Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

Saturday, July 17, 2010

WS on the census: Karen Selick

The chief Tory spokesman against the mandatory long form census has been Industry Minister Tony Clement. Too bad Tony is so inconsistent in his views about defending freedom and privacy. When he was health minister, Tony spearheaded the drive to bring in Bill C-6, the so-called Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. That bill (which died on the order paper, but has recently been revived as Bill C-36) is chock-full of powers for bureaucrats to intrude upon Canadians’ privacy.

It will deploy a vast army of inspectors to poke their noses into every nook and cranny of Canadian businesses—including those operated in people’s homes—seeking phantom dangers. No-one has yet produced any evidence that the existing law (The Hazardous Products Act) has failed to ensure consumers’ safety. In fact, during hearings, the Health Canada bureaucrats promoting the bill admitted that the old law has done a good job. The new bill seems to be desired primarily by those same bureaucrats for the purpose of building their empires.

In addition to authorizing frequent intrusions into business premises (including homes), C-36 also authorizes the federal government to give confidential business information about Canadian businesses to foreign governments, without the consent of the business.

But back to the census. All the do-gooders who want to make it mandatory seem to cite reasons that are themselves illiberal. For instance, Bill Robson of the C.D. Howe Institute, writing recently in the Globe & Mail, cited the need for information in the fields of education and health as a reason. But the provision of education and health are not services that properly fall within the mandate of the state. Both should be privatized, and then -- poof! -- there goes the reason for needing the statistics.

It’s funny that the suppliers of other necessities to the poor—for instance, inexpensive clothing of the kind sold in WalMart or Giant Tiger stores—they don’t seem to need the census to figure out where to put their stores, what quantities of goods to order, or what price to offer them for.

Notably silent on the census issue has been the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). One would think this would be an issue about which they would have clear, strong freedom-oriented views. Alas, much of the decision-making in that organization is in the hands of committed leftists who no doubt support the idea of the state supplying education, health and more.

The sectors of the economy that keep devouring greater and greater shares of our resources, and producing worse and worse results are -- guess what? -- education and health care! And this is after they’ve had the supposed benefit of the long-form census for all these years!

Karen Selick is the litigation director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

Ed's note: More WS on the census: Paul McKeever, Kalim Kassam, PUBLIUS, Hugh MacIntyre, Martin Masse, Terrence Watson, J.J. McCullough, Walter Block, and P.M. Jaworski.

Posted by westernstandard on July 17, 2010 in Census, Current Affairs, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, July 16, 2010

WS on the census: Martin Masse "Census data feeds government intervention"

Martin Masse, publisher of the libertarian webzine Le Québécois Libre (whose banner ad we've been proudly hosting for going on two years now) and former advisor to Industry minister Maxime Bernier, responds to our request for opinions on the census with a longer and more thoughtful piece. (For shorter quip-like responses, check out Terrence Watson's, J.J. McCullough's, and Walter Block's responses).

Martin writes:

It’s interesting to note that the first general census in North America was conducted in New France in 1665 by the then-intendant of the colony, Jean Talon (who has a big street and a metro station named after him in Montreal). Talon had been sent to North America by Louis XIV’s finance minister, the famous Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

Colbert was the master bureaucrat of his time. He used his considerable powers to direct French economic development and to increase the prestige and revenue of the French state. His version of mercantilism, the interventionist doctrine popular in all European countries at the time, even bears his name: colbertisme.

Talon was of course a follower of colbertisme and he had all kinds of good ideas to “stimulate” the colony’s development, which then numbered about 3,000 inhabitants. But first, he had to know more precisely the state of the colony. How can you plan the economy and tell people what to do with their lives if you don’t first have a clear picture of the situation?

There is a page on Statistics Canada’s website devoted to the first statistician on the continent, which explains very well what censuses were for in Talon’s time, and are still for today, which is to help governments “manage” societies:

As Intendant of Justice, Police, and Finance, Talon's tasks were to stimulate the economic expansion of New France, increase the colony's self-sufficiency and bring order to its financial administration. He was a man of enthusiasm and vision, and although he ranked below the Governor, he soon became the real manager of the colony.

(...)

After collecting his statistics, Talon put them to work. He was responsible for everything from taxes to health, from bridge building to chimney sweeping, and his influence touched every facet of government, and of the day-to-day lives of colonists. He used knowledge gained from the census to develop the colony in many directions.

Clear enough?

Fast-forward 350 years, and who do we hear denouncing the Conservative government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form questionnaire of the census? All those whose job it is to plan and manage society’s development. There was only one such bureaucrat in the 1660s, but today there are hundreds of thousands of them in Canada, at all levels of government and even beyond, in all the parasitic “private” organizations and professional fields that depend on government to conduct their business.

You know who you’re dealing with when a unanimous chorus of protest emerges from organizations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Canadian Economics Association, the Canadian Council of Social Development, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, francophone minority groups, women’s groups -- and the list goes on and on.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard that it would become extremely difficult for governments, municipalities and community groups to make decisions regarding education, health care, income inequalities, immigration, urban planning, and countless other fields, if the government goes ahead with its decision. A Liberal MP, Marlene Jennings, said that visible and linguistic minorities could suffer (that is, might get less government money) because the demographic studies that help government organizations and others hone in on the problems in certain regions rely on the results of long-form census surveys.

Despite the modern jargon, Talon would find the arguments entirely familiar. As a professor of Urban and Regional Economics reminded us in The Gazette, “enlightened policy decisions can only be taken if the government and its advisers have a good idea of what is happening in Canada.” Or hear this unnamed statistician asking in the Globe and Mail: “Should those who collect and spend our tax dollars on matters determined to be in the public interest not do so with the most informed statistical information possible?”

A census can only gather accurate information with the use of widespread coercion and intrusion in people’s private lives. Whether or not masses of citizens find it worthwhile to protest officially is not the point; this in itself is enough to oppose it from a libertarian perspective and the government was right to justify its decision on this basis. But everyone should also be aware that statistics are not just any neutral information that is useful to have.

As the great libertarian economist, Murray Rothbard, explained half a century ago:

Certainly, only by statistics, can the federal government make even a fitful attempt to plan, regulate, control, or reform various industries - or impose central planning and socialization on the entire economic system. If the government received no railroad statistics, for example, how in the world could it even start to regulate railroad rates, finances, and other affairs? How could the government impose price controls if it didn't even know what goods have been sold on the market, and what prices were prevailing? Statistics, to repeat, are the eyes and ears of the interventionists: of the intellectual reformer, the politician, and the government bureaucrat.

Without their eyes and ears -- or at any rate, with poorer eyesight and hearing -- the interventionists will find it more difficult to defend their work and they might lose some legitimacy. Which is why we should enthusiastically support this decision to scrap the mandatory long-form questionnaire.

Now, if only the government had been a little bit more coherent and scrapped the thing entirely instead of replacing it with a voluntary questionnaire sent to more households that will cost more, produce less reliable data and be a source of unnecessary controversy for years to come. Perhaps industry minister Tony Clement really believes his lines about the new data being as reliable and useful as the data collected the old way? That would not be surprising, coming from a government that has shown almost no inclination to cut spending, stop managing the economy and get out of our lives.

Posted by westernstandard on July 16, 2010 in Census, Current Affairs, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (3)

WS on the census: Terrence Watson

"My opinions about the census aren't very strong," writes WS editorial team member Terrence Watson. "I did find it amusing that Warren Kinsella has come out defending the plan to scrap the mandatory long form."

Here is what I think: Getting rid of the long form will indeed hamper social science research.

Is that bad? Not necessarily.

That research is often used by our benevolent overlords to justify additional government intrusion. Weaken the census, and you weaken the ability of the government to plan. More than that, you limit the ability of special interests groups to rely on that data when engaged in rent-seeking attempts.

Thus, maybe it's better to keep them in the dark. Perhaps Harper even knows this -- the long game, again? This isn't the kind of thing that's going to do damage right away, but only over time. Some of the lefties have figured this out, and they're really mad about it. And Kinsella sounds like a libertarian talking about it.

Here's the original post, Walter Block's response, and J.J. McCullough's.

Posted by westernstandard on July 16, 2010 in Census, Current Affairs, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (0)

WS on the census: J.J. McCullough

Continuing our series of posts on the census, here is Western Standard cartoonist (and Reader's Digest's top-five Canadian cartoonists to watch) J.J. McCullough's contribution:

A lot of people seem to be clinging to this misguided idea that census data only exists for the benefit of the government. On the contrary, I find thorough demographic statistics a vital tool that ordinary Canadians can use to hold their government to account.

When the government makes claims about jobs, or immigration, or bilingualism, or families, or multiculturalism, or any one of dozens of other topics, it's always nice to know that the Census website is only a click away to find out if the facts match the rhetoric.

In my more conspiratorial moments, I sometimes wonder if undermining the census is just a very convenient way for politicians to keep the citizenry in the dark about the realities of their own country.

See also the original post, and Walter Block's response.

Posted by westernstandard on July 16, 2010 in Census, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

So a seal walks into a club…

Hmm... the star of one of my guilty pleasures is creating a hubbub about the seal hunt. Barf. Fortunately someone isn't so naive:

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea called Anderson's remarks disappointing and suggested she spend time with East Coast sealers to understand the hunt's importance. "Hollywood celebrities are not going to dictate policy in Canada because we make decisions that are based on science and consultation with Canadians," Shea said in a telephone interview.


One of the biggest arguments I hear from hippies that vehemently oppose the seal hunt is that they are cute and that they kill baby seals. In the world of make-believe, even facts don't take the hysteria out of their argument.

Anderson said baby seals are bludgeoned in front of their mothers before they have their first swim, but Shea said the killing of baby seals hasn't been practised in Canada since the early '80s. Activists focus on it because it tugs at the heart strings, Shea said.


I love you Pam, but you're not exactly the sharpest Crayon in the box. Apparently Perez Hilton is into the craze as well:

Perezsealus300__oPt

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on October 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (36)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The existential drama of Canadian communists

This post could also have been called, "How Canadian communists must come to terms with history", or even, "Why I have to re-post more pursuant to Gerry Nicholls' post". According to an article in Epoch Times, plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honor the victims of communism are being obstructed by due regard to the feelings of Canadian communists. 

The ever-industrious National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to change the name of the monument from  “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism” to something that does not demean or tarnish the self-esteem of card-carrying communists in Canada. Initially, the monument was going to be called the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism", but NCC board members found it to be polarizing, hence the addition of the term "totalitarian". Now it seems no one is completely certain about the monument, the emotional states of Canadian communists, the value of historical memory, or whether communism really deserves the bad rap it seems to have earned over the past few decades.

There are exceptions to this Canadian confusion over communism. Tribute to Liberty, one of the groups trying to get this monument built, probably never anticipated so much controversy and stalling in the naming phase. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find honest individuals arguing against naming a monument to the victims of Nazism or fascism qualifying this description with the obvious, namely, "totalitarian". 

Of course governments ruled under the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, or communism are totalitarian-- in fact, "totalitarianism" (as opposed to freedom, rule of law, or human rights) might just be their original contribution to political history. Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian. In fact, adding the word "totalitarian" to qualify communism is not just ignorant--it is blatantly false and dangerous. The refusal of communists and their defenders to admit the nature of communism should not prevent the public square from being the place where a spade is called a spade and the victims of communism are duly honored.

Posted by Alina on September 24, 2009 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian Politics, Current Affairs, Economic freedom, Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (35)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Smoke up, Johnny! Signed, the government.

Glenn Beck defines Progressives in his latest book as "individuals who seek to redefine, reshape, and rebuild America into a country where individual liberties and personal property mean nothing if they conflict with the plans and goals of the state", and Progressivism as "the idea that your money and property are only yours if the State doesn't determine that there is a higher or better use for it". I found these descriptions to be pretty accurate, and it immediately got me thinking of a certain recent progressive policy passed by the NDP shortly after they got into office in Nova Scotia. There are a few industries which are often gouged by the government in terms of taxes: gasoline, liquor, and cigarettes.

This time, it was cigarettes that took the hit; prices went up $1.25 a pack, meaning a pack of Player's Rich for example (a popular brand) costs smokers almost $15 a pack. Does this seem a little high to anybody else? Below the border in Indiana or Texas for example, the same pack is just slightly over $6.50 (Canadian dollars), and in New Hampshire it's about a dollar less on average. New York City is one of the closest price wise to Canada, with packs topping at $10 to $11, Canadian dollars. The price hike in Nova Scotia was enacted by the government in the form of sales tax, and the increased tax on smokes will generate $21 million in extra revenues for the province. The problem is that illegal tobacco sales, which is becoming more and more popular with every price increase, will eat up that revenue before it even gets to the countless programs it's supposed to help fund. My biggest problem however is the fact that like it not, the government is basically saying "smoke up, Johnny! We need that money for keeping the failed ER's open, and we all know you'll need those eventually."

It appears the NDP do not understand the black market in the least. Aside from it being illegal, the illegal tobacco industry has absolutely no regulations or rules. So when the government jacks up the taxes forced onto legal retailers, more people are going to be choosing illegal tobacco over legal tobacco. It may be of less quality, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper. The thing is, smokers are addicted to nicotine, not the fancy brands, and nicotine addiction can get quite ridiculous if you have a lot more cigarettes to smoke. Not everyone who switches does this, but for those that really enjoy smoking, it makes sense. The point is, not only does tax hikes on addictive products create more activity in the black market, but is also cancels out those that cut back or quit because of the price increase.

Is it just me, or does the official government report on the cost of tobacco in Nova Scotia seem cynical? Below is a snippet of the report I found:

1. "Because current measures of progress based on economic growth statistics make no distinction between economic activities that create benefit and those that cause harm, spending generated by smoking, crime, pollution, car accidents and other liabilities are conventionally counted as signs of economic growth, prosperity, and well being."

The main two reasons for tax hikes on things like cigarettes are government revenue, and trying to appear as "progressive" and "with the times" by declaring that the government has control over what we put in our body. If not total control, taxation is the second best bet. Interestingly enough, the tax increase policy passed by the NDP was originally in the Progressive Conservative Party's proposed budget (which promptly got shot down, no less). It's never a good sign when parties vote down a budget they publicly hate yet continue with half of the policies proposed anyway.

Are they just lazy? More importantly, is the demise of the provincial PC government due in part to the progressive tilt of the one provincial conservative party in Nova Scotia? Sure, the word "Progressive" is in the name, but quite obviously the past supporters of the PC Party don't care for actually acting on that word and creating policies based off it. The PC Party of Nova Scotia must go back to the common sense days of the Canadian conservative movement that was actually popular during the 90's, and as Glenn Beck would advise if he were Canadian. More importantly, the latest PC Party of Ontario nomination brought the back-to-basics, common sense idea to the table with great success; an interesting election with Tim Hudak as the winner. This was the first time I was fired up about a provincial election, and it wasn't even my province!

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on September 1, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (15)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Flooding Bail-Outs

This past summer was a bad year for flooding in Manitoba, once of the worst since the big flood of 1997; Manitobans that were impacted by this years flood will receive $40 million in aid.

In past posts I have criticized this move, saying that it is up to private homeowners to have the proper insurance or face the risk of living and/or building in an area known to have a history of flooding, that taxpayers shouldn't be bailing out the poor decisions of other people.

But you know, I've been re-thinking this.

If your property is damaged, you deserve restitution from the party that caused the damage.

The river that caused the flooding is "public property", which really means its government property. So if government property destroys your home, whether it is their hydro pole falling on your car or their river flooding your land, then the government should pay restitution. If it was a private corporations' property that caused the damage, they of course would be held liable, as so should the government.

Too bad though that the government gets their cash from people not involved in the property damage, taxpayers.

The honest thing would be for the compensation to come straight out of politicians salaries, since it is their property that caused the damage.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 8, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (12)

Friday, July 03, 2009

What's Palin planning?

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has announced she'll be leaving the post. What's next for the most-intriguing Mrs. Palin?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 3, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Addiction is not a disease

The general consensus in our society is that addiction is a disease. The general consensus also is that there is no such thing as a miracle.

How, then, can "victims" of alcoholism or drug addiction cure themselves, by themselves, without any traditional or scientific medical intervention? If not by a miracle, then by what?

It seems that one of the two above-noted consensus beliefs is incorrect. Either addiction is not a disease. Or miracles do, indeed, take place. Or, perhaps, both are wrong.

Read more of my thoughts here, in my latest Tri-City News column.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on July 2, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (37)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lemieux: The real systemic danger is Barack Obama

This week, Pierre Lemieux takes on President Barack Obama's plan to bring "systemic regulatory reform" to the U.S. financial system. Obama proposes

"a set of reforms that require regulators to look not only at the safety and soundness of individual institutions, but also -- for the first time -- at the stability of the financial system as a whole."

Drawing on history and economics, Lemieux argues that the real blame for American's shaky financial situation lies in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats who now claim to be able to salvage it. Not only that, but instead of bringing "stability" to the U.S. financial system, these new government reforms are likely to make things worse.

Why is the government so inept at managing the economy? In an interesting passage, Lemieux endeavors to answer this question.

Why is government intervention so expectedly inefficient in promoting economic growth and stability? The short answer is two-pronged. First, politicians and bureaucrats don’t have the incentives to fix, or not to break, the economy. Second, there is an insuperable information problem, which Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek’s work put in clear focus: the state (the whole apparatus of government) simply does not have the information necessary to intervene efficiently. The business cycle is a complex phenomenon on which generations of brilliant economists still don’t agree. How could we expect that campaigning politicians and bureaucrats in committees will resolve the problem?

What I found interesting about this passage is how Lemieux brings to bear both public choice economics (in his observation that politicians don't have the right incentives to fix the economy) and Hayek's work on the role of dispersed knowledge. Both these issues make it highly unlikely that the government's attempt to impose "systemic regulatory reform" will succeed.

In some sense, President Obama is like a blind man suddenly put behind the wheel of a speeding car. There are several things he could do to "fix" the economy, and almost all of them would be bad. That's if you assume that he's well-meaning, with the right incentives, but stymied by Hayek's knowledge problem.

If Obama's incentives are more like the incentives of other politicians, the problem is even worse. His attempts to "fix" the economy will either fail, or succeed only in lining the pockets of a few special interest groups.

For example: who do you think is going to benefit most from the billions Obama plans to invest in high-speed rail? According to Cato's Randal O'Toole, the price tag works out to about $1,000/taxpayer, at a minimum, but California is likely to get most of the money. Perhaps that's a nice reward for a big blue state.

As Lemieux consistently points out, this pattern is not an aberration, but the rule. Systemic regulatory reform to the financial system will be no exception. We can expect the regulations to either make the situation worse, or to be tailored in such a way that special interest groups, and not taxpayers, benefit from them.

Read all of Pierre Lemieux's column here.

Posted by Terrence Watson on June 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Feminism meets judicial activism

Written in February and published in May by Catholic Insight, this feature article of mine has finally gone on line. I believe that my insights into the outcome of B.C.'s polygamy case still stand up quite well.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on June 4, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)

CMHR: Stacked with feminists, 'biased and duplicitous'

A real human-rights museum would have a wing for Mark Steyne and Ezra Levant. Don't expect to see anything of the sort in Winnipeg, though, according to REAL Women. Here's the so-con group's press release on the matter:

The Canadian Museum For Human Rights Is A Mess

Ottawa, June 4, 2009

 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, on which construction began last April, is a mess. This is due to the fact that Museum officials have established a biased and duplicitous Content Advisory Committee to determine which displays will be installed in the museum. 

The problem with this Content Advisory Committee, whose decisions are to be approved (rubber stamped) by the Board of Trustees, is that it is supposed to be comprised of “human rights experts, scholars and specialists.”  In fact, this 16-member committee is comprised of 11 feminist activists and their supporters. 

Museum officials must think Canadians are either dupes or fools to believe that the only human rights specialists available in this country are radical feminists.  This committee is an insult to the Canadian taxpayer who has already paid out 100 million dollars for the construction of the museum and who will now be laying out 22 million dollars annually to maintain it.

For what purpose was the museum’s Content Advisory Committee loaded with feminist activists?  Clearly it is to serve as a propaganda device to promote and affirm feminist ideology and a left-wing interpretation of human rights as “progress” in Canada.  This “progress” will include such controversial concepts as abortion on demand, homosexual rights, pay equity, affirmative action and the denigration of men, whom feminists regard as dangerous because of the so-called “patriarchal society.”  If the Committee has its way, feminist “human rights” breakthroughs in family law in regard to custody and access, and sexual assault, pursuant to which men have been severely undermined, will also be proudly included in the museum’s displays.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be portraying the stories of Canadians, filtered through a feminist lens.  As such, it will serve as a powerful tool to champion the left-wing interpretation of human rights. Such a museum will scarcely be credible to most Canadians and not worth the taxpayers’ hard earned money. -30-

Posted by Terry O'Neill on June 4, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Debating & delving into costs of divorce

The country watches silently as divorce continues to take its devastating toll on children. A recent study out of Alberta shows one dramatic, negative impact and provides the jumping off point for my most recent Face to Face debate in the Tri-City News. Here's my take, and here's that of my temporary sparring partner, Jim Nelson.

Meantime, the Institute of Family and Marriage Canada is getting ready to release an ambitious report on June 3, adding up the financial costs to the public of divorce.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 29, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Separating signal from noise

My column in today's National Post, about Preston Manning's endorsement of the low-key, service-oriented, compassionate pro-life approach adopted by Signal Hill, has been generally well received by pro-life activists across the country. But I'm also hearing that some view it as a criticism of their efforts.

Personally, I'm a big-tent kind of a guy, and I wouldn't want to put all pro-life groups' eggs in one basket. Nevertheless, I'm a big supporter of Signal Hill's fresh, educational, non-confrontational approach, and I think it's got real merit.

I'd be interested in knowing what Shotgun readers -- especially those who consider themselves to be pro-life -- think is the best strategy to thwart abortion.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 21, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, May 15, 2009

We shall overcome bad laws, misguided opponents

It's been a thrilling week to be a pro-life advocate.

The week started with Monday's annual Focus on Life Dinner in Vancouver, which attracted more than 600 supporters who donated well into the six figures to help fund the annual media campaign sponsored by Signal Hill. Equally exciting was the fact that keynote speaker, Preston Manning, endorsed Signal Hill's new, human-rights- compassion- and education-oriented approach. Watch for an op-ed piece by me on Manning and Signal Hill in an upcoming National Post.

On Thursday, the national March for Life in Ottawa was a big success, drawing several thousand supporters. Smaller rallies took place across Canada, including one in Victoria, which drew about 1,000 marchers. I had the honour of acting as MC of the rally that wrapped up the walk. These are the words I used to open the rally:

“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”

The quotation I just read was written a century and a half ago by Abraham Lincoln. Today, slavery is no more. But we have a new and pernicious evil that must be challenged. Abortion. Today, in echo of  Lincoln, I proclaim, “I am naturally anti-abortion. If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel.”

Let Lincoln’s words and actions inspire us as we continue to march and to rally, to act and to pray to create a world free of abortion.

Finally, today's big news is from south of the border, where Gallup reports that, for the first time since its polling began in 1995, the majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life.

Message to pro-abortionists, pro-choicers, or whatever you want to call yourselves. The fetus is a human being. It deserves to be treated as a legal person. It has rights. It should be protected.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 15, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (86)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Craigslist moves to block prostitutes from posting ads

Craigslist, a popular online classified ads site, announced yesterday that it will be removing the "erotic services" section for U.S. cities and replacing it with a new section that will be moderated by their staff:




As of today for all US craigslist sites, postings to the "erotic services" category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed.

Also effective today for all US sites, a new category entitled "adult services" will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers. Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use. New postings will cost $10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5.

The section in question was previously used primarily by sex trade workers who were able to advertise their services on the free classifieds site. The popular website has come under fire from numerous state attorney generals recently after a masseuse who advertised on the site was killed in Boston. Despite a few cases of violence that can be linked to online classified ads, craigslist argues the service is still safer than print ads:

Interesting Wikipedia entry, Lonely Heart Killers, lists high-profile cases of killers using print classified ads.…

When critics rush to tar craigslist as especially dangerous, it's important to put things in perspective. craigslist users have posted more than 1.15 BILLION classified ads to date, easily 1000x the combined total ever posted to the print publications involved in all of these "print ad murders".

Regardless of whether or not advertising online is safer than advertising in a newspaper, either option is almost certainly safer than working on the streets. Advertising online allows sex workers to screen potential clients and work in a safe and comfortable environment. It likely also helps them get away from the pimps and organized crime elements that control the sex trade in many cities. The goal of public policy should be to ensure the safety of sex workers by allowing them to work indoors, rather than forcing them onto the streets. Aside from issues of safety, many people would be happy if fewer hookers were hanging around on street corners.

So what is preventing prostitutes from working inside? There are numerous situations in which they do work indoors:

Many of the people on the streets have drug problems, which make them undesirable for massage parlors and escort services. Starting their own business requires that they either have a descent place to live or a car to get around town and capital to advertise their services. Homeless and drug addicted prostitutes often don't have access to these things. It is also easier for many of these women to stand on the corner, rather than take the time and money to create websites, put ads in newspapers, and take the steps necessary to successfully advertise a home-based business. I'm sure there's also an incentive for pimps to keep hookers on the streets, where it's easier to monitor and control them. Craigslist's appeal was that it was free (for a time), quick, easy, and generated large amounts of traffic. It did not require any knowledge of web design or upfront capital to get started.

As with other issues, such as drugs, the big problems with prostitution include organized crime, physical safety, and diseases. Many of these problems would disappear if the services were legal and run by legitimate businesses instead of organized crime. Luckily, for those who do use the Internet for prostitution, there are many sites that allow escorts to create their own websites and advertise their services. Likewise, the Georgia Straight is reporting that craigslist has yet to change its policy on the erotic services sections for Canadian cities. While the changes at craigslist in the U.S. will by no means end the practise of advertising prostitution on the Internet, it will make it that much harder and likely encourage some people to go back onto the streets.

(Photo courtesy Brian Boros licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License)

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 14, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (13)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Operating on a non-person

"Toronto doctors perform heart surgery on fetus." A wonderful accomplishment. A medical marvel. But, remember: in this crazy, mixed-up country of ours, that fetus was not a legal person. Accordingly, at any time between the life-saving operation and the due date, the mother could have changed her mind about carrying the child and aborted it. Completely legal. Mother's choice. End of story.

Crazy, mixed-up country....

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 8, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (66)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A brief history of pandemic influenza

Further to our previous discussion on swine flu, this article explores the history of pandemic influenza.

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A pandemic is a massive viral outbreak, which affects large amounts of people over a wide geographic area. People usually have little or no immunity to pandemic outbreaks, which results in high death rates. Most pandemics have been caused by a new strain of the influenza virus, which is often the result of an animal virus mutating into one that can infect humans. We are exposed to influenza viruses many times throughout our lives and we have built up an immunity to lots of them. We have not built up an immunity, however, to new strains that jump from animals to humans. This type of situation creates the potential for an outbreak that could kill many people. The process of a virus jumping from animals to humans usually occurs when an avian virus infects swine. Since pigs and humans have similar DNA, the virus has the potential to mix with other pig viruses and mutate into something that can infect humans as well. The current swine flu outbreak is an example of this process.

Pandemics have been occurring throughout history. It is generally accepted that pandemics will occur three to four times every century, although scientists don't seem to know why this pattern exists. A brief history of pandemic influenza can be seen in the timeline below.

Timeline

The first significant pandemic dates all the way back to the Peloponnesian War in 430 BC. In the last century, there were three pandemics: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and 1919, the Asian Flu of 1957 and 1958, and the Hong Kong Flu, which occurred between 1968 and 1969. The most severe pandemic was the Spanish Flu, which struck at the end of World War I and was estimated to have killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide and between 30 and 50 thousand people in Canada. This pandemic was caused by a strain of influenza known as H1N1, which had an attack rate of 25 per cent. While most of the time influenza is especially harmful to the elderly, this outbreak was characterized by a high death rate among younger people. The Canadian government's response to the Spanish Flu was practically nonexistent. According to author Eileen Pettigrew:

Parliament was not sitting during the epidemic, and to my disappointment I found almost nothing relevant in the papers of Prime Minister Robert Laird Borden. He had gone to Britain in November 1918 to head the Canadian delegation to the Peace Conference, and when he returned to Canada the following May, the worst was over in southern Canada.

The other two pandemics caused significantly less damage than the Spanish Flu. The Asian Flu, or the H2N2 strain, had an attack rate of approximately 25 to 30 per cent. It infected between 10 and 35 per cent of the world's population and killed approximately 1 million people. The Hong Kong Flu was the lightest of the three pandemics. This strain was known as H3N3 and was responsible for killing about 700,000 people worldwide. This virus had an attack rate of between 20 and 35 per cent.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 5, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Did the Western Standard warn of a pandemic?

Life in Mexico City is beginning to return to normal as the government lifts restrictions and fears over swine flu begin to subside. We are not out of the woods yet, however, as the virus still has the potential to become a serious issue, either now or in the fall when the flu could make a comeback. Talk of potential pandemics has become increasingly familiar to Canadians after the 2003 SARS crisis and the 2005 Avian Flu scare. Back in 2005, the Western Standard took an in-depth look at pandemic preparedness and argued that another pandemic was inevitable and that Canadian authorities were not doing enough to prepare for the eventuality:

The U.S. already has already ordered a stockpile of two million doses of the H5N1 vaccine, with production beginning once testing of the vaccine is complete. Canada is going a different route. Butler-Jones argues that, under international agreements, any vaccine formula the U.S. might produce would be shared with other countries, and so Canada has currently chosen to focus its efforts on other areas, such as early global detection. "Should Canada do the 'me too,' or should Canada continue to do what we're doing in terms of adding to the body of knowledge?" he asks. "Should we look at finding another piece that isn't being done elsewhere, to ensure that's added to the body of knowledge? Those are the conversations that are going on right now" in Canada. But the reason, says Butler-Jones, that the Canadian government is not stockpiling vaccines is because it chooses not to. "The most efficient way of doing the research is to have different places doing different pieces, and then sharing the information," he says.…

While experts may quibble over the number of fatalities, all agree on one thing: it's not a question of if such a deadly pandemic will strike the world, but when. There is almost universal consensus among influenza experts, says Cheng, that pandemics are cyclical. "Typically, they occur every 30 years," she says. "In the twentieth century, there were three: in 1918 [which killed 40-million people globally and 50,000 in Canada], 1957 and 1968. There is no reason to believe that there will not be another influenza pandemic in this century."

There is little doubt that the world will eventually be faced with another influenza pandemic, as they have occurred throughout history. The big question is whether or not we are sufficiently prepared. The Canadian government had a very limited response to previous pandemics, but our level of preparedness has increased significantly since the Hong Kong Flu hit in 1968. The government began working on a plan for pandemic influenza back in 1983 and got serious about its planning efforts in the 1990s.

The Western Standard raised issues about Canada's pandemic preparations in 2005, but until we are faced with an actual pandemic, it's hard to tell how the current plan will hold up. A unique aspect about the Canadian situation is that each province has it's own pandemic plan and any analysis of the Canadian response would not be complete without taking a look at these plans as well. This could cause a situation where some provinces are more prepared than others to handle a large-scale outbreak.

There were also questions raised in 2005 as to whether or not Canada should be stockpiling Avian Flu vaccines. It seems clear that Canada did the right thing by not wasting taxpayer dollars on a vaccine for a virus that has yet to cause any significant damage. Our plan to ensure we have the capacity to produce a vaccine when a pandemic does strike would seem like a sensible solution. An Avian Flu vaccine would do little to stop the spread of swine flu, which scientists are currently working on a vaccine for. Due to the nature of such viruses, however, it is never clear how long a vaccine will be effective before the virus mutates.

Governments around the world have been on high alert during the current outbreak so as not to be caught off guard if the situation becomes more critical. I see little reason to worry about the preparedness of developed nations, such as Canada. A bigger concern is causing mass hysteria about a virus that has, so far, been quite mild.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 5, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Racing to conclusions

Should police keep track of the race of the people they arrest? It's a tricky question, and is one that my debating opponent Mary Woo Sims and I tackle in this week's Face to Face feature in the Tri-City News.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 4, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Disabled by booze

If you're paralyzed, you can't enrol in a three-month program to help you walk again. If you're blind, you can't visit a therapist for several weeks and emerge with your sight restored. But if you're an addict or alcoholic, you most definitely can get treatment and emerge clean and sober.

This is why alcoholism and other drug addictions should not be considered permanent disabilities. And this, in turn, is why this Ontario court ruling is patently ridiculous.

Of course, it's all the fault of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Another chapter for Ezra's book, perhaps.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Fraser Institute goes down market

The Fraser Institute has thrown up (a deliberate choice of words by me) a short video onto YouTube asserting that the climate is always changing and that rational people should question the hype surrounding global warming. Period. That's esssentially the entire message in a video that seems designed to resonate with people for whom a full twitter message constitutes in-depth reading. To me, though, the two-minute video seems garish, vulgar and shallow--not the sort of thing at all that I'd come to expect from the Vancouver-based free-market think tank

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A valid question

A question from a not-really-religious pro-lifer in the UK: Why don’t atheists oppose abortion?

Denying the humanity of a 20-week foetus is as unscientific and irrational as denying the beef on your plate is a cow because you can’t hear it moo.

Now many atheists/agnostics do oppose abortion on scientific grounds…but they aren’t very vocal, that’s for sure. Too busy with bus ads, convincing people that there probably is no God? Or perhaps they can’t stomach an alliance with a largely religious crew? Who knows. But worth asking the question.

(cross-posted to ProWomanProLife)

Posted by Andrea Mrozek on April 14, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (18)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Strange role models

Those old school feminists choose strange role models:

We want fewer and better children . . . and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict on us.

That ghastly message appeared in the introduction to Margaret Sanger’s 1922 book, The Pivot of Civilization.In a little-noticed incident, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced that she is “really in awe” of Sanger. “The 20th-century reproductive-rights movement, really embodied in the life and leadership of Margaret Sanger, was one of the most transformational in the entire history of the human race,” Clinton declaimed upon receiving an award from the organization that Sanger founded, Planned Parenthood.

Sanger is a very, er, conflicted mentor, at best. And either Clinton doesn’t know all she stood for (unlikely) or she really does agree with her. In which case, I’d agree with the author of the article linked to–this certainly does “puncture the fiction that [Clinton] is a moderate.”

(cross-posted to ProWomanProLife)

Posted by Andrea Mrozek on April 13, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Roadkill Radio to shake things up with Ezra's Shakedown

Roadkill Radio is up and running again tonight, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Pacific, with another high-energy, big-content show. Kari Simpson and I will begin with an in-depth interview of Ezra Levant, author of the acclaimed new book, Shakedown, which exposes the many injustices and insanities that characterize the Canadian human-rights industry.

We'll then segue into another human-rights-commission-related matter, the recent filing of a CHRC complaint by a group of gay/lesbian/bisexual activists who claim the Canadian health-care system systemically discriminates against them. Be sure to listen as we explore the many ramifications of this complaint.

Next up will be our monthly visit with pollster Glen Robbins, who has a tasty tidbit of public opinion for us.

Finally, it's our Roadkill Radio Warrior of the Week, pharmacist Cristina Alarcon, who will tell us about the international fight to protect the conscience rights of health-care workers.

It all starts at 7:30 p.m.  Pacific tonight at www.roadkillradio.com. Listen live or call up the archived show later.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 7, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 03, 2009

'Progressives' want to silence so-con parents

Does advancement of a "progressive" agenda in public schools necessarily mean that socially-conservative parents must be silenced? A Fraser Valley professor, Martha Dow, thinks so, and she's probably right. [I'd like to link you to the Xtra West story on her comments, but it now appears to be offline.] Of course, that doesn't mean that I believe a progessive agenda should be taught, but it does mean that I understand that for one philosophical view to become dominant, the opposing one must inevitably suffer.

I look at the implications of Prof. Dow's comments in my side of this week's Face to Face debate in the Tri-City News. For her part, my debating opponent, Mary Woo Sims, takes a "don't worry, be happy" approach to the whole affair.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 3, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (26)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wheels of justice grind slowly

Without referencing the merits of the case, I still think that, in principle, it is good to see evidence that judges can be held accountable for their actions, even if it takes an amazing five full years from the time the investigation into his alleged misconduct was announced until today's initial finding.

And, by the way, in the Globe's account of this (the first link), I'm pretty sure that, if the judge had been a former Tory MP instead of an ex-Grit cabinet minister, the paper would have clearly noted his political affiliation.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on March 31, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beware religious dogma in Africa

And when I say religious dogma, I mean the secular kind. Recall the controversy over the Pope's comments on AIDS and condoms? At least one Harvard academic is saying the immortal gods of science prove the Pope right:

A senior Harvard research scientist confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was actually correct. Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, told National Review Online last week that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science actually supports the Catholic leader's claim.

(cross-posted to ProWomanProLife)

Posted by Andrea Mrozek on March 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (25)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

British Big Brother keeps on watching

One of the most galling things is to see the state use the appartus it sets up under the pretense of protecting society to trample our freedoms. When the concept of a sex offender registry was started many years ago, no one objected. After all, who could object to tracking the worst of our society and who prey on children. Then the state expanded the definition of sex offender to anyone convicted of sexual assault (and this is more so in the US states). Now the British government is thinking of putting abusive partners (read men) on a list and warn their future partners about the perils of dating and marrying the offenders on the list. Of course, no word on whether you have to be convicted or merely accused be put on the list. No word on how long the list stays for. And for God's sake what is the stated doing getting into the marriage/dating counselling business.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on March 11, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (12)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Person to person

Abortion is not murder in Canada, of course, because one can murder only a legal person. And, as we all know, Canadian courts have repeatedly ruled that the fetus is not a legal person. So, while ending the life of an unborn child certainly constitutes a killing (because the fetus is undeniably alive) and might even be considered feticide, it cannot be seen as a murder.

I'm thinking of these things this morning in reaction to news that "Montana's Senate passed a constitutional personhood amendment (SB 406) which would recognize all human beings, including the unborn, as persons, in a 26-24 vote last week."

There appears to be a central organization behind the personhood initiative, Personhood USA. The Christian group's website notes that seven states have launched personhood drives, and the group's ultimate aim is to protect "every child by love and by law" and to move "churches and the culture to make the dehumanization and murdering of pre-born children unthinkable."

There is no indication yet that the group intends to expand northward. Pity.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on March 3, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Smeared with oil sands

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

I doubt it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grievance industry

Does Vancouver's at-large voting system for council, school board and park board mean that the system is fundamentally racist? A failed Indo-Canadian candidate points to the fact that his ethnic brethern have a hard time winning under the at-large (as opposed to ward) system as evidence of systemic discrimination.

I think it's just sour grapes, but Mary Woo Sims, my debating partner in the weekly Face to Face feature at the Tri-City News, thinks the candidate might have a point--and might even have a case worth pursuing at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (21)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Satire, served union-style

The B.C. Teachers' Federation has launched a special task force to implement a priority plan to send an emergency assistance team to California to aid the union's southerly brethern in rooting out moderates and conservatives within the state's teaching ranks.

The BCTF, which, along with Ontario's CUPE, is one of Canada's most "progressive unions," launched its unprecedented "rescue" plan after learning that California's teachers had voted 2-to-1 in favour of the traditional definition of marriage in the state's much publicized referendum last fall--this, even though the teachers' union itself had contributed heavily to the counter-campaign in favour of gay marriage.

BCTF president Irene Lanzinger commented: "The California union's membership is obviously out of step with its more enlightened leadership. We've seen this sort of thing throughout history before. We obviously need to strengthen top-down powers and limit executive accountability."

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 10, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Riding the "O" Wave

I heard about a new Chrysler logo from a friend, but was only able to find one reference on this blog. The image below is taken from the same. The blogger says he saw this billboard somewhere near New Hampshire.

ChryslerBama

Is Chrysler joining Pepsi on the advertising O-train? Curious what ya'll think -- will this kind of marketing help, hurt or not really affect companies? Will Obama fatigue eventually kick in?

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on January 27, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where'd all the greens go?

Below is an image posted on Twitter by a friend of mine who attended the Obama inauguration yesterday. He took it shortly after the event while leaving the DC Mall.

It would appear from the evidence that the greening of the earth does not place high on the list of priorities for those in attendance, despite the heavy (and self-righteous) talk during the campaign by the president and many of his supporters. Maybe the event was infiltrated by thousands of earth-hating freedom-loving types.

I wonder how much it cost the American taxpayer to clean it up...

DCtrash

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on January 21, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (19)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Excerpt from Ric Dolphin's latest posting...

Back home with our scotches, waiting for the last year of the decade to dawn, my brothers-in-law and I considered how the Zeroes or the Oughts - or whatever this decade will be called - will be remembered. What will define it in people's memories? Probably terrorism and its offshoots: 9/11 and the aftermath, the War on Terror, Homeland Security, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan ... the Great Satan squaring off against the Lions of Islam.

It will doubtlessly be a more definable decade than the 1990s. None of us could figure out the defining characteristic of those final ten years of the 20th century. Most other decades seemed to have had vivid identities - the roaring Twenties, the Dirty Thirties, the wartime Forties, the prosperous, grey-flannel Fifties, the hippy-dippy Sixties, the Me-generation 1970s, the Greedy 1980s. But what were the 1990s? Grant suggested The Internet Decade, but then dismissed the idea because the Internet really didn't become commonplace until the current decade. Ditto cellphones. So although true that the digital communications revolution started in the 1990s, I don't think you can say it defined them. The final decade of the millennium should have something to define it. Maybe its lack of identity defines it. The Lost Decade? I welcome your thoughts.

As for the prospects going into 2009, your guess is as good as mine. The economic predictions are so dire it could happen that the recession helps define the decade, along with the terror stuff. Decade of  Woe?  Regarding the financial meltdown, there is a perverse part of me that says, Bring it on. Let's see what a real Depression is like. Give us the kind of privations with which to bore our grandkids that our grandparents bored us with. Hey, Ma, we cain't afford meat this month. Let's fry up the dawg...

To read more of Dolphin's blog, click here

Posted by Ric Dolphin on January 12, 2009 in Aboriginal Issues, American History, Canadian Politics, Current Affairs, Economic freedom, Humour, Media, Television, U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lord Black appeals

Conrad Black and his co-defendants have appealed to the United States Supreme Court. 

First, they must convince the court to hear the case, so they have filed a petition for the writ of certiori. Their lawyer is the very capable and able Miguel Estrada who had been nominated to the DC Circuit by Bush but was blocked by the Democrats before he withdrew his name. (h/t Bashman

The brief is immaculately written, so there is nothing more than can be done other than waiting. 

Cross-posted at U of A Law

Posted by Moin A Yahya on January 9, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Enough, already, of 'Unique Lives'

Feminists beware: I'm on the offensive with a new Face to Face column in yesterday's Tri-City News in which I cast a jaundiced on the "Unique Lives" lecture series. Here's a taste:

...the truth is this annual parade of celebrities is a miracle of modern packaging and promotion. An event that, in less adept hands, might come across as a rather mundane road show of tired talking heads has, instead, become an annual “happening,” tapping into two of the most dominant forces of the past 20 or so years: female empowerment and female purchasing power.

Mary Woo Sims, my feminist debating partner has, of course, a completely different understanding of the phenomenon.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on January 5, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christian union donates 80 turkeys to CBC's turkey drive. They’re also sweet on management

While the government plays Santa Claus with your money this Christmas on its collision course with prolonged recession and New Deal socialism, the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) show us what real kindness and generosity looks like.

The labour union has donated 80 turkeys to Edmonton's Food Bank as part of the CBC's 13th Annual Turkey Drive, on behalf of its members.

"The CBC's Annual Turkey Drive is a wonderful cause that represents the Christmas spirit of selfless giving," said Paul deJong, CLAC's Alberta Provincial Director. "Thanks to the generous support of Save-On Foods, CLAC joins other Edmontonians in providing some Christmas cheer to our fellow citizens in need," deJong added.

CLAC is an independent Canadian labour union representing more than 47,000 workers based on Christian social principles. It’s approach to labour relations stresses worker freedom, participation, and dignity – and the organization strives to achieve a “balance between individual and collective rights.”

Read “Labour for the Lord” by Terry O’Neill to find our why this fast-growing Christian union with a love-thy-managers approach to labour relations is drawing the wrath of less merciful Canadian unionists.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 19, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It’s hard to contain tainted cocaine: prohibition threatens public heath in Saskatchewan

Alberta Health and Wellness officials issued a warning on November 28th that cocaine being sold in Alberta could be laced with a dangerous substance that can harm an individual’s immune system.

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

Today, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Moira McKinnon is advising provincial health care providers, addictions counselors and cocaine users to be aware of the reported cases of illness in Alberta and British Columbia associated with the tainted drug.

The Saskatchewan government is calling this a “precautionary alert,” as no cases of illness have been reported but it is likely that this contaminated cocaine is also present in the province.

But don’t expect a coordinated manufacturers' recall here.

Because cocaine is a prohibited drug, the source of the contaminated product can not be traced to a particular manufacturer, and retailers can not be easily or quickly notified to pull the contaminated product from their inventories. Cocaine consumers are likely not to complain to the police or public health officials either, and there are no consumer advocates for illegal drugs. In fact, quality control of illicit drugs is virtually impossible according to drug policy expert Dr. Bruce Alexander in an interview with the Western Standard:

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

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

The good news is that none of the cases of illness associated with the tainted cocaine reported having worms.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 18, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Will Obama recross the Rubicon and restore the Republic?

“Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” -- Thomas Jefferson, 1779

In “Will Obama recross the Rubicon and restore the Republic?,” Brad Berner (I want to call him our senior Moscow correspondent) writes:

In the aftermath of 9/11 the Bush administration and many Democrats crossed a constitutional Rubicon. By both presidential directives and legislation, constitutionally protected rights have been restricted and/or abolished, and the constitutionally mandated ‘separation of powers’ between the executive and legislative branches of government has been erased by presidential fiat.

While claiming terrorists ‘hate us because of our freedoms,’ Bush’s government has spied on citizens without warrants, issued legal memos justifying torture, usurped the power of the governors and instituted direct presidential control over the National Guards of the 50 states, and threatened Congress with martial law. The result has been, with the Democratic Party’s acquiescence, that the Republic is comatose, if not on its last breath.

Berner goes on to paint a rather grim picture of the rapid decline of what was once the greatest and freest nation on earth.

The question now is whether or not President-elect Obama will recross the Rubicon and restore the Republic. Berner thinks he will, “when donkeys fly.” Hmm. I think he means it will happen in Obama’s second term.

Brad Berner formerly taught history at Arizona State University and is currently living and teaching in Moscow, Russia.

You can read “Will Obama recross the Rubicon and restore the Republic?” here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 16, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where was the SEC?

The State claims that we cannot be safe without its protection. When there is an economic slowdown, the state leaps into action proclaiming the need for regulation. Our minister of finance has proclaimed the need for one federal securities regulator, presumably because the Americans have one single regulator.  Apparently the U.S. SEC has been such a great job that they somehow missed the largest Ponzi scheme in history (no jokes about the federal reserve please) that may have cost up to $50 Billion! So much for the single regulator doing a great job. Now imagine our federal bureacrats keeping us safe.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on December 13, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aboriginal MP elected chair of parliamentary pro-life caucus

Conservative Member of Parliament Rod Bruinooge says he is “honoured and grateful” to be elected as the new chair of the multi-party Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus (PPLC).

The 35-year-old MP for Winnipeg South takes over from MP Maurice Vellacott of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin who held the position for the past eight years.

“I am honoured to chair a caucus that doesn’t shy away from this vital issue,” says Bruinooge. "Many Canadians share our reverence for life, and those concerns need to be represented.”

As an Aboriginal MP, Bruinooge says his roots play a role in his pro-life view. “Respect for life is paramount to my Aboriginal culture,” he explains. “Respect for the unborn was passed on to me by my Aboriginal elders and I believe in keeping that tradition alive.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 11, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Santa security beefed up as Christmas nears. Civil liberties group opposed to “intrusive” surveillance of travellers

As Christmas gets closer, the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has put the finishing touches on plans to track and escort Santa Claus when he visits Canada by naming four CF-18 fighter pilots as his official escorts.

The Department of National Defence announced today that Major Kirk Soroka and Captain Dan Walters of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, and Captain Benoît Bouchard and Captain Matthew Maurice of 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, will take on the responsibility of “welcoming Santa” when he arrives in Canada on his annual Christmas Eve journey, and “escorting him safely” through Canadian airspace.

Special NORAD SantaCams, positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The SantaCams instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, on December 24. All of this information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.

Critics of the plan say a coordinated global surveillance strategy to track Santa not only violates his civil rights but could present a privacy threat to all Canadians.

"Perversely, the Canadian government is using Christmas as an excuse for developing an even more intrusive system of traveller surveillance that now includes routine background checks and security rankings for every single traveller. Not only is Canada preparing to violate the civil rights of Santa Claus, a beloved international figure, but we appear to be spending millions to create the technological infrastructure to follow the U.S. into an unprecedented system of mass traveller surveillance," said British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) president Jason Gratl.

There are unconfirmed reports that senior security advisors within NORAD wanted Santa added to the “No-Fly” list for suspicious travel to terrorist hot spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, but settled on the compromise to put Santa under military surveillance after his “international gift delivery” story checked out.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 11, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Feeling the heavy burden of taxation? Blame a businessman and snitch on your neighbour: Canada Revenue Agency

You should pay your taxes. The consequences of not doing so are just too high. But when you do write that cheque to the government, take some time to consider that the burden of high taxation has been brought to you courtesy of a bloated public sector.

While that may seem obvious, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wants you to blame business owners for this tax burden. In fact, they want you to snitch on the very people who create jobs and wealth in our society.

CRA issued a warning today to business owners against using electronic sales suppression software to hide sales in order to evade taxes.

According to CRA, businesses that do this are “placing an unfair burden on the individuals and other businesses that accurately report their income and pay the taxes they owe.” And CRA has over 5,000 employees dedicated to making sure this doesn’t happen.

Of course, the heavy burden of taxation has nothing to do with businesses evading taxes in a struggle to survive, and everything to do with the ever increasing size of government, including the salaries and pensions of these 5000 tax enforcement bureaucrats.

Still, the CRA wants you to do your “part to ensure tax compliance” by turning in the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker if you think they’re not paying enough taxes. It’s called the Voluntary Disclosures Program and it’s ominously familiar to the Soviet tactic of encouraging citizens to report on each other for crimes against the state. This practice was best embodied by Pavlik Morozov, a thirteen-year-old boy who became a national symbol of Soviet selflessness and virtue after denouncing his parents for anti-government activities. Pavlik, as he was known in propaganda literature, while likely a fictional character, was used by Soviet propagandists to teach children that opposition to the state is selfish and reactionary, and that the state is more important than friends, family and what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” that make up our lives.

The CRA’s Voluntary Disclosures Program tears at the fabric of civil society and shifts the blame for high taxes from government to citizens – but you should still pay your taxes.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 10, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, December 08, 2008

Preston Manning, Deborah Grey, David Dodge and Paul Schafer to be among recipients of the Order of Canada

Former Reform Party leader and Manning Centre founder Preston Manning will be invested as a Companion to the Order of Canada on Friday.

Canada’s first Reform Party MP Deborah Grey will be made an Officer of the Order of Canada along with former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge.

Paul Schafer of David Letterman fame will be made a Member of the Order of Canada.

In all, 47 Canadians will be recognized on Friday by Governor General Michaëlle Jean with our country’s highest civilian honour.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 8, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More Tyranny in the UK

An elderly couple buy a plant that happens to smell like dope, so the cops raid the place. And even paper-boys are not immune from the reach of the anti-terror laws. But of course, we saw last week how anti-terror police are now being used to intimidate members of parliament who dare question the state.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on December 6, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dead meat: PETA launches line of coffins

As part of its “Meat should be buried – not eaten” campaign, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched a line of eco-friendly coffins...for people.

Coffin1

But instead of conventional burials, shouldn’t PETA-philes be encouraging animal lovers to donate their bodies to science with the hope of reducing animal vivisection?

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 4, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

BC civil liberties group and Marijuana Party leader Marc Emery say “no” to canine transit cops

Canadian cities. Police with dogs. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up.

Ahh, the memories.

But this time, the threat is real.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) says the BC transit authority, Translink, plans to introduce drug sniffing police dogs to sniff random transit users.  The civil liberties group is calling the move an unjustified violation of basic rights.

“This represents a massive intrusion into the rights of transit users. Authoritarian regimes use animals to control people. We are supposed to be readying Vancouver as a showcase to the world of a peaceful and democratic country. Yet once again a security measure is being sprung on us without consultation or debate. Will anyone really believe that this proposal to engage in mass searches of the public is driven by anything other than the Olympics?” asked Rob Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “This is as bad or worse than the Victoria police stopping and screening all users of public transit on Canada Day, frisking them to check for alcohol.”

According to the BCCLA, the Supreme Court of Canada condemns these kinds of generalized searches without probable cause, and in a recent decision on the issue ruled “respect for personal privacy and autonomy” is a core Canadian value.

BC Marijuana Party leader and Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery also condemns the decision to introduce drug-sniffing dogs at transit stations.

"The police admit that the dogs will be used in drug sweeps and we already know that most drug arrests are for marijuana possession,” said Emery.  "There is no doubt that these dogs will be used to harass harmless marijuana users.   Do we really want to live in a society where trained police dogs walked about by uniformed officers can sniff your body, your child's backpack and everyone's personal effects?  And for what?  To counter a false public perception about crime?  That isn't the Canada that I believe in."

Emery is calling on BC residents to disrupt this new drug war effort using peaceful civil disobedience.  "When they tried to bring the dogs to the ferries, we asked people to spray cannabis tincture all over the ferry and terminals.  I think that people need to stand up against these draconian tactics and use their imagination to do so."

This tactic could generate countless false signals indicating the presence of drugs, making the dogs an ineffective enforcement tool.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 4, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack