Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

XML This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Friday, March 30, 2007
The death of newspapers has been greatly exaggerated

World Editors Forum, Zogby and Reuters put together Trends in Newsrooms and TiN has released its third annual report and its first survey of newspaper editors. In brief: newspaper editors don't believe the news about the death of the newspaper. Nearly one in four are very optimistic about the future of the newspaper and nearly six in ten are somewhat optimistic. Also:

"- 40 percent of editors believe on-line will be the most common way to read the news ten years from now;

- 35 percent believe print will reign supreme;

- two-thirds believe opinion and analysis pages will grow in importance;

- half are convinced that the quality of journalism will improve..."

I think most of this is true, but if the opinion and analysis continues to represent elite liberal opinion rather than the silent majority of common sense, mostly conservative Middle Class, then all bets are off. And the quality of journalism will only improve if 1) it becomes more rigorous, less herd-like, 2) less ideological, and 3) less defensive about being called to account. Web-based journalism could force print to do all that or it could force editors to circle their wagons. I think that print can continue to matter and matter a lot but not if it refuses to change and acknowledge the challenges and opportunities that the internet poses.

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Election talk

Isn't all the "news" and "analysis" in the papers about whether there will be a federal election this Spring getting a little monotonous? Like, isn't there the business of government to cover, too?

I think talk about a Spring election is off the mark. Can Stephen Harper engineer the defeat of his own government? How would he do that? (And does the Governor General have to call an election just because the government loses a confidence vote? If I were the GG and the government lost such a vote, I would ask the Liberals to form the government so that the country would not have to go to the polls for the third time in four years.) But back to that question, how would Harper engineer his own defeat. Presumably it would be on a piece of legislation the government wants and the country would be perceived to need -- or why else have an election over it? But for the government to be defeated it would need the Bloc and the Liberals to vote against the government and it seems unlikely that either party would be anxious to head into a Spring campaign. (Nor, for that matter does the NDP.) It just seems improbable that no matter how much Harper wants an election that the other parties would co-operate with his plan to attain a Conservative majority. Is the Bloc going to head into a campaign when the cause of separatism took a sever (but hardly lethal) blow on March 26? Are the Liberals going to want an election when they are 15 points behind the Tories? Are the NDP eager for another campaign when the polls have them practically tied with the Green Party? It all adds up to a December 2007 election at the earliest. The earliest. But I would predict that it won't be until sometime in early 2008.

Great news from Sweden

The Financial Times reported yesterday that Sweden is scrapping the 1.5% tax on personal wealth of $200,000. The tax raised very little revenue for the government due to the fact that many wealthy Swedes have set up overseas foundations to avoid the surtax. The FT reported: "The symbolic move is an affirmation of Mr [Fredrik] Reinfeldt’s right wing credentials and sends a powerful message that the accumulation of wealth in egalitarian Sweden is no longer taboo, experts said."
And why is accumulating wealth a good thing? For starters:

"The wealth tax has been blamed for Sweden’s low level of investment by individuals in start up businesses, contributing to disappointing entrepreneurial activity in comparison with other European countries."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Stop the sabre-rattling!

Every time it looks like the West will militarily confront Iran, the price of crude oil goes up. This, in turn, puts more money in the hands of the terror-supporting petro-regimes. As Reuters points out (as does The Scotsman), the US flexes its naval muscles in the Gulf and Britain gets all huffy about having some of its sailors detained by Iran and oil prices jump $5 per barrel to $68 per barrel before settling at $64 per barrel. Every additional dollar in the price of crude oil puts nearly $30 million more dollars in the hands of Iran's mullahs. That buys a lot of terrorism. Or nuclear-weapon capability.

Is China building an aircraft carrier?

You'd think this would be an easy yes or no answer. How big is an aircraft carrier? Could you hide one easily. Passport, the blog of Foreign Policy magazine, looks at the issue and seems to conclude that one, perhaps a nuclear-powered ACC, is being built.

The priorities of the NDP

From the NDP's website today: "Ensure funding for World Police and Fire Games." What the hell? All the issues facing Canada and the NDPers are concerned about funding the World Police and Fire Games.

Thursday, March 22, 2007
I know I said I wouldn't blog ...

But I need to remind you to see Amazing Grace, which opens Friday, March 23, two days before the 200 anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Read Russ Kuykendall's review of the movie and its application to 21st century politics, here.

I'm off 'til the weekend

Production week, a dinner and picking up the family at the airport (and spending time with them afterwards) is on the agenda until at least mid-weekend.

Cathy Seipp, R.I.P.

Intelligent, insightful and entertaining is a rare combination in an individual, and even rarer among journalists. Journalism lost an under-appreciated talent with the passing of Cathy Seipp. John O'Sullivan, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Matt Welch remember her.

Regulating difference between interior designers and decorators

Washington Post columnist George F. Will explains that it is happening in the 'libertarian' western U.S.A. of all place.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
What does this mean for Stephen Harper's conservatives

Latest CROP poll shows the ADQ with 40% in the Quebec City area which means that the party could sweep the region's 12 seats. The Liberals have 26%, the PQ 24%.

I guess this poll -- and ADQ's impressive rise -- also validates the argument made by some small-government types in Quebec that things are a-changing in that province.

Build a better mosquito

This story from Technology Review is good news for Africa and the fight against malaria:

"Mosquitoes genetically engineered for malaria resistance can outcompete their wild counterparts--at least in the lab, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. While previous studies have described the creation of malaria-resistant mosquitoes, this is the first time that researchers have shown a reproductive advantage for the genetically engineered organisms, which is an important requirement if such mosquitoes are to be used as a practical malaria-control strategy...

In the current study, Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, in Baltimore, put equal numbers of malaria-resistant mosquitoes and ordinary mosquitoes in a cage and allowed them to feed on mice infected with the malaria-causing parasite. The researchers then collected the eggs laid by the insects, reared them into adulthood, and allowed the new generation of mosquitoes to feed on infected mice.

After nine generations, 70 percent of the mosquitoes were malaria resistant, meaning that the genetically engineered insects had largely outcompeted their nonresistant counterparts. In contrast, mosquitoes that fed on uninfected mice did not show any fitness differences. The researchers published their findings in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Guvernator vs. Rush

From the Los Angeles Times:

"After repeatedly being asked about his conservative critics, including talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped his diplomatic veneer Tuesday and declared their views irrelevant to his work in California.

'All irrelevant. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I am not his servant,' the governor said on NBC's "Today" show.

Limbaugh then declared on his radio program that Schwarzenegger, lacking the communication skills to convince Californians of his Republican values, had sold them out.

'If he had the leadership skills to articulate conservative principles and win over the public as (former President) Reagan did, then he would have stayed conservative,' said Limbaugh, who is seen by some as the embodiment of all conservative viewpoints.

The tiff marked Schwarzenegger's most high-profile repudiation of a conservative critic. Many fellow Republicans view his support of stem-cell research, mandatory curbs on carbon dioxide emissions and universal health care as a betrayal of his party's ideals."

I can't imagine this will hurt Schwarzenegger among California Republicans and independents. Or hurt Rush with his Middle American audience.

You don't have to be a farmer to get European farm subsidies

The (London) Times reports:

"City dwellers are making huge profits out of an EU loophole that allows people who have never set foot on a farm to claim European farm subsidies. …Auctioneers and brokers who used to sell cattle and farm-land are now focusing their attention on selling the rights to receive European taxpayers’ money — known as entitlement trading — in what one described as a “ferocious” market with the rights to subsidies “flying off the shelf”. …Open auctions are being held — with one in Aberdeen due next Friday — while investors are also buying the rights to subsidies over the telephone, through brokers, through internet auction sites and inter-active trading. …Under EU regulations, only someone classified as a farmer can buy the right to receive subsidies, but to be classified officially as a farmer, people need only hold a lease on a minimum of 1.7 acres for ten months of the year, and never need to visit it. Scottish landowners are now leasing out vast tracts of rocky highland for as little as £5 an acre a year, so that investors can claim to be farmers. For each acre you lease, you can buy annual subsidies averaging £100 an acre, but which can rise to over £1,000 an acre."

(HT: Cato-at-Liberty)

Monday, March 19, 2007
Federal budget: a 'B' for big government

That's the line from Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director John Williamson and I have to agree. In fact, I agree with everything Williamson said in his CTV interview.

I'm disappointed that there is not broad-based tax cuts. I think the Tory plan is pure politics. It might be good politics, it might also help out families, but Canada needs broad-based tax cuts -- which would have also helped out those same families.

I'm also disappointed with the growth of spending. A key figure is this one: Ottawa is on the cusp of spending $200 billion per year. From the CTF: "In 2005/06 the federal government’s surplus totaled $13.2-billion and this year it will likely be $9.2-billion. The surplus is projected to be $3.3-billion in 2007/08. Between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2008 – the two-year period under Conservative rule – Ottawa’s program spending will rise by an eye popping $24.4-billion or 14%." Is this what we elected the Conservatives for?

There is extensive coverage of the budget at CTV. Also read the National Citizen's Coalition press release ("With such a huge surplus at its disposal the Conservative government could have done more in terms of offering over-taxed Canadians some meaningful relief") and Gerry Nicholls' blog ("Conservatives were supposed to CUT spending; not increase it"). But the last word goes to CTF's Adam Taylor on the organization's blog: "Tories Deliver Liberal Budget."

Stephen Harper's future as leader

This Sun Media story interviews "experts" -- two of them -- to argue that Stephen Harper could be committing political suicide by forcing a Spring election. Mount Royal College political scientist Keith Brownsey, a major league political expert if there ever was one, said:

"The person most in danger of losing his position is Stephen Harper ... If he doesn't win a majority this time, or come very close to one, his job may be in danger. It is high-stakes politics, but he seems to be willing to throw the dice."

Really? I've heard this before, many times in fact, but I think if Harper wins a strong minority, or a succession of them, his job is safe. The fact is winning a majority is a bit of a long-shot for anyone right now and top Tories will understand this. While some will want Harper removed from the Conservative leadeship for being too 'right-wing', he gets a pass from the conservative base as long as he has his minority because 'of course he can't get done what he needs to in a minority situation.' That prevents any serious ideological challenger with broad support from making trouble for the Tory leader. But Harper's job is safe for now simply because there is no obvious successor or no one out to stick the knife in his back to bring him down. If there was -- if Bernard Lord was still premier of New Brunswick, for example -- Harper might have to worry about a party coup, but for the immediate future, Harper's only challengers are outside the party. And they don't look all that impressive.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You can always send comments, inquiries, abuse, etc... to paul_tuns[AT]

Do nothing and lead

From Right in Manitoba:

"Canada was seen as a world leader on Kyoto?

I happened to catch this quote on CTV's website today.

'As of 2005, we were seen as a world leader on Kyoto,' said University of Ottawa environmental law professor Stewart Elgie.

'Over the past year or so, our international reputation has been damaged mainly because of the perception that we've given up on even trying to meet our Kyoto commitment.'

So let me get this straight, by sitting by idly for years and allowing emissions to go through the roof Canada was seen as a world leader on Kyoto?"

Ann Coulter's next offering

If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans is out in October.


The discussion on CTV's Question Period media panel began with a discussion about the news that Green Party leader Elizabeth May will face off against Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay in Central Nova. Robert Fife said it was "the wrong riding" and MacKay will win. Craig Oliver called it a "riverboat gamble" but as a "national leader" she will give him a "significant challenge." Joel-Denis Bellavance reminded watchers that in London "where she not a local," May finished second in a by-election. Someone save this video to demonstrate that the media knows not what it is talking about. On election night when MacKay wins rather handily, we can replay it. MacKay is the foreign affairs minister of the governing party, May is the leader of what is still a fringe party -- a fringe party that can affect elections if it pulls enough Liberal and NDP voters to itself, but by definition, a fringe party shouldn't win seats. May might -- might! -- finish second but the idea that MacKay should be sweating this contest is a laugher.

UPDATE: Greg Staples looks at the last election results for Central Nova. (He also suggests in an earlier post that the Liberals may have struck a deal with May. I can't see it. The better the Green Party does, the worse it is for the Liberals, especially with Stephane Dion as leader. It is neither the party's short or long-term interest to help the Green Party.) In 2006, MacKay won with nearly 41% followed by the NDP (31%), the Liberals (24.5%) and Green (1.6%). So if the Green Party is a viable party, the 59% non-MacKay vote will be split three-ways instead of two and a very little bit. May would need to be a galvanizing figure to pull that off. It also assumes that MacKay won't build on his 41% which he might considering his high profile cabinet post and the fact the Tories are the party in power (Atlantic Canadians like to vote for the party that appears likely to win so they can continue suckling). May would need to convince two-thirds of NDP and Liberal voters to vote Green to have any chance of winning. That seems unlikely.

Selling stuff and the New Company

A headline from a Halifax Herald article about the book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win by William Taylor and Polly LaBarre: "Too many firms overlook the customer, author says." You'd think that would be a self-correcting problem -- ignore the customer and he'll ignore you. But Taylor's suggestion (in the words of Chronicle Herald business editor Steve Proctor) is to have, "The whole company ... share clear core values that are reflected in a corporate culture that is visible for all to see every day." That sounds like being a good 'corporate citizen.' Here's something more radical: producing goods that people want at a price they are willing to pay. That is not always believed anymore by people who write about businesses in the 21st century. Proctor says:

"[H]ow do you forge a relationship with a customer growing increasingly immune to the lure of lower prices and snazzier features? By being original, embracing your customer’s values and offering something people can’t live without."

I'm not sure that customers are increasingly immune to the lure of lower prices (there's this phenomenon called Wal-Mart) and snazzier features (go into an electronics shop recently?). I also have little doubt that some consumers are feeling guilty about their consumption and thus part of the product -- or at least part of its branding -- must appeal to the customer's vanity by aligning itself with his or her values. But that would be part of providing a product that consumers want, wouldn't it? For example, to provide over-priced ice cream to yuppies, Ben & Jerry's gives part of its proceeds to liberal causes and sets up a corporate structure that appeals to leftists. Ice-cream-with-a-conscience might be a marketing ploy or it might be real, but ice-cream-with-a-conscience is a product nonetheless.

Taylor says that today's successful companies out-think rather than out-muscle the competition. But this is nothing new. (Nor are the two mutually exclusive.) The boys from Ben & Jerry's thought of a new product; it is silly to believe that their 'social conscience' is not part of what they are selling.

In his interview with Proctor, Taylor says that, "Choice no longer liberates; it debilitates." Humbug. If having 200 kinds of yogurt to choose from befuddles too many consumers, sooner rather than later, there will be fewer choices, and in all likelihood (if Taylor is to be believed) one of those choices will be yogurt-with-a-conscience -- just another one of the countless products that companies are trying to sell consumers.

Another boon for Giuliani

From a Los Angeles Times ediorial today:

"That is why this scandal (and the preceding week's Walter Reed scandal) loom so large, even among some Republican lawmakers — they fit into a larger pattern of incompetence on the part of this administration. Any confidence the American people or Congress once had in the administration's capabilities has long since been depleted.

It wasn't always so. Early on, this administration was perceived — by ideological friends and foes alike — as a paragon of competence. Names like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and even Rice (who knew?) were supposed to signal steady, experienced leadership. How far we've come."

I'm convinced that competence will the most important issue for 2008; not Iraq, not scandal, not taxes, not healthcare. All those issues and more (gun control, abortion, perhaps same-sex 'marriage') will matter to some people but the over-riding issue will be competence. Barack Obama has not had an opportunity to demonstrate either competence or incompetence. Hillary Clinton is probably seen to have a mixed record (remember HillaryCare?). Mitt Romney has demonstrated competence in ably running the bluest of blue states and turning around its dismal economic record but no one noticed -- and he has to answer questions of why he didn't stick around for a second term. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, however, has demonstrated competence, did so during a crisis, and in front of a national television audience to boot. Less well known is his record as a prosecutor and his demonstrated ability to take on vested interests; but these stories will be accepted by the general public because it will fit nicely with what voters already know about him.

The GOP's chances in 2008 just got better

I've noted here before that when one considers historical trends, Republicans have little chance of winning a third presidential term in 2008. History never makes hard rules but it is a good guide so there is ample reason to believe that Democrats are likely to win in 2008 almost regardless of which front-runners when their respective nominations. But Washington Post columnist George F. Will notices that a federal appeal's court has handed the Republicans a big political gift by forcing gun control back onto the agenda. Since 2000, Democrats have cared more about midwestern voters (in 2000 Pennsylvania has more NRA members than any other state) than about gun control. The Dems have been virtually silent on the right of Americans to carry guns or their own desire to deny that right -- to mixed political results (two lost presidential elections in 2000 & 2004, but regaining Congress in 2006). Now, with a Washington DC law being over-turned by a federal court and possibly headed to the Supreme Court, George Will argues, "the gun control issue -- and millions of gun owners -- [will be brought] back to a roiling boil." So even if Democrats try to remain silent on this important social issue, their traditional opponents of gun control will not.

Inconvenient skepticism for Gore

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jonathan Last has a good column poking holes in the enviro-zealots' claims focusing on Al Gore's four main claims: "(1) Earth's climate is getting warmer; (2) man is responsible in substantial part for this change; (3) this change will result in net harm; and (4) this change can be reversed by man." One by one, he presents inconvenient facts to raise doubts about each of Gore's claims. Last concludes:

"[W]hen you compound the probabilities, the claims of environmentalists such as Gore begin to look less and less certain. In fact, in their unwillingness to brook dissent or countervailing theories, they seem less like scientists and more like the fundamentalists they otherwise scorn."

The column is worth printing out and distributing among your (open-minded) friends who are worried about global warming.

The fiscal imbalance

Montreal Gazette columnist Don McPherson explains the controversy as fairly as possible through a Q&A:

"A. ...Former Parti Quebecois premier Bernard Landry, who is credited with launching the controversy over the fiscal imbalance, had this pithy description: "The money is in Ottawa, but the needs are in the provinces."

Q. That does seem unfair. How could this happen?

A. Well, it's not as simple as Landry would have you believe. Some observers, including federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion, have questioned whether a fiscal imbalance exists at all. Consider, for example, the varying spending habits of the provinces. Quebec has chosen to give its citizens $7-a-day daycare, drug insurance and a freeze on tuition - programs other provinces don't offer. Is it the federal government's fault if Quebec wants to spend its money on these priorities and cut taxes at the same time?

Q. So there's no fiscal imbalance?

A. Those who argue it does exist say it started when Ottawa cut deeply into its transfers to the provinces in the mid-1990s when it was wrestling its mammoth deficit to the ground. As well, the provinces' program costs - especially health care - are spiralling higher because of factors like the aging of the population. Finally, a federal task force on equalization - a mechanism to redistribute money from rich provinces to poor - recommended last year increasing equalization by $900 million a year with more than two-thirds going to Quebec.

Q. How big is this fiscal imbalance?

A. There's no agreement on that issue. Separatist politicians claim the number is

$3.9 billion. But few independent analysts will go that high. They point out the federal government's surpluses have in fact been melting thanks to big increases in transfers to the provinces, and tax cuts.

Q. If Ottawa is collecting more taxes than it needs, why doesn't it just lower its taxes so the provinces can increase theirs?

A. In an ideal world, that would be a good idea because it would bring tax revenue to the level of government where it's most needed. But there's a problem with the political optics. The feds look like heroes by cutting their taxes while the provinces look like ogres by hiking theirs. This is why the Quebec government quickly decided not to grab revenue by increasing its sales tax when Ottawa cut the GST by 1 per cent.

Q. What's the alternative?

A. Increase equalization and other federal transfers."

Extremely sensible approach to most political 'controversies'

One of the most irritating things in politics is the faux outrage too many people have over relatively minor indiscretions and slip-ups. Perhaps the only more irritating thing is real outrage over relatively minor indiscretions. For me, the classic example was when conservatives (and Conservatives) got upset over a Liberal operative's alleged racial 'slur' against Olivia Chow by way of comparing her to a species of dog that has the same name (chow). The insult was at the very worst a infantile attempt at humour. In fact, I've heard Toronto conservatives make the same joke for 10 years. The insult was probably not racial and certainly not outrageous but Conservatives expressed great outrage at the supposed slur.

The latest example of exaggerated outage is over Andre Boisclair's unfortunate description of Asians as slanty-eyes. Obviously we prefer our leaders not to make such comments, although I have to admit I admire that Boisclair has refused to back down and apologize. I also like the fact that he was so unguarded that he would appear so politically incorrect. But it was something he shouldn't have said. So what should the public's reaction be?

Writing in the Montreal Gazette, an unidentified minority (there is no identifier or name in the online version), provides the best advice for dealing with these phony gotcha moments:

"So let's concede that Boisclair, who spent a year at Harvard, where they are ultra-sensitive to slurs, real or imagined, could have been a touch more aware of correct terminology. Let's concede it and move on."

Excellent advice. For as the writer says, "Almost everywhere outside big cities, people are earthy and less concerned with etiquette." The outrage excites political partisans, the media and the easily offended urbanites, but for most Canadians, it is a fact of life: people are sometimes insensitive, get over it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007
News that really shouldn't be news

HealthDay News reports:

"Adult men who grew up in single-parent households are twice as likely as other men to have been sexually abused during childhood, a U.S. study found.

That's because parental absences in single-parent homes provide more opportunities for sexual predators to abuse children, the researchers said."

Not really surprising.

Interim gets noticed. Big time.

Tony Gosgnach, assistant editor at The Interim, interviewed entertainer Pat Boone and had an exclusive interview on family and faith issues that appeared in the March issue of the paper. Today, WorldNetDaily linked to it. (WND, of course, runs a column penned by Boone.)

Friday, March 16, 2007
Fewer blacks playing baseball

I don't know for sure -- I could look it up but I'm on vacation so I'll just make an educated guess -- that fewer kids, regardless of race, are playing baseball. But it does appear that blacks on turning their back on the sport. As the AP reported earlier this week: " In 2003, the NCAA revealed that only 6 percent of the nearly 9,800 Division I baseball players were black, compared to 25 percent in all sports combined." Reporter Tom Withers gropes for a reason why fewer black children play 'ball:

"One of the reasons for baseball's decline among African Americans may be that struggling inner-city families can't afford the necessary equipment. Aluminum bats, balls, gloves and uniforms cost money, a fact that pushes kids toward basketball because all you need to play is a ball and a hoop."

Withers also says that there are fewer black baseball stars (and thus role models) and the perception that either a basketball and football career will payoff more and faster. That's probably all true, but so are other factors (it isn't always about class or race), such as the lack of places to play (how many green fields are there in the inner city?) or people to play with (baseball needs 18, basketball needs 10). Another reason might be that basketball allows the individual to shine whereas baseball is a team sport.

Abortion: a filthy business

Newsday reports on a New Jersey state health inspectors investigation on the unhygienic conditions in one Bergen County abortion clinic (the Englewood Center for Women, or the corporate name that Newsday prefers, the Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood). Says Newsday:

"Reports obtained by The Record of Bergen County show inspectors uncovered forceps encrusted in 'brownish blood-like residues,' rusty crochet hooks and a quarter-inch of dark red 'dirt and debris' under an exam table."

Red dirt? That would be bloody dirt. Rusty crochet hooks? Those would be used to break a pregnant woman's water. The clinic, which was ordered closed last month, will remain closed until the problems are cleaned up. Except, that is, the problem of killing unborn babies -- the 10,000 that the particular clinic commits each and every year. That is 10,000 abortions in one clinic.

The Bergen Record has a longer report on this incident (as well as an editorial) that demonstrates exactly how little the abortion industry cares for the actual health of women. Consider this:

"In separate records released Tuesday, investigators concluded the facility failed to notify the department 'of an event occurring within the facility that jeopardized the health and safety of a patient.' The department refused to release details of the 'event.'"

That is, a woman's health was jeopardized because of her abortion and the Englewood Center for Women never bothered to file the proper paperwork with the state. Other practises that were condemned include open packages on supposedly sterile equipment, a lack of an infection-control plan and improper record keeping. Sadly the only reason we know about such conditions and irregularities is that a 20-year-old woman's abortion led to massive hemorrhaging which resulted in a a four-week coma, a stroke and a hysterectomy. While not everyday events, such tragedies are more common the medical slums of abortuaries than most of the public is aware.

Turning CO2 into fuel

New Scientist has a story on recycling carbon dioxide. Nothing in the article to suggest that this might affect global warming but as Frederic Goettmann, a chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces says, "Breaking open the very stable bonds in CO2 is one of the biggest challenges in synthetic chemistry." Turning machines into plants might make CO2 less evil in the greater Kyoto Religion scheme of things. Thus far the technology is inefficient with a low 20% yield but it is a big step that has long eluded scientists.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
I won't say anything derogatory about Warren Kinsella...

... because he'd probably sue me, but Bob Tarantino demonstrates why Kinsella is kind of an asshat. And remember, Kinsella sells himself as an expert in both punk music and politics.

Against (Red)

Ryan T. Anderson, a junior fellow at First Things, makes a strong moral argument against the (Red) campaign to funnel consumer spending to the Global Fund against a bunch of diseases.

Anderson concludes his thoughtful piece thusly:

"For my part, I won’t be buying any (RED) products or urging President Bush to commit ONE percent to African relief. But I know I can’t sit idly, either. This Lenten season provides the opportunity to reexamine my spending, giving, and volunteering habits. Domestically, I know which organizations are doing the work that I think makes a difference. I try to support them; I know I could do more. To be honest, though, I’m not sure which international organizations are doing the work on the ground that will help make the lasting changes that Africa needs. Inadvertently, Bono has drowned out their voices."

And I liked this line:

"Buying overpriced luxury items—the true meaning of the Parable of the Good-Looking Samaritan."

Media bias

From a Zogby International press release:

"Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet/Zogby Poll shows American voters are skeptical political motivation may be behind blogs run by mainstream news organizations

The vast majority of American voters believe media bias is alive and well – 83% of likely voters said the media is biased in one direction or another, while just 11% believe the media doesn’t take political sides, a recent IPDI/Zogby Interactive poll shows.

The Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet is based at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Nearly two-thirds of those online respondents who detected bias in the media (64%) said the media leans left, while slightly more than a quarter of respondents (28%) said they see a conservative bias on their TV sets and in their column inches."

So more than four in five American voters (note: not citizens, but voters, who are probably more attentive to how the media operates) recognize that there is actual media bias. A question: who are the 11% who deny that there is media bias? The only explanation is that someone watches the news networks and recognizes that Fox is not fair and balanced and CNN peddles propaganda as a series on-going features on serious issues; one does so from the right while the other does so from the left and at the end of the day figures it all evens out. But I doubt that this is the explanation -- never find how silly is the notion that Fox and the Wall Street Journal cancels out the bias of CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, PBS, ABC, CBS, The View, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Time, Newsweek, etc...

The Zogby press release says that 97% of conservatives see a liberal bias, as do about two-thirds of independents; only 23% of independents see a conservative bias in the media. According the release, liberals were slightly less likely than moderates and much less likely than conservatives to see any political bias in the media. So I guess conservatives are either much more perceptive or simply paranoid or conspiracy-minded.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Harvesting organs in prison

Stephen J. Dubner (Freakonomics blog) seems to like the idea of giving prisoners shorter sentences in exchange for them donating their organs (as South Carolina is considering doing). I think the plan raises serious issues of consent -- how truly free are prisoners? Might this smell a little bit like coercion: "you want to get out early, give up a kidney." But if society is going this route, here's an idea: a get out of jail immediately card for any murderer who donates a heart.

The UN innovates

The United Nations is fighting famine with drought insurance. Newsweek has the story.

The disappearing gay ghetto


"In just about any other place, the sight of a man and woman pushing a stroller would be welcomed as a sign of stability and safety. In San Francisco's heavily gay Castro District, some people can't help but think: There goes the neighborhood.

Gay leaders in the Castro and other gay neighborhoods around the country fear their enclaves are losing their distinct identities.

These areas are slowly being altered by an influx of heterosexual couples, the forces of gentrification, and growing confidence among gays that they can live pretty much wherever they want nowadays and do not need the security of being in a 'gay ghetto'."

I'm not quite sure why homosexuals would be upset about this. Reading on, it appears that the gay ghetto is disappearing because gay is so 'normal' that gays do not feel they have to live among themselves anymore and many straights have no compunction about living among gays.

The 5.4% silver lining

CTV reports an "impressive" 5.4% growth in Canada's population from 2001-2006 -- the best among the G-8. (Valedictorian of summer school, I'd say.) But most of that growth comes from immigration not an increase in fertility which remains a stubbornly low 1.5% -- well below replacement level. Immigrants account for fully 75% of the population growth, or 1.2 million of the 1.6 million person increase since the turn of the millennia. That is not necessarily a problem but combined with rapid urbanization, and you have a situation where Canada faces continued demographic shifts without fully comprehending their consequences or having policies to meet the challenges these changes entail. For example, there is little political leadership in the debate about what to do with massive numbers of immigrants: is assimilation the proper policy or do we provide multilingual and diverse social services or do we just let immigration happen and leave immigrants on their own? These issues must be resolved because as CTV reports, given current trends, by 2030 immigration will account for all Canada's population growth. As I said, we face challenges (and choices) that we do not yet realize -- or want to admit.

The old TNR

Martin Peretz looks back at three decades of owning The New Republic. The Nation doesn't like where TNR is headed (subscription required).

Monday, March 12, 2007
French politics

Financial Times reports that Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal is in serious trouble, as François Hollande, the party's leader (and Royal's partner) conceded that the Socialists could be knocked in the first round on April 22. According to a recent poll, Nicolas Sarkozy (of the centre-right UMP) has 27% followed by Royal with 25.5% and Francois Bayrou (of the centrist UDF) who has 23%. Further behind is Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National) at 12%. The Daily Telegraph reports that the race is even tighter: Sarkozy leads with 28% followed by Bayrou and Royal tied at 23%.

To me, the five-percentage point difference among the top three means that Sarkozy and Royal are both vulnerable. Royal more so, yes, but both susceptible to a first-round defeat. Polls show Sarkozy beating Royal in a second round of balloting but I haven't seen anything about a second-round Sarkozy-Bayrou battle. My guess is that Sarkozy would be more vulnerable with fewer on the far-left moving to the UMP than the UDF. Regardless, Bayrou's surge in the polls is illustrative of widespread disillusionment with the two mainstream parties just Le Pen's surprise second-place finish in 2002 demonstrated that many voters did not believe the UMP or the Socialists were addressing the concerns of the French (most notably cultural issues such as immigration and assimilation).

Socialist campaign co-director, Jean-Louis Bianco, meanwhile dissmissed the polls and said that once voters considered the party's 100-point pact (wow!), the Bayrou 'sandcastle' will fall. We'll see. Thus far, the French seem to like the Socialists less the more they see of its leader. Digest the 100-point plan and there is a good chance Royal's stock will continue to fall.

Despite leading an ostensibly centrist party, Bayrou may not be much better than Royal. As Wikipedia notes, Hollande has said that the failed EU constitution is "the most beautiful construction of all humanity." That can't be good for France, either.

It's the March break so let's have something lite

Humour from the Milken Institute Review:

"A woman diagnosed with a terrible illness is given only a year to live, and her doctor advises her to marry an economist.

'Could an economist cure me? the woman asks.

'No,' the doctor replies, 'but the year will seem like a lifetime'."

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Global warming hurting hookers


"Brothel owners in Bulgaria are blaming global warming for staff shortages.

They claim their best girls are working in ski resorts because a lack of snow has forced tourists to seek other pleasures.

Petra Nestorova, who runs an escort agency in Sofia, said: 'We have hired students, but they are temps and nothing like our elite girls'."

The difference between blogging and partisan politics

Jay Currie:

"The McClelland affair underscores just how pernicious the organization of the Canadian blogosphere into partisan lists has become.

Robert himself is a grade “A” asshat and his remarks are often offensive. So what? The entire point of blogging is to allow even the looniest a place where their opinions - however demented - are published and examined.

However, once the taste police and the guardians of civil discourse get involved - as is inevitable when one blogs as part of a partisan group - certain topics are no longer acceptable. The good of the group (or, indeed, party) trumps the value of an individual’s right to express his opinion.

In this case the dissident opinion was deemed to be anti-semitic and therefore beyond the pale. However, what if Robert had committed the heresy of questioning climate change or, in Tory circles, Stephen Harper’s leadership capacity? What if a blogger were to suggest that current immigration policy was a bad idea or that women, on the whole, like raising children more than working full time? Remember a couple of months ago poor Elizabeth May was read out of the feminist left for daring to suggest that having an abortion was not the best thing in the world for the woman concerned?

The blogosphere and the party system are at odds with each other. In a mass media driven, gotcha, political age, political parties have to exercise strict message control else they be accused of a “gaffe”. The essence of blogging is that there is no message management, no party line, no whip or talking points.

Vile as McClelland often is, his accusers and eventual executioners do indeed endanger my liberty. Worse, they threaten to homogenize political discourse to the point of such blandness that no one will bother to read the blogs."

When party discipline is applied to blogging, something has gone terribly awry.

Here's a place Ottawa could cut spending

Burkean Canuck presents some facts about Canada's financial contributions to the United Nations and its various operations and agencies. Grand total: about $850 million. Are we getting our money's worth? Or more importantly, is Sudan?

My disappointment with the Tories continues

A correspondent of mine emailed near the end of the last federal election campaign saying that even if the Stephen Harper Conservatives are not particularly conservative, (I'm paraphrasing) "at least they won't go on a $24.5-billion spending bender in the weeks leading up to an election to bribe voters." (See Canadian Taxpayers Federation press release and/or report (pdf) for details.)

This same correspondent emailed me today to castigate my excoriation of the Tories' own spending bender saying (and this is a direct quote): "That's what you have to do to get re-elected." In which case, it seems that the Tories are cruising to their next government because the spigots have been, and seem geared to remain, open. As the Toronto Star reports today, "Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already begun reshaping his government's penny-pinching image by announcing more than $12 billion in spending programs for cities, public transit, the environment, energy, agriculture and other priorities in recent weeks." And it will only continue on March 19 when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivers the government's second budget which is expected to divvy up more money to the provinces. As Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn is reported saying, "It will be a very good news budget for all Canadians right across the country." That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, like if the government followed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation advice and enacted a Tax-Back Guarantee and a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, but that isn't what politicians, the press or the public means when they say "good news budget." That is a euphemism for "shake the money tree that is Ottawa."

Some of us thought things were going to change a little more than they have.

Friday, March 09, 2007
Pandas come in blue, not just red

One day its money for subways in the GTA, the next its dough for Praire farmers. The Conservative government continues handing out pre-election goodies. The CBC reports:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Saskatchewan Friday to announce $1 billion in aid for Canadian farmers — but the federal budget will have to pass before all of the cash starts flowing.

The money will come in two chunks: $600 million will go toward setting up a savings program where farmers and governments will contribute to accounts, and another $400 million will help farmers offset the rising costs of inputs like fuel, fertilizer and chemicals.

Making a brief appearance in Saskatoon with Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, Harper said that after the $400 million portion is spent, there'll be $100 million a year to deal with cost-of-production increases."

What's in you flu shot

Why Cheetos and Pop Tarts list their ingredients but flu shots do not -- from the Royal Canadian Air Farce via Dispel-the-Illusion.

Me on TV

You can catch my on Behind the Story on Sunday night at 7pm on CTS. I'm on a panel that discusses, among other things, Conrad Black, the Toronto Star expose on the Prayer Palace and Anna Nicole Smith.

Thursday, March 08, 2007
This might end Newt's presidential ambitions

From the Associated Press:

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group.

'The honest answer is yes,' Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to be aired Friday, according to a transcript provided to The Associated Press. 'There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards.'

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton's infidelity."

Sure, Clinton's troubles were technically about perjuring himself in front a judge but everyone knows that Monicagate was about what went down in the Oval Office.

Stone age is the new faggot

From the Washington Times:

"Attention Fred Flintstone and the Geico cave guys: 'Stone Age' is no longer acceptable, joining the list of other words and terms deemed offensive in polite society. 'Primitive' also is considered, well, primitive by some.

'All anthropologists would agree that the negative use of the terms "primitive" and 'Stone Age' to describe tribal peoples has serious implications for their welfare,' the British-based Association of Social Anthropologists said Tuesday. 'Governments and other social groups have long used these ideas as a pretext of depriving such peoples of land and their resources.'

The edict is the result of a kerfuffle that began last March when Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament, described two Botswana tribes as 'trying to stay in the Stone Age' and 'primitive' during a spirited debate. Though she later said she was misunderstood, Mrs. Tonge was criticized in the British press as 'primitive' herself.

In a letter to the Guardian newspapers, tribal representatives stated: 'She says it is not an insult. But if you call someone stone age or primitive, it sounds like you think they are inferior to you'."

UN can't get resolution opposing sex-selection abortion passed reports that India and China (both of which are supposedly taking measures to curb sex-selection abortions in their own countries) were joined by Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico in opposing an American resolution in the Commission on the Status of Women which would have condemned the practise of prenatal sex selection abortions and female infanticide. Happy International Women's Day, ladies, from China, India and Canada, none of which could muster the courage to saying killing unborn and just-born girls is wrong.

Pandering on International Women's Day

Kathy Shaidle points to a press release announcing that the Conservative government is restoring funding to the Secretariat of Women (albiet under a slightly different name, the Women's Partnership Fund) although the Heritage Ministry et al doesn't have the press release listed.

No one's perfect

George F. Will has a fetish for facts that many conservatives would like to forget -- or at least gloss over. From his Washington Post column today:

"Many at CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] seemed depressed by the fact, as they see it, that the top three Republican candidates -- John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani-- are flawed. Such conservatives should conduct a thought experiment.

Suppose someone seeking the presidential nomination had, as a governor, signed the largest tax increase in his state's history and the nation's most permissive abortion law. And by signing a law institutionalizing no-fault divorce, he had unwittingly but substantially advanced an idea central to the campaign for same-sex marriages -- the minimalist understanding of marriage as merely a contract between consenting adults to be entered into or dissolved as it suits their happiness.

Question: Is it not likely that such a presidential aspirant would be derided by some of today's fastidious conservatives? A sobering thought, that, because the attributes just described were those of Ronald Reagan."

Will then looks at the three, imperfect front-runners: John McCain (whom Will has criticized repeatedly -- and justifiably -- over the years for wanting to regulate/ration political speech), Rudy Giuliani (whom Will introduced at CPAC) and Mitt Romney (about whom the less said, the better).

On McCain: "McCain, whose career rating from the ACU is 82 (100 being perfect), voted against the prescription drug entitlement in 2003 because of its cost. He is a strong critic of corporate welfare. And since 2003 he has been insisting that the mission in Iraq requires more troops-- even more than will be there during the current 'surge'."

On Romney: "Romney, however, is criticized by many conservatives for what they consider multiple conversions of convenience -- on abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, gun control. But if Romney is now locked into positions that these conservatives like, why do they care so much about whether political calculation or moral epiphany moved him there?"

On Giuliani: "[H]is deviations from the social conservatives' agenda are more than balanced by his record as mayor of New York. That city was liberalism's laboratory as it went from the glittering metropolis celebrated in the movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961) to the dystopia of the novel 'Bonfire of the Vanities' (1987). Giuliani successfully challenged the culture of complaint that produced the politics of victimhood that resulted in government by grievance groups. He favors school choice, he opposes bilingual education that confines students to linguistic ghettos and he ended the "open admissions" policy that degraded City University, once an effective instrument of upward mobility. The suggestion that Sept. 11 required city tax increases triggered from Giuliani four adjectives: 'dumb, stupid, idiotic and moronic'."

Will concludes: "Conservatism comes in many flavors. None seems perfect for every conservative's palate; most should be satisfactory to most conservatives."

Quote of the day

Terry Teachout posted this quote earlier this week: "Beware the politically obsessed. They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures; there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up. It leaves them somehow misshapen." -- Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution

25 best movie posters of all-time

Premiere has the list. Breakfast at Tiffany's has to be the best movie poster of all time but it ranks only 18th. Other worthies: The Silence of the Lambs (16th) and Vertigo (3rd).

(HT: Gerry Nicholls)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
How can you take the Green Party seriously?

24 Hours (Vancouver) reports that Green Party leader Elizabeth May is urging the riding association in Vancouver-Quadra to nix the candidacy of technology consultant Dan Grice. May wants a "star" candidate who can win the riding (laughter) because Vancouver-Quadra is one of 15-20 ridings the Greens have targeted as winnable (uncontrollable laughter). To repeat: the Green Party considers 15-20 seats winnable.

I'm not mathematician but this seems ... not good

Advertising Age reports that the Red campaign (Bono's help Africa project) has spent $100 million on promotion plastering pictures of celebrities urging people to buy red products, the proceeds of which go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but has only raised $18 million. That's more than $5 spent to raise just $1.

Why can't Mike Huckabee get any traction?

Because he sucks. Newsweek sees the former Arkansas governor as a natural fit for the GOP: pro-life, pro-gun and pro-marriage. What many in the MSM don't understand is that conservatives are interested in a wide variety of issues, even the socons. Conservatives are turned off by Huckabee's nanny-statism (he wants to put America on a diet) and big government (an F from the Cato Institute).

Non-candidate confirms non-candidacy

New York magazine reports that celebrity economist Jeffrey Sachs has ruled out a presidential run:

"Joe Marogil, 28, an accountant and a member of the five-person [Draft Sachs] board (three are in grad school) that sent Sachs’s office a plea and got a call back asking, “Are you serious?” Oh, yes. The committee bought a full-page ad in the Columbia Spectator begging Sachs to run. (He never saw it.) It held a meeting at Columbia. (Only student journalists came.) It launched a Web campaign: There are four groups pushing Sachs to run, with 167 members total (Obama has more than 500 groups; one has over 300,000 members). 'I’m flattered,' Sachs says. 'But my plans are to teach my class next fall'."

Did you say organic or orgasm?

Liberals ruin everything. Dispel the Illusion links to this story from CanWest on green sex:

"You've heard of green cars, green tourism and green weddings. Now Canadians should ready themselves for green sex.

... Greenpeace has released a list of strategies for 'getting it on for the good of the planet,' suggesting "you can be a bomb in bed without nuking the planet. TreeHugger, an online magazine edited by Ontario's Michael Graham Richard, has just published a guide on "how to green your sex life." The famed adult store Good Vibrations announced last week they would no longer sell sex toys containing phthalates, controversial chemical plasticizers believed by some to be hazardous to humans and the environment alike.

And throughout Canada and the U.S., people who want to pleasure the planet can now buy everything from bamboo bed sheets to organic lubricant and "eco-undies."

That TreeHugger article is fascinating. Did you know that conscientious vegans shouldn't use most latex condoms because many have a milk enzyme in them? I didn't. Or that F**k for Forest (sorry, I'm not providing a link) was the first and probably only porn site to give money to forest conversation? The morality of the eco-religion is sort of funny.

Monday, March 05, 2007
Funniest thing I've read in a long, long time

Girl on the Right:

"...'What would you do if you won the lottery?'

My answer? 'Buy a great big gas-guzzling Hummer and drive it up and down in front of David Suzuki's house all day long.'

The woman sitting next to us on the subway looked over, laughed, and said 'I couldn't agree more'!"

Terrorist don't care who leads America

That's the point of David Aaronovitch column in the London Times as he demolishes the fantasy (his word) of the Left (from the likes of Bill Maher and David Remnick) that if Dick Cheney was not in power (as Maher says), "people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow." Is Maher actually claiming that if the Bush administration were replaced, death itself would be defeated? No, not quite. Rather, foreign wars would not be fought; that anyone else would not bother taking the war against terrorists to the terrorists. Remnick imagines if Al Gore had won in 2000, history would be completely different and, almost needless to say, better. But as Aaronovitch concludes:

"A vote for Hillary or Obama, or even Rudy or John, doesn’t change the regime in Pyongyang or Khartoum, or make the next jihadi tooling himself up right now for that magic moment, think to himself: 'They voted Gore? Then I guess I won’t bother'.”

It is willful self-delusion to think that jihadists would not want to bring the battle to America if only the Democrats were in power. The jihadists don't dislike President George W. Bush; they hate the West in general and America specifically.

'I dare you'

Not very adult but then again, it is politics. John Howard, according to the polls, is in trouble and the opposition Labour Party wants the Liberal Party and its leader to call an election six months earlier than scheduled. From The Australian:

"LABOR Party support is the highest it has been in the 11 years of the Howard Government, although Kevin Rudd's personal support as the new Opposition Leader appears to have peaked.

As backing for the Howard Government slumps to its lowest in almost two years, the ALP's record two-party-preferred support of 57 per cent would sweep into power if an election were held now.

The Newspoll survey showing the ALP so far in front of the Government comes as Mr Rudd and his deputy, Julia Gillard, called on John Howard to call a snap election before the expected poll in October or November."

Alberta, hotbed of government spending

The Alberta Progressive Conservatives, more progressive than conservative. From a Calgary Herald editorial:

"It has often been observed that humanity deals better with adversity than abundance. Conscious of the need to get its house in order, the province pulled together in the mid-'90s, first to balance the budget, and later to repay the debt. This was Alberta's virtuous stage.

Since then, the ruling PC party discovered that money lubricates election victories. With the provincial bank account in the black, it became increasingly difficult -- and politically dangerous -- to deflect pay-back demands.

When nurses and teachers threatened to strike, it was easier to pay than fight. The legislation mandating 75 per cent of surpluses go to debt reduction was repealed. It became more common to announce mid-year supplementary spending, using funds from unbudgeted surpluses."

Sounds a lot like the Paul Martin-Jack Layton government.

Bank fee intimidation

Nice to know we have a conservative government so the state won't intimidate private enterprise to ... oh, never mind. CP reports:

"Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says some of the big banks could be making announcements in the future about changes to automated banking machine fees.

Flaherty talked behind closed doors Monday with executives of the six biggest banks, addressing service fees charged to clients when they use a competing bank’s automated teller machine.

The finance minister said afterward he’s especially concerned at how the fees impact poor Canadians, students and seniors.

But there have been suggestions that cutting ABM fees would only cause the banks to build them into other charges.

Flaherty said this wasn’t discussed at the meeting, but added that he believed the banks wouldn’t make that move."

'The Great Global Warming Swindle'

That's the name of a show this coming week on Britain's Channel Four. Here's the Daily Mirror coverage of the show:

"Research said to prove that greenhouse gases cause climate change has been condemned as a sham by scientists.

A United Nations report earlier this year said humans are very likely to be to blame for global warming and there is "virtually no doubt" it is linked to man's use of fossil fuels.

But other climate experts say there is little scientific evidence to support the theory.

In fact global warming could be caused by increased solar activity such as a massive eruption.
Their argument will be outlined on Channel 4 this Thursday in a programme called The Great Global Warming Swindle raising major questions about some of the evidence used for global warming.

Ice core samples from Antarctica have been used as proof of how warming over the centuries has been accompanied by raised CO2 levels.

But Professor Ian Clark, an expert in palaeoclimatology from the University of Ottawa, claims that warmer periods of the Earth's history came around 800 years before rises in carbon dioxide levels.

The programme also highlights how, after the Second World War, there was a huge surge in carbon dioxide emissions, yet global temperatures fell for four decades after 1940. "

You need more reason to be skeptical of man's responsibility for climate change? Read this story from that bastion of right-wing fanaticism, National Geographic:

"Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human- induced—cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory...

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures."

Earth and Mars? Who's driving SUVs on the Red Planet? Seriously, who or what is to blame? Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia says the Sun. Abdussamatov explains: "The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars." National Geographic reports that he "believes that changes in the sun's heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets." Almost all.

Government 'services'

From Janet Daley's Daily Telegraph column:

"... while energy companies and broadband suppliers fight for your custom with price wars and attractive package deals, the local education authority is refusing your child a place at your preferred school and the local hospital is postponing your operation yet again."

Sunday, March 04, 2007
'A hobby that went berserk'

That is how Colin M. Brown described the National Citizens Coalition, which he created in 1975.* Gerry Nicholls remembers a great man who died 20 years ago today.

* The NCC website and Wikipedia say 1967, Industry Canada says the NCC was first registered in 1975. It's not often that Gerry agrees with the government, but I'll take GN's & IC's word for it. As best as I can ascertain, Brown, then an insurance salesman in London, Ont., bought advertisements in newspapers attacking medicare in 1967, the beginning of his most visible activism. Whether 1967 or 1975, Brown was a courageous and outspoken opponent of Pierre Trudeau and genuine freedom fighter.


The Los Angeles Times reports that Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney are leading among DNC and RNC members. Romney had 20% support among 133 of the 165 RNC members who responded to the Times poll, followed by Rudy Giuliani at 14%, Senator John McCain at 10% and former GOP Hosue leader Newt Gingrich with 8%. The paper reports that 10% of respondents said they would not support McCain if he became the party's presidential standard-bearer in 2008. Among the 313 of the 386 DNC members who responded, Clinton had the support of 20% followed by former vice presidential candidate John Edwards with 15%, Senator Barack Obama (11%), former vice president Al Gore (10%) and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (9%).

I'm not sure how much power or influence national committee members have in the primaries and caucuses, but it is certainly significant that 10% of RNC members won't support media darling John McCain and that among DNCers, Obama is running third, barely ahead of an undeclared candidate.

Pharma profits

The New York Times editorializes:

"The big pharmaceutical companies are rightly criticized for concentrating on the development and marketing of drugs that sell for high prices in the industrialized world while neglecting to produce medications that could save millions of lives in the poorest countries. So it came as especially welcome news last week that Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest drug company, working in collaboration with a nonprofit drug-development organization pioneered by Doctors Without Borders, will soon introduce a cheap and easy-to-use pill to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa."

As Tim Harford points out in his book The Undercover Economist, the same people who get upset with the DVD industry because it sells its products for different prices in different markets (price-targeting in economic-speak) are the same ones who want pharmaceutical companies to supply drugs to the developing world at discount prices. Harford (tongue-in-cheek) suggests that perhaps instead of being upset with Big Pharma for not offering discounted drugs in the developed world, we should be outraged that it "overcharges" those who suffer from disease in the developed world. He says this about anti-HIV/AIDS drugs; not a lot of malaria sufferers in North America or western Europe.

The Times editorial goes on:

"The course of treatment is notably cheap — less than 50 cents for children and less than $1 for adults. Sanofi will make no profit on sales to public health agencies and international institutions that typically serve poor people. But it will also produce a branded version to be sold in the private markets of developing countries at three or four times the public price.

To its additional credit, the company has agreed not to seek a patent on the one-pill formulation so that generic companies, like those in India, can produce the pills cheaply and add to the quantities of medicine needed to treat many millions of malaria victims around the world.

Now that Sanofi has shown, in the words of one executive, that 'we are not nasty people working against poor countries and seeking only profits,' let us hope that many other big drug companies feel the same humanitarian impulse."

That executive is a moron or a coward, or both. Profits are not a bad thing and those who seek to make them (profits, that is) are not nasty people. Without profits there would be no incentive to do the research, no reason to innovate. Without profit, there would not be the capital to invest in the development of new drugs. That is, without 'nasty' people seeking 'bad' profit, there is no helping sick people. If Sanofi wants to sell profitless malaria vaccines, great. Of course, it cannot only sell profitless vaccines or there would be no Sanofi left.

Harford points to an aspect of price-targeting that can make a big difference to the bottom line: 'leakage'. If a product is cheaper in market A than market B, there is a chance that the product will 'leak' from A to B. If that happens, profits fall, perhaps to the point that it is no longer viable to produce the product. If that happens, the product will (if the company is rational) either become more expensive or unavailable in market A. Then consumers in market A lose. This might happen (eventually) with pharmaceuticals developed in the United States and sold in Canada that then find their way back in the States. And it would certainly happen if AIDS/HIV drugs were sold in the developing world at one-tenth or one-hundredth the cost that they are available in the US.

Selling malaria vaccines for no profit might warm the hearts of liberals, but it is only possible after the vaccine manufacturer has earned a sufficient return on investment.

The end of oil? Think again

The New York Times reports:

"Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before."

A little perspective

George F. Will has another fine column about the folly of campaign finance reform (this time how it successfully serves as a barrier to marginal candidates, thus protecting early front-runners). Included in his Washington Post column is this wonderful little tidbit:

"This year we are told to be horrified by the fact that by November 2008 the presidential contest will have cost $1 billion. Which means that the two-year process will cost half as much as Americans spend every year on Easter candy."

Saturday, March 03, 2007
Me on the judicial appointment controversy in this month's The Interim

Media, the left have fits over Tory changes to judge appointments
Charges of ‘stacking the courts’ hurled with abandon

Analysis by Paul Tuns
The Interim
March 2007

For several weeks in February, the Globe and Mail appointed itself the official opposition to the federal government, running numerous articles, columns and editorials criticizing the process by which the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is choosing judges.

Last year, the government amended the composition of the federal Judicial Advisory Committees that examine government nominees to various courts. The makeup of the 12 regional JACs was expanded so that police representatives would have a voice on the committees. Previously, the federal government appointed three members from the community at large, while the other four members were selected by provincial governments, provincial law societies, the Canadian Bar Association and provincial chief judges. The Tories added one member – from the police – bringing the number of JAC members appointed by the feds to four of eight.

All JAC appointments are non-paying, two-year commitments.

The federal government has been attacked by the opposition parties, "progressive" bloggers and elements in the media for allegedly attempting to "stack the courts" with like-minded lawyers.
Liberal deputy leader Michael Ignatieff presented a motion in Parliament, stating "that, in the opinion of this House, the government is failing to act in accordance with the democratic and open values expected of its office by imposing a narrow-minded, socially conservative ideology as reflected in its approach to the judicial appointment process to dramatically increase the influence of right-wing ideology in the judiciary."

Liberal leader Stephane Dion charged Prime Minister Stephen Harper with "stacking the committees" in order to "select judges who will cater to his neo-conservative agenda." He charged that in doing so, the prime minister was "politicizing" the courts. Liberal justice critic Sue Barnes told Lawyers Weekly the JAC changes were a sign of the government’s anti-court bias. Liberal MP Anita Neville said Harper was attempting to do "through the back door what he can’t do through the front door" – never mind that the process has been made more transparent and representative through the government’s changes.

The Globe and Mail, however, joined the official opposition when it went beyond reporting on these changes to outright slamming the government for what it saw as its threatening of the independence of the courts. The paper "reported" in a front-page story by Campbell Clark on Feb. 12: "The Conservative government has loaded the committees that determine who can become a judge, selecting a series of Tories, including former politicians, aides to ministers, riding association officials and defeated candidates." On the same day, Globe columnist John Ibbitson chimed in: "There isn’t any other way to put it: the Harper government, by perverting the rules and by appointing party loyalists to key positions, intends to stack Canada’s courts with conservatives."

The next day, the Globe regurgitated much of its own reporting. Clark once again hammered the Tories: "Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are stacking the committees that select judges with partisans to create an ideologically driven judiciary that will steer Canada’s courts to the right, opposition parties charged yesterday."

In a case of obvious overkill, the Globe also ran a Canadian Press story by Jim Brown that breathlessly reported, "At least 16 of 31 recent appointments to the panels have Conservative party ties, according to a survey by the Globe and Mail. Others, while not directly linked to the party, have expressed right-of-centre views about the proper role of the judiciary." (The CP numbers contradicted those reported in one of the Clark stories, which claimed that 16 of 33 appointments were Conservative partisans.)

But as Justice Minister Rob Nicholson pointed out, it is he, not the JACs, who finally decides who is appointed to the courts.

Toronto lawyer Bob Tarantino noted on his blog: "You want a weak point in the system, it’s the unfettered right of the minister to appoint which is the problem – not the fact that some slots on the JAC committee are being accorded to partisan appointments." But no one is disputing the prerogative of the justice minister to appoint judges.

Indeed, the government does not even have to abide by a JAC non-recommendation. In 2005, the Canadian Bar Association released a report that included a request of then-justice minister Irwin Cotler to commit to not appointing nominees who did not receive an affirmative recommendation from the JAC. Cotler refused to mandate such limitations.

In one way, the criticisms leveled at the federal government are not new. The changes to the JACs came under fire when then- justice minister Vic Toews proposed them last Nov. 10. The Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Judicial Council, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, both expressed outrage over the move. As one prominent lawyer told The Interim, police have no right to be on the committees, because as stakeholders in the legal system, they have a vested interest in who becomes a judge. But aren’t lawyers and judges also stakeholders? the lawyer was asked. "Yes, but they step back from the process and look at it impartially," she explained.

It was a little rich for the chief justice of the Supreme Court to publicly comment on the government’s plan to slightly alter the Judicial Advisory Committees by complaining that by doing so, the prime minister was politicizing the bench. Apparently, Chief Justice McLachlin was unable to grasp that by interjecting herself into the government’s process for choosing judges, she was herself politicizing the courts.

But McLachlin was hardly alone. Justice Colin McKinnon of Ottawa, outgoing president of the Ontario Superior Court Judges Association, said at the time: "I think it was appropriate to come out swinging on this one, because the whole structure of an impartial nominating body (for federal judges) has been eviscerated."

What is notable is that while the opposition and media have harped on about the politicized process, no one has yet been able to point to either one unqualified JAC appointee or an unqualified lawyer appointed to any bench it the country. In fact, in January, Justice McKinnon applauded the Harper government for appointing nine "highly capable" judges in Ontario.

Tarantino said it is incumbent upon critics to name even one unqualified appointment to either the JACs or to any court. He also said critics should come up with a reason why political involvement should be a barrier to being named to the JACs, other than mere disagreement with the appointees’ politics. However, as Edmonton Journal columnist Lorne Gunter noted, even if the Tories were "stacking" the JACs and this was a problem, with only 16 identifiable partisans out of 84 total JAC members, this is "hardly a partisan coup" by the Harper Conservatives.

Not that partisan appointments are anything new. A study of Liberal judicial appointments from 2000-2005 found that fully 60 per cent had previous ties to the party. Those were not appointments to the committees that vetted judicial appointments, they were actual judges appointed by the Jean Chretien and Paul Martin governments. As the National Post editorialized in response to the Globe’s excessive coverage of the Tory court appointments: "The notion that judicial appointments in this country were beyond the realm of partisan politics before the Conservatives came to power is laughable. As long as politicians have been appointing judges, the process has been partisan."

The Post reminded readers of Benoit Corbeil, former executive director of the Liberals’ Quebec wing, who testified during the Gomery inquiry in 2005 that the quickest route to a judicial appointment was to work on a Liberal election campaign. He said that almost half of the 20 lawyers who volunteered for the 2000 election became judges in the three years that followed. It is estimated that in excess of two-thirds of Quebec judges appointed during the Chretien and Martin regimes have or had Liberal party connections.

The Post editorialized that the real outrage in the whole flap was that the Liberals and their media allies have been so outraged. As Gunter wrote, the real problem for the left is that its "clubby little monopoly over the judicial system" is being threatened.

But is even that true? With a few exceptions – Marshall Rothstein on the Supreme Court, David Brown on the Ontario Superior Court, Dallas Miller to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta – many of the judges the Harper government has appointed are not noticeably different in judicial temperament than those already on the bench. The problem is that the law schools and the legal profession have generally produced legal minds occupying a very narrow range of the ideological spectrum – overwhelmingly on the left on social issues like abortion and gay rights.

In reforming the JAC process, the Conservatives have provided a (very) mild corrective. The shrieking criticism from some on the left appears desperate and unhinged. If the left‘s real concern is the politicization of the courts, it would have been better for the Liberal party under Chretien and Martin to not hide behind it to introduce radical social policies, especially in the area of gay rights. And the media might have criticized the usurpation of legislative prerogatives when judges began implementing laws, rather than merely interpreting them, such as when the Supreme Court threw out Canada’s abortion law in the 1988 Morgentaler decision. The media would also have been better to criticize politicians who hid behind court decisions, rather than provided leadership on issues that have great consequences for society - such as when judges created special rights for homosexuals or denied any rights to the unborn.

But the issue for many Liberals and their allies at the Globe and Mail is not the politicized judiciary, but rather the scoring of political points against the Tories. That’s plainly dishonest and does nothing to address the problem of politicizing the law, the real problem of which is judicial activism.

Trent student government selling eff-Harper buttons

From Winnipeg blogger Carolyn Gardner (note: there is offensive language in this post):

"And apparently, this is completely acceptable.

In the March 1st edition of Carleton's weekly "Charlatan," the Trent Central Students Association was reported selling buttons saying "Fuck Harper" another has devil horns on his head, and the third shows the middle finger and the word "Harper."

The Trent Progressive Conservative Association claims the buttons are hurtful, especially because the student government is selling them. Erwin James Casareno states, "To depict an individual sporting horns and the use of profanity and other profane symbols to depict him is not criticism, it is demonizing an individual."

Scott Dempsey, president of the TCSA says that they should be able to make comments about governments.Yes Scott, but should you also be allowed to make money off them too?

The buttons are supplied by a third party, Global Aware, and the TCSA receives 40% of the profits.The board felt that "it wasn't a hateful statement, but it was a political statement." Like hell! Since when is "FUCK YOU" a political statement? Did I miss something?

Trent administration declined to comment, saying only that the TSCA is an autonomous group outside their jurisdiction."

'Banned by You Tube'

Michelle Malkin notes the latest censorship of anti-jihad videos by You Tube and the dishonesty they employ in covering up said censorship.

More about polls

Over at Macleans' weekly House of Commons round-up, Aaron Wherry has a nifty bit of spin about the results of that much talked about Decima poll:

"... all the buzz now surrounds a new poll - this one giving Conservatives a stark nine-point advantage over the Liberals. It doesn't get more clear than that. Numbers don't lie and you can't argue with statistics...right?

Well, sort of. The full Decima report presents a slightly different picture. For instance, if you take a three-week average of the firm's numbers, the standings look like this: Conservatives 33%, Liberals 30%. Over the same period, the Liberals actually average a lead in Ontario - 37% to 35%."

That's a neat way to show the Liberals are not doing as badly as the latest poll indicates. Polls are always imperfect because the voters will not have the same mindset answering a pollster's question as they will in the voting booth. Taking the average of numerous polls is even sillier. At best it is a larger sample over a larger time frame. The down-side is that many of them (those polled later) have more information than others. It like letting some voters cast their ballots before the first debate, some after the first debate and having others wait 'til election day. I know, we sort of do that, but I think my larger point is still valid: Liberal support is declining as respondents get to see more of Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion. That can't bode well for the Liberals. Rolling averages notwithstanding.

Taylor interviews Layton

This won't go over well with the base. Blogging Tory Stephen Taylor interviewed NDP leader Jack Layton and began by thanking the Toronto socialist for being interviewed by "a blogger and especially a Conservative blogger." Layton responds: "Better than a Liberal." I understand that the NDP sees no difference between the Liberals and the Tories and that there is some sting to the Left when Liberals "act like Tories" by not taxing the productive class and redistributing to the less productive classes. And I understand that the NDP needs to marginalize the Liberals over the long-term to recapture the Left. (I'm not sure they can, but that must be the NDP thinking.) But the grassroots Left must recoil at how Layton goes out of his way to succor the Stephen Harper Tories.

Taylor asked a question many in the drive-by media never bother the NDP leader with; specifically Taylor asked if the NDP is shooting itself in the foot with its strident environmentalism when so many of its supporters are unionized workers in the auto industry. Stumbling along his unconvincing answer, Layton seemed to contradict himself: " cars that will be coming our way, very, very soon, that are already starting, many of them are flooding our markets already..."

And lastly, check out Layton on Bill C-257 for the final five minutes and how he avoids answering Taylor's question of whether or not individual workers have the right to cross a picket line. Layton says the individual right is in voting democratically for or against a strike. Anyway, Layton's five-minute bumbling along about unions and strikes is painfully fun to watch as he explains, among other things, that without unions and the ability to strike everyone will work for minimum wage for multinational corporations.