Tuesday, November 13, 2007

cathartic mockery

My friend sent me a website of infuriating t-shirts today, and since they're in need of mocking, here I go:

The site (Radical Jack - god I hope this doesn't get them any business... or do I? Oh, the irony!) is covered in communist nonsense, so I can only assume that their solution to this problem would be to have the government get bigger so that it can tax the rich to pay for social programs and other government goodies to try an equalize things.
Apparently, it's never occurred to these people that it's not the rich that start wars, it's governments. And when governments make wars, it's the people that fund those wars who die.

... through really really really big government that takes away the money of the people so that they spend it how they should, not how they want to. Freedom is slavery!

Oh, my mistake. Apparently capitalism (aka, the private means of production) is slavery. I've forgotten how liberating it would be to have the government take away a business I'd worked to build and all the profits I'd earn through operating that business. I can only assume that Jack sends his profits straight to the government.

This one is cool, except they forgot to add "... or you'll be executed." to the end of the quote... since that's basically how Che operated.

Well, I don't know about you, but I feel better now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


All of these honest to goodness tax cuts are great news, regardless of what the motivation is (or who they come from, for that matter).

Looks good on Flaherty. Certainly much better than he looked last year.

Gotta give credit where it's due, or criticisms don't mean a thing.

(In other news, this is the single most hilarious picture of Jim Flaherty that I've ever seen. Props to the Globe for a good laugh.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's the difference?

There seems to be a stigma about Conservatives and Liberals - that Conservatives cut taxes and Liberals do not.

Speaking federally, historically this is not the case.

Liberals do cut taxes, but only when it's politically expedient - when taxes are high, budget surpluses are the norm, Canadians are overwhelmingly of the opinion that they're over taxed, and all that fun stuff. Jim Flaherty could aspire to introduce budgets similar to some of Paul Martin's in the 1990s.

I don't think that the Conservative Party is trying to out-Liberal the Liberals so hard that they're going to refuse to cut taxes - in fact I think that there will probably be another GST cut as well as personal and corporate income tax, and at this point, quite frankly I'd be surprised if the income tax cuts weren't substantial.

But at this point, it's politically expedient to cut taxes. We'd get them almost as easily from the Liberals as we are from the Conservatives - maybe even easier, since they wouldn't be fighting the hidden agenda impression that Canadians have of the Conservative Party.

There isn't some kind of higher priority for tax cuts (other than the GST cut, which received high-priority status as a campaign promise, but was coupled with reversing a previous income tax cut) over other government policy because we have a Conservative government, it's simply that Canadians think they're over-taxed, businesses think they're over-taxed and, quite frankly, the fiscally conservative Conservative base is going to be hoppin' mad (if they're not already) if an income tax cut is thrown down the chute soon.

There have been some good steps made by this Conservative government - the proliferation of free trade agreements is going to help people in Canada and in those countries with whom the agreements were made, the limiting of spending power by the feds in provincial jurisdictions, if it's given teeth, is a good step, and these are things we probably wouldn't have gotten as quickly under a Liberal government (though depending on the leader and which voters they were courting, we might have).

There have also been some very bad steps made by this Conservative government. Their intensified drug war does nothing but fund violent criminals and diverts resources from catching them, their targeted spending programs are in no way different in spirit than the subsidizing by Liberals of Liberal-friendly businesses and constituencies, and there are all sorts of silly, petty little fights you'd only expect only from a nanny state concerning everything from light bulbs to ATM fees.

If your main issues are shrinking government, reducing spending and increasing accountability for MPs (the Accountability Act was designed to castrate the Liberals, not to actually improve accountability of politicians in Canada - Conservative MPs are as bad for pork as any other party), there isn't much of a difference between this Conservative minority and what we would have under a Liberal minority.

After the Tom Flanagan/Gerry Nicholls debate on Tuesday night, a friend of mine posed a question: How many years of Conservative majority government would we need before spending and government intervention levels would return to what they were when Harper was elected in 2006?
It's a good question.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

Friday, October 26, 2007

The tragic death of Mr. Dziekanski

This is a really sad story; one that deserves to be told.

great article

Adam Daifallah has a great article today in the National Post about John Tory, his style of Conservative leadership and the fact that it always fails.

I'd post an excerpt to give you a taste, but it's all so good that I can't pick just one - go read it for yourself!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

a guy to watch

Gary Kasparov is running in the Russian Presidential elections and is interviewed here by Bill Maher. He's eloquent, consistent, to the point and obviously cares about freedom and democracy for everyone. Definitely a guy to be watching and cheering on.

h/t: Adventures in Bowling Green

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

immigration and free trade

Here's a fun thought that came up in my econ class tonight:

In many cases, people come to Canada for a better life - higher wages & benefits, better living conditions, etc., and, unfortunately, welfare benefits.

Foreign direct investment and foreign imports allow for people to produce things at home, earning better wages and benefits in developing countries, in some cases making it unnecessary for people to migrate. Everyone wins because companies can provide their workers with much higher living conditions in their country than they otherwise have at a lower cost than providing the average living conditions in Canada.

So if you're opposed to immigration, but have peoples' best interests at heart, (as everyone claims to) shouldn't you be in favour of freer trade as the alternative? Shouldn't you be buying everything you can that's produced in developing nations to help those nations develop faster and reduce the incentives to come here? It's certainly cheaper than paying welfare state benefits to immigrants.

Obviously this doesn't solve problems of tyrannical governments, but it's definitely an interesting thought.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

poverty and inequality

Apparently it's the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. There are posters all over campus telling me to stand up against POVERTY AND INEQUALITY!

I don't get it, though.

If there's poverty, isn't inequality a good thing? Should we all be poor instead?

And if there isn't poverty - if there's downright prosperity, then who gives two craps about whether or not people are equal? Isn't the most important thing that everyone can afford food and clothes and housing - especially if everyone were able to easily afford it?

Why should we care that some people can get a BMW when others can only afford a Yaris?

cross-posted to The Natural Society

the omnibus crime bill

EDIT: OK, I watched the introduction of the bill in the house today, and it appears the "omnibus" part consists of legislation that's lagging behind from last session: raising the age of consent, tougher penalties for impaired driving, toughening bail provisions for repeat offenders, mandatory minimums (and something about having to prove why you *shouldn't* be detained before your trial if you used a gun) and classifications of dangerous offenders.

Mixed feelings here - while I obviously misinterpreted the articles I read and that sucks for me, it's much better for the country that ALL of the measures outlined below not be passed via one bill. I'd still prefer to see these five measures separated, though, their progress through the House last session notwithstanding.

Luckily, though it doesn't apply to this legislation as one bill, I can still happily stand by what I said about omnibus legislation in general, my mockery of the logical somersaults you have to do apply to the government's agenda on age of consent vs. youth offenders, and my blatant opposition to those ridiculous security certificates.

Below is the original post, lest I be accused of avoiding my mistakes.

OK, I realize that omnibus bills are sometimes a politically smart way of getting stuff you want passed passed, but a look at Ontario will tell you that lying is sometimes a politically smart way to get elected, and we're generally not in favour of lying to get elected, so the fact that something is politically smart obviously doesn't automatically override the fact that something isn't exactly moral.

The contents of the crime bill the government will be putting forward apparently includes:
- raising the age of sexual consent,
- increasing penalties for impaired drivers,
- toughen bail provisions and impose mandatory prison sentences on "gun crimes,"
- reintroducing security certificates*,
- toughen the Youth Criminal Justice Act,
- new initiatives on dealing with elder abuse,
- new initiatives on curbing identity theft,
- awarding police new powers to deal with drug dealers.
- funding the recruitment of 2,500 new officers.
Now there are a lot of VERY different measures in here. For instance, raising the age of sexual consent is a decision that depends on reasoning that more or less contradicts the rationale used when deciding to strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act - are youth responsible for their actions or aren't they? If you think someone who is 14 should be treated as an adult when they commit a murder, then why shouldn't they be treated as an adult when they make the decision to sleep with someone much older than them.

If all of the measures in this bill are important to Canadians and meeting their demands, then why not put them through individually and get a real mandate from Canadians, especially since Harper will be claiming a mandate after the bill passes?

The answer is that many of these measures are not popular, but there are enough issues that are very important to different groups that even if the Liberals weren't avoiding an election like the plague it would be fairly likely to pass. By forcing them though together the Conservatives can masquerade as if they've been given a mandate to pursue all of these proposals and pretend it wasn't all just to force through unpopular (and even unconstitutional) legislation via a few strong issues and bad Liberal polling numbers.

*The security certificates are a lapsed anti-terror measure that allows the government to detain non-citizens suspected of terrorist links without too much hassle, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which I guess must not be a problem. I think Scott Reid broke ranks to vote against this last time, now he'll likely be required to vote the line on a confidence motion. Sad.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

mandatory minimums

Since they're in the Throne Speech, why not talk about them?

I was invited to a Facebook group against all mandatory minimum sentencing because it doesn't prevent crimes and, the group alleges, is used by governments to play up and encourage peoples' fears of crimes even in the face of decreases in the incidence of crime.

The general idea behind mandatory minimum sentencing is to make the perceived expected cost of a crime greater than the perceived expected benefit of a crime to a potential criminal, and in this way make it seem unprofitable and therefore deter them from committing said crime. Expected costs can be made higher in two ways: higher chance of getting caught (more cops), or higher costs (fines, jail time, insurance premiums, etc.)

Apparently there have been studies done (there have - Google it) and in a lot of cases (though not all) mandatory minimums have had no measurable effect on the occurrence of crimes. (Specifically drug crimes, but some others as well.)

Now, obviously I'm opposed to minimum sentencing for drug charges, because I'm opposed to drugs being illegal and that any jail time, let alone mandatory minimums, does significantly more to ruin someone's life than possession or use.

I'm also opposed to mandatory minimums for an accessory details to a crime, such as the presence of a gun with the criminal... if someone is committing a crime what they're doing it with should not really matter - what matters is that they're doing it and the extent of the harm that they cause.

But let's assume that the studies are right, and that mandatory minimums are unlikely to prevent a crime - what if that crime is very serious? For instance rape, murder, and perhaps theft over a certain amount. In these cases, I think that punishing someone for extensive harm to another person, even if it doesn't necessarily justify mandatory minimums, it certainly makes them understandable.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the only reason I can see for blanket opposition to mandatory minimums is a reaction to their overuse.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

divide and shift?

There has been some speculation, in light of the corporate tax cut that Dion is proposing, that there is a shift of the political "center" in this country to the right.

I wonder, though, if this is the case, if it's as pronounced as it seems to be based on this move by Dion, or if it's less pronounced becuase of political ideology distribution in Canada becoming bimodal.

With the surging popularity of the Green Party, votes that used to be up for grabs from the Liberals are being fought over by the Greens and the NDP, leaving the Grits grasping for accessible voters.

Since you'd have to live under a rock to know that there are Conservatives all over this country getting a little bit fed up waiting for their tax cuts, it's no wonder that Liberals would start trying to appeal to them. There's also a libertarian contingent looking for tax cuts and more liberal social policy, which, if the Liberals are going to start promising tax cuts anyway, could be an easy group for them to appeal to.

So could it be a shift of the center to the right, simultaneously caused and tempered by a strengthening of the left? Who knows? But it's a neat idea.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How the PCs lost the election, and other just so stories.

Here's my purely political, ideology-free opinion the PCs in the fallout of this election. It has four themes:
1. Faith-based schools did not lose the PCs the election;
2. Right-wing policy isn't necessarily needed for PCs to win, but it helps
3. It wasn't about leadership; and
4. John Tory should step down.

These are four things that, unfortunately, most Tories don't seem to realize.

First of all, let me get this off my chest: No, no, no, the PCs would NOT have a majority if it wasn't for faith-based schools. 26 seats! Wake up, people.


People who hate John Tory are using faith-based school funding to blame him and people who love John Tory are using it to shift the blame from him. But the problem wasn't that policy. Don't get me wrong - obviously it was very unpopular in most of Ontario, but the void of policy proposals surrounding it meant that there was nothing else of substance for the PC Party to talk about and no real message control was the problem - not the policy alone.

This void was partly a result of the party's decision not to release policy until right before the election. Members were told that the party had done research and learned that releasing policy early doesn't increase your polling numbers, but gives the opposition a chance to "steal" your ideas.

When the Common Sense Revolution was released early, Mike Harris' poll numbers didn't jump at the popularity of the ideas, but once they got into the campaign, what the early release did do was make sure that all members and candidates and many non-partisan Ontarians knew what the issues and promises of the PC party were and there was absolutely no room for the Liberals to try to define anything. Message control was achieved before the writ ever dropped.

If faith-based school funding had been released early, it would have done at least one of two things: the messaging would have been more refined to increase support for the proposal and to go after McGuinty for his hypocrisy, and/or it would have given the party a clear idea of how unpopular it was so that a free vote could be proposed before the writ dropped.

Besides, if the Liberals had spent the election stealing PC policy, that would have meant the PCs designed the policy, knew how to frame it, and were the ones putting forward ideas in the election. Ontarians would have recognized these facts and the PCs would probably be in government right now.

Without something substantially different to talk about, the PCs were left in the situation the Liberals would have been in if they'd stolen PC policy. When the Grits took up faith-based school funding as a way to talk about McGuinty's strongest issue, education, during the campaign, all the PC party had to respond with was, essentially, Liberal messaging.


This brings me to my second assertion - that right-wing policy (and/or a right-wing leader) isn't needed for the PCs to form a government.

(I really, really wish that this wasn't the case. I wish for nothing more than to be able to accurately say that if the PC Party promised tax relief, cutting government pork and delisting a few ridiculous government agencies (liquor control board, anyone?) that the PCs could roll right into majority territory, but I can't.

You pick which party to support by donating and volunteering based on policy, but good policy isn't what wins elections. Never forget that with enough spin, you can sell almost anything to the electorate.

All this said, "true blue" policy would have accomplished all of what I'm about to say - it just wasn't necessary.)

What the PCs did need was, as I hinted to above, some sort of policy that was specific to the PCs. When you are attacking a governing party, they have far greater resources to publicize and define policies than opposition parties do. Thus, pushing for substantially different policy that you have designed and defined is important.

Policy should also be complete - what the problem is, what you're going to do to fix it, and why it will fix it should be laid out. Don't give a general statement about something needing to be fixed and then let anyone interpret what it means.

Had the PCs had many policy issues that were different from the Liberals, they would have controlled the messaging of their own issues, they would have had lots more to talk about than faith-based schools, and it would have helped to neutralize the issue, rather than letting it escalate day after day throughout the campaign.


Heard this one yet? "Next time around, leadership won't be the issue."
Well, guys, you're right about that, but if leadership and honesty were the issues this time around, John Tory would be premier right now.

McGuinty is not a great leader, and he lied, point-blank, to Ontarians. Everybody knows that. It wasn't some kind of secret that PCs had to let Ontarians in on - but people don't vote out politicians for lying - that's just what politicians do. (Or, even if you disagree with that, at least it's the perception.)

Relying on leadership and honesty as the main election issue was a bad call, and one that should have been obvious after it went so terribly for Eves.


John Tory needs to step down as leader. This has nothing to do with his personal views on public policy.

Organization counts in politics. While Tory deserves to be commended for his hard work canvassing and eliminating the party's debt, he was at the helm of a party that made key organizational mistakes excusable only to political rookies. His staffing and internal party administration decisions led to all of the problems the PCs encountered in this election. Here's a smattering of examples:

- The party held back ridings from holding their nomination meetings until the very last minute, stopping them from doing the on-the-ground work that needs to be done as early as possible and for as long as possible in non-incumbent ridings.

- John Tory's decision to eliminate all paid positions with the party and rely on volunteers to help eliminate the party's debt was the wrong decision in at least one area, which was database upkeep, management and tech support. This is an area that should have been high priority for the party, but obviously took a back seat to debt elimination which, while positive internally, does nothing to help get more votes in a general election. Because the database was neglected, work that had been done in the past was lost, and the database was even unavailable, at length, immediately before the campaign, delaying the work pushed back by late nomination races even further.

- The policy process, as I mentioned, was a sham, in spite of a Tory promise to put it back into the hands of members. The party under Tory made the decision to make the policy process so nontransparent that nobody knew what the policy would be, and then made the decision not to release the policy that they did come up with until it was far too late.

- The people John Tory selected to run his headquarters never seemed to get their act together. Locally, we came up with a saying whenever someone expressed frustration when trying to get hold of someone at the party: "It's the Ontario PC Party - nobody's home." Unless you had some personal connection within the party hierarchy the odds of you getting an answer to any question or a solution to any problem were not good.

John Tory touts himself as a man who's been involved with the PCs since he was 14. Everyone who voted in the 2004 leadership heard that line. In the light of this, and taking into account the fact that he ran Kim Campbell's 1993 campaign, which should have given him a heads-up on a lot of these failures, there is no excuse for the rookie mistakes that plagued this entire campaign.

The only explanation I've been able to come up with is that Tory must have surrounded himself with his loudest cheerleaders, and that experience, common sense, leadership and organization skills took a back seat to the loyalty that yes-men seem to emanate. He may not even have been aware of many of these issues - but that's no excuse, as it would be a result of the people he picked to keep closest to himself and their continuing quests to cheer loudest and hide their and Tory's mistakes.

I think that Tory could stay on as leader and be successful doing so if he was willing to bring in outside help to tell him exactly where he went wrong, acknowledge the failures, take responsibility for what he was personally responsible for, cut loose or severely demote incompetents and those who were to blame for various blunders and take the steps to show that he will learn from other successful campaigns what needs to be done to win an election and implementing those measures as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for Tory, I think that the way he ran this election and the way that he has run other elections in the past shows that that's not the kind of man and leader that he is, and even if he was, this course of action would likely cut or severely demote many of his strongest supporters, which would likely leave him without the support he would need to stay on as leader anyway.

If he wants the PC party to win the next election, John Tory needs to step down as soon as possible and make way for someone who is willing to put the organization (and policy) in place to heal and advance the party for the next four years.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

game, set & match

Well, thank god that's done with. Now we can get back to the feds freaking out because every 3 weeks an election is just around the corner!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Practical Man

Coyne today:

Every now and then, I have to remind myself of something that ought to be obvious but seems incomprehensible to me all the same: namely, that a good many people who go into politics --most people, in fact --don't give a fig about policy.

It isn't just that they don't know the first thing about it, and usually get it wrong. It's that they couldn't care less. It doesn't even occur to them that they should care. They do not inhabit a world in which policy matters. To them, politics is strictly about gangs -- only instead of Crips and Bloods, they're called Liberals and Conservatives.

That's your ordinary politician. But of these there is a special breed, who glories in the title of the Practical Man. The Practical Man is not just ignorant of policy. He is hostile to it, at least so far as this involves the careful and systematic study of a subject, the fruits of which he is inclined to dismiss as "ideology." His ideology is to have no ideology, on which point he is as precisely dogmatic as any pharisee.


This will come as a surprise to those who think of policy and politics as being somehow related. But they are not -- or if they are related, it is in active opposition to each other. I can say that with some confidence, at least, with regard to economics.

All of economics is devoted to the proposition that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of politics is devoted to the opposite conviction. All economics teaches that you can't get something for nothing. All politics supposes that you can -- or that you can at least persuade other people that you can. Economics is about scarcity, universal and inescapable. Politics is about limitless plenty.

Spend a little bit of time in politics and you will quickly come to this conclusion, especially if you "give a fig" about policy. Any unfortunate policy wonk who tries to explain why a certain policy will eventually (or not-so-eventually) hurt someone, even if it is popular, will be told that they are not being practical, and being practical is what politics is all about. Popular equals votes. You can't get anything done if you don't get votes, but all you can get done with the votes is something that will hurt. Wonderful.

I actually like to think of the study as economics as a study of practicality, which is a bit ironic in light of the way politicians have twisted the word "practical."

Economics tells us if what politics wants to give us is achievable and if having it using the plan proposed is sustainable. If having what we want is not sustainable, then continuing on with the proposed plan is not practical.

But, heaven help us, even the policy wonks are starting to get caught up in the distorted version of practicality. Just ask a Conservative small-government policy wonk who hasn't abandoned the party until a tax cut comes 'round the bend what he thinks of Harper's spending spree last year. You'll likely hear about how "We can't do anything until we get a majority," but you probably won't hear a comment about promising spending sprees and delivering cuts to government is kind of like some sort of "hidden agenda," or how it seems like you're either a liar or a socialist if this is your plan.

To close it out, here's a bit of blunt economic reality. I don't really have anything to add, nor is it all that related to what I said above... I just enjoy it so much that I couldn't not include it.

Consider that 98% of all bad policy amounts to nothing more than ignoring opportunity costs: the simple axiom that the cost of something is measured not just by the actual sum of money used to produce it, but what the same funds might have purchased, diverted to another end-- the profits forgone, the jobs not created, because that money was spent in one way and not another.

This has nothing to with that mythical media beast, "conservative economics." It isn't conservative or liberal. It isn't even economics, come right down to it. It's physics. More in one place means less in another.

Cross-posted to The Natural Society

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


This would be long past due, and great for everyone... assuming it turns out to be tax cuts and not another spending program.

kyoto? let's fight global warming instead.

Bjorn Lomborg is one of the very best folks to read when it comes to environmental issues and how to save the world.

I just came across this link at Bureaucrash, and I've decided it's my new favourite article on global warming and the policies to fight it.

Kyoto proponents should do their best to last past the first few paragraphs - Lomborg doesn't deny that global warming is happening or that humans caused it, but is frustrated by the stubbornness of politicians and scientists who refuse to look at policies other than direct carbon-reduction and Kyoto, which have been ineffective thus far, to fight global warming and the problems it would cause.

Wherever you look, the inescapable conclusion is the same: Reducing carbon emissions is not the best way to help the world. I don't point this out merely to be contrarian. We do need to fix global warming in the long run. But I'm frustrated at our blinkered focus on policies that won't achieve it.

It is the fact that this frustration, which I think should be very uncontroversial, is instead written off without a thought or scoffed at by so many policy-makers and Kyoto advocates *cough*DavidSuzuki*cough* that puts me at odds with environmentalists when it comes to global warming and what we need to do to fight it.

Do give the article a read, and pass it along. This is the kind of thinking that we need to be doing if we want to make sure that the fallout of global warming is minimized and we help as many people and as much as nature through the process as we possibly can.

cross-posted to: The Natural Society

Monday, October 08, 2007

on October 10th, vote...

... Libertarian. Vote Freedom Party. Vote Green. Hell, vote Family Coalition or NDP if that's what you really want. Vote for ideas and principles. Vote for anything but the same old, same old being tossed around by the mainstream parties.

In a province where people are so disenfranchised by the broken promises and political rhetoric that they voted for a citizen's assembly to study changing the electoral process, the last thing that we should be doing is voting for more of the same.

If you've stayed away from the Kool-Aid, you know exactly why no one in this province seems to give a damn which way the election is going - because it doesn't really matter.

The Progressive Conservatives and the NDP both claim to oppose the kind of promise-breaking that we've seen in this province in the last four years, but neither has proposed a solution. No "Honesty in Politics" act, no recall legislation - no tangible way to show their commitment to their word.

The Progressive Conservatives claim that the Liberals are ruining the economy, but propose more spending and the phasing out of only one tax, even if it one of the largest ever introduced. There is no talk of shrinking government, and no talk of lower income or business taxes, in spite of claims of irresponsible expansion and bloated government.

In a province where everybody has a story, about a friend or family member, or about themselves having absolutely abhorrent medical care, where a court challenge against the ban on private health insurance is brewing, nobody is proposing a real solution to make sure Ontarians can get the health care they need.

And the Liberals... well, even Dalton McGuinty acknowledges he's a liar these days, because he knows he has nothing to worry about.

A vote for the main parties seems to amount to a vote for different angles from which we can pass the buck, ignore our problems and hope everyone forgets about it by 2012 - not for any kind of leadership or change for this province.

When Dalton McGuinty can run the province the way he has for the past four years and end up with another majority, if people can look at all their choices and decide Dalton is the best option, we know that the system is broken.

So if you just want lower taxes and smaller government, send a message by voting for what you think this province needs, and not just a party banner.

If you just wants to be able to own your pit bull responsibly and in peace, vote for a party who would leave your dogs alone and hold irresponsible owners responsible rather than punishing you.

If you want to be able to have a cigarette at your favourite bar, or run your business the way you see fit, vote for the candidate you think would fight for you.

If you want a cleaner environment, vote for the party that you think has the plan to make it happen.

But whatever you do, don't vote for more of the same. Your vote doesn't have to be meaningless if you don't want the Liberals, even under first past the post.

Let's send politicians a message in the one language they understand - lost votes.

Let's tell them that we want real solutions proposed if they see problems in our province, not more of the same old, same old.

Let's change the way things will be done next time around; show them that no vote should be taken for granted.

We want a choice between different sets of ideas, because we know that's how the problems of this province should be solved.

Anyone who hasn't drunk that Kool-Aid knows the way this election is going, so let's make a difference in the one way that we still can.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gunter gets it

Lorne Gunter is totally (well, nearly) on side with me with his column on the government's new drug policy:
Rather than declare that there are "no safe drugs," as Health Minister Tony Clement is expected to do when the anti-drug campaign is launched, the government should consider accepting that -- for good or bad -- drug use is a personal choice. As such, there is little it can do to prevent it. But given that it is a personal choice, society has little obligation to pay for the consequences of misuse. Legalize most drugs, but also declare no welfare for addicts. Let private charities supply relief and health care for those who abuse drugs. That would at least compel some users to confront the economic costs of their choices and might -- might -- discourage more Canadians from taking drugs than any preachy government advertising campaign or assault on casual drug use.

I would personally legalize all drugs, but Gunter gets it - legalize drug use, which doesn't hurt anyone but the user, and, if your social spending policies are in conflict with this, then change your social policy before you quash peoples' freedoms like bugs. With the resources that you free up, fight real, violent crimes. Catch rapists. Put more murderers in prison. Etc, etc.

Mainstream journalism and common sense drug policy. Together at last!

an honest question regarding refugees...

... because maybe I just have a wonky idea of peoples' levels of compassion.

If World War II was happening right now, and people escaping the holocaust had made it to the US - illegally - and were being turned away after successfully hiding there for a while, would you really be in favour of denying them entry to Canada?

And what about people who escaped communism? Should they have been sent back to be shot or starved or both, simply because they hadn't found their way to a part of the world where they were accepted right off the bat, or because they hadn't jumped through the appropriate legal hoops?

Would you really rather have sent people and their families back to Hitler or Stalin or such extreme poverty that otherwise healthy individuals (as opposed to the mentally ill, who are the only people in this situation in Canada) were freezing in their homes or starving in the streets than screw the paperwork, let them in and cut our refugee-related and social spending?

Neither of these examples are on par with the situation with Mexican immigrants, I know. They're not going to be gassed or shot (at least I certainly hope not), but it's the same principle, and if World Vision will let me sponsor little starving children in Mexico (or send them an alpaca!) I'm guessing that I'm not alone in knowing that the situation down there can be pretty dire for a lot of folks.

Monday, October 01, 2007

well so much for that.

CTV reports today (and so does the Ontario PC Party, with 4 copies of its press release in my inbox so far...) that Tory will allow a free vote on his religious school funding policy.

I'm actually in favour of free votes on everything and less party line shoved down everyone's throat, but this is clearly just back peddling. They're desperate.

Oh well. So much for this. I tried to play nice, I really did.

Hope none of you voted for Tory in the advance polls based on this one.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

just for fun

Just for fun, let's break down the Globe and Mail story on the government's new war-on-drugs plan.

There's also a health-care cost element to suggesting to young people that using illicit drugs is OK, the minister said.

"The fact of the matter is they're unhealthy," Mr. Clement said.

"They create poor health outcomes."

Well, we're not doing an outright ban on tobacco, fat, sugar, sedentary lifestyles, alcohol, etc. so I assume that Mr. Clement means that illicit drugs are unusually unhealthy because... err... well, because they're illegal, so there's no way to track down and punish people who cut them with dangerous substances like, say, rat poison. Solution? Make them more illegal!

"We're going to be into a different world and take tackling these issues very seriously because (of) the impact on the health and safety of our kids."

Ah, yes. The children. They need to be kept safe from the criminals who deal drugs! They're criminals because they deal drugs, whether or not they're doing anything that's actually endangering our children... and the gang violence! Yes, the gang violence... funded by the inflated prices of drugs caused by making them illegal.


Mr. Clement said treatment and prevention programs were his key priorities for the health element of the drug strategy.

"Yes, there's a justice issue to that," he said.

"But there's also a treatment issue, there's also a prevention issue."

Look, I think that there are a lot of drug users in this country who need help, but preventing and treating drug use through stricter bans is like controlling excessive drinking in the 1920s by continuing prohibition - it doesn't work... in fact, it does the opposite.

To his credit, it sounds like Clement did say at one point that he was in favour of safe-use sites for drug users... as far as policies within prohibition go, I think this is a relatively positive one, but the fact is that if Canada's government wants to help drug users, protect children and fight organized crime, stricter laws against drugs is the absolute last policy they should be considering.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

credit where credit's due.

I have to echo the thoughts of ALW when he says that he has gained a lot of respect for John Tory, personally, during this campaign.

I suspect that the only things that John Tory and I would agree on policy-wise are the things that everyone can agree on - waste in government is bad, lying politicians are bad, etc... but before this election I would not have pinned him as someone who would stick to his guns in the face of disapproval from the electorate, and he's done just that with his proposal to extend funding to all religious schools.

Personally, I think it's bizarre that he chose to advocate opening up education funding based on religion and not just move straight to a voucher system, but it's obviously more moral and intellectually honest that funding only Catholic schools outside of the public system, and he has stuck by the policy and defended it, and he deserves respect for that.

Politically, though, the PC campaign has been a disaster. Other than a few very hard-working organizers, there's no overall organization to speak of and their message is scattered at best, non-existent at worst. While Tory has proven himself when it comes to sticking by something on principle, he definitely needs to replace what I expect are a group of yes-men and put some real organization around himself if he ever wants to be Premier of this province.

Monday, September 24, 2007

letters to the editor

Letters to the editor are great fun. Here's one I submitted today:

Last week, a letter in the Star attacked the Canadian Medical Association’s proposed changes to the Canadian Health care system, explaining that vested interests shouldn’t be allowed to overhaul the Canadian health care system in the name of profit.

There are plenty of letters like this – “Peoples' lives and well-being shouldn’t depend on their income or anything else!” letters always seem to proclaim, and no system could be beneficial if it is concerned primarily with money.

But this week, letters about Mexican immigrants are all the rage. Unlike the Canadian health care system, though, money is what it’s all about.

We can’t afford these immigrants! Ship them back and all of our problems will be solved. Will they be impoverished? Will they starve? Not our problem! Unless you’re from Canada or you have your paper work in order, all the human rights we claim to believe in go flying out the window.

That’s what we’ve fought for all these years, after all: a country free from discrimination based on anything other than country of origin and completeness of paperwork.

The worst part is that Canadians are so afraid of change that we won’t consider real solutions to either of these problems, and we’ll look the other way when our values become completely inconsistent.

We’ll try to guarantee ourselves a better life by stopping the poor and hungry from coming here the way our ancestors did… but don’t mess with our universal health care!

Talk about a double standard.


Props to The Freeway to Serfdom on his concise post regarding examples of Canadian health care problems in Dead Meat, a mini-documentary showing arguments against universal health care that you can watch in its entirety on YouTube.

Dead Meat has been out for some time, but that doesn't make the following any less true, and I couldn't have said it better:

Pay attention to the guy midway through who is stuck on a waiting list for cataract surgery. The reason he's on that list, when LASIK or similar procedures remain private and can be had in a matter of days, is that the former is an "essential" service, while the latter is "cosmetic" only.

That's right, the absolutely necessary procedure is inaccessible and severely rationed, while the elective one has become as ubiquitous as a brake and muffler shop. Just one of the many logical somersaults you Americans will have to get used to performing once Hillary and Obama start ladling out the "free" medicine.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

racists and socialists

It's great to know that in Canada we are free from discrimination based on race, colour, religion, creed, and all kinds of other good stuff... as long as you weren't born outside of our country. After all, the rights you have are based on which side of an imaginary line you were drawn on. Born on the wrong side of the line? Well then if you try to come to Canada, its citizens will apparently say "No."

All arguments against complete global freedom of movement and not against the welfare state are based in flat-out racism.

Is there a problem with the current system? Of course there is. But the problem isn't people taking their children or themselves to a better life, it's that we pay them to come here. In a classic case of unintended consequences, well-meaning socialists have institutionalized racism in many a civilized nation.

(That said, if you think that we should be paying to help disadvantaged Canadians afford food, shelter and big-screen TVs* - and especially if you think that it's an obligation because people have a right to food, clothing and big screen TVs* then I can't think of a consistent argument against helping everyone in a similar manner... unless, of course, you factor in some good ol' fashioned racism again. One of many reasons that I am not into that sort of stuff.)

If Americans have the wool pulled so far over their eyes that they aren't drowning in irony while kicking people out of their country that are fleeing economically or socially repressive conditions for a better life, then Canada should be stepping up to do what's right and protect freedom and human rights by allowing people to live where they choose to make the best lives for themselves that they can.

If we can't afford to run all the programs we have, let's cut off (or modify) the programs - not trap people in a situation because of their ancestry, place of origin or citizenship. Hell, we fought wars to guarantee those rights for ourselves.

h/t: Freeway to Serfdom
cross-posted to: The Natural Society

*OK, so I've only heard of people within 2 degrees of separation from me getting a big screen TV on welfare once, but once is more than enough for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

breakin' the law?

There is no surer way to pervert the law than to institutionalize breaking it. So why would there be majority support for breaking the law to fight organized crime?

If you don't see why this is such a scary proposal, consider the following - should the government, the police or anyone consider it a good idea to break a law that shouldn't be repealed? I would argue that the answer to this question is "no" in any case, but especially in the case of government, who has the power to change laws they don't want followed, or the police, who, being entrusted with enforcing the law, should be the last ones to break it.

Further, what laws would have to be repealed in this case? The laws protecting individual rights from the government; laws protecting us from unnecessary search and seizure, protecting our privacy, and protecting us from entrapment. And yes, protecting us - all of us. These infringements on the rights of Canadians always seem to be assumed to affect everyone but the people advocating them, but how long until someone finds something you're doing, without hurting anyone, offensive enough to barge into your house and forcibly stop you from doing it?

(Apparently there is also support for overturning the laws protecting freedom of association, since people want to make it a crime to be a member of some gangs even if you haven't committed any other crime.)

It's also important to look at the crimes that are so serious that we need to stop them by striking a blow against every Canadian, law-abiding or not.

If the government didn't outright create organized crime, they certainly gave them a better boost than they've ever given another industry by prohibiting alcohol, gambling and, to an even greater extent after the legalization of alcohol and gambling - drugs. Taxes and regulations are almost as bad, but certainly don't compare to the effects on price that an outright ban.

Do you think there would be any market for black market cigarettes if people weren't overpaying so drastically that the government was going above and beyond covering the costs of their medical care and making a profit off of them? Would gangs be making millions of dollars selling pot and other drugs that might not even be safe if you could go to the store and buy clean, reliable drugs for a fraction of the price? Of course not. Government subsidizes organized crime more than it subsidizes any other industry.

The scariest part is that people are so willing to have the law broken - and for what? The bans of the mid-twentieth century allowed for big business in organized crime through rumrunning and casinos - two industries now controlled (and, in the case of gambling, promoted) entirely by the government in Ontario.

No wonder we're starting to hear stories about police so frustrated that they tase students or berate folks parked at road stops - what incentive is there for bad cops to show restraint or respect for individuals when there is no expectation that they do so? And how frustrating must it be for good cops to be attempting to enforce laws when we institutionalize breaking them?

We certainly aren't doing the officers willing to put their lives on the line to protect us justice.

If we're going to advocate repealing a law (institutionalized breaking of a law is just stupid) then why aren't we talking about freeing the markets funding organized crime?

As it stands, the financial incentive is far too large for any crime-fighting initiative to ever stand a chance of putting a real dent in organized crime, so why not take it away? Would being able to go to the store to buy some product containing cocaine (basically extra-strength caffeine) or pot cigarettes to smoke on a Saturday night really be worse for society than a watered-down police state?

(cross-posted to The Natural Society and Bureaucrash)

Monday, September 17, 2007

semantics vs. facts

I suspected that this might become an issue with the PC and NDP messaging calling the health tax the biggest tax increase in Ontario's history. It will be interesting to see how/if the PCs respond.

(As for the NDP response that you need to talk about inflation-adjusted dollars, the Liberals were using percentages of GDP, income and government revenue, not real dollar amounts, so unless it's a result of me missing my coffee this morning, I'm not sure how the amounts could be considered nominal.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

how to keep the honesty issue from resonating

It's really interesting that John Tory has decided to make the main issue in this election leadership/honesty.

When the PCs make no substantial promise regarding fiscal policy other than more honesty, it means that almost all of the rest of their promises are the same as the Liberals, except "we'll keep them."

Well, when you're both promising to increase spending, I have no trouble believing that any Liberal will keep the promise. (The main reason I've never been a Liberal.) It would be different if they were fighting over who could reduce spending and lower taxes, but it's simply not the case.

If you're trying to stand apart from someone by saying you'll keep your promises, they have to be making promises no one believes they will keep. By promising spending increases, (and promising to keep the promise. What have elections come to, anyway?) Tory helps McGuinty keep his credibility and stops the PCs from controlling the issues.

One of the many reasons you will be hearing way more about the school funding issue (winning some Jewish votes in TO, but not too popular with others I've heard talk about it) than about honesty and accountability.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

to MMP or not to MMP? that is the question.

In an unexpected turn of events, I've found myself undecided on a political issue. It's weird for me - usually I have a "gut reaction" and with a little thought, can logically back up my position on an issue.

Quite frankly, if the vote was for a single transferable vote system, my problems would be solved and I would gladly vote and campaign for the change.

But not so with MMP.

On one hand, MMP would offer Ontarians better choices on which parties to vote for. I wouldn't have to forego voting for the party I really believed in simply because they weren't running in my riding (perhaps because the FPTP system has kept the party small, and there would be more candidates within a few elections of MMP, but maybe not). It is a remedy to the disparity between popular vote and actual representation, and the likely result of fewer majorities would (hopefully) result in legislation that better met the wants of voters.

On top of all that, the major reason that the no-MMP crowd seems to be against the reform is that it will make it harder for whatever party they're in to have complete power after an election. Think of all the minority governments! Coalition governments! Etc, etc. I'm not interested in whether or not the voting system we use preserves the ability of the Liberal or Conservative Party to govern as they see fit more often.

There are a lot of really good reasons to vote for MMP and a lot of really bad reasons to oppose it... but I have one major problem that's holding me back from making my decision:

I think MMP would likely strengthen party lines and increase further the number of political hacks we have representing us. With the current system, there is at least a chance that someone who is simply a good candidate could be convinced to run and win even if the party didn't like the guy. Changes can be made by the grass roots, even if it's not the norm. (look at the Common Sense Revolution)

Of course there is always interference by the party - in some cases the Leader might mandate certain qualities in their candidates (Dion wants 1/3 of his candidates to be women, so, in my riding, for instance, rumour has it that male Liberal candidates are being told to not bother running), they might not allow a nomination to take place until conditions are favourable (I'm sure we'll be released for nomination once the Jeff Watson-friendly membership is high enough), or they might simply send their people to go down and run a campaign for their favoured candidate, giving them more outside resources than a grassroots favourite might be able to muster locally. But at the end of the day, it's local memberships that matter, and someone with strong local support can overcome the will of the party with enough organization and hard work.

With list members being chosen by the party at large, I can only see this getting worse. In politics people often aren't rewarded for talent or good intentions, but for sticking it out longer than the other guys in any way necessary. Back stabbers, yes-men, complete incompetents - think of some sort of undesirable and I can probably think of an example that's been rewarded for nothing but sheer endurance and even just superficial devotion to a party. (In fact, for every example of an undesirable I can think of, I can probably think of a good person who's been dumped at the whims of the faithful. But I digress...)

List members, without a specific constituency to appeal to, would be appealing to intra-party interest groups, and most likely the ones who would win would be the ones supported by the leader. (Members who don't support The Leader have a funny habit of disappearing until the next leadership race.) This would strengthen the party line without even the use of the party Whip - who wouldn't be going anywhere, either, by the way.

Imagine this scenario:

A number of candidates from Party A come out against a proposed bill by an incumbent Party B government because it would hurt the constituents of their ridings in a very real and unfair way. Now let's say that these candidates are all elected based on their opposition to this bill. On top of the election of these candidates, Party A is underrepresented and their seats are topped up with list members equal in number to the bill-opposing seat holders.

These list members were chosen because they are loyal to the party leader, who is strong in a part of the province where the bill is not unpopular. As a result, the list members, who don't really represent any specific group of people, favour a bill that's worth opposing in order to keep the favour of The Leader, who happens to care more about polls than the rights of Ontarians. So three good MPPs, who would have been representing their constituents, have their votes canceled out in favour of the party line.

Sure, it's far-fetched, but MMP makes it possible. And list members seem to take the worst parts of our candidate selection process and institutionalize them, eliminating the possibility of new, good representation from sneaking through the system. That's really not something I'm comfortable with.

On top of that, the proponents of MMP seem to be very naive when it comes to exactly how politics works. Maybe if they weren't, we could have seen a better system (*cough*STV*cough) proposed by the citizens' assembly.

That said, to anyone who's actually read this far, my extensive, neurotic concerns about the implications of MMP shouldn't be interpreted as far outweighing the good parts of the system - if that was the case, I'd be decided.

I do think we need change, I just have concerns about this kind of change. I really, really want to be able to support MMP, but the threat of even less independence for our representatives, or more effective silencing of independent viewpoints, is really something that worries me about the system.

So, there you have it. An undecided voter. Anyone who cares enough to speak up for one side or the other, have at it.

cities pay farmers!

Am I the only person who is going to absolutely lose it the next time I see one of these signs?
The signs are, I'm assuming, supposed to remind us how lucky we are to have farmers, who produce our food.

Well, first of all, I don't depend on the benevolence of farmers to provide me with food - nor do they expect me to. They want cold, hard cash as compensation for the service they provide... but they don't stop there.

Canadians more than pay for our farmers. We pay for their produce, we pay to subsidize them, we pay more for their goods because of supply control, and there is a moral cost that we pay when we increase the cost of milk and eggs for our poorest citizens, when we perpetuate the use of large tracts of land that could be reclaimed by forest cover as inefficient farm land, when we flood poor economies with our subsidized food products, putting their farmers out of business and perpetuating starvation and poverty in the third world.
(Even the Make Poverty History crowd figured that one out.)

So stop trying to remind me how lucky I am to pay for all you do time and time again so that you can keep working in an industry that would go under without my financial support. Stop reacting with indignation because we might not want to give up even more of our money or sacrifice more of the most vulnerable to perpetuate this insanity. At the very, very least, there should be signs thanking the taxpayers of Canada for making all these sacrifices, rather than trying to send them on some messed up guilt trip.

Maybe the rest of us should start our own campaign. "Cities pay farmers!" Would probably be the least offensive. I'd buy that t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

think, then talk.

So apparently this ad spending nonsense is going before Parliamentary committee. Gary Goodyear tried to block the investigation by saying it was out of order, but when that failed,
Tory MP Pierre Poilievre quickly moved an amendment to have the study include the expenses of all parties for every election since 1997.

"If they vote to hide their books from the public, then they should explain what they have to hide," Poilievre said.

Seriously... think these things through before you say them. If you're using points of order to try to hide the expenses from investigation, shouldn't you explain what you have to hide?

staffing change needed.

What is up with the Ontario PCs' signs this time around? They look like they were:
a) designed in MS Paint, or
b) messed up and fixed with stickers... by an amateur.

(Not meant to pick on Michael Harris specifically... although what a name to be running under John Tory... he's just the first one that comes up under a google search.)
Believe it or not, they look worse in real life.

Maybe all the graphic designers worked for Klees and Flaherty?


Parents in the Panhandle may face jail time if their children continue to skip school.

Officials in Escambia County are weighing a tough new penalty that says if children have 10 unexcused absences in 90 calendar days, their parents would be put behind bars.

Officials said children who miss that much school put their entire futures in jeopardy.

Yeah... I'm sure it has no lasting effects on kids to have their parents spend time in prison. I mean, it can't possibly be worse than missing 90 days of school. Right? Right?

Legislators make my head hurt.

h/t: Bureaucrash
x-post: The Natural Society

Monday, September 10, 2007

freedom of speech and responsibility

I've been thinking a lot lately about freedom of speech. It is something that everyone in Canada and America values, or at least claims to value.

Ask a Canadian if they'd be willing to give up their freedom of speech, and they will likely tell you that in Canada we believe in free speech. Ask an American to support a candidate for president who's running on a promise to repeal the first amendment and they'll likely laugh in your face.

We are two of the freest countries in the world, and for all of our flirtations with socialism, free speech is something that average Canadians and Americans continue to have at least a strong superficial belief in.

So why is it that so often we hear the words "I believe in free speech, but..."

But what?

Well the one I hear most often is, "We believe in free speech, but freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility."

OK, so we need to make sure that people are responsible for their actions.
Let's examine this argument against free speech. (And it is an argument against free speech - unless you have complete freedom of speech, you do not have free speech. Is it freedom of religion if you can be any religion but pagan/Catholic/Jewish? Same deal.)

"You can't yell fire in a crowded theater!" Someone will almost always say. Well, actually, you can - but we hold you accountable for it. The offender must compensate the theater owner for lost business and property damage, the injured for their injuries, and must be held accountable by all the folks inconvenienced and anyone else who thinks that they're a jerk for messing with everyone's night out. Freedom of speech, coupled with the protection of property, will force responsibility on the offender.

Hate speech? Allow it. If someone is an outright racist or bigot, I'd rather know so that I can deny them business, avoid them, give them dirty looks, and so that their community can follow suit. Let's unite behind whoever is under attack by the bigots and show them support in a way few other events can. Everyone loves to hate a villain. Again - freedom of speech forces responsibility on the offender.

"But what about death threats?" someone else will ask. Well, to quote Ian from Ianism (which appears to be down - what a shame), if someone is going to try to kill me, the last thing I want to do is take away their ability to warn me.

And what about free speech that doesn't physically hurt or coerce any person or property? What about the overtly moral attempting to "protect" us from what they find offensive and therefore "damaging" to, well, who knows who. Probably the children.

Who decides what's offensive? Those busybodies trying to ban it? Well, let's say said busybodies are very religious. Should they be able to stop me from saying "There is no God?" Let's hope not.
But let's ignore that very important point for the sake of getting to the "responsibility" argument. Regardless of who's deciding what's OK for me to see or hear, what does censorship of this type accomplish?

Well, people aren't offended by, for example, turning on their TV at 5:00 in the afternoon and hearing a curse word or seeing a partially naked woman. But what does this do? It takes away the responsibility of those watching the TV to mind what channels they go to, the responsibility of parents to watch their children or teach them about the things they hope they will avoid.

In the case of offended sensibilities, freedom is curtailed specifically to avoid responsibility. Is mass irresponsibility really something that we want to be encouraging? According to the people lobbying for censorship, that's exactly the kind of mindset we should all be trying to avoid.

(cross-posted to Bureaucrash and The Natural Society)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

hypocrisy, thy name is...

Conservative Party spokespeople are claiming that the transfer of funds from the national party to smaller, poorly funded campaigns to increase national advertising through the local level is an issue of freedom of speech:
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre says it boils down to the right of candidates to spend money as they see fit.
Oh, well that's fantastic! Candidates have the right to spend money as they see fit during an election, but individual Canadians or third party groups? Well that would just be silly. Heck, the Conservative government outright banned corporate donations, completely ignoring corporations' freedoms of speech and association.

But when the people passing all these laws actually have to obey them? Well, that's an infringement of their freedom! And we can't have that.

I felt a lot better about the rampant destruction of free speech in this country before I knew that a few politicians - the ones in government no less - understood that it includes the right to spend your money to promote a certain message.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

on consensual crimes and respect for police

Another excerpt:

"Law enforcement is based on a very simple principle premise: there is a perpetrator and a victim. The police catch the accused perpetrator and put him or her in jail. The courts then decide the guilt or innocence of the accused and an appropriate punishment if guilty. This protects the victim and others from further victimization and keeps the perpetrator from further perpetrations.

A serious problem arises when the accused perpetrator and the victim are one and the same. Such is the case with consensual crimes. When the police put the accused in jail, they are putting the victim in jail too. How, then, can the police protect the victim? Law enforcement, thus preverted, begins to deteriorate.

With a real crime, the genuine victim goes to the police and reports it. The police then set about to catch the criminal. With a consensual crime, who reports the crime? Obviously, no one directly involved. Everyone consented to it; they're not going to be complaining to the police. The police, then, must become spies, busybodies, and entrappers in order to catch consensual criminals victimizing themselves. Imagine how demoralizing and corrupting this entire procedure can be to both police and society.

As Jackson Eli Reynolds reported in The Washington Post,
Drug offenses... may be regarded as the prototypes of non-victim crimes today. They private nature of the sale and use of drugs has led the police to resort to methods of detection and surveillance that intrude upon our privacy, including illegal search, eavesdropping, and entrapment.

Indeed, the successful prosecution of such cases often requires police infringement of the constitutional protections that safeguard the privacy of individuals."

And, thus, people see the police not as preventing crimes, but seeking them out. They don't immediately think to tell the police everything, as they may have to hide their own victimless behaviour. Trust in and respect for the police as protectors of the innocent enters a downward spiral. Maybe not with everyone - not with the socially conservative, not with the corrupt... but with enough.

Is this something we really want to be perpetuating with our drug policies?

Once again, this quote is from (and my insight is inspired by) Ain't Nobody's Business if you Do
Go on, move it to the top of your reading list. You know you want to.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crash Across America, 2007

Liberty Summer Seminar

Still recovering from the 2007 Liberty Summer Seminar, which took place this past weekend. There were some really amazing speakers - Ben Perrin, founder of The Future Group, brought to light the devastating problem of child sex slavery in the world and the non-government initiatives that he and his friends have put in place to start solving this problem - and they have. What a great cause - one I'm eager to start looking into once I get home.

The Institute for Liberal Studies was happy to announce Marc Emery and Gerry Nicholls (both of whom gave pretty amazing talks) have been brought aboard as Associates of the Institute.

Actually, I'm going to stop ranting about the speakers, as Karen Selick, Crashers Jason and Erin from Bureaucrash, Avril Allen, Grant Brown, musical acts Neville Arbuckle and Lindy, and, of course, ILS President Jan Narveson, all gave really great talks and performances (respectively) that will be put online as soon as possible. For a more immediate preview of the videos, I'm working on uploading my photos, so stay tuned!

(And why not a video to whet your appetite?)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

well, well, well...

... it looks like my tax dollars were going to pay whoever had been changing Jeff Watson's Wikipedia entry from a House of Commons IP address to try to cover up his very troubling involvement in a politically motivated criminal trial this past winter.

And he wasn't the only one.
"WikiScanner, a website launched on Monday by a U.S. graduate student, shows that changes to articles originated from computers inside a variety of government offices...

... a significant number of edits were made to articles about politicians that removed criticisms, added positive comments and, in some cases, inserted negative comments to the pages of political rivals...

MPs whose Wikipedia pages were significantly altered include Toronto-area Liberal Dan McTeague, Calgary Conservative Jason Kenney and Southern Ontario Conservative Jeff Watson, who serves on the Commons' access to information, privacy and ethics committee. ...
(emphasis mine -- and you must be joking.)

"It can be detrimental to the subject of an article that has information that casts you in a negative light or brings up events that you would rather forget about; hence, the desire to modify the entries so that particular events are recast or deleted altogether. You can't do this with Encyclopedia Britannica, but you can do this with Wikipedia," Mr. Broadhead said. "But to be seen deleting factual information - to me that borders on being scandalous."

Really! Borders on scandalous, you say? I wonder how he feels about politicians involved in frivolous criminal trials.

Maybe if these politicians spent more time acting responsibly they wouldn't have to devote so many resources to removing facts - yes, documented facts, from their entries.

And one more thing...
One user, with an IP address that points to a government office in Ottawa, removed Wikipedia's entire entry on homosexuality several times on July 20, 2005, and replaced it with such sentences as: "Homosexuality is evil," "Homosexuality is wrong according to the Bible" and "Homosexuals need our help and counselling." The IP address responsible for that edit continued to deface the entry on homosexuality a total of 24 times between July, 2005, and July, 2006, and also edited more than 500 other Wikipedia articles on topics such as epidemiology, Ebola and Deal or No Deal (a TV game show starring a Canadian host).

Wonderful - and they were banning Facebook???

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ain't nobody's business if you do.

Most people who condemn currently illegal consensual activities know little or nothing about them. All they know are the sensationalized media accounts designed not to educate, but titillate. Unless they take part in the activities themselves - or have close friends who do - most people have bad relationships with the mere existence of these consensual activities. The primary emotions seem to be revulsion and fear, born of ignorance. Revulsion and fear keep one from investigating and learning that there is nothing much to be repulsed by or afraid of. It is a closed loop of ignorance (ignore-ance).

The unwillingness to see that "It is my judgment, based on my ignorance, that is causing the problem" is the problem. Bad relationships promote worse relationships. Worse relationships promote impossible relationships. Impossible relationships promote laws against consensual activities.

An excerpt from the outstanding (so far) book, Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do, by the late Peter McWilliams.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hezbollah, billboards and free speech

Last week a billboard popped up in Windsor that had all kinds of people in a tizzy - a local group of Lebanese folks had a billboard put up depicting the leader of Hezbollah to defend "freedom fighters" in Lebanon.

Here's a link to the story in today's Windsor Star about it.

And who's saying it has to be pulled down? Why, the Jewish and Christian-Lebanese communities, that's who. Just remember that next time someone tries to tell you that Muslims are coming to this country to try to take away our freedom of speech (as was the norm following the Danish cartoon fiasco.)

Are these people really in favour of free speech? Would they be OK with a big "SUPPORT ISRAEL" retaliation billboard across the street? Who knows - and that's a separate issue, anyway. They have every right to put up any kind of billboard they want. Hopefully the government won't be intervening in this one.

Countdowns, baby!

There's doins a-happenin'!

In a mere 3.5 days, Major Maker, the band responsible for that awesomely catchy "Rollercoaster" song in the Maynard's candy ad, and the equally catchy tune "Talk to You" in the adorable new Telus commercial, will be launching their tour in Waterloo at the Starlight.
Who'll be there?
Yours truly, that's who!
Plus lots of freedom-and-music-loving (or just music-loving) folks interested in a good time. Come on out.

Only a day and a half later will be this year's...

Liberty Summer Seminar!

This is the best libertarian event all year, folks - and I'll be there, too.
Jealous? Register and come along! Click on the image for more info and to register.

Finally, after the seminar's completion on Sunday afternoon, we'll be launching the

2007 Crash Across America!

For the crash, we'll be driving from one capitol to another - Ottawa to Washington, DC. We'll be stamping out statism, meeting some awesome people and spreading freedom across both our lands. Stay tuned for video and blog updates from the road!

In the meantime, it's 3 more days of all 3 jobs. Drats!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

in defence of Stephen Taylor

Stephen Taylor and Blogging Tories have taken a lot of flak for a request that the comments prompting a human rights complaint against Free Dominion not be re-posted on Blogging Tories and a warning that any damages incurred because of another blogger will be recovered through legal action.

I believe that not only is it not non-conservative or non-libertarian for the site to make this statement, I think it's simply an excerise of the rights that libertarians (and, to a lesser extent, conservatives) fight for for all Canadians.

Full disclosure: I am friends with Stephen Taylor, and am therefore more prone to defending him than most.

Anyway, some people have criticized Taylor for not being willing to re-post these comments in defiance of the CHRC. Well, if you think it's the right thing to do, go do it on your own blog and tell everyone who will listen that it's the right thing to do, but stop there. But keep in mind it's easy to make that kind of criticism when you're not the one being sued and/or charged. If Taylor knew that he could afford to fight the battle it's possible that he could have reacted to the situation very differently.

However, to insist that Blogging Tories takes on the blame and damages for comments made by anyone other than its owners (or even to be upset that they won't shoulder the blame and/or the damages on (your) principle) is not conservative, nor libertarian, nor anything resembling responsible.

It's not at all unreasonable to warn bloggers that if a site is sued for their comments, damages will be sought from them. Stephen Taylor and Blogging Tories (and, for that matter, FreeDominion) are much more suceptible to legal troubles because of their success. (Conrad Black or Martha Stewart, anyone?) If they cross whatever line has been arbitrarily drawn up by the CHRC or any other regulatory agency the government has dreamed up, they're going to pay the price long before most bloggers would even show up on the radar.

The second, and more aggravating, assertation I've seen in a few places that Stephen Taylor must be opposed to freedom of speech if he's not allowing these comments to be posted on Blogging Tories. Any blogger who doesn't want offensive nonsense in their comments has probably run into this accusation at some point.

Not allowing certain things that could get you sued (or that will hurt your relationships with your sources, or you just find offensive) on your aggregator (or on your blog, or your lawn for that matter) is not an infringement on free speech.

If Stephen Taylor was lobbying the government to not allow people to re-post anything that provoked the wrath of the CHRC, then we could talk about Taylor vs. Free Speech, but as it stands he's simply stating what he's allowing on his website.

Everyone is still free to go off and post to their own blog, message board, web site or aggregator and write whatever the hell they want, and be responsible for any legal battles they enter as a consequence themselves. (Whether or not the launching of legal action because of what you've said is warranted is a topic for another day.)

In response to that, you might argue that since Blogging Tories allows people to reach a much wider audience, writing on a blog or message board not affiliated with Blogging Tories will not have as large an impact. Well, tough. Agree with Taylor or not, you certainly don't have a right to the benefits his site offers - property rights, folks.

Would I run the site differently? Sure, I would. But it probably wouldn't be as successful, and unless i buy it, it's none of my business anyway. At the end of the day, Steve pays the bills, he calls the shots. There's nothing more libertarian, or conservative, than that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

choice and health care

The Calvinball Diaries writes the following on the CMA's support for a parallel private system:
The goal of all Canadian governments should be to see that everyone has access to health care; this can be achieved by paying for the care of those who can't afford it. Owning hospitals, employing doctors and nurses, banning health insurance and preventing doctors from working both publicly and privately are all measures that are not only unrelated to this goal, they seem to be preventing us from reaching it.
And he's right - if the goal of Canada's governments is to ensure that all Canadians have health care, all that is needed is a subsidy of health insurance premiums - not government-owned-and-run hospitals, not public-only health clinics and diagnostics, not even a specific government plan like medicare - simply a set of rules that the subscriber would have to adhere to to get government coverage, or a maximum that the government is willing to pay for the premium.

If you couldn't afford to pay for health care at all, the government would pay your premium. If you can prove that you can only afford to pay it in part, the government would top it up so that you could recieve what is considered the minimum amount of care acceptable, or (more likely in Canada) the government could simply pay enough to cover the basic premium for everyone and then people could be free to invest in health insurance for themselves and their families above and beyond what is covered by their government.

If the goal of the Canadian government with respect to health care is to ensure that all Canadians have equal access to care, this is all that is required of them.

"Canada's New Government" should be all over this one - they could call it the "Canadian Health Care tax credit," and we could all pretend that they're being fiscally conservative! Sounds like a blast.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Immigration is ImmiGREAT!

You are only 30 days away...

... from the 2007 Liberty Summer Seminar!

The seventh annual Liberty Summer Seminar is fast approaching. Falling on the August 18-19 weekend, the overnight retreat features a concert, incredible food, great people, and a bevy of pro-liberty speakers. We even have a theme song!

This year's speakers include:

Benjamin Perrin, Assistant professor of law at the University of British Columbia and member of the editorial board of C2C: Canada's Journal of Ideas
MP Scott Reid, representative for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington and fighter for Canadian liberty in the House of Commons
Jason Talley, Bureaucrash Crasher-in-Chief
Gerry Nicholls, columnist, Senior Fellow at the Democracy Institute
Karen Selick, lawyer and columnist with the Western Standard
Dr. Jan Narveson, professor of philosophy, University of Waterloo, Order of Canada recipient, lover of liberty.
Avril Allen, Canadian Constitution Foundation Lawyer

We are also very pleased to announce that our headline speaker will be none other than Marc Emery, referred to as the "Prince of Pot." Marc is the editor of Cannabis Culture magazine and a great freedom fighter who has long been dedicated to the fight to legalize marijuana - a fight that has recently landed him in a battle with the US government. To learn more about Marc and his current fight, take a look at this “60 Minutes" video.

Meanwhile, our musical act will again be Lindy!

Make sure to register at LiberalStudies.ca before July 28th to save $10 on registration. The price is $55 for students and $75 for everyone else. After the 28th, it will be $65 and $85, respectively.

Please also consider helping our fund raising efforts by visiting our main site, or by clicking on the "ChipIn" button found on this blog.

As always, if you have questions, suggestions, or advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us. Clicking "reply" to this email will do the trick!


The Liberty Summer Seminar Team

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

take that, statists!

Well you don't have to be excited, but I'm excited about this ruling.

Civil liberties: 1
War on drugs/statism/anti-immiGREATion: 0

Ooo, scratch that. It's actually,

Civil liberties: 2
War on drugs/statism/anti-immiGREATion: 0

because provincial judges RULE this week.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sicko and health care systems.

I was putzing around Facebook and it led me, eventually, to this very insightful suggestion:
In order to think about institutional choices related to health care, I’ve learned to ask two questions. First, who pays? And secondly, who makes decisions about the care provided? The first question is important because medical providers pay the most attention to the person or institution that pays them. If I pay my grocer myself, she will make sure she stocks food that I like. If she is paid by someone else (for example, the corporation that owns her store), then she’ll be sure to put what that person wants on the shelf, and pay less attention to my requests. The second question is important because different decision-makers may have different objectives to fulfill in their determination of the care you receive

and on Canadian health care vs. American HMOs:
The commonality between HMOs and single-payer national health care systems should have made Michael Moore more skeptical about the European, Cuban and Canadian systems. You see, each of these countries has a health care system that is, in effect, a single, national HMO.

Because I know Canada the best, I’ll use it as an example, but the point applies to all the rest. The questions are: who pays? And who decides? Moore makes the same mistake that most of us make regarding national health care systems when he says that “everyone” pays in such a system (remember the golfer scene?). The better answer to the first question is that the provincial health ministry pays, because it controls the revenue that doctors, diagnosticians, and medical service providers receive. The answer to the second question is the same: each provincial health ministry in Canada decides what medical goods and services will be available in any given year. A budget is set for the year, and the health care system has to stay within that budget. A bureaucracy is rewarded with more funds when it stays within its budget, hence the goal in any given year is to minimize costs: exactly the charge Moore brings against the “greedy” for-profit HMOs . A national health care system is simply a single HMO for everyone.
The quotes are from The Skeptical Liberal, and you can read his extremely well-thought out and defended opinion on Michael Moore's Sicko and the effects ofHMOs on American health care in their entierty here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Targeted Taxes Hurting

From here:
"The general philosophy that we need to reduce tax rates and broaden tax bases is being eroded by federal and provincial targeted tax relief," the study says.

"If governments remain on this tax reform path, the accumulation of targeted tax relief measures will have a significant fiscal cost, which could be better used to finance broad rate reductions. Tax rate reductions encourage greater work effort, investment and risk-taking without governments putting themselves in the position of picking winners from losers, a task at which they rarely succeed."


Political analysts say these targeted tax cuts are aimed at winning over specific constituencies that reside in politically important parts of either the country or province.

"You load up system with all these special preferences, then down the road the politicians realize they could have had a big tax rate cut instead," Mr. Mintz said in an interview.

Political faithful and spinsters backing the introducers of all this subsidization through the tax system (most notably, Tories) will toss up their hands at this one and say "Well, it works!" when confronted with this kind of talk.

How does it "work?" Well, it pushes governments like Harper's towards a majority by winning votes... at the expense of Canada and Canadians.

It works when all you care about is winning and being in power.
Say, isn't that what we used to bash the Liberals for doing?

I could swear that I remember hearing Tories on their high horses saying "I care about more than winning - that's why I could never be a Liberal."

I guess those particular horses went to the glue factory. I wonder if that's where the Conservatives' concern about what's best for Canadians ended up as well.

h/t for the link goes to Countering the Nanny State

Bernier's bad bet

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press Maxime Bernier is taking a gamble. He believes that there is a large, disenfranchised voting bloc in Canada...