Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heather Mallick Call Your Pollster

Question: After Monday's elections, are you more optimistic about your city, or less optimistic?

If even the Star cannot get more than 50-51% of their readers to be less optimistic, in a poll featured on a Heather Mallick column no less that starts with the profound point "Mayor Rob Ford, Oh dear" and draws to a close with the stellar observation that "Within the next four years, our rage will be scented by rotting garbage and we’ll be riding burros to work.", no wonder Rob Ford won the election.

Then again, maybe the only people who read Heather Mallick aren't left-wing, maybe they are all right-wingers who find her funny. Always a possibility.

Or maybe even some liberals hate government corruption and waste enough to vote for Rob Ford.

On second thought, I think I'll go with hypothesis one. I don't think Heather Mallick knows anyone who voted for Rob Ford, except maybe her manicurist.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Coming Up, and Up, and Up

I tried to think of what I could say about Ontario Hydro that was simultaneously bad enough, and wouldn't get me into trouble with either the law or my Mother (who reads my blog regularly in order to keep me alive and out of court), but came up blank. On second thoughts, make that just the law, my Mom could probably think of her own things to say on the subject of Ontario Hydro worse than any insult I could dream up.

Over 10,000 people make more than $100,000 a year, including CEO of Ontario Power Generation who made $2.15 million and his successor who made $1 million, as well as $975,000 for the CEO of Hydro One. Meanwhile Hydro has doubled since 2003. And thanks to renewables and George Smitherman, not likely to go down. Margaret Wente suggests that anger over this could bring down the Ontario Liberals. Why not? Do you know anyone who doesn't hate Ontario Hydro? Anyone? Anyone? (Hydro employees are NOT invited to stuff the vote on this one)

And my economics textbook tried to tell me that electrical companies are examples of monopolies that don't exploit people.

Yes, you with the Latte.

Kelly McParland writes the far and away funniest commentary on the Rob Ford election.

For Toronto’s urban sophisticates, it was a wipe-out. Total repudiation. Worse than the time they ran out of well-oaked chardonnay at Vintages. What are they supposed to do now, move to Calgary? Buy a leaf blower, for .....? Any day now they’ll be erecting barriers at Pusateri’s, checking IDs. No one gets in without a credit card from Home Depot.

Wearily they munched their almond biscottis and totted up the devastation. Someone would have to contact the holistic, non-profit communal bike-sharing project and warn them the grand opening, scheduled for January, would be delayed.

But you really must read it, every line is hysterically funny.

While the Canadian Charger, as usual being more Marxist than Muslim, endorsed Smitherman. Why do I have this funny feeling that a large number of Muslims actually voted for, wait for it, Ford. The non-gay guy. And the one who doesn't believe in wasting immigrant's hard-earned tax dollars on wasteful and extravagant programs that cater to the already rich.

BTW, one suspects it was a really great day for crisis psychiatrists in Toronto Monday night. Just the Star office alone would have provided employment for about ten.

Upcoming Ottawa events this weekend.

International Pro-Life Conference on Oct 28-31.
Canada's Immigration and Refugee System: What's Wrong and How to Fix It? on Oct 30th.
Ezra Levant Tribute Dinner with Mark Steyn, Oct 30th.

Alberta, Free Speech or Free University?

Freedom of speech is very, very important.

Almost as important as institutional autonomy.

Or private property.

An Alberta judge
has ruled that universities, in their dealings with students, are government agencies, and thus are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, the U of C was out of line when it put two students on probation for starting a Facebook group criticizing one of their professors. Some people are seeing this as a victory for freedom of speech, and an especial boon for pro-life students who frequently face opposition, discipline, and arrest for putting forward their view on campus.

But this is not necessarily a victory for freedom. Universities enjoy autonomy for a reason, several actually. And even though this autonomy can and is abused, very often at the expense of right-wing and/or pro-life people, that is not necessarily a good reason to flush it down the tube. Do we really want universities to be government institutions, subject to all government rules and regulations? Really? As George Jonas says:
Institutional autonomy is one of the pillars of liberty. Societies are free to the extent that their institutions — family, church, university — are off limit to the state. This doesn’t sit well with the state, which often uses the sword of justice or “protection” to cut through institutional autonomy in its warfare upon liberty. Using the Charter to sharpen the sword is a bright idea — bright enough to obscure its function.
It's not that I particularly trust university administration to guard freedom of speech. I don't. But given a choice between the government and the university setting the rules, I think I would go with the university.

At least it is easier to switch universities than nationalities. (And at this point, I'm not sure what other country to run to)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roundup: Shriveling Weeds and Catching Horses

It was a traumatic moment, the time I found out that I agreed with Warren Kinsella on something. A phrase I'm sure he won't sue me for because he would probably be just as aghast at the though of agreeing with me, a blogger who actually likes Ezra Levant. It forced me to take a closer look at my position, study it from all angles, but I eventually had to reach an uneasy truce with my original opinion and decided that the reason we agree is because no marginally sane person on the face of the planet could disagree. In the entire list of crazy, insane, and just plain wrong things that I have read about over the last little while the arrest of David Chen stands out as one of the worst. The man did a citizen's arrest on a shoplifter. And the shoplifter gets a reduced sentence to testify against the store owner on charges of assault, kidnapping, carrying a concealed weapon (aka box cutter), and forcible confinement, although some charges have been dropped. The best argument the crown can come up with is the suggestion that maybe the store owner was going to beat him up later. Unlike the last time he arrested a shoplifter and didn't. Personally I would vote that Chen gets a medal. It isn't, after all, like the cops were going to do anything about it on their own. Probably tell you to fill out a form. Because that stops crime.
P.S. Just in case you were still in some doubt as the level of mind-numbing incompetence down there in Toronto, they had months to get this case to trial but somehow or other couldn't get a Mandarin interpreter. In Toronto? That's got to be like saying you can't find a French interpreter in Montreal.

Speaking of Toronto, and incompetence, and Toronto incompetence, etc. Miss Marprelate hereby endorses Rob Ford. Yes, she is a little sketchy on some of his exact policies except for the cut spending bits, Toronto municipal elections do not come very high up on her list of "issues and events I need to follow", but has several sound reasons for coming to this conclusion.
  1. Heather Mallick really hates him. This alone was enough to secure my endorsement. If any of my readers have not read her piece on the gun registry, DO SO NOW. You will not regret it. Personally, I believe I shall remember the phrase "rare orchid of exquisite life-saving beauty" until the day I die. It's not that I object to flowery prose, but, honestly? And then this on the subject of how Toronto could consider Ford (And America Bush). Cue eye rolling smilie:

    Voters, they’re like babies. They don’t change, can’t change. They repeatedly swallow buttons and emit eternal rivers of drool.

    Actually that analogy is wrong. Babies are canny. They have a deep drive toward self-preservation (this explains smiling and gurgling) and they know where their interests lie. If they could choose parental units, they’d choose wise, patient ones with an understanding of the GTA’s transit needs, the importance of libraries, trees and good architecture, what keeps a city functioning and just how far you can push unions.

  2. His sense of style.
  3. He wasn't endorsed by Justin Trudeau. Also enough to secure the endorsement of MM on its own.
  4. There is no love lost between Ford and Unions. Even the construction worker's union is switching its vote to Smitherman from Pantalone to get in on the "Anyone but Rob Ford" bandwagon. A particularly interesting choice since I would be willing to bet very large amounts of money on the fact that the majority of construction workers are probably going to vote for Rob Ford.
  5. He's actually a conservative, in Toronto. Its like seeing Northern Lights in Florida. You just have to like it. (Unless you are an environmentalist who would see this as absolute proof of global warming and die of heart failure.
My friend who is not a blogger but should be Ben Hicks points out that accusing all Muslims of being backward, terrorist, abusive, haters on the basis of the actions of a few is remarkably similar to accusing all Americans of being backward, hostile, intolerant, discriminatory, thugs on the basis of the actions of one man. Funny how liberals never think of these things isn't it.

Those who wish to get in a sighting of teh Marprelate and or teh Marprelate's Hat will have the opportunity to do so at the First Annual Free Thinking Film Festival. (And no I haven't gone atheist, someone should tell them that isn't really the world's best name considering possible audience. But it will probably be an interesting event.) Tickets on sale here.

Mark Steyn has been banned from speaking at a government owned conference centre in London ON, after the facility received pressure from local Islamic groups. Incidentally and seemingly unrelated, a public announcement from Faisal Joseph that the Islamic response to Steyn will be to drown his speech in the compassion and charitable good works of Islam.
P.S. And for the record, I don't believe that freedom of speech means freedom of venue or medium, when the venue and medium belong to someone else who doesn't want you. Albeit things get sticky when you have a government owned facility.
P.P.S. Also for the record, everyone has the right to protest just about anything, and that includes Muslims.
P.P.P.S. I'm not sure if Faisal Joseph realizes this yet, but you can either be one of two things. You can have your name linked with the CIC, or you can have people listen to you and give you their respectful attention. Not both. Just ask Delic.
P.P.P.P.S. That last postscript obviously does not include United Church pastors and Star opinion columnists. But then when one person in the asylum tells another that they are made of glass, "Napoleon" is very likely to believe him.

Government fat police, Japan style, B.C. style. Which do you prefer?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Quest for Ethical Oil

My latest article published by MercatorNet, lots of hyperlink references in the original at MN.

Oil sands: satanic horror, or priceless jewel? To describe the extremes of the debate over Canada’s large bitumen deposits thus is barely to exaggerate the positions taken up by opponents and supporters of exploitation of this rising source of crude oil.

For environmentalists, oil sands, or as they are technically known, bituminous sands, are the epitome of everything they hate: big business, oil, greenhouse gas emissions, oil, water wasted and polluted, oil, governmental indifference or collusion, oil, threatened animals and trees -- oh yes, and oil as well. A boycott of fuel sourced from Canadian fields is under way and gathering traction.

For many Canadians, however, and indeed for investors worldwide, oil sands represent an entirely different set of circumstances. For young men in depressed rural Ontario, poverty-stricken communities in Atlantic Canada, and job-scarce northern reserves, this resource represents hope of a future, a down payment on a house, and career training they might never otherwise get.

Alberta's riches, at least partly due to this unconventional oil, funds equalization payments and helps to build schools and hospitals in have-not provinces. Ontario alone stands to gain about 55 billion dollars in oil sands related manufacturing and other economic activity over the next 25 years. Even local communities, whom environmentalists like to put forward as victims of commercial poisoning and exploitation, cannot but benefit economically from a massive employment centre in an area which might otherwise be mostly barren.

These considerations aside, there is no question that the optics are not pretty. Strip mining, massive equipment, oil slicks, flaring smoke stacks and dead birds are not warm and cozy images. Questions being raised about environmental impacts, pollution, water contamination, and so forth are legitimate. Extracting crude bitumen produces more greenhouse gases than conventional production, and a recent study alleges that the oil sands are unacceptably polluting Alberta’s Athabasca River.

As a result, there has been a strong push by environmentalist groups to encourage boycotts of oil extracted from bitumen, the people involved with or investing in oil sands, and the entire province of Alberta, greenies and all. One corporation that has taken up the challenge to shun this demonic fuel is Walgreens, a major U.S. drug store chain of 7,500 stores. Levi Strauss, Gap, and Timberland were also reported to have boycotted the oil sands, but have since clarified their stances to avoid the word boycott, possibly in response to calls for a counter-boycott by Canadians. Walgreens, with no Canadian business to lose, has proven more staunch in its commitment to environmentally-conscious corporate ethics.

Corporate ethics is a rather popular buzz word, and not just with humourists at dinner parties. Bending to public pressure, aka the squeakiest wheel, corporations have been inspired to boost their image by reforming overseas labour practices, promoting equal opportunity hiring, aspiring to places on lists of top ethical companies, and funding/donating everything from children’s playgrounds to condoms. Looking after the environment, however, seems to be a popular ethical issue among companies whose brands have become household names through large retail chains.

Especially if it is not likely to cost them anything. Walgreens admits that the oil sands boycott as it currently stands is likely to have little economic effect on the company since they do not use much fuel from that source to start with. The main point of such gestures might seem to be the opportunity to get an image -- and hopefully sales -- upgrade as a result of their “enlightened ethics” rather than out of a disinterested commitment to environmental issues. In an ironic note, critics have also suggested that those who are involved should first take a look at their own morals: Gap has been caught using child labour in Delhi and Walgreens have come under fire for fraud involving Medicare.

But even if we are to take them at their word, that the boycott is a result of an honest commitment to sustainable and ethical business, is boycotting the oil sand industry really ethical? Assuming Walgreens isn't going to switch their trucks to solar or wind power, how ethical are the alternatives? While it may be more carbon intensive (with about 5-15% more emissions based on “well to wheels” analysis than the American average), the oil sands have advantages in other ways.

For one thing, the industry supports a progressive democracy that cares about things like environmental standards and human rights. In contrast, Saudi Arabia's “cleaner” oil, it can be argued, supports tyranny and terrorism. And, while Canada requires ever tighter environmental regulations, other countries ignore such issues; Nigeria, America's fourth largest supplier, has even hanged environmentalists for speaking out against oil interests.

Ezra Levant, author of Ethical Oil, also points out that, metaphorically speaking, every barrel of oil from Sudan contains a teaspoon of human blood, based on the UN death count of 300,000 for the Darfur genocide. He continues to argue that the oil sands are the ethical choice on the liberal grounds of economic justice, minority rights, freedom and, believe it or not, environmentalism.

No one doubts that environmental issues can be very serious, and deserve thoughtful consideration. A convincing argument could also be made that oil sands extraction is not as clean as it could be, and that efforts should be made to remedy the problem. But if, in our assessment of ethics we desire to put the needs of people first, and I would argue that we should, perhaps dragging crude oil out of sand is not the biggest villain in the story.

The industry will ultimately be none the worse for the spotlight on its activities; few honest things are the worse for sunlight as long as a sense of proportion is kept and facts aren't twisted or falsified on either side. But that sense of proportion and honesty has been too often lost in the debate. Even James Cameron, director of the movie Avatar said, "[The oil sands] will be a curse if it's not managed properly, (but) it can also be a great gift to Canada and to Alberta if it is managed properly."

If corporate ethics means anything, it means the application of moral principles to business. If corporations can maintain a culture of honesty, transparency, justice, respect for human dignity, and accepting responsibility for harm they cause, then their actions will indeed deserve to be called ethical. Otherwise, piecemeal efforts to satisfy the most powerful advocacy groups of the moment, with no foundation in a truly ethical worldview, will be in continual danger of achieving little real good, or at worst, of backfiring badly.

What should we say to Walgreens and the other boycotters? Criticize the oil sands if you please, but remember what the alternatives are. The law of unintended consequences is one of the most unforgiving and dangerous we know, and you may be in danger of falling prey to it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Back from Sabbatical

Dear All My Readers Who Have Probably Wandered Off And Are Getting Into Trouble Elsewhere.

I am back from Sabbatical. I know, it was wrong of me to go away without giving notice. But I am here now. Aren't you all thrilled? Don't answer that question.

I don't promise posting will be very often. I am now studying for my economics bachelor degree through accelerated distance learning (Hope to be halfway through my sophomore year in November, started studying in August) and hopefully I will at some point or other have a job to help pay for this college thing now that my summer job is over (Anyone know of any nice conservative organizations with tons of money just dying for a student employee who lives in the middle of nowhere? Alternately, anyone know of any good local jobs at Walmart?)

But you didn't want to know about my life. What you really wanted to brighten your day was this quote out of the material I am studying for my sociology exam,

Economic inequality inevitably exists in capitalism as represented by large wealthy and poor classes and a shrinking in the percentage of individuals in the middle class.

Followed by this one:

The economic system known as communism is actually an evolution of socialism into a society of political, social, and economic equality.
And then they expect me to ace history?