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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friends of the Canadian Taxpayer

CBC South:

Liberals tend to prefer Thomas Jefferson’s vision of religious liberty to the one actually enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, so here’s one for them, from his bill for religious freedom in Virginia: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

NPR has fired Juan Williams for the sin of confessing that he sometimes feels fear when he sees a Muslim in obvious religious garb seated near him on an airplane. Williams made his confession on Fox News, a private network. Those who find the opinions expressed on Fox News abhorrent are free to turn it off, depriving it of viewers and transitively of ad dollars. But those of us who believe that NPR propagates a worldview we do not share, and that it furthermore has treated Williams abhorrently, are nevertheless compelled to keep on providing 16 percent of its member stations’ operating revenue.

Sixteen percent, eh? Try sixty percent. That's how much of the CBC's revenue comes from you and me, whether we watch the remnants of Peter Mansbridge's hairline or not. When will the CBC die? My guess is within days of Don Cherry announcing his retirement.

There is a beautiful irony that such an engine of Leftist propaganda has been held aloft, for two decades now, by a seventy-six year old Horatio Alger reading conservative monarchist. His favourite historical figure? Lord Nelson. I'm not much of a hockey fan, but I've always been a fan of Don Cherry. Hockey and Grapes are the only reason a sane man would watch the CBC.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (23)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mad Max - Beyond Separatism and Federalism

So, you and Stephen Harper are in the same party? Really?

But he said Quebec governments over the past 50 years have undermined this by constantly demanding more from Ottawa, including, he said “particular privileges.”

“Essentially, we are saying to the rest of the country, it’s only us who are special and we should have more powers and influence than all of you,” he said.

He mentioned the idea of Quebec having more seats in parliament than its demographic weight would specify or a veto on constitutional changes. “And we ask for all this of them with a knife to the throat: ‘Say yes, or else we separate.’ Put yourself in their place. Are they not somewhat right to be reticent?”

Amazingly enough the audience clapped. Just waiting for the calls of vendu to start echoing though La Belle Province...Well give it time. The one part of Maxime Bernier's speech, as well as the one he gave at the Albany Club earlier this month, that is likely to gain traction is the removing of the federal government from provincial affairs. While such increases in provincial autonomy would be matched by reduced transfer payments, it's a trade off that Quebec voters might be willing to mull. 

Max's provocative comments came at the kick-off conference to the Reseau Liberte-Quebec (Quebec Freedom Network), the same weekend that poll results suggest that a new right wing provincial party would do well in the polls. Selling small government in Quebec can be described as preaching abstinence in a brothel. The fiscal instability of Quebec's over generous welfare state seems, however slowly, to be changing the attitude of the province's voters toward the Santa Claus approach to government.

At the federal level this can only bode well. One of the common arguments offered by defenders of "incrementalism" is that Quebec will never vote in a small government party. A more fiscally and economically reticent Quebec would undercut that argument. Joined with Quebec's long standing desire for greater autonomy, you have the workings of a genuinely conservative majority government. Brian Mulroney built two majority governments by promising less government to Alberta, more autonomy to Quebec and national stability to Ontario. There is no reason that Mad Max couldn't repeat the trick, albeit actually carrying through on such an agenda. Unlike the Brian.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why can’t Chuck get his business off the ground?


HT Quot'd

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

A Grand Idea - Bringing Back the Grand Jury

The Man from Lanark wants to bring back an old idea:

Ontario's public agencies and institutions are inadequately monitored, says Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier, who Monday proposed reintroducing grand juries to the province.

Hillier says grand juries, abolished in Ontario more than three decades ago, would add populist oversight to those bodies that are now monitored by a patchwork of offices.


They would also make it easier for individuals to pursue private prosecutions.

While Grand Juries are a fixture of American jurisprudence, they were abolished in Ontario in 1976. Dating back to the reign of Henry II, the purpose of the Grand Jury was to screen charges brought by private individuals and government officials, seeing if such charges should be sent for trial. Empowered to hear witnesses and conduct investigations, they were seen by many modern jurists as outdated. Born in the primitive and slow moving world of late medieval England, they became legal encumbrances to efficient justice. Today crown prosecutors present charges to a magistrate, who decides if they can be sent for trial, during the committal procedure

American Grand Juries approve the overwhelming majority of cases brought before them by prosecutors. Since the procedural standards are very low compared to a full trial, some have complained that, at least in serious criminal matters, the Grand Jury serves as little more than a prosecutorial rubber stamp.

Randy Hiller's call for a return of the Grand Jury looks to be focused more on improving governmental oversight, than changing the modern committal process:

Grand juries serve three fundamental purposes, empowering citizens to be full participants in the political/legal system, providing scrutiny & oversight for public bodies & institutions through public investigations, and facilitating the laying of private information. Presently, the Attorney Generals Office is the gatekeeper to the halls of justice. Grand juries empower citizens to defend our common laws, public institutions, and subordinate bodies of the legislature. 

The imagined approach, it seems, is that private citizens can press charges against public officials, which would be reviewed by a Grand Jury, rather than an official from the Attorney-General's office. This was a common function of the Grand Jury system in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using its investigative powers, including calling witnesses, it could determine whether charges should be brought to trial, circumventing the network of government appointed - and financed - oversight bodies.

While inefficient for routine criminal matters, a revived Grand Jury system would give a powerful tool to ordinary citizens to prosecute malfeasance and incompetence by public officials. A tool that was sorely needed during Adscam, where we had to wait for the Martin government to call an official inquiry, and that would prove invaluable in investigating the conduct of the OPP in Caledonia.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Caledonia and Mr Law and Order

When Stephen Harper first presented himself as a national figure, he consciously projected the image of a conservative reformer, someone who would fight to overturn Canada's growing position as a "northern European welfare state."

After four years in government, and two years of record budget deficits, Stephen Harper has forfeited the name of fiscal and economic conservative. His focusing of law enforcement energies on Canada's own version of the Drug Wars, rather than on genuine criminals, has tarnished his law and order credentials.

With Prime Minister Harper's support, former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino has been nominated as the Conservative candidate in Vaughn. The riding has been held by long-time Liberal back bencher Maurizio Bevilacqua since 1988. Bevilacqua resigned his seat in September to run for mayor of Vaughn. This has given the Conservatives their first opportunity in decades to recapture the riding, while at the same time expanding their bridgehead in the Liberal dominated GTA. To this end Julian Fantino seems an ideal candidate.

As former head of Canada's second and third largest police forces, Fantino carries an enormous prestige and is seen by the party as a star candidate. For the Tories, Julian Fantino is Mr Law and Order, exactly the sort of figure who can appeal to crime worried suburban voters. In his four years as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), a term which ended this summer, Fantino has been front and center in the ongoing Caledonia land dispute.

To evaluate Fantino's fitness for political office and, if rumours are correct the cabinet table, it is important to look into his conduct during the Caledonia crisis. Assuming command of the OPP in October of 2006, seven months after the initial occupation of the Douglas Creek Estate, the majority of the nearly five year long saga has taken place during Fantino's watch. 

The Caledonia crisis represents the longest single breach of the peace in modern Ontario's history. Millions of dollars in vandalism have taken place, ordinary residents and journalists have been threatened and physically assaulted. A large swath of Canadian soil has been effectively annexed by a gang of thugs who regard themselves as a sovereign power. During this long running and dramatic series of illegal and violent acts, what has been the response of Julian Fantino, Ontario's top police officer?

While some individual criminals have been charged, and some of those brought to justice, very little has been done to stop the general lawlessness of Caledonia. Very little has been done to stop the organized conspiracy which clearly exists to subvert the Queen's peace in this part of rural Ontario. The same force which occupied the Douglas Creek Estates in 2006 remains in place, periodically blockading public roads and menacing local residents.

When local residents organized to protest these illegal acts and to demand protection from the police, as is their legal right as Canadians, the OPP responded by charging and arresting organizers of these protests. When the local Mayor was seen as giving support to the protestors, Commissioner Fantino placed pressure on the mayor to desist. 

To properly understand the Caledonia Crisis, and the role of Julian Fantino, some historical context is needed. In the aftermath of the American War of Independence, some of Britain's aboriginal allies, former members of the Iroquois Confederacy, had their land in what is now upper New York state ceded to the new American Republic. In compensation the military governor of Quebec (which included most of modern Southern Ontario), Frederick Haldimand, purchased a track of land along the Grand River from the Mississauga. Shortly thereafter he granted it to tribes who had allied themselves with the Crown.

While the colonial government initially prevented the aboriginals from selling or leasing land to Europeans, at the insistence of the tribal authorities - especially Joseph Brant - this was eventually allowed. Over the next half century the vast Haldimand track was whittled down through land sales to European settlers. In 1840 the then Province of Canada created a reserve of some 8000 hectares, later increased to 19,000 hectares, a tiny fraction of the original grant. Through out the 1840s the remainder of the Haldimand track was surrendered by the various tribal governments. In 2005 Henco Industries announced its development of what was to be called the Douglas Creek Estates, a property adjacent to the Six Nations Reserve.

Elements within the Six Nations dispute the legitimacy of the 1840s surrender, saying that the aboriginal signatories were not authorized, or their acts were later repudiated by the tribal governments. Therefore Henco's land title from the Ontario government was invalid, the land being legally that of the Six Nations. In October of 2005, Six Nations Chief David General issued a written warning to Henco about developing the Douglas Creek Estates area. 

In late February of 2006, elements from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario, occupied the Douglas Creek Estate. Justice Marshall issued a series of injunctions, and two contempt orders against the occupiers, in March. The OPP arrested 21 of the occupiers on April 20th. Later that same day hundreds of aboriginals, likely from the nearby Six Nations Reserve, reoccupied the site, drove away the OPP officers assigned to the Douglas Creek Estate, established a road block and burned down a bridge. Local firefighters refused to respond for fear of being attacked.

In May a nearby Hydro substation was destroyed by vandals, likely connected to the occupiers, causing over a million dollars in damages. Repeated calls by local residents for the OPP, provincial and federal governments to act were ignored. In June two local journalists were attacked and video footage stolen from them by members of the occupying force.

Through out this period scores of minor assaults, thefts and acts of vandalism are committed, with a limited response from the OPP. On June 16th the provincial government announced the purchase of the Douglas Creek Estate from its developer, Henco Industries. When further efforts were made to enforce the March injunctions, the Ontario Government obtained a stay of the original order by Justice Marshall. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in late August 2006 that:

The province owns Douglas Creek Estates. It does not claim that the protesters are on its property unlawfully. It does not seek a court order removing them. It is content to let them remain. We see no reason why it should not be permitted to do so.

In order words, with the purchase of the Estates, the province had converted trespassers into guests of Her Majesty's Government in Right of Ontario. From that time forward there has been little change in the status of the Douglas Creek land claim. There is still an aboriginal occupying force on what is now Ontario government land. This was the status which Julian Fantino inherited in October of 2006, when he assumed command of the OPP.

Had only the land claim been at stake, it's unlikely the residents would have been much disturbed. Instead a wave of terror was initiated in Caledonia against its non-aboriginal citizens. During this wave of terror Julian Fantino, likely bowing to political pressure from Queen's Park, failed in his duty as an officer of the law.

His failure became the failure of the OPP forces station in Caledonia, leaving Canadian citizens at the mercy of a lawless mob obviously contemptuous of our laws and government. These were not protestors seeking to defy an unjust law, but violent criminals seeking to impose their will on private persons and property. A Six Nations "development institute" went so far as to demand "a development tax," an arrogant presumption of sovereignty.

Among the crimes committed, but largely unpunished, at Caledonia during the Fantino era:

In September 2007 Sam Gualtieri, a construction worker, was beaten unconscious at a home he was building for his daughter. Earlier in the day he had taken down an aboriginal flag from the building. 

David Brown and Dana Chatwell lived within the occupied zone. Frantic calls to 911 were ignored. Gangs of thugs regularly threatened the family and Brown slept with a shotgun. He was arrested by the OPP one evening while returning home. His crime? Having violated a curfew imposed by the aboriginal occupiers. The OPP was, in effect, enforcing the edicts of an illegal power, while refusing to uphold the laws of Canada. The occupiers issued "passports" to the local residents. The family moved out of Caledonia only when a settlement was reached with the province. 

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer supported local residents who rallied for police protection, and demanded the equal enforcement of Canadian laws. In September 2007 Mayor Trainer received what she regarded as a threatening e-mail from Commissioner Fantino. The OPP head suggested that he might not renew the county's policing contract the following year. Fantino complained that Trainer's support for activist Gary McHale might escalate the situation with the aboriginal occupiers.

Gary McHale pursued a private charge against Fantino for influencing municipal officials, an extremely rare and difficult legal maneuver, over the e-mail. The Crown withdrew the charge in February 2010. McHale has vowed to take the matter to the Superior Court. 

In December 2006 McHale was arrested for breach of the peace, during an attempted raising of Canadian flags, across the road from where aboriginal flags had been placed. McHale, and associate Mark Vandermaas, had made the attempt to highlight the two-tier enforcement approach by the OPP. Vandermaas, a former Canadian soldier, had the Maple Leaf ripped from his hands by police while being arrested.

For his efforts McHale became a target of the OPP and in particular of Julian Fantino. During a December 2007 protest:

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino encouraged his officers to lay charges against a protester — before there was any evidence the man had committed a crime — during a clash between natives and residents of Caledonia, Ont., in late 2007, according to emails made public this week in a court case.

"At some point McHale has to go," Fantino wrote Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis, a half hour after a protest began on Dec. 1, 2007, referring to Gary McHale of Richmond Hill, Ont., who was leading a campaign to hold the OPP accountable for its policing decisions.


Goodall told Fantino police could get McHale with an obscure charge for counselling mischief, not committed. Police also wanted charges against Clyde Powless for assaulting a police officer and assaulting McHale.

Powless [an aboriginal protestor] was never charged with assaulting a police officer.

The charge of "counselling mischief not committed" was laid, with absurd bail conditions, but eventually stayed after further legal efforts by McHale. The main purpose of the charge seem to have been to find a legal pretext for keeping McHale away from the area. All while Julian Fantino exercised ultimate authority over the Caledonia situation. This is the man Stephen Harper wants to represent the people of Vaughn in Parliament? A likely minister of the Crown? This is Mr Law and Order?

In his four years in power the Prime Minister has sold Canadian conservatives a false bill of goods. He has promised us greater freedom from the state, a fight against crime and a strong defence of Canadian sovereignty. In supporting Julian Fantino for Parliament he has again failed to live up to his promises.

Despite the disgraceful neglect of the Caledonia Crisis by the mainstream media, there is a wealth of resources available online:

Gary McHale has an exhaustive website on the crisis: CaledoniaWakeUpCall

Mark Vandermaas' own website (which also covers Middle East issues) is here.

The Caledonia Victims Project (also run by Mark) resource page is here.

The formidable Christie Blatchford will soon be out with a book on Caledonia: Helpless

Blatchford traces McHale's legal maneuvering here.

Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas have put together a ConservativesAgainstFantino site, in which they exhaustively explore the former commissioner's conduct in Caledonia.

This CBC story from early in 2010 documents McHale and Vandermaas' remarkable fight. 

The CBC's timeline of the Caledonia land claim. A timeline of the occupation until Fantino's assumption as OPP Commissioner. The Wikipedia entry.

Related at the Shotgun: A Government of Men and Not Laws

Peter Worthington: Helpless in Caledonia

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (40)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Sacred Trust Revisited

A quarter century ago Brian Mulroney - I'm sure you all have fond memories of that name - rose to power, in part, by pledging that Medicare was a "sacred trust." In other words, contrary to what the choir invisible of Canadian opinion wanted the electorate to believe, the Boy from Baie-Comeau was no free market extremist. Nope, it was to be status quo for the hallmark of the post-Trudeau national brand, socialized health care.

Well, as the Brian's good friend Ronald Reagan liked to say, status quo is Latin for the mess we're in. Such a mess, in fact, that even the Brian is having second thoughts about the sacredness of Medicare:

It seems to me that, on health care for instance, we need to strike a better balance between the intrinsic value of universal coverage for basic medical service and the readiness, indeed the capacity, of Canadians to pay the necessary taxes to support the system.

A serious, adult discussion is called for, and I believe a blue-ribbon panel of medical and financial experts could provide a sensible framework for the debate and for the decisions needed. Not surprisingly, the fundamental assumptions on which Justice Emmett Hall based his recommendations for medicare almost 50 years ago have changed and we need to adapt accordingly.

Well, it's not exactly a barnburner at the Cato Institute. It is, however, a confession by a former Prime Minister that the system is broke. He didn't say that exactly, the Brian is too much of a politician not say anything exactly. "A serious adult discussion" sounds like code for more private involvement and "Canadians to pay the necessary taxes" sounds like a call take another one for the Medicare team.

The fanatical insistence that we must defend our single tier system, lest we become Americans free market cyborgs, is held to even when it is quite clear we no longer have such a system:

Saskatchewan Roughriders injured on the field enjoy a privilege few others in the province share: They can receive a publicly funded MRI within 48 hours, so long as their team pays $4,500 to cover their scan and two others.

The local health region defends the profit-making arrangement -- publicized this week -- as a way to fund more MRIs for the ordinary public, and insists the policy is well supported by the province's football-mad populace.

To borrow from Deng Xiaoping, it's socialized health care, with Saskatchewanian characteristics. These fudges of Medicare scripture, in its homeland no less, are rationalized as exceptions which reinforce the the system. Just as the battle for Medicare was inaugurated by a doctor's strike, so its demise may come from doctors frustrated with the system:

A letter from the Sentinelle Health Group arrived at MPs' offices this week, advising them that their Ottawa clinic "is now offering health services with all the advantages of a public clinic."

"We are not a walk-in clinic. The patient with an appointment can have his or her annual checkup and consultations just like in a public clinic. The only exception is that Sentinelle Health Group charges a membership fee to become a patient," reads the letter, signed by the company's CEO, Mylene Chaumont.

It's a nice touch. In effect taunting our political masters with they mess they've made, and which they continue to loyally defend. The above CEO insists that everything is perfectly legal. It may very well be. Contrary to what you were taught in school, and has been bellowed by American talk show hosts these last few months, Canada has a partially socialized health care system. An FAQ at Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care explains:

What services does my Ontario health coverage cover?

The ministry covers a wide range of health services; however, it does not pay for services that are not medically necessary, such as cosmetic surgery.


The ministry covers all insured medically necessary services provided by physicians. Physicians may bill you for uninsured services or if you miss an appointment or your health card is not valid. 

What is "medically necessary?" Whatever the Minister and the Ministry's bureaucrats decide. If a service is not covered by the Ministry, well then the doctor might bill to his heart's content, and the consent of his patients. Yes Virginia, there is private health care in Canada. About 70% of all health care spending in Canada is by the various levels of government (which is below the OECD average), the rest is from the evil and greedy private sector. Dental care is almost completely privately run and financed, yet there have been no nationally crippling outbreaks of gingivitis. Nor is there a dentist shortage in Canada. Coincidences, I'm sure. 

As the Brian alluded to his speech last week, the aging boomer cohort is threatening the financial viability of Medicare. To those less enamoured with the system, it is a possible moment of reckoning for this relic of Sixties socialism. Being a nation of compromisers, and our politicians a class of elected cowards, it's unlikely this reckoning will come in a big and dramatic way.

As budgets get tighter, more and more services will be quietly delisted - like eye examinations for adults in Ontario. Every fiscal crises will be met with another round of de-listings. The public only becoming fully aware when their doctors tell them that they must now, after decades of paying into the public system, pay again out of pocket for specialized treatments.

The alternative would be a massive inter-generational tax grab, targeting the most mobile generation in history. Whose gonna hang around to pay for gramma's new hip? Not her professionally educated grandson living in Qatar or Hong Kong. Who'll be left to shoulder the burden? The less skilled and mobile, i.e. the least capable of financing the system. The contradictions inherent in Medicare will lead to its own destruction. A cold comfort to those suffering on our waiting lists, or bankrupting themselves in trips to American clinics.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Monday, October 25, 2010

How the Other Half Lunches

Fast Food Eaters of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose but your clogged arteries!

Best was responding to recommendations the province ban smoking in apartment buildings — an idea she rejected — when she was asked about the Double Down, and said it was something the government could investigate.

“It’s not something that we have discussed but it's certainly something we may look at and review,” Best told reporters.

However, her office later issued a statement in which Best claimed to “reiterate” that there were no plans to review the availability of any food products in Ontario.

“Consumers have the right to choose the food they wish to purchase,” said the updated statement from Best's office.

The Hudak Tories have had a field day with Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best's misstep. Leaving aside why we have an Orwellian sounding ministry like "health promotion,"  there is no indication that the provincial government intended to ban KFC's new larded concoction, the Double Down. The insurgent provincial Tories are not, however, going to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of good copy.

Harping - if you'll pardon the expression - on the McGuinty government's propensity to ban things that annoy busy bodies and frighten soccer moms, the provincial Tories are trying to paint the government as micromanaging statists. The implication being that should Hudak & Co. form the next government, away would go the pit bull bans and dietary secondary guessing. A new age of freedom would dawn. Though they try to avoid actually using the word freedom. It tests poorly with focus groups in Ontario. Sounds too American, or worse, Albertan.

Despite the pile on of the Dalt's nanny statism, it's unlikely the Ontario PCs would govern much differently. The Dalt has settled himself quite comfortably in the middle of the political spectrum, known locally as Bill Davis territory, and the progressive conservative opposition is hunting for votes on much the same ground. While the Hudak Tories offer the same great Mike Harris look (recall protests over photo radar), they combine it with same old soppy McGuinty taste and feel (hedging their position on the HST). Like with John McCain, the sound is hard rock conservative, the lyrics are conventional statist pop.

While the Dalt can see a political loser a mile away, recall how he tap danced around John Tory in 2007 over religious schools, those not seeking election are freer with their opinions on the Double Down:

Trevor Norris, a consumer specialist at the University of Toronto, says it's time governments protected people from corporations who create major burdens on society, such as future health care costs, from grossly unhealthy fast food products. 

I'm sure Mr Norris is great fun at parties. I might be missing something, but the last time I checked KFC wasn't driving people into their stories at gun point. Perhaps the local KFC where Mr Norris lives has an especially aggressive sales manager. He's gonna make you a two for one offer you can't refuse!

Now Mr Norris probably knows that fast food companies, for all their machiavellian wiles, frown on their employees physically threatening potential customers. We understand, instead, that large evil corporations manipulate people not through physical coercion, but through slick ad campaigns. People see bright lights, which confuses them, and glossy pictures of beautiful happy people eating salted, larded and over-lighted junk food. They can't help themselves, and respond like pavlov's dogs to a door bell.

Now which "people" are we talking about? These gullible and hungry fools? Is it Mr Norris himself?Or his friends and colleagues at the University of Toronto? Or perhaps the editorial board of the Toronto Star? The residents of the faculty lounge at Ryerson University? No, of course not. The "people" are the lower classes. Mr Norris and his friends don't eat at fast food joints. Perish the antipasto! It's working class people, and teenagers, who eat at these houses of caloric ill repute.

Teenagers grow up, eventually, and get tired of burgers and cheap pizza, at least the ones who get into U of T. It's the working class stiffs who shove these coronaries in the making down their throats, and those of their little wards, that is the issue. The anti-Double-Downers have a paternalistic view of life. We must protect the lower classes from their own stupidity! This goes, however, beyond grossly unhealthy diets and into every aspect of life.

Forced contributions to Canada Pension Plan? Well ordinary Canadians aren't smart enough, or long range enough, to plan for retirement, so we will force them to save and have the government "invest" the proceeds. Ordinary people can't provide for their own health care, so the ministry of health will do it for them. The attitude of the Canadian Statist Establishment is one of patronizing paternalism. Their message is a simple one, you the people are too stupid to run your own lives, so we will run them instead. 

The Double Down is just a case in point. Yes at a grossly unhealthy 540 Calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,740 milligrams of sodium, you want to minimize the number of Double Downs you down. But it's not even the worst fast food offender. Even at more respectable outlets the food is little healthier. Some of the delights on sale at your local Starbucks are about as bad as the Double Down, though not quite:

Banana Nut Loaf has 490 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Cranberry Orange Scone has 490 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Raspberry Scone has 500 calories and 26 grams of fat.

Zucchini Walnut Muffin has 490 calories and 28 grams of fat.

The Fruit Nut & Cheese Artisan Snack Plate has 460 calories at 29 grams of fat.

The Sausage, Egg & Cheese on English Muffin is 500 calories and 28 grams of fat. (The Egg McMuffin, by contrast, is 300 calories and 12 grams of fat)

But let's say you prefer to drink your way to lard heaven. For venti sized drinks (that's extra large for you proles) with 2% milk:

White Hot Chocolate is 520 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha is 590 calories and 15 grams of fat.

White Chocolate Mocha 510 calories and 15 grams of fat.

Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccion Blended Beverage is 500 calories and 9 grams of fat.

I can personally attest to the high quality of each of these beverages. I would rather get fat drinking the fabulous White Chocolate Mocha than eating the Double Down. It's a matter of taste, as in something with as much salt as the Double Down has no taste. But there is little outrage over Starbucks' high caloric offerings. Why? Because, well, you know the people who go to Starbucks are grown up enough not to overindulge. Unlike the mouth breathers lined up at KFC.

The argument that ordinary people aren't smart enough to make basic life choices, and therefore government must intervene to save them, is an old one. It's at least as old as Plato. The flaws of paternalism have been obvious since Plato too. How does someone else know what's good for you? You're an individual, not some fraction of a collectivist whole.

Perhaps you'd prefer to eat yourself to an early grave, rather than munch on celery well into senility. There is no right and wrong with matters of personal preference. Burger or biscotti, it's not an ethical dilemma or political quandary.

The obverse of freedom, however, is responsibility. Clogged arteries should equal higher health care premiums, since they are associated with higher health care risks. It's a common sense policy, which will never be implemented so long as Medicare stands in its current form. Universality of care destroys the responsibility of the individual, just as it destroys his freedom. When you refuse to make people responsible for their actions, in time their freedom will be curtailed. The only way to expand freedom of choice is by accepting responsibility. Something that will never happen so long as Canada's elites treat ordinary Canadians as children.  

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ultimately for Toronto, it has to be Rob Ford

I have to admit a certain hesitation towards Rob Ford as the next mayor of Toronto. Up until recently if asked I would have said that Rocco Rossi was my horse in the race, but with him stepping out I have had to take another hard look at Ford and Smitherman as my options.

One thing that I’ve noticed, if I ask someone to tell me why I should vote for Mr. Smitherman they instantly tell you why I should not vote for Rob Ford. Which makes George Smitherman the negative choice, the not Rob Ford choice. This is ironic because Mr. Smitherman has a much more in depth and comprehensive policy platform than Rob Ford. George Smitherman’s supporters really don’t do him justice by making him the negative choice.

Ultimately the real choice isn’t Rob Ford versus not Rob Ford, it is Rob Ford versus George Smitherman. In that contest the main complaint against Mr. Ford evaporates.

A year ago if someone had told me Furious George will one day be winning a character debate I would have laughed at the notion. The man is every bit the bully and embarrassment that Rob Ford is. He is merely fortunate that his worse antics were never actually caught on tape. The character debate is lame anyway. Frankly it doesn’t matter who you would rather grab a beer with, you are electing a mayor not a bar mate. It is completely irrelevant how much of a dick a politician is, all that matters is what policies he/she will enact once in office.

As I said earlier the Smitherman plan book is considerably more complete. But I just cannot bring myself to trust George Smitherman on the most important issue: public financing.

Yes he is saying basically the same thing as Rob Ford on finances, perhaps with a less populist tinge, but I never feel that he really means is. He knows that the mood of the city is for fiscal restraint so he is going to promise fiscal restraint. His true attitude, I think, is reflected in his dumped proposal to raise taxes to fund a program for the unemployed. He sees public finances as just one issue, not the core public policy problem now facing the City of Toronto.

This actually matters because when it comes to making austerity plans it will take guts and personal commitment to push it through. If Mr. Smitherman is merely playing lip service to the popular mood he will not have the political courage to fight the special interest groups that might suffer under budget cuts. If you want to be sure (or at least surer) that the budget will be cut, it has to be Rob Ford.

The other often made point is that Rob Ford is a divisive figure. More specifically that he is not a team builder and he is likely to be isolated on the council. It is true that the Toronto’s mayor is less powerful than other mayors or a Prime Minister and the future mayor really does need allies on council. But this ignores the very real power that will be in the hands of the Toronto mayor.

Let me put it to you this way. Who would you rather appoint the next TTC Commissioner, Rob Ford or George Smitherman? Considering the sort of people that have been cozying up to Mr. Smitherman lately, again it has to be Rob Ford.

Rob Ford isn’t the perfect choice by any means, but no politician ever offers a perfect choice. There are good things that can be said about George Smitherman, but at the end of the day Rob Ford is what the city needs right now: someone who will cut spending and fix the pot holes.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The United Kingdom's Budget 2010

It isn’t just the British government is cutting spending, and it isn’t even that they are cutting so much spending; although both of those things are exciting. It is what exactly they are cutting that makes the announced British budget the most important budget in post-war UK.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s coalition government is tackling, in one budget, the two most severe long term problems of the British economy: unproductive citizens and government debt.

Unproductive citizens (in this case) come in two forms: long-term welfare recipients and many government workers.

The UK has, for decades now, an incredibly generous welfare system. Despite reforms made by New Labour, the small incentive for low income earners to work has created a large pool of people who add nothing to the economy. They exist as parasites on the productivity of their fellow citizens.

By scaling back the overly generous welfare system the British government will encourage people to end their dependency. Creating a system that acts as an actual net rather than a reservoir will do a lot of long term good for the UK’s economy.

As for government workers…

In his book, Fearful Symmetry: the rise and fall of Canadian Founding Values, Brian Lee Crowley suggests that a third of government workers are not actually productive. That is, they do nothing but push paper around and create work for each other. If those jobs did not exist the economy would not be any worse off. In fact it would be better off because those people will then be able to enter more productive work.

The government of Great Britain is bravely trying to cut back on this entrenched group of unproductive people. As many as 500 000 public jobs are being cut; though in an economy where half the workers are public this is merely a good start.

In reality the problem of debt is the same as the problem of unproductive citizens. The state finances that are supporting this unproductively are not sustainable. It has led to ever increasing debt and an eventual crash like the one we’ve seen in Greece, except worse because the UK economy is much too big to bailout.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (44)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Calgary Mayoral Election - Revolution or Business as Usual?


Calgarians woke up Tuesday morning with a new mayor. Naheed Nenshi won an upset victory, defeating front-runners Barb Higgins and Ric McIver. Nenshi dubbed his campaign the "Purple Revolution" and, if you were to read the headlines, you might be fooled into thinking this was a political revolution.

"He achieved what many observers thought impossible — a wonkish, even dorky, academic and visible minority elected to the helm of what is often called Canada's most conservative city after a campaign driven by charisma and sheer determination," reads a story in yesterday's Globe and Mail.

To be sure, the Canadian media has been playing-up the redneck conservative stereotype that Calgarians are often saddled with for a few days now. "So Calgary, I'm writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you've gone soft.… To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada's conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive 'Rob Anders write in' campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance," wrote Dan Arnold in the National Post on October 14th.

Yet what should be surprising is not that Calgary elected a progressive mayor, or that it elected a Muslim mayor. Rather, I am surprised that anyone is surprised at all.

Calgarians have traditionally voted differently in municipal elections than they do provincially or federally. Outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier spent most of his nine years in office getting into pissing contests with the other two levels of government, in a bid to secure more funding for the city. He's basically the Danny Williams of the prairies. He also has ties to the federal Liberal party, having run for them in the 1997 election. So it's not like Nenshi is succeeding Attila the Hun.

While it may seem paradoxical to the rest of Canada—and many Calgarians—that the city would consistently vote for conservative politicians at the provincial and federal levels and at the same time vote for liberal mayors, I think the mentality is actually quite rational, if a little short sighted. Albertans have long been sceptical of government spending, especially if the money is going to support Eastern Canada. But if we're going to be taxed anyway, so the thinking goes, we might as well have a mayor who will try to keep as much as possible for the city itself.

Nenshi is also a bit of a paradox. He seems to have branded himself as a fiscally conservative progressive. Of course, it's simply impossible to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars while supporting progressive causes, but the key to winning in Calgary is to make people think you have a fiscally conservative mindset. I can't tell you how many Calgarians have tried to convince me that the Green Party of Canada has a fiscally conservative policy platform.

By all accounts, Nenshi is articulate, charismatic, well educated, and he used the Internet and social networking to ride a populist will for change straight into office. Sound like a certain U.S. president? Much like Obama, Nenshi could end up running up the debt with massive social programs and creating an uncertain political and economic climate that would scare away business investment (as if Premier Stelmach needed any help in that department). There is also a question of whether he will be able to push his policy platform through council, since he lacks political experience.

Nenshi does have some good ideas like allowing secondary suites and reducing red tape at city hall to make for a more friendly business climate. Unlike McIver, however, who pledged to reduce the corporate tax rate, Nenshi wants to create a "fair and equitable tax burden," which sounds like progressive code for increasing taxes.

He also wants to improve the transit infrastructure, reduce poverty, make the city safer, as well as build libraries, recreation facilities, and cultural centres. Some of his ideas, like improving the roads and rail lines, are much needed. Others, like conducting social engineering experiments on our neighbourhoods, are downright scary.

But where's the money going to come from? Calgary already has a higher debt to GDP ratio than Toronto, where mayoral candidate Rob Ford has a good chance of winning on his platform of derailing the "gravy train" at city hall. It would seem as though we're in for another three years of watching Calgary's mayor whine about how he wants more money.

So was Nenshi's victory revolutionary? Hardly. If you want to see a real Alberta political revolution, wait until Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance unseat the governing Tories in the next provincial election.

(Photograph courtesy Naheed Nenshi. Licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Cross-posted on jesse.kline.ca)

Posted by Jesse Kline on October 20, 2010 in Municipal Politics | Permalink | Comments (44)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ignatieff needs credibility on deficit fighting

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is trying to pose as a deficit fighter; he is positioning himself as the man who will bring back the surplus. This is good news for Canada in that both major political parties agree that the deficit is now a bad thing (even though they previously agreed that it is a good thing), but there is a problem of credibility.

Dr. Ignatieff lays claim to a Liberal heritage of deficit slaying and surpluses in the Chrétien/Martin years. The problem with such a claim is that most, if not all, the leadership of that era is gone. It would be like today’s Blue Jays assuring fans that they can win the World Series because they did it back in the early 90s. The current players matter more than the institutional history.

The current Liberal Party has to show that it is serious about deficit cutting. They have said that they have to ‘reconsider’ pass Liberal campaign promises, but does that include recent commitments such as money for those who take care of the elderly? If Dr. Ignatieff really wants to prove a dedication to ending the deficit then he needs to be honest. He needs to acknowledge that until the deficit is dealt with ANY new spending is off the table.

In a way the verdict is not yet out on the Liberal Party’s credibility on deficits. So far they have been talking out of both sides of their mouths. On one hand they have been demanding an end to the deficit, on the other they have been calling for more spending. But that is pretty standard procedure for an opposition party. I am keeping an open mind for Dr. Ignatieff to demonstrate the sort of fiscal manager that he plans to be.

Now it is up to Michael Ignatieff to convince me and my fellow voters.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Bastiat in Africa

And you thought that free marketers had a hard time selling their ideas in Canada, try Nigeria. Adedayo Thomas converted to pro-liberty ideas by stumbling across the ideas of Frederic Bastiat, the legendary nineteenth century French economic writer.

If anyone understood daunting odds, it was Bastiat. A prophet rarely honoured in his own land, Bastiat's arguments in favour of free trade, and against government regulations, fell on deaf ears at home. Instead the French gave the world the terms bureaucracy and dirigisme. In the English speaking nations, however, this scion of Bayonne merchants has become something of a cult hero among libertarians, classical liberals and some conservatives. 

Bastiat's success as a propagandist for the cause rests on the clarity of his writing style, and the force of his arguments. He has that remarkable ability, when first encountered, of piercing through so much of the cant of political chatter, whose hypocrisy and irrationality has changed little since his untimely death in 1850. Take this passage from The Law:

You say: "There are persons who have no money," and you turn to the law. But the law is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the law supplied with milk from a source outside the society. Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in. If every person draws from the treasury the amount that he has put in it, it is true that the law then plunders nobody. But this procedure does nothing for the persons who have no money. It does not promote equality of income. The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder.

With this in mind, examine the protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works. You will find that they are always based on legal plunder, organized injustice.

Now imagine someone, like many of you reading this post, who since childhood had been told about the wonders of the Santa Claus State, reading Bastiat's words for the first time. The government will give you free health care, free education, free housing and anything your heart desires. There is no Jolly Elf at the North Pole, we eventually discover, but his spirit inhabits the limp figure of Dalton McGuinty.

Well, not so precise or disappointing an image. The government is not its head. The most ardent statists are often strongly critical of the government of the day. Instead they project a hazy image of a wise paternalistic god. Sure, the Dalt is a horrible disappointment, but that's because he isn't sufficiently statist. More sacrifices and the god government will shower us with peace and prosperity. Witness the frantic insistence of modern Keynesian that the Obama stimulus package isn't big enough. Why? Well, because the economy isn't stimulated. Or put another way, you know you haven't borrowed enough yet, because you're not rich yet.

One of the most insidious tricks advocates of statism deploy, which Bastiat saw through, is the conflating of genuine values with the necessity of state action. Because something is good, therefore the government must subsidize it, regulate it or give it preferential treatment. This leads to the belief that to oppose government action, means you oppose the thing government is acting upon. Don't believe in socialized health care, then you are opposed to "universal health care." Denounce public education and you are classified as a promoter of illiteracy. Attack protectionism and you are driving your neighbours to the unemployment line.

You say: "There are persons who lack education," and you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of learning which shines its light abroad. The law extends over a society where some persons have knowledge and others do not; where some citizens need to learn, and others can teach. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in this second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property.

Hazy humanitarianism is replaced, with Bastiat, by simple reasoning. Whatever the excuse, theft is still theft. Your goal is brotherhood? Well, brother, you asked for it:

Mr. de Lamartine once wrote to me thusly: "Your doctrine is only the half of my program. You have stopped at liberty; I go on to fraternity." I answered him: "The second half of your program will destroy the first."

In fact, it is impossible for me to separate the word fraternity from the word voluntary. I cannot possibly understand how fraternity can be legally enforced without liberty being legally destroyed, and thus justice being legally trampled underfoot

Legal plunder has two roots: One of them, as I have said before, is in human greed; the other is in false philanthropy.

As one of Bastiat's contemporaries, Victor Hugo, put it: "this will destroy that." Hugo was referring to the Catholic Church and the printing press. The principle applies equally well with proclamations of human betterment, and the ensnarement of actual human beings in state bureaucracies. What Bastiat does, better than almost anyone, is calling people's bluff. You say you believe in this, but this is what actually happens. It is a message, and a style, as needed in Africa as in Canada.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 18, 2010


Before, during and after June's G20 summit the provincial government, the Toronto Police Service and the Crown Attorney's Office have balanced ham-fisted authoritarianism with Ruritanian incompetence. The former seemingly an attempt to make up for the latter.

The Keystone Koppery began a few weeks before the summit, with the mythical five meter rule, a rather silly attempt at intimating people who view being arrested as a minor form of political martyrdom. This continued with the tactical blundering that allowed police property to be turned into portable barbecues on the first day of the summit, then followed the next day with the random drag-netting of passersby, in an attempt to reestablish order.

That most of the actual criminals slipped away quite easily that weekend, only to be apprehended later through fairly basic gumshoe work, did not shake the resolve of Queen's Park, the PMO and the TPS that extraordinary times required extraordinary measures. Sure they do, if you can identify actual threats and respond accordingly, otherwise civil liberties are being compromised not out of dire necessity, but to make-up for simple incompetence.

The narrative pitched by the TPS, and its partisan supporters, was that dangerous criminals were on the loose, justifying the draconian legal measures and police tactics of that June weekend. Rather than a secularized Al-Qaeda, what we got instead was a bunch of near-juvenile delinquents, many of them from out of town, engaging in vandalism. Not peaceful and law abiding by any means, but not the grave threat promised. The issue of the G20 summit and its aftermath is not order versus chaos, but incompetence covered up by gross overreaction.

This idiocy in an iron glove reached a new low late Friday, with the re-arrest of an alleged G20 riot ringleader on charges - I can scarcely believe I'm writing this - of giving his political opinions:

Alex Hundert, an alleged organizer of G20 violence in Toronto, was arrested Friday night for breach of bail conditions after participating as a forum panelist at Ryerson University.


Hundert, 30, charged on three counts of conspiracy pertaining to G20 activities, was released in July on $100,000 bail with about 20 terms, including not participating in any public demonstration, explained Norris. “We are struggling with how broadly the Crown is interpreting that.”

That's right, a talk shop at a university is considered a demonstration. The $100,000 bail is a nice touch as well. There is little indication that Mr Hundert is anything more than a bourgeois Bolshevik, yet he was slapped with a tycoon-sized bail. Getting tough with the riff-raff, eh? Or just demonstrating a tin ear for the needs of the moment. If delivering political inanities about "building solidarity and understanding" is an arrestable offence, then the whole of the NDP caucus is in grave danger. 

As can be gleaned, I'm not a fan of Alex Hundert or his politics. If he is guilty as charged of the crimes laid by the Crown, let him be punished. Expressing cartoonish views of the capitalist system, however, is no threat to the peace. It is a threat only to common sense and good taste.

The persecution of Mr Hundert, his ludicrous bail conditions can be seen only in this light, has elevated a minor figure into a martyr. Part of the world view of the many of the G20 protestors, both violent and peaceful, is that the police are stooges of corporate Canada. The clumsy attempts to silence Mr Hundert, because of his attendance at an anti-capitalist forum no less, play into exactly that image. How better to combat a simplistic view of the world, than by behaving in almost exact accordance with its narrative.

The same day news broke of Alex Hundert's arrest, we had word that "Officer Bubbles" is suing You Tube:

When he first saw a video of a Toronto constable threatening to arrest a G20 protester for blowing bubbles, one YouTube user was so livid, he couldn’t stop writing comments.

In fact, the man, who uses the alias “theforcebewithme,” can’t even remember writing the specific comment that now has him defending a $1.2 million defamation lawsuit launched by Toronto’s now notorious “Officer Bubbles.”

Const. Adam Josephs seeks to compel the Google-owned YouTube to reveal the identity of the person who created and posted the videos as well as any information it has on the 24 other users who made allegedly defamatory remarks.

The crime in question? Cartoons and comments.

In his statement of claim, Josephs calls the cartoons and several comments “devastatingly defamatory,” alleging they have brought him “ridicule, scandal and contempt both personally and as a member of the (Toronto Police Service).”

Wow. A word of advice to Officer Josephs, never become a blogger. You wouldn't last very long. Mike Brock put in his two cents here. While I agree with Mike's arrogant bastards theme, I have to qualify it with observing how utterly clueless the behaviour of the TPS has been these past months, from top to bottom.

Had TPS Chief Bill Blair and Dalton McGuinty sat down, perhaps in some shadowy Queen's Park basement, and planned a way of ruining the TPS' reputation, they could not have succeeded more brilliantly. From charging people singing O Canada, to arresting a fool for attending a Far-Leftist gabfest, to suing a YouTube commenter, they are doing everything short of donning actual Darth Vader masks. We have long know that we are governed by arrogant clowns. The fear now is that we are being policed by them as well.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Conservatism on Ice

Why is it that Harper Cabinet ministers, once they have left their lofty perches, begin sounding so very conservative?

That’s why I have huge sympathy for hockey fans in Quebec City. They love their Nordiques, and what’s not to love? In the short time they were around they produced some great stars and some truly exciting hockey.

That said it would be a big mistake to let our collective passion for hockey drive public policy. Forgive me, but even if Hollywood stars with their deep insights into pretty much everything rally for federal funding for a new NHL arena in Quebec City, it’s still a horrid idea.

It would be a horrid idea in those good times when the federal treasury bulged with over-taxation.

In times like these, it is doubly horrid. It borders on hideous. It hints at trouble. It flirts with disaster.

How can you think like that, and still have worked for Mr Big Spender himself? A few months after being kicked out of cabinet, Mad Max started channelling Murray Rothbard. So Monte's relapse into small governmentism is not an isolated phenomenon. There are a surprising number of good people in politics. The problem is we find out who they are only after they've left power.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Fall Spent Bird Hunting In Alberta

Finally, I taste of summer has hit Alberta.  Just in time for winter.   However, the timing of this Indian Summer has been just the thing for outdoor enthusiasts and bird hunters like me in particular.  With the weather in check, Knox headed East a couple of weeks, back to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, in search of sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge.

Our first morning out was promising.  We ran into a covey of partridge right away, followed by a fairly large gang of sharp-tails just down the road.  Birds were acquired and smiles were abundant.  Thereafter, the birds were a little more spotty, but we still managed to find our share.  Great luck considering that landowners we came across told us that the hatch was affected by a cold, wet June, so they hadn't seen many birds around.  While it was far from a banner year in terms of bird numbers, we ran into enough to fill our days and our bags and to give us sufficient reason to drink good wine at sunset, while cleaning our birds.

In addition to the amazing cover, there was water in every slough and pot-hole we came across.  Grass was green and tall as I said before, which should make for a barnburner bird year next year if we have a mild winter.

Anyway, get out in the sticks and chase some birds this year.  Your efforts will be rewarded.  Make sure to bring a sufficient supply of bird-cleaning wine, a bunch of Skoal bandits (I prefer Mint) and a few ice cold Miller Genuine Drafts so that you can use one to wash down your lunch hour sausage and pepper sandwich (one of Knox's old pals roasts his own peppers and they are first rate).

Oh, the wine - 2005 Cabernet Franc from Wing Canyon in Napa Valley and 2003 Jaffurs Syrah.  Both were dynamite and were suitable rewards for some hard-walking across the bald prairie.

Posted by Knox Harrington on October 16, 2010 in Food and Drink, Gun freedom, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The saga of Officer Bubbles

Cross-posted to The Volunteer

53808a5748dd9d3c5173abde55ac Constable Adam Josephs of the Toronto Police Services is an asshole.  Not just any asshole. But a special kind of asshole.  The kind of asshole who acts like a total asshole, then asserts his right to be an asshole without actually being ridiculed for being an asshole.

In fact, he feels so strongly that he has a right not to be subjected to public ridicule for being an asshole that he has taken to suing YouTube for being the conduit of such ridicule.  He is also demanding those who produced cartoons mocking him, under the moniker "Officer Bubbles" have their names produced such that he can sue them too.

On a weekend where Mr. Josephs' police force undertook the biggest mass-arrest in Canadian history, arresting over one thousand Canadians, including hundreds of innocent bystanders and at least 800 people who were not involved in any illegal activity, in what some have described as "precautionary detention" -- Mr. Josephs' is demanding that a court award him over one million dollars in compensation for the damage to personal reputation caused purely by his own behaviour.


This attitude on the part of Office Bubbles may not surprising to anybody who has had any personal relations with police officers.  I have one friend who is a police officer, and two in my extended family.  One of them works for the Toronto Police.  And if you share this same privilege, you have may have experienced glorious tales of police power tripping at the dining room table over the holidays -- and how "stupid" members of the public are, especially compared to them.

The police have a brotherly code.  They look out for each other, and first and fore-mostlly, the police brotherhood views themselves as above the public.  Which is why, in a society that ostensibly celebrates free speech and fair comment, Officer Bubbles is asserting his right to be free from public ridicule.

The problem is much worse than a single police officer with an inflated sense of self-importance who considers members of the public to be "human garbage"; there is evidence the Toronto Police are actually targeting their critics, using heinous and illegal intimidation tactics.

The following video chronicles a Toronto Police officer physically assaulting a man, who then runs for help, and is then confronted by a dozen police officers in a back alley where his iPad and phone are searched, he is subjected to verbal abuse, being called a "drug addict' and "mentally ill" while he demanded to see a lawyer -- to which they told him to "shut up".

This was vaguely similar to my encounter with the Toronto Police on the Monday evening following the G20 summit, where a group of police officers verbally abused me while I protested the search, telling me they "didn't care" what I thought, that people like me "don't give a shit" about the security of Toronto, and that I was just an "idiot" who didn't know what I was talking about.

It is unfortunate that the two front-running mayoral candidates in the Toronto municipal election both support expanded police resources, up to and including the installation of a comprehensive CCTV system throughout the downtown, not unlike that in London, England.  Especially with a preponderance of evidence that the Toronto Police are out of control, are not being held accountable, and worse, as Mr Josephs' lawsuit shows: they feel they're actually entitled to get away with all of it.

Posted by Mike Brock on October 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (178)

Is there anything Google can't do?

After decades of governments trying to "solve" traffic congestion, a problem they largely created, Google is providing a solution:

Google Inc. is road-testing cars that steer, stop and start without a human driver, the company says.

The goal is to "help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions" through ride sharing and "the new 'highway trains of tomorrow,"' project leader Sebastian Thrun wrote Saturday on Google's corporate blog.

The cars are never unmanned, Thrun wrote. He said a backup driver is always behind the wheel to monitor the software.

It's not the first signal that Google wants to change how people get from place to place. In a speech Sept. 29 at the TechCrunch "Disrupt" conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said "your car should drive itself. It just makes sense."

You better believe it does. Not content to make our morning commutes easier, Google is also giving a knock to our old friend, the Consumer Price Index:

Google is using its vast database of web shopping data to construct the ‘Google Price Index’ – a daily measure of inflation that could one day provide an alternative to official statistics.

The work by Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, highlights how economic data can be gathered far more rapidly using online sources. The official Consumer Price Index data are collected by hand from shops, and only published monthly with a time lag of several weeks.

One less opportunity for governments to fudge the numbers. One of the great methodological problems of the CPI is that it does not capture asset inflation, i.e. how funny money boosts the prices of homes and stocks. The new Google index seems to replicate that same blind spot. Still, a fascinating idea. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scary Harper

Hi there kids! It's October! The weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing and Halloween is fast approaching. Are you excited? So am I! And so is Uncle Steve! But grown-ups call him the Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. You can call him Uncle Steve, just not to his face, or within earshot. He gets kind of mad when you do that. Or when you try to hug him. Anyway, Uncle Steve has a story for you all today. It's about an evil monster. You hate monsters, right? Well, so does Uncle Steve. This monster has a special name, it's called "Coalition."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came out swinging last night, slamming the "opposition coalition" and singling out Edmonton Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan in a fiery speech to local party faithful.


"It's hard for some of us to get our heads around where these guys are coming from on some of these issues," he said.

The Tories are trying to pass laws that will put more criminals behind bars, Harper explained. "White-collar criminals, pedophiles, bank robbers, violent offenders. The opposition doesn't agree with that. They have people they want to put behind bars: people who don't fill out the long-form census."

Wow kids. The "Coalition" sounds really nasty! And the long-form census sounds like a lot of bad, icky homework. Thankfully Uncle Steve said we didn't have to do it anymore, unless we really wanted to. But your teachers, and assorted bureaucrats, can still give you lots of homework.

Now some grown-ups don't like Uncle Steve. They say that he keeps talking about the "Coalition" only to distract voters, like your parents, from his rampant fiscal incontinence. People who say that are Liberal-loving-socialist-traitors, which means they are very bad people. If Uncle Steve stops being Prime Minister, then the bad monster "Coalition" will come to power. So because of that we all have to hope really, really hard that Uncle Steve is Prime Minster forever and ever.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"a libertarian cul-de-sac"

Unintentionally funny:

According to Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin, the trains run on time in Harperland, but all else is left to the tight-fisted control of its namesake.

Since Canada isn’t blessed with a resident king, queen, pope, imam (yet) or any role model except Don Cherry, the country’s leader – politically, economically, culturally and yes, even spiritually – is our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, by name and by vocation. He has shifted the Conservative Party into a libertarian cul-de-sac that has prevented him from wining parliamentary majorities three times running.

Unlike quite a lot of people on the right-end of the blogsphere, I don't have an axe to grind against Peter C Newman. His 2004 memoirs are required reading for anyone interested in post-war Canadian history. The Secret Mulroney Tapes will be combed over for decades by historians. He is an important figure in Canadian media history. He is also a moderate statist. Not a preachy granola munching leftist, nothing so boring, but he likes his governments interventionist.

Back in 1970, Newman, ex-Liberal minister Walter Gordon and perennial U of T political economist Abraham Rotstein (one of my former professors), created the Committee for an Independent Canada. It was for a time very successful, helping to push for the creation of such Trudeau-era staples as FIRA and many of the CRTC's CanCon regulations.

The CIC's creed was economic nationalism. Canadian capitalism should be controlled by Canadians. With the perspective of four decades it sounds terribly parochial. Today we are less concerned with whether the Americans are buying up all our companies, and more with why our companies can't compete in international markets. That reason is economic nationalism. Sheltered by over a century of protective tariffs, and nationalist controls like FIRA, they have a hard time surviving outside the Canadian regulatory hothouse.

I write all this in an attempt to explain to you, our gentle readers, how an intelligent, educated journalist of nearly six decades experiences could possibly describe the current position of the Conservative Party as "libertarian." If an intellectual movement could sue for defamation, calling the Harper Tories "libertarian" would be a landmark case. If you're a libertarian. Where one stands, Sir Humphrey Appleby advised, depends on where one sits.

For a mid-century Trudeau-admiring Leftist, Stephen Harper probably does look like the second coming of Calvin Coolidge. The scary thing is that many Conservatives seem to agree with Newman's assessment. Harper has been denied his cherished majority because he is too "libertarian." Thinking like that has given us four years of Liberal-lite.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Man of Mush

The Dalt retreats:

Residents pointed out the obvious problems with the plant: it was smack in the middle of an area filled with schools and homes. Oakville already has its share of big industry — a mammoth Ford plant for one — and the air already suffers for it.

Too bad. This was one line Dalton McGuinty wasn’t going to cross. He was determined to show other communities he could stand up to pressure, and that his devotion to green energy outweighed his concern about his party’s popularity.

Until Thursday. Then, all of a sudden, Energy Minister Brad Duguid shows up in Oakville and announces that — ta-da! — the plant isn’t needed any more.

Let me admit something that bloggers, and writers in general, don't often admit: I have no idea.  I have no idea if Oakville is a good place to build a power plant. I suspect not. Surely we could bulldoze large swaths of Scarborough, with no one being aware. Better to put a gas power plant in Scarberia than in one of the nicest spots in all of Ontario. Just from the common sense view of the problem.

So I'm inclined to believe that someone in the Ministry of Energy goofed. Or maybe they didn't. Perhaps a posh suburb is the best place to throw one of these things up. Perhaps you could open up a landfill near Rosedale, and the property values won't be adversely affected. It's a technical question.

Property rights, NIMBYism and Greenista paranoia all swirl in stories like this one.  Whatever the truth, what is abundantly clear is that Dalton McGuinty has a spine of rubber. Either we need a new power plant or we don't. Either Oakville is a good place to put it, or not.  The Dalt saw the likely loss of a single seat, and folded faster than, well, Dalton McGuinty usually folds. The sad sorry thing is that Tim Hudak might not be much of an improvement.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Portugal Beats Canada

Irrelevant nation wins irrelevant position at irrelevant organization:

Canada’s hopes of returning to the top body of the United Nations ended in crushing disappointment Tuesday when it withdrew from contention, handing victory to Portugal.

The defeat marks a significant embarrassment for Stephen Harper’s government. It is the first time in more than 50 years Canada has not won a campaign for a temporary seat on the Security Council.

In Tuesday’s election, Portugal garnered 113 votes in the second round, less than two-thirds of the ballots cast, which is the hurdle for a win. Canada received just 78 votes. As a third round of voting commenced, Canada announced it would no longer seek the seat.

Germany, heavily favoured ahead of the vote to secure a seat, won the other seat up for grabs in an earlier round of voting.

As you can expect the Portuguese responded to this triumph with complete indifference. When I checked the major Lisbon newspaper's site, Tuesday afternoon, the main headline was about - shocker - a Portuguese soccer victory. Bankrupt they may nearly be, but hell if they don't have their priorities straight. Old wise people, they understand only too well that what Cristiano Ronaldo does on the pitch, contributes far more to global happiness than anything UN Security Council has ever done.

Canada, which is a much younger country than Portugal, has responded to its defeat at the UN with all the composure of a teenage girl being rejected for cheerleader. The PMO immediately blamed long-time Harper rival, Lord Iggy of Harvard:

Mr. Harper's office wasted little time assigning blame for the disappointment, placing it at the feet of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

“I would say a big deciding factor was the fact that Canada's bid did not have unity because we had Mr. Ignatieff questioning and opposing Canada's bid,” Dimitri Soudas, Harper's communications director, told The Canadian Press.

“That was a factor that played ultimately against Canada because people outside of Canada were saying, ‘Well, Germany and Portugal have a united front, their opposition and their governments seem to be fully, 100 per cent behind this bid.’

Right. Canada was out maneuvered by a country with a population smaller than Ontario, and an economy smaller than Quebec, but really it was all Iggy's fault. Blaming your opponent is standard operating procedure in politics, but it makes little sense when the politician being blamed has, you know, absolutely no power.

Michael Ignatieff can bitch and complain all he likes but, for the time being, Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister. As such he, not Iggy, is responsible for running the government. Saying that you failed in your goal because the Leader of the Opposition was, amazingly enough, opposing what you were doing, is the lamest excuse imaginable. What did you expect him to do, agree with you? His job is to be a pain-in-the ass for no good reason. Just as one Stephen Harper was once a pain-in-the-ass to Paul Martin. It's how the game is played. Even dealing with the sacred matter of UN Security Council seats.

A more likely reason for Canada's defeat is that Latin America threw its support behind Portugal. Ethnic bloc voting is nothing new at the UN, and better a fellow "latin" nation get the seat that a bunch of snowbound gringos. Such a simple explanation isn't enough to satisfy the Great Canadian neurosis. "But we're the good girl!" Sure you are sweetie, but the boys just happen to like Maria better, it's not because you're ugly, or your Prime Minister has hockey helmet hair. Some, mostly on the Left, have suggested that the current government's foreign policy might have been to blame:

Some observers believe the Harper government's foreign policy is largely responsible for the outcome, including its pro-Israel stance on the Middle East, cutting foreign aid to Africa, and also the move away from UN peacekeeping and toward the Afghan mission.

However, [Foreign Minister Lawrence] Cannon dismissed the idea.

For argument's sake let's assume "some observers" are correct, that Harper & Co's super macho - by Canadian standards - foreign policy is at fault, and not the government's initially lackadaisical campaign for the seat. If this is so, our defeat is a very great compliment to us, and a profound indictment of the UN.

An organization that does not blink at putting Tunisia and Algeria on its Human Rights committee, has a problem with Canada supporting the only truly free country in the Middle East? Good. Better to have Israel's friendship than the support of a few dozen Arab kleptocracies.

Canada is having second thoughts about funding the Swiss bank accounts of various African tyrants? Good. Better that money be kept in Canada, for Canadian NGOs and private citizens to decide how best to help ordinary Africans.

Canadian soldiers are fighting, and winning, a nasty guerilla war in the wastelands of Afghanistan? Good. Canada produces some of the finest soldiers in the world, they are making the peace in a dangerous part of the world, instead of playing ineffective referees, at the behest of bureaucrats ensconced at Turtle Bay.

If Canada was indeed rejected for a Security Council seat because for the first time, in a long time, we have at least partially stood up for our values as Canadians, then so be it. We shouldn't want to be members of club that, for the price of that membership, asks us to forget who we are. Canada, as Laurier observed, is a free country and freedom is our nationality. That basic principle should be in evidence in our foreign as well as our domestic affairs. As has been amply demonstrated over the last sixty-five years, the United Nations has no interest in freedom.


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

Ending federal transfers could save Canada's health care system

One of the great advantages of the federal system is that it allows for policy experiments. Academics can theorize about the best way for government to deliver services, but until it is actually tried we don’t really know what will happen. Provinces can learn what went wrong and what went right in other jurisdictions, and Canadians can enjoy better outcomes.

A good example of this is welfare reform in the 1990s. It started with a few provinces making minor adjustments or major changes. Quickly other provinces saw the benefit and made their own reforms, often side stepping pitfalls that the earlier provinces had fallen into. Thus we enacted, what has to be some of the most important public policy reforms in Canadian history, through learning from one and other.

The same thing can happen with healthcare. To some extent it already does. Provinces fiddle with governance structures and shifting priorities. Still, real reform is hampered by the federal government. The Canadian Health Act prevents any real ingenuity and experimentation. The federal government uses its deep pockets as a club to prevent innovation in healthcare policy from the provinces.

This is why I agree with Maxime Bernier that federal transfers to provinces should be ended and provinces should collect more taxes directly.

This will remove the federal government’s club. Provinces will finally be able to enact the changes that they have been itching to do for years, the sort of changes that will give us a chance at making health care sustainable in the long term.

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

Canada records biggest deficit in history

"I've gotta tell you, spending money is fun, Mr. Speaker!"

It's official. Stephen Harper's government has managed to out-do Pierre Trudeau, and take the crown as the biggest deficit spender in Canadian history.

Clocking in at an impressive $55.6 billion, the Harper government has single-handedly managed to inflate the size of the Federal government since taking office in 2006, by approximately 50%.

Remember: conservatives warned us that we had to dispose of the out-of-control spending of previous Liberal governments, which delivered eleven years of balanced budgets, reducing Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio from almost 90% down below 50%.

Stephen Harper and Flaherty have managed to increase Canada's Debt-to-GDP ratio back up to about 80%, erasing almost a decade of debt repayment. Based on current trends, and given Flaherty's own estimates for a return to surplus in 2016, Canada will essentially be back in the same fiscal shape it was in 1995 (or worse) when all is said and done.

But hey, hey lowered the GST! So I guess that makes up for saddling our children with hundreds of billions of dollars of debt.

Pierre Trudeau's legacy can now rest on it's laurels of only being the second-most socialist government in history. We can now reserve the number one distinction for the former president of the National Citizens Coalition.

And remember, we need to keep those high-flying, taxpayer-stiffing Liberal's out of office at all costs! Up to and including a national bankruptcy. Prisons must be built, drug users must be jailed, prostitutes must be vilified, and Air Canada must be protected from international competition. We cannot let fiscal problems get in the way of these pressing national priorities!

Posted by Mike Brock on October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (21)

A Government of Men and Not Laws

In Caledonia:

I’ve only read the intro and scanned other parts, but what I have read so far confirms my belief that most people will have a hard time believing Christie Blatchford’s HELPESS isn’t a work of fiction. They’ll have to, though, because the detail is extraordinary. The word ‘shocking’ doesn’t begin to describe the range of emotions one feels at what the people of Caledonia went through at the hands of native extremists and the cops who were supposed to protect them, but chose not to.  So far, it’s a despicable, ugly story – beautifully told.

In Toronto:

“Once finalized, the G20 report will be made public in its entirety,” Marin wrote on Twitter, adding it will be made public before the end of the year.

Marin’s 90-day probe looked at why the province passed the secret law, which many thought gave police powers to arrest people who came within five metres of a security fence at the summit site if they didn’t show identification.

The law actually stated officers could only search people trying to enter the secure perimeter. But neither police nor politicians set the record straight until after the June summit was over.

Probably just slipped their mind. With all that effort spent in careful crowd control planning, wasn't the time to look over these small details. Kind of like the de facto declaring of Caledonia, sovereign Canadian territory, to be outside the protection of Canadian peace officers. Another minor detail, over looked in the big scheme of modern Canadian government.

In his writings on American independence, John Adams wrote of "a government of laws and not of men." The phrase was later incorporated into the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. He was describing the difference between how the British government was suppose to work, and the workings of a dictatorship (he used the term empire). In an a dictatorship it is the dictator, or a small cabal, that determines what the law is, and to whom it is applied. 

The refusal by the OPP, upon the supposed direction of the Cabinet of Ontario, to remove trespassers from a development in Caledonia, was a selective application of the law. Had the same behaviour been displayed anywhere else in the province, by any other group, the police would almost certainly have enforced the law. It is a glaring exception.

Various cowardly evasions have been used to explain the inaction of the police and government in Caledonia. That the OPP commanders did not want to risk the life and limb of their officers, a strange explanation as such risks are inherent in policing. Rumours that the so-called "protestors" carried with them automatic weapons is no more of an excuse.

If accurate intelligence had been obtained of such weapons, then an assessment should have been made. If OPP SWAT resources were insufficient, then the head of the OPP should have so informed the responsible minister. It would have been the duty of the minister to inform the cabinet, and of the cabinet to have requested the use of the army, if necessary, from the federal government.

Instead a cowardly abdication of responsibility allowed a state-within-a-state to emerge on Canadian territory. We are now faced with the absurd spectacle of the Canadian army successfully securing large portions of Afghan backcountry from the Taliban, while part of suburban Ontario is handed over to a half-organized group of thugs.

In late June in downtown Toronto the provincial government, and the Toronto Police Service, had no such hesitation in applying the law. Indeed, they seem to have been enforcing laws that did not even exist. Despite engaging in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, they still failed to prevent police equipment from being turned into barbecues, and private property from being destroyed. Most of the genuine criminals in the G20 riots took weeks to track down. That particular weekend, it was mostly peaceful bystanders who were threatened with violence - by the police. 

However foolish the decision to set the G20 conference in a major urban area, or however just the claims of the Six Nations aboriginals, the rule of law has been abused in both Toronto and Caledonia. Ultimately only one man is responsible, Premier Dalton McGuinty. In both cases his action, or inaction, resulted in a failure of the rule of law. Directly, or indirectly, the OPP has been restrained from doing their duty at the behest of Queen's Park. Bill Blair's tough talk about sweeping arrest powers would have been impossible had the Premier's office not tacitly approved. When challenged on his distortion of the law, the Chief of the Toronto Police Service was rather blase:

Asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

Nice trick. Those dirty nasty criminals. But if a police officer detains someone unlawfully, or is able to bully a citizen with a non-existent law, then who exactly is the criminal? If you can just make laws up, then who couldn't be made a criminal, just by taking a stroll down the wrong street without identification. Interestingly, Chief Blair was rather less vigilant in upholding the laws of Ontario, both real and imagined, last summer when Tamil protestors - some waving the flags of a known terrorist organization - blocked off University Avenue and the Gardiner Expressway. 

In Caledonia and Toronto the laws have been applied selective on the basis primarily of race. In the wake of the Ipperwash shooting, the McGuinty government is terrified of violence that might, however remotely, be considered racist. Thus aboriginals and Tamil who break municipal by-laws are not fined, who break provincial and federal laws are not arrested and prosecuted.

The ghost of Dudley George, an aboriginal occupier killed in 1995 by a panicky OPP sniper, haunts Queen's Park. The grave irony is that whereas the Six Nations claim to Caledonia is, at best, sketchy, the Stoney Point Band's claim to Ipperwash was actually very strong. Portions of Ipperwash were seized by the federal government as a war measure in 1942, after promising that the lands would be returned after the war. We allow injustices today, for fear of repeating the injustices of the past.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Move to overturn prostitution ban in B.C proceeds

Mirroring the challenge to the Ontario prostitution law, the B.C. Appeals Court has ruled that that a challenge to the B.C. law banning solicitation of prostitutes may proceed.

From the Globe & Mail:

A retired prostitute and a group representing sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say a B.C. Appeal Court ruling that enables them to challenge Canada's anti-prostitution laws could one day lead to decriminalizing an unsafe job.

Sheryl Kiselbach said she quit working the streets nine years ago after 30 years because she felt something would happen to her. Around that time women in the poor neighbourhood were disappearing off the streets.

Read the rest

What say you, Wild Rose Alliance?

Posted by Mike Brock on October 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, October 11, 2010

This is How the Pot Wars End

With a rather pathetic electoral whimper:

On the Yes side you’ll find everyone from doctors to lawyers to Facebook founders to the state’s largest public service union. And plenty of retired drug warriors, who no longer see weed as a demon worthy of the fight. Even some Tea Partiers bidding to end prohibition in the spirit of government-shrinking libertarianism. For many, the argument that ‘if you can’t beat it, tax it’ is the glue that binds in a time of extreme budget crisis.

The Nos, meanwhile, are lined up in a mismatch worthy of Monty Python. Here you will find old-school Reefer Madness rejectionists shoulder to shoulder with ethically challenged pot farmers and the cops who would jail them — all agitating for the status quo of more war, albeit for starkly different reasons. Soccer moms, polls show, worry the ballot initiative known as Proposition 19 will bring proliferation. Beer breweries worry about market share. Small-time growers and cartels alike worry about the taxman.

Approaching the November 2nd California ballot, the electorate seems to be tilting toward marijuana legalization. The vote, however, is somewhat beside the point. Governor Arnold has already signed into law the decriminalization of pot possession, for amounts less than one ounce. It isn't that Prop 19 is a bad idea, it would be an important step forward. It's that even a Republican state governor - OK, a RINO governor - is already surrendering half way. The question is when, not if, pot legalization comes to America. 

From time to time libertarians get flack from anti-prohibitionist conservatives - yes, they exist - for allegedly obsessing over the Drug Wars, and in particular the prohibition against pot. With the Obama-era Leviathan on the march everywhere, fighting over the right to toke seems a tiny struggle in a much, much bigger fight. Sure, legalize it, but it's lower down the priority list. Somewhere after preventing the US dollar from being used as wallpaper by ChiCom apparatchiks, and before privatizing the sidewalks. All in good time for the good fight. 

It's a sound argument. If you were drawing up a pro-freedom priority list, going from most abusive of natural rights to least, then you probably would put pot lower down the list. But we aren't drawing up a list in the platonic air of seminar small talk. If you can rollback the frontiers of the state, well then rollback the frontiers of the state. A victory is a victory. It has been relatively easy to convince a working majority of the electorate to legalize something many have used. Explaining that government playing Santa Claus, whether through the old fashioned welfare state, or its Obama themed expansion, is a bad thing has proven a harder fight.

The right to produce, consume and distribute marijuana may not be a fundamental right, but its abridgement has caused the violation of many basic civil liberties. From the gradual militarization of American police forces, including the now ubiquitous SWAT team, to Civil Asset Forfeiture, criminalizing so widespread a behaviour has lead to ever more intrusions in the private lives of peaceful citizens.

Just as with the Obama stimulus package, the more it is shown that the Drug War has failed miserably, the more governments and police demand greater powers. If spending a trillion dollars hasn't revived the US economy, then spend two trillion. If raiding suburban grow-ops hasn't worked, then call for random searches of motorists.

Laws are observed less because of the police, and far more because people choose to observe them. It is not because murder is illegal that most people refuse to bash in the skull of their next door neighbour. It is because most people choose not to resort to violence that such laws can be enforced.

Once more than a tiny percentage of the people refuse to observe a law, it becomes a dead letter. Sure the police will still catch a few people, from time to  time, but so many violate the law that being caught becomes a kind of negative lottery, akin to being caught in a speed trap. The use of marijuana has become in the popular imagination, like breaking the speed limit, a folk crime of little moral consequence.

Having failed to stigmatize marijuana itself, prohibitionists have instead tried to frame its use as the first step to perdition. With such paranoid classics as Reefer Madness, pot prohibitionist have resorted to describing the weed as a gateway drug. In the sense that people who use hard drugs have often used soft ones, it is a gateway drug of sorts. But it doesn't necessarily work in the other direction. Johnny isn't going to become a coke-head because he was once a pot-head. Just like everyone who has had a drink doesn't become an alcoholic. It's an argument that falls apart, unless wrapped in the sentimental thinking of soccer-moms and fire-breathing preachers. 

The pot laws are a dead letter, yet they continue to claim victims of their "negative lottery." Their end will signal not just a victory for users of the magic weed, but for everyone who believes in freedom.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (34)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Rehabilitating ideology

Andrew Coyne has hit the nail on the head with his recent article on the use of the word ‘ideology’ as a pejorative:

There is no more serious accusation in Canadian politics than that of having an ideology. Politicians would confess to killing their own grandmother rather than own up to such a thing: what the dictionary defines as “a body of ideas.” Possession of cocaine is a charge you can probably survive. But possession of ideas is career-ending.

I have heard the accusation of ‘ideology’ used so often that I think people have lost any sense of what the word means. To have an ideology, as Mr. Coyne points out, is to have a consistent conceptual framework for understanding the world around you. This is not only a good thing, but it is required if you are to have any sanity at all.

Everyone needs some way to decide what is right and wrong, everyone needs some basis to discern what action is appropriate. Without an ideology to guide your choices you would be stuck motionless, unable to pick from an infinite variety of possible decisions. Even if your ideology is nothing but a set of normative assumptions, you still have an ideology.

So what do politicians and journalists mean when they say someone is “ideological.” I think Mr. Coyne is almost right when he says that it is meant to be anyone who opposes the status quo. In actuality it is about defining the status quo as the only rational option.

If you believe that something is in need of a fundamental change then you are not practical, because only the status quo is practical. You are too ideological, because the status quo is somehow beyond ideology. You must accept the status quo because nothing else is possible.

All this has led me to a conclusion, an ideological concept, if you will: anyone who uses the word ‘ideological’ as an insult loses my respect.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7)

CNBC's Larry Kudlow sounds alarm on coming US Dollar collapse

Many of us free market types (Austrian school adherents and otherwise) have been saying this for years, and now we see the mainstream cluing in. But is it too late?

The stupid Democrat in this video insists that the collapse of the US manufacturing industry is to be blamed on China's managed trade policies, and thus advocates for the US instituting it's own managed trade polices to protect American manufacturers. This is of course, weasel wording for punitive import tariffing.

We've heard this story before, and it totally ignores the fundamental structural issues in the US economy.

There is no debating that the lop-sided trading relationship between China and the US is creating an absolutely disastrous situation. But this is a symptom of the US's own economic policies. Not a situation created merely by China managing it's trade.

The US government has, for nearly a third of a century, through inflationary subsidy, fuelled the drive for home ownership and investment in the service-oriented economy, effectively pricing the manufacturing industry out of the equation.

Why do any hard work, when you can simply borrow your way to prosperity on a credit card, working in a non-exportable service job? The fact is, this has been a pie-in-the-sky American dream from the start, and it's relied on continuous monetary inflation to keep this consumer debt bubble afloat for thirty years.

The rest of the world is implicated, too. In that, it "bought in" to the American debt bubble, by lining up in droves to sell bonds to Americans to fund mortgages and consumer debt.

American consumers were more than happy to take those record low interest rates, run off to Best Buy and Wal-Mart and stock their homes with electronics and other consumer goods.

Foreign bond investors kept sending the money because they believed, falsely, that the sky was the limit for real estate prices.

Worse, the US has seemingly permanently fooled itself into believing that this cycle of consumer borrowing and buying is the lynchpin of the US economy. In fooling itself that this is the case, it has adopted economic policies that subsidize spending and consumption, and discourage the act of saving and capital investment. This is why there is no manufacturing base in the United States. Not because of China's trade policies.

America is as much of a managed economy as China is. No matter how much people convince themselves otherwise, there is nothing "free market" about a nation with state-managed asset prices in real estate and other asset classes, via monetary inflation, buying and holding of idle supply, and engaging in direct intervention into the equity markets in order that prices going up. All in the guise of raising investor and consumer "confidence" so that everyone keeps borrowing and spending.

Moreover, we've learned these lessons before. In the Great Depression -- with Hoover's disastrous trade policies which arguably turned what would have been a short and sharp recession into the a depression -- and in the 1970s.

What people have failed to realize, is that today's situation is far worse than either of those situations. In both of the previous cases, the US had the means of capital creation -- a manufacturing base -- to fall back on. When the shit hits the fan this time, consumers will be faced with mass shortages of basic consumer goods and will have no way to obtain them in any short-order, due to prohibitive import costs as a result of a severely weakened dollar.

Certainly, when this happens, investment in manufacturing will skyrocket -- out of necessity. But there will be no quick fix. America will experience a depression, followed by -- at the very least -- a decade of economic malaise, if not complete social and political breakdown.

Posted by Mike Brock on October 8, 2010 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (22)

But Bloggers Are the Crazy Ones

From time to time I run into professional writers, usually of an older generation, who love to crap on bloggers. The unpaid hacks of the online world, I am told, simply lack the skills and professionalism of their paid counterparts. "Amateurs," they sniff. 

My reply is a simple one, explain how Heather Mallick is anymore professional, or competent, than the typical blogger. I don't mean the better bloggers, I mean the statistical average. The drooling dolts whose idea of deep analysis extends no further than "Wall Street is Bad," or "Muslims are Bad," depending on political lean. I have yet to hear an intelligent reply. Jonathan Kay dissects the Mallick:

Several people have emailed me a link to Heather Mallick’s column about Rob Ford in today’s Toronto Star, claiming that it’s her most disgusting piece of writing ever. I’ll admit that there’s a strong argument for this: Mallick’s column is based around the idea that voting in Rob Ford as Toronto’s mayor would somehow be akin to a desperate female bar-fly having a blind-drunk one-night stand with an oaf she meets at closing time. Much of the column is composed of a sort of reverie in which Mallick describes this hypothetical drunken episode. She gets back to Ford in the last few paragraphs, but it feels tacked on.

Just imagine Maureen Dowd, without the writing ability. It's not that Mallick is a Leftist. This isn't about the correctness of her ideas, just the inept defense of those ideas. It is true that she attracts a lot of attention, but only in the sense that a crazy bag-lady on a subway car attracts attention. Take this bit of nonsense:

Two years ago, I happened to be covering a University of Toronto conference of abortion-rights supporters where Mallick was a featured speaker. The prospect of regulating abortion should not even be up for discussion, Mallick said. In her opinion, the only reason pro-life voices occasionally make it into the media is that impotent, decrepit middle-aged male  editors subconsciously endorse abortion as a means to “control” the lithe young bodies that they are no longer capable of conquering sexually. She actually said this to a room full of people.

And it's conservatives and libertarians who lack nuance. If Ms Mallick ever emerges from that cave in the Don Valley, she might meet some actual anti-abortion activists. Some of those activists are women, in fact most of the ones I've met are women. For militant feminists they are female Uncle Toms, useful idiots for the patriarchy. They see themselves rather differently. 

For an old misogynist like Publius, the existence of female anti-abortionists isn't at all surprising. Most women have a maternal instinct. The women are men brigade will deny this vigorously, but anyone who has ever seen women interact with children, especially babies, knows this is bunk. If you believe life begins at conception, and have carried a child to term, the idea of abortion is horrifying. "Life" is not an abstract philosophical discussion, but something living and growing inside you. Years ago Elsie Wayne, who was a Red Tory in many but not all ways, literally screamed at a party conference about "killing babies."

Over the top? Yes, but at some level this is kind of how you want a grandmother to feel, if not talk. An instinctive defense of life and the vulnerable. Perhaps it's misguided, but the intention is a noble one. It's one shared by many women, including those with "lithe young bodies." Yet confronted with an issue so complex, and so emotionally fraught, where people of wide education and high intelligence disagree violently, Heather Mallick can only come up with third-rate, hand-me-down, Freudianism. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Time to buckle down and fight deficits and debt

The most crucial problem facing every industrialized country is the same problem that we all faced in the 90s: deficit and debt.

Canada did well in the 90s to climb out of deficit. Credit does not just go to the federal government under Jean Chrétien. Much of the overspending was coming from the provinces and so it took a truly national effort to climb out of the abyss.

Now we are slipping back down into that black hole. Governments all around the world tried to “fix” the economy by throwing money at it, never realizing that they had to take money out of the economy in the first place. So now we are all burdened, and Canada is no exception, with a new round of crippling debt and deficit.

After a decade of struggle we spent another decade squandering the opportunity, and now we are back to square one.

Some are pushing for more spending to calm the still troubled economy. If spending increases weren’t successful before, and there is zero evidence that it were, why would we do it some more? Why would you want to charge toward the abyss?

It is time that we once again give up on these failed Keynesian ideas and resurrect the spirit of the 90s.

We need a national political consensus towards fighting debt and deficit at all levels of government. And we need it now.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Medicare Today

Guess the country:

Earlier this month, an 87-year-old woman waited 19 hours in a corridor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after being assessed.

Margot Djordjewitsch's upset family said up to 10 other patients were also "accommodated" in a corridor. They are seeking a response from their local MP.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Andrew Lavender said waiting up to 19 hours was "not unusual" - but even he was surprised at the QEH's statistics.

The State Government wants 95 per cent of patients admitted or discharged within four hours.

This target - the subject of robust discussions with doctors - is set for 2013 and was an election commitment fulfilled in last week's Budget.

Not to worry. We're keeping our end up in the socialized health care sweepstakes:

They jokingly call the room in which patients bathe and shower on the fourth floor at Sudbury Regional Hospital "the spa," but Tyler Boyer wasn't laughing when it became his hospital room.

Boyer was transferred there Thursday from a medical ward after being admitted early Sunday morning for a respiratory problem.

Boyer's hospital bed was placed in the narrow room at the end of a hallway on the orthopedic-neurology floor, with the head of the bed almost touching the toilet.

He had two views — the wall on one side or a tiled shower stall, bathroom sink and counter, and bathtub about two feet from his bed.

Whenever someone tells me that in Canada we have "free health care," my standard retort is: "Yeap. And you get what you pay for." It's not true though. The single biggest expenditure in the typical Canadian's budget is not housing or food, its taxes. The single biggest item of government spending in Canada is health care. 

Tyler Boyer is 34. Let's say he's been paying income taxes for the last twelve years, and various consumption taxes since he was old enough to buy candy bars. Now imagine being a client of a company for a dozen plus years, loyally funding their bottom line, and when the time comes that you need their services, they almost literally stick your head in a toilet. Between the class-action lawyers, angry clients and regulators, the corporate carcass would be picked clean within weeks. Medicare, however, is approaching its golden anniversary.

When shipments of tainted meat were traced back to Maple Leaf Foods in 2008, the company's CEO was nearly lynched by the usual suspects. His mistake wasn't running a company that shipped bad product, but not having the sense to be CEO of a non-profit hospital. The Cult of Medicare continues to claim victims because it carries about it an altruistic halo. Generations of Canadians have been bombarded - in schools, in hospital waiting rooms, in university lectures, in ponderous editorials - that Medicare is a noble national achievement, rather than a Canadian disgrace. 

The alternative isn't American-style anything, it's a freer market. If we can feed, clothe and house ourselves without the whole thing being run by a minister of the crown, why doesn't the same work for health care? The laws of economics don't suspend themselves in your doctor's office, and then magically reappear when you reach the sidewalk. The poor don't starve because the Weston family controls Loblaws. The sick wouldn't die because patients had become empowered consumers, rather than numbers in a government ration queue. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Minimum wage increase will hurt more than it will help

The BC government is debating raising the minimum wage. I understand that everyone wants to help the poor, and getting them higher wages seems like a good way to do it.

The problem is that it simply does not work that way. Niels Veldhuis and Amela Karabegovic explain why not:

Next, consider the claim that the minimum wage needs to be increased to raise the income of society's low-income workers. While this claim certainly appeals to the emotions, the typical minimum wage earner is not the person depicted by advocates of minimum wage hikes. Data from Statistics Canada reveal that 59 per cent of minimum wage workers are 15 to 24 years old, and most of them (93 per cent) live at home with family. Many of the remaining individuals earning minimum wages are adults supplementing their family income with part-time work during child-rearing years or after retirement.

Additionally, workers earning minimum wage are not the same people who earned the minimum wage a year or two ago, since minimum wage work is largely temporary. The vast majority of minimum wage earners quickly experience upward income mobility. Research shows that after two years, more than 80 per cent of minimum wage workers earn more than the minimum, with a typical wage gain of about 20 per cent.

Herein lies the main problem with minimum wage increases. Employers respond by reducing the number of workers they employ and/or the number of hours their employees work. Consequently, minimum wage increases take away opportunities for low-skilled workers and young people to enter the workforce, gain experience and move up the income ladder.

A fast food job is a great first job to have. It teaches you a lot of the basic skills that you will need in any work place (such as patience). If the BC government really wants to help it should eliminate the minimum wage and thus create more jobs.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Hateful Harper

The Prime Minister is not playing nice:

I also, like a lot of journalists in town, had heard about the "angry man syndrome." Everybody talks about the anger inside Stephen Harper, and wonder where it came from. So we talked about that and I was surprised that it wasn’t just the word anger they used, it was the word hatred. His hatred for central Canadian Liberalism, a great resentment running so deep in him that they use the H word, several of his top aides, cabinet minister David Emerson being the foremost example, in describing him. And that, I found out, was his source of motivation.

I have to wonder why. Aside from taking a few good runs at the Wheat Board and long-run registry, how has Stephen Harper governed differently than say Paul Martin, or Jean Chretien? He has certainly spent more than this immediate predecessors, but fiscal incontinence isn't really brand differentiation for a Conservative Prime Minister.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I'm not saying the guy deserved to lose his trailer...

As you may have heard, somewhere in Tennessee, a man's home burned down while firefighters watched, Because he had failed to pay a $75 fee.

There's a lot of bleating and squealing about this among some portion of the left. Most of it unwarranted. A lot of it based on feeling, rather than an appreciation of the circumstances.

Here are the facts as I understand them:

That's about it. Cranick didn't pay the fee. His claim most recently is that he forgot to pay, but initially he said he thought the fire department would come to his rescue even if he didn't pay it.

Keith Olbermann, who according to rumor is thinking of leasing the top of his head to the Air Force as an emergency landing strip (he could use his eyebrows to signal the planes in), had Cranick on his show the other night.

Of Olbermann, one can only say that he was a fine sportscaster.

I bring this story to the WS only because it is being used as a club to beat up on libertarians who -- one hears -- not only would allow a man's home to burn to the ground over $75, but would literally celebrate the occurrence.


Rather than confronting this rather silly assault directly, I have put together a list of conditions a left-wing interlocutor must satisfy before I will take anything he or she says about this case seriously.

(Olbermann, pictured to the right, doesn't qualify):

If you're a leftist and want to discuss the case of Gene Cranick with me, you must

  1. Demonstrate that you understand the legal constraints the city of South Fulton was under.
  2. Acknowledge the existence of the free rider problem, and the ways the city had tried to resolve the problem in the past.
  3. Come up with a way of resolving this particular free rider problem such that:
    (i) The resolution is consistent with the legal constraints,
    (ii) The resolution does not involve charging county residents a voluntary fee, and
    (iii) The resolution must allow the city to continue to provide fire department service to its taxpaying residents (i.e. bankrupting the city so nobody gets service is not a valid solution, however much it conforms to your egalitarian sensibilities.)

I have yet to find a left-winger who can meet these conditions, but I've heard a lot in the last day or so about how it's just terrible that South Fulton doesn't tax the county residents, or how the city's fire department should just put out fires all across the county, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my XBox just announced that my yearly XBox Live Gold membership is about to expire, and it's going to charge my credit card. If for whatever reason the card fails, I'll be notified by email.

And that Gold membership? It's almost as much as the fee South Fulton was charging for fire department services. Except the free market (and Microsoft) has devised a way to get around my forgetfulness. And it's almost like Microsoft doesn't want my subscription to lapse. Funny how that works! Bill-gates_reut1

Want to bet that South Fulton's process of charging the fee for the use of its fire department is less reliable than Microsoft? And we're supposed to blame the free market for Gene Cranick's trailer burning down?

Left: Someone more efficacious than both Keith Olbermann and South Fulton's fire department.

Posted by Terrence Watson on October 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Gold hits $1340 an ounce. US Dollar fear rises. Collapse is near.

Climbing over $20 in a single day, gold continued it's ascent, in spite of the ever increasingly silent chorus of mainstream financial analysts who've been calling the peak of the "gold bubble" since it hit the $800 level years ago.

Complementing gold's climb was a continued weakening of the US Dollar against other benchmark currencies, sliding below 78 on the US Dollar Index, continuing the US Dollar's broad based weakening.

When the US Dollar strengthened midyear, mainstream economists claimed victory over the eccentric Dollar bears, as risk in sovereign debt issues from Greece and other European countries spiked a "flight to liquidity", shoring up demand for the US Dollar. However, the greenback has been sliding consistently since May, giving back almost all of it's gains.

The outlook for the US Dollar is worsening as central banks in China and Russia continue a campaign of foreign reserve diversification, and as the Federal Reserve in the US kicks off a second round of quantitative easing, in a desperate attempt to stop the US from falling back into recession.

Today, the Fed unleashed another round of open market operations buying up $7-$8 billion in stocks on the open market as it tries desperately to inject liquidity and prop up investor confidence through rising equity prices. But currency markets and stock market outflows show a different story from the rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average -- small and international investors are exiting the stock market in droves and running to safety.

The US government is trying desperately to restart an economy by borrowing trillions and printing innumerable amounts of money. And as their attempts prove a failure, they are preparing to up the ante with another round of stimulus.

Like a pollster on elections night, I'm ready to call it: the US is not only going to slip into another recession, it's headed for a horrendous depression. Total economic collapse is a possibility, too, if the US government does not reverse course immediately.

If you hold US investments, take your money now and run.

Posted by Mike Brock on October 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (46)

Pity the Bureaucrat

Going, going and gone:

A major think-tank is predicting that government employment in the capital region could drop by 6,200 jobs or 3.9 per cent next year as federal budget restraints bite, chilling the strongest growth in a decade.

The Conference Board of Canada forecast Tuesday that economic growth in Ottawa-Gatineau will slide from a robust 3.7 per cent this year to 2.5 per cent next year and average just 2.4 per cent over the following three years.

The capital region will fall from sixth place in the growth race among major cities to 12th place.

Not putting money on this one. Government does not shrink, it merely grows less slowly, or grows in different areas. These are, in any case, just think-tank guesses. From time to time politicians will make a spectacle of firing a batch of public servants - to show how the pain is being shared - but rarely are those being released unionized government employees. Laying off a few part-time data-entry clerks will do little to balance the budget. Taking on the might of CUPE would require political courage, the rarest of all political commodities.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Calvin Coolidge

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Smoke Signals

The tobacco industry is flourishing in one part of Canada:

But on reserves grown accustomed to poverty, the factories are the heart of a solidly entrenched economic powerhouse, broadly supported and responsible for new mansions, nice cars and general financial wellbeing. In a striking reflection of the complex relationship between non-native governments and First Nations, they are often allowed to operate with virtual impunity.

“I look at the tobacco industry as the basis for a diversified economy for the Six Nations,” said Bill Montour, elected chief of that community. “We want to be part of this whole idea called Canada, but we’re not going to be coerced into saying ‘Well, you’ve got to do it this way.’ ”

Edna Holyome, who owns a smoke shop at Six Nations that sells those locally made cigarettes, puts it more simply. “Tobacco,” she said, “is our natural resource.”

It seems that non-aboriginal farmers, and non-aboriginal paper and filter manufacturers, are supplying the burgeoning reserve based cigarette industry. A clandestine distribution network stretches across the country. The smokes are dirt cheap and basically illegal. They are also pretty easy to obtain in Toronto. My smoker friends attest to their quality, not top-notch, but not awful either. 

Canada's aboriginals, or at least their representatives, describe themselves as "First Nations." It's a slight misnomer, as the pre-Columbian natives of North America had no conception of a European style nation state. They were stone-age level tribes. What is clear is that their descendants became the first North American victims of welfare dependency. 

Finding the various aboriginal tribes inconvenient to development, the various colonial governments of Canada packed the lot off to reserves, and bribed them into acquiescence with what amount to a crude - and parsimonious - welfare state. The occasional show of force, courtesy of the Mounties, deterred any thought of a general rising. 

The well known pattern of alcoholism, violence, unemployment and despair followed in time. White Man's Guilt kept the welfare spigot open. An increasingly savvy aboriginal leadership exploited that guilt, and the reserve system's authoritarian political culture, to entrench themselves in power. Any criticism by non-aboriginals of these corrupt arrangements was denounced as racism or imperialism, a trick that has also worked well for various African kleptocrats. Aboriginals who demanded accountability from their governments faced accusations of selling out, threats or attempts at co-option. 

While licensed aboriginal cigarette manufacturers exist, they have been eclipsed in recent years by their black market rivals. The emergence of this very successful industry presents problems. Since most of the money flows under the table, no one can be completely sure whether or not organized crime is involved, or if this is just the CRA not getting its cut. For the federal government there is also something worse than the loss of revenue, it is fear.

The various treaties negotiated between the Crown, and the aboriginal tribes, accorded the latter a sort of autonomy. Given the problematic history of those treaties, and their implementation, modern governments have been loath to meddle too much in the reserves' internal affairs. Thus the silence that has greeted repeated warnings from aboriginal leaders, including the Grand Chief of Akwesasne, that hikes in tobacco taxes would spur the development of smuggling, and lately a black market industry. 

Through a loophole created by historical accident, legal ambiguity and modern political correctness, a small cadre of entrepreneurs have brought prosperity to themselves and their community. For the Canadian Left this presents an insoluble dilemma. Tobacco is the symbol of the death-peddling capitalist system, yet a black market tobacco industry has genuinely helped a bona-fide marginalized group. A consistent fight against tobacco would lead the government, and its statist boosters in the media, into trying to manage internal tribal affairs. Health care nanny statism versus cries of neo-imperialism. Enjoy the irony. 

It's unfair that some aboriginals have gotten away with actions that, had they been committed by non-aboriginals, would have put the latter in jail. That's not the fault of the aboriginal businessmen, who are giving the Sudbury salute to the CRA and Health Canada. The unfairness lies in the punitive taxation of cigarettes, and in the campaign by governments across Canada against adults making adult decision. Marx predicted that the contradictions inherent in capitalism would destroy it. No such luck. But the contradictions inherent in modern statism, in particular between political correctness and health care fascism, might just lead to the subversion, if not the destruction of the Canadian Leviathan. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, October 04, 2010

"not necessary for survival"

The nanny state puts away the smokes:

On Sunday, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen made the official announcement. "Following the Federal Statistical Office's calculation, there will be a slight rise in the standard [monthly welfare payment] for adults of five euros, to 364 euros," she told reporters. "Expenditures for tobacco and alcohol are not factored in, as they are not necessary for survival." 

Tell that to a smoker. The $364 Euros a month welfare figure was arrived it with, as you would expect, the usual Teutonic efficiency and precision:

Also out: houseplants, non-motor-powered garden equipment, and orthopedic shoes. Newly added: Internet access (although factored in at just 2.28 euros a month), jewelry and watches (0.59 euros), and extracurricular lessons and hobby classes (1.61 euros). The government arrived at the numbers by looking at the average expenditures of the lowest-earning 20 percent of the German population. 

"Germans are very precise," said Michael Burda, a professor of economics at Humboldt University in Berlin, "so they took a basket of goods and figured out what it would cost. It's a pretty meager basket."

Sure, but people got rights:

"Article 20 of the constitution states that Germany is a welfare state, and the definition of what is a welfare state is made by the highest court. And the highest courts have decided that every person in the country must be provided for in a decent manner."

That, in a nutshell, is why Europe is going broke. The Germans are just more parsimonious in their definition of "decent."

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yes, It is Corrupt

Why are they so afraid of admitting it?

MPs took the unprecedented step Wednesday night of unanimously denouncing articles published by the country’s national news magazine, Maclean’s.


But the suggestion that all of Quebec was the “most corrupt province” was too much, apparently, for MPs from all parties, who unanimously supported the motion from Bloc Quebecois MP Pierre Paquette “that this House, while recognizing the importance of vigorous debate on subjects of public interest, expresses its profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean’s Magazine to denigrate the Quebec nation, its history and its institutions.”

In the long, long history of Anglo appeasement of Quebec, this is a new and pathetic low. The Maclean's article is factually correct (the cover image is simply beautiful). Its discussion of the rampant culture of corruption in La Belle Province is a straight forward statement of what observers of the province's politics, the honest and attentive anyway, already well understood. Corruption and politics are siblings, but whereas in most of the Dominion the former is kept to a dull roar, in Quebec it's modus operandi. Sure, overpasses collapse all over the western world, but not quite in the same way, or for the same reasons as in Quebec. Sure, politicians make inappropriate phone calls, but so many and in so brazen a manner? Of course large sums of money vanish, but $100 million and in only one province

Nor is all this a recent phenomenon. The Maclean's article mentions in passing the Pacific Scandal (which originated in Quebec) and Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis' legendarily corrupt administration. Further back there was that vast engine of patronage, the Montreal based Grand Trunk Railroad. On the cusp of the Depression Mackenzie King, the Great Equivocator, was "humiliated" in the wake of Beauharnois Scandal. Though this did not prevent King from returning to power with a majority government in 1935. Then there was the Munsinger Affair, Canada's only certified sex scandal, which involved one of Dief's Quebec ministers. The province's culture of corruption and moral ambivalence, clearly, predates the Quiet Revolution's massive expansion in the scope and scale of government. It's in the air.

Take your pick of explanations for all this brown envelope shuffling; the Federalist-Separatist divide which poisons and distorts provincial politics; all that wonderful equalization funny money (Merci Alberta et Ontario!) slushing around; something in the poutine. My own favourite theory revolves around culture. As more than a few Quebecois will admit, privately, they tend to have a liberal understanding of the rule of law. 

This isn't entirely a bad thing. The only thing worse than a bad law, is a bad law rigorously enforced. If not for Quebec, the whole of Canada might have joined the disaster of alcohol Prohibition. The ROC might have been puritanical prigs about many things, but the Quebecois understood that the perfect should never become the enemy of the good, or a good time. While such a lax attitude is useful in skirting bad laws, it can be disastrous in failing to enforce good ones. A culture of corruption isn't selective. It tends to corrupt everything. Maclean's did its job in exposing the dark side of Quebec politics. The cowards who inhabit our House of Commons failed in their duty, the first of which is to leave the press alone. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (12)