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?
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Will on conservatism

Washington Post columnist George F. Will has an excellent column on the difference between conservatism (which places a premium on freedom) and liberalism (which places a premium on equality) and what that really means as a broad governing principle. Most of all, Will says, "Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government's competence." That is, the conservative understands the limits of government's ability to bring about equal results or provide other social goods; the conservative understands that government should show some humility. Instead, conservatives seek to protect the freedom that enables human flourishing. As Will notes, conservatives understand what John F. Kennedy said in 1961 better than liberals do, and perhaps better than JFK himself did: "Conservatism embraces President Kennedy's exhortation to 'Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country,' and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible."

The Wall Street Journal is so predictable

From the three selections on offer at

On the Editorial Page
Zoellick's clean-up duty: The World Bank tries to silence its anti-corruption unit.

Conservatives will pay a price for demoting the market in immigration.

Leisure & Arts BY GERARD BAKER
Europe shows signs of life, but Walter Laqueur argues that it's still dying.

Quote of the day

From David Warren's Ottawa Citizen column on our un-read public: "... second-hand booksellers -- perhaps the most useful persons after priests, in maintaining anything resembling a high civilization ..."

John Gibbons knows class

The AP story on the Toronto Blue Jays-New York Yankees game last night (the good guys won 10-5) notes that Alex Rodriquez distracted 3B Howie Clark by shouting at him during a pop up in the 9th inning, yelling "Hah!". Clark claimed to hear "Mine!" called and backed away from the ball. The ball dropped, a run scored and the inning continued. Enter Jays manager John Gibbons who complained, ""The thing about the Yankees, one of the reasons they're so respected, is they do things right. Always have ... They've got a lot of pride and a lot of class. They play the game hard ... That's not Yankee pride right there ... That's not the way they play. I thought it was bush league." I'd prefer the Yankees not use deception; calling mine would be deceptive but shouting hah!, as A-Rod claims to do often ("Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't"), is distractive. That is less of an ethical issue. But for Gibbons to complain about unclassiness is a little much. He has feuded with numerous players: openly chastising starter Dave Bush in the dugout in 2005, confronting DH Shea Hillibrand in 2006 during a team meeting and apparently challenging him to a fist-fight, taking that feud public and throwing a hissy fit by threatening to quit if the team didn't get rid of Hillibrand, and, a month later, following starter Ted Lilley into the clubhouse and engaging in a shoving contest. Gibbons's antics led CBS Sportsline columnist Scott Miller to write about the Jays's manager's hotheadedness and need to control his anger. I haven't seen great strategy from Gibbons but I think the greater disservice he does to the team is his infantile ways and resultant poor leadership. He may have a point that the Yanks were not a class act last night, but Gibbons wasn't the one to make it. He should crawl back into the hole he came from.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Fixing immigration

Read this before they take it down at the end of the month (Thursday, May 31): Yuval Levin's thoughtful Commentary piece on the problems of immigration, which are a little more complex than the debate about illegal vs. legal immigration, and how to fix them. I may not share his enthusiasm for as much immigration as he proposes*, but his main point -- that any system of immigration must balance the needs of the country with humane treatment for immigrants -- leads to an indisputable conclusion: the failure of U.S. immigration policy is not that immigrants and non-citizen residents do not assimilate. Put another way, the problem is that immigrants are not becoming Americans. Levin points to a way to fix that which means over-hauling everything from how to treat non-citizen residents to the way immigrants are chosen to the process by which they become citizens.

* The truth is, as I've explained before, I'm all over the map on the issue of immigration.

Gerson on Darfur

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes about President George W. Bush's decision to slap new sanctions on Sudan which the administration hopes the international community will emulate. Gerson spells out the challenge:

"The new sanctions were opposed by the U.N. secretary general, the Chinese, the Saudis and the Egyptians, who all want 'just a few more weeks' to perform diplomatic miracles. But there is also a gathering coalition for stronger action that includes the United States, Britain, Denmark, some African countries -- and now France. The new government of Nicolas Sarkozy is reviewing its Darfur policy and has signaled a willingness to join the U.N. peacekeeping force and perhaps to establish humanitarian corridors in eastern Chad."

So France is on-side but the UN and Red China and a couple of Arab dictatorships are not. The latter want more time for diplomacy to work like there will be a breakthrough in the next two weeks when Khartoum hasn't (substantively) budged in three years. Gerson concludes that even in the context of American commitments in Iraq, "a question hangs over the history of our time: Are we too tired to oppose genocide?" Sadly, the answer is probably yes. And even if "we" weren't, what can be done without antagonizing Beijing?

The New York Times editorializes that it is about time the administration gets tough and hopes that the rest of the world will follow suit. The editorial concludes:

"Sudan’s apologists — most notably China, Russia and South Africa — have protected Mr. Bashir and his government from any serious punishment until now. If they continue to resist strong United Nations action and deny the reality of genocide in Darfur, many more people will needlessly die. And the blame will not be Mr. Bashir’s alone."

Perhaps I'm overly cynical but somehow the Times will find a way to blame Bush; if he hadn't ticked off the "international community" and alienated allies over the administration's handling of Iraq, Russia, China and South Africa would be lining up behind Washington. Of course, the NYT's grasp of reality is demonstrated when it claims that Russia, China and South Africa is resisting "strong" UN action; the UN has dawdled for years, failing to put teeth on any of its findings and slow to even offer verbal condemnation. The UN is even less effective than the British cop who yells "stop or I will shout stop again."

Happy birthday

Canadian Taxpayers Federation blog turns two today.

September Interim is up

Better late than never. Until this week, only two issues from 2006 were online but that is slowly changing. Highlights from the September issue include:

Professor John von Heyking's "Why exclude Oedipus?" on the on-going debate about the definition of marriage.

A reprinting of our August 2003 editorial explaining what marriage is.

Our lead editorial, "The Revolution cannot be legalized" on how the sexual revolution failed by succeeding: ("The sexual revolution has slowly turned into the very thing it was meant to overcome: it has become the law. The contradiction is not far to seek: desire may be liberated, but it cannot be codified.")

Donald DeMarco's "Tower of Babel gets even taller" on how inclusive language comes to exclude.

My reflections on being editor for five years.

Theresa Smyth's long but excellent article on how to talk to children about abortion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Ontario has its own brand of pseudo-conservatives reports:

"Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory celebrated his participation in the 17th annual Inside Out Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival last weekend, telling the Toronto Star he was “delighted” to be named as a supporter of the youth film showcase.

'This is a great group of men and women, including the young people who are involved,' he said in an interview with the Star last week. 'They’re creative and they’re people who are making a contribution to what is a very important industry in this city. They’re a key part of the ‘creative city’ that is so important to the economy.'

Tory was named an honorary 'distinguished patron' of the Queer Youth Video Project.

The Inside Out Festival showcased such films as Bad Grrls, Clown F*** Punk and Triple X Selects - The Best of Lezsploitation.

Inside Out described one film as 'the cream of the crop of smoking-hot hardcore porn for dykes and genderqueers of all stripes.'

Tory said he wanted to send a signal to the whole province that the Progressive Conservatives are a 'big tent' party."

Apropos of big tent politics, John Robson once reminded readers that what takes place under a big tent is a circus. And the Ontario Tory circus has Clown F*** Funk. No thanks.

Is this why Alberta Tories elected Stelmach leader?

Alberta gets Ottawa-style conservative government. If some 'conservatives' aren't banning incandescent lightbulbs, they are banning cigarette smoking. The Calgary Herald reports:

"Premier Ed Stelmach has said he will accept his colleagues' wishes on the controversial issue.

A full prohibition on lighting up in bars, bingo halls and casinos is the most contentious part of Health Minister Dave Hancock's anti-smoking strategy, which also proposes to stop cigarette sales in pharmacies and restrict big in-store tobacco displays known as 'power walls'."

Are Quebec taxes anti-French? Or anti-the-dregs-of-society?

The Montreal Gazette editorializes about a recent Le Devoir poll that finds just over one-quarter of respondents want a tax cut:

"Can it be true that only 27 per cent of Quebecers really want the $950-million income-tax cut proposed in last week's Liberal budget?

...Even allowing for a tendentious question, however, that 70-per-cent figure reflects a sombre reality: A shrinking proportion of Quebecers are paying ever-more income tax.

Data for 2003, the most recent available, show 5.7 million Quebecers filed tax returns. Of those, only 3.37 million, or 59 per cent, actually paid income tax. Quebecers earning under $28,089, 60 per cent of filers, had 26 per cent of the revenue, but paid less than 7.3 per cent of income tax.

So the 2.28 million "rich" Quebecers - those making $28,090 and more - were 40 per cent of tax filers but paid 92.7 per cent of income tax.

And the number who file a return but pay no income tax grows more quickly, from year to year, than the number of those who do pay. So the 31 per cent of the population that paid hefty taxes in 2003 might by now be down close to the 27 per cent who want the tax cut.

Remember, too, that among those who do pay are civil servants who can see few career benefits in big tax cuts. And even among taxpayers with six- and seven-figure incomes, many benefit one way or another from the vast and hyperactive state apparatus...

While some work less than they might, others just leave Quebec. These are likely the most innovative, competent and well-educated - the best earners, in other words.

For understandable reasons, francophones are less mobile than other North Americans. In a sense, we impose a tax on being franco-phone. Many other provinces have cut income tax this year, and as the tax gap grows, resistance to moving melts. Can Quebec really afford not to cut?"

The Gazette has a point: the only people who pay the high taxes are the suckers who stick around and those who cannot afford to leave or who otherwise have no options. In other words, high taxes punish the dumb, lazy or unlucky. Is that really progressive?

Monday, May 28, 2007
Regulation matters

Conservatives are often railing against taxes and government spending but not enough of us pay attention to regulations, except perhaps in the abstract. This Ottawa Citizen editorial is well worth reading, especially:

"Carleton professor G. Bruce Doern, the Conference Board of Canada's newest scholar-in-residence, pointed out the folly of these problems in a meeting with the Citizen's editorial board. Setting regulations is as significant a function of government as taxing and spending, Mr. Doern says, but it almost always happens under the public radar. Everyone goes crazy for weeks over the federal budget, but 40 to 50 new federal regulations come into force each year with little attention.

Unless, of course, you're trying to be innovative in one of the industries affected by government regulations, in which case you're likely to find yourself spending years and millions of dollars trying to penetrate a thicket of rules, some of which might be redundant or contradictory, just to bring a product to market.

Mr. Doern proposes treating regulation with the same seriousness as we do taxing and spending, making an annual declaration of a regulatory agenda part of the normal parliamentary schedule."

With friends like this

After a belligerent post against poker yesterday, Gerry Nicholls makes nice but ends by taking a poke at my beloved Yankees.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reviewing Conrad Black's biography of Richard Nixon, written mostly as the erstwhile newspaper baron awaited his own trial, Gil Troy says:

"Black says Nixon stumbled - and ultimately failed, resigning as president in August 1974 - because success made him complacent, not because of his ruthless drive to win. Hubris, not an established record of criminality and immorality, is the flaw Black sees in his subject."

The review appears in the Montreal Gazette.

Have to disagree with Gerry

Gerry Nicholls has a list of five things that should not appear on a sports network. Included are NASCAR races (thereby depriving millions of Red State Americans of their favourite sport) and poker, about which Gerry says: "Sorry a bunch of fat guys sitting around a table playing cards is not a sport." Not true. Two words: Isabelle 'No Mercy' Mercier -- okay, that's four words -- who is obviously not fat or a guy (see below). I'm a bit biased because I'm a TV poker addict (World Poker Tour, World Series of Poker, High Stakes Poker, and any shows with interesting players). And while I like the play of portly Canadian Gavin Smith, two of my favourite players are definitely not fat: Barry Greenstein, a skinny Jew, and Phil Ivey, a skinny black guy. (The other is Eli Elezra, a fairly average-sized former Israeli army commando.) Regardless of the size of the players, televised poker is quite exciting. Watching some moron seriously consider going "all in" with a jack-ten, with losing making a $500,000 difference on his tournament take, is fun to watch. Sure, the all-in feature utilitized pre-flop by amateurs takes some of the fun (strategy based on the calculation of odds, the play of one's opponents, reading their tells, etc...), but poker beats tennis or basketball any day. It might not properly be sports, but Gerry's derision is not based solely on the definition of sport but, apparently, a general dislike of the game -- and the people who play it.

Isn't this a problem?

In this Maclean's piece from last week, it is said of the re-elected NDP Premier Gary Doer that in the early 1980s, as president of the Manitoba Government Employees Association, "he had been courted as a potential candidate by all three parties." Aside from the issue of the provincial Tories sending entreaties to a union head to become a candidate for them, isn't there a huge problem that three different political parties would find the same person a suitable candidate? Sure, Doer had an exceptional resume by the time he sought elected office in 1986, but still, don't principles and worldviews matter at all?

Immigration, Birth Rates, the Price of Labour and Canada

An exceptional post by Jay Currie.

Staggering amounts of money

Some facts from an AP story on the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. In the illiterate parlance of CNN, here are some factoids:

Opening weekend gross of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: $112.5 million -- the fifth largest three-day opening ever -- which does not include $14 million from Thursday preview screenings. It also hauled in more than $200 million abroad (the rest of the world except Canada). That means, one weekend with total ticket sales of $332 million.

Opening weekend gross of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, last July: $135.6 million. It's total domestic take was $423 million and the original (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) grossed $305 million.

Opening weekend gross of Spider-Man 3 (two week's ago): $151.1 million -- the most ever. Domestically, he has made $303 million and total global sales in three weeks top $800 million.

Opening weekend gross of Shrek the Third (last week): $121.6 million. It holds the record opening weekend for an animated movie. It made $51 million this weekend, bringing its two-week total over $200 million.

I understand that the studio is not the only one making money: there are thousands of theatres showing it and they are employing many thousands more ticket salesman, popcorn pushers, ticket takers and janitors. But these are astronomical dollar amounts. One reason for the poorer showing of Pirates compared to the other two third installments released this month is the very fact that it is the third third installment of the month. All three cater to families and teens and they only have so many entertainment dollars. My guess is that unless word-of-mouth advertising is quite negative for Pirates, it will break $300 million in the next three-four weeks as it won't tail off as quickly as Spider-Man 3 did. Mom and dad and part-time working teenager will have to wait until the next paycheck.

Devaluing people with Down Syndrome

Renate Lindeman, a mother of two children with Down syndrome, and president of the Nova Scotia Down Syndrome Society, writes in the Halifax Herald how media portrayals of people with Down Syndrome (the Globe recently said of one that she was "doomed" from birth) reinforce negative attitudes to people with the genetic disorder. Lindeman says, "It is unthinkable any other group in Canada could have been singled out as being 'doomed from the womb' without causing a riot." Of course, that is only the half of it. Lindeman asks, "Has society really decided that lives with Down syndrome are not worth living?" and the answer is, of course, yes. Loudly and clearly society has said it will accept that people with Down Syndrome are not worthy of life.

Dr. John Shea writes at about the recent shift in policy by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (and their Canadian counterparts) to rountinely test for Down Syndrome in all pregnant women. He goes through the medical stuff (the inherent dangers of amniocenteses to the fetus and the (un)reliability of such diagnostic procedures), but the key fact is this: there is no pre-natal cure for Down Syndrome so the vast majority of "postitive" tests result in abortion. But abortion is not a cure.

This situation, surely, is based on widespread negative views of the quality of life people with Down Syndrome and the selfishness of parents who cannot be bothered with a child that is not "normal." As Shea concludes:

"To abort children, or to carry out diagnostic tests that are meant, or are likely to, lead to their abortion, just because they may be disabled or a burden to others, is to deny them the spiritual human dignity that is the basis of their human rights and the human rights of all."

Nathanael Blake wrote about the joy that his brother Zachary brings to his family and the value that is inherent in all people with Down Syndrome in the April issue of The Interim. Blake concludes:

"No one wants to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. Parents who are primarily concerned with wanting a baby will be dismayed that the child doesn’t fit their plan – their desire didn’t include disability. And so, they will kill their baby if they can, since it wasn’t what they ordered.

Alternately, there are parents who are willing to unconditionally welcome whatever child they have. They recognize that life cannot be completely controlled and refuse to attempt such by having their baby killed. They’re happy despite the difficulties of raising a disabled son or daughter. They delight in the wonder of each child.

It’s a matter of love. When Zachary was born, my family didn’t know of the joys he would bring, only the challenges. But we accepted him and have found that he provides us with mirth and pleasure in ways a more “normal” person couldn’t. He loves with an unabashed enthusiasm that brings joy to all who know him. So the question is: 'What kind of people would deprive the world of such a special person'?"

Queen doesn't think much of Blair

Because he wrecked the nation. At the very least, he demonstrated little respect for the country's institutions (from the House of Lords to fox hunting) and actively set about to undermine and even erase them. The Sunday Telegraph says so.

Saturday, May 26, 2007
One of the advantages of having a Conservative government

Is that unlike the Liberals who found non-problems that fit their favoured solutions (universal childcare, Kyoto), the Tories offer solutions to real problems. Case in point: a security plan for Canada's energy sector.

Double standards

The Lasso of Truth says of the case of a Saskatchewan woman who left her just-born child in a Wal-Mart toilet and whom will not be prosecuted because it "is not in the public interest":

"Had this been a man who pulled his son from the womb and summarily tossed him into a toilet, no interferometer would be capable of measuring the light-speed at which the full force of the law and public condemnation would come crashing down on him.

Apparently possession of a uterus is the ace card by which any manner of atrocity can be perpetrated with impunity."

At times like this I recall George F. Will's sardonic remark regarding the Melissa Drexler case: couldn't she have been charged with doing abortions without a medical license.

Friday, May 25, 2007
Fixing Germany

While governments do lots of things to hurt reduce competitiveness and stem entrepreneurship, the biggest, even more than high taxation, seems to be creation of rigid labour markets. Right-of-centre German Chancellor Angela Merkel is missing an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her leftish predecessor and pursue even modest labour regime reform. Add that to the coalition government's increased taxes and it is obvious that despite her calls for even greater free trade that Merkel is only granting lip service to economic freedom for Germans.

The only good recycling is blogging

So I'll link to a pair of very good posts by Tim Worstall on recycling 'cuz he says it so much better than I can. Read 'em here and here. Worstall says that recycling is "based upon the idea that everything is valuable, everything is worth conserving, except your time." Which, as the first link alludes to, is not even on the radar screen of the "f***wits" who order us to recycle.

Thursday, May 24, 2007
Shanghai v. horns

Reuters reports that automobile, moped and bicycle drivers in Shanghai who are deemed to have hit their horn without sufficient reason will face a fine of 200 yuan ($26). Reuters reports that a similar measure implemented in Beijing has not reduced horn use. I'm not sure how the police will determine what is a justifiable reason to toot a horn and what is not a good enough reason. It all seems part of a city effort to civilize Shanghai's streets. Reuters reports: "In January, the local government flagged levying fines on locals caught mouthing obscenities, days after announcing it would equip 45,000 taxis with spit-sacks to curb drivers' habits of winding down their windows and spitting into the road."

It's a good thing the U.S. signed onto Kyoto

Oh yeah. But they did reduce their CO2 emissions by 1.3% despite the fact the economy grew 3.3%. The Washington Post has the story.

Sex changes only go one way

Stephen Pollard wonders: "Why is it always - at least it seems that way - male to female sex changes, and never female to male?" Pollard's thought was triggered by this news story about England's first transgender mayor, Jenny Bailey, who has said: "People can take me as a role model if they want." Pollard's reply: "Actually, I'll pass on that offer."

Complete Great Global Warming Swindle is now online

All 1 hr, 15 minutes of the documentary is online.

The 't' in Toronto stands for taxation

Ontario division of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has come up with a brief on what Torontnians could be paying in new taxes if Mayor McCheese gets his way. According to CTF's Kevin Gaudet, the average Toronto household could pay $1,182 more in municipal taxes if city council approves the eight new taxes proposed in its "Discussion Paper of Public Policy Revenue Tools." Here's the kick in the head for T'ronto taxpayers: the total new taxes would raise an estimated $1.115 billion in new revenue but the "new tax bureaucracy may cost $262 million (23%) to administer."

Pro-lifers v. Dobson

The Washington Times reports that a bunch of pro-lifers* have paid for an ad attacking Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Dobson praised a recent US Supreme Court decision upholding a partial-birth abortion ban passed by Congress in 2003. They say Dobson has misrepresented the ruling by claiming it will save lives. The truth is we don't know the effect, if any, on reducing abortions but it is probable that indeed there will be fewer of them: partial birth abortions are rare (although not as rare as abortion advocates claimed) with about 3000 committed each year and many of the women who have them will still be able to obtain an abortion through another procedure. But it seems likely that, if as some abortion advocates claim, the "only reason" a woman would have a partial-birth abortion (or intact dilation and evacuation as it is known in the medical profession) is because it is less risky under certain circumstances, that some women might eschew the riskier procedure.

Regardless of its effect on the number of abortions, the decision is worth celebrating for two other very similar but distinguishable reasons. First, as the New York Sun editorialized, the decision made it clear that Congress may regulate abortion; it is a rare example of judicial deference to the judgement of Congress on the issue. The second reason is that indeed there can be limitations on abortion; for those patient enough to plot out an incremental strategy, there is a way to restrict if not outright ban abortion. Legally and politically, this is a step in the right direction. If Dobson was too enthusiastic regarding the case at hand, it is because he sees the larger picture and was willing to celebrate a small victorious early battle in a long, long war to restore legal protection to the unborn.

* The letter was signed by Brian Rohrbough, president of Colorado Right to Life; Rev. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, Judie Brown, president of American Life League, and Bob Enyart, pastor of Denver Bible Church. At least three and maybe four of these individuals are Catholic, raising other concerns about the criticism of Dr. Dobson.

Largest donation Catholic archdiocese of New York has ever received is from atheist

Bloomberg reports:

"Philanthropist and retired hedge-fund manager Robert W. Wilson said he is giving $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York to fund a scholarship program for needy inner-city students attending Roman Catholic schools.

Wilson, 80, said in a phone interview today that although he is an atheist, he has no problem donating money to a fund linked to Catholic schools.

'Let's face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,' Wilson said. 'Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent. Keep in mind, I'm helping to pay tuition. The money isn't going directly to the schools.'

Wilson's donation is the largest the archdiocese has ever received. The money will be used to fund the Cardinal's Scholarship Program, which was started in 2005 to give disadvantaged students attending the archdiocese's inner-city schools partial or full tuition grants, Jacqueline LoFaro, the archdiocese's associate superintendent of schools, said in a phone interview today."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Not reassuring

New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi recently bravely said in an interview with USA Today that Major League Baseball should apologize for turning a blind eye to widespread steroid use. Many people assume that Giambi was among the users, an allegation apparently strengthened by Giambi's use of the word "we" in the USA Today interview although obviously he was referring to the sport, not the users themselves. So the commissioner's office called Giambi in for an official chit chat about the interview today, the same day, the Associated Press reports, that the Daily News breaks a story alleging Giambi has failed an amphetamines test in the past year. Giambi was asked about the new report by the media but not, the AP reports, by MLB although first failed amphetamines tests are dealt with privately and there is no punishment handed out so we don't really know. Anyway, when he was asked about the Daily News story when he returned to Yankee Stadium, Giambi answered: "I can't give you an accurate explanation." He should have talked to his lawyer before ever answering a question and if he did and that was the advice his lawyer gave him (instead of, say, "no comment") it is time for the former MVP to hire a new lawyer.

Delong doesn't understand libertarianism

I was diasspointed by a review in the current issue of Democracy Journal (not the Journal of Democracy), J. Bradford Delong's review of Milton Friedman: A Biography by Lanny Ebenstein (free registration required). The review is an example of a fairly bright guy offering a fairly standard synopsis of a book about and life of Friedman but when it gets to the analytical parts, comes up quite short. Delong implies Friedman was a hypocrite because unlike the generation of libertarians who followed him, Friedman didn't completely hate the state and saw some limited role for it such as enforcing contracts and protecting private property rights. As far as I know, most libertarians today hold this same view although a few on the fringe might theorize about how wonderful it would be to have mutually agreed upon rules to uphold contracts and protect property in the absence of the state. Delong does not explore the beliefs of actual, real libertarians but rather a caricature of them. Libertarians who want to "eliminate government completely" are, in fact, anarchists, a completely different political species. When Delong says, "To be sure, Friedman always said that he favored a minimalist government, a 'night watchman' state only -– but a government nonetheless," the reviewer seems to think he has caught Friedman in an act of unforgivable libertarian hypocrisy. But that distinction -- between no state and the minimal state -- seems to be the defining difference between libertarians and anarchists. (The distinction between a minimal state and a limited state (partially) defines the difference between libertarians and conservatives.) After this point in the review, Delong descends into such silliness it almost impossible to read; further comment on it is impossible because you can't blog the rolling of one's eyes.

Bolton at Commentary

Here are a series of links to highlights of John Bolton's speech at the annual Norman Podhoretz Lecture. Topics covered include regime change, preventative action, Iran, North Korea, and the general outlook.

Environmentalism is the new fascism

The Times of London reports:

"In a policy document entitled Waste Strategy for England 2007, David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, will disclose proposals to allow local councils to implement a 'pay-as-you-throw' scheme using wheelie bins fitted with electronic sensors. He will also propose measures to cut down on junk mail and supermarket plastic bags, The Times has learnt.

The 'chip and bin' and other measures are part of a new plan to reduce household and commercial waste over the next 20 years."

The extraordinary measures in which Big Brother will ensure that the public will comply with environmental regulations are already well ensconced:

"[F]igures published by the Conservatives yesterday after a freedom of information request show that one in seven town halls already have bins fitted with microchips, affecting up to four million households.

Eric Pickles, the Tory local government spokesman, said: 'I am concerned that introducing bin taxes would increase fly-tipping and harm the local environment. But our research suggests that chips are quietly being fitted in bins across the country to spy on families without their knowledge'."

Chirac corruption?

The Daily Telegraph reports:

"French investigating magistrates have acquired 'explosive' documents suggesting that 'large sums of money' were funnelled into a secret Japanese bank account in the name of Jacques Chirac, it was claimed yesterday ...

The existence of such an account, into which £30 million had been paid over a number of years, was first mooted last May by Gen Rondot during questioning over a separate spy scandal ...

'Once the documents are verified, there is sufficient material to open a new investigation into abuse of trust and corruption,' a judge told Le Canard."

Although the source of the story is the French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné.

Mark Steyn on Hollywood

A critique in 24 words, from The Corner:

"And at the risk of generalizing, isn’t that the big problem with Hollywood today? That it’s got better and better at saying nothing?"

The game

AC Milan exacted revenge for 2005 by winning the European League Championship, defeating Liverpool 2-1. While not an extraordinary game, the goals were all quality goals (although the first goal on the free kick by Andrea Pirlo might be considered a fluke, Filippo Inzaghi seemed to intentionally redirect the ball for the goal) and both teams took chances and constantly tried to move the ball forward. It was at times sloppy, there was some unnecessary thuggishness, but overall both teams went all out to win. That is about all fans can ask for. It was aggressive soccer played up and down the pitch.

I think the difference between the winners and losers was Inzaghi's play and the sterling defense of Milan. Liverpool plays the off-side trap a lot and it has worked very well for them during the course of the European competition but Inzaghi is a master of breaking away from the defense and seldom gets caught off-side. He is quick and gets into position to score a lot, especially considering he is 33. Not only did he score a pair of goals but he created or chased other opportunities. Other than one defiant but ultimately doomed run of about 50 yards, it appeared that Kaka was a non-factor; but that is not true. He set up Inzaghi's second goal and it seemed that Milan had several scoring opportunities simply because the Liverpool defense was pre-occupied with Kaka. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is smart enough to know to change the game plan so he made Kaka the provider rather than the striker, a strategy that obviously paid dividends.

I question Reds manager Rafa Benitez not using Peter Crouch until the 77th minute. Crouch was tied for second in European League scoring with six so it didn't make sense to 1) not start him and 2) having not started him, waiting so long to play him. Crouch might have been able to disable the Rosseneri defense which, from what I recall, only made two errors, both resulting in shots that did not find the net. It might have made a difference and Benitez's judgement should be the source of some derision in the British press.

And now the long summer. Fortunately, there is baseball.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Giuliani's incoherent abortion position

In the Washington Post, Michael Gerson dissects Rudy Giuliani's "personally opposed but..." position on abortion:

"There is, however, a question that comes before politics: Does Giuliani's position on abortion actually make sense?

In early debates and statements, he has set out his views on this topic with all the order and symmetry of a freeway pileup. His argument comes down to this: "I hate abortion," which is "morally wrong." But "people ultimately have to make that choice. If a woman chooses that, that's her choice, not mine. That's her morality, not mine."

This is a variant of the position developed by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1985. In this view, the Catholic Church's belief in the immorality of abortion is correct, in the same sense that its belief in the Immaculate Conception is correct. Both beliefs are religious, private and should not be enforced by government.

But the question naturally arises: Why does Giuliani "hate" abortion? No one feels moral outrage about an appendectomy. Clearly he is implying his support for the Catholic belief that an innocent life is being taken. And here the problems begin.

How can the violation of a fundamental human right be viewed as a private matter? Not everything that is viewed as immoral should be illegal; there are no compelling public reasons to restrict adultery, for example, or to outlaw sodomy. But when morality demands respect for the rights of a human being, those protections become a matter of social justice, not just personal or religious preference...

Giuliani's doctrine of individual sovereignty goes much further than did Douglas, logically preventing even states from restricting abortion. And this raises a question about Giuliani's view of the law itself: Can it be a right to violate the basic rights of others? Given American opinion, progress toward the protection of unborn life is likely to be incremental and partial. It would be foolish to prosecute women who have abortions -- and the law struck down in Roe v. Wade did nothing of the kind. But recognizing these limits and realities is different from asserting that the law should have nothing to do with the defense of the weak.

A number of pro-choice positions can be held consistently. It is possible to believe that human worth develops gradually and that the early fetus is merely a clump of cells. It is possible to accept professor Peter Singer's teaching that human worth arrives only with self-conscious rationality, opening up disturbing new possibilities of infanticide.

But Giuliani has chosen an option that is not an option -- a belief that unborn life deserves our sympathy but does not deserve rights or justice. This view is likely to dog him in the primary process, not only because it is pro-choice but because it is incoherent."

European League Championship

I am not surprised that AC Milan is in the finals. Despite the scandal-plagued beginnings to the current campaign, they are still a great team that usually controls the pace so well it appears that the opposing side won't score lest Milan lets them. Witness their last European League game against Manchester United (3-nil for the Italian squad). The Times of London has superb and extensive coverage of the European League Championship finals that even casual fans might benefit from reading.

I'm predicting a wide-open game tomorrow that Milan wins 3-2. The best player throughout the Championship and the hottest player on the continent in recent months is the Rossoneri's Kaka. Expect him to go out and prove that he belongs to the elite class of players alongside the likes of Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho. Like Henry and Ronaldinho, Kaka has the ability to carry a team on his shoulders. As Henry Winter says in the Daily Telegraph, all Liverpool needs to do to win is shut down Kaka. Easier said than done but at least that will be the game plan. But by trying to close down the space around Kaka, the Reds might allow three other dangerous Rossoneri through to goal: forwards Filippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino or midfielder Clarence Seedorf. Any of those three are threats to put the ball in the goal if Liverpool pays disproportionate attention to Kaka.

Not that Liverpool is any slouch. They have been over-shadowed by Chelsea and Man U in the Premiership this season but the Reds are truly one of Europe's elite teams, making the European League finals for the second time in three years. They also boast some superstars of their own: centre-midfielder Steven Gerrard and fowards Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt. I also think that Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano, purchased from West Ham United mid-season is one of the most under-rated footballers in Europe; he makes things happen but often flies under the radar. The team also has the advantage in goal. Pepe Reina is a consumate shot-stopper who has played well all year for the Reds. Brazilian goaltender Dida has been inconsistent and has made numerous errors in goal, not all of which resulted in goals but which nonetheless betray the fact that Dida is well past his prime. Milan's defense will have to play better than it has most of the season (older, slower-footed players have allowed too many scoring opportunities) or Dida could cost the Italian side the Championship.

Milan is out to exact some revenge in this rematch of the 2005 European League Championship after the team blew a 3-0 lead and lost to Liverpool in a shoot-out. That was partly the result of Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti resting his stars in the second half, a decision that proved remarkably bone-headed and won't be repeated. I hope to not seem a sore loser, but another reason for Milan's improbable defeat in 2005 was that Reds goaltender Jerzy Dudek blatantly cheated in the shoot-out when he thrice moved forward before the shooter began his shoot. Again this is not sour grapes but something that New York Sun soccer writer Paul Gardner reminded readers of today.

I hope and expect Milan to win. But what I prefer to see rather than 'my' team victorious is a well-played match. Soccer is the beautiful game and teams of this calibre should play exciting soccer, on par with the finals of the World Cup (if not better). I hope that it does not resemble the dreary English FA Cup final this past weekend when Chelsea edged Manchester United with the game's only goal in the final minutes of extra time. There are way too many good players and Man U plays much too exciting soccer to play goal-less soccer for nearly 120 minutes but both teams played it relatively safe. With the much larger stakes of the European League, Liverpool or Milan might be tempted to do the same (play it safe) -- as Milan did in the second half of the match in 2005. But neither team seems likely to set out to play such a match and neither team will repeat Ancelotti's mistake from two years ago. Furthermore, Milan has much to prove to fans; a European victory would go far to erase memories of the 2006 match-fixing scandal -- for both Milan and Italian soccer.

Nova Scotia gas regulation: a failure by the government's own standard

Writing in the Halifax Herald, acting Atlantic Institute for Market Studies president Charles Cirtwill says it is time to scrap gasoline price regulation. Cirtwell lexamines the rational(s) for the policy in the first place and compares them to the results as enlisted by a recent government report on price regulation:

"The recent review of gas regulation does prove that the number of changes was cut roughly in half. So, while we did not get the guaranteed once-every-two-weeks change that everybody thought we had been promised, we did get fewer changes. However, all that is now out the window. That same review recommended we move to weekly adjustments. So we have effectively doubled the number of changes we can expect going forward. Now, I know I was taught math in Nova Scotia’s public schools, but I am still confident that if you divide something by two and then multiply it by two, you have the same number you started with. So much for improved price stability.

Of course, the reason for this change was to try to respond to an unintended consequence of controlling the number of price adjustments. The recent review found that by reducing the number of times prices change, we actually made the price fluctuations bigger. We may have fewer changes, but they have a far more significant immediate impact. Apparently, to soften that pain, we need to increase the number of price adjustments. The price jump of 7.2 cents last week gives us an early indication of how successful this new strategy is likely to be.

OK, but what about those independent rural retailers? After all, the government was very forthcoming that price regulation really was not about consumers at all, but was about saving rural independent retailers.

On a net basis, the review report tells us that we have not really changed the number of stations in the province under gas regulation. But that doesn’t tell us anything about rural independents. The newly released list of closures and openings does. Of the eight stations the government identifies as having closed since regulation came into effect, all of them were rural retailers and it appears that all of them were independents. Of the 11 that have opened, five are in Halifax, three are part of the Sobeys chain and another is a Loblaws station. Since the province can’t supply breakdowns of the distribution of closures and openings pre-regulation, we don’t know whether this trend is better or worse. What we do know is this: Rural independents are closing, urban chain stores are opening.

So, prices are up, the number of price changes will now go back to pre-regulation levels, and the stations we wanted to save are dying anyway. Sounds like a resounding failure to me. So, why are we still hanging in there with regulated gas prices?"

2 for 1

In one post Bob Tarantino points out the deficiences of the Toronto Star's Haroon Siddiqui's journalism and questions the judgement of retiring Ontario Supreme Court Justice Roy McMurtry. Tarantino concludes with this about McMurtry's judicial philosophy:

"The interview is most helpful, though: now we know that the Chief Justice of Ontario thinks the function of judicial decision-making is to "send messages", and it just so happens that the messages to be sent correspond precisely to his own political preferences."

Monday, May 21, 2007

There is a correction to my weekend list of favourite TV characters. I had inadvertently put Pinky instead of Brain at #5. My son pointed out the error.

A fitting petition for Victoria Day

Not big on petitions but this one is worthwhile. From the Monarchist:

"We, the undersigned veterans, citizens and residents of Canada, and loyal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, call upon Parliament to take whatever action is necessary to officially resume, restore and reinstate usage of such Royal designations in time for the 2010 centennial celebrations of the Canadian navy, such that the Canadian navy is styled or reincorporated as the Royal Canadian Navy and its abbreviated expression RCN, and the Canadian air force is styled or reincorporated as the Royal Canadian Air Force and its abbreviated expression RCAF, and such styling or reincorporation is made retroactive to February 1, 1968."

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings explains why this is a good petition:

"The consolidation of our armed forces under Paul Hellyer and Lester Pearson was an important symbolic moment in the birth of what many Canadian conservatives and libertarians today call Trudeaupia. While the consolidation itself was sold as an efficiency effort, the removal of the historic designations of Navy and Air Force, as well as the disbanding of many of Canada's legendary regiments, was a deliberate act of historical vandalism.

The intent was not merely to reduce the prominence of the monarchy in day to day life, a sub-theme of the Pearson-Trudeau years, but to re-invent Canada in an ahistorical fashion. While French Canadian traditions and values were upheld as authentically Canadian, British Canadian values were gradually de-legitimized. This was more than simply the tradition Anglo-French ethnic rivalry playing itself out. it was from the British tradition that Canada acquired its beliefs in the rule of law, the parliamentary system and market economics. The attack on British Canada was an attack on freedom as well. It is our hope, here at GCH, that the re-instatement of these historic, and battle-worn designations, will be a symbolic act in the regeneration of modern Canada in the best traditions of the old pre-1967 Canada."

Even if you are not a fan of the monarchy, you can at least express your opposition to Trudeaupia.

The importance of productivity

The word often comes up in public policy circles and it is extremely important but the public doesn't seem to care much about the issue. The Calgary Herald editorial explains why we all should: self-interest. The editorial begins:

"Give someone a shovel, and he can dig a hole. Give him a backhoe, and he can dig a big hole, more quickly.

That's what capital does for productivity. There is also something in it for the worker, too. The more he gets done, the more his employer can afford to pay him."

The rest of the editorial examines a C.D. Howe Institute study (pdf) on investing in productivity. But again the first advice governments should follow is do no harm:

"But, when the taxes and regulations a government imposes make it hard to buy the backhoe, competitiveness of the company is diminished, as is the income of the the worker doing the job."

Canada United

Manchester United's popularity in Canada will almost certainly grow -- as will the likelihood that it will repeat as Premier League champs -- with the signing of Bayern Munich infielder Owen Hargreaves. The team no doubt is attempting to strenghten its side to do better in European competition; this year it made it to the final four -- one of three English clubs to do so. The British press expects there to be a few departures (including Argentine left back Gabriel Heinze) and money shelled out for their replacements.

The London Times reports that Man U's most serious threat, Chelsea, will initially focus on securing several of their stars (defender John Terry, midfielder Frank Lampard and midfielder/attacker Arjen Robben) in long-term deals. They have already signed defender Ricardo Carvalho to a five-year deal. After that they seem to covet Blackburn Rovers's South African foward Benni McCarthy (18 goals in 36 games), who played under Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho at FC Porto. He is expected to cost at least 10 million pounds -- more than five times what Blackburn paid a year ago for him.

An increasingly popular meme

Fed up conservatives. Many of us are fed up but the media's obsession with the issue is reflective of the fact that journalists generally only care what conservatives are saying when they are at each other's throats.

Still the frustration is very real. Meet with a group of conservatives and there is a standard list of complaints. The CanWest story has a short list of conservative complaints about the Conservative [sic] government:

"It began with Mr. Harper's recruitment of Liberal David Emerson for the cabinet and the appointment of his campaign co-chairman, Michael Fortier, to the unelected Senate and his cabinet. It grew with the Quebecois nation motion, the Tory flip-flop on income-trust taxation, and a federal budget and environmental plan that many saw as more liberal than conservative."

But there is more: the gun registry is still in place, the active recruitment of homosexual candidates in B.C., the specifics of the budget (gobs on new spending with no broad-based tax relief), a failure to tackle increasingly disruptive Indian activism, the centralization of power within the PMO including the muzzling of MPs, etc...

World Bank blues

Christopher B. Burnham, former under secretary general for management of the United Nations from 2005 to 2006, writes in the New York Times:

"THE resignation of Paul D. Wolfowitz last week as president of the World Bank may have solved one problem, but it’s possible that it has created another.

When Mr. Wolfowitz took over the bank in 2005, he preached the anti-corruption gospel with a zeal that alarmed many career bank staff members and more than a few of its 185 member countries. With his departure, it is eminently possible that his laser-like focus on corruption will go with him.

In its first 50 years, the bank lent hundreds of billions of dollars to countries without ever publicly conceding or addressing the reality that some of the money ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials and companies."

It was not Wolfowitz but his predecessor James Wolfensohn who began the attack on corruption (quick aside: the next World Bank president's last name needs to begin with "Wolf"), but he did bring renewed zeal to the task. He gave WB investigators greater powers and resources. Burnham is correct to say that "the goal of trying to make sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go is the right and ethical one." In fact, it seems absurd that this would even be controversial. As Burnham notes, the credibility of the World Bank and its lending is vital for continued contributions from donor nations. Yet, it remains a distinct possibility that the WB bureaucracy and many of the European donors to the WB will not be happy with this focus. They were victorious in bringing down Wolfowitz (and for good reason) but they must not be victorious in putting corruption on the back burner.

Weekend list

12 favourite television characters

12. Al Giardello (Homicide)
11. Stewie Griffin (Family Guy)
10. John Munch (Homicide, Law and Order: SVU)
9. Alexis Carrington Colby (Dynasty)
8. Ryan O'Reily (Oz)
7. Adam Schiff (Law and Order)
6. Hoss Cartwright (Bonanza)
5. Brain (Pinky and the Brain, Anamaniacs)
4. Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
3. J.R. Ewing (Dallas)
2. Frank Pembleton (Homicide)
1. Archie Bunker (All in the Family, Archie Bunker's Place)

UPDATE: There is a correction to this list. I had inadvertently put Pinky instead of Brain at #5. My son pointed out the error.

Sunday, May 20, 2007
A song doesn't feed a starving child

The Sun reports that The Who lead singer Roger Daltry calls Al Gore's climate change concerts useless and then turns his criticism toward Bob Geldof and Live 8 (of which he was part): "What did we really achieve at Live 8? We got loads of platitudes and no action. Who were we kidding there?" Actually, quite a few people: the millions who watched the concerts and thought they made the world a better place after a day of listening to music, the politicians who BSed (er, promised) to cancel developing world debt after the concerts aired, and the artists themselves who think that by singing two or three songs they can make the world a better place.


Send them to paul_tuns[AT]

Something on Sarkozy

I haven't yet noted the French presidential victory of Nicolas Sarkozy a few weeks ago so here's something.

Washington Post columnist George F. Will looks at the economic challenges faced by France and the need for Nicolas Sarkozy to not merely implement reforms but to change the country's mindset about work, welfare and economic security. I recall the media coverage of how Jacques Chirac was going to change France, too. The difference, however, is that Sarkozy has had a little bit of history advocating limited free enterprise (although he he wants to protect major French enterprises from globalization) and is not usually openly hostile to America. This may or may not be signs; I just won't hold me breath waiting to see whether they are or not. I won't be a bit surprised if he ends up being the next six-year term of Chirac. But then again, I won't be surprised if he is significantly better.

The first clear signal of what Sarkozy will be will come when a half-million or more French 'workers' take to the streets to protest whatever reform is first proposed. If Sarkozy backs down, we have Chirac's third term. If he doesn't, there is hope that France will begin to address the issues George Will mentions in his column.

Canadians support Indian militancy?

I read the Toronto Star headline ("Why Canadians side with militant Indians") on a Richard Day column and thought it might be over-stating the author's case, but no, it wasn't. Day, a sociology professor at Queens, twice says "many people" from settler society (non-indigenous Canadians) support Indian activism. In the middle of his column he asks "Why are so many people, all over the country, apparently giving up on due process and the rule of law?" and in the next paragraph Day wonders, "why are so many members of the settler society ... adding their voices and bodies to this tide of militancy?" Perhaps those with whom Day shares the faculty lounge support the militancy and the average Toronto Star reader within the 416, but amongst Canadians elsewhere, there is a growing impatience with the militant tactics of Indian radicals.

One other point: In tone and description of the activism, Day (and one could argue the Star) endorses sabotage against trains in order to force the government's hands on this file.

Canadians want to do something about Darfur

Make that Canadians say they want to do something about Darfur. The Ottawa Citizen reported yesterday:

"Two-thirds of Canadians want the government to take the lead on the international stage to end the four years of carnage in Darfur, says a new poll.

A slim majority -- 52 per cent -- also want Canada to contribute troops to a United Nations peacekeeping force to stop the "genocide," says the Pollara survey for the Toronto-based Mosaic Institute, provided exclusively to the Citizen."

Until, that is, troops are in Sudan. I think it is worth sending troops in and I also think it is worth the price of Canadian blood to end the genocide. But I doubt support for such a peace-making mission would disappear shortly after the first body bag returned from Sudan.

The kettle calls the pot black

From the Associated Press:

"Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter says President George W. Bush's administration is 'the worst in history' in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy."

The real Blair legacy

Conservatives on this side of the pond have generally admired Tony Blair; at NRO, Jay Nordlinger once explained that as a American it matters little what Blair does domestically as long as he was a reliable ally in the war on terror. I don't think that's right; if domestic policies don't matter could Nordlinger support Cuba or Red China as allies in the war on terror despite their human rights abuses? I don't think so. For me there are three legacies for Blair:

1) If the peace in Northern Ireland holds, that will be a great thing.

2) The (further) corruption of politics by placing greater emphasis on style than substance; he wasn't the first but he perfected it.

3) The near complete assault on liberty and tradition. As I have said often, you don't get to complain that foreign terrorists want to destroy your way of life when you are a domestic terrorist doing the exact damn thing (banning fox-hunting, for example).

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, says he is ashamed that so many "irrational, broad and authoritarian laws" were enacted over Blair's tenure: limits on free speech, free association, free exercise of religion, curtailing of privacy rights. He has practised class warfare and declared war on tradition, from the House of Lords to the presumption of innocence. Blair has wrecked England so it matters not what he does on the foreign policy front; as long as Blair and his ilk are around, England has nothing to fear from jihadists. Ideas can be much more dangerous than bombs.

British Tories set out to level all that is good

Chris Woodhead writes in the Sunday Times that the UK Conservatives plans to do away with the country's few grammar schools threaten social mobility. (The Sunday Telegraph has an interview with the Tories's education critic David Willets here.) Willets was once a supporter of selective education but under the Tory Blairite leader David Cameron gesture, gimmick and posture is all that matters so the perception that grammar schools have become too middle class. Woodhead writes:

"The killer fact for Willetts is that only 2% of pupils at grammars claim free school meals. Grammar schools, he concludes, have become middle-class institutions and, therefore, a bad thing. What matters in David Cameron’s desperate drive to convince the electorate that his party has discovered its social conscience is the underclass. You pay your taxes and worry about your children’s future? Hard luck. It is the 2% who claim free school meals that matter to Cameron’s Conservatives.

Willetts would have done well to ask himself why so few grammar school pupils claim free school meals. It is not after all a difficult question. Grammar schools are hugely oversubscribed. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often attend underperforming primary schools. They find it difficult to compete with middle-class children who have, more often than not, benefited from a challenging intellectual environment."

The solution would seem simple: more grammar schools. Again, Woodhead:

"Create more grammar schools so more children have an opportunity to benefit from the education they offer. Do more to raise levels of expectation and standards of education in our bog-standard inner-city primary schools. Encourage grammar schools to identify and support able children in poorly performing primary schools. Level the playing field."

But the compassionate conservatism of David Cameron does not require solutions to problems, only the party appear willing to something, anything, about the problem. And if there is a problem with grammar schools, to the mind of Cameron that cannot understand subtlety and nuance, the problem is grammar schools. So to get the underclass' votes, he is willing to screw over the underclass. Such is politics in Tony Blair's England; it is a shame that the Tories play along.

Belinda's and Shelley's ordeal

Shelley Page's longish bit in the Ottawa Citizen is ostensibly about Belinda Stronach as she exits the federal stage but the first third is all about the article's author and most of the final third is about women (politicians and journalists) in general -- Blahlinda was called bitch and the women in the press corps were called incompetent by Norman Spector. Terrible journalism that once again allows Stronach to use the fact that she is a woman to deflect all criticism. However, I was amused by the teaser at the beginning: "As she exits the House of Commons, Belinda Stronach talks bluntly to Shelley Page about life, legacy and three-and-a-half long years in politics." Considering Stronach's personal history -- uncompleted university, two divorces, Magna exec then jumping into politics only to return to Magna, party hopping, etc... -- three and a half years is a long time for Blahlinda.

Hoping that the Catholic bishop acts Catholicly

David Warren on Terrence Thomas Prendergast, the new archbishop of Ottawa:

"It will be the solemn duty of Ottawa's new archbishop, from his particular station at the heart of our nation's political life, to stand up to that kind of cant -- not only for Catholics, but for all kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, different faiths, different cultures, different traditions. For we share a vital interest in defeating moral, intellectual, and spiritual depravity."

Saturday, May 19, 2007
April Interim online

It is available here and there is a special section on the Charter or Rights and Freedoms here.

Our coverage of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Charter was less laudatory than that which you would have found in most of the media. Topics and authors included: Charter of Rights is a national calamity by Rory Leishman; Canada’s Charter and civil religion by John von Heyking; Religious beliefs permitted, religious actions not so much by Ian Hunter; The Charter and gay rights by Paul Tuns; Abortion and the Charter of Rights by C. Gwendolyn Landolt; The Charter and free speech by Gerry Nicholls. We ran a rare front-page editorial, also on the Charter. Here's the conclusion:

"But, in the hands of an acquiescent executive, a pusillanimous Parliament and an overweening judiciary, the document has become a vehicle for radical social change, a weapon against the very history it pretends to embody. What is needed, then, is a renewed awareness that human rights are not a concession from the state – much less the decree of a judge – but rather, a gift from God, whose supremacy is invoked in the preamble of the Charter.

If the Charter is, as Justice Lamer put it, a “living tree,” Canadians have a right to ask what kind of fruit the Charter has yielded. The owner of the vineyard in St. Luke’s Gospel has a very clear idea of what ought to be done with a tree that bears no good fruit: “Cut it down. Why does it even use up the ground?” But, like the steward of the vineyard, we are hopeful that, given time, the Charter will indeed bear the kind of fruit Canadians can celebrate and respect: “Let it alone, sir, for this year, too” (Lk. 13:7-8).

Until then, Parliament should not neglect its responsibility to prune the overgrown influence of the document. After all, such action is prescribed by the Charter itself."

Two other articles worth bringing to your attention: The truth about deadbeat dads and The Other Side of Marshall McLuhan.

Friday, May 18, 2007
Another reason not to read Time

Richard Corliss has a list of the top 25 movie villians. Many at the bottom (20-25) deserve to be in the top five and Corliss has Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine from the first three (or is it the last three?) Star Wars films and The Return of the Jedi as number one but there is no Darth Vader. Corliss says: "Plenty of villains to choose from in the Star Wars sestet, but I'll take Palpatine, who represents political and martial power at its most toxic." What a moron. Darth Vader is probably the most iconic figure in Star Wars and the most recognizable villian in movie history. To pick Palpatine over Darth Vader is absurd but all so Time. Hannibal Lector as number 2 makes sense but putting Ving Rhames as Marsellus Wallace (Pulp Fiction) at number 3 and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (from whatever lame Batman she was part of) at number 6 is at best eccentric but probably a sign of something much worse. James Cagney as Cody Jarrett in White Heat, Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz were all superior villians. So was the shark from Jaws. Heck, I would put Greedo from Star Wars ahead of Pfeiffer.

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Sobering thoughts on Sobering Thoughts

Apparently today was sex day at Sobering Thoughts. There are three possible explanations: 1) I am a pervert, 2) the news is becoming ever more perverted, or 3) I am just trying to increase the number of hits on my blog. Apologies to those who came for Jenna Jameson under false pretenses. If you click on the link provided, there are some pics of a scantily clad -- but nonetheless clad -- porn star for you. Tommorow I will return to less carnal matters such as toll roads or immigration reform.

Homosexual teens having kids to prove they are not gay or for 100 other reasons

The Globe and Mail has a strange story on the lengths that gays and lesbians will go to in order to prove that they are not gay or lesbian. Earlier this week they reported on a BC study that found gay and lesbian teens in that province are three times more likely to be "involved" in a pregnancy than are their heterosexual peers. Today the Globe reports:

"While some organizations that advocate on behalf of this community expressed outright surprise at the survey results, others have theories.

Some ascribe the elevated pregnancy rate to the lack of sex education aimed at gays and lesbians in Canadian high schools and the risky behaviour that can result. 'It's an experimenting phase for gay and lesbian youth,' Ms. Miller says of teenagers questioning their sexuality. 'There is a lot more risky behaviour'."

Not to be overly indelicate, but what is the riskier behaviour: homosexual (anal) sex or heterosexual sex that results in pregnancy?

And the article continues:

"Many of them undergo so much pressure to fit in with their heterosexual friends and family that they feel pregnancy is the only way to prove how straight they are."

Even in the age of Ellen Degeneres and Will and Grace?


"'Kids are trying to suppress feelings toward the same sex, so they act out,' says Cherie McCleod of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Ottawa. 'With boys, they try to prove their manhood by having sex with girls'."

Or perhaps they aren't really gay.


"Others just don't clue in to the dangers of unprotected sex. Most sex-education classes focus on heterosexuals, and the curriculum can ring hollow."

The hetero-centric sex-ed classes don't speak to them so these "gay" students are partaking in heterosexual sex where apparently they have never been taught to use a condom, which is what we have been told is all we need to know to avoid pregnancy. In other words, after being taught to use a condom to avoid pregnancy and disease they don't know to use a condom to avoid pregnancy and disease.

Lauren Goldman, an "educator" with Options for Sexual Health in Vancouver who says she deals with many pregnant teens who identify themselves as queer tells the paper:

"Other times they have been attracted to members of their own sex their entire lives and they don't consider the consequences of having sex with the opposite sex."

How stupid are gay teens? Does homosexuality immunize them from procreation? (Well, yes it does, when it is kept within the family, so to speak.)

Another reason for homosexuals having kids: homelessness. It appears that a disproportionate number of street kids call themselves gay. It isn't fully explained by the big brains the Globe and Mail interview, but the only logical conclusion is that these street kids are misidentifying themselves. At the very least they are bisexual, not homosexual.

Or maybe its something in the BC water. As the Globe and Mail concludes its befuddling article:

"Meanwhile, many who deal with gay, lesbian and bisexual teens were surprised by the study findings.

'It's almost non-existent [among our group],' said Clare Nobbs, co-ordinator of community programs at Supporting Our Youth in Toronto. 'We have 250 to 300 youths in our programs at any one time. I can't think of a single teen pregnancy'."

After reading that article I'm as confused as many of those gay teen parents.

This punishment blows

The latest example that perverts are running the asylum comes from Quebec, as reported by the Canadian Press:

"A Montreal-area school board is defending one of its principals who asked four elementary school students to each write a 10-line essay about fellatio as punishment for taunting a fellow student about the same topic."

At first I was offended by requiring Grade 4 students to write about oral sex but then I reconsidered why this punishment was offensive: a ten-line essay is not a sufficient punishment for bullying.

Will versus those gassy Democrats

George F. Will's whole Washington Post column on gas prices and Congressional Democrats complaining about them is worth reading. But I want to highlight the notion of energy independence and Democratic hypocrisy:

"As Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute notes, there is no yearning for national self-sufficiency concerning other essential goods, such as food, automobiles, airplanes or medicines. Are Democrats worried about security of oil supplies? In some ways, Hayward says, America's energy supply is more secure than it was in the 1970s, partly because "since 1975, energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product has fallen 48 percent." Furthermore, "oil represents a shrinking share of total U.S. energy consumption -- from 44 percent in 1970 to 40 percent in 2005." The oil America consumes -- only one-eighth of which comes from the Middle East -- is used almost entirely in transportation. Half of America's electricity is generated by coal, of which the United States has a huge abundance.

America has about 22 billion barrels of "proven" oil reserves, defined as "reasonably certain to be recoverable in future years under existing economic and operating conditions." In addition, there are an estimated 112 billion barrels that could be recovered with existing drilling and production technology. Make that, with existing drilling and production technology and fewer Democrats like Pelosi who, while promising energy independence, are opposed to any drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and much drilling offshore, where 87 billion of the 112 billion barrels are located, as is much of the estimated 656 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas."

Ding dong the Wolf is gone

Paul Wolfowitz has finally resigned as president of the World Bank(Financial Times report here; New York Times here). I liked Wolfowitz and applauded his focus on reducing corruption even if it was unevenly applied, but there is something about neocon judgement of late: why he didn't insist on recusing himself in regard to the secondment package for Shaha Riza, the World Bank official with whom he has a romantic relationship, is baffling. Dumber still was not recognizing that the controversy was not going away once it resurfaced over the past two months. It was stupid and he should have resigned a month ago. I know that his persecutors are opposed to Wolfowitz for quite other reasons, but he should have understood that the whiff of controversy surrounding Riza's leave undermined his efforts to fight corruption in the developing world.

Now George W. Bush must appoint a new WB president. By tradition, the World Bank president is American. The smart money is apparently on Bob Zoellick, a former US trade representative and deputy secretary of state, or Stanley Fischer, an American who is the governor of the Bank of Israel. Another name being mentioned, at least for an interim basis, is former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. I predict it will be Robert M. Kimmitt, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and a former ambassador to Germany. Kimmitt was also the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the later Clinton years and early in the Bush II administration. Whoever it is, though, the new president must continue Wolfowitz's work in tackling corruption.

Whoever it is, it won't be Tony Blair. While Blair made African debt relief a priority at the G8 meetings two years ago, he would be hated for the same reasons that Wolfowitz was hated: Iraq. If anything, the World Bank elite might hate him more -- Wolfowitz was always a war-mongering neocon, but Blair as a European leader should have known better.

Jenna Jameson on her career choice

Jenna Jameson is perhaps the most famous porn star in the world and author of How to Make Love like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. She was interviewed by and she has lots to say about the porn industry and a little about politics (she's liberal, wants George W. Bush out of office and supports Hillary Clinton in 2008) but I found these portions of the Q&A most interesting:

" There were things in that book, where I'm sure when people read it, they really felt for you. There was not just one, but a few incidents of rape, including how you lost your virginity. Do you feel that some of that contributed to the career choice that you made?

Jenna Jameson: That's certainly something that I've waffled back and forth with. I question myself a lot about that. It's hard to say one way or another, because the strong feminist in me wants to say, "Absolutely not!" One way or another I would have been a porn star or a nude model or whatever, because I feel empowered. But there are certain times where I look back and I'm like, "Well obviously I was injured emotionally, and it's been things that I've totally stuffed down over years and years of enabling this abuse." I think that with writing the book, it made it ok, one way or another. It made me feel better about my decisions and made me sleep better at night. I was able to come to terms with the abuse that I did endure, and be a better person, because I was able to forgive and forget."

At the age of 32, Ms. Jameson is ready for motherhood:

" Should you have a daughter someday, what would be your perspective, if she came to you and asked you about what you do or even expressed to you that she was interested in going into the adult industry?

Jenna Jameson: I think that honesty is incredibly important in being a parent. Once my child is old enough to understand the ins and outs of life and sex and all those kinds of things, when they get into their teens and start asking questions, then it's important for me to be honest and say, "Yes, I was young and this was my career choice and I felt comfortable with it, and sexuality is a natural thing. But it was my choice and it is not what mommy wants you to do (laughs)!" And not because I think that being a porn star is bad. I think that it's a really, really hard business to be happy in. I want pure unadulterated happiness for my child, and I feel like in my career, I had to fight and push and deal with incredible stereotypes and people trying to hold me down when it comes to being successful. I want my child to go to college and have all the different things that I didn't have as a kid. So I think that being a porn star would never even cross my child's mind, because I'm going to give it everything!"

It really does sound like Jenna Jameson regrets her career choice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Expunging Catholicism from the public square

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, ostensibly a Catholic, has come out against Pope Benedict XVI's reminder -- not a new ruling, but upholding of the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church -- that pro-choice politicians should not receive communion because they have ex-communicated themselves. See LifeSite's story here and Christina Blizzard's Toronto Sun column here. Here's how Blizzard reported McGuinty's comments:

"'I have a different constituency than does the Pope,' McGuinty said when asked in a scrum about the Pope's statement last week.

'I am responsible for representing all kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, different faiths, different cultures, different traditions,' he said."

McGuinty can support abortion all he wants. What he can't do is continue to call himself a Catholic or present himself for communion at Mass. As Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight, said today in a press release:

"The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church (Canon 915) makes it clear that 'those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.' Premier McGuinty clearly falls into this category, says Father de Valk. 'We call on Mr. McGuinty to rethink what it means to be a Catholic. There can be no fence-sitting on this issue'."

Back to Blizzard, who used the opportunity to unleash a torrent of anti-Catholicism and ignorance:

"It is, frankly, shocking, the Pope would make such a provocative statement in this day and age.

What place does a medieval organization like the Vatican have in a modern multicultural society? What the Pope is actually proposing is that politicians be elected along religious rather than political lines. And that's pure poppycock.

A Catholic politician may not personally support abortion for themselves or their family. But you can't impose that view on public policy, which affects people of all faiths."

You can't impose a religious view but other personal proclivities -- a preference for driving with seat belts, for example -- can be imposed on a diverse public. Why are only religious views deemed verboten? Why are not statists ever called upon not to impose their views on monopolistic healthcare arrangements or government-run education? There are plenty of worldviews -- liberalism, conservatism, wellness fascism, environmentalism, feminism, sexual hedonism, etc... -- that are used to determine public policy positions but only religion automatically disqualifies the validity of the proposition; other positions are (ostensibly) debated on the merits, but moral issues that may stem from religious belief is considered beyond the pale. Sadly it is not only bigots like Christina Blizzard who hold this view but "Catholics" like Dalton McGuinty.

The tyranny of 'the legal'

From City Journal diarist Theodore Dalrymple:

"But the correspondent’s premise that the legality of an act was the sole criterion by which one could or should judge it chilled me. It is a sinister premise. It makes the legislature the complete arbiter of manners and morals, and thus accords to the state quasi-totalitarian powers without the state’s ever having claimed them. The state alone decides what we have or lack permission to do: we have to make no moral decisions for ourselves, for what we have legal permission to do is also, by definition, morally acceptable."

It is one thing to give the state a monopoly on power; quite another to give it a monopoly on authority, too.

The Tories's left-wing worldview

Gerry Nicholls is quoted in the Ottawa Citizen in an article about political donations:

"He's [Harper's] adopting a sort of left-wing rhetoric, which is that somehow money is an evil and corrupt influence in politics, that money can buy elections ... Conservatives shouldn't be telling people what do with their money."

Full transparency but (almost) no limits is the only conservative approach to political donations. As I have noted before, the best law is seven words: "full transparency, no cash, no foreign donors." (The "no cash" rule makes transparency easier and foreigners, although they may have a stake in Canadian laws and/or who forms the government, should have to live by the rules we set up for ourselves.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Europe more conservative than Bush administration?

From the Financial Times:

"Companies face more spot checks of their employees’ work papers as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration across the European Union under plans to be announced on Wednesday. The worst offending bosses could face criminal charges."

Ten percent, rather than two percent, of companies will be audited for illegal workers. Business is not amused. On the negative side, there will be a need for more eurocrats and the EU is furthering its reach by entering the arena of criminal law. Still, it is notable that Brussels is doing something about illegals while Washington is not.

Popular support for socialism in Alberta

The Calgary Herald reports:

"An Ipsos-Reid survey provided exclusively to the Herald Monday found 78 per cent of home owners and 92 per cent of renters in Calgary and Edmonton support having government limits to rent increases."

I thought Albertans were immune to such silliness, but apparently they are not.

The Herald found 60-year-old Daniel Johnson, some aging hippy (check out the photo in the article, it looks like San Fran meets John Bolton), who whined:

"Some landlords are gouging and that's not fair ... Renters are citizens just like everybody else and they are afforded no rights under the current system ... If there was balance throughout it would be better."

The best "balance" is still the law of supply and demand; when government gets involved, inevitably the scales becom "balanced" in favour of one interest group (probably renters) or another (unlikey to be landowners).

Monday, May 14, 2007
Cool stuff

Rich Ferguson's poker chip tricks.

The importance of ideas

William F. Gavin reviews Strictly Right: William F. Buckley and the American Conservative Movement in the Washington Times:

"... in "Strictly Right," co-authors Linda Bridges and John R. Coyne, Jr. make a strong case that Mr. Buckley may well be the single most influential non-elected American political figure in the last half of the 20th century.

He was a necessary, if not sufficient, cause of the political rebirth of conservatism, and his insistence on the moral and cultural importance of traditional conservatism, from the very beginning of National Review magazine in 1955, laid the groundwork for the defense of conservative values when the culture wars began."

George F. Will has said: "Before Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before Goldwater there was National Review and before National Review there was William F. Buckely." Ideas matter. A lot. And those responsible for propogating good ones deserve our thanks.