000s. He points out that Mr. Greenspan’s policy goals were not aimed at stabilizing the economy, the job that Mr. Rtholtz feels is appropriate for the Federal Reserve, but in saving the collective asses of Wall Street Traders.

It was pointed out that Mr. Greenspan thought of himself as a free market ideologue but that he constantly interfered with the market. Both Mr. Ritholtz and I are a little confused how a man who is called the "Maestro" of the economy could be a Free Marketer. Mr. Ritholtz had the decency to express his sympathy to the ghost of Ayn Rand.

2. The CEOs of the large financial institutions were incompetent.

He seems to get very passionate on this point. He proclaims the idiocy of lending money without checking the ability of the recipient to repay the money. This is hard to argue against. It is clearly true that these corporations acted foolishly, which is why they deserve to fall. Mr. Ritholtz thinks that is why they deserve to be regulated, which brings me to the next theme.

3. The free market has failed to regulate itself.

Mr. Rtholtz describes the deregulation and claims that they made the crisis far worse. He moves back and forth on if the deregulation itself was a cause of the crisis. In the first half of the book he points exclusively to bailouts as the cause. Large firms knew that they could take massive risks because tax payer money or the Federal Reserve would likely rescue them. In the second half he says that deregulation allowed firms to do whatever they wanted which led to chaos. It is bizarre that someone so thoughtful seems to have failed to connect these two facts. Deregulation may have allowed them to take greater risks, but government action encouraged them to do so. How is this a failure to self regulate?

It is particularly puzzling that he seems to have missed this in his analyses because in an “Intermezzo” Mr. Ritholtz makes the explicit counter argument to his assertion that markets have failed to self regulate:

“As a nation we have a choice to make: Either we place some reasonable regulations upon the banks and investment houses or we allow the vagaries of the free markets to punish those who trade with, or place their assets in, the wrong institution...There is no middle ground; it is an either-or choice. But for God’s sake, we cannot suffer the worst of both worlds...”

The credit crises was not so much a result of the market’s failure to self regulate as it was a result of the government not allowing the market to self regulate. For the government to self regulate firms have to be allowed to suffer or die.

Over all, though there are several points that Mr. Ritholtz made that I disagree with, Bailout Nation is an easy to read, generally well thought out, and interesting book.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

UK Supreme Court protecting Parliament not liberty

The United Kingdom's Supreme Court still is a new institution and many people feared that it would lead to the end of the old convention of the supremacy of Parliament. The Supreme Court in Canada (for ill or for good) certainly changed the political balance of power. Yet in a recent decision the UK Supreme Court seems to be reinforcing the power of Parliament.

According to the BBC, the Supreme Court ruled that a Treasury order (ie a regulation made by the Treasury Department that did not go through Parliament) which freezes the assets of terrorist suspects is unconstitutional. Lord Hope, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, declared the following:

"Even in the face of the threat of international terrorism, the safety of the people is not the supreme law. We must be just as careful to guard against unrestrained encroachments on personal liberty."

Before you start cheering you should take note of something very important here. Lord Hope also said this:

"This is a clear example of an attempt to adversely affect the basic rights of the citizen without the clear authority of Parliament,"

and this:

"Nobody should conclude that the result of these appeals constitutes judicial interference with the will of Parliament. On the contrary, it upholds the supremacy of Parliament in deciding whether or not measures should be imposed that affect the fundamental rights of those in this country."

So basically what this decision means is that government is free to launch "unrestrained encroachments on personal liberty" just as long as it has the permission to do so by about three hundred people. I feel more free already.

By the way, the civil servants that put made the Treasury order in the first place are now saying that it is going to be fast tracked through Parliament. Any guesses on how much debate there will be? Anyone want to bet me, party discipline being what it is, that it won't pass on the nod?

Thank you Supreme Court for making sure that Parliament retains sole rights over the taking away of freedom from the British people.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Your Tax Dollars At Work

What government employs, the iPhone wielding private citizen can embarrass:

There are times when harried Torontonian commuters just can't let sleeping transit employees lie.

Thursday, apparently, was one of them.

The Toronto Transit Commission is investigating after a rider posted a photo of what appears to be a ticket collector asleep in his booth. The photo depicts a mustachioed man in navy blue TTC vest and red tie, leaning back in his chair, eyes closed and mouth open.

This was the first sight that confronted Jason Wieler as he headed home around 9:30 p.m. Jan. 9 when he reached the top of the escalator at McCowan station.

“If his mouth wasn't open as much as it was and he was wiggling around, hey, I would've thought he had some life to him,” Mr. Wieler said. “But this guy was out cold.”

Now I'm sure, somewhere, in a private office building in downtown Toronto, some bored security guard is dozing off, or otherwise not paying attention to his duties. Heck, some of them might even be reading this blog. I doubt a picture of him, or her, would wind up in the papers. Why would it? It's the problem of the distracted guard's boss, not ours. The TTC being state owned, we're all subsidizing that chap's subway siesta. 

Being publicly owned the TTC belongs to everyone, and thus to no one. No one is directly responsible for it, except in a vague and nominal way the municipal political class. I say vague and nominal because every Mayor of Toronto, whatever political stripe (mostly Left), is terrified of a TTC strike. Unlike many Canadian cities, Toronto cannot function without its public transit system. It's too big and densely packed to survive by cars and kamikaze cyclists alone, of which there are already too many on a good day. This means that the TTC is in effect a kind of fourth branch of the Toronto municipal government. A power unto itself. Naturally, the peasant classes, are resentful, as they often are of the follies and indiscretions of the elite. Marie of Romania they are not, but TTC employees are certainly a class apart. Whatever their state of consciousness. Now, how to solve this problem. In the private sector bad customer service is typically solved by a curt e-mail or phone call. In government things progress in a more, well, stately fashion:

The transit commission has been bombarded with 20 per cent more complaints compared to last year, and the commission voted Wednesday to appoint a blue-ribbon panel to teach the transit system's employees how to better serve riders.

Yeah. It's kind of like the committees you have in your office, except far more useless. Which for those of us who have wasted untold hours in private sector committee meetings, is really saying something.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

I don't care who Stephen Harper appoints to the Senate

Don Martin has written a column full of vile pointed at the Prime Minister's practice of appointing easily controlled partisan hacks to the Senate. He attacks the practice in general, but he seems to feel a particular anger towards Stephen Harper. This anger is justified because Mr. Harper both promised to reform the Senate and promised not to appoint any unelected Senators.

Now anyone who reads this blog regularly likely knows I'm not Mr. Harper's greatest fan. My complaints against him are mostly in line with GerryNicholls ' points, though with a much less personal tinge to it. That being said I think that Mr. Martin is being a little bit silly in singling Mr. Harper out for his Senate appointments.

There are two ways to look at Mr. Harper's Senate reversal that makes it reasonable.

1. He tried to reform the Senate but failed (at least for the moment).

Around a hundred years ago, Wilfrid Laurier also tried to reform the Senate. Much like Mr. Harper, Laurier stacked the Senate with his own cronies at the same time. When asked why he would do this he pointed out that he didn't make up the rules of the game (paraphrasing). Why should he play by different rules and artificially put himself at a disadvantage?

Laurier made a fair point and it is easily applied to Prime Minister Harper. Control over the Senate will allow him to more easily drive through his agenda. It is unreasonable to think that he wouldn't thus try to take over the Senate. Yes he promised not to do it, but Senate reform itself clearly demonstrates the degree that he was at a disadvantage. He could not move forward on a Senate Reform bill because he was being blocked by the Liberal controlled Senate.

This brings me to the second perspective...

2. Stuffing the Senate full of pro-reform Senators is a strategy to keep his promise on Senate Reform.

Mr. Harper's vow to not appoint new Senators is secondary to his promise of making that Senate elected. Once it became clear that reform was impossible without taking control of the Senate it was clear that the strategic situation had changed. So if you want reform (and for the record I don't), you should support these appointments.

Each of Mr. Harper's new Senators have vowed to resign once the Senate is reformed. I know, the difficulty of holding these Senators to account for this promise just underlines the difficulty of holding Senators accountable for anything. Still I prefer to believe someone rather than call them a liar before they are proven to be one.

All in all I find Mr. Martin's outrage against Stephen Harper to be unmoving. He clearly disapproves of the Senate. But I do not think it is fair to blame the player for the rules, especially if that player is trying to change the rules.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keynes vs Hayek: The rap version

This is actually a good presentation of the two theorists: (thanks to TM for posting this in the comments)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Their Man in Tehran

Friends helping friends:

Mr. Taylor, ambassador in Iran from 1977 to 1980, became “the de facto CIA station chief” in Tehran after the U.S. embassy was seized by students on Nov. 4, 1979, and 63 Americans, including the four-member Central Intelligence Agency contingent, were taken hostage.

Had his espionage been discovered, Mr. Taylor told The Globe and Mail in an interview this week, “the Iranians wouldn't have tolerated it. And the consequences may have been severe.”

His intelligence-gathering activities were kept secret by agreement between the Canadian and the U.S. governments, although his role in sheltering six Americans and helping to spirit them out of Iran was later made public, winning him and the Canadian government widespread U.S. gratitude.


What precisely Mr. Taylor was doing needs careful definition. In reality, he was managing a Canadian, not a U.S., intelligence station, which the Americans – because they had no network of their own after their embassy was seized – wanted to join.

My estimation of Ambassador Taylor, pretty high already, has just gone up. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Price of Nothing

Fools, and other people's funny money, are soon parted:

Chairman Bernanke’s claim is a great canard. The Fed is a serial bubble blower. Let’s first consider the Fed-generated demand bubbles. The easiest way to do this is to measure the trend rate of growth in nominal final sales to U.S. purchasers and then examine the deviations from that trend. Nominal final sales grew at a 5.4% annual rate from the first quarter of 1987 through the third quarter of 2009.This reflects a combination of real sales growth of 3% and inflation of 2.4%. 

The nominal final sales measure of aggregate demand contains three significant deviations from the trend (demand bubbles). The first followed the October 1987 stock market crash. The second followed the Asian financial crisis and the collapse of the Russian ruble and Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. The last jump in nominal final sales was set off by the Fed’s liquidity injection to fend off a false deflation scare in 2002.

The Fed’s zigzag pattern is clear: an overreaction to a so-called crisis, resulting in the excessive injection of liquidity (a sales boom), followed by a draining of liquidity and a recession (a sales slump). The most recent aggregate demand bubble wasn’t the only one that the Fed was pumping up. The Fed’s favourite inflation target – consumer prices, less those for food and energy – was increasing at a regular, modest rate. Over the 2003-2009 period, this metric increased by 14.3%.

Ah, yes. The Consumer Price Index. As the US Labor Bureau's own website explains:

The CPI represents all goods and services purchased for consumption by the reference population (U or W) BLS has classified all expenditure items into more than 200 categories, arranged into eight major groups. Major groups and examples of categories in each are as follows:

FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals, snacks)

HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture)

APPAREL (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry)

TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance)

MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services)

RECREATION (televisions, toys, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);

EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);

OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).

Pretty comprehensive, eh? Not quite. Guess what's missing? 

The CPI does not include investment items, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and life insurance. (These items relate to savings and not to day-to-day consumption expenses.)

Rather important omission, you might think. In a Fed induced expansion, the funny money, sorry quantitative easing, flows into capital goods and real estate first. It then trickles to the rest of the economy. I'll let Murray Rothbard explain:

Now what happens when banks print new money (whether as bank notes or bank deposits) and lend it to business? The new money pours forth on the loan market and lowers the loan rate of interest. It looks as if the supply of saved funds for investment has increased, for the effect is the same: the supply of funds for investment apparently increases, and the interest rate is lowered. Businessmen, in short, are misled by the bank inflation into believing that the supply of saved funds is greater than it really is. Now, when saved funds increase, businessmen invest in "longer processes of production," i.e., the capital structure is lengthened, especially in the "higher orders" most remote from the consumer. Businessmen take their newly acquired funds and bid up the prices of capital and other producers' goods, and this stimulates a shift of investment from the "lower" (near the consumer) to the "higher" orders of production (furthest from the consumer) — from consumer goods to capital goods industries.

This flow of funny money also drives up real estate prices. Construction is a "higher order" level of production, a large fixed cost that can take years to complete and lasts, often, decades. This in turn requires large amounts of capital which must, typically, be borrowed. An inflationary boom is usually well underway in real estate development and the stock market before it begins to show up in CPI. Statistics are also backward looking. They tell you where the economy has been, sort of, in the last few weeks or months. Since CPI only starts picking up on inflation long after the fact, it's even slower on the uptake than advertised. If that wasn't bad enough, then there's the CPI's methodology. Back to the Bureau of Labor:

For each of the more than 200 item categories, using scientific statistical procedures, the Bureau has chosen samples of several hundred specific items within selected business establishments frequented by consumers to represent the thousands of varieties available in the marketplace. For example, in a given supermarket, the Bureau may choose a plastic bag of golden delicious apples, U.S. extra fancy grade, weighing 4.4 pounds to represent the Apples category.

The last time I went to a supermarket, last Saturday for those interested, I counted seven varieties of apples. For the record my favourites are Red Delicious, and I regard golden delicious eaters with some suspicion. Now seven different kinds of apples can mean seven different prices, unless the store levels a flat per pound price. Now take something rather more complex, and with a greater variance in price, like home electronics. How useful is the picking of one representative example going to be? The CPI, then, is a best guess of what was happening in part of the economy, some months back. 

Central planning didn't work because there was no price signalling system to make it work. Yet the Federal Reserve, as well as various other Central Banks, are using inherently flawed statistics to guess what the correct level should be for the money supply. It's no wonder they spark booms, and then force busts. Reaching a fine balance is something only a market can do, a market where real prices can determine the supply of money. Now some might be wondering how you determine the "price of money." Answer: interest rates, which are themselves only the time preference for money, or more accurately what money represents. Central banking needs to be abolished for the same reason, and with the same urgency, as central economic planning was twenty years ago. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Glen Murray - The Million Dollar Toilet

There is a provincial by-election in Toronto Centre happening now to replace George Smitherman. Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg, is running for the Liberals.

Glen Murray has made a big deal about how his record as mayor of Winnipeg.  However, he seems to be relying more on his reputation than his achievements.  There’s a good reason for this.  Glen Murray was responsible for a number of scandals during his tenure.  Two Murray scandals made a Winnipeg Sun list of the top 50 Manitoba news stories of the last decade (I’ll save the second one for another time).  Here’s #19:

19. The million-dollar toilet

Glen Murray’s dream of dining at a French bistro located on a $20-million footbridge overlooking the Red River quickly morphed into a debate over plumbing. Turns out it cost about $1 million to hook up plumbing to the plaza at Esplanade Riel, leading the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to dub the project as the one with “the million-dollar toilet.” Things only got worse when our Tom Brodbeck noted the phallic nature of the span, calling it the “dinkbridge.”

Posted by William Joseph on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Prison ships?

David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservative Party is considering bringing back the practice of prison ships. I had no idea that this practice existed in the first place, but according to the BBC the last prison ship was sold in 2005.

Mr. Cameron is floating (heh) this idea as a cost saving measure that will allow the government to end the early release program. I think that there is a valid case to be made for ending the early release program. After all criminals aren't deterred if they aren't actually punished.

Still I don't see how building a prison ship would be cheaper than building a prison. Plus you'll have a constant cost of fuel. My mother gets sea sick, and I assume that many criminals do as well. Wouldn't it be cruel then to force them to live on a boat for 20 years? Also if the ship gets caught in a storm...well that scene from Ben Hur comes horribly to mind.

I'm not saying that the idea is unworkable. I would, however, be interested to know why the prison ship was previously sold and hopefully Mr. Cameron will flush the idea out more.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Young Cons Rap

This brought a smile to my face.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Joe Pantalone hates progress

Toronto Mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone has long opposed the development and enrichment of Ossington. This according to a National Post article a few days ago:

The issue on this part of Queen West, much like a section of Ossington Avenue, was "too much change, too fast," said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who represents a portion of the affected area. "And therefore a sense of equilibrium was lost, and there has been push back that the residents want to protect their quality of life."

By this he means that the people who voted for him are unhappy. Never mind what it may do for the rest of the community. Government should stop development and progress because Mr. Pantalone's political base is threatened.

Mr. Pantalone, in short, would destroy Toronto.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Still Standing

Yeah, yeah, yeah....

On Jan. 23, 2006 - four years ago today - Harper and the Conservative party ended 13 years of Liberal rule in Ottawa, beating a man and a political organization, Paul Martin and the Big Red Machine, that had once seemed invincible.

"They predicted it could not last," Harper said yesterday to a Parliament Hill meeting of his MPs and senators. "They gave us 18 months at the absolute most but we survived, we persevered, we won re-election and tomorrow we enter our fifth year of serving Canadians."

But above all a successful leader must have a weak opposition. Had Prime Minister Joe Clark faced Leader of the Opposition Stephane Dion, the 1980s might have turned out to be the Joe Clark decade. You can finish shuddering at the end of the post. Instead Joe faced Pierre, and his ruthless determined supporters, and the rest is history, as any victim of NEP will tell you. Brian Mulroney had John Turner, who was the ideal man to lead Canada, in 1968. For decades Conservatives sounded like Liberals, and suffered for it. For that brief moment a Liberal leader sounded like a Conservative, until in desperation he embraced the looney nationalist Left and campaigned against Free Trade. Brian Mulroney became the first Tory PM to win a second majority - leaving aside Borden's wartime coalition - since 1891. Couldn't have done it without John. Takes two to win a majority, the winner and the future or current opposition leader.

Further back Lester Pearson had the distinct advantage of being Liberal leader, just as John Diefenbaker was slowly self-destructing. Pearson became Prime Minister by default. While Dief had discredited himself as an effective PM, he was still the darling of rural Canadians, who kept him and the Tories from oblivion, and denied Pearson his majority government. The Tories, unwisely but perhaps unavoidably, assassinated Dief and replaced him with Bob Stanfield. Swinging Pierre spent three elections facing everyone's favourite, but impossibly WASPish and dull, uncle. Amazingly Trudeau nearly lost in 1972, more due to his own foibles than the inspired genius of the Progressive Conservatives.

Yet Stephen of Calgary - formerly of Leaside  and Etobicoke - has, even by the remarkably lucky standards of the previous residents of 24 Sussex Drive, been truly blessed. Paul Martin became a text book example of the Peter Principle. Stephane Dion, as everyone knows, was the blackest of black horse candidates. His election as leader the baffled, and baffling, response of a Liberal Party recovering from nearly fifteen years of Martin-Chretien feuding. 

Politics is a blood sport. It is thus unusual that the lamb is not merely lead to the slaughter, but also appointed acting shepherd as well. The timid, and slightly bemused, Dion then compounded his obvious inadequacy for the position with the spectacularly tin eared Greenshift. After the Harper Tories failed to seize a majority government in October 2008, many observers, including me, thought the boys in Blue had peaked. If the Master Strategist can't win a majority with a Bambi-eyed leader of the Grits, then the boy is never going to survive an encounter with a genuine Liberal leader. 

A year after the succession of Michael Ignatieff, only the PM's self inflicted wound of the prorogation has significantly dented his popularity. So far. It's a long time until March and there is every chance people will simply forget or get distracted. Yet even if the wound is mortal, it would have been through no talent or insight of the Liberal leader, who has displayed the same pseudo-apoplectic reaction to everything the government does, no matter how great or small. This is part of the job description, but as the vocal coaches tell us: modulation! 

In marking the fourth anniversary of Stephen Harper's elevation to the highest office in the land, many tributes will be written to the ill-coiffed PM's strategic genius. He is definitely a shrewd operator. So was Jean Chretien, who was in the end only a high-level ward heeler with a Francophonized Catskill schtick. Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada today for the same reason most of his successors entered, and stayed in that office, because there was no one better to kick them out. Until there was. This is true of most things in life, but good to keep in mind when the chattering class wax and wane on the merits and demerits of the PM and his would be successors.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Raw Freedom

A cow's a cow for all that:

The cows will still give their milk and their owners will still savour frothy mouthfuls straight from the farm. But now, the infamous cow-share program of Durham, Ont., is legal in the eyes of the law.

In a surprise move, a Newmarket court ruled Thursday that dairy farmer Michael Schmidt can continue his raw milk cooperative and that his venture does not break laws against selling unpasteurized milk.

Government officials had little to say about the decision Thursday. But dairy experts say the ruling will spur more cow-share programs to form and encourage the underground co-ops already operating in Ontario to surface. And, they say, it will likely force the government to change its laws to allow the sale and distribution of raw milk.

I'll leave the culinary and scientific points about raw milk to others. This is an important, though highly qualified victory for consumer choice. The ruling simply confirmed the existing law, just broadening its interpretation a little wider than that of the Ontario bureaucrats who have been persecuting Michael Schmidt. The Durham farmer's argument was that he was sharing milk with the cows' other owners - roughly 200 people - rather than selling it. The Depression-era law does allow farmers to drink their own raw milk, just not sell it. Having confirmed this technical expansion of the law, which can still be appealed, the law itself may quickly become a dead letter. The small minority that strongly wants raw milk won't mind engaging in a few legal sidesteps, even buying partial ownership of a cow.  

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Richard Truscott takes over from Danielle Smith at CFIB

Danielle Smith left her job as Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) to run for the leadership of the fledgling Wildrose Alliance. She won, of course, which is exciting for libertarians and small-government conservatives in the province.

It is also exciting that the job she left behind has been filled by a fellow friend of liberty -- Richard Truscott.

Truscott spent five years as Provincial Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in Saskatchewan and before that spent four years working as a research and communication specialist on Parliament Hill for the Reform Party focused on agriculture, resource, and trade issues.

In a recent column in the Calgary Herald, Truscott took on Canada Post’s increases in postal rates:

What is really driving Canada Post's thirst for new revenue are labour costs that have been rising far above both inflation and the average increases in the private sector. In fact, according to the CFIB's research, wages for Canada Post's back-office staff are 17 per cent higher, and more than 40 per cent higher for both wages and benefits, than private-sector employees in similar positions.

So while the real class war continues, take a brief moment to enjoy the fact that people like Smith and Truscott are influencing Canada’s most important small business advocacy organization.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wildrose Alliance turns ‘this many’ [imagine two fingers]

This week the Wildrose Alliance celebrated its second birthday as a political party in Alberta.

In a statement to party members on January 19th, party leader Danielle Smith wrote:

Congratulations to all members! 

It’s remarkable that only two short years ago today, several hundred people met in a hotel ballroom to form the Wildrose Alliance Party.

Look how far we’ve come! Look how big we’ve grown! And we’re still just getting started.

I know I speak for all in extending sincere gratitude to those first few who had the foresight to see what Alberta needed, and to everyone who has worked hard to make our party the contender it is today.

Let’s keep working together to give Albertans the new political option so many now want.

Happy birthday, everyone!

The battle for political power in Alberta is now as it should be: A contest between wayward conservatives in the Tory party and libertarians in the Wildrose Alliance, with progressives and other statists on the left effectively marginalized.

What I hope will emerge from this contest is a culturally conservative, politically libertarian movement that captures the essence of what it means to be an Albertan.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winnipeg Gang Wars

An article over at CBC provides a picture of the current gang turf war going on in Winnipeg. Organized crime investigators report that the African Mafia has splintered into three factions and is expanding into Alberta.

These gangs are involved in black market goods to fund their activities, such as the drug trade. The ONLY reason they are able to do this is because the government prohibits the drug trade from existing legally, so it then gets pushed into the black market. The article says;

The African Mafia splintered off from another Winnipeg street gang called the Mad Cowz after the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy by members of a rival group in 2004.

African Mafia members were upset the Mad Cowz didn't properly avenge the boy's killing, Howanyk writes.

A battle then ensued over the drug trade in Winnipeg's West End neighbourhood as the two factions violently competed for turf.

The tensions between the two groups led to the death of Phil Haiart, a bystander who was shot while walking in the West End in October 2005. An errant bullet fired in a shootout between African Mafia and Mad Cowz members struck Haiart, killing him.

"The African Mafia, like other street gangs, need turf to survive, and like other gangs, the African Mafia uses violence and intimidation to expand their turf," the report says.

Their turf is the geographical area that they control with regards to black market goods. Yet, on the very same day as this news items, so also appeared this news item; Police take down marijuana grow op Busting people that are growing marijuana does nothing to stop the drug trade, in the 40 years since the ‘war on Drugs” was created drug use has not gone down, there is a demand there and if it can’t be met legally then people that are in black market will meet the supply, and kill people that get in their way. And not only do the people involved have the risk, so do the general public who are innocent bystanders that risk being killed in gang wats, such as Phil Haiart.

If you want to see gang violence reduced and take away a large source of their income and power, repeal prohibition, now.




I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on January 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (37)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Never Become the Story

And other bits of journalistic wisdom that have long been forgotten:

Le Devoir reports that some 20 Canadian journalists camped out on the grounds of our Embassy in Port-au-Prince — which is being protected by members of the Canadian Forces — have been asked by staff to leave as soon as possible.

A Québec journalist, reached by Le Devoir’s Helene Buzzetti — president of the parliamentary press gallery — says: “It’s a warning, but I don’t think they’ll move on it. They’re just urging us to find some other place. They see us as getting in their way.”

For his part, Prime Minister Harper’s spokesperson, Dmitri Soudas, told Ms. Buzzetti:

“The priority for our diplomats is to help those in greatest need… those who’ve been affected by the earthquake… Water and food will be given to everyone… and the journalists can stay, but if they can find some other place, it would be greatly appreciated.”

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Liberty Quotes

How did politicians ever come to believe this weird idea that the law could be made to produce what it does not contain — the wealth, science, and religion that, in a positive sense, constitute prosperity? Is it due to the influence of our modern writers on public affairs?

Present-day writers — especially those of the socialist school of thought — base their various theories upon one common hypothesis: They divide mankind into two parts. People in general — with the exception of the writer himself — form the first group. The writer, all alone, forms the second and most important group. Surely this is the weirdest and most conceited notion that ever entered a human brain!

In fact, these writers on public affairs begin by supposing that people have within themselves no means of discernment; no motivation to action. The writers assume that people are inert matter, passive particles, motionless atoms, at best a kind of vegetation indifferent to its own manner of existence. They assume that people are susceptible to being shaped — by the will and hand of another person — into an infinite variety of forms, more or less symmetrical, artistic, and perfected. Moreover, not one of these writers on governmental affairs hesitates to imagine that he himself — under the title of organizer, discoverer, legislator, or founder — is this will and hand, this universal motivating force, this creative power whose sublime mission is to mold these scattered materials — persons — into a society.

These socialist writers look upon people in the same manner that the gardener views his trees. Just as the gardener capriciously shapes the trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, vases, fans, and other forms, just so does the socialist writer whimsically shape human beings into groups, series, centers, sub-centers, honeycombs, labor-corps, and other variations. And just as the gardener needs axes, pruning hooks, saws, and shears to shape his trees, just so does the socialist writer need the force that he can find only in law to shape human beings. For this purpose, he devises tariff laws, tax laws, relief laws, and school laws.

Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

A note on Confucianism and China

Chez Joshua in Korea aka 西儒 aka The Western Confucian we find:

The Western Standard's Kalim Kassam sends along a post by the Secular Right's Razib Khan reminding us, among other things, that "much of human history is Chinese history" and "that China has always been characterized by export surpluses over its history" — The Confucian conservatives. Mr. Khan concludes:

    Today we in a world dominated by Whiggish technocratic sensibilities are wont to denigrate the achievements of Imperial China, and characterize it as a regime of reflexive adherence to blind protocols and exhibiting a cultural torpor. And yet what would we say if Rome and arisen multiple times and revived its ancient forms for thousands of years? One might wonder if Roman ways were robust and congenial to human flourishing. The Confucian idolatry of antiquity seems backward looking to us today, but in a Malthusian world they made the best of it, and rested their philosophy upon concrete realities of family, custom and tradition. Lived human existence and not abstractions. I suspect there is much we could learn from their long record of success, and I believe, and yes hope, that China might learn something from its own cultural past as it surges toward material affluence.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eminently Feasible

Can't build a private road? Why not?

Okay, let’s come back to reality. Consider the fact that successful developers are not idiots. No businessman with this little planning ability would ever be trusted with the millions necessary for such a project. On a free market, a typical developer would ensure (before spending millions on purchases) his ability to acquire the entire right-of-way for a reasonable price. How? One approach would make use of option contracts. In an option contract, a landowner agrees to sell his parcel of property for $X, but only if the developer can reach agreements with other owners permitting acquisition of the entire right-of-way for a reasonable price (that is, a price that will allow a profit). What’s more, a smart developer would be working on one or more alternative routes, to encourage price competition among landowners. No single landowner would be able to jack up his asking price arbitrarily, because the developer would never put himself in a position where he had to pay a price so high that profit became impossible.

A little bit of creative thinking and the statist argument falls apart.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Dead Yet

It's demise is much exaggerated

The Globe and Mail has been predicting the demise of the National Post for 11 years now, and counting.

Before that, they spent 10 years incorrectly predicting the demise of the Financial Post, which went from a weekly to a daily in 1988 in direct competition to the Globe's business section, and is still thriving.

That makes 21 straight years of being wrong. If you were born the year the Globe started being wrong, you could be married with children now. You'd think they'd get tired of it, but they have long memories over there. And they really don't like competition. Witness the need to interpret every bit of news about the Post's fortunes in the most negative possible context. Maybe it makes them feel better about being wrong so often.

For those with long historical memories, which in Canada can be measured in the low double digits, you'll recall that the Globe was founded by one Mr George Brown, originally of Edinburgh, later of the City of Toronto. Brown of the Globe, as he was known, was a free trading, free marketing, small government and separation of Church and State sort of chap. In other words he would be utterly appalled at the modern Globe. He would also be appalled at the current state of the two other institutions he created, the Liberal Party and the Dominion of Canada. 

The latter has dropped its title, and the former has forgotten the actual meaning of its name. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher. If old George could rise from his grave at the Necropolis, my guess is he'd be working at the National Post. Not with much enthusiasm perhaps. The Post has lost quite a bit of its Black-era fire and vim. What the Globe's editors never grasped, no matter what Fleet Street puppy mill they were bought from, was why the National Post exists to be begin with. 

It was not one of Conrad Black's vainglorious larks. Had it been merely that it would have folded even before the Aspers got hold of it. No, the Post was what the Globe was suppose to be, a broadly conservative paper. The Globe's understanding of "conservative' was being stodgy and pontifical. Which is, ironically, the New York Times understanding of the word too. The Gothic lettering (which it dropped in the 1980s) and editorial tone of a knowing older brother, or a parent with a vaguely disreputable past who is trying to counsel you of paths taken. 

Of opinions that might classified as libertarian or classical liberal, in other words those of its founder, little is heard. Why would such opinions matter? Just the nattering of children about some fantasy world that has never existed - such as Canada in the 1860s. No, the Globe was the sober and adult paper. The Sun was for the white trash distant relatives, the ones politely ignored at Victoria weekend outings. The Toronto Star was for the middle class left leaning idealists. Those who work rather than those who rule, or at least believe themselves to be ruling. In this cosmos the National Post makes no sense. Freedom - even as the Post understands it - well that's just some people talking.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Googlegate conspiracy debunked. Thanks to me.

Since it's become clear that nobody has done any honest research into the kerfuffle behind the "Islam is" Google Suggest Googlegate scandal, I decided to spend some time doing some of my own analysis of Google's suggest system.

I spent a great deal of time last night searching literally hundreds of different keywords and combinations of different phrasal tenses.

Predictably, I found plenty of cases where Google is not showing expected suggestions for plenty of other terms. In some cases, we find quite unexpected results. Let's take a look at some of the examples from my research:

Europeans versus Americans versus Canadians:




Mormons versus Jews versus Christians:




Google versus Microsoft



I'd also venture to say that Google is far kinder to Jesus than to Muhammad:




So what's the moral of this story? It's simple: following the lead of jingoistic, conservative reactionaries, who like to fantasize the whole world is conspiring against them and adopting delusions of Christ-like persecution and victimization is a surefire way to find yourself buried in a steaming pile of misinformation and deception.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (18)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Doctor Given Speeding Ticket While Trying to Save Life

The law is truly an ass:

While Jeffrey Halstrom was fighting for his life on a St. Michael’s Hospital operating table, the surgeon who had been rushing to his rescue was waiting at the side of a road for a police officer to write him a ticket for speeding.

Halstrom, who is recovering in hospital, suffered a massive heart attack around lunchtime Saturday. A short time later, Dr. Michael Kutryk, the hospital’s cardiologist on call over the weekend, was stopped by a radar unit.

But no amount of pleading would deter the officer from issuing the physician a $300 ticket, said Michael Oscars, Halstrom’s longtime partner.

Now the intelligent thing, which seems not to have entered the mind of the radar wielding bureaucrat, would have been to accompany the doctor to the hospital. If the doctor was lying then the officer could charge him with speeding, as well as possibly public mischief. Naturally, the officer's colleagues are circling the wagons:

“This is an issue of public safety,” Mark Pugash, spokesperson for Toronto Police, said today. “If in the middle of winter you have someone driving at twice the speed limit, they present a risk to themselves and others.” 

So if that's the case, the risk of speeding is greater than the risk of a heart attack, then why do officers speed to emergency calls? Indeed an officer is legally entitled to speed when on duty, even if not rushing to the scene of a call. If speeding is really that dangerous, why not forbid even emergency vehicles to do so? Yes, officers received better training than ordinary drivers, but if the question is training why not grant exceptions to those with such training? Or even simply to doctors and nurses in clear emergency situations? Like this one.

Mr. Pugash noted there are hundreds of doctors on call at any time in the city of Toronto who manage to be on call while obeying the speed limits. He said he has spoken to a number of doctors, who all believe that issuing Dr. Kutryk a ticket was the right thing.

Yes, but most of those are are not in life and death situations, where every minute is vital. Instead the doctor was needlessly detained while the officer wrote the ticket. On a side note, I know that part of Toronto and the speed limit of 40 km/h is artificially low. Which naturally makes it a perfect place for a speed trap. The weather that day was also mild and the roads dry.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (17)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wine Musings From 2010

I like a good "Best of 2010" list as much as the next guy, but when you go through as many wines as I do in a year, it is difficult to record and remember with any clarity, which ones were truly "the best". Also, there is the troubling impact of circumstance, context or backdrop and the influence that the time, the place and the company have on your impression of a wine.  Or at least that's the case with me.  If I drink a wine at sunset on the edge of a coulee in the Alberta fall after hunting, and do so with some of my best friends, I am maybe inclined to have a more favourable impression of a wine than when I am simply hunkered down in my house avoiding the cold on a winter Tuesday night.  I'm never fancy-pants enough to do blind-tastings, so that's just the way it is.  Hence, what seemed to make sense to me was to simply provide a few of my 2010 wine highlights or memorable wines that I tried last year, and that I thought all of you might enjoy.  Here they are:

1) Taurino, Salice Salentino, Riserva - 2004

This wine was given to me as a gift and what a gift it was.  A mineral-tasting red wine from the little-known and unheralded Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grapes that really was a delight and a surprise. Precision in the vineyard (no training and severe pruning) and the use of small oak barriques have given these grapes and there resultant wine a character and style that are unlike any other wine.  Also a great value at around $20 a bottle.

2) Villa Creek, Tempranillo/Grenache/Mourvedre, "Mas De Maha", Paso Robles - 2005

Another unusual wine that I enjoyed at the Kazimierz World Wine Bar in Scottsdale, Arizona.  This earthy, yet fruity, wine is a little harder on the pocket book (around $60.00) but worthwhile, especially if you enjoy the California "Rhone Ranger" style of wines.

3) Wing Canyon, Merlot, "Lolita", Mt. Veeder - 2005

With a winery track record like Bill and Kathy Jenkins, who have been pumping out fantastic Mt. Veeder cabernets for years, it should come as no surprise that this velvety soft Merlot is another home run wine. Supple, comforting and down right drinkable, this wine is a real palate-pleaser.  Add in Kathy's beautiful artwork on the label and you have a real treat.  Around $30.00, which while not cheap, represents pretty good value.

4) Justin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles - 2007

Like the Isosceles and Orphan cabernet-based bottlings from Justin (one of my favourite California wineries, or wineries period), this is a fruit-forward bombshell of a wine that is just grand.  However, this one and its $25 price tag really stands out and represents one of the best wine values around today. 

5) S. Anderson, Cabernet Sauvignon, "Richard Chambers Vineyard", Stag's Leap - 1999

I seldom splurge on wines in restaurants given the big mark-ups and heavy list prices that you see these days, but on a recent trip to the Post Hotel in Lake Louise (where their 30,000 bottle cellar gets a guy to push the envelope of his wallet) this one called out to me.  It was well worth the reach.  A well-aged and well-structured red, this cabernet from this now long-gone winery (it was purchased by Albertan Cliff Lede who is now making great wines himself under the Cliff Lede label) was worth every nickel and many nickels were required.  Let's ignore the price, but splurge on this one if you ever win big at bingo and have nothing to do with your winnings.

6) Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Classico, "Brolio", Tuscany - 2007 

Truly the best wine value in 2007.  This 2007 Chianti from sangiovese master Barone Ricasoli is just a well-balanced, fruit-forward wine that pairs well with almost any food.  Throw in that you can usually find it from $15 - $20 at the Safeway liquor store and you have a wine that can be your real household standby for those above-mentioned basement Tuesdays and "Entourage" re-runs.  

There were many other great wines that I should have blogged about, but failed to.  Grab any of these, pull the cork and enjoy.  I sure did.

Posted by Knox Harrington on January 16, 2010 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (3)

The men who knew

I saw this video a long time ago. But it's worth seeing again, and again. It's quite an amazing video, demonstrating how the true believers in freedom and liberty saw all these economic problems coming many years ago, while conservatives laughed at and marginalized them.

Yet, even after the likes of Ron Paul and Peter Schiff have been proven right, they're still being marginalized. Their future predictions are still dismissed, and the widespread belief that government can fix all our problems persists.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Liberty Quotes

"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress.... Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America."

James Madison, speaking on the General Welfare Clause of the US Constitution

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (71)

With Conservatives Like These.....

Please, someone terminate this "Republican" governor's political career already.

Reporting from Sacramento - Speeding may be dangerous for drivers, but it could soon be a boon for California's fiscal health.

Tucked deep into the budget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled Friday is a plan to give cities and counties the green light to install speed sensors on red-light cameras to catch -- and ticket -- speeding cars.

Those whizzing by the radar-equipped detectors at up to 15 mph over the limit would have to pay $225 per violation. Those going faster would be fined $325.

Now here's the catch:

"I was nailed by one of these [red-light] turn cameras. It's so irritating," he said. As for the possibility of driving a smidgen over the speed limit and receiving an unwelcome ticket weeks later in the mail: "Just obnoxious," he said.

That's right, the variance is being set very close to zero. Since the flow of traffic, outside of rush hour, is almost always above the speed limit, it's a hefty driving tax. If you try to adhere to the law, and everyone else ignores it, you could actually be provoking accidents. It's variation in speed, not speed itself, which causes accidents. 

The guy obeying the speed limit, while everyone else is going twenty above, is a dangerous obstacle to the free flow of traffic. Notice too the cynical assumption behind this law. They are arguing it's a public safety measure, yet hope to raise hundreds of millions in new revenue. In other words, they are assuming, and indeed hoping, few enough people will actually obey the law. This is a perversion of law. They want you to break the law. If people actually obey the law, this measure will fail in its principle objective. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Almost a Country

Interestingly, no mention of La Belle Province. We take that as a good thing:

In years past, such breakaway quasi-states tended to achieve independence fast or be reassimilated within a few years (usually after a gory civil war, as with Biafra in Nigeria). But today's Limbo World countries stay in political purgatory for longer -- the ones in this article have wandered in legal wilderness for an average of 15 years -- representing a dangerous new international phenomenon: the permanent second-class state.

This trend is a mess waiting to happen. The first worry is that these quasi-states' continued existence, and occasional luck, emboldens other secessionists. Imagine a world where every independence movement with a crate of Kalashnikovs thinks it can become the new Kurdistan, if only it hires the right lobbyists in Washington and opens a realistic-looking Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its makeshift capital. The second concern is that these aspirant nations have none of the rights and obligations of full countries, just ambiguous status and guns without laws. The United Nations is, in the end, binary: You are in or you are out, and if you are out, your mass-produced miniature desk flag has no place in Turtle Bay.

The author's description of Somaliland, a breakaway section of Somalia, reminded me of Waugh's classic Black Mischief.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Conservative MP Shelly Glover has never heard of Tom Flanagan

I'm sure that lots of people haven't heard of Tom Flanagan. I would be surprised if his name recognition was as high as 2% for Canadians. But come on, you're a Conservative Party MP; shouldn't you know who the big names are in your own party?

Also, no one asked you if you had ever met Dr. Flanagan or if he worked on Parliament Hill. We know that he doesn't and it is pretty clear that you hadn't. Trying to use those facts to discredit his opinion merely discredits you.

As one more general statement, the phrase, "you are entitled to your opinion," or some variant is never ever an appropriate or intelligent response to criticism. Yes I am entitled to my opinion. My opinion is that you are a ultra-lightweight who will never be anything but a backbencher even if you spend the next hundred years in Parliament.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Communist Party of China official reviews Avatar

Translated by the good folks over at Global Voices, Chinese blogger Lian Yue writes a notice as might be produced by a sloganeering CPC official after watching James Cameron's blockbusting Avatar:

1. The first element of any war is human. Learn from the Na’vi, have a winning spirit, and don’t be afraid of any advanced weapons.

2. The Na’vi’s system of hereditary rule proves that democracy is not universally applicable.

3. Na’vi’s collectivism has won over capitalism.

4. Loyalty has to be put in the number place in any appointment of key personnel. Defeat of the human race is due to the irresolute thinking of Jake.

5. The human race’s army has not united resolutely under the leadership of Colonel Miles Quaritch, as a result there is internal struggle. Unity is iron, unity is steel!

6. Dr. Grace Augustine shows the weaknesses of intellectuals, which are not to be trusted.

7. Forced demolition in China is relatively civilized; we haven’t used the army yet.

8. Anyone watching Avatar for the second time will be subject to 20% luxury tax.

9. Increase our effort in research & development. Start Avatar programs in provincial / ministerial levels or above. What we need to emphasize is: useful idealism is materialism.

10. Planet Pandora is an inseparable part of our motherland.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 15, 2010 in Film, International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Liberty Quotes

After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwell a nation of nearly seventy millions of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.

There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all its strength and virtue, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion. In that country all pacifist speeches, all morbid war books are forbidden or suppressed, and their authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted "thou shall not kill."

It is but twenty years since these neighbors of ours fought almost the whole world, and almost defeated them. Now they are rearming with the utmost speed, and ready to their hands is the new lamentable weapon of the air, against which our navy is -no defense, and before which women and children, the weak and frail, the pacifist and the jingo, the warrior and the civilian, the front line trenches and the cottage home, all lie in equal and impartial peril.

Nay, worse still, for with the new weapon has come a new method, or rather has come back the most British method of ancient barbarism, namely, the possibility of compelling the submission of nations by terrorizing their civil population; and, worst of all, the more civilized the country is, the larger and more splendid its cities, the more intricate the structure of its civil and economic life, the more is it vulnerable and at the mercy of those who may make it their prey.

Now, these are facts, hard, grim, indisputable facts, and in the face of these facts, I ask again, what are we to do?

There are those who say, "Let us ignore the continent of Europe. Let us leave it with its hatreds and its armaments, to stew in its own juice, to fight out its own quarrels, and decree its own doom. Let us turn our backs to this melancholy and alarmist view. Let us fix our gaze across the ocean and see our own life in our own dominions and empires."

There would be very much to this plan if only we could unfasten the British islands from their rock foundations, and could tow them three thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and anchor them safely upon the smiling coasts of Canada; but I have not yet heard of any way in which this could be done.

Winston Churchill, The Threat of War, 1934

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (102)

Meanwhile in Caledonia...

A little bit of South America, right near Hamilton, Ontario:

However, Gary McHale, the activist who privately laid the charge, said the commissioner is scheduled to appear in court in Cayuga, Ont., on Feb. 3.

McHale has been a vocal critic of how the OPP has handled the nearly four-year standoff on the site of a former subdivision, the Douglas Creek Estates.

The charge stems from an April 2007 email Fantino sent to Caledonia Mayor Marie Trainer and her councillors, warning that if they continued to support McHale or his rallies, the OPP would hold them responsible if any officers were hurt.

Fantino also warned he would support any injured officer who sued the town, bill the county for any additional policing cost and "strongly recommend" not renewing its policing contract with the county.

"He is threatening elected officials and it's a police-state mentality, that's how I read (the email)," McHale said.

Now, if you're wondering if there's some bad blood here, you're right.

This isn't the first time McHale and Fantino have clashed in court.

The activist faces charges of counselling mischief.

Fantino testified during a preliminary hearing last April that he told subordinates he would gladly have arrested McHale himself for sparking unrest in Caledonia in December 2007.

Fantino has repeatedly called McHale a "lighting rod for confrontation" and potential violence.

Mr McHale's "lighting rod" behaviour has consisted of publicizing the janus-faced policing of Caledonia. Aboriginal "protesters" being given lighter treatment than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Whether or not one agrees with McHale's tactics, the behaviour of Commissioner Fantino has been disgraceful. Duly elected officials have sided with a local citizen, on what should be a fairly cut and dry issue. 

Private property was seized illegally, using a rather liberal interpretation of an obscure Georgian-era treaty as pretext, and the public peace repeatedly disturbed. It's a basic law and order issue. Yet the police are siding with the criminals. The motivation? Perhaps sympathy with the land claim, perhaps political pressure from Ottawa and Queen's Park, probably a bit of both. The conduct of the OPP Commissioner in Caledonia has been in his typically high handed style. Rather than seeing local residents as victims to be defended, he has regarded the counter protesters at Caledonia as nuisances, getting in the way of an efficient police operation. The counter protesters, of course, would disappear tomorrow if the OPP simply enforced the law. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (13)

'We can’t go on like this'

Talks like a Thatcherite. Walks like a Red Tory.

The simple, emotional phrase is likely to have been chosen by central office because pollsters heard it on the streets or in focus group sessions, as ordinary people expressed their exasperation with New Labour or their sense that Britain’s finances cannot be allowed to deteriorate further.

However the line was also used repeatedly by Margaret Thatcher, both when she was an Opposition politician and Prime Minister.

She said it in a speech to the Conservative Party conference in 1976, as she called for the country to live within its means.

“We can't go on like this. We are paying ourselves more than the value of what we produce. We are spending more than we earn.”

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 14, 2010 in International Politics | Permalink | Comments (29)

Alberta cabinet shuffle not good enough

The Calgary Herald is reporting that the Alberta Premier Stelmach's cabinet shuffle represents a shift towards fiscal conservatism. There may be truth to this because well known fiscal conservative Ted Morton is being placed as Finance Minister. This is being viewed as a signal that the Albertan government is serious about cutting costs.

Personally I'm not sure how much weight to give Mr. Morton's appointment. Mr. Flaherty also was once viewed as a strong fiscal conservative, but he has brought in the largest budgets in Canadian history. Truth be told, it doesn't really matter how wonderful Mr. Morton is or is not (same with Mr. Flaherty), the budget is ultimately directed by the first minister. It is the first minister not the finance minister that needs to be replaced in Alberta.

As a side note I would like to congratulate the Wildrose Alliance. They have managed to crawl out of the political wilderness to have a real impact. It is almost certain that Mr. Stelmach would not be making any move towards restraint if it wasn't for the threat of Ms. Smith.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 14, 2010 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Perhaps, a new approach to America?


As I was reading this article at Ars Technica, something jumped out at me. Something that unleashed the floodgates of anti-statism in my mind, bringing this recent move by Google -- to refuse to censor search results in China -- into a strange and ironic light.

According to a source from Macworld, as reported by Ars Technica, the system that was compromised by the attackers -- strongly believed to be of Chinese government origin -- was a system setup by Google to monitor email traffic for US and other Western law enforcement agencies.

Julian Sanchez, writing for the Cato Institute, jumped on this:

"As an eminent group of security experts argued in 2008, the trend toward building surveillance capability into telecommunications architecture amounts to a breach-by-design, and a serious security risk. As the volume of requests from law enforcement at all levels grows, the compliance burdens on telecoms grow also—making it increasingly tempting to create automated portals to permit access to user information with minimal human intervention."

As it appears that the breach of Google's system was into the very systems that the US Patriot Act mandates all US-based ISPs provide to law enforcement, it begs the question of ultimate responsibility here.

I do not believe for a second that Google does not lament the existence of these monitoring systems, given it's co-founder Sergei Brin's memories of the repressive and totalitarian Soviet Union from which his upbringing hails. Indeed, Brin has demonstrated great difficulty grappling with his commitment to "don't be evil" -- the company's slogan -- and the draconian requirements that various world government's impose on it. Particularly those in China.

If the sources information is accurate, that the systems compromised are the very systems that agencies like the FBI use to scan emails for suspicious content, then I hope that the irony is not lost on someone like Brin; Google was less secure because it was, by law, forced to be. Instead of a sealed-tight box, the US government demands a hole be drilled in the side for it's security monitors to peep through.

While Google is likely depending on diplomatic pressure from the US Government to champion it's cause in the current row with China, it's unlikely that we'll see Google unleash any harsh criticism on the very US Government policies that perhaps, contributed to making this security breach possible.

But perhaps Google should make light of this, in order to shine light on the glaring hypocrisy of the United States. That, while the US laments Chinese spies attempting to obtain information on persons it considers a risk to it's national interests, it is actively doing the same thing. The difference is that Google is forced to be a willing partner in the spying efforts of US authorities, where they like it or not.

In a political environment where a great amount of the US population believes criticizing things like this is tantamount to being "soft on terror", it's easy to understand why Google hasn't mustered the will to pick a fight. The last thing it needs is the Republican Party and it's media mouthpiece Fox News, on a search and destroy mission against Google to pigeon-hole it as a left-coast, liberal, hippy, soft-on-terror, pro-al Qaeda organization -- which they certainly would have, had Google crowed loudly against the mandatory spying provisions.

The question I have is: how far down the rabbit hole of "doing no evil" is Google really willing to go? They're on a roll so far. I'm ready to be even more impressed.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (35)

Liberal attack ads on Proroguing Parliament miss the mark

A few days ago the Liberal Party released two ads taking the Conservative government to task for proroguing Parliament. I am on record saying that I think it is inappropriate to prorogue Parliament. Still, these ads display the incompetence of the Liberal communications team.

As much as the Liberal's tactics seem to have improved, they still lack a good strategy. The attacks on Mr. Dion, calling him "not a leader," worked because they were very plausible. Mr. Ignattieff being a tourist in Canada is slightly less plausible, but still plausible enough to be damaging.

 Looking at this ad I am left wondering what image of the Prime Minister the Liberals are trying to sell. Are they trying to convince Canadians that Mr. Harper is some sort of Emperor Palpatine? Because I doubt many would fine that to be plausible.

It doesn't help that the ad is badly written. The opening few lines are lame and the assertion that all this was done in secret is absurdly untrue. This cuts away at the credibility of the attack and weakens any potential damage that could have been done to Mr. Harper's reputation.

The other ad is not much better:

I don't see proroguing Parliament as a cover up and I don't understand how that accusation can seriously be made. If there really was a scandal then a couple of months shouldn't make a difference. It didn't make a difference for the sponsorship scandal. This whole ad's premise is just fundamentally flawed.

What should the Liberals have done? They should have attacked Mr. Harper for being arrogant, Machiavellian, and untrustworthy. These things may or may not be true but at least they would be plausible.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Joe Pantalone is running for Mayor of Toronto

Councillor Pantalone represents a continuation of the David Miller years. He represents the status quo and the increasing decline of Canada's largest city. He may not be a household name, but he has been in Toronto politics for longer than I've been alive. Despite Torontonians being sick of socialist policies, I would not like to discount Mr. Pantalone's chances of victory.

I'm not yet sure who should be the man to beat him. Mr. Tory has decided not to run for mayor (I was unlikely to support him anyway), which leaves either Liberal George Smitherman or Liberal Rocco Rossi.

At the moment I am leaning towards Mr. Rossi. It is early days, but the fact that he has promised to reduce the mayor's salary and to only sit for two terms is very hopeful.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Liberty Quotes

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

Thomas Jefferson

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

“Vote for me, I could be your father.”

Conrad on the rise of good governance in the Third World:

I also remember the hilarious carnival of Brazilian politics, highlighted by the candidate for high office about 50 years ago, who, when it came to light that he had several illegitimate children, changed his campaign slogan from some platitude about social justice to “Vote for me, I could be your father.”

This stunning change in quality of government in these large countries bulks far more importantly for the world than the uncharacteristic doldrums of some of the world’s historically most advanced countries. Great nations and doughty peoples are irrepressible over time and will find their balance again.

"I could be your father." How I love Brazil. Even their corruption has charm.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

"It's the most transient, fluid, unsettling work environment on the planet"

No, not I-banking, or a Bay and King law firm, or even a hospital. It's the Public Service:

Depression among Canada's public servants is the country's biggest "public health crisis," says a leading mental health expert.

It's an affliction among the country's nurses, teachers, police, military and bureaucrats at all levels of government, undermining innovation, productivity, quality of service, policy-making and even the relevance of our democratic institutions, said Bill Wilkerson, founder of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health.

Notice how cops, nurses, teachers and soldiers get mixed in with paper pushers. They're all government employees, but they are not all bureaucrats. 

"The public service is a tsunami of distractions -- meetings, everything questioned, delegated, people moving ... and no one is really in charge," said Wilkerson. "It's the most transient, fluid, unsettling work environment on the planet, so why wouldn't people be anxious and in distress? They are human beings."

Yes, it sounds like a normal office. 

But Wilkerson argued the big savings will come by reforming management in the public service, which will go a long way to reducing disability claims. He said the across-the-board cuts that government's typically resort to will only eat into the public service's productivity.

How do you measure productivity in the Public Service? They don't produce anything. Miles of red tape generated per annum? Number of regulations enforced per week? Amount of wealth looted per hour? 

The tragic death of Ottawa police Const. Eric Czapnik and the mentally ill Kevin Gregson, the former Mountie who is accused or killing him, raised questions about the responsibilities of employers to promote mental health in the workplace.

Now there's a fine bait and switch. Conflating stressed and unsackable bureaucrats with a front line cop, killed by a sociopathic ex-Mountie. What does one have to do with another?

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

“The Brits brought order"

And independence brought violence and superstition. The women of the Middle East are among the least well known victims of the retreat of the West, and its values. The post-war Left viewed imperialism as an evil, which sometimes it was. They naively imagine that the cultures ruled over by the European powers were morally superior. The myth of the Noble Savage blinded them to the bloody reality. As the Empires were dismembered a bad was replaced by an evil. "From bikinis to burkas."

“The Brits brought order,” my father used to tell us. My sister Faiza talks of a cosmopolitan port where European ships would stop on the way from Europe to the Indian subcontinent, often bringing with them such coveted merchandise as the latest fashions or, more thrillingly for my then-teenage sisters and brother, early Beatles albums. For some reason, Yemenis especially liked Ringo Starr.

But that security was rocked by guerrilla uprisings in the mid-1960s, and came to an end in the fall of 1967 when the nascent nationalist movement declared independence from the British.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stelmach announces new communications director

Last month the Western Standard reported in a post entitled "Paul Stanway, media independence and the Wildrose Alliance" that one-time Edmonton Sun publisher Paul Stanway had announced his resignation as director of communications for Premier Ed Stelmach.

Yesterday we learned that the Premier's new communications director is Cam Hantiuk.

“I’m very pleased to have Cam lead my communications team,” said Premier Stelmach. “He has an excellent background in strategic communications planning, and I have full confidence in his ability to ensure our message is reaching Albertans.”

According to a government press release, Hantiuk has an extensive communications background in both the public and private sectors. In 1991, he worked with the provincial department of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs on files including constitutional reform, the Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. From 1993 to 1997, he worked with Alberta Environment on communications projects including Special Places.

He served as the Executive Assistant to former Environment Minister Ty Lund in 1997 and 1998. After leaving the minister’s office, he did further communications work for Alberta Environment, including the branding strategy for Alberta’s provincial parks.

Since leaving government, Hantiuk worked in the pharmaceutical industry and since 2004, served as the Director of Public Affairs for the western Canadian office of Waste Management of Canada Corp.

Hantiuk will be plying his trade against Shawn Howard, Director of Communications for Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance; Brookes Merritt, Director of Communications for the Alberta NDP Opposition Caucus; and Neil Mackie, Director of Communications for the Alberta Liberal Caucus.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)